This is a pulp I own and read recently. That’s my copy in
the scan, with the usual excellent, evocative cover by Sam Cherry.
The Jim Hatfield novel in this issue is “The Seventh Bullet”, written by Walker
A. Tompkins under the Jackson Cole house name. Tompkins was the third-most
prolific author of Hatfield novels after Leslie Scott (who created the series)
and Tom Curry, who between them wrote a little more than half the series’
entire run. Tompkins wrote a bunch of them, though, and the ones I’ve read have
ranged from very good to excellent.
By the Fifties, the Hatfield stories were a little grittier and more realistic
than the ones from the Thirties and Forties, and “The Seventh Bullet” is no
exception. As it opens, Hatfield is in a West Texas cowtown to pick up a
prisoner: a member of a counterfeiting/smuggling ring that has been flooding
the country with fake ten-dollar gold pieces. The prisoner also murdered the
local sheriff, leaving the lawman’s beautiful blond daughter to pin on the badge
and take the varmint into custody.
Hatfield’s mission seems simple: deliver the prisoner to Austin. But of course,
things don’t work out that way. The prisoner is rescued by a shadowy gunman wielding
a six-shooter that somehow fires seven bullets instead of the usual six.
Naturally, Hatfield’s not going to let a prisoner get away, and in the process
of going after him, the Ranger sets out to bust up the counterfeiting ring and
discover the mastermind behind it.
Tompkins keeps things moving along at a brisk pace with plenty of action, and
as usual, he throws in some clever plot twists, too, such as the method the villains
use to smuggle the phony coins into the country. “The Seventh Bullet” isn’t in
the top rank of Tompkins’ Hatfield novels, but it’s a solid, very entertaining
Moving on to the backup stories, first up is a short story entitled “The Brass
Ring”, by an author whose work I’m not very fond of, Ben Frank. This is a
stand-alone, not part of Frank’s two series featuring Doc Swap and Deputy
Booboo Bounce. It’s a mild little comedy, the sort of thing Frank specialized
in, featuring a good-hearted rancher who’s too much of an easy touch for hard-luck
stories and is always broke because of it. It’s really predictable but pleasant
enough that I read the whole thing.
“Ride to Tucson” by W.J. Reynolds couldn’t be more of a contrast. This is a
grim, violent, suspenseful yarn about a man and woman trying to escape from a
band of marauding Apaches in Arizona Territory. I’ve read several stories by
W.J. Reynolds and been impressed by them. This is another good one. I don’t
know anything about Reynolds except that between the mid-Forties and the early
Seventies, he wrote about 120 Western and crime stories for assorted pulps,
digests, and men’s magazines. I’m always glad to see his name in a Table of
George Kilrain was a pseudonym used by one of my favorite Western writers,
William Heuman, for approximately 30 stories in various Western and sports pulps
in the decade between the mid-Forties and the mid-Fifties. The Kilrain
novelette in this issue, “Too Tough”, is, in fact, the final story to be
published under that name. And it features one of the most unusual protagonists
I’ve come across in Western pulps: a two-fisted, fast-shootin’ ventriloquist.
Sad Sam Bones is a vaudeville performer, a comedian and song-and-dance-man as
well as a ventriloquist, who travels the West performing with different theatrical
troupes and also righting wrongs. In this tale, he helps out a theater owner in
a mining boomtown whose shows keep getting sabotaged. This results in a number
of fistfights and shootouts in which Sad Sam’s enemies keep underestimating him
because, going by his description, he looks a lot like Don Knotts. And how I would
have loved to see Don play the part on TV! Anyway, the ending of this story
really makes it seem like Heuman intended it to be the first of a series, but
as far as I know, it’s Sad Sam’s only appearance. That’s a shame, because this
is a great story and I really enjoyed it. (Heuman also used the Kilrain name on
two novels, SOUTH TO SANTA FE and MAVERICK WITH A STAR, both published as
halves of Ace Doubles.)
You know Gordon D. Shirreffs’ work is nearly always good. He rounds out this
issue with the short story “The Hollow Hero”, about a deputy marshal’s clash
with a notorious gunman recently released from a 20-year stretch in Yuma
Prison. The man claims he wants to go straight and even opens a law office, but
are his old killer instincts still there just waiting to be unleashed? This one
has a decent plot, some nice action, and a clever resolution. It’s minor
Shirreffs, but that’s still pretty darned good.
Overall, this is an exceptional issue of TEXAS RANGERS with a good Jim Hatfield
novel, a terrific story by William Heuman, and solid yarns by Gordon D. Shirreffs
and W.J. Reynolds. Even the Ben Frank story is inoffensive and mildly entertaining.
If you’re a TEXAS RANGERS fan and have this one on your shelves, it’s well