Yesterday’s post mentioned that Dan Cushman’s first story, “Girl of the Golden Lode”, was published in the Winter 1943 issue of the pulp NORTH-WEST ROMANCES. Today’s post is about Cushman as well. With a title like THE DAN CUSHMAN READER, you’d think this was a collection of his stories, right? Well, it’s not. Instead, THE DAN CUSHMAN READER is a book-length master’s thesis about Cushman and his work, written in 2001 by Brent D. McCann, a graduate student at the University of Montana who was able to interview Cushman numerous times before the author passed away. It's posted online here. I downloaded it several years ago and finally got around to reading it.
Despite being written as an academic paper, complete with footnotes and a bibliography, THE DAN CUSHMAN READER is very readable and entertaining. McCann does an excellent job with the biographical information, providing a clear, interesting overview of Cushman’s life. He covers Cushman’s career as a writer in-depth, too, and provides a detailed analysis of several of Cushman’s novels, most notably STAY AWAY, JOE, a controversial novel about life on an Indian reservation that was adapted into a Broadway play and then later into a movie starring Elvis Presley.
McCann seems to think, understandably so, that any lasting reputation Cushman has will be because of STAY AWAY, JOE. But despite its early popularity and success, over the ensuing years the novel has been criticized and memory-holed because of the controversy around it, and it doesn’t appear to be in print today, although used copies of it are readily available. On the other hand, at least eight volumes of Cushman’s pulp and paperback work are in print, and used copies of his other books are just as easily found as STAY AWAY, JOE. My personal favorites of his work are his Armless O’Neil stories from JUNGLE STORIES and ACTION STORIES, but his pulp Westerns and Northerns are consistently very good, too. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I haven’t read STAY AWAY, JOE, and I wrote the introduction to one of the volumes of collected Armless O’Neil stories published by Altus Press.)
I’ve mentioned before that it took me a while to warm up to Cushman’s style, but once I did, he became one of my favorite pulp writers. Because of that, I really enjoyed THE DAN CUSHMAN READER. I don’t have any idea what became of its author, Brent McCann, but I appreciate the work he did on this. If you’re a Cushman fan or a fan of pulp and paperback fiction in general, it’s well worth reading.