This cover by Hannes Bok seems appropriate for a few days before Halloween. I like the 1940s issues of WEIRD TALES. Great lineup of authors in this one: Edmond Hamilton, Manly Wade Wellman, Henry Kuttner, August Derleth, Frank Gruber, Clifford Ball, Robert H. Leitfred . . . These guys wrote some fine weird fiction.
There probably aren't too many Halloween-themed Western pulp covers, but here's one from a short-lived Western romance pulp, courtesy of David Lee Smith. Although we have the cover to look at, not much is known about the contents of this issue since neither David nor I actually own a copy. The two authors listed on the cover were both highly prolific Western pulpsters. Arthur Lawson also wrote as Art Lawson and was an editor as well as a writer. Tom Mount was Thomas Ernest Mount, better known under his pseudonyms Stone Cody, Kent Thorn, and Oliver King.
I thought it would be appropriate to read a Weird Menace
yarn for the Friday closest to Halloween, because what genre better exemplifies
the spirit of dressing up and saying “Boo!” than Weird Menace? The novella
“Thirst of the Living Dead” appeared in the November 1934 issue of the pulp
TERROR TALES and was written by one of my favorite Weird Menace authors, Arthur
This one is set on an island in a sinister lake in upstate New York supposedly
cursed by the Iroquois Indians. Naturally, there’s a creepy old mansion on the
island rented by a small group of people for a vacation. (Because what better
vacation spot could there be than a creepy old mansion on an island in a
haunted lake . . . well, never mind.) Before the story opens, three of those vacationers,
Anton Walder, his wife Sonia, and Myrtle Dean, the wife of Anton’s best friend
Ralph Dean and mother of two-year-old Bobby, go canoeing on the lake on a
stormy night. All of them vanish and are presumed drowned. Eventually Sonia’s
body is found, but not Anton or Myrtle. So as the story begins, our protagonist
Ralph is a grieving young widower, and the fact that another wild storm is
raging in the night outside the mansion doesn’t help his mood.
Then there’s a knock on the door (yep) and supposedly dead Myrtle is there,
although Ralph quickly realizes that she has returned from the lake’s depths as
a vampire. Anton, also a vampire, shows up, too, and there’s a sinister Indian
running around shooting arrows at people, and the housekeeper is murdered, and
little Bobby is kidnapped, and Ralph gets knocked out several times and finds
secret passages in the creepy old mansion and fights vampires and a wildcat and
the Indian, and lightning flashes and thunder crashes and Zagat never pauses to
take a breath in page after page of overheated prose.
And I loved every bit of it. 20,000 words in one big, entertaining gulp. It
ends about the way you’d expect it to, with a pretty complicated plot packed
into all the running around, and Zagat brings it all to a very satisfying
conclusion. You can find this story on-line, along with quite a few of Zagat’s
other Weird Menace yarns, and if you enjoy the genre, I highly recommend that
you sample his work.
Grab a cup of coffee and settle down into your easy chair to ride the range with some of the most exciting tales of the Old West you’ll find anywhere! This collection is called BEST OF THE WEST for a very good reason—IT IS! These fourteen stories will have you standing beside lawmen and outlaws as the bullets fly, saddling up some of the best horseflesh to be found West of the Mississippi, and wagering your livelihood on the turn of a card. Tales that include savvy swindles, gunfights, loves lost (and found!), the making of an outlaw and the secret protection of a president will draw you in and hang on tight. This anthology is bustin’ with acclaimed Western authors such as James Reasoner, Livia J. Washburn, Jackson Lowry, Kit Prate, Charlie Steel, Richard Prosch, Big Jim Williams, Cheryl Pierson, J.L. Guin, Clay More, and David Amendola. What are you waitin’ for, pardner? You’re burnin’ daylight! Happy trails! (I think my contribution to this anthology, "The Way to Cheyenne", is my favorite of all the short stories I've written, and it's been out of print for years. This is a really good collection of Western yarns from some top authors. I'd urge all of you to check it out.)
We haven’t had a chance to watch many movies lately, but we
did see EVIL ROY SLADE, a made-for-TV movie from 1972 that somehow we never saw
back then, or any time since. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a big fan of
Western comedies (except for BLAZING SADDLES; I know a lot of Western writers
hate that movie, but I love it). However, EVIL ROY SLADE isn’t bad and had me
laughing several times.
The title character was the only survivor of a wagon train massacre when he was
an infant and grew up on his own in the wilderness to become the meanest outlaw
in the West. Now, you might ask how anybody ever knew his name, since he was
the only survivor and wandered off from the wagon train, but if questions of
logic like that bother you, this probably isn’t the movie for you. Anyway, Evil
Roy Slade, played in John Astin in a good, scenery-chewing performance, becomes
the mortal enemy of railroad tycoon Mickey Rooney, who sends his inept nephew
(Henry Gibson) and rhinestone-studded, singing marshal Bing Bell (Dick Shawn)
after him. Meanwhile, Roy meets a beautiful young woman (Pamela Austin, indeed
one of the great beauties of late Sixties/early Seventies TV and movies) and
tries to reform, even going so far as to move to Boston with her and visit a
psychologist played by Dom DeLuise. Unfortunately, Roy’s reformation doesn’t
take, and he winds up in the West again, following his evil outlaw ways.
Now, I know what you’re asking yourself after seeing the names of the actors in
this movie: Were Tim Conway and Paul Lynde out of town the week they shot this?
It really is full of the TV comedy of the era, right down to being written by
Jerry Belson and Garry Marshall (Penny Marshall has a bit part as a bank teller,
and John Ritter and Pat Morita show up briefly, too) and directed by Jerry
Paris. I happen to enjoy TV comedy from that era, so I liked a lot of the
goofy, deadpan humor of EVIL ROY SLADE. Evidently the movie has something of a
cult following, and I wouldn’t go that far in my admiration of it, but I did
enjoy it for the most part. I found Dick Shawn’s performance to be sort of
grating but liked the rest of the cast. The movie looks good and has a few
decent stunts. EVIL ROY SLADE is no BLAZING SADDLES, but it’s worth watching.
That's another action-packed Norman Saunders cover on this issue of NORTH-WEST ROMANCES. Some good story titles, too. I'm especially fond of "The Gun-Vulture of Caribou Lode". No telling who wrote it, since John Starr was a Fiction House house-name. The other authors in this issue include long-time pulpster Victor Rousseau, "Northern" specialist Dan O'Rourke, A. deHerries Smith, Sewell Peaslee Wright, and a few others I've never heard of.
I don't post much about my writing on here anymore, but I thought I might mention that on Friday I turned in my 355th novel. I have part of the next one done already (I put it aside to work on the one I just turned in), so I hope to finish it up in another two or three weeks and then get another one done by the end of the year. I've already slowed down some from my peak production and suspect that trend will continue, but I'd like to keep plugging away at it long enough to get to 400 novels.
Thanks to David Lee Smith for the excellent cover scan from this issue of a pulp with a long-winded title but pretty good contents, from the looks of the authors. Gladwell Richardson's novel takes up most of the issue, but there are also stories by top-notch Western pulpsters Allan R. Bosworth and Cliff Farrell, plus a few others. That's one tough-looking hombre on this cover. I don't reckon I'd want to be the fella swappin' lead with him.
Gordon MacCreagh is an author whose name I’ve seen on many
pulps, but I’ve never read his work until now, at least not that I remember. He
wrote a lengthy series about an American named King adventuring in Africa. The
natives refer to him as “Kingi Bwana”, and he’s rumored to be a shady
character, little better than an outlaw, a slave runner, and a smuggler. Of
course, in Africa as anywhere else, things are not always as they seem.
The first Kingi Bwana story is “The Slave Runner”, from the April 1, 1930 issue
of the iconic pulp ADVENTURE. MacCreagh takes the unusual tack of opening this
debut adventure with rumors of his protagonist’s death. Supposedly, King’s
charmed life has run out, and he’s been killed by a lion. I don’t imagine many,
if any, readers actually believed that, even in the more innocent era of 1930.
MacCreagh spends quite a bit of time on two British officials in Kenya, a
pompous deputy commissioner and a young, earnest consul. It’s the latter who
first encounters King, the former who captures the American and accuses him of
slave running because King is always in the same vicinity as a notorious
Arab/Spanish slave trader. The deputy commissioner is convinced the two men are
partners in the illicit enterprise.
MacCreagh’s style is a little old-fashioned, as you’d expect, but his prose
reads very smoothly and is packed with details about Africa and its geography,
politics, wildlife, social customs, and the attitudes of its people. He manages
to do this without infodumps, so the pace of this first story moves along very
nicely. There’s a long, suspenseful scene where King is penned up in a lion
trap, only to have an actual lion come along and try to get to him. King’s
escape from both the trap and the lion make for some good reading.
My only real complaint about this 25,000 word novella is that all the climactic
action takes place off-screen, making the ending considerably less dramatic and
more low-key than it could have been. King is a very good character, though,
and Deputy Commissioner Sanford makes for an effective foil, reminding me of
Inspector Teal in Leslie Charteris’s Saint yarns.
All the Kingi Bwana stories have been reprinted by Altus Press. I have all four
volumes and will be working my way through them. Based on “The Slave Runner”, this
is a good pulp adventure series, and I look forward to reading the rest of the
Here's a pretty good example of why the Spicy pulps were sometimes sold under the counter. Of course, I would have just bought it for the stories, which in this issue are by Robert Leslie Bellem (one under his name and one as by Jerome Severs Perry), Edwin Truett Long (one as by Cary Moran and the cover story as by Clint Morgan), Victor Rousseau (writing as Lew Merrill), Ken Cooper, Arthur Humbolt, Arthur Wallace, and William B. Rainey. The sexy redhead on the cover wouldn't have had anything to do with me buying the magazine. That's my story . . . Seriously, though, I do enjoy the fiction in the Spicy pulps. They're formulaic, sure, but they're still fast-moving, plot-driven yarns with plenty of action and a little humor. Just the thing I'm looking for, sometimes.
Nice atmospheric cover on this issue of BLUE RIBBON WESTERN. That looks like the work of H.W. Scott to me, but I'm not sure I'm right. Inside are stories by Archie Joscelyn, who I've found to be a pretty reliably entertaining Western author under that name as well as his pseudonyms Al Cody and Lynn Westland; Lee Floren, one of his yarns featuring Buck McKee, which are generally some of Floren's best work; and Joe Austell Small, a fairly prolific author of Western pulp yarns but best remembered as the long-time editor and publisher of the magazines TRUE WEST and FRONTIER TIMES.
read quite a few Western novels by Clifton Adams and enjoyed them all. NEVER
SAY NO TO A KILLER is the first of his handful of crime novels that I’ve read,
and it’s no surprise that I think it’s very good, too. Originally published
under the pseudonym Jonathan Gant as half of an Ace Double, it’s being
reprinted by Stark House Press as part of the excellent Black Gat Books line.
I’m getting lazy (and short on time), so here’s the publisher’s description:
When Roy Surratt busts out of jail, he only has two things going for him: faith that his former cellmate, John Venci, will keep his promise to help him stay clear of the cops, and the supreme confidence in his own intelligence. After all, Roy knows he's got what it takes to succeed. And no one had better get in his way. So it comes as some surprise that the person who meets him after his breakout isn't Venci, but Venci's wife, Dorris. He didn't figure on having to deal with a woman. But he soon finds out that Venci is dead, that Dorris is sitting on a sweet blackmail scheme, and that he can have this town in his back pocket if he can just stay cool enough to take Venci's place. But Roy doesn't figure on Pat Kelso, girlfriend of his first mark. He has no idea how quickly the best laid plans can unravel.
What really made this book work for me is the pace. Adams was a real master at
plotting his books so that one event flows naturally into another, and even
though NEVER SAY NO TO A KILLER isn’t non-stop action, there’s always something
happening to drive the narrative forward. Even when the protagonist stops now
and then to ponder about philosophy, there’s always the sense that more trouble
is lurking. This is a skillfully written book with a very effective air of
impending doom. The narrator may be fooling himself, but he’s not fooling us.
It’s hard to go wrong with a Western by Clifton Adams, and clearly that extends
to his crime novels as well. I think I have all of them, and I need to read
another one soon. I give this one a high recommendation.
The only thing Kate and J.D. Blaze had in mind when they
rode into the settlement of Unity, Utah, was celebrating their wedding
anniversary. But then J.D. is forced to kill a corrupt deputy in order to save
a woman’s life, and suddenly the Old West’s only husband-and-wife gunfighters
are plunged into a deadly mystery involving a sinister albino, missing men, and
a lost treasure in Spanish gold.
It’s action all the way as critically acclaimed author Ben Boulden returns with
another exciting installment in today’s top Adult Western series!
Also, Ben's first Blaze! novel, RED ROCK RAMPAGE, is currently on sale for a limited time, so you can pick up a copy of the ebook edition for only 99 cents.
Nice cover on this issue of DETECTIVE TALES. I think it might be by Tom Lovell, but that's just a guess on my part. No guess about the great group of authors inside, though: Norbert Davis, Cleve F. Adams, Philip Ketchum, Stewart Sterling, William R. Cox, Emile C. Tepperman, Ray Cummings, and Wyatt Blassingame. That's a bunch of top-notch talent.
I like the cover on this issue of .44 WESTERN, one of the long-running Western pulps from Popular Publications, and feel like I should know who the artist is, but I don't. He did a good job of conveying sheer desperation on the part of both men, though. Good covers make me want to write a story incorporating the scene, and this one certainly does. Inside the issue, there are stories by Wayne D. Overholser, Lee Floren, Ralph Yergen, M. Howard Lane, and several lesser known pulpsters. Update: That cover is by Robert Stanley. I knew it looked familiar. As many paperback covers as I've seen by Stanley, I should have recognized his work!
Pursued by Sheriff Terry Reynolds, who is both the girl
he loves and his most relentless enemy, noble outlaw Kid Calvert is shot and
wounded by Terry while he and Dandy McLain, another member of Calvert’s Horde,
are being pursued by a posse. Embittered by this, the Kid decides that if he’s
going to be harried and hunted as an owlhoot, even though he only breaks the
law to help people who need it, then he might as well start acting like a real
owlhoot. But before he can do this . . .
The Kid finds an abandoned baby! Terry is framed as a crooked sheriff and is
threatened by a lynch mob! A gang of rustlers led by the notorious bandido known as Brazito shoot up the
town! A hunchbacked saloon swamper becomes a kill-crazy gunslinger! Herds of
stolen cattle disappear into thin air!
Yes, it’s another crazed, breathless, over-the-top adventure of Kid Calvert and
Calvert’s Horde from Phil Richards. “The Hell-Born Clan” is the longest and
last and best of these breakneck yarns. It appeared in the August 1935 issue of
WESTERN ACES, after a four-month gap in the series since the previous story “Senorita
Death”. If you’re expecting some resolution since this is the final story, you
won’t get it, but you will get an incredible amount of action as guns blaze and
horses gallop almost constantly. Somehow in the midst of all that, Richards
manages to put together a fairly coherent and complicated mystery plot. Sure,
quite a bit of it depends on coincidence, and you’ll probably see the big twist
at the end coming, but as far as I’m concerned, he makes it all work.
Over and above that, what runs all the way through this series is the doomed,
epic love story between Kid Calvert and Terry Reynolds, the likes of which I
haven’t encountered in any other Western pulp—and I’ve read a bunch of them.
All the hard ridin’ and shootin’ is just window dressing for this tragic
romance. That’s what sets the Kid Calvert stories apart, and what makes the
collection of them from Altus Press one of the best books I’ve read this year.
At this late date, we’ll never know whether Richards was aware the series was
coming to an end, or if he assumed that the Kid would ride again. But I’m
really sorry there are no more of these to read. I hope the Kid and Terry finally
found some peace and happiness together . . . but I think it’s more likely they
died side by side, with guns blazing as they battled against evil-doers.
THE LONG COUNT is a fine new thriller by J.M. Gulvin, set in
Texas during the Sixties. Texas Ranger John Quarrie, who carries a pair of
Ruger Blackhawk revolvers and whose godfather was legendary Ranger Frank Hamer,
is called in to investigate two cases: the apparent suicide of an elderly World
War II veteran and a series of brutal murders carried out by a spree killer
working his way across northeast Texas. I don’t think it’s giving away too much
to say that eventually Quarrie’s investigation uncovers some surprising links
between those cases. Gulvin’s plot has plenty of twists and turns along the
Quarrie is a very likable protagonist, the single father of a ten-year-old son
who also winds up playing a part in the plot. He’s just flashy enough to be
interesting and is also a smart, determined investigator. There’s a good sense
of time and place (although as someone who grew up in Texas during the Sixties,
I don’t think Gulvin quite nails it all the time) and plenty of good dialogue.
Gulvin has a distinctive style that took me some getting used to, but he’s also
a top-notch storyteller who kept me turning the pages. THE LONG COUNT is the
first of a new series that reminded me at times of Craig Johnson’s Walt
Longmire books. Well worth checking out.
It's a good thing giant spiders are afraid of flashlights (a well-known scientific fact), or else the girl on Frank R. Paul's cover for this issue of WONDER STORIES would be in a lot of trouble. There are several writers I've heard of in this issue: Nat Schachner and Arthur Leo Zagat, Captain S.P. Meek, and R.F. Starzl, and others who are unknown to me: Frank J. Bridge, Lowell Howard Morrow, and Edsel Newton. I haven't read a lot of science fiction from this era, and the stories I have read tend to be by authors who went on to have long careers, such as Jack Williamson, Edmond Hamilton, Murray Leinster, and Ray Cummings. I'd like to read more of the pre-Golden Age stuff. As usual, too many books, not enough time . . .