I believe those are Dauntless dive bombers featured on the cover of this issue of FIGHTING ACES, but I could be wrong about that. I wrote about a Dauntless pilot in one of my World War II novels and had a great time researching it, but that was more than a decade ago. What I'm sure of is that the author of the lead story in this issue is David Goodis, remembered as the author of a number of bleak crime novels, but before that he was a prolific contributor to the air war pulps. Also in this issue are Western author Orlando Rigoni, house-name Ray P. Shotwell, and several other authors whose names aren't familiar to me. I don't know who did this cover, but I like the action on it.
This guy's hat is okay, but I'm afraid his cigar is done for. Those hombres shooting at him will pay for that, I'll bet. This issue of FIFTEEN WESTERN TALES has some pretty good writers in its pages: Gordon D. Shirreffs, Norman A. Fox, Frank Castle, George C. Appell, J.L. Bouma, Rolland Lynch, Robert E. Mahaffey, Richard H. Nelson (actually William Hamling, better known as an editor and publisher of SF magazines and softcore paperbacks), Richard Ferber, and house-names David Crewe and Dave Sands. Shirreffs and Fox are reason enough to read an issue of a Western pulp, and I'll bet most of the other stories are pretty good, too.
There’s a chance I read this book when I was a kid, although
I don’t remember it at all, because I read a lot of the juvenile novels
published by the Whitman Publishing Company of Racine, Wisconsin. This one was
published in 1944, but that doesn’t matter because they stayed on the kids’
section shelves of public libraries for years. Whitman published hundreds of
them, I’d say, some featuring original characters created for the line, but
many of them starred popular characters from movies, radio, TV, and comic
GENE AUTRY AND THE THIEF RIVER OUTLAWS is very much like one of the B-Westerns
Autry made for Republic Pictures, although toned down somewhat for kids. Gene,
a roving troubleshooter, is asked by a friend of a friend to investigate some
sabotage plaguing the construction of a railroad bridge over Thief River
Canyon. It’s the usual bit where the old-timer who owns the construction
company has to complete the bridge by a certain date or else lose the lucrative
contract. Gene’s investigation quickly turns up a suspect, but he has a hunch
something else is going on, so he continues to dig around and winds up in
danger a couple of times before everything is straightened out satisfactorily.
Overall, this is a fairly mild book, as I mentioned above. There’s one murder,
but it takes place off-screen. Not much gunplay and only a couple of
fistfights. But the pace moves along fairly quickly and the author at least
makes an attempt to throw a few twists into the plot. He also does a good job
with the colorful sidekick character, a Gabby-like old codger called Tennessee.
GENE AUTRY AND THE THIEF RIVER OUTLAWS was written by Bob Hamilton, whoever
that was. He wrote a couple of other Gene Autry novels for Whitman, or at least
they were published under that name, but that’s all I know about him. It could
well be a pseudonym or house-name. But this one is competently written and
entertaining in a nostalgic way. I’m not sure I’d recommend it to anybody who
didn’t read these books as a kid, but if you’re an old codger like me, there’s
a good chance you’d enjoy it, too.
|Dust Jacket Back|
That's a Margaret Brundage cover, of course. What else could it be? And this issue is so packed with stories that Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, and August Derleth don't even make the cover. E. Hoffmann Price, Paul Ernst, and Kirk Mashburn are still remembered today, but I doubt if S. Gordon Gurwit is exactly a household name. I don't know that I've ever read anything by him. Still, his work was popular during that era, because I've seen his name on numerous pulp covers. Anyway, with issues like this, it's easy to see why WEIRD TALES is such an iconic pulp magazine.
I really like this cover: the lighting, the colors, and of course, it's an Injury to a Hat cover, as well. Harry Olmsted, Eli Colter, Robert Trimnell, and Ray Townsend are the only names I recognize among the authors. The other stories are by Wallace Umphrey (the lead story, "Brand Him Marshal Murder!", a title I really like, too), John C. Ropke, and Mel Holt. Oh, and the house-name Dave Sands. I'll bet it's a good issue.
SCARRED FACES is the second novella by Stephen D. Frances
featuring Hank Janson (which is also the by-line, of course). In this early
tale, Hank is still a traveling cosmetics salesman who just happens to wind up
in the middle of violent crimes. This time it’s an acid attack on a beautiful
young woman that leaves her dead. Shortly after that, two thugs kidnap Hank and
try to take him for a ride because they think he may have seen too much. Of
course he escapes, and from there it’s not long until he’s mixed up in a
dangerous racket that involves several more beautiful young women, at least one
of whom wants Hank dead.
This yarn isn’t driven quite as much by coincidence as the first Hank Janson,
WHEN DAMES GET TOUGH, which tells me that Frances’s plotting may be getting
better. His tough guy prose still doesn’t sound the least bit authentic
American, but I don’t really care. He can tell a story and keep the reader
racing along, flipping those digital pages. There are three more novellas in
this collection I’m reading (I didn't figure you'd mind looking at the cover by Reginald Heade again), and I’m looking forward to them.
As I’ve probably mentioned before, a creek ran behind the
houses on the street where I grew up. It had steep banks that seemed really
high when I was a kid. In places, they actually were twenty or thirty feet
tall. We’re lucky none of us ever fell off and busted an arm or a leg—or a
neck. But as far as I recall, none of us were ever hurt playing along the creek
other than the occasional scratch or bruise.
On the other side of the creek was a large pasture that was anywhere from fifty
to a couple of hundred yards wide, depending on the course of the creek, and on
the other side of it was a small country road. That pasture was part of our
stomping grounds, too, of course. I remember one Saturday morning I was with a
couple of friends, and after crossing the creek by jumping from rock to rock,
we climbed up the trail on the opposite bank and came out into the field bent
on some adventure I no longer recall.
But then we stopped in our tracks and stared at something new that had appeared
seemingly overnight. From our point of view, it was a huge, steep, circular
bank of dirt that sloped in. As we stood there gazing at it in awe, one of my
friends asked what it was.
I said, “I think it’s a volcano.”
Now, I knew good and well it wasn’t a volcano, and my friends quickly figured
out that it wasn’t, but for a minute or so I had them going. And it was
certainly an intriguing thought, that a volcano could pop up in the pasture
behind our houses. That would have been pretty cool.
We climbed up to the top, and as those of you who have lived in the country
have probably figured out already, it was just a stock tank, a big ring of dirt
shoved up with a tractor to catch rain and provide water for the cows who
grazed in that pasture. (That's not the actual tank in the picture above, that's just a photo I found on the Internet, but the one we saw looked a lot like that.) The ground sloped down toward the creek so the bank was
a lot lower on one side and the cows could get to the water without any
trouble. When the pond it created was full, it was probably fifty feet wide and
maybe two feet deep. Certainly not deep enough for anybody to use it as a
swimming hole. (We did have a
swimming hole in the creek for a while, after some of us dammed it up . . . but
that’s another story.)
Anyway, the volcano name stuck, and that’s what we called it from then on. We
played some around that tank over the years. Any mound of dirt, if little boys
were around, was going to get war played around it sooner or later in those
days. One time I was running along the top of it when I tripped and fell and
put out a hand to catch myself . . . right into a clump of cactus. That was not
fun, and I still remember my mother using tweezers to pick at least a hundred
cactus needles out of my palm. I’d like to think that I bore the ordeal in
stony, heroic silence, but that’s probably not what actually happened.
Eventually somebody put a mobile home in that pasture, and years after that I
think there was a gas well in it. But the volcano remained right where it was,
although the banks wore down quite a bit over time. A year or so back, they
started putting in an RV park on that property, and I thought, well, that’s it,
they were finally going to bulldoze it down and fill it in. But no, even though
there are dozens of RVs parked around it, the volcano is still there, or at
least it was the last time I drove by. And I hope it stays. Not every kid had a
volcano practically in his backyard when he was growing up.
Man, do I love that cover! Not only do we have a sexy redheaded nurse, we've got a gun hidden in a cast (a dang cannon, from the looks of that muzzle blast), and stories with titles like "Trigger-Happy Honey" and "The Chortling Corpse". As the old saying goes, this stuff is right up my alley! Inside are stories by old pros T.W. Ford, Dale Clark, and Richard Brister, prolific house-names Mat Rand and Cliff Campbell, and a story by none other than science fiction great Cyril Kornbluth. I would have bought this one for the cover, but I'll bet I would have enjoyed the stories, too.
This is a pulp that I own and read recently. It’s in really good shape, too. The scan is from my copy, and that nice cover is by Sam
Cherry, who painted nearly all of the RANCH ROMANCES covers from the Fifties.
The issue gets underway with the featured novella “Woman at Wagonwheel”
(despite what the cover says, there’s no “The” in the title on the actual
story) by Ray Gaulden, a fairly prolific Western pulpster and novelist who had
at least one book made into a movie (FIVE CARD STUD). This is a pretty good
hardboiled yarn with a standard save-the-ranch plot that’s elevated by
Gaulden’s smooth prose, some interesting characters, and a well-handled
romantic rectangle. I’ve read and enjoyed several of Gaulden’s pulp stories,
but I don’t think I’ve ever read one of his novels. I really ought to.
Todhunter Ballard is best remembered today as mystery writer W.T. Ballard, but
he was a very prolific and well-regarded Western writer, too. His short story
in this issue, “To Know the Truth”, is a mining boomtown yarn involving an
attempted swindle, a two-fisted miner, and the beautiful female editor of the
local newspaper. It’s minor Ballard but still well-written and entertaining.
Seven Anderton was a fairly prolific pulp author for three decades, from the
late Twenties until his death in 1958. He wrote in nearly every genre but was
probably best known for his Westerns and detective stories. As far as I know,
he never published a novel or published outside of the pulps. He’s mostly
forgotten today, but there are still fans of his work around, including me. His
novelette in this issue, “Queen of Jacob’s Kingdom”, appears to have been his
last Western story. It’s a good one. The protagonist is a young man who has
gone west to make his fortune in the ranching business, but he runs afoul of
the local cattle baron and makes things worse for himself by falling for the
man’s beautiful daughter. There’s actually more romance than action in this
one, something of a rarity during the Fifties despite the magazine’s name, but
the writing is top-notch and the story works well.
J.L. Bouma wrote quite a few Western novels, but during the late Forties and on
through the Fifties, he was busy writing dozens of pulp stories, first in the
detective pulps and then the Westerns, becoming a regular contributor to RANCH
ROMANCES. His story in this issue, “Canyon Crossing”, is also heavy on the
romance angle, as a young woman who’s about to get married has to deal with the
return of an old beau who deserted her. There’s also some horse rustling and a
twist ending that very predictable, leaving us with a story that’s readable but
maybe a little too much on the mild side.
T.V. Olsen had a long, successful career as a Western novelist and is still
highly regarded by many Western readers. He was never very prolific as a short
story writer, turning out only a couple dozen of them, and most of those
appeared in RANCH ROMANCES. “Stampede!” is, not surprisingly, a trail drive
story with some good action and characters that are more complex than you
usually find in a story of this length. I’ve read a few of Olsen’s novels and
am not much of a fan of them, but I liked this story quite a bit.
The least well-known author in this issue is probably Robert E. Trevathan, and
long-time Western readers might even recognize that one, since he wrote a
number of novels for Avalon Books, the library market publisher. I’ve even read
a few of ’em, but I don’t remember anything about them. He wrote a few stories
for the Western pulps during the Fifties, including “Prairie Wind” in this
issue. It’s about a young wife who has a hard time coping with the hardships of
life on the frontier, and having the local cattle baron causing trouble for the
homesteaders in the area just makes things worse. Trevathan writes fairly well,
but the ending of this story is a little abrupt and not really believable.
There’s also a serial installment by Joseph Wayne (probably Wayne D.
Overholser) that I didn’t read since I don’t have the whole thing, and the
usual assortment of features like Western movie news, horoscope stuff, and
requests for pen pals. Overall, this is probably the mildest issue of RANCH
ROMANCES from the Fifties that I’ve read. All the stories are well-written and
reasonably entertaining, with the stories by Gaulden, Olsen, and Anderton taking
top honors, but several of them are really lacking in action and drama. It’s
worth reading if you have it close to hand, but I wouldn’t go digging for it in
I always like reading about authors, especially pulp
authors, so PULPWOOD DAYS, VOLUME 2: LIVES OF THE PULP WRITERS is targeted
right at me. Edited by John Locke and published by Off-Trail Publications in
2013, I’m just now catching up with it.
This is a collection of twenty articles by pulp authors published in various
writer’s magazines such as WRITER’S DIGEST and THE AUTHOR AND JOURNALIST, from
the Twenties to the Fifties. Included are articles by a number of Western
pulpsters whose work I’m very familiar with: Chuck Martin, Hapsburg Liebe, Tom
W. Blackburn, Frank H. Bennett (who wrote Westerns as Ben Frank), and Tom
Curry, whose 12,000+ word memoir is the centerpiece of the volume as far as I’m
concerned. There are other big names as well: Arthur J. Burks, Steve Fisher,
Eustace L. Adams, Thomas Thursday, Harold Q. Masur, and Jean Francis Webb. Then
there are the writers I know little or nothing at all about, such as Walter J.
Norton, Ludwig S. Landmichl, and Paul E. Triem. All of them have interesting things
to say, though.
I’m fascinated by how writers work and the stories behind the stories, so to
speak, and there’s plenty of that here. As you’d expect since they’re all by
yarnspinners, even articles like these are well-written and entertaining. I
really enjoyed this book. There’s a companion volume, PULPWOOD DAYS, VOLUME 1:
EDITORS YOU WANT TO KNOW, as well as an earlier collection of writer’s magazine
articles by assorted pulpsters, PULP FICTIONEERS. I’ve already ordered copies
of both of them. In the meantime, if you’re a fan of the pulps or writing in
general, I give this one a high recommendation.
Dan Spalding, record store owner and retired cop, takes on a private security job in FLIP SIDE, the latest thriller from Richard Prosch. Dan's client is a college professor who's been getting some mysterious and frightening threats on his life. Between working as a bodyguard for the professor and trying to find out who's responsible for the threats, he makes the acquaintance of a beautiful redhead and runs afoul of some frat boys who have formed a white supremacist group. Not surprisingly, a couple of murders wind up figuring in the plot, too, along with some local gangsters, and Dan's life is in danger more than once before he untangles everything.
I'm really enjoying this series. Dan Spalding is one of the most likeable protagonists in mystery fiction these days, and Richard Prosch's lean, fast-moving prose is a pure pleasure to read. If you're a mystery fan, you really need to check out the Dan Spalding novels. (Excellent cover on this one, as well.)
Nice cover on this issue of STAR DETECTIVE. I don't know who the artist is. But inside are stories by three very dependable authors--Richard Sale, Roger Torrey, and Eugene Cunningham--plus others by authors I'm not familiar with. N.V. Romero, who contributed the featured story "The X-Man", has only that one credit in the Fictionmags Index, which leads me to think it may well have been a pseudonym. John Mallory and Richard Werner are totally unknown to me, and James Hall was a house-name. Still, this looks like a pretty good issue.
This is the pulp in which "Ghost Mine Gold", the Masked Rider novel featured in yesterday's Forgotten Books post, first appeared. It has a decent cover, and that's actually pretty close to how I visualize the Masked Rider when I read the books. Other authors featured in this issue are Tom Curry (who wrote a few Masked Riders himself), the prolific and well-regarded Stephen Payne, Wilton West (an author I know nothing about), and the house-name Jackson Cole.
This short pulp novel was published originally in the September 1942 issue of MASKED RIDER WESTERN, then reprinted in paperback in 1969 by Curtis Books (the edition shown in the scan, which I got from the Internet), and in 2011 as a large print hardback from Thorndike (the edition I read).
The Masked Rider, for those of you who haven't encountered the character before, is actually drifting cowboy Wayne Morgan . . . except he's probably not, and Wayne Morgan is just a pose that the so-called Robin Hood Outlaw uses, much like The Shadow pretended to be Lamont Cranston. Only there actually was a Lamont Cranston and The Shadow just used his identity, and the various authors of the Masked Rider's adventures never make it clear whether someone named Wayne Morgan really exists or if the Masked Rider just made him up. In fact, during the course of the long-running series, we never find out much about the Masked Rider except that he battles for justice and has a faithful Indian companion, the Yaqui warrior Blue Hawk. (Any resemblance to a certain other masked rider of the plains and his faithful Indian companion is strictly not coincidental.)
Anyway, before I go too far astray (too late!), this particular exploit is by Walker A. Tompkins, one of my favorite Western authors. The story gets underway with a pretty suspenseful scene in which a stagecoach is carrying a bomb, but the driver and the lone passenger, an old prospector who has just filed a claim on a fabulously valuable lost gold mine he's found, aren't aware of their danger. Will the bomb go off, or will it be discovered in time?
It's not too much of a spoiler to say that the bomb does go off, and that it was planted by the crooked assayer who wants the mine for himself, since Tompkins reveals both of those things very quickly. The Masked Rider, in his Wayne Morgan guise, is framed for the killing and arrested, but Blue Hawk helps him escape, and then they're off after the real bad guys, the crooked assayer and his minions. The old prospector who was blown up has a twin brother, and the twin brother has a beautiful daughter, and the daughter has a beau who's a Pony Express rider, and all of them get mixed up in the adventure, too, along with the marshal and his posse who are after the Masked Rider and Blue Hawk. Everybody winds up in the crater of an extinct volcano (trust me, it makes perfect sense in the context of the story) and much action ensues.
Tompkins always brought a lot of professionalism to his pulp work. He wrote many excellent Jim Hatfield novels for TEXAS RANGERS and also contributed good yarns featuring the Rio Kid (in RIO KID WESTERN) and Steve Reese, Hank Ball, and Dusty Trail, the trio of range detectives who starred in RANGE RIDERS WESTERNS. The guys from RANGE RIDERS never made it to paperback reprint in the Sixties and Seventies, but some of Tompkins' novels from the other three series did.
GHOST MINE GOLD doesn't ascend to the upper levels of that work because the plot is a little on the thin side, but it is an entertaining yarn with plenty of good action in it. Tompkins had a knack for coming up with inventive ways to put his characters in danger, and that quality is on display in this novel. I think the ending could have been a little more over-the-top, but it's satisfying enough, and the fade-out is really reminiscent of that other masked rider of the plains. Maybe it's not a classic, but I found GHOST MINE GOLD to be a perfectly pleasant way to spend a couple of hours.
The street where I grew up is a circle. There were fifteen
houses on it in those days (the two down at the corner with the service road
were moved out during an expansion of the highway some years ago). All the
houses are on the right as you follow the road up and around and back to rejoin
with itself. My parents’ house was the seventh one. It sits just before the
point where the road starts to curve around to the left to form the circle. The
area in the center of the circle, maybe two acres, was a communal space and
everybody who lived on the street had the right to use it. Sometimes we called
it the park, but mostly we just called it the circle. And it was the scene of
some epic sporting contests.
The fellow who lived next door to us sunk some heavy posts in the ground and
put up fencing between them to serve as a baseball backstop. It was good for
those of us who loved to play ball all spring and summer, and it also protected
his cars, which he sometimes parked along that side of the street, from foul tips.
A backstop also eliminated the need for a catcher, which was good because we
sometimes had trouble coming up with enough kids to field two teams. Any ball
the batter swung at and missed or let go by because it was ’way off the mark,
he’d just pick it up himself after it hit the backstop and throw it back to the
pitcher. First base was a tree, second base was a telephone pole on the other
side of the circle, and third base was another tree. A ball hit on the fly
across the street and into the front yards of the Guthrie house (later the
Sanchez house), the Whatley house, the Woodard house, or the Brooks house was a
home run. That happened very, very seldom. We were not a neighborhood of power
When there weren’t enough kids to play baseball, we’d play Flies and Skinners
instead. One guy would hit fungo while the rest of us ranged out in the circle.
Catch one fly ball or cleanly field three grounders (“skinners”), and you got
to go up and hit. It was a simpler time, and we could spend hours doing that.
At some point, another neighbor put up a basketball goal on the other side of
the circle, and it wasn’t long before we had a fairly flat area trampled down
in front of it. We usually played two-on-two, occasionally three-on-three, and
since we had only one goal, we had to play half-court style, taking the ball to
the back part of the trampled-down area any time you got a rebound and then
starting from there. Fouls were not completely unheard of, but they were rare.
We’d usually play first team to fifty points won. Usually, the final score
would be 50-48. We weren’t defensive wizards, either.
When there were only two or three of us, we played Horse or Around-the-World or
just shot around. The goal and hoop in the circle were regulation, but there
was also a backboard made out of planks nailed to a tree in my backyard, with a
hoop attached to it. No net. It was lower than regulation, somewhere between
eight and nine feet off the ground. I could dunk in that hoop when I was in
high school and college, the only times I’ve ever experienced that particular
My senior year in high school, I was able to skip last period and get out an
hour earlier than any other kid who lived around the circle, so a lot of days
I’d get my basketball and go shoot free throws. I got to where I could hit a
hundred in a row sometimes. I remember those times quite fondly.
There was also a good open space in the circle stretching from the road in
front of my parents’ house to the road in front of the Whatley house that served
as our football field. Out of bounds on one side lined up with the post the
basketball goal was on, and on the other side the tree that served as first
base in the baseball games marked out of bounds. The road at each end was the
end zone, of course. We played two-below, all pass, no rushing the passer,
three completes is a first down. No goal posts, so no extra points or field
goals, only touchdowns. We usually played first team to 48 wins, and unlike
basketball, there were some lopsided scores in those games. Usually it was
pretty close, though. I played quarterback most of the time and sometimes threw
so many passes my right elbow ached until I went to bed that night.
I was playing receiver, though, the evening I planted my foot wrong, rolled my
ankle, and broke a bone in my foot. I broke a different bone in the same foot
playing football with some of my friends in college, and the ring finger on my
right hand is crooked to this day because I was trying to tag Bill Weidman
while playing defense in a game in my parents’ back yard and that finger got
caught in one of the belt loops on his jeans and twisted so that it broke at
the first knuckle. It swelled up pretty bad but I didn’t realize it was broken
until a few weeks later when I went to the doctor and had it x-rayed. The bone
had already started to heal, and they would have had to do surgery and rebreak
it to straighten it up. No thanks. It doesn’t stop me from typing, now does it?
All these stories are probably making those of you who have only known me as an
adult think that I’ve never really seemed like the athletic type. And that’s
true. I’ve always been overweight, and my feet stick out funny. But I
understood the mechanics and the strategies of the various games, and when I
was young I had good hand-eye coordination and, while I was never fast by any
stretch of the imagination, from time to time I could manage to be
sneaky-quick. Also, opponents often underestimated me. When I’d play pick-up
basketball games in college, none of the other team would bother guarding me,
so I could stand out on the perimeter and pop long range shots all day. One of
my friends who’d been an all-city guard during high school realized this and
would feed me the ball, so I knocked down eight or ten shots a game . . . and the
other team still wouldn’t cover me. Hey, you take what they give you.
Don’t regard any of this as bragging. I could manage “not terrible” at times,
but I was really not a good athlete and have never been part of an actual,
organized team except for a couple of summers during college when I played on
our church’s softball team. But I enjoyed
playing. Sports was never the focus of my life that reading and later writing
have been, but it was always good to be outside moving around and sharing those
good times with my friends.
Yeah, I'd read a pulp with a cover like that. Excellent work by H.L. Parkhurst on this issue of SPICY-ADVENTURE STORIES. I think reading it would be quite enjoyable, too, considering there are four stories by Robert Leslie Bellem (one under his own name and one each as by Frank Roberts, Jerome Severs Perry, and Ellery Watson Calder), two by E. Hoffmann Price (one under his name and one as by Hamlin Daly), Norman A. Daniels (writing as Kirk Rand), and C.C. Spruce and Atwater Culpepper, who seem to have been real guys and not house-names or pseudonyms. But don't quote me on that, because I don't really know.
There's a lot of red on this cover by J.W. Scott, but I think it works. It's pretty eye-catching, which was the whole idea. The author of the featured novella, Ken Jason, was actually a house-name, so there's not much telling who really wrote it. Other authors in this issue of WESTERN NOVEL AND SHORT STORIES are Ed Earl Repp (twice, once as himself and once as Brad Buckner--and of course, one or both stories may have been farmed out), Rolland Lynch, and Carmony Gove.