Saturday, August 04, 2018

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Fighting Western, October 1946

This is a pulp that I own and read recently. The scan is from my copy. That looks like an H.W. Scott cover to me, but I’m not entirely certain about that.

The featured story is “Six-Gun Survey”, a novella by E. Hoffmann Price. Price was a great pulp author, one who could write in almost every genre and do a good job with all of them. From what I’ve read of his work, Westerns may well have been his weakest area (with the exception of his Simon Boliver Grimes series), but those yarns are still consistently entertaining. “Six-Gun Survey” is well written, as always with Price, and the plot, which involves a land and irrigation swindle as well as camels left over the army’s failed experiment with them in Arizona Territory, is pretty interesting. Even so, this story is a little slow and not top-notch Price. Still worth reading, though.

Victor Rousseau had a long career in the pulps, stretching all the way back to 1907 and lasting until 1948. Like E. Hoffmann Price, he wrote in multiple genres. In the Thirties and Forties, he wrote primarily for Trojan Publishing Corporation, the publisher of the Spicy and Speed magazine lines, turning out scores of detective, adventure, and Western yarns. His story in this issue of FIGHTING WESTERN, “Buffalo Trail”, is a pretty good novelette which finds six mountain men joining a trail drive. The fur trapping days are just about over, and these men have to find something to do with their lives. One is young enough that he’s done some cowboying in the past, and he’s the protagonist of this tale, which has several nice plot twists I didn’t see coming at all. It suffers a little from an over-abundance of what I call “yuh mangy polecat” dialogue, but despite that, I enjoyed it very much.

Laurence Donovan was yet another prolific, versatile pulpster who wrote a lot for Trojan. His story “Brand of a Thief” reads like it could have appeared in RANCH ROMANCES, since there’s a romantic rectangle in this one, as well as $30,000 in missing money from the sale of a herd. Donovan was good with action and there are some nice shoot-outs and fights, along with a satisfying plot twist. I liked this one quite a bit, too.

John Jo Carpenter was really John Reese, who wrote dozens of stories under the Carpenter name for the Western pulps during the Forties and Fifties, before going on to a successful career as an author of Western and mystery novels in both hardback and paperback. He wrote the novel on which the movie CHARLEY VARRICK is based. His story in this issue, “Gun-Wise and Trail-Shy”, uses the standard plot of the young man wrongly condemned for a crime who has to take up the owlhoot trail. But when he encounters another outlaw, things take an unexpected turn. Reese was an excellent writer, and this is another good story.

Paul Hanna was a Trojan Publishing house-name, so there’s really no way of knowing who wrote “Beasts of Pueblo”, the final story in this issue. Which is a shame, because it’s an excellent yarn and my favorite from this issue. The protagonist is a young man who runs a Wells, Fargo express office. He’s plagued by what we’d now think of as a phobia which makes him physically ill when he’s confronted by a situation calling for violence. As you’d expect, he winds up overcoming it (this is a Western pulp, after all), but this story has a lot of emotional depth and is very well-written.

There are only five stories in this issue, which is a pretty low number for a Western pulp, but they’re all substantial tales and they’re all good. I was a little surprised that the E. Hoffmann Price story is actually the weakest in the bunch, since I really like Price’s work, and even at that, it’s still entertaining! This is just a good all-around issue and I enjoyed reading it.


Denny Lien said...

I've always been intrigued by the historic "camels in Arizona" experiment, and it occurs to me that I don't think I've ever read a western story in which they were a factor. Any others come to mind besides this one by Price? (I don't think I've every seen a western cover with a camel on it, either; the artist for this issue may have missed a chance to make pulp history if he'd swapped out the horse for a camel on this cover.)

James Reasoner said...

There's the movie HAWMPS! (1976), which I recall as being pretty entertaining. It seems like there's another, earlier one, maybe a Disney movie, but I can't recall for sure. In books, there are two Trailsman novels under the Jon Sharpe house-name, SIX-GUN SCHOLAR and CALIFORNIA CAMEL CORPS, that use camels in the plots. SIX-GUN SCHOLAR is one of mine. I'll bet there were other Western stories in the pulps to feature camels, but I don't recall coming across any. I agree, it would have made a great cover.

Erwin-K said...

First and last those camels popped up in any number of places.

I first encountered them in Fran Striker's "The Lone Ranger & the Silver Bullet." I know the story was set 40 years after the pre-Civil War experiment. In the story the imported camel wranglers get scared off by the bad guys. The job falls to the LR's good friend Thunder Martin. Problems follow.

One episode of the TV series "Broken Arrow" is a variation on The Boy Who Cried Wolf. A boy who tells "tall tales" sees a murder, but nobody except the Indian Agent believes him. Based on a drawing of a strange creature the boy claimed to have seen, Agent Jeffers sends Cochise and the Apaches on a quest in the desert. They show up with a camel just in time to prove the kid didn't always tell lies.

At least one of the Arabian drovers stayed in the U.S. His name was Hadj Ali. Americans often corrupted his name to Hi Jolly. The real guy appeared in at least a couple of films. In one case he was merely a plot point. A bunch of outlaws are on the run. They head into the "impassible" desert where sane men do not dare follow. Guess what? Previously hired Hadj Ali waits at the edge of the desert with a string of camels to get them safely across. (Seems to me Burl Ives was one of the bad guys, but can't be sure.)

In the 1960's the New Christy Minstrels released a song called "Hi Jolly"about ol' Hadj Ali.

No, the Army's experiment did not fail. Congress just refused to fund if further.