Saturday, March 04, 2023

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Exciting Western, June 1945

This is a pulp I own and read recently. That’s my somewhat beat-up copy in the scan, with a rather whimsical cover by the incredibly prolific Sam Cherry.

The lead feature in EXCITING WESTERN for most of its run was the Tombstone and Speedy series by one of my favorite Western authors, W.C. Tuttle. Like Tuttle’s justly more famous Hashknife Hartley and Sleepy Stevens, Tombstone Jones and Speedy Smith are range detectives working for the Cattleman’s Association. They’re generally thought of as being pretty dumb and usually solve their cases through pure luck, with considerable snappy banter and some slapstick humor along the way. From time to time, though, Tuttle drops hints that the two of them aren’t nearly as dumb as they act. In fact, in this issue’s novelette, “Gunsmoke in Oro Rojo”, they unravel a fairly complicated mystery involving rustled beef and high-graded ore and seem to be fully aware of what they’re doing as they “bumble” their way to a solution and justice for the bad guys. This is a very good entry in a consistently entertaining series.

The Navajo Tom Raine, Arizona Ranger series ran in EXCITING WESTERN for several dozen stories, always by-lined with the house name Jackson Cole except for one story published under the name C. William Harrison, the real name of an author who may well have written some of the other stories, too. But prolific Western pulpster Lee Bond has also been linked to the series. “Indian Killer”, the Navajo Tom Raine story in this issue, reads to me like it might be Bond’s work. Raine, a white man raised by the Navajo after his lawman father was murdered, is sent to quell an uprising by the Papago tribe, which is being blamed for a series of stagecoach and freight wagon holdups. Raine quickly figures out that the Indians are being framed and uncovers the real culprit. The blurb on the first page of the story gives this away, so it’s not much of a spoiler. I think most Western pulp readers would know what was going on anyway. Despite the very predictable plot, Raine is an appealing protagonist and the writing is smooth and fast-paced, leading to a satisfactory conclusion. I’ve never read a Navajo Raine story that was great, but I’ve never read one that failed to entertain me, either.

Writer/editor T.W. Ford was another very prolific pulpster, mostly in the Western and sports pulps. I’ve found his work to be inconsistent but generally pretty good. His novelette “Lead for a Donovan” in this issue is a Romeo and Juliet yarn, with a young couple from two feuding families running off to get married and the lengths to which the patriarchs of those families will go to prevent the wedding. Everything plays out about like you’d expect, but there’s plenty of action along the way and I found this to be a very enjoyable story.

In something of a rarity for a Western pulp, the cover painting from this issue is redone as a black and white interior illustration for the short story “Lynching Lawman” by an author I’m not familiar with, Bud Wilks. He published only eight stories, five in 1945 and three in 1948, all in Thrilling Group Western pulps. I have a hunch that was the author’s real name, but who knows? Might have been a house name. “Lynching Lawman” is a short but effective tale of two lawmen who have a falling out, and then one tries to frame the other for horse stealing and murder. I thought it was pretty good. Another unusual aspect is that the cover and interior illo accurately illustrate a scene from the story, meaning that artist Sam Cherry either read it or (more likely) the editor told him what to paint.

Another long-running series in the pages of EXCITING WESTERN featured the adventures of Alamo Paige, Pony Express rider. These were published under the house name Reeve Walker. Walker A. Tompkins, Charles N. Heckelmann, and Chuck Martin have all been linked to this series, and other authors may have contributed to it as well. I don’t know who wrote “Ten Days to California”, the Alamo Paige story in this issue, but it’s a good one in which Paige pursues a wanted outlaw and killer who tries to escape justice by riding the Pony Express route and stealing fresh mounts at each way station. That’s really all there is to the plot, but the story moves right along and has some nice action scenes.

That wraps it up for the June 1945 issue of this pulp, and it’s a really solid one with the five stories ranging from good to excellent. If you have this issue of EXCITING WESTERN and haven’t read it, I think it’s well worth pulling down from the shelf.


Paul Dellinger said...

Good roundup as always with your posts. Really great story summaries with no spoilers.

James Reasoner said...

Thanks, Paul. I'm trying to read more actual pulps this year, so with luck there'll be more of these.

Richard Moore said...

Great summaries as always! Tuttle is a favorite of mine and I’ve enjoyed both of those series.