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.