Saturday, December 29, 2018

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Texas Rangers, August 1943

To wrap up the year for this series, this is a pulp that I own and read recently. The scan is from the issue I read, ragged cover edges, scribbling, and all. Anybody who’s read this blog for very long knows that TEXAS RANGERS is one of my favorite Western pulps and Jim Hatfield is my favorite Western pulp character. I’ve been reading his adventures (first in the paperback reprints from the Sixties) for a very long time now.

The Hatfield novel in this issue is “Pecos Poison”, written by Tom Curry under the Jackson Cole house-name, and behind that very generic title is an interesting and effective yarn about the conflict between coal miners and ranchers in West Texas. This particular mine is about played out and isn’t valuable, so far as anybody knows, but somebody is conspiring to steal it anyway and is using rustling and the friction between miners and cattlemen as a distraction. Jim Hatfield is sent in to get to the bottom of the trouble and works undercover to begin with, as usual. Also as usual, Curry employs a proxy hero, young miner-turned-cowboy Bert Webb, to carry part of the action while Hatfield is off investigating other angles. There’s plenty of action, and the main villain in this one (there’s no secret about his identity) is particularly dastardly, using a couple of murder methods you don’t often find in pulp Westerns. It all leads up to an explosive and very effective underground climax in the coal mine.

There are also four short stories in this issue. The first, “Widow’s Choice” by William Morrison (who was really Joseph Samachson), concerns the rivalry between two prospecting partners over the affections of a widow who may not be much to look at, but she’s a great cook. Then things are complicated by an Indian attack. This is a pretty lightweight tale that takes a grim turn part of the way through, then eventually swings back to humorous fare. I’m not sure it completely works—it’s a little bit too schizophrenic—but it’s a readable story.

“Ranger’s Ruse” by Charles N. Heckelmann is a murder mystery, as a miserly moneylender is shot in the back and a Texas Ranger has to figure out which of three suspects is the killer. It’s not much of a whodunit, since Heckelmann keeps information from the reader that would make it possible to solve the mystery, but it’s another one that reads okay.

“Range Waif” by W.E. Carleton is a contemporary Western comedy about rival dude ranches competing for customers. It didn’t work for me at all and I didn’t finish it.

This issue wraps up with “Sodbuster’s Showdown”, a short story by Frank Morris. In a post earlier this year about an issue of HOLLYWOOD DETECTIVE, I wrote about how there seem to be two Frank Morrises, one who wrote for a variety of Western pulps from the mid-Thirties to the mid-Forties, and another who was a house-name for the Trojan pulps. The author of “Sodbuster’s Showdown” is almost certainly not the same person who wrote “Location for Murder” in that HOLLYWOOD DETECTIVE. But it’s a good story anyway, about a small rancher (not really a sodbuster, despite the title) who clashes with a brutal cattle baron over water rights. There’s quite a bit of well-written action, and while overall the story is nothing out of the ordinary, I enjoyed it. It’s the best of the short stories in this issue.

So while this is maybe a slightly below average issue of TEXAS RANGERS because of the back-up stories, the Hatfield novel is a good one, and that’s the main appeal of TEXAS RANGERS to start with, so I enjoyed this one and think it was well worth taking down from the shelves.


Spike said...

I have a bunch of later issues that are unread. This post has inspired me to revisit them.

Rick Robinson said...

Happy New Year, James, here's hoping 2019 is a really good one for you both.