Monday, October 31, 2022

Dark Harvest - Norman Partridge

(This post originally appeared in slightly different form on October 31, 2011, also a Monday.)

Since today is Halloween, it seemed appropriate to post about a Halloween novel. I decided to read Norman Partridge's DARK HARVEST for two reasons: he has a reputation as a very good writer, and it was handy, sitting in a stack just a couple of feet from my computer. It was a good choice.

DARK HARVEST is one of those novels that takes place in only a few hours of time, something I always like. Set in 1963 in a quiet Midwestern town, it's about a strange ritual called the Run. It seems that every Halloween, a pumpkin-headed monster known as the October Boy rise from the cornfields outside of town and for reasons unknown tries to reach the church in the middle of town. Opposing him are all the boys from the ages of sixteen to nineteen, who compete to see who can kill the October Boy (or Sawtooth Jack or Ol' Hacksaw Face, as the monster is sometimes called).

To be honest, I wasn't too impressed with that setup. It seemed like something out of a low-budget horror movie (not that there's anything wrong with that). But Partridge turns it into something else with a number of nice plot twists and some excellent writing. I usually don't care much for books written in present tense, but if an author can make it work, I don't mind, and Partridge does. A little more sense of the time period might have been nice, but the story hurtles along so well, that's not a real problem.

DARK HARVEST is well worth reading, and if you're in the mood for a Halloween novel tonight and have a copy on your shelves, you should definitely give it a try.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Blue Book, May 1939

As far as I'm concerned, BLUE BOOK was at its peak in the mid-to-late Thirties, although it remained at a pretty high level on into the Forties. But that's the era when it had great authors and a long run of consistently excellent covers by Herbert Morton Stoops. Here's one of them, illustrating a story from H. Bedford-Jones' series "Trumpets From Oblivion". Bedford-Jones had two other stories in this issue, an installment of "Ships and Men" (a "collaboration" between him and the fictional Captain L.B. Williams) and one under his Gordon Keyne pseudonym. Other authors in this issue are Will Jenkins (better known under his pseudonym Murray Leinster), Georges Surdez, Karl Detzer, and Fulton T. Grant. That's a great bunch of pulpsters.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Popular Western, September 1936

A great cover by A. Leslie Ross on this issue of POPULAR WESTERN, and by coincidence, the lead novel is by A. Leslie Scott, writing under his A. Leslie pseudonym. Other authors on hand in this issue are Syl MacDowell (as himself and as Tom Gunn with a Sheriff Blue Steele novelette), Tom Curry, Galen C. Colin, Miles Overholt, Gunnison Steele (Bennie Gardner), Frank Carl Young, Eugene A. Clancy, Dabney Otis Collins, Claude Rister (as Buck Billings), Charles D. Richardson Jr., and house-names Jackson Cole, Buck Benson, and Sam Brant. Not an all-star lineup, maybe, but with Scott, Curry, Gardner, Overholt, and MacDowell, probably pretty good reading.

Friday, October 28, 2022

The Halfbreed - Al James (Albert James Hjertstedt)

Despite what the cover of this 1961 novel published by Midwood implies, THE HALFBREED refers to the protagonist, half-Irish, half-Seminole Frank Osceola. Frank runs a souvenir stand on the Tamiami Trail, and like a lot of guys in noir novels, he’s vaguely dissatisfied with his life despite being married to a beautiful young Seminole woman. Then one day a fancy car pulls up to the souvenir stand, and out of it climbs a stunningly beautiful redheaded young woman, who—you guessed it—is unhappily married to a rich older man.

After some brief flirting, the redhead leaves, but the next day while Frank is out on his fishing boat (he does some fishing to supplement the meager income from the souvenir stand), he spots a capsized boat and pulls two survivors from the water, one of whom is the rich guy.

The other one, who just happens to be naked, is—you guessed it again—the beautiful redhead.

Al James was really Albert James Hjertstedt, and most of you probably recognize that last name. He was the son of Gunard Hjertstedt, better known to all of us as Day Keene, one of the top writers of the pulp era and then a major name as a paperbacker in the Fifties and Sixties. THE HALFBREED, with its Florida locale and noir setup, easily could have been a Gold Medal paperback by Day Keene.

Instead, being a Midwood book by his son, it takes a different tack, at least starting out. The first two-thirds of the book mostly ignore the noir elements in favor of spinning a tale of domestic drama, complete with several non-graphic sex scenes. Only in the final third does the book begin to pick up steam as the author sends the unhappily married couple, along with Frank, on a treasure hunting expedition in the Caribbean.

James develops some genuine suspense in that final third, and there’s a nice plot twist toward the end that I didn’t see coming until it was practically on top of me. As far as I’m concerned that redeems what had been a somewhat lackluster book at times. James’s prose is pretty slick and his characters are interesting and the story moves right along for the most part. That the book wasn’t exactly what I expected it to be is my fault, not his. He knew the market he was writing for.

Nobody has ever reprinted any of Al James’s books, as far as I know, and I don’t expect anybody to do so now. I have one of his novels that he wrote for William Hamling’s Nightstand Books, and I’ll happily give it a try based on reading THE HALFBREED. I won’t be rushing out to look for more of his books, though, unless the next one really impresses me.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Gun-Call for the Lost Legion - Stone Cody (Thomas E. Mount)

GUN-CALL FOR THE LOST LEGION is the third and final full-length Silver Trent novel by Thomas Mount writing under the pseudonym Stone Cody. The pulp in which it appeared, THE WESTERN RAIDER, was cancelled under that title after the December 1938/January 1939 issue came out, although for publishing and mailing purposes, it was retitled for one issue as THE OCTOPUS and one issue as THE SCORPION, both featuring the crimefighter Dr. Skull.

But that has nothing to do with our purpose here, which is to pick up the saga of good guy outlaw Silver Trent and his band of Hell Hawks. Any resemblance to Robin Hood and his Merry Men is probably not coincidental. In the first two novels, Trent battled his arch-nemesis Esteban Varro, also known as El Diablo, and defeated Varro’s schemes even though the would-be dictator of Mexico escaped both times. As GUN-CALL OF THE LOST LEGION opens, Trent and his men are at a fiesta celebrating his upcoming marriage to the love of his life, the beautiful Gracia Cary. But agents of El Diablo infiltrate the party, dope the wine, and kidnap Gracia, taking her back to Varro’s stronghold in the mountains where he has enslaved the local farmers and forced them to work in his secret gold mine. Trent and the Hell Hawks recover from being drugged and give chase.

That’s the entire plot. The rest of the book consists of running gunfights, ambushes, sneaking around, and a final epic battle. Gracia and El Diablo don’t actually appear until the story is almost over. This is the same sort of thin plot that weakened the previous book. However, I still enjoyed it quite a bit because Mount is one of the best authors I’ve found at the sort of over-the-top, thunderous, fast-moving Western pulp prose that I love so much. The action just gallops along. Silver Trent is an almost superhuman protagonist, and his sidekicks are colorful and entertaining. Mount really puts them through the wringer in this book, too. The mental and physical torture Silver has to endure reminded me of how Norvell Page treated Richard Wentworth in the pages of THE SPIDER.

Following the demise of THE WESTERN RAIDER, Silver Trent appeared in ten more novellas and novelettes by Mount that were published in STAR WESTERN. I don’t know if the on-going story from the novels continues in the shorter stories, but all of them have been reprinted by Altus Press and I have copies sitting right here by my computer. I plan to get to the next volume soon. In the meantime, if you’re a fan of pulp Westerns, I recommend the Silver Trent series, all of which are available in very nice trade paperback editions. Just be sure to read them in order.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Detective Tales, March 1951

Now that's a striking cover. That guy looks a little calmer than I would be in the same situation. Not that I would ever find myself in that situation. There's quite a lineup of authors in this issue of DETECTIVE TALES, too: John D. MacDonald, William Campbell Gault, Steve Fisher, Gil Brewer, T.T. Flynn, John Hawkins, and Paul Kingston. I don't know anything about Kingston, but the others are all top-notch. 

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Wild West Weekly, May 26, 1934

This is a dandy, very dynamic cover by Walter Baumhofer. The action seems to almost leap off the page, to use a cliché that happens to be accurate in this case. This issue of WILD WEST WEEKLY features the usual assortment of series and stand-alone stories, heavy on the series. In this case, The Whistlin' Kid by Emery Jackson (J. Allan Dunn), Sonny Tabor by Ward M. Stevens (Paul S. Powers), Shorty Master by Allan R. Bosworth, Hungry and Rusty by Samuel H. Nickels, and the Bar U Twins by Charles E. Barnes. The stand-alones are by Lee Bond, George C. Henderson, and Kent Bennett (who was actually Samuel H. Nickels, his second story in this issue).

Friday, October 21, 2022

The Hot Beat - Robert Silverberg

A lot of Robert Silverberg’s pen-name books have been reprinted over the past ten or fifteen years, which is a good thing. Most of them, even the so-called sleaze books, usually had some sort of crime or noir element to them, and I think he does an excellent job with them. The latest such early effort is THE HOT BEAT, originally published by Magnet Books in 1960 under the pseudonym Stan Vincent and recently reprinted under Silverberg’s name by Hard Case Crime.

This one is set in Los Angeles, and the plot concerns swing band leader and musician Bob McKay, who was a star before he hit the skids because of his drinking, which cost him his band and the beautiful starlet he was dating. Now he’s under arrest for the murder of a prostitute, and no one believes he’s innocent except his former girlfriend and a sympathetic newspaper columnist. They team up to try to find the evidence to clear McKay’s name and expose the real killer.

There’s a bit of a procedural feel to this one as Silverberg follows the unofficial murder investigation step by step. The story moves along nicely with an occasional twist, and the solution to the mystery is well put together and satisfying. There are a few mild sex scenes. Overall, this novel is a little on the lightweight side but very well-written and entertaining.

The Hard Case Crime edition is rounded out by three short stories Silverberg wrote for the late Fifties crime digests TRAPPED DETECTIVE STORY MAGAZINE and GUILTY DETECTIVE STORY MAGAZINE. These were published by the same company that published Magnet Books. “Jailbait Girl” appeared under the pseudonym Ed Chase in the September 1959 issue of GUILTY. It’s a con game story, and there’s no actual jailbait girl, as there very well could have been in that era. “Drunken Sailor” appeared under the name Eric Rodman in the October 1958 issue of TRAPPED and is about a sailor on leave in New York City who runs into a dame—and trouble. “Naked in the Lake” was first published in the February 1958 issue of TRAPPED under the name Ray McKensie. It’s about an ambitious guy married to a beautiful heiress, with a pregnant girlfriend on the side. That’s a set-up ripe for murder, of course. All three of these stories are predictable, but they’re fun to read and excellent examples of Silverberg’s ability to produce worthwhile and saleable fiction for whatever market he set his sights on.

Overall, I had a great time reading THE HOT BEAT, which is available in both trade paperback and e-book editions, with a nice cover by Claudia Caranfa. It’s an evocative reminder of the era in which these stories were first published, and it only whets my appetite for more of Silverberg’s crime fiction. He mentions in his introduction that he wrote several more noir novels. I hope we’ll see those reprinted in the future.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Bitter Creek - Al Cody (Archie Joscelyn)

Al Cody is the pseudonym most often used by Montana Western writer Archie Joscelyn, who also wrote novels under his own name and the name Lynn Westland. Joscelyn got his start in the pulps in the 1920s but became a lot more prolific during the Thirties, when he turned out stories for WILD WEST WEEKLY under various house-names in addition to publishing quite a bit under his own name. He didn’t start using the Cody and Westland names until the Forties, but over time, Al Cody became the best-known of all the names Joscelyn used, although he still turned out a lot of paperback Westerns under his real name.

It was as Al Cody that Joscelyn wrote the novella “Bitter Creek”, which first appeared in the January 1947 issue of the pulp WESTERN ACTION. He expanded it into a full-length novel which was published in hardback by Dodd, Mead in July of that same year. Without comparing the two versions, I don’t imagine Joscelyn had to expand the novella very much, since it occupied 50 pages of small print in the pulp. The novel version also came out in paperback from Pocket Books in December 1950. It was also reprinted in paperback by Avon in 1960. I featured the pulp in one of my Saturday Morning Western Pulp posts a while back and decided to read the novel, so I found a copy of the Pocket Books edition. That’s it in the scan, ugly sticker pull and all.

The protagonist, Clyde Cassel, returns to his hometown in the Bitter Creek country of Montana following the Civil War. He comes back minus the right arm he lost in battle and also without the girl he was engaged to marry, who up and married an old rival while Cassel was off fighting the war. Not only that, the same lowdown skunk also took over Cassel’s ranch while he was gone. So he comes home an embittered cripple . . . but it’s not long before folks are trying to kill him and the town boss—who may or may not be a crook—offers him the job of marshal. Cassel finds himself caught in the middle of a power struggle between this unexpected ally and his old enemy, and anyone who underestimates him because he has only one arm is in for a surprise.

The premise of this book—the hero coming home from the war only to find himself in danger because everything has changed—is pretty standard in Westerns, and in other genres, as well. Quite a few hardboiled crime novels from the late Forties and Fifties use the same plot. The appeal depends on the execution, and Joscelyn does a pretty darned good job of that, giving us a rough around the edges but still likable protagonist, some despicable villains, an unexpected plot twist or two, a well-done romantic angle that’s not too obtrusive, and a few characters who are hard to pin down. Not everything turns out the way you think it might, which is always a bonus.

Joscelyn’s prose had some occasional clumsiness to it that never goes away completely even in his best books, and that’s true in this one. But there’s some really excellent writing, as well, and the same sense of authenticity that’s to be found in Walt Coburn’s work. BITTER CREEK isn’t the best of Joscelyn’s novels I’ve read so far—I think DOOMROCK, POWDER BURNS, and THE THUNDERING HILLS are better—but it’s right up there close to the same level. I really enjoyed it, and if you’re a traditional Western reader and haven’t tried anything by Archie Joscelyn or Al Cody yet, BITTER CREEK wouldn’t be a bad place to start.

Monday, October 17, 2022

Blood Alley - A.S. Fleischman

The film version of A.S. Fleischman’s 1955 novel BLOOD ALLEY has the distinction of being one of the few John Wayne movies I didn’t love as a kid. Maybe it’s because the Duke wasn’t playing a cowboy. I haven’t seen the movie in more than 50 years, but when Black Gat Books reprinted Fleischman’s novel recently, I decided I ought to read it, since I’ve enjoyed other books by Fleischman that I’ve read.

Ship captain Tom Wilder is an old China hand, but as BLOOD ALLEY opens, he’s a prisoner of the Communist Chinese who have seized power a few years earlier. He’s an American, which is the only crime he needs to be guilty of as far as his captors are concerned. But he’s helped to escape by some mysterious benefactors who turn out to be the inhabitants of a village suffering under Communist rule. They want Wilder to help them steal a ferryboat and then take it through the Straits of Formosa—also known as Blood Alley—to Hong Kong. All the villagers are going along on this perilous journey, with as many of their belongings as they can take with them.

It’s a crazy scheme, but Wilder admires the villagers’ audacity and desire for freedom. And it doesn’t hurt that the beautiful daughter of a British medical missionary is also on hand and will be part of the voyage. So Wilder agrees to help the villagers escape from under the brutal boot of the Red Chinese.

Naturally, all kinds of things go wrong, both during the preparations and then the theft of the ferryboat and the journey itself. A blurb from author Michael Scott Cain on the Black Gat edition says, “[Fleischman] specialized in the ‘one damn thing after another’ school of fiction.” That’s really true in this book, as he piles problem after problem on Wilder and the people he’s trying to help.

I’m really glad I read BLOOD ALLEY, because it’s a superb adventure novel in the classic style. Much of it reminded me of the work of H. Bedford-Jones, and you know that’s high praise from me. Wilder is an excellent protagonist, and Fleischman creates enough suspense that he had me flipping the pages eagerly to find out what was going to happen. I think this is my favorite of his books that I’ve read so far.

Which makes me wonder why I didn’t like the movie. The film rights to the book were sold before it was published, which explains why the original Gold Medal edition has John Wayne and Lauren Bacall on the cover. It seems like it would be a natural. Maybe it’s because Lauren Bacall seems miscast to me as the doctor’s daughter, and I’ve never been a big fan of her work to start with, except in the movies where she’s teamed with Humphrey Bogart. (Speaking of which, there’s a line in the book where Cathy tells Wilder that if he needs anything to “just whistle”. I really have to wonder if Fleischman added that line after he found out that Bacall was attached to the project! I do love her in TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT, by the way.) I’m really tempted to watch the movie again and see if I like it better now than I did when I was a kid.

But enough about that. I think the novel BLOOD ALLEY is really good, one of the best books I’ve read lately, and I give it a very high recommendation. It’s available in ebook and paperback editions and also features a fine introduction by David Laurence Wilson.

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Mammoth Detective, September 1942

I've said it before, and it's still true: you can't trust mummies. This cover is by Ziff-Davis regular Robert Gibson Jones. I always like his covers, and this one is no exception. Inside this issue are a number of authors I also associate with Ziff-Davis: Howard Browne, William P. McGivern, Dwight V. Swain, David Wright O'Brien (as himself and as John York Cabot), and house-name Alexander Blade. But there are also some authors who I don't think of as your usual Z-D authors: Robert Leslie Bellem, G.T. Fleming-Roberts, George Armin Shaftel, and Harold Channing Wire. MAMMOTH DETECTIVE lived up to its name. There are well over 300 pages in this issue.

Saturday, October 15, 2022

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Thrilling Ranch Stories, December 1934

Now there's an Angry, Gun-Totin' Redhead for yuh! Thet cowboy with her don't look so stalwart, though, and there's no sign of a Wounded Old Geezer. THRILLING RANCH STORIES was the Thrilling Group's answer to RANCH ROMANCES, but the stories had plenty of action, too, judging by most of the covers. This issue features stories by L.P. Holmes, A. Leslie Scott, Cliff Farrell, Syl McDowell, Stephen Payne, Wilton West, and house-name Jackson Cole. All those hombres knew how to burn plenty of powder in their yarns.

Friday, October 14, 2022

The Gun Wolves - Wayne D. Dundee

Wayne D. Dundee’s novels featuring former army scout Lone McGantry are some of my favorite current Westerns. The most recent entry in the series, THE GUN WOLVES, finds McGantry on the trail of a no-good thief who stole his horse. He discovers that a beautiful female bounty hunter named Velda is after the same hombre, and McGantry doesn’t fight too hard against the idea of teaming up to go after their quarry.

The problem is that the fella is on his way to a Wyoming town called Pickaxe, which is run as an outlaw sanctuary by Lobo Hines and his band of killers known as the Gun Wolves. McGantry and Velda decide that they’ll infiltrate the town by her posing as a saloon singer and him as the hardcase she hired to accompany her to her destination. But on the way they meet a traveling preacher and his beautiful blond daughter, which leads to a number of complications that McGantry didn’t foresee.

As always, Dundee delivers another solidly entertaining traditional Western in THE GUN WOLVES, which is available in ebook and trade paperback editions. There’s plenty of tough, gritty action, some truly despicable villains, enough plot twists to keep things interesting, and a great protagonist in Lone McGantry, ably assisted this time by the capable and appealing Velda. (Named after Mike Hammer’s secretary, perhaps?) In my mind, Lone McGantry is John Wayne from the era of THE COMANCHEROS and THE SONS OF KATIE ELDER, and every time I read one of these books I feel like I’m watching an early Sixties movie with the Duke that I didn’t know existed until now. They’re great fun, and I highly recommend the entire series.

Sunday, October 09, 2022

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Black Mask, May 1938

This cover is by an artist I'm not familiar with, Raymond S. Pease. According to the Fictionmags Index, he did only a handful of pulp covers, all for BLACK MASK during the late Thirties. I like the tropical look of this one, plus the little details like the wine spilling from both glasses. There are some fine writers in this issue, as well: Carroll John Daly with a Satan Hall story, Frank Gruber with an Oliver Quade story, and yarns by Roger Torrey, Steve Fisher, William R. Cox, and Donald Wandrei. That's a nice group of hardboiled pulpsters.

Saturday, October 08, 2022

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Dime Western Magazine, December 1945

Injury to a Hat alert! This one was drilled cleanly by a bullet, looks like. I believe this is a Robert Stanley cover. It also looks like there are some good authors in this issue of DIME WESTERN MAGAZINE, which comes as no surprise. On hand are Walt Coburn, Frank Bonham, William R. Cox, C. William Harrison, and Bob Obets, as well as Jackson V. Scholz, better known for his sports stories. Another good issue of one of the top Western pulps.

Wednesday, October 05, 2022

Sunday, October 02, 2022

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Thrilling Mystery, December 1935

This is the second issue of THRILLING MYSTERY, launched by the Thrilling Group to compete with the success of Popular Publications’ leading Weird Menace pulp DIME MYSTERY. I don’t know who did the cover, but it’s plenty garish and eye-catching. An e-book reprint of this pulp is available from Radio Archives, so being both time- and attention span-challenged, I read it recently.

Wyatt Blassingame was one of the top Weird Menace authors over at Popular, so it’s no surprise to find him leading off this issue with a novelette called “The Flame Demon”. I’ve liked everything I’ve read by Blassingame, but unfortunately, this yarn about a villain calling himself the God of Fire comes across to me as pretty uninspired. There are some nice action scenes—lots of big fires, and the protagonist finds himself in a really harrowing position—but Blassingame seems to have phoned in the muddled plot, which requires quite a bit of unconvincing exposition in the final pages to explain. I don’t have any way of knowing, of course, but I suspect that Rogers Terrill at Popular rejected this story and Harvey Burns, the editor at THRILLING MYSTERY, snapped it up because of Blassingame’s name recognition in the genre.

“Voice From Hell”, a short story by Jack D’Arcy (really D.L. Champion, creator of the Phantom Detective), is a Poe-like tale with a clever twist to it about a murderer tormented by his crime. It’s a slight but enjoyable story and an improvement over Blassingame’s novelette.

This issue really begins to pick up steam with “Ghouls of the Green Web”, a novelette from the dependable G.T. Fleming-Roberts. It’s set in a small Kansas city during the Dust Bowl, one of the few pulp stories I’ve read to use that bit of real-life history in its plot. Fleming-Roberts does a really nice job with it, too. The writing is excellent. Fleming-Roberts’ prose can be lurid, over the top, and genuinely creepy when it needs to be, and then turn around and achieve a terse, hardboiled, poetic effect. The menace seems a bit more realistic than some, as well. I really enjoyed this one.

I don’t know anything about James Duncan, author of the novelette “Blood in the Night” except that his real name was Arthur Pincus and that he wrote dozens of mystery, detective, and Weird Menace stories for a variety of pulps. His story in this issue is a bit of a kitchen-sink tale, with a witch’s curse, murders that appear to have been committed by a vampire, and an old house full of heirs to a fortune who benefit by knocking each other off, a set-up reminiscent of an Agatha Christie novel, plus a master detective who is, at least, nothing like Hercule Poirot. Duncan pulls it all together and makes it work in a reasonably entertaining fashion.

Likewise, I know very little about Saul W. Paul, author of the short story “Forest of Fear”. That appears to have been his real name, and he sold about a dozen stories in the Thirties, mostly to the Spicy pulps. This story, about a honeymooning young couple who encounter a deadly menace in the woods, is only borderline Weird Menace and has nothing even apparently supernatural about it, but it does strike a few nicely creepy notes.

Arthur J. Burks was a million-words-a-year man, so I’m surprised I haven’t read more by him, only a few stories here and there. His novelette in this issue, “Demons in the Dust”, is another Dust Bowl yarn, but Burks carries the situation so far that this story reads more like post-apocalyptic science fiction than Weird Menace. And as post-apocalyptic SF, it’s not bad, although the plot—the protagonist and his newlywed wife try to escape from a particularly bad dust storm—is a little thin. But there’s lots of action and it’s well-written, making for a bleak but satisfying tale.

H.M. Appel is another author I’m not familiar with, except for seeing on the Fictionmags Index that he wrote several dozen stories for various Weird Menace and detective pulps. His short story “Hooks of Death” isn’t really Weird Menace, either, despite being fairly grisly in places. It’s about a young highway patrolman’s pursuit of a serial killer stalking a particular stretch of road. The prose has plenty of momentum and the hero’s background furnishes a nice twist.

Jack Williamson isn’t a name I expected to encounter in the Table of Contents in a Weird Menace pulp, but in addition to being one of the giants of science fiction, Williamson also wrote a considerable amount of fantasy and horror, so it’s not that much of a stretch. His novelette “Grey Arms of Death” is about some very Cthulhu-like creatures from the depths of the Atlantic Ocean stalking some deep-sea explorers and invading a lonely cliffside mansion. I don’t know if Williamson ever read Lovecraft, but based on this story I feel like there’s a good chance he did. This is pure Weird Menace, and Williamson, already a very seasoned pro in 1935, throws himself into the breakneck, lurid prose with great gusto. This is a fast-moving and very entertaining story, probably my favorite in the whole issue.

Overall, this issue of THRILLING MYSTERY is a satisfying read, even though some of the stories don’t fit the Weird Menace genre that well. I have no way of knowing, but since it was only the second issue, I suspect that the stories by Duncan, Paul, and Appel were intended originally for POPULAR DETECTIVE or possibly as back-ups in THE PHANTOM DETECTIVE and were pulled out of inventory to go in THRILLING MYSTERY. But that’s pure speculation on my part.

Saturday, October 01, 2022

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Real Western, December 1944

This cover by A. Leslie Ross is another good example of how the Western pulp art directors loved the colors red and yellow. Nearly all of this issue of REAL WESTERN is taken up by the novel "Buckskin Marshal" by Will Ermine, really Harry Sinclair Drago. I think I have the paperback version of that book on my shelves somewhere. I'll have to check. The lone short story is by another familiar name, Lee Floren. I generally like Ross's work, and I think this is a good cover.