Sunday, July 30, 2017

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Blue Book, March 1942

During the war years, BLUE BOOK got away from using historical covers as much and added some contemporary ones to the mix. This one by Herbert Morton Stoops features British tanks in the North African campaign and is excellent. BLUE BOOK always had a great blend of fiction as well, and this issue is no different with stories by H. Bedford-Jones (a BLUE BOOK regular, and this issue is a little unusual in that it has only one story by him, with nothing by his pseudonyms Gordon Keyne or Michael Gallister), Georges Surdez, Peter B. Kyne, Arch Whitehouse, Irvin S. Cobb, Jacland Marmur, Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, and Samuel Taylor.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Big-Book Western Magazine, June-July, 1936

An excellent, action-packed cover on this issue of BIG-BOOK WESTERN MAGAZINE. I don't know who the artist was, but he did a good job. Inside are stories by William Colt MacDonald, Ed Earl Repp, James P. Olsen, Art Lawson, Foster-Harris, and J.E. Grinstead, all top-notch pulpsters. Hard to beat a Popular Publications Western pulp.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Forgotten Books: Children of the Sun - Edmond Hamilton

"Children of the Sun" is the second of the Captain Future novellas to appear in the pulp STARTLING STORIES (the May 1950 issue) after the character was on a long hiatus. In this one, Curt Newton, the adventurer/scientist known as Captain Future, and his three friends, brain-in-a-box Simon Wright, android Otho, and robot Grag, are searching for a fellow scientist who disappeared while doing research on Vulcan, a planetoid circling the Sun inside the orbit of Mercury.

Author Edmond Hamilton, with a likely assist from his wife Leigh Brackett, does a great job of world-building in this story. It seems from the context that Vulcan appeared in an earlier Captain Future yarn, but if that's the case I don't know which one. That background isn't necessary to enjoy this story, which does a perfectly fine job of getting the reader up to speed. Vulcan is an interesting world and seems at least sort of scientifically plausible. It's one of those inner worlds like Pellucidar and Skartaris and is inhabited by primitive descendants of colonists from the Old Empire, which collapsed millennia earlier, as well as the strange creatures known as Children of the Sun.

It's not really a spoiler to say that Captain Future and his friends find the scientist they're looking for, although how they go about it requires some heavy-duty suspension of disbelief. To be honest I kind of struggled with that, which is the main reason I didn't like this story as much as the previous one. But it's very well-written, has the same sort of epic scope to it despite the relatively short length, and once again uses a poignant, offbeat ending to great effect. This is intelligent, big-idea, well-written space opera, just the sort of science fiction I like.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Overlooked TV: The White Queen (2013)

I like a good historical costume drama, and while THE WHITE QUEEN, a BBC mini-series from 2013 that ran on the cable channel Starz in the U.S., isn’t quite a top-notch entry in that genre, it’s certainly watchable.

I imagine some of the people who watched this said, “Hey, what a rip-off! They just stole the plot from GAME OF THRONES. Lancasters and Yorks? Come on!” Yep, it’s the War of the Roses again, beginning in this version with King Edward’s secret marriage to Elizabeth Woodville that kicks off all sorts of intrigue and violence over the next twenty years, culminating with Henry Tudor’s defeat of Richard III to become King Henry VII. I’m no expert on British history, but I know just enough that I had a pretty good idea what was going to happen all the way through.

THE WHITE QUEEN, based on several novels by Philippa Gregory, indulges in a little historical speculation here and there, mostly about what really happened to the princes in the Tower of London. Many years ago, I read a mystery novel by Josephine Tey called THE DAUGHTER OF TIME, which features a British police inspector passing the time while he’s recuperating from an injury by trying to figure out what really happened to the princes. I remember thinking it was very good, and I ought to reread it one of these days. But to get back to THE WHITE QUEEN, I thought it did a reasonably good job of sticking to the history, but that may be because, like I said above, I’m no expert.

I didn’t recognize anybody in the cast except one of the villains, but they all do a pretty good job. There’s quite a bit of scenery-chewing, but it works in context. An apparently low budget kind of hurts this production, though. Whenever there’s a scene with the “armies” of the various contenders for the throne, the so-called army usually consists of maybe two dozen guys standing around. Then later, somebody will burst into a scene in some castle and exclaim, “There’s just been a huge battle! Their guys beat our guys!” Or vice versa. There are a couple of actual battle scenes, but they’re small-scale and not very well-staged, with a lot of that quick-cut editing to disguise the fact that there are only a couple dozen guys in the armies.

So why watch THE WHITE QUEEN? The history behind the story actually is pretty dramatic and interesting, and it’s very much a real-life soap opera. And there’s one aspect in which THE WHITE QUEEN maybe even outdoes GAME OF THRONES: gratuitous nudity. Lots and lots of gratuitious nudity. So if you watch it, you know what you’re getting into, as the actress said to the bishop.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Fantastic Adventures, July 1952

I used to own a copy of this pulp many years ago, but I don't recall if I ever read it. I remember that cover by Walter Popp, though. My old editor and mentor Sam Merwin Jr. has a story in this issue, as does John Jakes. The other authors are E.K. Jarvis (a house name), William Morrison (who was really Joseph Samachson), and Ralph Sholto, about whom I know absolutely nothing. But it's an eye-catching cover and I always found FANTASTIC ADVENTURES to be fun.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Dime Western, April 1933

You can't ask for much more out of a Western pulp than this issue of DIME WESTERN delivers. Start with a colorful, exciting cover by Walter Baumhofer and then add stories by Harry F. Olmsted, Walt Coburn, E.B. Mann, Gunnison Steele, John G. Pearsol, Miles Overholt, and more. And that's just a normal issue for this great pulp.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Bonus Forgotten Heist Novella: We Are All Dead - Bruno Fischer

I read this novella, which originally appeared in the May 1955 issue of the legendary crime fiction digest MANHUNT, after I’d reread the L’Amour novel and written my post about it. But “We Are All Dead” is good enough and fits the day’s theme perfectly, so I decided I’d do a second post.

I haven’t read a lot of Bruno Fischer’s work, but what I have read has been very good. “We Are All Dead” is the story of a payroll robbery and what happens afterward. As if the title’s not enough to establish what’s coming, the first line gives you a pretty good idea that things aren’t going to work out well for the guys involved: The caper went off without a hitch except that Wally Garden got plugged.

But it’s getting to that noir ending that matters, and Fischer takes us on a harrowing, suspenseful, very well-written ride with plot twists galore. I have to admit, I saw the final big twist coming, but that didn’t detract any from my enjoyment of Fischer’s pure yarn-spinning ability. This story has been reprinted at least once, in THE NEW MAMMOTH BOOK OF PULP FICTION, and it’s also available as an e-book from Amazon. It’s well worth seeking out, and it’s also made me feel like I need to read something else by Fischer in the near future.

Forgotten Heist Novels: High Lonesome - Louis L'Amour

I first read this novel more than 35 years ago and remembered that I liked it quite a bit. It's also one of Louis L'Amour's novels that you don't hear much about, and a bank robbery is the driving factor in the plot, so it seemed like a good choice to reread for Forgotten Heist Novels Week.

After holding up a bank doesn't net them as much money as they expected, a gang consisting of four men decide to rob a bank in another town that's famous for never being held up successfully. The leader of the bunch is Considine; Dutch is the explosives expert; Hardy is a young gunman; and the Kiowa is a tracker, scout, and highly efficient killer. Considine has always avoided hitting this particular bank because it's in his hometown, and the local marshal is his former best friend who wound up marrying the girl they both loved.

HIGH LONESOME has the classic three-part heist novel setup: the planning, the job itself, the getaway and pursuit. Complications, as they always do, ensue. In this case the main complications are an old man and his beautiful daughter, who are being stalked by Apaches. Do the outlaws get away, or do they risk their freedom and their lives to help these pilgrims?

This novel held up very well on rereading. It's still my third favorite L'Amour novel after TO TAME A LAND and FLINT. I'm not as big a fan of L'Amour's work as many Western readers. His novels tend to have a repetitiveness and lack of attention to detail, and there's a little of that in HIGH LONESOME, but for the most part it's very tight and well-written. The second half of the book, following the bank robbery, is especially suspenseful and effective. There's one of those long, brutal fistfights you get sometimes in L'Amour books, and plenty of other action as well. When he was at the top of his game, L'Amour was very good indeed, and that's true in this novel. It works as both a crime novel and a Western, and I'm glad this week's theme on Forgotten Books gave me a good excuse to reread it. Recommended.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Adventure, June 18, 1919

Here we have another of those self-referential covers: an issue of ADVENTURE with a guy sitting in front of a fireplace reading . . . an issue of ADVENTURE. The art, which I think is pretty good, is by an artist I've never heard of: Hibberd V.B. Kline (the V.B. stands for Van Buren). Is the premise a little cute? Yeah, but I think it works okay here. Inside the issue, there's no question about the authors: W.C. Tuttle, Gordon Young, Talbot Mundy, Gordon MacCreagh, J. Allan Dunn, and S.B.H. Hurst. That's a really strong bunch of writers.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Peacemaker Award Submissions Now Open

Submissions for the 8th Annual WF Peacemaker Awards are now being accepted for works originally published in the year 2017. 


First time in print must be between January 1, 2017, and December 31, 2017, no reprints or revisions.  Limit of 2 entries per category.

Books and short stories may be published in any country in the world (submissions must be in English) in print or electronic format. Electronic submissions must be made with Kindle/mobi or Word/text files. WF reserves the right to decline any submission for consideration of an Award.

Authors, agents, or publishers may submit a work for consideration of an Award.

At least three entrants in a category must be received during the submission period for an Award to be presented.

Novels and short stories must be set in the time period between 1830-1920 to be considered Westerns under WF guidelines. Time periods beyond the 1830-1920 traditional western focus may be included in submissions as long as the periods outside of the 1830-1920 span constitute no more than 50% of the story. At least 50% of the story MUST TAKE PLACE in the 1830-1920 period. NO EXCEPTIONS.

Nominees for the WF Peacemaker Award will be announced on 05/15/2018 and the winners will be announced on 06/15/2018.

The WF Peacemaker Award will be awarded in four categories:

Best Western Novel – Any novel published during the award year set in the appropriate time period (1830-1920), 30,000 words and higher. There are no format requirements. The novel may be a hardcover, trade paperback, mass market paperback, or eBook.

Best Western YA/Children Fiction– Any fiction written for ages 1-17 published during the award year set in the appropriate time period (1830-1920). May be a hardcover, trade paperback, mass market paperback, or eBook.

Best Western Short Fiction – Any short story, novelette, or novella published during the award year set in the appropriate time period (1830-1920), 500 words to 29,999 words. There are no format requirements. The short story may be published in any publication, print or electronic.

Best Western First Novel – Must meet the same requirements as Best Novel, and must be the author’s first published Western novel. If the author has published novels in any other genre they will not disqualify the author from the Best Western First Novel Award competition. Submissions for Best Western First Novel may also be submitted in the Best Novel category in the same year. 


If sending print form, one copy of the work must be sent to each judge (3 per category), and the Awards Chair for a total of four, accompanied with the appropriate form. 

Electronic versions should be emailed to the Awards Chair, James Reasoner with the appropriate submission form. The electronic submissions will be distributed to the judges by the Awards Chair. All entries must be postmarked or received via email by midnight, CST, January 15, 2018. Judges should not be contacted by any entrant concerning their entry during the consideration period. Doing so may result in disqualification of eligibility for the WF Peacemaker Award. Works submitted will not be returned after the awards have been announced. There is no fee to enter. There will be no exceptions made to the submission procedures, for any reason. 

Links to forms to include are at the bottom of the list of judges. You will need 4 copies for each printed entry, one for each judge and one for the Awards Chair. 

Awards Chair: James Reasoner
P.O. Box 931
Azle, TX 76098-0931

The list of judges and appropriate submission forms can be found on the Western Fictioneers website.

Speaking as the awards chair, let me say that if you plan to submit a book or story and it's already out . . . go ahead and send it in! Spreading out the submissions rather than waiting for the last minute makes it much easier on the judges, and waiting doesn't increase your odds of winning.

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Thrllling Western, February 1939

I don't know who the cover artist is on this issue of THRILLING WESTERN, but I think it's pretty good although I'm not that fond of extreme close-ups on pulp covers. I'm certainly fond of a couple of the authors in this issue, though: A. Leslie Scott, one of my favorites, writing as A. Leslie with a railroading yarn, a subject he handled very well, along with the always dependable Lee Bond. The other stories are by Sam Brant (a house-name, so who knows), Cibolo Ford (a name that sounds like a pseudonym, but I don't know if it was or not), Victor Kaufman (an author I know nothing about), and William S. Sullivan, whose story in this issue is his only credit in the Fictionmags Index. I'd read this issue anyway, if only for the Scott and Bond stories; if the others are any good, it would be a nice bonus.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Forgotten Books: Ki-Gor--and the Paradise That Time Forgot - John Peter Drummond

KI-GOR—AND THE PARADISE THAT TIME FORGOT, from the Fall 1940 issue of JUNGLE STORIES, seems to mark the arrival of yet another new writer behind the John Peter Drummond house-name, especially during the first half of the novel, which is more low-key and realistic than the volumes that have come before. Ki-Gor and Helene come across an expedition led by three Americans: a brutal, alcoholic doctor; his meek, long-suffering wife; and an equally meek anthropologist who is the couple's friend. They're supposed to be in Africa to hunt gorillas, but really the wife and friend are trying to force the doctor to dry out from his booze binges. This domestic drama is a decidedly odd fit for a jungle adventure story.

Then part of the way through, everything lurches sideways and this becomes a lost race yarn, and one with a fairly interesting and plausible basis, too. Naturally, Ki-Gor, Helene, and the bickering Americans get trapped in the hidden valley where the lost race lives and wind up in danger. Then another abrupt shift in the plot and danger from another source rears its head. This story gets a little schizophrenic after a while.

There's no Tembo George, no Bantu tribesmen. Ki-Gor's sidekick is a pygmy named Ngeeso, and he's a pretty good character. Ki-Gor and Helene now live on an island in the middle of a river, something I don't remember from previous stories. But overall, KI-GOR—AND THE PARADISE THAT TIME FORGOT is well-written other than not being able to make up its mind what sort of story it's going to be. It has just enough going for it to be readable and entertaining, in a very minor way. At the very least, it's an improvement over the previous novel in the series.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Now Available: Blaze! Bad Medicine - Michael Newton

Arizona Territory is heating up—and Kate and J.D. Blaze are about to get burned! A fanatical Apache medicine man is determined to bring about all-out war between his people and the army, and he's doing it by slaughtering as many white settlers as he can find. Kate and J.D. are drawn into this dangerous situation when a woman and her children are kidnapped by the Apache raiders and intended for a gruesome sacrifice. The Old West's only team of husband-and-wife gunfighters will need all their cunning and deadly skill to bring the captives back alive and stop the medicine man's scheme to flood the desert with blood!

Legendary adventure writer Michael Newton is back with another gritty, fast-action novel filled with all the passion and excitement of the Old West.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Overlooked Movies: Montana Territory (1952)

The first exchange of dialogue in this movie is between Jack Elam and Clayton Moore. That right there ought to be enough to tell you whether you'd want to watch it, even though to be honest, and to get this out of the way right from the start, it's not very good. This is another Western that I'd never heard of before watching it recently.

It's based on the real-life activities of Sheriff Henry Plummer, the notorious outlaw sheriff whose gang of thieves and cutthroats plagued the Montana gold fields, even while Plummer was pretending to be trying to catch them. In this version, Lon McCallister plays a young man who is duped by Plummer (played by an old, paunchy Preston Foster) into becoming a deputy without knowing that he's really working for the bad guys. Cute Wanda Hendrix, wearing tight jeans, toting a Winchester, and looking like she stepped right off a RANCH ROMANCES cover, plays the daughter of a stagecoach station owner who is an uneasy ally of the outlaws. Inevitably, as it did in history, a group of vigilantes is formed to go after the outlaws, and that sets the stage for the final confrontation.

To get the bad stuff out of the way first, Clayton Moore is badly miscast as Plummer's chief henchman. With a mustache and goatee, he looks great, but he should have been the hero of this movie. When that distinctive voice of his rolls out, there's no way I could believe he's evil, although Moore tries hard, I'll give him credit for that. Which brings us to the movie's biggest weakness, bland little Lon McCallister, who might have made a halfway decent Audie Murphy-type hero if the script had given him anything to work with. Instead, his character is the dumbest, most useless protagonist I think I've ever seen in a Western. Honestly, Don Knotts in THE SHAKIEST GUN IN THE WEST is more of a Western hero than McCallister.

On the plus side, there's plenty of action, including stagecoach chases, gunfights, and some decent stunt work. Wanda Hendrix looks good, Jack Elam has a fine time playing a club-footed, hatchet-wielding killer named Gimp, and Preston Foster seems to be channeling Roy Barcroft and Charles King in his performance as Henry Plummer.

If you want a much better fictionalization of this story, read Robert E. Howard's great short novel THE VULTURES OF WAHPETON. I can't really recommend MONTANA TERRITORY as a movie, but I'm glad I watched it, for whatever that's worth.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: All Detective Magazine, September 1933

Okay, now that's a creepy cover! It's by an artist I hadn't heard of named Victor Julius. I don't know if I would have bought that issue if I'd seen it staring out at me from the newsstand in 1933, but I would have noticed it, that's for sure. On the other hand, I might have bought it if I'd had an extra dime in my pocket, because inside are stories by Erle Stanley Gardner, E. Hoffmann Price, Arthur J. Burks, and Frederick C. Painton, all excellent writers. Don't know how well I would have slept that night, though, with that thing in the room with me.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Romantic Western, July 1938

ROMANTIC WESTERN was the Spicy imprint's answer to RANCH ROMANCES, I suppose, and it looks like it had some pretty good authors appearing in it. All the stories in this issue except one were published under pseudonyms: James P. Olsen writing as James A. Lawson, John A. Saxon writing as Rex Norman, Laurence Donovan writing as Larry Dunn, Robert Leslie Bellem writing as Jerome Severs Perry (a reprint of a story originally published in SPICY WESTERN under Bellem's name), and E. Hoffmann Price writing as John Prentice (Prentice being a house-name but this particular story is another reprint from SPICY WESTERN of a yarn published under the name Hamlin Daly, which was Price's exclusive pseudonym, as far as I know). Got all that? The only other story in the issue is by Jean Beaumont, who has only two credits in the Fictionmags Index, both from ROMANTIC WESTERN in 1938, so that may well be a pseudonym or house-name, too. That reprint information by the way, was compiled by the late Glenn Lord, who in addition to being the world's greatest Robert E. Howard fan also probably knew more about the Spicy pulps than just about anybody. I miss Glenn and am honored that I was able to call him a friend for a number of years. I think there's a lot of good reading in the Spicy pulps, and although I've never read an issue of ROMANTIC WESTERN, or even seen one, I'm sure I would enjoy it.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Forgotten Books: Hell's Recruit - Phil Richards

Phil Richards' second novel (or novella, to be more accurate) featuring Kid Calvert and the Calvert Horde is "Hell's Recruit", which appeared in the March 1935 issue of WESTERN ACES with the usual great cover by Rafael DeSoto. In this very fast-paced yarn, everybody is after the notorious bank robber Eagle Hawn: our band of noble owlhoots, the forces of the law led by Sheriff Terry Reynolds, and a gang of Mexican bandits ramrodded by the evil and mostly insane Blade Morales. The reason all these factions want to get hold of Eagle Hawn is because he's pulled off a series of robberies and has cached a fortune in stolen gold, but no one knows where it is except him. And while everybody is chasing after Hawn and his loot, Kid Calvert and Terry Reynolds once more have to deal with their doomed love affair—doomed because they're on opposite sides of the law and always will be.

If anything, this story is even more melodramatic and over-the-top than Richards' previous effort, "Horde of Hated Men". The breathless, breakneck action seldom slows down, and when it does, there's enough angst to fill up two or three normal Western pulps. This oddball blend of shoot-em-up and soap opera works better than it has any right to and really kept me flipping the pages (well, digital pages, since I'm reading the ebook edition of THE COMPLETE ADVENTURES OF KID CALVERT). However, modern readers should be aware that "Hell's Recruit" is about as politically incorrect as it can get. This doesn't bother me, since I know when it was written and published, but it might some people. It also has a fairly large hole in the plot involving the hidden gold, and I would have sworn that Terry Reynolds was a brunette in the first two stories, not a blonde as she is here.

But despite all that, I had a heck of a good time reading "Hell's Recruit". I really like the Kid and his band of heroic outlaws. There are two more novellas in their saga, and I'm eager to read them.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Overlooked Movies: Ambush at Tomahawk Gap (1953)

Not only had I never seen this Western movie, I don't think I'd ever even heard of it until we watched it recently. It's certainly a little unusual for the time period in that there are no real "good guys". Four ex-cons are released from Yuma Prison and go after the loot from a hold-up that was hidden before they went to prison. The twist is that one of them (played by John Hodiak) wasn't even part of the robbery. He was just an innocent cowboy swept up by the posse when the others were captured. The actual fourth man who was in on the job got away, and the others are supposed to meet him and claim their shares of the loot. Hodiak wants a share, too, because he did the time even though he didn't do the crime.

But the fourth man is dead, and nobody knows where the money is, except that it's supposed to be hidden in the town of Tomahawk Gap, and there are Apaches on the war path, and when they get to Tomahawk Gap it's a ghost town, deserted except for a crazy old geezer who's taking care of the graveyard, and they also have a girl on their hands, a Navajo prisoner they rescued from the Apaches, and it's a question of whether they'll all kill each other before they find the loot or will the Apaches get them?

That's a long sentence, but that's the way the plot tumbles out in this movie, not always making complete sense but never slowing down, either. In addition to Hodiak, the guys after the money are David Brian (a suitably despicable villain), veteran character actor Ray Teal, and an incredibly young John Derek. The crazy old geezer is played by another great character actor, John Qualen (with no Swedish accent this time), and yet another great character actor, Percy Helton, has a small part early on. This is a good cast, and the production values are high for the most part. Lots of good stunt work during the Indian battles. The fistfights are embarrassingly bad, though, with the actors clearly missing each other by a foot or more.

This could have easily been one of those hardboiled Western novels published by Gold Medal in the Fifties, by Lewis B. Patten or William Heuman or Harry Whittington. The bleak tone it achieves works really well. I'm not sure why I never ran across AMBUSH AT TOMAHAWK GAP before, but I'm glad I watched it now.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Planet Stories, Summer 1941

That's kind of a busy cover on this issue of PLANET STORIES, but the art is by Virgil Finlay, so I'm not complaining. There's a really strong line-up of authors inside, too, including Leigh Brackett, Raymond Z. Gallun, Nelson S. Bond, Ross Rocklynne, Ray Cummings, Henry Hasse, and Frederic A. Kummer, Jr. PLANET STORIES was always fun.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Ranch Romances, First May Number, 1952

I really like the Fifties issues of RANCH ROMANCES. Generally great covers, of which this is another one, and top-notch authors. This issue includes stories by Frank C. Robertson, Joseph Chadwick, S. Omar Barker, Bryce Walton, Chandler Whipple, and Cy Kees.