To start off the year in this series, a pulp that I own and read recently. The scan is from my copy. The cover is by A. Leslie Ross, far from his best work, I think, but reasonably eye-catching. And as the cover copy proclaims, the featured story is “Outlaw River” by Bliss Lomax, who was really Harry Sinclair Drago, starring his series characters, range detectives Rainbow Ripley and Grumpy Gibbs. In fact, it’s almost the only story in this issue, since there’s only one back-up yarn, “A Muleskinner Goes to War” by Lee Floren.
I’d never read any of the Rainbow and Grumpy novels until now, and I have to say, W.C. Tuttle must have been a tolerant man. If he wasn’t, he would have sued Drago, since Rainbow Ripley is a pretty blatant copy of Hashknife Hartley, although Grumpy is more Gabby Hayes-like than swiped from Sleepy Stevens, Hashknife’s sidekick. But then, there have been plenty of other range detective characters in Westerns, so best just to take Rainbow and Grumpy for what they are and move on.
In this yarn, they’ve come to Idaho to take the side of a couple of miners who leased a failed gold mine from the corporation that owns it and then struck an unexpected bonanza. Once the owners of the corporation realize the mine is valuable after all, they want to run off the men who leased it and hire an old enemy of Rainbow and Grumpy to do so.
In addition to this, the local cattle baron is up to his neck in an irrigation scheme that may have something fishy about it, and that’s tied in with the job that brought Rainbow and Grumpy to Idaho, too. Throw in a romance between a crusading newspaper editor and the cattle baron’s beautiful granddaughter, and you’ve got plenty of elements for Drago to work with. In fact, the whole thing gets maybe a little too complicated at times.
As a mystery, “Outlaw River” isn’t much, but there are some nice action scenes and Rainbow and Grumpy are a likable pair of heroes. One stylistic touch that annoyed me was Drago’s habit of switching back and forth constantly in the way he refers to Rainbow Ripley. Sometimes he’s Rainbow, sometimes he’s Rip, sometimes he’s Ripley. I’ve come across that technique in work from other authors, and it never works very well for me.
“Outlaw River” was reprinted several years later as a paperback of the same title, as half of an Ace Double with SHOWDOWN AT YELLOW BUTTE by Jim Mayo, who was Louis L’Amour, of course. I don’t know if Drago expanded it for book publication, but if he did it probably wasn’t by much. At 75 pages of double-columned fairly small print, this is one of the few “book-length novels” published in the pulps that actually fit that description.
Lee Floren’s “A Muleskinner Goes to War” is also a pretty good story about a muleskinner who works delivering loads of gold from a mine to the nearby town and his efforts to corral a gang of outlaws who keep stealing the shipments. This one has some nice touches, such as the protagonist being married and also worrying about his wife cheating on him, and Floren keeps things moving along well.
With only two stories on which to rise or fall, the June 1945 issue of REAL WESTERN still manages to come down pretty much smack in the middle. Both stories are okay but not great, and that describes this issue as well.