Saturday, December 14, 2019

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Exciting Western, May 1953

This is a pulp I own and read recently. That’s supposed to be a Sam Cherry cover, but it’s not one of his better ones, in my opinion. The scan is of my copy.

Roe Richmond is an author whose work I’ve sort of avoided over the years, because I really don’t care for the Jim Hatfield novels he wrote for TEXAS RANGERS under the Jackson Cole house-name. Those stories are well-written, but Richmond made (to me) a fatal mistake in the way he approached the character, giving a character known as the Lone Wolf a whole crew of annoying sidekicks. However, I may have been too quick to brush aside the rest of his output. He wrote the lead novella in this issue of EXCITING WESTERN, and I thought it was excellent. “Six Guns—Six Graves” is the story of an outlaw gang seeking to hide out in a desolate section of northern Arizona between the Grand Canyon and the Utah border. I’ve been in this area, and desolate doesn’t even begin to describe it. The gang consists of six owlhoots and the beautiful woman who’s with one of them. Well, you know with a setup like that, a lot of tension is going to develop. Richmond adds a nice twist, making the protagonist of the story a man who has struggled with alcohol and wound up on the outlaw trail only because of his fondness for booze. This is a dark, hardboiled yarn that succeeds in making several of the characters sympathetic despite their deep flaws, and it has a very effective ending after a number of brutal action scenes. “Six Guns—Six Graves” is a top-notch tale that has me wanting to read more of Roe Richmond’s work. By the way, the same thing happened with Joseph Chadwick. I didn’t like his Jim Hatfield novels, but the stand-alones by him that I’ve read have been consistently good. I guess some authors just aren’t at their best with series work.

George H. Roulston is a name I don’t recall encountering, which isn’t a surprise since he only published half a dozen stories in the mid-Fifties. His short story in this issue, “Mission for a Stranger”, is an okay yarn about a stranger who shows up on a ranch where something mysterious and possibly sinister is going on. Not bad, but it kind of limps to an ending.

I’ve always thought Cy Kees had to be a pseudonym, but if it is, I’ve never seen that confirmed. He was fairly prolific all through the Fifties, publishing 70 or 80 stories in various Western pulps during that decade. His story “Trouble Range” is a mildly humorous tale about a grub line rider who ties a knot in a cow’s tail and the resulting ruckus with the cow’s owner. This is a very slight story, entertaining but forgettable.

Tom Roan was a prolific Western pulp author from the mid-Twenties on through the Thirties and Forties, with his stories often featured on the cover of various pulp magazines, most of them from Popular Publications. By the Fifties, his sales were dwindling and most of his work was appearing in Thrilling Group pulps. His novelette in this issue, “The Man From Calico Creek”, reflects that, as it seems like a bit of a throwback to Western pulp yarns of an earlier day with its characters such as the good-guy outlaw, the Durango Kid; hard-fighting sheriff Trigger Dan Ringo; and despicable villain Two-Gun Doc Dalton. It’s the story of an outlaw gang on the run (similar to Roe Richmond’s novella that leads off the issue), but is told in a much more old-fashioned style. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since I love the Western pulps from the Twenties, Thirties, and Forties, too. I’ve never been a big fan of Roan’s work but I generally enjoy it. That’s true here, as “The Man From Calico Creek” is fun to read, but like the Cy Kees story that immediately precedes it, quite forgettable.

“The Holy Freeze” is a short-short by Bob and Jan Young, a husband-and-wife writing team (I assume) who contributed fairly often to the Western pulps from the late Forties on through the Fifties, although I don’t recall encountering their work before now. This story is a Northern, a tale about the clash between a surly miner and a preacher in the Klondike. I don’t know if the gimmick around which the plot resolution centers is actually feasible, but it makes for a nice little story anyway.

Floyd Day is another author I hadn’t encountered before, not surprising since there are only three stories listed under that name in the Fictionmags Index. “Sodbuster’s Gold” in this issue is a novelette about a prospector with dreams of gold finding another sort of treasure instead. It’s a gentle, poignant story that wouldn’t have been out of place in RANCH ROMANCES. No action to speak of, but it’s very well-written and I enjoyed it.

Seth Ranger was the most common pseudonym of Frank Richardson Pierce, who usually wrote under his own name. I’ve found his work under both names to be consistently good, but “Red Trail”, published as by Ranger in this issue, is an animal story, this time about a bull moose. I didn’t mind animal stories when I was a kid—I read a lot of dog books by Jim Kjelgaard and horse books by Walter Farley—but I have a hard time with them now. The writing is fine in this one, as you’d expect from Pierce, but I couldn’t work up much interest in it and didn’t finish it.

This issue of EXCITING WESTERN wraps up with the novelette “Renegades’ Rendezvous” by Al Storm, who was really Alvin N. Scism. He wrote mostly Westerns but did a few detective and jungle yarns as well, his work appearing in a number of different pulps during the Forties and Fifties. This one is a pretty good yarn about an amoral hired gun who shows up in the town of Broken Spur thinking that he’s going to sign on as a gun-wolf for the guy who’s trying to take over the town. When he gets there, though, he discovers that he has a good reason to oppose the man he thought would be his boss, instead. As it turns out, the protagonist’s brother is the local lawman, and there’s a good-looking girl involved, too. This is a smooth, competent story, pretty hardboiled in places, and while it’s predictable I definitely found it entertaining.

Overall, “exciting” may be stretching it as a description of this pulp. The Roe Richmond novella is excellent and will prompt me to seek out more stories by Richmond. The novelettes by Floyd Day and Al Storm are good, most of the other stories okay but utterly unmemorable. Still, as with every Western pulp, I’m glad I read it, because there’s always a gem or two.


Anonymous said...

Is this a digest sized mag?

Anonymous said...

Fiction Mags states that Cy Kees was also writing with the pseudonym of John Griffith.

James Reasoner said...

Nope, it's a regular-sized pulp. I don't think any of the Thrilling Group magazines ever went to the digest size, although by the late Sixties RANCH ROMANCES had shrunk to an oddball size a little smaller than a standard pulp, with trimmed edges.

Richard Moore said...

I've always enjoyed Frank Richardson Pierce's "No Shirt McGee" stories in Argosy and elsewhere. Pierce often did Northerns and did them well. Agree with you on Roe Richmond. Never cared for his work--western or sports stories.