This is a pulp I own and read recently. I've read only a few
issues of ALL WESTERN, Dell's main entry into the Western field, but they's all
been good. The July 1942 issue is no exception.
It gets underway with a novella by Ed Earl Repp, "Too Tough to Kill".
Repp was notorious for farming out his work to other writers (find a copy of
the essay "Tarzana Nights" by Frank Bonham if you don't believe me),
so there's no telling who wrote at least the first draft of this one. Repp
supposedly revised those ghosted tales to varying degrees, and this story
sounds to me like what I think of as a typical Ed Earl Repp yarn. The plot is
an old one: a youngster raised by a gang of outlaws, all the while unaware that
the boss owlhoot is responsible for the murder of the rest of his family.
There's a slightly unusual aspect to the plot in that one character winds up
with amnesia. And there's a character unfortunately named Lobo Maverick, which
is too over-the-top and corny even for an Ed Earl Repp story. The prose is really
purple in the action scenes and the resolution borders on maudlin. But here's
the thing (and you knew I was getting around to this), I still had a great time
reading this story. For some reason, Repp can always make me buy into all that
gun-blazing melodrama. The late Jon Tuska speculated that Repp never actually
wrote anything, that all his stories were ghosted. I can't bring myself to believe
that. I think he had a hand in most, if not all, of them, because they
demonstrate a consistent sincerity that I don't think would be there if they
were solely the work of ghost writers. Repp's stories, if you stop and think
about them, are mostly ridiculous, but he believed in them, by God, and that
feeling makes me believe in—and enjoy—them, too.
Fredric Sinclair is an author who's unfamiliar to me. A check of the
Fictionmags Index reveals that he published a couple of dozen stories in the
Western and detective pulps from the late Thirties to the late Forties. His
short story "Night Boat" in this issue is a riverboat yarn, about a
gambler who encounters the son of an old friend who is out for vengeance and
has to choose whether to help him or mind his own business. This is a good
story with some emotional complexity to it. No real action, but that's okay now
and then. I'd read more stories by Sinclair if I came across them.
Frank Carl Young is as unknown to me as Fredric Sinclair, but he appears to
have published dozens of Westerns stories in many different pulps during the
Thirties, Forties, and early Fifties. "No Man Escapes" is also a
vengeance yarn, of sorts, as a gunsmith who was fast on the draw in his early
days goes looking for a marshal to clean up a lawless town and encounters
something he didn't expect. Although there's a bit of action at the end, for
the most part this is a character-driven story. It's well written but decidedly
"Silver Dust Assay" is a rather bland title for what is a pretty good
story. The protagonist is an assayer, an offbeat job for a Western pulp hero.
When there's a silver strike near the town where he does business, it looks
good for him, but there's more to the strike than meets the eye, and
discovering the truth may put the assayer in deadly danger. This is a well
written yarn with some nice action, and I also enjoyed it because it's by one
of the few pulp authors I've met, David Lavender, who was at the Western
Writers of America convention in Oklahoma City in 1991. Unfortunately, at that
time I knew him only as an award-winning historian and had no idea he had
written for the pulps, or else I might have been bending his ear about those
days for the entire convention.
Next up is a novella by a very familiar author, Philip Ketchum, who was a
prolific pulpster, turning out Westerns, mysteries, and historical yarns, and
then followed that up with a long career writing paperback original Westerns.
"Stampede on Spanish Valley" suffers a little from having a very
stereotypical plot—bad guy trying to take over all the land in a valley for
some mysterious reason (that turns out not to be mysterious at all to anybody
who's read many Westerns)—but Ketchum's excellent prose lifts it above average,
as do his well-rounded and emotionally complex characters: a gunman out for
revenge on his former partner, a gambler and his unfaithful wife, a woman
married to her brother's murderer, and others who make this tale seem fresher
than it had any right to be. Not in the top rank of Ketchum's work but still
I haven't read much by George Cory Franklin, but he seems to be a pretty good
writer. "Smoky Goes to War" has an animal as the protagonist, a type
of story I usually don't like much, but this yarn won me over. It's also a
contemporary Western, set in the early days of World War II. Smoky is a mule
owned by a cowboy on a ranch in the Southwest which is near an army training
camp. The cowboy, unable to enlist because of his physical condition, offers
Smoky in his place to help the war effort. The mule is used for practice in
packing supplies at the training camp, but along the way he sniffs out a Fifth
Columnist bent on murder and sabotage. This is a really entertaining and
Quite a few pulp authors wrote fictionalizations of the Battle of the Little
Big Horn, usually by adding fictional characters who go along with Custer and
the Seventh Cavalry. Wes Fargo does that in the novella "The Glory
Trail", but while Custer does play a part early on, the massacre itself
takes place off-screen while the action follows Dave Howell, a former riverboat
pilot/trapper/army scout who is framed for running guns to the Indians. He
winds up with Reno and Benteen and then on the steamer Far West, the first riverboat to reach the scene of the battle. Wes
Fargo was really E.B. Mann, a prolific and well-regarded pulpster, and it's easy
to see why he was popular. His writing is very smooth and effective, and he
seems to get his historical details right in this one. This is only the second
story I've read by Mann, but I liked both of them quite a bit and need to read
some of his novels.
C. William Harrison wrote more than a hundred stories for the Western pulps
(and some detective pulps as well) from the mid-Thirties to the mid-Fifties,
then went on to a career as a paperback Western author under the names Will
Hickok and Coe Williams. Oddly enough, he wrote one novel each in the Jim
Hatfield, Rio Kid, Masked Rider, and Range Riders series. I've read quite a bit
of his work and usually liked it. His prose has a nice hardboiled tone. That's
true in "When Wolves Fall Out", which finds two outlaws vying for the
leadership of a gang following a raid on a town and the kidnapping of a young
woman. There's also a third mysterious owlhoot horning in on things. This
reminded me of a Walt Coburn yarn because it has a lot of back-story and secrets
to be revealed. I found it very entertaining.
John C. Colohan was a stalwart of the Western pulps from the late Twenties
through the mid-Fifties. He was especially prolific for the Popular
Publications pulps but his work appeared in many magazines from other
publishers. His story "The Man on the Yellow Horse" wraps up this
issue of ALL WESTERN. The rancher protagonist, who is in town picking up
supplies, catches an outlaw fleeing from a botched robbery and a shooting, but
when he takes off the fugitive's mask, he gets a surprise that causes him to turn
detective and risk his life catching a killer. It's not much of a mystery, but
Colohan tries and his writing is nice and smooth. There's a good supporting
character, too, a hired gun who would probably be played by Jack Elam if this
was a movie.
Overall, there's not a bad story in the bunch. No real stand-outs, but they're
all good to very good, just solid pulp stories that make for some fine reading.
As usual when I can manage it, the scan is from the actual issue I read,
complete with some writing on it by a previous owner.