THE MEASURE OF A MAN is the second of three movies Luke Perry made for the Hallmark Channel in which he played a character he created, frontier judge John William Goodnight. In this one, Goodnight arrives in a small Wyoming settlement to hear some cases, and while he's there he not only meets an old flame of his, he's also on hand when a gang of outlaws that's been plaguing the area shows up to rob the bank. A shootout occurs, leaving one of the outlaws dead in the street and another captured. The prisoner, a young man, insists that the gang leader will come back to rescue him. Instead, we get a not too surprising plot twist that finds Goodnight setting out to hunt down the desperadoes. This movie has many of the same drawbacks as the first one, GOODNIGHT FOR JUSTICE, such as the overall cheap look of it and that drab Canadian Western town that never looks authentic to me. However, I liked it better because the script is more tightly focused, rather than wandering around all over the place like the first one, and there are some decent lines here and there. Perry again gives a solid performance and seems to be enjoying himself, and there's some effective scenery chewing by an actor named Teach Grant as a despicable villain. One oddity is that the Goodnight character seems to have lost his touch when it comes to handling a gun. He was a crack shot in the first one but can't seem to hit much of anything this time around. These movies aren't going to make anybody a Western fan who isn't one already, but there are enough nice moments that I enjoy them. I thought the ending of this one worked well, and I'm sure it won't be long before we watch the third and final film in the series.
FANTASTIC NOVELS was another reprint pulp that brought back stories from the very early days of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. This issue features A. Merritt's novel THE CONQUEST OF THE MOON POOL, originally published in ALL-STORY WEEKLY in 1919 as a six-part serial. I don't know if this version is abridged, but it wouldn't surprise me if it was. THE CONQUEST OF THE MOON POOL is the sequel to Merritt's novella "The Moon Pool", and I believe both stories were combined to form the novel THE MOON POOL. I seem to recall reading that Merritt did a lot of revising to his original stories when they were combined and/or expanded in later versions, but I'm far from an expert on Merritt and his work. He's one of those authors I've enjoyed, but I haven't read much by him and always intend to read more. I own most of his work in one edition or another. What I do know is that I like this cover by an artist usually billed simply as Lawrence, real name Lawrence Sterne Stevens. I mean, a good-looking blonde with a raygun and a bunch of spear-toting humanoid frogs . . . what's not to like?
That's a nice cover by George Rozen on this issue of GIANT WESTERN, and some pretty good authors inside, too. Jim Mayo was Louis L'Amour, of course, and a few years later he expanded his novella "Showdown on the Hogback" into the novel SHOWDOWN AT YELLOW BUTTE. Then there's W.C. Tuttle, one of my favorites, with a story featuring his character Cultus Collins (I haven't read any of this series). Also on hand are Leslie Scott, another favorite, writing under his pseudonym A. Leslie, old-timer Charles Alden Seltzer, Arch Whitehouse, better known for his aviation stories, and house-name Charles Alan Gregory.
Most of the Perry Mason novels by Erle Stanley Gardner have
been reprinted numerous times, some by several different publishers, and there
are many, many cover variations. However, for me the most iconic editions are
the ones published by Pocket Books during the late Fifties and early Sixties in
the short paperback format, often with covers by Robert McGinnis. Those and the
cheap hardback reprints from the Forties published by Triangle Books were my
introduction to Perry Mason.
THE CASE OF THE GLAMOROUS GHOST, published in hardcover by William Morrow in
1955 and reprinted by Pocket as part of its Cardinal line in 1957, doesn’t have
a McGinnis cover, but the one on this edition by Charles Binger isn’t bad.
(That’s my copy in the scan.) It’s also, mostly, a very good novel.
It opens with Della Street, Mason’s secretary, handing him a newspaper
containing a story about a beautiful young woman who caused havoc in the local
lover’s lane by appearing almost nude, in some sort of diaphonous get-up, and
distracting the couples parked there from their necking. I’m not sure how
ghostly that is, but we can allow Gardner that stretch for the sake of a good
title. Not surprisingly, Mason winds up representing the young woman, who
claims she has amnesia when she’s picked up by the cops for disturbing the
In no time at all, of course, the case becomes a lot more complicated,
involving a hurry-up marriage in Yuma, Arizona (or was there actually a
marriage?), jealous girlfriends, the international jewel trade, and a dead body
found in the vicinity of the same lover’s lane where the beautiful “ghost” was
cavorting. Mason’s memory-impaired client quickly goes from being charged with
disturbing the peace to being on trial for murder. In fact, the entire second
half of the book is taken up with the trial, in courtroom scene after courtroom
scene, which is a good thing because nobody ever did a better job of writing
those than Erle Stanley Gardner. They really kept me turning the pages.
My only real quibble is that while I’m used to complicated plots in a Gardner
novel, this one becomes ludicrously so with a lot of elements hauled in late
from left field. It all makes sense, but Mason seems to pull a lot of the
solution out of thin air.
However, I realized a long time ago that the actual appeal of the Perry Mason
novels doesn’t lie in the plots, although some of them are more interesting and
well-constructed than others. What I really enjoy about this series is the
friendship and banter between Perry, Della, and Paul Drake, and seeing Hamilton
Burger get his courtroom comeuppance yet again. Burger is in fine form in this
one. He accuses Mason of being on a fishing expedition, blusters about his
grandstanding, and at one point even says, “Your Honor, counsel is trying to
turn this court room into a carnival sideshow!” Classic stuff that puts a grin
on my face every time. Some readers might call it formulaic, but it’s exactly
what I want from a Perry Mason novel, and THE CASE OF THE GLAMOROUS GHOST does
a good job of delivering the goods. I’ve been reading Gardner for more than
fifty years now (I actually started with one of his Donald Lam/Bertha Cool
books) and don’t intend to stop any time soon.
FAMOUS FANTASTIC MYSTERIES was primarily a reprint pulp, bringing back science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories originally written and published before such genres truly existed as we know them now. I seem to recall reading that some of the reprinted novels were abridged, but I don't know that for a fact. FFM was also noted for its good covers, many of them by Virgil Finlay including this one. As you can see, the lead stories in this issue are "The Colour Out of Space" by H.P. Lovecraft and "Palos of the Dog Star Pack" by J.U. Giesy, neither of which I've ever read. There's also a short story by L. Patrick Greene, better known as the author of the African adventure series featuring a character called The Major, and a poem, apparently original in this issue, by Robert W. Lowndes. I really ought to read more of this stuff.
I think the expression on that girl's face may be more dangerous than the six-shooter in the cowboy's hand. This is another great cover from Norman Saunders. There are only three stories in this issue of BEST WESTERN NOVELS, two from top-notch authors Dean Owen and William Heuman and one from Lee Floren, a writer I've come to appreciate more in recent years even though I still wouldn't call him a favorite. I love novella-length Western yarns, so I'm sure I'd enjoy this issue.
Clifton Adams had a short but solid career in the Western
pulps, lasting about five years in the late Forties and early Fifties. I assume
the reason he stopped writing short fiction is that he became a successful
paperback novelist and eventually moved on to more success and Spur awards as a
regular author for Doubleday’s Double D Western hardcover line. He was also
well-regarded as a hardboiled crime novelist, although not nearly as prolific
in that genre.
GAMBLING MAN is one of his early novels, published by Gold Medal in 1955 and
never reprinted, as far as I know. Despite the title and the cover, this is
actually a coming-of-age novel, and a really superb one, at that.
Twelve-year-old Jefferson Blaine lives in the small Texas town of Plainsville,
which lives up to its name as far as Jeff is concerned. Once a cattle town, it’s
now mostly a supply center for farmers and a pretty boring place. Jeff lives with
his aunt and uncle because his mother died giving birth to him and his father
left right after he was born.
Then one day Nathan Blaine comes back to town to see his son, and Jeff is
surprised to discover his father is a gunman, a gambler, and quite possibly an
outlaw. His aunt and uncle don’t like Nate and don’t want Jeff to have
anything to do with him, but of course that’s not the way things play out. Then
the situation takes yet another turn, and a tragic one, when the local bank is
robbed and Nathan Blaine goes on the run again.
This takes up the first half of the book, and it’s absolutely compelling
reading, rich in characterization and very well written. Halfway through the
book there’s a time jump of five years, to the point when Jeff Blaine is nearly
grown and getting a bad reputation himself, just like his father. Then more
outlaws show up in town, which has gotten wild again since the railroad
arrived, and bring unwelcome news of Jeff’s father, news that threatens to make
him finally cross the line and become a real owlhoot himself.
The second half of GAMBLING MAN doesn’t quite live up to the first half, but it’s
still very, very good and builds to an exciting, emotional climax. Adams’
writing is hardboiled and top-notch all the way. This is a very solid
traditional Western and gets a high recommendation from me.
The arrival of a new novel by Peter Brandvold is always
cause for celebration among Western fans, and that’s certainly true where
STILLMAN’S GUN is concerned. Sheriff Ben Stillman was the first of many series
characters created by Brandvold, who has been chronicling the sheriff’s
adventures for twenty years now. In this one, Stillman is on a manhunt that
nets him not only a bank robber prisoner but also a small fortune in the loot
the robber was carrying. Complicating the situation is the fact that the outlaw
is an old acquaintance of Stillman’s.
Given these circumstances, a lesser man might be tempted to keep the money and
let the robber go, but Stillman is determined to bring both back to
civilization, despite the danger of transporting that much money through wild
country where plenty of hardcases will want to get their hands on it. Then
there’s another twist involving a beautiful woman and the vengeful cattle baron
who’s pursuing her. As usual, Stillman has his hands full with trouble from all
Nobody in the business writes better action scenes than Brandvold, and he’s a
master of setting and character as well. If you’re a Western fan and haven’t
read his work, you really need to. If you’re a long-time reader like me, you’ll
want to grab this one up. STILLMAN’S GUN gets a high recommendation from me.
It has to be this way every weekend, Laura said as we lay
side by side. How can it be? My father will be home. After he has gone to sleep
I can come to you. What if he should catch us? He won't catch us. We'll be
smart. He's a sound sleeper but if that doesn't work out we can always take a
ride into the country. I sighed and closed my eyes. This was my father's wife.
And my lover....
THE STRANGEST SIN
Sharon Doyle felt dirty when she woke up in Jimmy Slade's
bed, but that wasn't unusual. She always felt dirty after a night of passion in
Jimmy's cheap room... Sharon owns a bar and too often ends up blotto at the end
of the evening, letting Jimmy take her back to his place. Her neighbor Carl
Evans is a nicer guy, but he won't make a move. Between them is Bert Robinson,
the local racketeer who wants Sharon all to himself, no matter what it takes.
But Sharon is tired of them. She finds herself more attracted to her bartender,
Lucy, who keeps the local guys satisfied in a room upstairs. It's a lit-fuse
situation, and all it takes is a single act of violence to set it off.
I wrote the introduction to this double volume from Stark
House that will be out later this fall, and I'm proud to have done so. Both
novels are top-notch tales from a great storyteller, and I give this collection
a very high recommendation.
That's a pretty brutal cover on this issue of GOLD SEAL DETECTIVE, a short-lived pulp that appears to have featured mostly stories about G-Men. The lead novella is part of the Rough 'Em Up Radigan series by "Clark Aiken", who was really Frederick C. Davis, so you know it's got to be pretty good. With five of these novellas running in GOLD SEAL DETECTIVE, I wonder if the series would be a good candidate for reprinting. I don't know about you, but I'd buy THE COMPLETE ADVENTURES OF ROUGH 'EM UP RADIGAN. Norman A. Daniels is also on hand in this issue, twice, in fact, once as himself and once as David A. Norman. James Perley Hughes and Darrell Jordan are the best-known names among the other authors, and they're best remembered for their work in the aviation pulps. But I think this issue would be worth reading just for Davis and Daniels.
Here are our old friends the Stalwart Cowboy, the Wounded Old Geezer, and the Angry Redhead (not totin' a gun this time) on an issue of SURE-FIRE WESTERN, a Western pulp from Ace that lasted only a dozen issues in the mid-to-late Thirties. The cover, which I like, is by an artist I'm not familiar with, William Luberoff. Most of the issue is taken up by the novel "Canyon of Golden Skulls" by Harry Sinclair Drago. This novel got an abridged digest reprint in the Western Novel Classic line, under Drago's most common pseudonym, Bliss Lomax. There's also one short story in this issue by little-known author R. Craig Christiansen. Every time I see one of these covers, I think I'm going to write that trio, and that scene, into a book, but so far I haven't gotten around to it.
STOOL PIGEON by Louis Malley is one of those compressed time
books that I enjoy. It takes place in a single 24-hour period, from six o’clock
in the morning on Christmas Eve to dawn on Christmas Day, although there are a
few flashbacks along the way to fill in the history of the protagonist, New
York City police detective Vincent Milazzo.
Milazzo catches the case when mobster Tony Statella is murdered, shot in the
head while sitting in a car in the same Italian neighborhood where Milazzo grew
up. One of Milazzo’s old enemies from childhood may be involved, and Milazzo is
determined to pin the killing on him, even if he has to frame him. But new
angles rapidly open up in the case and Milazzo realizes that he’s on the trail
of something much bigger, a conspiracy that is spreading an evil web all across
the country. The problem is that he knows almost everyone mixed up in it—some
friends, some enemies, even some relatives—and one of them is the girl he’s
loved ever since he was a kid. Complicating things even more is the fact that
his boss has given him only 24 hours to crack the case.
This novel, one of only four by Malley, was published by Avon in 1954 and then
reprinted by the same publisher in 1960 under the title SHAKEDOWN STRIP.
Somehow, I’d never come across either edition and hadn’t heard of the book
until it was reprinted recently by Stark House as part of the Black Gat Books
line. STOOL PIGEON is a very good hardboiled crime/police procedural novel.
Vincent Milazzo isn’t a particularly likable protagonist, but the reader can’t
help but root for him, the way the odds are stacked against him. Malley does a
great job with the setting and characters, really bringing the neighborhood and
its colorful inhabitants to life, and the pace never lets up. I enjoyed STOOL
PIGEON a great deal, and I think I may have to try to find some of Malley’s
We never watched BEVERLY HILLS 90210 (or the remake, for
that matter), but I’ve seen Luke Perry in some other things and enjoyed his
work. He seems to have liked making Westerns, and in 2011 and 2012 he did three
movies for the Hallmark Channel in which he played John William Goodnight, a
federal circuit judge in Wyoming Territory. Evidently Perry himself created the
character, although he didn’t have a hand in writing any of the movies.
We recently got a DVD set of all three movies and just watched the first one,
GOODNIGHT FOR JUSTICE (directed by Perry’s 90210 buddy Jason Priestley). It
does a good job of establishing the character: Goodnight is a successful but
somewhat disreputable lawyer in Illinois when he’s appointed by the President
to take over the Wyoming circuit. Some flashbacks tell us that he’s actually
from that part of the country, the son of settlers who were murdered by
outlaws, so he’s grown up with a thirst for justice as well as a desire to track
down the boss owlhoot responsible for his parents’ death. Becoming a judge in
Wyoming will give him the opportunity to do that.
From that point, the story is a little episodic and the script rather
heavy-handed and stereotypical as the main plotline involves Goodnight taking
on an evil cattle baron who’s trying to run the peaceful Cheyenne Indians off
their land. To get my other complaints out of the way, the movie was made on a
pretty small budget and shot in Canada, in the same Canadian movie set where so
many other made-for-TV Westerns in this century have been shot. The place just
never looks authentic to me. It always comes across as a cheap tourist
On the plus side, though, the action scenes are fairly well done. Perry looks
good in the part and seems to be having fun, and that makes up for a lot. There’s
even one nice twist in the plot that I wasn’t expecting. Overall, while far from
a great Western, GOODNIGHT FOR JUSTICE is reasonably entertaining, and I won’t
hesitate to watch the other two movies in the series.
From very late in the Weird Menace boom, this issue from the Thrilling Group's entry in that genre has an eye-catching cover and some good authors mixed with several I've never heard of. On hand are Henry Kuttner (twice, once as himself and once as Keith Hammond), August Derleth (also twice, once as himself and once as Tally Mason), Robert Bloch, Hamilton Craigie (who I think of as more of a Western writer, even though he turned out stories in just about every genre for the pulps), and Don Alviso (likewise). The ones I'm not familiar with include Jack B. Creamer, Earle Dow, John Clemons, O.M. Cabral, and Maria Moravsky. It looks like a pretty entertaining issue, even if the Weird Menace pulps were running out of steam by then.
Another action-packed STAR WESTERN cover with a really villainous-looking bad guy. He reminds me a little of Glenn Strange. Even this late in STAR WESTERN's run, there are some excellent authors inside: Clifton Adams, Tom W. Blackburn, Van Cort (Wyatt Blassingame), Rolland Lynch, Bob Obets, John M. Cunningham, Ray Townsend, and Rod Patterson. Looks like a solid issue.
A lot of the
Nightstand books by Lawrence Block, Donald Westlake, and others are really crime novels
masquerading as soft-core, early Sixties porn. Although there are some drug
pushers in it, LOVE ADDICT, Robert Silverberg's first novel under the Don Elliott pseudonym, doesn't really qualify as a crime novel. It's more
of a noir-tinged romance, as nice guy hero Jim Holman, who is being divorced by
his shrew of a wife, falls for nightclub singer Helene Raymond. Helene was
hooked on heroin by her musician ex-boyfriend, but Jim thinks he can save her
from her addiction. Not much actually happens in this book, but it races by
anyway thanks to Silverberg's clean, polished prose and his evocative portrayal
of New York City as both glittering metropolis and squalid hellhole. I
thoroughly enjoyed this novel and intend to dig out more of the Nightstand
books that I own.
(This post originally appeared in different form on March 15, 2005. I have indeed read more Nightstand books in the years since then, but not as many as I would have liked to. I need more hours in the day . . .)
FORBIDDEN TRAILS is the third (of eight) B-Westerns in the Rough Riders series, starring Buck Jones, Tim McCoy, and Raymond Hatton as U.S. Marshals who often operate undercover. In this one, which also happens to be the final film directed by the prolific Robert N. Bradbury (father of B-Western star Bob Steele), Buck is targeted for revenge by two outlaws he sent to the pen (played by the ubiquitous and always entertaining Charles King and Bud Osborne). The bad guys' scheme nearly works, and as a result Buck is laid up for a while, but the other two Rough Riders pitch in to save the day and keep villainous Tristam Coffin from taking over the freight line run by stalwart young Dave O'Brien. The script is kind of muddled, but the real appeal of these movies is watching all the old pros at work, playing off each other and appearing to have a genuinely good time. Buck's heroism, Tim's gravitas, and Sandy's comedy relief mesh well most of the time. And all three of the Rough Riders have great hats. I'm slowly working my way through this series and eventually will watch all of them. They may not be the Three Mesquiteers, but they'll do.
This issue of DETECTIVE NOVELS has some historical significance because it marks the first appearance of The Crimson Mask, another masked crimefighter whose adventures were chronicled by the amazingly prolific Norman A. Daniels, this time under the pseudonym Frank Johnson. The Crimson Mask is actually pharmacist Bob Clarke (that's right, a two-fisted, crime-busting pharmacist) and the stories I've read starring him are pretty good. Daniels was also the author of the other lead story in this issue, a Candid Camera Kid yarn under the name John L. Benton. The Candid Camera Kid was crime photographer Jerry Wade. I've read several of these and really like them. I think this series is some of Daniels' best work and hope that it's reprinted in its entirety someday. Daniels didn't write the entire issue. Also on hand are veteran pulpster Robert Sidney Bowen and a couple of authors I hadn't heard of, Kenneth Kerriton and Arthur W. Phillips. It's mostly Daniels' show this time around, though.
I'm not really sure what's happening on this cover, but I like it quite a bit anyway. As with many other Fiction House covers, it makes me want to write a story based on it. Les Savage Jr. is the only well-known author in this issue, although there's no telling who's behind the house-names John Starr and Wilton Hazzard. Others contributing stories are Norman B. Wiltsey, Alexander Wallace, Charles Dickson, and Theodore Cutting. I think I've seen Wiltsey's name before on other pulp TOCs, but the rest are new to me. Even so, I probably would have bought this issue for the cover alone.
Moving on to the third book of the GLADIATOR series (or THE
EAGLES, as it was known in the original English editions), CITY OF FIRE is the
only one in this series written by Angus Wells, one of the prolific British
paperbackers of that era. And that’s kind of a shame, because it’s an excellent
novel and my favorite tale of Vulpus the Fox so far.
The famous gladiator Vulpus is really the half-British former Roman soldier
Marcus Julius Britannicus. Sticking to the structure of the first two books
written by Laurence James and Kenneth Bulmer under the house-name Andrew
Quiller, CITY OF FIRE begins with a scene in the arena. This time Vulpus is
fighting a tiger, and just when it looks like things are about to go really bad
for him, the story flashes back and picks up the storyline where it left off in
the previous book. Marcus is on a vengeance quest, hunting down and killing the
men who planned and carried out his mother’s murder, but while he’s doing that,
he also gets involved in some political intrigue that takes him back to Italy.
Luckily for him, he wanted to go there anyway, and it’s an even bigger stroke
of luck that the mission he’s given will provide him with a chance to kill two
of the men he’s after.
But that’s where his luck looks like it’s going to run out, because where does
his mission/quest take him? To the city of Pompeii, where nearby volcano Mount
Vesuvius has started rumbling recently, although no one in the city takes it
seriously. So . . . what do you think
is going to happen? Let’s see . . . Pompeii . . . Vesuvius . . . You might as
well go to San Francisco in 1906 or take in an opera or a ball game with Ellery
Queen. It ain’t gonna end well.
But our boy Marcus isn’t going to let a little thing like an apocalyptic
volcanic eruption stop him from going after the guys he wants to kill, and Wells
does a fantastic job of capturing the chaos of that deadly natural disaster.
The whole book is well-written, with vivid, flowing prose and plenty of graphic
action, but Wells really shines in the last section. This is the first book I’ve
read by him, but I was pretty impressed with his writing. Enough so that I
ordered more books by him.
If you’ve read and liked the first two books in this series, you’re probably
going to want to go on with it, and I give CITY OF FIRE a high recommendation.
But if you haven’t read the series, don’t start with this one. It’s not absolutely
necessary to read the books in order, but I think it’s probably much better
I think this may be the first "beautiful blonde in slinky red dress plus skeleton in diving costume" cover I've ever seen on a pulp. But of course I could be wrong about that. All I know is I like this cover quite a bit and it would certainly intrigue me enough to plunk down a quarter, if I had one. The lineup of authors inside is intriguing, too, since they're mostly better known for science fiction rather than detective stories: Murray Leinster, Ray Cummings, James MacCreigh (Frederik Pohl), and Oscar J. Friend, who was pretty well-known as a Western writer, too. Also on hand are Norman A. Daniels, who wrote everything, and Robert Sidney Bowen, who I always think of as an aviation writer, even though he wrote a lot of other things, too. I suspect it's a pretty entertaining issue.
The cover on this issue of WESTERN SHORT STORIES combines two of my favorite elements for Western pulp covers, a gunfight and a train. And a pretty girl, so I guess it's actually three of my favorite Western pulp cover elements. And it's by Norman Saunders, so, well, there you go. No wonder I like it. Inside are some top-notch authors, such as Noel Loomis, Will C. Brown, Giles Lutz, Lauran Paine, Arthur J. Burks, and Walt Sheldon, along with a few little-known authors such as Dev Klapp and Orville G. Hextell.
It’s been a while since I read anything by Talbot Mundy, and
I was in the mood to sample some of his work again. The novella “A Soldier and
a Gentlemen” was published in the January 1914 issue of the iconic pulp
ADVENTURE, where much of Mundy’s work first appeared. It’s been reprinted
numerous times since, including in THE TALBOT MUNDY MEGAPACK from Wildside
Press, which is where I read it.
This is an important story because it’s the first one to feature Mundy’s series
character Princess Yasmini, who appears in a couple of novellas and several
novels, sometimes crossing over with other series characters. It’s not the
first story chronologically in her history, however. That would be the novel
THE WINDS OF THE WORLD. I haven’t read that one yet, but “A Soldier and a
Gentleman” is a good introduction to the character.
It’s set in India and involves a regiment of Sikh lancers commanded by British
officers. They’re given the job of tracking down the notorious bandit chief
Gopi Lall, since the corrupt local police have been unable to do so—or paid off
to fail in that task. At the same time, a young British officer falls under the
spell of the beautiful but mysterious and possibly sinister Princess Yasmini, who
lives in an abandoned palace in the jungle with a number of nubile young female
servants. Is the place actually a brothel? Well, Mundy takes pains to make it
seem like it’s not, but this story was written and published more than a hundred
years ago when writers were a lot more reserved about such things, so I’m not
prepared to say either way. I think it’s fairly well established that Yasmini
herself is not a prostitute, although it’s open to question what else she’s
capable of and why she’s really living in this rundown jungle palace.
The two storylines eventually converge, of course, and things come to a fairly
satisfying climax, although it could have been a little more dramatic if some
of it hadn’t happened off-screen. Yasmini is an interesting character, and so
is Dost Mohammed, a stalwart Sikh officer who’s not actually the protagonist
but maybe should have been. Mundy’s style tends to be long-winded at times and
heavy on the telling instead of showing, but again, that’s to be expected in a
story written more than a century ago. And honestly, I kind of like that lush,
slower-paced style at times. Too much modern fiction I’ve read comes across as
shallow. That’s certainly not the case here. Mundy really immerses the reader
in what’s going on.
Despite that quibble about the ending, I really enjoyed “A Soldier and a
Gentleman”. I plan to read more by Mundy soon, and if you’re a fan of good
old-fashioned adventure yarns, I recommend his work.
I suspect this is one of those love-it-or-hate-it movies. I
love it. THE MAN WHO KILLED HITLER AND THEN THE BIGFOOT has such a goofy title
that you really don’t know what to expect, and it asks the viewer to accept a
lot of odd things that are played with an absolutely straight face, but for me,
The story moves back and forth between the 1940s and the middle 70s. Calvin
Barr is a young man from a small town who goes off to war, becomes an
intelligence agent, and winds up assassinating Adolf Hitler a few months before
the end of the war. (The “Hitler” who died in the bunker in Berlin was one of
the doubles, of course.) It’s hinted that Barr carried out other dangerous and
important missions after the war, but we never get any details about those. But
by the mid-70s, he’s just an old man, back in that small town living in the
same house he grew up in, leading a quiet existence with his only friends being
his dog, his younger brother (who’s the local barber), and the bartender at the
little bar where he drinks. He’s still a dangerous guy, though, as three punks
who try to mug him find out to their regret.
Then agents from the U.S. and Canadian governments show up and try to recruit
him for one last mission: hunt down and kill the Bigfoot, who’s come down with
some sort of nightmare virus that could wipe out the entire population of
Yes, it’s a crazy concept, but writer/director/producer Robert J. Kryzkowski
makes something unexpected and very satisfying out of it. This is his first
feature, but I’ll sure be interested to see what he comes up with in the
future. Instead of the cheesy B-movie you might expect from the title, for the
most part this film is a leisurely paced character study, and another reason it’s
successful is a great performance from Sam Elliott, one of my all-time favorite
actors, as the older Calvin Barr. The younger, World War II version of Calvin
is played in flashbacks by Aidan Turner, and he does a fine job, too, although
he doesn’t carry the movie the way Elliott does. Character actor and comedian
Larry Miller, who I also like, plays Calvin Barr’s younger brother.
I’m not sure any of this would have worked without a good ending, and THE MAN
WHO KILLED HITLER AND THEN THE BIGFOOT delivers that, too. It’s poignant and
old-fashioned and very effective. Not every question the movie raises is
answered, but they don’t have to be in order to bring the viewer closure. I
understand if some of you watch this and fall into the hate-it camp, but I
think it’s the best movie I’ve seen in quite a while.
John C. Hocking is the author of CONAN AND THE EMERALD
LOTUS, a novel which is widely regarded as the best of the Conan pastiches
published by Tor in the Eighties and Nineties. I finally got around to reading
it several years ago and agree that it’s easily the best of those pastiches. Hocking wrote a sequel to that book called CONAN AND THE
LIVING PLAGUE, but unfortunately, Tor cancelled the Conan pastiche program and
Hocking’s second novel was left languishing in limbo.
Until now. A new imprint called Perilous Worlds has started a line of Conan pastiches, and Hocking’s CONAN AND THE
LIVING PLAGUE is the first book, rescued at long last. And that’s a very good
thing for those of us who are fans of Robert E. Howard and Conan, because it’s
an excellent novel.
Conan is recruited to be part of a small mercenary force headed to the isolated
mountain city of Dulcine, which is rumored to have been wiped out by a
mysterious plague. But rumors also say that there’s a fortune waiting to be had
in Dulcine’s treasure vaults, and an ambitious prince has his eye on that loot.
In order to get his hands on it, he hires not only Conan and several other
hard-nosed soldiers but also a sorcerer who had something to do with the plague
that wiped out the city. Conan hates and distrusts sorcery, of course, but the
magic conjured up by this mage Adrastus is the only thing that can get the
treasure seekers safely in and out of their destination.
Well, of course, lots of stuff goes wrong. The plague hasn’t wiped out
everybody in Dulcine, but the people who are left have been transformed into
crazed, bloodthirsty semblances of their former selves. Even worse, a creepy
figure who’s actually the living personification of the plague is wandering
around the castle where the treasure is supposed to be. Conan and his
companions are in constant danger not only from this living plague but also
from treachery within their own ranks. Not all of them will make it out alive .
Hocking doesn’t try to slavishly imitate Robert E. Howard’s style, although
there are Howardian touches to the prose here and there. Instead he tells the
story in his own voice, with well-drawn characters, a head-long pace, and
plenty of epic action scenes. I think this is the best approach to pastiche,
producing a novel that’s recognizably a Conan tale, steeped in the background
and setting Howard created, but in the author’s own distinctive style. Hocking
has given us another fine novel, and I certainly hope it won’t be the last. I
really enjoyed CONAN AND THE LIVING PLAGUE and give it a very high
recommendation. UPDATE: I've talked to one of the folks at Perilous Worlds and learned that not only will they be publishing this book, they'll also be reprinting John Hocking's excellent CONAN AND THE EMERALD LOTUS (mentioned above) as well as a lot of other stuff that sounds good, some Robert E. Howard-related, some not. You can check out their website here. THE SONG OF BELIT by Michael Stackpole sounds especially intriguing to me, and I plan to read it when it becomes available.
Well, now, that's an odd cover . . . but I like it. It certainly makes me want to know exactly what's going on there. Day Keene, Walt Sheldon, and Edith and Eljer Jacobson are the best-known authors in this issue of STRANGE DETECTIVE MYSTERIES. The other authors are Francis K. Allan, John Bender, and Edward S. Williams, all of whom seem not to be pseudonyms or house-names.
This issue of WESTERN NOVEL AND SHORT STORIES sports a cover by Allen Anderson, an artist I usually associate with Fiction House pulps. No Old Geezer this time, but we get the Stalwart Cowboy and the Gun-Totin' Redhead. (I really should have written a book called LONGARM AND THE GUN-TOTIN' REDHEAD. If the series still existed and I was writing them, I would.) Anyway, this looks like a fine issue of this pulp, with stories by Peter Dawson, Leslie Ernenwein, Clem Colt (who was really Nelson C. Nye), and Jim Kjelgaard, one of the favorite authors of my youth because of all the juvenile novels he wrote about dogs.
for the 10th Annual Western Fictioneers Peacemaker Awards are now being
accepted for works originally published in the year 2019.
time in print must be between January 1, 2019, and December 31, 2019, no
reprints or revisions. Limit of 2 entries per category.
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, PDF, or Word/text files. WF reserves the right to
decline any submission for consideration of an Award.
agents, or publishers may submit a work for consideration of an Award.
least three entrants in a category must be received during the submission
period for an Award to be presented.
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.
for the Peacemaker Awards will be announced on May 15, 2020 and the winners
will be announced on June 15, 2020.
WF Peacemaker Award will be awarded in three categories:
Western Novel – Any novel published during the award year set in the
appropriate time period (1830-1920), at least 30,000 words in length. There are
no format requirements. The novel may be a hardcover, trade paperback, mass
market paperback, or eBook.
Western Short Fiction – Any short story, novelette, or novella published during
the award year set in the appropriate time period (1830-1920), from 500 words
to 29,999 words. There are no format requirements. The short story may be published
in any publication, print or electronic.
First Western 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
First Western Novel Award competition. Submissions for Best First Western Novel
may also be submitted in the Best Novel category in the same year.
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 by the
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, 2020. 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.
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.
LONG DAY IN LATIGO is one of those books that take place in
a compressed amount of time, in this case from sunup until sundown one day in
and around the town of Latigo, Colorado. It’s a day in which Sheriff Owen
Dallas has his hands full. A wagon train full of homesteaders is on its way to
the area, and those settlers are intent on buying land from a wealthy local
businessman who’s the father of the young woman Dallas is in love with—a young
woman who happens to be engaged to somebody else. A group of ranchers shows up
in town intent on stopping the homesteaders, by force if necessary. While
investigating the theft of some horses, Dallas runs afoul of a crooked clan and
winds up on the receiving end of a beating that leaves him with two broken ribs
that could kill him at any time by puncturing a lung. And then, as if the lawman
didn’t already have enough trouble to handle with only a green deputy, somebody
robs the bank in Latigo and the gang holes up in the hotel with a hostage, just
waiting for nightfall so they’ll have a better chance of shooting their way out
It is definitely a long day in Latigo for Owen Dallas and the other characters
quickly but deftly sketched in this very good novel by Wesley Ray, who was
actually prolific Western pulpster Ray Gaulden. As you’d expect from someone
who learned his craft in the pulps, Gaulden paces the action very well, piling
more and more troubles on his protagonist Owen Dallas until it seems impossible
for him to get out of this fix, and all that leads to a satisfying,
action-packed climax with a poignant final line.
An anonymous commenter on a Saturday Morning Western pulp post that mentioned
Gaulden recommended this book, so I found a copy and read it and am glad that I
did. Like the work of L.P. Holmes, T.T. Flynn, and others, the traditional
Western elements are handled so skillfully that LONG DAY IN LATIGO is a real
pleasure to read. I’ll be on the lookout for more of Ray Gaulden’s novels and I’m
sure will continue to run across his stories in various Western pulps, too.
This issue of DETECTIVE TALES sports a good cover by Tom Lovell and a great line-up of authors: Norbert Davis, Norvell Page, Steve Fisher, Arthur Leo Zagat, Wayne Rogers, and Fred MacIsaac. Those are some fine yarn-spinners!
I really like the action-packed cover on this issue of 10 STORY WESTERN MAGAZINE. I don't know who the artist is, but he did a fine job of coming up with a dynamic cover. The authors inside are no slouches, either: Harry F. Olmsted, Tom W. Blackburn, Cliff Farrell, Ed Earl Repp, David X. Manners, Dave Sands (a house name) and Rutherford Montgomery (who went on to write a bunch of popular juvenile novels about animals) are the best known names.
The telegram finally
caught Tagger on a dismal morning-after in a New Orleans brothel.
That’s the opening line in Ennis Willie’s excellent hardboiled mystery novel
THE TWISTED MISTRESS, published in 1963 by Merit Books and, to my knowledge,
never reprinted. And if you can read that and not feel compelled to keep
flipping the pages, you’ve got more self-control than I do.
Tagger is Lash Tagger (Willie’s protagonists always had great names). Years
earlier, as a runaway from the orphanage where he was raised, Tagger was taken
under the wing of Alex Beaumont, a textile mill owner who had worked his own
way up from hardship to riches. Beaumont has a son and daughter of his own, but
Tagger almost becomes like a son to him as well, until a falling-out between
them causes Tagger to take off on his own when he’s a young man.
Now several years have passed and Tagger is broke, but the telegram changes all
that. Beaumont is dead, and Tagger has to return to the town where the mill is
located for the reading of the will. When he gets there, he finds that not only
has he inherited a third of Beaumont’s fortune, but Beaumont has given him
control of the business as well and charged him with preventing the takeover of
the mill by a ruthless competitor. Needless to say, Beaumont’s grown children
don’t like this arrangement at all. The situation becomes even more complicated
and dangerous when Tagger discovers that Beaumont was murdered, and when he
starts poking around in that, somebody paints a target on his back, as well.
Oh, and there are three or four beautiful women involved, too, all of whom are
attracted to Tagger whether they want to be or not, and some of whom probably
can’t be trusted . . . but I probably didn’t have to tell you that.
THE TWISTED MISTRESS is just an enormous amount of fun for a fan of hardboiled,
slightly sleazy crime and mystery novels from the early Sixties. Willie’s prose
is so smooth and fast-paced that it’s a joy to read and you wind up flying
through the pages. There was a time I would have read this in one sitting, I’m
sure, and even though I can’t do that now because I don’t have as much time to
read, I still got through it quickly. Lash Tagger is plenty tough, not exactly
likable but certainly easy to root for. Maybe the women all fall for him a
little too quickly and easily, maybe the plot could have used one more twist,
but that doesn’t matter because this is a book designed to be gulped down. I
wish I could tell you to go out and buy a copy, but like I said above, it’s
never been reprinted and like all Ennis Willie books, it’s a little hard to
come by and a little pricey if you do. But if you ever see a copy, my advice is
to grab it.
By the way, I realize the cover says TWISTED MISTRESS, but the spine and the
title page add THE, so that’s the title I went with. And unlike the titles of
some of the books of this type from this era, the title actually does have
something to do with the story. The cover also says “Adult Reading”, but don’t
let that fool you. There’s sex in it, but very tame and mostly off-screen.
The latest volume in the excellent MEN OF VIOLENCE series is
an All Review Special, featuring more than a hundred reviews of men’s adventure
novels and series, ranging from classics of the genre to obscure little gems
that you’ve probably never heard of. Editor Justin Marriot has assembled a
wonderful book to browse and enjoy, and I guarantee you’ll learn a few things,
even if you’re an expert on men’s adventure fiction. If you’re a newcomer to
the genre, this book is a crash course on it. Not all the reviews are positive,
either; some warn potential readers which books to stay away from. Although
such things are competely subjective, of course. If a book sounds interesting
to you, I always say give it a try and see for yourself. MEN OF VIOLENCE: ALL
REVIEW SPECIAL is available as a handsome, very affordable trade paperback.
I really enjoyed it and give it a high recommendation.
Nothing says "pulp" to me quite as much as ARGOSY. If it weren't for all those dang serials, it would be just about the perfect adventure pulp magazine! Take this issue, for example. You've got a colorful, dramatic cover by Paul Stahr, and inside are stories by Erle Stanley Gardner (a Whispering Sands yarn), Talbot Mundy, Theodore Roscoe, Donald Barr Chidsey (with his series character Nick Fisher), George F. Worts (part of a Peter the Brazen serial as by Loring Brent), Fred MacIsaac, Ralph Milne Farley, Cliff Farrell, and Armand Brigaud. To say that's an impressive line-up is quite an understatement! And ARGOSY did that week after week. Truly an iconic pulp.
One of the things I really like about Western pulp covers is that while there are plenty of "damsel in distress" type covers, there are also a lot that feature women who are just as tough and competent as the men. This cover by Sam Cherry from the July 1948 issue of THRILLING RANCH STORIES is a good example. There's not even a guy in sight, other than the hand of the one holding the gun, and that blonde is about to make him wish their trails had never crossed. Inside this issue are stories by some fine writers: L.P. Holmes, Giles A. Lutz, Stephen Payne, Samuel Mines, Joe Archibald, Cliff Walters, and Gladwell Richardson. The so-called Western romance pulps had plenty to like for traditional Western readers.
I never read too many comics published by Charlton when I
was a kid. I started reading mostly Dell comics, discovered DC and then Marvel,
so the smaller publishers didn’t get much of my allowance money, plus they
weren’t distributed very well around here. However, I do remember reading some
issues of BILLY THE KID, WESTERN OUTLAW when I was very young. Too young to
know anything about artists, for sure.
But in later years, John Severin became one of my favorite comic book artists
during his long run on SGT. FURY AND HIS HOWLING COMMANDOS, a title I read
faithfully and always enjoyed. Severin’s art was a big part of that, and when I
came across his work in other places, I continued to enjoy it. He did quite a
bit for Charlton in the early Sixties, including the Billy the Kid stories in
this volume, which reprints ten stories from BILLY THE KID, WESTERN OUTLAW
These are very short stories, running six or seven pages each, and journeyman
writer Joe Gill’s scripts are pretty simplistic, as you’d expect at that
length. There’s no attempt to make the Billy the Kid anything like his actual
historical counterpart. He’s only vaguely regarded as an outlaw. Mostly he’s
just a drifting do-gooder seemingly loved by common people and lawmen alike,
whose only real goal in life is to fight rustlers, bank robbers, and bullies.
The writing is serviceable, but no more than that.
Severin’s art makes these stories worth reading, though. It’s not overly
detailed but always has a gritty air of Old West authenticity about it. He does
a good job with guns, horses, Western landscape, etc., and his action scenes
are dynamic. He’s just a good comic book artist in the classic style, with a
strong storytelling sense. I thoroughly enjoyed this collection.
You can read these stories for free on-line, but I thought this inexpensive
collection, which also includes some photos and biographical material on Severin,
was worthwhile. I plan to seek out more of his Billy the Kid stories.
I’ve been a Laurel & Hardy fan about as far back as I
can remember. I didn’t like them as much as the Three Stooges or Abbott &
Costello, but I watched many of their movies on TV and always enjoyed them. So I
was a pretty good target audience for STAN & OLLIE, a biopic from last year
that focuses on the final year of their performing career.
This movie actually combines a couple of different European tours made by
Laurel & Hardy into one storyline, but it works and is fairly accurate in
other respects, as far as I know. (I’m a fan but not an expert on the duo, by
any means.) Steve Coogan plays Stan Laurel and John C. Reilly is Oliver “Babe”
Hardy. Reilly is an odd bit of casting, but again it works well. It’s kind of a
sad film, as both men are aging, nowhere near the stars they once were, and
Hardy is plagued by health problems. All of that is portrayed well, and the
production values are high.
Ah, but when they start doing classic Laurel & Hardy bits, the comedy kicks
in and I start to grin. No, they’re not as good at it as the real thing, but
the bits are still funny. I also appreciated the fact that the script makes it
clear how much of the writing and directing of their films was done by Stan
Laurel, whether he received any credit for it or not. They were both really
talented guys, and STAN & OLLIE does a good job of showing that.
By the way, I also really like Oliver Hardy as John Wayne’s sidekick in THE
FIGHTING KENTUCKIAN and wish he had done more roles along those lines.
Anyway, I didn’t even know STAN & OLLIE existed until we watched it
recently, but I’m glad we did. If you’re a fan of classic movie comedies and
watched them all the time on TV while you were growing up, as I did, you might
like it, too.
Frontiersman Jared Tucker has brought his family to a ranch
on the Brazos River for a new start in Texas, unaware that roving bands of
Comanche, frustrated by their defeat at the Battle of Adobe Walls, are looking
for just such isolated ranches where they can vent their anger against the
white settlers. An attack on his home leaves a grieving Tucker searching for
his 13-year-old daughter, the only survivor of the massacre, who has been
carried off by the renegades.
Tucker falls in with buffalo hunter Woodrow Clayton, who has faced the
Comanches before at Adobe Walls. Together, the two men join forces with a
cavalry column led by Colonel Ranald Mackenzie, bound for a showdown with Chief
Quanah Parker’s forces at a place called Palo Duro Canyon. Tucker, along with
Clayton, hopes to find and rescue his daughter before it’s too late . . .
I read another historically based Western novel by Paul Bedford not long ago
and enjoyed it, and REIGN OF TERROR is even better. He does a fine job of
mixing history and fiction and presents an accurate portrayal of the Battles of
Adobe Walls and Palo Duro Canyon and the leaders on both sides, Quanah Parker
and Ranald Mackenzie, all the while spinning a compelling fictional yarn as
well. The search among the Indians for a white captive is a very traditional Western
plot, so the execution becomes even more important. Bedford pulls it off, even
more impressive considering that he’s an English author and REIGN OF TERROR is
part of the Black Horse Western line, soon to be published in England but available for pre-order in the
U.S. as well. I plan to read more by Paul Bedford, and if you’re a fan of
traditional Westerns, I recommend his books.
I don't know much about Emery Clarke, who did the cover on this issue of TEN DETECTIVE ACES, except that he was pretty active as a pulp cover artist from the mid-Thirties to the mid-Forties, including doing the covers for a number of issues of DOC SAVAGE. The guy on this one looks kind of dumb with his hand spread out like that as he reaches for his gun, but that's a fine-looking blonde beside him. Inside is the usual strong line-up for this pulp, including a Moon Man story by Frederick C. Davis and other yarns by G.T. Fleming-Roberts, Emile C. Tepperman, Philip Ketchum writing as Carl McK. Saunders, Joe Archibald, and J. Lane Linklater.
And thus another Old West poker game comes to a violent end. Not only that, but look at the bullet hole in the guy's hat brim. Injury to a Hat Alert! I love this cover, which I'm pretty sure is by Robert Stanley. It's the little details that really make it work, like the two matches tucked in the cowboy's hat band and the royal flush laid out on the table. A lesser artist might not have even thought of those things. 10 STORY WESTERN MAGAZINE always had a good group of authors, and this issue is no exception: Tom W. Blackburn, Joseph Chadwick, Gunnison Steele (Bennie Gardner), Carl McK. Saunders (Philip Ketchum; "Saunders" is a pseudonym he used mostly for mystery and detective yarns), John Jo Carpenter (John Reese), Rod Patterson, Richard Brister, and Harrison Colt, a name I've always thought must be a pseudonym, but I don't know if it really was. Plus the familiar, instantly recognizable yellow-and-red color scheme. I'm a big fan of 10 STORY WESTERN and this looks like an excellent issue.
A down-on-his-luck ship’s captain winds up taking a job as
first mate on a tramp steamer carrying a valuable cargo, only to find himself
involved in a scheme to wreck the ship for the insurance money . . .
Wait a minute. That’s the sort of nautical adventure yarn H. Bedford-Jones
would have written for ARGOSY or SHORT STORIES. “Wreckers of the Star Patrol”
by Malcolm Jameson, a novelette that appeared originally in the August 1942
issue of SUPER SCIENCE STORIES, is completely different. It’s about a
down-on-his-luck spaceship captain who winds up taking a job as first mate on a
tramp spaceship carrying a valuable cargo, only to find himself involved in a
scheme to wreck the spaceship for the insurance money.
I’m sorry. I’m being too snarky here, and “Wreckers of the Star Patrol” doesn’t
deserve it because I actually did enjoy this pulp science fiction yarn. The
Bedford-Jones-like plot only takes up about the first half of it. Then it becomes
a Space Western for a while, as the hero becomes a cowboy of sorts herding
native fauna on another planet, riding a sort of small, winged dinosaur instead
of a horse. And then, suddenly (here comes the kitchen sink), evil aliens
invade! This gives the hero the chance to meet up again with the villains
responsible for his previous dilemma and get his revenge on them.
Honestly, “Wreckers of the Star Patrol” isn’t very good. For one thing, there’s
no Star Patrol in it, not even a mention. It’s a collection of standard pulp
adventure elements dressed up with science fiction trappings. Characterization
is almost non-existent. But, as I said above, I did enjoy it, mostly for the
head-long pace and some good action scenes and dialogue. This is the first
thing I’ve read by Malcolm Jameson. He sold quite a few stories to John W.
Campbell for ASTOUNDING and UNKNOWN and I’m inclined to try some of them
because he clearly wasn’t without talent. I think this one is just a reject
sold to a salvage market, and even at that, I would have loved it when I was
ten years old. I have no trouble putting myself in that mindset, and if you can
do the same, you might like it, too.