Saturday, February 10, 2024

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Texas Rangers, October 1951

This is a pulp that I own and read recently. That’s my copy in the scan. The cover is by Sam Cherry, who did nearly all of them for TEXAS RANGERS during this era.

The Jim Hatfield novel in this issue, “Riders of the Storm”, is attributed to Tom Curry in the Fictionmags Index, the final Curry novel in the series. However, having read it, there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that it’s actually by A. Leslie Scott. It’s Scott’s work, through and through. I was tipped off to this by my friend Anders Nilsson, who told me that the story was rewritten into a Walt Slade paperback called TRIGGER TALK that was published by Pyramid Books five years later under the Bradford Scott pseudonym.

I was baffled as to how a Hatfield novel by Tom Curry wound up being rewritten into a Walt Slade paperback, so I went to my shelves to see if I had a copy of the pulp version. Sure enough, I did, so I pulled it down and read it. I knew within a few pages that Scott was the actual author, not Curry, which explained why he felt free to cannibalize it for that paperback.

The story itself is an excellent entry in the Hatfield series. It opens with Hatfield and a fellow Ranger discovering a ship perched atop a bluff about twenty miles inland from Galveston. Hatfield theorizes that it was carried there by a tidal wave generated by a gigantic hurricane. That seems pretty far-fetched, but hey, it’s a pulp yarn so as I always say, sure, why not. Unfortunately for the new recruit riding with Hatfield, a gang of outlaws are unloading something from the ship and open fire on the two Rangers. The new fellow is killed, and Hatfield is wounded and knocked unconscious. When he comes to and finds his friend dead, he sets out on the owlhoots’ trail, which leads him to Galveston, which has indeed suffered tremendous damage from a hurricane. (The Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900? It’s possible. The Hatfield novels weren’t very consistent with their time period, taking place anywhere from the mid-1870s to the late 1890s, depending on the author.)

The plot involves smuggling guns to Mexican revolutionaries and takes Hatfield from Galveston to the Big Thicket in East Texas and finally to Brownsville, down at the tip of Texas on the Rio Grande. It’s a little unusual in that it involves several action scenes on ships. Scott seems to have been trying to break away from his usual formula in the early Fifties, but it didn’t do him any good. His final Walt Slade novella in THRILLING WESTERN appeared earlier in 1951, and the next Hatfield novel in TEXAS RANGERS after this one, “Trail of Hunted Men”, was Scott’s last. But as I’ve mentioned before, he moved right on to paperbacks and probably made more money in the long run. “Riders of the Storm” is a very good story and I’m glad I was prompted to read it. There are also some good interior illustrations by H.L. Parkhurst in this novel.

Next up in this issue is Ralph Yergen’s short story “Vengeance on the Hoof”. It’s written mostly from the point of a view of a horse, a technique I don’t usually care for, and it’s a little hard to read because there’s quite a bit of animal abuse in it. However, Yergen won me over with this story about an outlaw’s horse, and it comes to a satisfying conclusion. Definitely better than I expected it to be.

“The Horsehair Noose” by Leslie Ernenwein is a reprint from the November 1945 issue of THE RIO KID WESTERN. It’s something of a rarity for a Western pulp because it’s a dying message mystery story. In order to prevent a range war, a sheriff has to figure out who murdered a local cattleman, based on a name scrawled in the dirt by the dying man and a few other clues. It’s not a particularly good dying message story, mind you, but I like Ernenwein’s style and I enjoyed this yarn.

“Buffalo Men” is by another veteran, dependable pulpster, J. Allan Dunn. It's a novelette reprinted from the September 1940 issue of THRILLING ADVENTURES. Set in the buffalo hunting era, it’s about the founding of Adobe Walls in the Texas Panhandle and the epic battle there between a few dozen buffalo hunters and a force of a thousand Indians led by the legendary Comanche chief Quanah Parker. In the first half of the story, Dunn sticks pretty close to the historical facts other than inventing a couple of fictional protagonists to be on hand for the battle, along with a renegade hunter to serve as a minor villain. He even has Bat Masterson on hand, which he was in one of his early exploits. In the battle itself, Dunn strays pretty far from history, having one of his fictional characters make the famous long-distance shot that was actually made by Billy Dixon, and changing the outcome of that shot, as well. Despite that, it’s a very well-written story and captures the feeling of the time and place quite well.

The short story “Payoff in Lead” is another reprint, this time from the October 1946 issue of THE RIO KID WESTERN. The author is Joseph Chadwick, one of the most dependable authors of hardboiled Western tales, and it’s a good one. An embittered ex-Confederate heads west on the trail of the carpetbagger who stole his land and his fiancée after the war. The protagonist finds the man he’s looking for, but things turn out much differently than he expected. A gritty, very satisfying story.

This issue wraps up with a new short story, “A Man’s Job” by Caddo Cameron, whose real name was Charles Richard Beeler. It’s about a young cowboy holding down a line camp by himself for the first time and his encounter with some outlaws. Another good one, with some nice action and a very likable protagonist.

Overall, this is a very solid issue of TEXAS RANGERS with stories ranging from good to excellent and not a really weak one in the bunch. I’m glad the question of who actually wrote the Hatfield novel caused me to pull it off the shelves and read it.


Adventure continues the said...

Excellent read and some good info on the writers!

Todd Mason said...

I think Phil S-P is still on this list...but sending him a note can't hurt...

Todd Mason said...

(That was, the WesternPulps list. Trying to do too many things at once.)