Sunday, January 30, 2022

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Thrilling Adventures, July 1939

THRILLING ADVENTURES may have set the record for the most covers with pith helmets on them. Somebody with more time than I have should look into that. I don't know the artist on this cover, but I like it. Inside is a pretty good lineup of authors led by E. Hoffmann Price with two stories, one under his name and one as by Hamlin Daly. Also on hand are Charles S. Strong (one of the editors at Standard Magazines, as well as a writer), Louis C. Goldsmith, Edward Parrish Ware, little-remembered Crawford Sullivan, and house-name Capt. Kerry McRoberts. I think this issue probably would be worth reading just for the Price stories. He was great at exotic adventure yarns.

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Western Short Stories, June 1952

With all the action on this cover, you know it has to be the work of Norman Saunders. Seven guys, a beautiful girl with a quirt and a six-gun, and two stampeding horses. I'm not sure anybody but Saunders could have packed that much into a cover and made it work. As for the authors inside this issue of WESTERN SHORT STORIES, it's a fine group: H.A. DeRosso, D.B. Newton, Joseph Chadwick, Stephen Payne, Ray Gaulden, Joseph Payne Brennan, Ray Townsend, Roger Dee (Roger D. Aycock, probably better remembered for his science fiction), and a number of lesser-known authors including John Lumsden, Clem Yager, Jay Arrow, and house-name Ken Jason. Steve Frazee is listed on the cover but doesn't actually have a story in this issue, according to the Fictonmags Index.

Friday, January 28, 2022

Guns of the Damned - Stone Cody (Thomas E. Mount)

THE WESTERN RAIDER was a short-lived Western hero pulp that ran for three issues in 1938 and ’39. It featured the adventures of Silver Trent, a heroic outlaw sometimes known as the Hawk of the Sierras or the Rio Robin Hood. And like the Robin Hood of legend, Silver Trent has a band of colorful followers and fellow adventurers who ride with him, known as Hell’s Hawks. After the three short novels that were published in THE WESTERN RAIDER, Silver Trent returned in ten short stories and novelettes that appeared in STAR WESTERN from 1939 through 1942. I recently read the first Silver Trent novel, “Guns of the Damned”, from the August/September 1938 issue of THE WESTERN RAIDER.

This yarn opens with two Texas cowboys who have crossed the border into Mexico to look for a friend of theirs who disappeared. The friend was trying to find out who’s behind a series of rustling raids, and he’s sent word back that he suspects an outlaw named Silver Trent. His two pards who are searching for him are about to get gun-trapped in a cantina when a mysterious stranger rescues them. No bonus points for guessing that the mysterious stranger turns out to be Silver Trent his own self, and he’s no rustler. In fact, his mortal enemy, a rich but evil Mexican rancher known as El Diablo, is actually behind the raids across the border into Texas, and the two cowpokes are drawn into Silver Trent’s on-going war against El Diablo.

That’s about as complicated as the plot of this novel gets. It’s basically just a series of shootouts, captures, escapes, and epic battles, pausing occasionally to introduce more supporting characters from Silver’s friends, which include a priest with a hard right hook, a melancholy Mexican gunman tortured by religious guilt, a drunken doctor, a fast-gun gambler, an old geezer, and, of course, a beautiful girl.

Silver Trent himself is a bigger-than-life character, the sort of mythical figure who can out-shoot, out-fight, and out-ride anybody that shows up so often in Frederick Faust’s work. In fact, he reminds me quite a bit of Faust’s Silvertip, and while I have no way of knowing, it wouldn’t surprise me if the similarity in names wasn’t entirely a coincidence. Silver needs to be as competent as he is, because he’s evenly matched with El Diablo, about as despicable a villain as I’ve run across in a pulp Western.

Keeping everything moving at a breakneck pace is author Stone Cody, who was really Thomas Mount, a bit of a colorful character himself who I wrote about a while back in my review of his novel THE GUN WITH THE WAITING NOTCH. I really enjoy Mount’s over-the-top prose, such as this bit from late in the book:

The battle cry of Silver’s men!

In brazen-clanging Spanish and hard-bitten American—a sound like a trumpet call, that the desert knew and quivered to, that the mountains had flung back triumphantly in a hundred slashing whirling fights, that echoed still, fearfully, in the dreams of men who listened to it and lived to tell the tale.

“To Silver! Hell’s Hawks for Trent!” And now the sudden, staccato thunder of the guns!

Great literature, maybe it ain’t. But great literature generally doesn’t make me literally pump a fist in the air like I did when I read that line about the thunder of the guns. And that goes a long way toward explaining why I write like I do.

Altus Press/Steeger Books has reprinted the entire Silver Trent series, and I own all six volumes. I’ll be reading the rest of them soon. If you love Western pulp adventure as much as I do, I give them a very high recommendation. I love this stuff.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

The Shadowed Circle #2 - Steve Donoso, ed.

The first issue of THE SHADOWED CIRCLE, a new journal devoted to the iconic character The Shadow in all his forms, was excellent. The second issue is even better.

This volume kicks off with a look at HITLER’S ASTROLOGER, a 1988 graphic novel written by Denny O’Neil and drawn by Mike Kaluta, two of the top comics creators from the Seventies and Eighties. I remember very well when this book came out and would have sworn that I’d read it, but after reading this fine review by Malcolm Deeley, I’m not sure I have. Now I have to find a copy and read it, for sure.

Shadow expert and author Will Murray contributes an excellent essay about how he and Anthony Tollin decided which Shadow novels to pair up in their long-running series of Sanctum reprints. As always, it’s an interesting, well-written piece. I’ll read anything Will Murray wants to write about The Shadow.

In a lengthy article, editor Steve Donoso uses vintage photographs by Berenice Abbott to illustrate the haunts of 1930s New York where so many of The Shadow’s exploits took place. This is fascinating stuff. I always enjoy looks back into history such as this.

In another highlight, Todd Severin and Keith Holt tackle the history of The Shadow as a pulp character, beginning with his murky origins in radio. Long-time Shadow fans have read this story before, but even so, Severin and Holt present it in such clear, concise, entertaining prose that I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Newer fans can learn a lot from this series, and I look forward to reading future installments of it.

There’s also a review by Steve Donoso of Will Murray’s MASTER OF MYSTERY, a book collecting a number of articles and interviews pertaining to The Shadow’s authors, editors, and illustrators, plus articles about The Shadow’s connection to the Explorer’s Club (by Julian Puga) and military heraldry (by Tim King). These round out the issue very nicely, along with art by Cristian Diaz, Alvaro Fernandois, Steve Novak, John Sies, Santiago Bojorquez, Luke Forster, Mike Hammen, David Hitchcock, and the late, legendary Frank Hamilton, whose fantastic work graced so many of the pulp fanzines I’ve read over the past four decades. Kudos as well to deputy editor Rebecca Robinson and website and Facebook page director Sam Oatley. As editor Donoso says, it takes a lot of people to produce something this good, and everyone involved deserves the thanks of Shadow fans everywhere.

Speaking of the Facebook page, it can be found at You can contact the journal at, and the website is . Print and digital subscriptions are available, and you can also buy single copies on Amazon. I’ve been reading the adventures of The Shadow for close to 60 years now, and I’m really enjoying this look at the character. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Battling Britons 2 - Justin Marriott, ed.

Justin Marriott is back with BATTLING BRITONS 2, the fine journal he edits and publishes devoted to British war comics, which is good news indeed for comics fans.

The cover features by Justin Marriott and Paul Trimble focus on war comics set in Burma, but as always, there’s a wide variety of subject matter in this issue. Jim O’Brien takes a look at stories set during the conflict between the U.K. and Argentina over the Falkland Islands, and Justin Marriott contributes an article about Hellman of Hammer Force, one of the best-known German protagonists in war comics, along with an overview of other “good Germans” who starred in their own stories. Two real highlights are an article/interview with Gary Dobbs, one of the current COMMANDO scripters, and an interview with Keith Richardson and Oliver Pickles, the editors of a series of reprints called the Treasury of British Comics (published by Rebellion, the company that currently holds the rights to a lot of great material).

Dobbs is also the author of an excellent article about “Charley’s War”, regarded by many as the best British war comic ever published. I haven’t read that one, and since the whole run by the original writer and artist (Pat Mills and Joe Colquhoun) has been reprinted, I really ought to. But there are also plenty of other reviews and features that make me want to search for reprints or see if digital editions are available. As always, this issue of BATTLING BRITONS is going to make me add to my collection!

I wrote another column in this one in which I have short reviews of a dozen issues of COMMANDO, the long-running (since 1961!) digest comic for which several of my friends have written scripts over the years. Unfortunately, this is my final column in BATTLING BRITONS, as the press of both writing and editorial work has become too time-consuming to keep it up. I’ve really enjoyed working on these and plan to continue reading COMMANDO on a regular basis (all the new editions are available as ebooks on Amazon, which sure makes it easier for those of us stateside), as well as the reprints I’ve already picked up. And I look forward to forthcoming editions of BATTLING BRITONS. This issue and the previous ones all get very high recommendations from me.

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Adventure, January 15, 1935

This issue of ADVENTURE isn't exactly loaded with big names. The cover is by Ray Dean, who was much more prolific as a pulp cover artist and interior illustrator under his real name, Stockton Mulford. With the first issue of a serial called "The Sea Plunderers" in this issue, the cover is pretty effective. Speaking of "The Sea Plunderers", its author, Berry Fleming, wrote this serial and a handful of other stories, but that's the extent of his pulp career. I don't know a thing about him. The most well-known of the other authors is probably William Chamberlain, a long-time pulpster and, in his spare time, a general in the United States Army. Also on hand are John Murray Reynolds and Robert E. Pinkerton, two names that are at least recognizable to pulp fans, and lesser-known Tex O'Reilly, Palmer Hoyt, Alfred Batson, Eddy Orcutt, and Andrew A. Caffrey.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Dime Western Magazine, June 1946

I'm not quite sure of everything that's going on, but dang, what a great cover anyway! Pure action and drama. I'm sure there's a lot of that in the stories in this issue of DIME WESTERN, too, since the authors are Walt Coburn, Harry F. Olmsted, Frank Bonham, William R. Cox, Van Cort (Wyatt Blassingame), and Ralph Perry. By this point, Coburn (supposedly) wasn't at the top of his game because of his drinking, but I still enjoy his work from all eras of his career.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Assassin - Ted Bell

(This post originally appeared on September 9, 2007.)

ASSASSIN is the second book in Ted Bell’s series about Lord Alexander Hawke, British nobleman, billionaire businessman, and freelance secret agent for the British and American governments. These books are deliberate throwbacks to the more outrageous espionage novels of the Sixties, with larger-than-life heroes and colorful, eccentric villains bent on ruling and/or destroying the world. Bell has updated that whole scenario for a post-9/11 world, of course, and the bad guys in this book are Islamic terrorists who are a. systematically assassinating American ambassadors and their families worldwide, and b. working on a concurrent plot to launch a devastating attack against the United States on American soil. Obviously, the only man who can deal with this terrible danger is Alex Hawke, even though a mysterious enemy from his past is seeking vengeance on him at the same time.

There’s a lot to like about this book. Hawke and his friends and allies are an appealing bunch, and the last 150 pages are filled with action and very suspenseful. Before that, though, the plot meanders around quite a bit and seems to take a long time to develop. There are nice set pieces all the way through the novel but too many of them have long stretches between them where nothing much happens, giving the book a padded feeling, something I didn’t think happened in the first book. Maybe I just read it too soon after HAWKE, the initial entry in the series.

Overall, I enjoyed ASSASSIN enough that I’ll definitely continue to read the series, but I’ll probably let more time go by before I tackle the third book, PIRATE.

(Update: I lied. I never went on with the series and read the third book. Or maybe I just haven't gotten to it yet. Yeah, that's it. I'll read it one of these days, once I've retired and have more time to read long books. You believe that, don't you?)

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Now Available: Outlaw Ranger: Ravagers of the Border - James Reasoner

I have a new book out today from Wolfpack Publishing, the latest Outlaw Ranger novel RAVAGERS OF THE BORDER. Outlaw gangs are robbing banks, rustling cattle, murdering anybody who gets in their way, and generally raising hell on both sides of the border. Roped into the case by a former fellow lawman, G.W. Braddock, the Outlaw Ranger, sets out to discover what's really going on and bring the owlhoots to justice, no matter whether it means risking the wrath of a beautiful senorita or being tossed into a deadly sinkhole or facing the guns of a horde of vicious killers.

Most of you reading this know of my fondness for the fictional Texas Rangers Jim Hatfield and Walt Slade, and the influence of A. Leslie Scott and the other authors who contributed to those great Western pulp series on my work ought to be pretty obvious. I had a great time writing this book and hope that many of you will enjoy it as well. You can read it for free if you have Kindle Unlimited, or get a copy of the e-book for 99 cents, or pick up a handsome trade paperback edition if you prefer print.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Detective Tales, February 1942

I hope whoever has that gun hands it to the babe in the red dress. She looks a lot more capable of using it than that doofus she's tied up with. I don't know who painted this cover. Inside this issue of DETECTIVE TALES is an absolutely top-notch group of writers: Fredric Brown, Day Keene, John K. Butler, D.L. Champion, Stewart Sterling, John Hawkins, Curt Hamlin, Edward S. Williams, and William Benton Johnston. I'm not familiar with the last one of those guys, but I'll bet he was a pretty good writer to crack a Popular Publications pulp. 

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Western Story, December 5, 1942

This cowboy's got a lot of trouble coming at him in this cover by H.W. Scott for WESTERN STORY, the granddaddy of the Western pulp genre. Inside this issue is the novella featured on the cover, "Salinas Showdown" by Bennett Foster, plus other stories by Wayne D. Overholster, Gunnison Steele (Bennie Gardner), Hapsburg Liebe, Cliff Walters, and Kenneth Gilbert. That's a solid lineup of Western authors.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Dead End Trail - Norman A. Fox

Norman A. Fox was a prolific, consistently good Western author in both the pulps and the novel market for more than twenty years, from the late Thirties until his death in 1960. He published 31 novels during that time, as well as more than 400 stories, all of them Westerns except for one detective yarn. His most successful decade was probably the Fifties, when several of his novels were made into movies.

DEAD END TRAIL, published in hardcover by Dodd, Mead in 1944 and reprinted several times in paperback, is the first of four novels featuring range detectives Rowdy Dow and Stumpy Grampis, Fox’s only series characters. Actually, in this one the duo start out as reformed outlaws. Rowdy has received a pardon for his crimes because he heroically risked his life to warn a whole valley full of settlers when a dam burst, so they could escape before the resulting flood washed them away. As the novel opens, the two friends are on the drift in Montana, but they soon find themselves in trouble when a U.S. marshal recruits them to help him on a mysterious errand: he wants Rowdy and Stumpy to deliver a china figurine of a rearing stallion to a rancher in Latigo Basin. This rouses Rowdy’s curiosity enough for him to go along with the plan.

Well, you know things are bound to get a lot more complicated than that. Turns out the china figurine is the key to recovering a fortune in hidden loot. But that’s not all. There’s a land swindle going on in Latigo Basin, plus a legendary outlaw who’s escaped from prison (Butch Rafferty . . . Hmm, wonder who he’s based on?), a dimwitted giant who can repeat, verbatim, anything he’s ever been told, a county fair, a hot air balloon, some rustling, and oh, yeah, a pretty girl. Fox mixes it all together into a pretty complicated plot that changes direction several times. The story sprawls around enough that I wondered if Fox came up with it by combining a couple of his pulp stories, but that’s pure speculation on my part.

Whatever its origins, DEAD END TRAIL is a solid, entertaining traditional Western. The pace is a little leisurely and there’s quite a bit of droll humor, but Fox can bring the hardboiled action when he needs to. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Rowdy and Stumpy remind me quite a bit of Roy Rogers and Gabby Hayes, but again, that’s pure speculation on my part. What I do know is that I enjoyed this novel, and if you’re a fan of traditional Westerns, I think there’s a good chance you will, too. The other Rowdy Dow and Stumpy Grampis novels are THE DEVIL'S SADDLE, THE FEATHERED SOMBRERO, and THE PHANTOM SPUR. With titles like those, you can bet there's a pretty good chance I'll be reading them sooner or later.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy - William B. Irvine

For the last several years, I’ve had a growing interest in Stoic philosophy (upper-case S, by the way; the generally accepted definition of “stoic” isn’t really what Stoic philosophy is about). Like a lot of writers, I battle off-and-on with depression and anxiety, and from what I’d read about the Stoics, they seemed to have some ideas that might prove helpful in dealing with such problems. Recently I decided to delve a little deeper into the subject, so I picked up what appears to be a well-regarded book about it, A GUIDE TO THE GOOD LIFE: THE ANCIENT ART OF STOIC JOY by William B. Irvine.

Now, as you know, I’m a fiction guy. Most of the non-fiction I read is about books and/or writers. Normally, reading a book about philosophical ideas would make my eyes (and my brain) glaze over. But A GUIDE TO THE GOOD LIFE is surprisingly readable, probably because Irvine’s prose is clear and concise, without a lot of academic jargon, and a thread of self-deprecating humor runs all through the book. He starts with a good historical background and biographical sketches of the ancient Roman philosophers who developed Stoicism from its Greek origins, then lays out the central principles of it. That’s all excellent, but the following section that goes into detail about applying Stoicism to obstacles encountered in modern life is probably the most valuable.

I won’t even attempt to go into all of that here. A lot of it strikes me as being just common sense, and I was a little surprised to discover that some of the things I already try to do go right along with Stoicism. But I think that reading this book and pondering more about it has helped me already to deal with adversity. Maybe not much, mind you; it’s certainly no magic bullet. But hey, any ideas that help you get along in this crazy day and age are worth something, I think.

I don’t agree with everything in Irvine’s book, but I’m intrigued enough that I’ve ordered a couple more volumes about Stoicism and plan to read them soon. And I have to admit, I also like the fact that this may well be the only blog on the Internet where you can read reviews of Tom Roan’s THE DRAGON STRIKES BACK and a book on Stoic philosophy in less than a week’s time.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Fancy Anders Goes to War: Who Killed Rosie the Riveter - Max Allan Collins

Fancy Anders is a rich, beautiful blond socialite during World War II. She worked as a secretary in her father’s successful private detective business, and when he’s called back to active duty, she takes over the agency. Not as a detective, mind you, but simply somebody to refer potential clients to other agencies and keep the business existing in name only.

Now really, what rich, beautiful blond socialite is going to be satisfied with a set-up like that? Especially when a young woman who works in an aircraft plant dies under suspicious circumstances, and the man who owns the plant is an old friend of Fancy’s family? Naturally, Fancy decides to go undercover and join the millions of women who have entered the workforce with most of the men off at war. She’s determined to find out if the young woman’s death was an accident, as it appears at first . . . or murder.

FANCY ANDERS GOES TO WAR: WHO KILLED ROSIE THE RIVETER? is a book that seems to have been designed with me as the target audience. And since Max Allan Collins is one of the modern masters of the historical mystery, it doesn’t disappoint in the slightest. This is a highly entertaining novel, with a fast pace, a suitably twisty plot, and a great protagonist in Fancy Anders. The cover and illustrations by Fay Dalton just make it that much more appealing. I had a wonderful time reading this book and give it a high recommendation. And I’m happy to know that there are at least two more Fancy Anders tales in the works, because I’m looking forward to reading them, too.

Sunday, January 09, 2022

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Short Stories, January 10, 1943

A pith helmet, a swastika, a mysterious ring, a guy who looks a little like Robert Mitchum, and a red sun in the background . . . Yep, this is a cover for SHORT STORIES, one of the great adventure pulps. The artist is E. Franklin Wittmack. Authors on hand in this issue are H. Bedford-Jones, William MacLeod Raine, Allan Vaughan Elston, William R. Cox, Philip Ketchum, Fulton T. Grant, and H.S.M. Kemp. Since the dates on pulp magazines were off-sale dates, when newsstand employees would pull them to return, that means this issue was still on the stands 79 years ago today. You'd have to grab it before the next day if you wanted a copy.

Saturday, January 08, 2022

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Western Novels and Short Stories, October 1947

There's almost enough happening on this cover that it reminds me of Norman Saunders' work, but it's not a Saunders cover. Even so, I like it quite a bit. No idea who did the art. Inside this issue of WESTERN NOVELS AND SHORT STORIES are stories by some good pulpsters, including Giles A. Lutz, Ray Gaulden, Nelson C. Nye, John H. Latham, and little-known Harry E. Baker, who published only a few stories. I can't say that any of those authors are actual favorites of mine, but I'll bet it's an entertaining issue anyway.

Friday, January 07, 2022

The Dragon Strikes Back - Tom Roan

Tom Roan, the son of an Alabama sheriff and a lawman himself, is best remembered for the hundreds of stories he wrote for the Western pulps in a career that lasted more than thirty years, from the early Twenties to the mid-Fifties. He wrote a handful of Western novels, too, and died in 1958. While the vast majority of his work falls in the Western genre, he wrote quite a few detective stories and thrillers, as well, including the espionage yarn THE DRAGON STRIKES BACK, published in 1936 by Julian Messner and reprinted by A.L. Burt a couple of years later.

Years ago, I read some pretty negative comments about this novel but thought it sounded intriguing enough to check out, so I hunted up a copy. However, I never got around to reading it before it was lost in the Fire of ’08, and I never replaced it because copies for sale on-line are fairly expensive. Livia knew I still wanted to read it, though, so she found one and got it for me as a Christmas present. So finally, more than a dozen years after I originally set out to, I’ve read THE DRAGON STRIKES BACK.

My copy is lacking a dust jacket, so that cover image above is one I found on-line. And it’s more than enough to tell you that this is a Yellow Peril novel, although it doesn’t follow in the footsteps of Sax Rohmer quite as much as you might think from the cover. The plot is pretty simple: somebody is trying to provoke a war between the United States and Japan. Ships are sunk. Japanese diplomats in San Francisco are murdered in some mysterious, grotesque fashion. An admiral’s beautiful daughter is abducted. The world trembles on the brink of war.

Tasked with sorting everything out and preventing that war are Secret Service agents William “Eternity Bill” Mandell, a corpulent, Nero Wolfe-like detective, and his Archie Goodwin, an Army captain named Andrew Lee who’s on detached duty from the cavalry. Captain Lee is also in love with the admiral’s kidnapped daughter. Their investigation puts them afoul of the deadly tongs in Chinatown and ultimately involves secret passages, chases through the sewers, an underground temple, a really grisly murder method, and plenty of the pulpish, over the top, breakneck action that I love. Plus, Roan saves a really nice twist for near the end, when the true identities of the plotters are revealed.

Now, given the fact that this is a Yellow Peril novel published in 1936, is THE DRAGON STRIKES BACK politically incorrect to the point of offensiveness? Well, yes and no. Some modern readers might be put off by some of the dialogue, but I didn’t find it any worse than a lot of other popular fiction from that era. I don’t have a problem accepting a work of fiction as a product of its time. But that’s just me. Is it also clumsily written in places? Yes . . . but that’s just Tom Roan. He was a storyteller, not a stylist, and was more concerned with keeping the action galloping along, which he does quite well. And there are occasional passages that are well-written, especially when he’s describing the settings, whether it’s fog-bound San Francisco or an ornately furnished hidden temple or a slimy, sinister sewer tunnel with something lurking inside it.

So, was it worth it to finally read THE DRAGON STRIKES BACK after all this time? I’d say it was, definitely. I had a fine time reading this novel and stayed up late with it a couple of nights, turning the pages to find out what was going to happen, reluctant to put it down. I think the ending could have maybe been a little stronger, but I still enjoyed it quite a bit, although it certainly isn’t a book for everyone.

Monday, January 03, 2022

All of the Marvels - Douglas Wolk

Douglas Wolk had a really great idea for a book: read all of the superhero comics published by Marvel since FANTASTIC FOUR #1 was published in 1961 (approximately 27,000 comic books through 2017) and then write an overview of them, considering them all to form one single, self-contained story, the largest work of fiction ever published. It’s exactly the sort of thing that a long-time (since Christmas Day, 1963) Marvel Comics fan like me would find fascinating.

The execution of that really great idea? Well, that’s something else again.

Good news first. ALL OF THE MARVELS is about 90% of a great book. When he’s actually writing about the comics, Wolk is top-notch, summarizing them well and doing an excellent job of fitting everything together. He fills in the historical background well and is affectionate and even-handed in his treatment of the creators of those comics. It doesn’t hurt that he devotes an entire chapter, and a long one, at that, to MASTER OF KUNG FU, my favorite comic from the Seventies. He gives a lot of love to FANTASTIC FOUR, my all-time favorite comic book, and also to THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, which is also very high on my list. Best of all, when he’s writing about the Sixties and Seventies, the book makes me feel like I’m there again, walking across the highway to Lester’s Drugstore to pick up the new issues every week.

Unfortunately, before he gets to that point, Wolk spends a lot of time early on lecturing the reader and making it clear that he dislikes long-time comics fans (you know, the ones who plunked down their nickels and dimes and quarters every week for years so that there would still be a Marvel Comics for him to write about) and considers any of us who don’t care for Marvel’s current comics to be horrible people. He comes across as smug, arrogant, and very morally superior to anybody who disagrees with him.

Luckily, as I said, most of this is very early on. If you’re a long-time fan and/or have no interest in what Marvel is publishing these days, I’d advise skimming the first two chapters and skipping Chapter 3 completely. Heck, if you’re a long-time fan, you can probably just start with Chapter 4, which focuses on, appropriately enough, the Fantastic Four. There are a few brief shots at older fans later on, but they’re easy enough to ignore.

Don’t get me wrong. Overall, I enjoyed ALL OF THE MARVELS quite a bit and consider it well worth reading. Yeah, there were a few times when I felt like throwing the book against the wall, but mostly I raced through it, flipping the pages eagerly, having a great time reliving some fifty- and sixty-year-old memories. Just know what you’re getting into if you were there at or near the beginning, like I was.

Sunday, January 02, 2022

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Detective Book Magazine, Fall 1938

All you have to do is look at how much is going on in this great cover to know it's by Norman Saunders. Holy cow! They just don't get much more pulpish than this one. Inside this issue of DETECTIVE BOOK MAGAZINE are a Duncan Maclain novel by Bayard Kendrick, a reprint of an Amusement Inc. story by Theodore Tinsley, and more yarns by James P. Olsen, Stewart Sterling, and Franklin H. Martin. Looks like a fantastic issue.  

Saturday, January 01, 2022

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Frontier Stories, Spring 1951

I don't know who did the dynamic cover on this issue of FRONTIER STORIES. Possibly Allan Anderson, based on the way the horse looks. The group of authors inside is certainly a good one, though: Gordon D. Shirreffs, William R. Cox, Frank Castle, Bennett Foster, John Jo Carpenter (John Reese), and a couple of lesser-known authors, Gene L. Henderson and Walter Hutchings. The Cox and Foster stories are reprints from the Summer 1943 issue of FRONTIER STORIES. It's good to be starting another year of these posts.