This is a pulp
that I own and read recently. The scan is of my copy, which I try to do when possible.
The Jim Hatfield novel in this issue, "Guns Across the River", was
written by Peter Germano under the Jackson Cole house-name. It's a cattleman
vs. sheepherders yarn, but Germano puts a lot more plot that that into the
story. In fact, there are almost too many characters and too much plot for a
novel that runs maybe 40,000 words. Hatfield is sent to Peaceful Valley to stop
a bloody range war before it breaks out, but he's barely gotten there when he
finds a dead body and then a would-be killer takes a shot at him. There's a weak
sheriff, a stubborn deputy, a cattle baron, the cattle baron's two beautiful
daughters, a former schoolteacher turned gunslinger, a kidnapped youngster, an
old-timer who's supposed to be dead but apparently isn't, a blustering lawyer
who seems to have been inspired by W.C. Fields (his name is H. Goldwyn Pepper),
and a West Texas winter storm. The action hardly ever slows down for more than
a few paragraphs.
Germano was the most hard-boiled and realistic of the Hatfield authors, and he
was also capable of the occasional touch of poetry in his work. I was a little
worried that he had crammed too much into this story, but he maintained control
over the plot and I wound up liking it a great deal. The somewhat bittersweet
ending is very effective. Germano rewrote and expanded this into the novel WAR
IN PEACEFUL VALLEY, which was published three years later as half of an Ace
Double under his usual Barry Cord pseudonym. Texas Ranger Jim Hatfield becomes
Deputy U.S. Marshal Matt Vickers, but everything else appears to be pretty much
the same. I have this book but haven't read it, and I probably won't, now that
I've read and enjoyed the original version.
George Roulston is an author I'm not familiar with. He appears to have
published only half a dozen stories in the mid-Fifties. But his story in this
issue, "Moment of Violence", is a good one. It's about an ex-convict
returning to his home town after serving ten years for a stagecoach robbery in
which the driver was killed. It was the convict's partner who actually pulled
the trigger, but he never revealed who that was (although it's no secret from
the reader). The reactions his return provokes lead to more violence. There's
enough plot here for a novel, the sort that Gold Medal published during that
era, but Roulston does a good job boiling it down to a short story.
H.G. Ashburn is another author unknown to me who published a few stories in the
mid-Fifties. "Miguel's Private Miracle" is about scalphunters who
show up at a small mission and try to terrorize the priest in revealing the
hiding place of a group of Indian women and children. It's more about the
nature of religious faith than anything else, making it a little offbeat for a
Western pulp, but it's well-written and I enjoyed it.
The parade of unknown-to-me authors continues with Pat Pfeifer, another whose
work appears to be confined to a handful of stories in the mid-Fifties.
"Time Enough to Die" is about the showdown between a marshal and two
brothers who want to either kill him or run him out of town. The marshal's
newly hired deputy is a former friend of one of the brothers, so the lawman
doesn't know if he's really facing two enemies, or three. Everything plays out
like you'd expect it to, but the writing is good enough that it makes for an
Even more obscure is Cameron Roosevelt, who has only two stories listed in the
Fictionmags Index, "Showdown at Jericho" in this issue, and a story
in an issue of 2-GUN WESTERN a couple of months later. "Showdown at
Jericho" is a revenge tale, with the protagonist tracking down the man who
stole both his wife and his money. The inevitable gunfight is resolved in a
fairly clever manner, but what sets this story apart is its noirish tone and
some excellent writing. This one is good enough that it's hard to believe
Roosevelt sold only one other story, which makes me wonder if the name is a pseudonym
for another, more well-known writer.
Finally we come to an author I've heard of, John Jo Carpenter, who was really
John Reese. Reese used the Carpenter pseudonym for scores of stories in various
Western pulps during the Forties and Fifties, while writing mystery and slick
magazine stories under his real name. Later he wrote hardback and paperback
Western novels as John Reese, a couple of which I've read and remember enjoying.
His story in this issue, "The Reluctant Hangman", is a real oddity
for a Western pulp in that there's no action in it at all. Instead it's a tale
of psychological turmoil as a young deputy struggles with having to carry out a
murderer's hanging because the sheriff is laid up with a heart attack. It's a
gripping, very well-written story and makes me think I need to read more by
Reese as John Jo Carpenter.
Eric Allen is another familiar name. He wrote a number of paperback Westerns,
including a series set in a town called Whiskey Smith. I've never read any of
them, but his novelette that wraps up this issue, "Death on the
Chaco", is a good one, if a little by-the-numbers when it comes to the
plot. It's a yarn about a young man who comes home to the ranch he just inherited
from his murdered uncle, only find himself caught up in a brewing range war
with a group of sodbusters. The plot twists in this one are pretty obvious, but
Allen writes in a nice, easygoing style and I enjoyed the story.
There are also a few columns and features, but as usual I just skimmed them. My
interest is in the fiction, and in that respect, this is an above-average
issue. There's not a bad story in the bunch, and three of them—the Hatfield
novel and the stories by Cameron Roosevelt and John Reese—are excellent. The
quality of TEXAS RANGERS remained high right up until its end a couple of years
later, and if you happen to have a copy of this issue on your shelves, it's
well worth reading.