Monday, July 31, 2023

The Death's Head Tavern: A Solomon Kane Story - Nancy A. Collins

I’ve been aware of Nancy A. Collins and her work for many years, but I don’t think I’ve ever read anything by her until now. She was a member of REHupa, the Robert E. Howard United Press Association, for a while (as was I), and she recently rewrote and expanded a Solomon Kane short story she wrote originally for her REHupa ’zine. THE DEATH’S HEAD TAVERN: A SOLOMON KANE STORY is now available as an e-book with a good cover on Amazon.

The story finds Howard’s Puritan adventurer Solomon Kane stopping at an isolated tavern at the edge of a Scottish moor. As we all know, nothing good ever happens on a moor. (“They were the footprints, Mr. Holmes, of a gigantic hound!”) The tavern’s only other customers are a traveling merchant and his beautiful daughter. Kane is looking for a former comrade-in-arms who disappeared in the area while searching for his missing brother. With two men missing, something sinister is definitely going on, and in a night of violence, fire, and gruesome death, Kane discovers what it is.

Collins does a fine job of capturing Howard’s character and the story moves right along at a very nice pace. The action scenes are excellent. One thing I really like is the way Collins ties this Solomon Kane yarn in with another of Howard’s series. You’ll have to read it to find out which one, but it works really well. There’s a reference to another literary property not by Howard that I appreciated, too.

THE DEATH’S HEAD TAVERN is just a good story, a Front Porch Yarn, and I enjoyed it a lot. If Collins wants to wrote more Solomon Kane stories, I’ll read them, that’s for sure.

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: All-Adventure Action Novels, Spring 1939

ALL-ADVENTURE ACTION NOVELS was a Fiction House pulp and ran for only three issues in 1937, ’38, and ’39, not finding success even though it had good covers and some fine authors appeared in its pages. I don’t own any of the issues and have never even seen any copies, but I do own the Adventure House facsimile reprint of the third and final issue from Spring 1939. I read that reprint recently and really enjoyed it.

Although all five stories in this issue are listed as novels in the Table of Contents, we know what that means. They’re actually novelettes and novellas. The first one is “Drums of the Desert” by Thomas J. Cooke. It’s about an American adventurer in Egypt who has gotten his hands on the sacred flag of the Mahdi, which is worth a fortune. A schemer who knows about the flag forces a beautiful French girl to lure the hero into a trap, which winds up with him being the prisoner of a Taureg band. A deserter from the French Foreign Legion figures in the plot, too. It’s a well-written yarn with enough action to be satisfying. I don’t know anything about Cooke, except that he wrote eight stories which appeared in various Fiction House pulps. I have a hunch it might have been a pseudonym, but I have nothing on which to base that except a gut feeling.

A couple of brief discussions here on the blog and on Facebook made me realize I don’t think I’ve ever read anything by George Bruce, even though he was a major pulp author for a long time. He’s best remembered as a writer of aviation and air war yarns. His novella in this issue, “The Iron Man of Devil’s Island”, has an aviation element to its plot, but it’s also a prison tale, as you’d expect from the title. The two storylines—an American airliner forced by bad weather to land in the South American jungle and a former French flying ace from World War I escaping from Devil’s Island—run in parallel for a while before coming together. When they merge, it’s with a predictable twist that’s still very effective. Not as effective as the ending, though, which, as Maynard G. Krebs used to say, made me get all misty-eyed. It took me a little while to warm up to this story. Bruce’s style isn’t exactly long-winded, but he does tend to go on, and while I think a lot of modern writers take the whole “show, don’t tell” thing too far, Bruce goes to the other extreme at times. Overall, though, I really enjoyed “The Iron Man of Devil’s Island”. It drew me in and had me turning the pages and makes me look forward to reading something else by George Bruce.

Albert Richard Wetjen wrote South Seas stories about several different characters including Stinger Seave (who I teamed with G-Man Dan Fowler for a story in a recent anthology, DOUBLE TROUBLE), Shark Gotch (one of the great names of pulp fiction, as far as I’m concerned), and Typhoon Bradley. “Red Typhoon”, the Wetjen novelette in this issue, is actually an unacknowledged reprint of the first story in the series, “Captain Typhoon”, which appeared originally in the September 1931 issue of ACTION STORIES. It reads like the first story in a series, too, introducing us to Captain Typhoon Bradley, his brother Bob, and their search for a mysterious island that’s not on any of the charts. They have to team up with some shady characters in order to find what they’re looking for, and of course double crosses and action ensue. Bradley gets his ”Typhoon” nickname, another indication this is actually the first story in the series. One thing I really like about Wetjen’s work is that all his series are connected. Supporting characters from one, and even sometimes protagonists, will show up in a different series. He never seems to have done much with the concept, but it’s still a nice touch.

John Starr was a Fiction House house name. He’s credited with the French Foreign Legion yarn, “Riders of the Burning Sands”, in this issue. Based on the idea that a house name was often used to keep an author from having two stories in the same issue, I’d say the most likely suspect in this case is Victor Rousseau. George Bruce was a big name; you wouldn’t waste one of his stories by putting a house name on it. The Wetjen story is a reprint. Cooke is a possibility, too. But having read “Riders of the Burning Sands”, I’m convinced it’s by Rousseau. Stylistically, it reads just like him. It’s a good story, too, about an American who winds up in the Foreign Legion because of a misunderstanding and a murder, and how he has to survive not only a brutal sergeant but an attack by natives as well. Lots of good action in this one and a satisfying resolution.

Victor Rousseau appears under his own name with “Ruby of Revolt”, a story of political intrigue set in India. Rousseau, one of the early practitioners of science fiction before it was even called that, wrote tons of adventure stories for the Spicy pulps under several different names, and he was a top-notch storyteller. This involves an American working for the British Secret Service in India, trying to track down a magnificent ruby known as the Eye of Kali, which will determine who rules one of the country’s provinces and whether or not there’s a bloody uprising. There’s a beautiful, mysterious dancer involved, too. I don’t know if Rousseau ever read Talbot Mundy or Robert E. Howard, but starting out, this story reminded me of Jimgrim and El Borak. Then, halfway through, it takes a sudden, bizarre twist that brings in a science fiction/horror angle to the plot. It’s goofy, but Rosseau makes it work, probably because the whole thing races along at such a fast pace. Rousseau was no Mundy or REH, but this is a very entertaining story.

In fact, every story in this issue is entertaining, either very good or excellent, and I was impressed with ALL-ADVENTURE ACTION NOVELS. The reprint is still available on Amazon if you’re a fan of pulp adventure fiction and want to check it out.

Saturday, July 29, 2023

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Western Short Stories, May 1942

I've seen plenty of guys clench a knife between their teeth in movies and on paperback and pulp covers, but a six-gun? That's got to be more uncomfortable. This stalwart, red-shirted hero doesn't look like he's enjoying it that much. This looks like a Norman Saunders cover to me, but it's not listed on his website, so maybe not. But I like it no matter who painted it. WESTERN SHORT STORIES isn't remembered as one of the top Western pulps, but there's certainly plenty of fine writers in this issue: Peter Dawson (Jonathan Glidden), Gunnison Steele (Bennie Gardner), H.A. DeRosso, D.B. Newton, Kenneth Fowler, Rod Patterson, Raymond W. Porter, Norrell Gregory, and Mojave Lloyd. Dawson, Steele, DeRosso, and Newton are enough to make any Western pulp worth reading. 

Friday, July 28, 2023

I'll Bury My Dead - James Hadley Chase (Rene Raymond)

James Hadley Chase was actually Rene Raymond, an English author who wrote mysteries and thrillers under several different names, but Chase is certainly the best-known and most successful of those pseudonyms. His novel I’LL BURY MY DEAD was published originally in hardcover in 1953 in England by Robert Hale and reprinted in paperback by Harlequin in 1954. It was published in the United States in hardcover by Dutton in 1954 and then reprinted in paperback by Signet in 1955. Finally, the Signet paperback had a second edition with a different cover published in 1963, and that’s the edition I read. That’s my copy above. On-line images of the other editions are at the bottom of this post.

The protagonist of I’LL BURY MY DEAD is Nick English, a promoter who backs theater and nightclub shows, boxers, and assorted other enterprises. He’s something of a shady character who’s mixed up in some political corruption as well. But he’s not a bad guy, and in a nice twist, he’s also an inventor who got his start by coming up with a gyroscopic compass he was able to patent. He’s also a philanthropist who financed a new hospital in New York City, which goes by a pseudonym itself in this novel, as Chase/Raymond refers to it as Essex City, but it’s obviously New York.

Nick has a mistress who’s a nightclub singer, a beautiful secretary who’s in love with him (although he doesn’t realize that, the reader does), a tough chauffeur/bodyguard, and a ne’er-do-well brother who’s a private eye. It’s the brother’s suicide that kicks off the action in this book . . . but did he really kill himself? Nick doesn’t think so, and when the brother’s secretary also winds up dead, another apparent suicide, the same night, Nick is convinced something sinister is going on. He doesn’t trust the cops to find out who’s responsible for these deaths, so he sets out to do it himself. This investigation sets off a chain of even more murders.

Then halfway through the book, Chase springs a twist that I didn’t see coming at all, and the second half of the novel is less mystery than thriller as Nick battles against a brilliant but deranged killer who seems to always be a step ahead of him.

I’ve read maybe a dozen James Hadley Chase novels over the years, and I’LL BURY MY DEAD is one of the best of them. Nick English is a good protagonist and the other characters are handled well, especially the killer, who’s really creepy and despicable. There are some very brutal scenes in this novel, and not everyone survives who you might expect to. The pace never slows down for long and I had to keep flipping the pages all the way to the end. Since Chase was English and this book, like most of his others, is set in America, there are a few bits of dialogue that don’t sound quite right, but overall he does an excellent job of making things ring true.

I really enjoyed I’LL BURY MY DEAD and give it a high recommendation. One word of warning, though: Harlequin reprinted this and several other hardboiled novels back in 2009 as part of what they called their Vintage Collection, but the editors there took it upon themselves to delete what they considered objectionable material from those editions. I don’t know the extent of the cuts they made to this novel, but I suspect they toned down some of the violence and possibly the sex. Just on general principles, though, I’d avoid that 2009 edition and look for the original Harlequin edition or one of the Signet editions if you decide to read it.

Bonus points: Which is the best cover?

UPDATE: The much better scan of the cover from the original Robert Hale edition comes to us courtesy of Keith Chapman. Thanks!

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Action at Alameda - Ray Gaulden

Western pulpster and novelist Ray Gaulden was born in Fort Worth in 1914, so I feel a certain kinship to him since I was also born in Fort Worth, although a number of years later. And we’ve both written a bunch of Westerns, so there’s that, too. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read by him, so I didn’t hesitate to pick up his novel ACTION AT ALAMEDA when I came across a copy of it recently. Published in hardback by Avalon in 1962, it was reprinted in paperback by Airmont Books in 1963 with a cover by George Gross. That’s my copy in the scan. The images of the original hardback and a British paperback edition were found on-line. Avalon and Airmont were both imprints of Thomas Bouregy and Company, Inc. The Avalon editions were intended for the library market, but some of them got wider distribution in the Airmont editions.

Gaulden was one of the generation of Western authors who practiced a more hardboiled style following World War II. The protagonist of ACTION AT ALAMEDA is rancher Ross Novard, who has just buried his gunslinger brother, killed in a shootout with the local deputy sheriff who’s a pretty shady character despite packing a lawman’s badge. That’s not Ross’s only problem. His herd has been wiped out by disease, and he’s facing ruin. He gets a ray of hope when the local cattle baron offers him a job as foreman, but the man plans on forcing out all the other small ranchers in the area, which would put Ross on the other side from his former friends and allies. But they’ve all turned on him anyway because he killed a man in a gunfight, too, and the girl he loves wants nothing to do with him because her younger brother looks up to him and she’s afraid idolizing Ross will get him in trouble.

There’s almost enough plot and back-story in this one for a Walt Coburn yarn, and Gaulden just keeps piling trouble on Ross Novard. Several enemies are out to get him, he gets jumped and beaten up in a couple of brutal fistfights, the cattle baron he goes to work for has a slutty wife, a tragic killing takes place, and he has to ferret out a murderer while trying to stay alive. It’s enough to make you wonder how the guy is possibly going to get out of this mess.

Gaulden manipulates all these plot elements with considerable skill, and his terse prose is a pleasure to read. Ross Novard is a good protagonist, tough but not superhumanly so, and smart enough to spot the vital clue that leads him to a killer. ACTION AT ALAMEDA is a good hardboiled Western yarn, not a classic but certainly enjoyable and well worth reading if you’re a fan of traditional Westerns. I definitely plan to read more of Ray Gaulden’s novels.

Monday, July 24, 2023

24 Hours to Kill - James McKimmey

I’ve owned most of James McKimmey’s novels in one form or another over the years, probably because they usually had very good covers like the one by Robert McGinnis on the original Dell edition of this book. But I’ve never read any of them until now, prompted by the Stark House reprint of two McKimmey novels, 24 HOURS TO KILL and BLUE MASCARA TEARS.

As you can tell from the title, the action in 24 HOURS TO KILL takes place in a relatively short period of time. That’s a literary technique that I almost always enjoy. There’s a man-against-nature element, too, which is something else I like. The police have caught up to a young punk who killed a night watchman in a botched robbery, then killed a cop and wounded another in his attempt to escape capture. The punk, who has become something of a folk hero because of a series of newspaper columns by a cynical reporter, is being transported back to the city where the crimes took place to stand trial when a flood washes out some bridges and strands the prisoner in a small town that’s effectively become an island. A local teacher who’s appointed sheriff because the actual sheriff is cut off from the town has to be responsible for keeping the prisoner in custody. Unfortunately, several other young punks who idolize the guy are also in town and want to set him free.

If you’re going to write a compressed time book, you usually need a fairly large cast of characters so that you can cut back and forth between them. That’s how McKimmey tackles this novel, concentrating mostly on the young amateur lawman who’s trying to rise to the occasion but also bringing in plenty of supporting characters, some good, some not so good, and some very bad. (The reporter character is one of the most despicable I’ve encountered in fiction.) Some domestic drama crops up to go along with the crime and suspense angles, and all of it is handled very well. McKimmey has a great touch with characterization, and because of that I cared about what was going to happen and kept flipping the pages.

24 HOURS TO KILL is a very well-constructed novel and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I can see why James McKimmey is well-regarded as a suspense novelist. I give this one a high recommendation and I’m glad I have more novels by McKimmey on hand to read.

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Popular Detective, October 1943

I feel like I should know who painted the dramatic cover on this issue of POPULAR DETECTIVE, but I don't. As always, artist IDs are more than welcome and will be greatly appreciated. It's a striking scene, whoever painted it, with that life or death struggle going on in the foreground. The lead novel in this issue is by my old editor, friend, and mentor, Sam Merwin Jr. Also on hand are prolific pulpsters Laurence Donovan and Joe Archibald, house name John S. Endicott (in this case, Donovan would be my guess, but who knows?), a couple of authors I've never heard of, Nita Nolan and H. Wolff Salz, and finally one of the more intriguing names on the Table of Contents, Len Zinberg, who had already begun using the pseudonym under which he would write some very well-regarded crime and mystery novels in the Fifties and Sixties, Ed Lacy. I hadn't realized he was selling to the pulps as early as this.

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Thrilling Western, November 1951

I featured this cover more than ten years ago, but I recently read my copy of this pulp. That’s it in the scan. This is one of my favorite Western pulp covers. It’s by Clarence Doore, which I didn’t know when I posted about it the first time. I also mentioned in the earlier post that I had read the expanded paperback version of Leslie Scott’s novella “The Texan”, which was published by Paperback Library in 1952 under the pseudonym Scott Leslie. I’m pretty sure that was wrong, because when I read the pulp version in this issue, I didn’t remember it at all.

As the cover says, it’s set in Tombstone, and a lot of historical characters appear in it: the Earp brothers, Doc Holliday, Johnny Behan, Curly Bill Brocius, Johnny Ringo, the Clantons and McLowreys, Three-Finger Jack Robles, etc. A few historical incidents figure peripherally in the plot. But mostly it’s the story of Jed Slone, the Texan of the title, who has spent the past several years in Mexico living the life of a good-guy outlaw, including leading his band of helpers known as the Dorados, which, according to Scott, means “Golden Men” because they all wear yellow shirts. Now, I don’t know if that’s what it means at all, and I’m too lazy to look it up, but hey, I’m willing to go with that. Sure. It’s a nice dramatic bit, even though the Dorados play no part in this yarn other than being mentioned.

Mostly “The Texan” is about Jed Slone sorting out who’s been rustling cattle from the Cross G ranch owned by old Don Roberto Garcia, who has a beautiful niece named Gypsy. (Scott liked naming heroines Gypsy. I can think of several others.) While he’s doing that, he hangs around with Wyatt Earp, makes a mortal enemy out of Curly Bill, and does a lot of riding and shooting. The identity of the mastermind behind all the trouble is extremely obvious.

But (you’ve heard this before) I don’t care. Scott writes great action scenes, he indulges in some of his patented flowery landscape descriptions that somehow work just fine for me, and the story is paced to keep me flipping the pages. This one shows a few more signs of hurried writing that most of Scott’s stories, but nothing that I can’t overlook. I just like the way the guy tells a tale.

I don’t know anything about William L. Jackson except that he wrote dozens of Western and sports yarns for various pulps in the Forties and Fifties. His story in this issue, “Run Him Out”, is about the clash between a liveryman and a powerful rancher. It’s well-written but not very memorable.

Clay Randall was actually Clifton Adams, and Adams was always good. His novelette in this issue, “Fire Fight”, is no exception. It has a fairly standard plot—a big land and cattle company is trying to run out the smaller ranchers—but the villains use range fires as their primary weapon instead of rustling, which is a bit of an unusual twist. Adams’ writing, as always, is hardboiled and fast-paced and the plot takes some intriguing turns. There’s one plot hole that bothered me some, but overall this is a good yarn, not top-notch Adams but certainly worth reading.

“Never Come Back” is a short story by the prolific and dependable Giff Cheshire. It’s about a rancher who runs off the wild, outlaw brother of the girl he loves, only to have the young man return looking for vengeance, backed by a gunslinger he’s fallen in with. Well-written and with good characterization, it has a nice gunfight and a satisfying conclusion. I don’t think Cheshire will ever be one of my favorite Western writers, but his work is usually entertaining.

The issue wraps up with the novelette “Tough Tophand” by Del Rayburn, billed on the Table of Contents as a Western classic because it’s actually a reprint from the November 1946 issue of EXCITING WESTERN, where it appeared under the title “Tough Texas Tophand”. The story is about the clash between a Texas cowboy and a clan of renegade Mormons in Montana. It’s a little over-the-top (the protagonist’s name is Hondo Uvalde) but the author won me over with plenty of well-written action and some interesting characters. I don’t know anything about Del Rayburn except that he wrote a couple of dozen stories for the Western pulps from the late Forties to the mid-Fifties. I wouldn’t call “Tough Tophand” a Western classic, but it’s an enjoyable story.

This is a solid issue of THRILLING WESTERN with a great cover, a very good story by Leslie Scott, and good stories by the other authors who contributed. I’m glad I finally got around to reading it.

Friday, July 21, 2023

Creepy Archives, Volume 1 - Archie Goodwin, et al.

The black-and-white Warren horror magazines just didn’t show up on the newsstands where I grew up when I was a kid. The first Warren magazine I remember seeing was VAMPIRELLA #27 in 1973. I picked it up, enjoyed it, learned of the existence of CREEPY and EERIE, and began seeking them out. I enjoyed them all. In fact, one of the first times my writing ever saw print was a fan letter published in an issue of EERIE. But I was very late coming to these magazines and never saw the early issues, although I came across an occasional reprint of a story from them.

Now those early issues are being reprinted in very handsome volumes, so out of curiosity more than anything else, I picked up Volume One of the CREEPY ARCHIVES, which reprints issues #1-5 of the flagship Warren title. They have great covers by Frank Frazetta and Jack Davis. The artwork on the stories themselves is by Reed Crandell, Gray Morrow, Angelo Torres, Al Williamson, Joe Orlando, Jack Davis, and Alex Toth. It’s just magnificent, stunning, however you want to describe it. Just great stuff, story after story.

Most of the scripts are by Archie Goodwin, who was also the editor of the magazine. Otto Binder contributes the scripts for two installments of an adaptation of his pulp series about Adam Link, Robot, and there are a few other stories by various hands. And here’s where I’m going to annoy some fans. As much as I love Archie Goodwin’s work (the Manhunter series he and Walt Simonson did is fantastic, and he wrote a lot of other great comics), I didn’t care much for the stories in this volume. These short, twist-ending tales are very formulaic and predictable, and even spacing them out over several months, as I did, the sameness bothered me. I know, I’m being hypocritical. Anybody who loves the Spicy pulps as much as I do shouldn’t be complaining about anything being formulaic. But that’s the way this book came across to me, great art but mediocre stories. Quite possibly you had to be there, and if I’d been buying the individual issues at the drugstore and reading them when they were new, I might feel completely differently about them.

Anyway, if you’re a fan of these magazines, this is a beautiful book and probably well worth your time and money. Whether I’ll continue picking up these Archives editions, I don’t know. I might give the second volume a try.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

N OR M? - Agatha Christie

This is the third Agatha Christie novel I’ve read this year, which pretty much constitutes a binge for me. I’ve really been enjoying them, though, so I see no reason to stop. N OR M? (1941) is the second novel and third book overall in the Tommy and Tuppence series. There’s a collection of short stories, PARTNERS IN CRIME, which I haven’t read yet, between this novel and the first one, THE SECRET ADVERSARY (1927). I read THE SECRET ADVERSARY a little more than ten years ago and enjoyed it. Christie took a while to get back to Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, and so did I.

There’s a significant time jump between N OR M? and the previous novel. In THE SECRET ADVERSARY, Tommy and Tuppence weren’t married yet and were still young, adventurous, and romantic. In this novel, they’re still romantic and adventurous, but they’re middle-aged, the parents of twin grown-up children. Their son is a pilot and their daughter is a codebreaker. Tommy and Tuppence both wish there was something they could do to aid the war effort, too, as there’s a definite feeling that the Nazis will sweep through Europe and invade England next.

Enter an associate of the intelligence chief Tommy and Tuppence worked for in THE SECRET ADVERSARY. He has an undercover job for Tommy: ferreting out the identity of two German agents who are coordinating Fifth Column activities in England. Their code names are N and M, hence the title. The job involves Tommy being a guest at a boarding house on the English coast because the German spies are suspected of staying there, too. Tuppence isn’t asked to be part of the operation, but seriously, no one believes that’s going to stop her, do they? She goes undercover as well to help Tommy with his spy hunt.

From there things fly along at a fairly breakneck pace in Christie’s very smooth prose. A lot happens in the normally sedate English countryside, including a kidnapping and a shooting. Plenty of banter spices things up as Christie slips in clues here and there, but this is less of a formal mystery and more of a thriller. And a very entertaining one, at that, with some genuinely suspenseful scenes.

Now, did I figure out the mystery? Well, I knew who one of the German spies was almost right away, and for the same reasons that Tuppence lays out at the end of the book when everything is explained. There were several plot elements that had me thinking, “Well, that’s going to be important later on,” as soon as they were introduced, and I was right. I’d say that the identity of the other German spy can’t really be deduced from any information Christie gives the reader. You might guess who it is, but you couldn’t figure it out.

Or maybe that’s just me. I still had a lot of fun reading N OR M? even though it was predictable in some respects. Tommy and Tuppence are very likable sleuths. I need to read that short story collection, and I think there are two more novels in which they appear. I’ll get to them, hopefully sooner than ten years from now.

Below are some of the many, many reprints of this novel.


Monday, July 17, 2023

Men's Adventure Quarterly #8: Heavy Hitters! - Robert Deis and Bill Cunningham, eds.

Bob Deis and Bill Cunningham are back with MEN’S ADVENTURE QUARTERLY #8: HEAVY HITTERS!, featuring tales of hitmen (and hitwomen) that appeared originally in the men’s adventure magazines of the Fifties, Sixties, and Seventies. Deis and Cunningham are assisted this time around by guest editors Gary Lovisi and Michael Stradford. This issue also takes a look at the connection between men’s adventure magazines, bodybuilding magazines, and legendary muscleman Joe Weider.

The assortment of stories and articles is a good one, as always, but two of the tales reprinted in MAQ #8 have a personal connection for me, even though I never met or had any contact with either of their authors.

David Mazroff is a very familiar name to me because I saw it dozens of times on the Table of Contents in dozens of issues of MIKE SHAYNE MYSTERY MAGAZINE from the Sixties and Seventies. Mazroff specialized in true crime articles for MSMM, usually centering around legendary gangsters or other organized crime figures. He wrote at least one of the Mike Shayne novellas under the Brett Halliday house name and three novellas under his own name about a private eye character of his creation, Rick Harper. In “I Was Al Capone’s Hatchet Man”, from the March 1958 issue of MAN’S ODYSSEY, Mazroff delves into his own criminal past when he was part of Capone’s gang in Chicago during the 1930s. I had no idea Mazroff had been an actual gangster and did time in prison for his criminal activities. He and I appeared in the same issue of MSMM only once, the August 1977 issue, which included his article “Who Killed Johnny Roselli?” and the first story ever published under my name, “Comingor”. Mazroff had one more article in MSMM after that, in the December 1977 issue, but I didn’t have anything in that one.

The other author name in this issue that’s very familiar to me is Wayne C. Ulsh, who wrote “The Day Castro Beat the CIA’s Mafia”, originally published in the October 1975 issue of FOR MEN ONLY. In the mid-Seventies when I was trying to break in as a writer, one of the markets I targeted was FOR MEN ONLY, and as I read the issues I picked up I quickly began to look for Ulsh’s name because his stories were always well-written, suspenseful, and entertaining. His Castro story in this issue of MAQ is pure fiction. Or is it? Well, yeah, it probably is. But it’s a good yarn, like everything else by Ulsh that I’ve written. He published two novels in his lifetime, which ended prematurely when he died early at the age of 58. I own one of them, RIP-OFF, but haven’t read it. His other novel, McDADE, is a mystery published by Belmont-Tower. In 1975, I wanted to be Wayne C. Ulsh. My career wound up taking a much different path and I can’t say that I’m sorry about that, but it was sure nice revisiting his work and remembering those days nearly 50 years ago.

My favorite of the other stories is Anthony Scaduto’s long article about Bugsy Siegel, “Ever-Lovin’ Top Gun of the Syndicate”, from the August 1963 issue of STAG. We watched all five seasons of the HBO gangster drama BOARDWALK EMPIRE not long ago, and I enjoyed reading this lightly fictionalized version of the notorious Bugsy’s life.

Guest editors Lovisi and Stradford contribute articles about hitmen in novels and iconic cover model Steve Holland’s appearances on crime-related magazine and paperback covers, respectively. These guys know their stuff, and their articles are both informative and entertaining.

And of course, this issue of MAQ, like all the others, is packed with beautifully reproduced artwork by Bruce Minney, Samson Pollen, Mort Kunstler, Robert Stanley, and many others. It’s the proverbial feast for the eyes thanks to Bill Cunningham’s masterful production. Bob Deis oversees the whole thing with love and expertise. Everyone involved in this issue can rightfully be proud of it.

Coming up in the next issue . . . Croc Attacks! Hopefully there’ll be a few gators in there, too. Meanwhile, you can pick up MAQ #8 in three different editions: a full-color trade paperback, a black-and-white paperback edition, and a digital replica edition that looks great on a Kindle Fire. Whichever you prefer, MAQ #8 gets my highest recommendation. 

Sunday, July 16, 2023

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Air Trails, July 1931

Frank Tinsley provides a dramatic cover on this issue of AIR TRAILS, Street & Smith's entry into the aviation pulp market. There are some top-notch writers in this issue, too: Raoul Whitfield, George Bruce, Arthur J. Burks, Robert J. Hogan, and the lesser-known Kirkland Stone, Warren Elliot Carleton, Kent Sagendorph, and Barry Thompson. I've read only sparingly in the aviation and air war pulps, but I've enjoyed what I've read.

Saturday, July 15, 2023

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Golden West Romances, February 1950

This Western romance pulp from the Thrilling Group lasted for only six issues in 1949-50, but I think there's a reason it ended when it did. The final issue of GOLDEN WEST ROMANCES came out approximately the same time as the first issue of RANCH ROMANCES after Ned Pines bought the long-running title from Warner Publications. Why publish an imitation of RANCH ROMANCES when you can publish the real thing? So maybe the six issues of this pulp should be considered a dry run of sorts for the Thrilling Group incarnation of RANCH ROMANCES. This particular issue is the third out of six and features a fine cover by Kirk Wilson, who did many great covers for RANCH ROMANCES. The redhead reminds me of Barbara Stanwyck, which is a good thing. Inside are stories by some fine writers including Wayne D. Overholser, Johnston McCulley, Stephen Payne, John Jo Carpenter (John Reese), Roger Dee (best remembered for his science fiction, Harold F. Cruickshank (best remembered for his air war yarns), and Francis H. Ames. With authors like that, I'm sure GOLDEN WEST ROMANCES was a magazine worth reading during its short life.

Friday, July 14, 2023

Tarzan: Back to Mars - Will Murray

Mars Attacks! Invaders From Mars! The War of the Worlds! All of those would be appropriate titles for the latest novel from Will Murray and the latest installment of The Wild Adventures of Edgar Rice Burroughs. The actual title is BACK TO MARS, and it’s a wonderful book, a front porch yarn if ever there was one.

To elaborate . . . This novel opens shortly after World War II when Tarzan returns from his military service and flies over the African landscape in a P-40B Tomahawk fighter plane. This is a wonderful scene that really captures Tarzan’s personality. However, his happy reunion with Jane and the Waziri doesn’t last long. Invaders from Mars have arrived in Africa and intend to set up a colony there. Tarzan puts the kibosh on that idea, of course, but after learning that this was only first foray in a much larger invasion, he realizes that to put a stop to it, he’ll have to travel back to Mars, or Barsoom as its inhabitants call it, and team up with John Carter, Warlord of Mars, to end the threat once and for all. Using the method of astral projection he learned in the previous novel, TARZAN, CONQUEROR OF MARS, he heads off to Barsoom and adventure after adventure.

If you’re an Edgar Rice Burroughs fan, as seems likely if you’re reading this, you probably have a pretty good idea what’s going to happen. Strange creatures, bizarre situations, captures and escapes, swashbuckling swordfights, and a pace that barely slows down to take a breath now and then. Will Murray captures Burroughs’ style in fine fashion and spins a yarn packed with dramatic scenes. The sections of the book that are told in John Carter’s first-person point of view are also very well done and bring back vivid memories of racing through those Barsoom novels as fast as I could lay my hands on them when I was a kid. Murray includes plenty of characters from those books and references to their plots, as well as tying everything in with Burroughs’ other major series, Pellucidar.

BACK TO MARS is just pure fun to read, and boy, did I need that right now. I give it a very high recommendation. It’s only available in a trade paperback edition at the moment, but I believe hardback and e-book editions may be in the works. I also have a sneaking suspicion that Murray plants some seeds in this book that may well pay off in future novels. I hope so, because I’m already looking forward to reading them.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Bolt #1: First Blood - Cort Martin (Jory Sherman)

It had been quite a while since I read an Adult Western. Finding myself in the mood for one, I picked up BOLT #1: FIRST BLOOD by Cort Martin. The Eighties were really the heyday of the Adult Western with dozens of different series on the paperback racks, including this one that ran for 26 books, all published by Zebra, from 1981 to 1988.

Jared Bolt is the protagonist of this series, and as the first book opens in 1870 he’s only eighteen years old. But he’s already involved with an older girl (22), meeting her regularly for romps in the hayloft, and when she turns up pregnant, she wants him to marry her. Bolt, who isn’t a very sympathetic protagonist, wants nothing to do with that, so he runs away from home (which is Ellsworth, Kansas), earning the enmity of the girl, her father, his own preacher father, and his strait-laced older brother.

When we meet Bolt again, five years have passed. He’s become a cowboy and picked up some skills at gun handling, and he still beds every woman who’ll give him the time of day, married or single. He and a friend are driving a small herd of cattle north from Texas, intending to sell them in Kansas. Bolt gets involved with a married woman along the way and kills her husband in self-defense when the man comes after him. The guy abuses his wife, so Bolt doesn’t come off as a total jerk in this situation. The dead man also has a father who’s a judge and a brother who’s a marshal, so Bolt is in for more trouble from them. His older brother is still on his trail, too.

That’s pretty much all the plot we get in this book, various people chasing Bolt and him trying to survive, but since Cort Martin was really Jory Sherman, FIRST BLOOD is well-written and most of the characters have at least some complexity and depth. Jared Bolt, despite his moral failings, still manages to be likable somehow. The numerous action scenes are excellent.

I recall Jory saying that while he wrote this book and the contracts for all the others were in his name, his wife Charlotte actually ghosted the rest of the series. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I enjoyed FIRST BLOOD enough that I intend to read at least the second one and see if I can tell any difference in the writing. I used to have the entire series in paperback, but those copies were lost in the Fire of ’08. Luckily, e-book editions of this and all the others are available on Amazon. If you’re an Adult Western fan, I think the Bolt series is worth checking out.

Monday, July 10, 2023

The Bronze Gazette #93/#94 - Chuck Welch, ed.

I think I was a subscriber to the Doc Savage fanzine THE BRONZE GAZETTE many years ago. It would have been before the Fire of ’08, so I’m not sure. But I realized recently it was still being published, and since I’ve been enjoying THE SHADOWED CIRCLE so much, I figured I ought to check out this fanzine devoted to the other great pulp hero from Street & Smith. So I subscribed and just received issues #93 and #94, the current offerings. I’m really glad I did because I raced through them and had a great time.

While I love that so much wonderful material is available on the Internet, there’s something about the feel of a printed fanzine in your hands. Sure, there’s some nostalgia involved, but THE BRONZE GAZETTE is just a top-notch publication all the way around. #93 leads off with a great cover by Mark Wheatley, who also has an article inside about the painting and how he envisioned it as the way Doc might have looked if the novels about him had appeared originally in one of the slick magazines, like COLLIER’S, instead of in a pulp. I really like this cover. The back cover by Tim Faurote is another alternate vision and finds Doc and the Fabulous Five featured on a RESERVOIR DOGS-like movie poster for THE MAN OF BRONZE.

Inside this issue is an excellent assortment of articles: a look at a very obscure Doc Savage fanzine from the Seventies; a piece about using AI to create art; an exploration of a possible romance between Renny and Pat, and along the same lines, some speculation about Doc’s avoidance of intimacy; an interview with Doug Wildey about an unrealized Doc animated series; tributes to writer Mark Justice and fan/dealer Weatherly Hardy; and an examination of the Doc Talos series, another alternate take on the Doc Savage character. Writers include Will Murray, Craig McDonald, Howard Wright, Malcolm Deeley, Bill Lane, and Alexander LeVasseur. A fine job all around.

#94 has a fine front cover by Bob Larkin with an article inside about it. The back cover by Tim Faurote finds Doc and his pals cast in another movie, this one a Magnificent Seven-like take on THE MAN OF BRONZE. Chuck Welch leads off the interior contents with an editorial that generated considerable discussion on-line. He suggests that the current generation of Doc Savage fans may be the last generation of Doc fans, and I can’t disagree with the theory. We’re an aging group, there’s no getting around that, and younger fans aren’t really replacing the older ones who head off to that newsstand full of pulps in the sky. But I also agree when he says that as Doc Savage fans, we should rage against the dying of the light and maintain our passion for the character and the stories in any way we can. Reading THE BRONZE GAZETTE seems like a good start on that. I also intend to read the Doc novels by Will Murray that I’ve never gotten around to (there are still a few) and reread some of the original pulp stories that occupy a fond place in my memories. I don’t have time to reread the entire series, but I definitely intend to revisit some highlights.

Elsewhere in this issue is some great art by Rick Forgus; a review of THE DEVIL GENGHIS by Daryl Morrissy; a look at the final Doc novel by Lester Dent, UP FROM EARTH’S CENTER, by Steve Donoso of THE SHADOWED CIRCLE fame (I enjoyed this novel much more than I expected to); speculation by Glen Held on whether Monk was based on famous New York gangster Edward “Monk” Eastman (Held makes a good case); an essay on the possible connection between Doc Savage and Charles Atlas by Mark Lambert; and a final note by Howard Wright on the fanzine THE MAN OF BRONZE discussed in the previous issue. All in all, another fine issue.

I really enjoyed reading both of these volumes. They took me back to an earlier and in many ways better time, an era that I find myself revisiting more and more as I get older. A number of back issues of THE BRONZE GAZETTE are still available. I have a hunch I know what I’m going to be doing for a while. If you’re a long-time Doc fan like me, don’t overlook THE BRONZE GAZETTE like I did. I give it my highest recommendation.

Sunday, July 09, 2023

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Mammoth Adventure, May 1947

MAMMOTH ADVENTURE was one of the most short-lived Ziff-Davis pulps, running for only eight issues in 1946 and 1947. It appears to have been a decent adventure pulp, though, with some good covers, like this one by Z-D regular Robert Gibson Jones, and good authors. I'm not sure you can include Richard S. Shaver as one of those good authors, but hey, I haven't read that much by him and certainly am not an expert on him or his work. In fact, I didn't even know he wrote other things besides science fiction. But he has the lead story in this issue, probably because his name sold copies. Also on hand are another Ziff-Davis stalwart, Berkeley Livingston, with a story under his name and one under his Lester Barclay pseudonym; a couple of writers unknown to me, Phillip Sharp and Leonard Finley Hilts; and house-name Alexander Blade with a story where the actual author hasn't been identified. This issue is available on the Internet Archive if you want to check it out for yourself. I might, one of these days, or I might not.

Saturday, July 08, 2023

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Fifteen Western Tales, April 1948

There's a lot going on in this cover by Sam Cherry, more than you might realize at first glance. We have our stalwart hero in a red shirt . . . or is he a hero? He's clearly been wearing the mask that just fell down around his neck, and there's a bag of stolen bank loot lying beside him. He's been lassoed, his horse is running away in the background, and there's a guy on the porch behind him probably shooting at him. He must have been trying to make his getaway after robbing the bank when somebody dabbed a loop on him. But that's a Lone Ranger/Masked Rider type of mask, not a bank robber mask. So I don't really know what's going on, but it's a good cover anyway, as you'd expect from Sam Cherry. Inside this issue of FIFTEEN WESTERN TALES are stories by Wayne D. Overholser, Clifton Adams, Barry Cord (Peter Germano), Talmage Powell, Joe Archibald, Thomas Calvert McClary, Kenneth Fowler, Wallace Umphrey, and the obscure Ruland Waltner. FIFTEEN WESTERN TALES included features and articles in that count, so there are actually only nine pieces of fiction in this issue, but they look like pretty good stories.

Friday, July 07, 2023

Nude in Mink - Sax Rohmer

As a long-time fan of Sax Rohmer’s work, I’ve been meaning to read the Sumuru series for many years now and have finally gotten around to the first one, NUDE IN MINK. This novel was based on a radio serial that Rohmer wrote for the BBC in 1945 and was published as a paperback original in the United States by Gold Medal in 1950. The British edition, also published in 1950, was entitled THE SINS OF SUMURU. Reportedly, Rohmer didn’t care for the Gold Medal title, but it actually fits the story and the book sold very well, well enough for the publisher to want more. Eventually there were five Sumuru novels, all with different titles in the U.S. and England except the final one. I think there may be some other differences in the texts, but I’m no expert on that. I read the Gold Medal version of the first one, NUDE IN MINK.

So who is Sumuru, you ask? Well, she’s a beautiful female villain with a shadowy background who has a sinister international organization and wants to remake the world into what she considers an acceptable place, even though that involves murder, torture, and blackmail. She can be ruthless, but by golly, some of her ideas actually make her seem a little sympathetic. She’s not the nude in mink of the title, though. That’s a beautiful young woman Sumuru has targeted to force into her organization. This young woman escapes, and dressed only in a mink coat, she stumbles into the London flat of American reporter Mark Donovan, who is the nominal protagonist of this novel. If Sumuru is a variation on the much more famous Dr. Fu Manchu, then the Denis Nayland Smith role in this novel is filled by Dr. Steel Maitland, who also appears in Rohmer’s much earlier novel THE EMPEROR OF AMERICA (have it but haven’t read it yet).

With Donovan drawn into Maitland’s battle against Sumuru because he instantly falls in love with the nude in mink, of course, we’re off on a series of captures and escapes and a couple of bizarre murders. It’s stuff we’ve seen before in the Fu Manchu books, but it’s still quite a bit of fun. Rohmer was always great on the atmospherics.

Unfortunately, not much actually happens in this novel and it never generates much suspense or drama before it finally peters out without reaching a suitable climax. The blood and thunder that’s so enjoyable in the Fu Manchu series and many of Rohmer’s other books is missing for the most part. I wonder if the novel’s origins as a radio serial have something to do with that. Maybe the form limited him in what he could do. If that’s the case, the follow-up novels may be better.

I certainly intend to find out, because I enjoyed NUDE IN MINK enough that I want to read the rest of the series. I have the first four on hand already and if I enjoy the others I’ll find the fifth and final one. In the meantime, if you’ve never read Sax Rohmer’s work before, don’t start with NUDE IN MINK, but if you’re a long-time fan like me, it’s worth reading.

Wednesday, July 05, 2023

Flame in the West - Lewis B. Patten

I hadn’t read a Lewis B. Patten Western in a while, and when my buddy Pete Brandvold picked up a copy of this one, which I’d never even heard of, I figured it was a sign I should get my hands on a copy of my own and read it. That turned out to be a good decision.

FLAME IN THE WEST was published as a paperback original by Berkley Medallion in 1962 and reprinted a few years later. I read the second edition, and that’s my copy in the scan. The cover art has a signature, but I can’t make it out. There was also a British paperback from Fontana in 1965, but that appears to be it. Online scans of the original Berkley edition and the Fontana edition are below. I’m surprised there was never a large print edition, given Patten’s consistent popularity as a Western writer in the library market.

With that bibliographic stuff out of the way, how’s the book itself, you ask? Well, pretty darned good. Almost great. We’ll get to why I say “almost”. But it starts out fantastic with a first-person account of Quantrill’s famous raid on Lawrence, Kansas, in 1863. The narrator is Matt Leatherman, an orphan who works for local merchant Eben Sundine. Sundine doesn’t really support the Confederacy, but he is from the South so the local abolitionists hate him and have dubbed him a Copperhead. They’ve even vandalized his store by writing that on the front wall. Quantrill’s raiders see that and don’t destroy Sundine’s store, but in the aftermath of the violence, the local citizens blame Sundine for what has happened, so they burn down his store and house, killing his wife and badly burning his son in the process. An embittered, hate-filled Eben Sundine takes his son and daughter and heads west to Colorado to start a new life. Young Matt Leatherman tags along, since he has nothing keeping him in Lawrence.

Experienced Western readers will have a pretty good idea where the rest of this novel is going. Sundine, with Matt’s help, becomes a successful rancher after the war. His badly scarred son becomes a vicious gunman. His daughter grows up into a beautiful woman and she and Matt fall in love. Sundine battles smaller ranchers who try to encroach on what he considers his domain. Despite the fact that FLAME IN THE WEST is fairly short, maybe 45,000 words, Patten achieves a real epic feel in this novel.

If you’ve read much of Patten’s work, you know it’s well-written, very bleak, and essentially humorless. If not for the fact that he usually came up with semi-happy endings, I’d say his books are even darker than H.A. DeRosso’s. That’s certainly the case in FLAME IN THE WEST, where he piles tragedy after tragedy and bad decision after bad decision on his characters. Because of that, I wouldn’t want a steady diet of Patten’s work, but when I’m in the right mood, it’s very effective.

Where FLAME IN THE WEST is slightly disappointing is in its ending. To be honest, by that point, Patten has written his characters into such a terrible corner that I’m not sure it’s even possible to write a satisfying ending to such a tale. Despite that weakness, this is a very good book and contains some of Patten’s best writing. Matt Leatherman is a fine narrator/protagonist and Patten does a good job of capturing his various moral dilemmas. I raced through this book, reading the whole thing in a day and staying up late to finish it, which is very unusual for me. If you’re a Patten fan or a fan of traditional Westerns with a dark edge, it’s well worth reading.

Sunday, July 02, 2023

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Mystery Book Magazine, Summer 1948

This is a nice dramatic cover on this issue of MYSTERY BOOK MAGAZINE. I don't know the artist. When I spotted it while looking through the Fictionmags Index, I got excited for a minute because this issue features a Mike Shayne story I hadn't heard of, "Murder is a Habit". But a little investigation seems to indicate that it's actually a condensation of the novel BLOOD ON THE STARS. Any confirmation or other information will be much appreciated. Besides the Shayne story, this issue includes yarns by Judson P. Philips, Roy Vickers, Cyril Plunkett, O.B. Myers, Jules Archer, and house-name John L. Benton.

UPDATE: The cover artist is Rudolph Belarski. Thanks to Ed Hulse for that identification. The artwork was recycled for the cover of a Mike Shayne novel, fittingly enough, on BODIES ARE WHERE YOU FIND THEM, Popular Library #192.

Saturday, July 01, 2023

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Dime Western, September 1948

This is a pulp that I own and read recently. That’s my somewhat tattered copy in the scan. I’m not sure of the cover artist. Might be Robert Stanley, who did a lot of Western pulp covers for Popular Publications during this time period. But it might not be.

DIME WESTERN, like the other Popular Publications Western pulps, always had good authors, but there’s a particularly strong lineup in this issue, leading off with a surprisingly good Walt Coburn novella, considering how late this story came in his career. “Shoot or Git Shot!” is a son-of-an-outlaw yarn, where a widowed rustler leaves his six-year-old son with the father of his late wife. The old-timer raises the boy to be a good man, rather than an owlhoot. But as usual in a Coburn story, there’s a lot of back-story and not everything is as it appears to be at first. There’s nothing in this one you won’t see coming, but it’s well-written and has a nice epic feel to it for a novella. Plus there’s a great, brutal fistfight and a spectacular shootout to wrap things up. Coburn was inconsistent by this point, but “Shoot or Git Shot!” is as good as most of his stories from ten or twenty years earlier.

Frank Bonham probably would be annoyed that one of the main things he's remembered for these days is his slightly embittered essay “Tarzana Nights” about his time spent ghostwriting Western pulp stories for Ed Earl Repp. But he was an excellent writer and that’s on display in “Good Squatters Are Dead Squatters”, his short story in this issue. It’s a big rancher vs. small rancher story, but it’s very well-written and does a fine job of capturing the Texas Panhandle country. The resolution is maybe a little hard to swallow, but this is still a good story from a consistently good writer.

Clifton Adams was one of the best of the hardboiled Western writers who broke into the pulps in the late Forties and then went on to write dozens of excellent novels during the Fifties and Sixties. His story in this issue is a novelette about a wounded outlaw on the run called “There’s Hell in His Holster!” It’s a good story in its own right, but it has some historical significance, too. I believe it’s the first appearance of Tall Cameron, who, a couple of years later, would be the protagonist of Adams’ iconic Gold Medal novels THE DESPERADO and A NOOSE FOR THE DESPERADO. Neither of the novels is an expansion of this story, which is sort of an alternate universe take on the character, but Adams took a lot of Tall Cameron’s history from this tale.

Wilbur S. Peacock was a pulp editor as well as a writer. He turned out scores of Western, detective, and science fiction yarns and appears in this issue of DIME WESTERN with a short-short called “Reward of Merit”, about an old sheriff who’s been pushed out of his job in favor of a younger man. It’s well-written but the ending falls flat as far as I’m concerned. I generally like Peacock’s work but think this one was a misfire.

I’ve read good things about George C. Appell’s stories but don’t recall if I’ve ever read anything by him before. His short story “The Search” relies on a gimmick: not revealing one character’s true identity until the very end of the story. That’s kind of interesting, and the search of the title, a hunt for hidden loot, has promise, but overall the plot is muddled enough that it’s hard to follow and I didn’t care much for this story, either.

Peter Dawson, actually Jonathan Glidden, brother of Frederick “Luke Short” Glidden, was always dependable, and he comes through in this issue with the novelette “It’s Your Town—Die in It!” The story concerns a new marshal who believes he’s been roped into a town-taming job under false pretenses. He wants to abandon the job and leave town, but a beautiful new seamstress just arrived in the settlement, so maybe she’ll provide a reason for him to stay and have a showdown with the local hardcases. There’s really not a lot to this story, but it’s well-written and entertaining.

This issue wraps up with a novella by an author I’ve read quite a bit by lately, E. Hoffmann Price (although he’s credited incorrectly as E. Hoffman Price on the cover, TOC, and the story itself). “The Cowman Who Damned His Brand” has a very intriguing twist: the protagonist, a prospector who enjoys hunting for gold, falls in love with a woman who wants him to buy a ranch and settle down. So he buys a spread and inserts himself into the middle of a range war, fully intending to be a failure so he can convince the girl he needs to go back to prospecting. Of course, things don’t work out as he planned. This offbeat plot and Price’s talent for storytelling combine to make this a very good yarn.

This is a solid issue of DIME WESTERN with top-notch stories by Coburn, Bonham, Dawson, and Price, and the stories I didn’t much care for are readable and might be more to someone else’s taste. If you have a copy of it, it’s well worth pulling down from the shelf and reading.