Sunday, February 18, 2024

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Adventure, January 1946

This is a pulp that I own and read recently. That’s my copy in the scan. The cover art is by Robert Stanley. I’m so used to seeing his work on mystery and Western pulps and paperbacks, I’m not sure I would have recognized it in a pure adventure setting like this. But it’s a good cover and I like it.

If you’re like me, you saw “One For France and One For Me” by Georges Surdez and thought, “Ah, a French Foreign Legion yarn!” Surdez was famous for them. But no, this novella (and it’s almost long enough to be an actual novel) takes place entirely in France. Captain Norman Kenton, an American pilot who was shot down over France during the war, returns several months after V-E Day to look up the members of the Resistance who helped him avoid capture by the Nazis. It’s not just gratitude that motivates Kenton. One of those Resistance members was a beautiful young woman.

But he runs into more trouble than he expects and finds himself involved in black marketeering, a vengeance quest against people who collaborated with the Germans, murder, espionage, and tragedy. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Well, it’s actually just okay, because the plot pokes along at an exasperating pace, and a lengthy flashback in the middle of the story derails things even farther. I generally like Surdez’s work, and the final scene of this one, which takes place in a courtroom, is pretty good, but things just take too long to get there. Good plot, good characters, not so good execution.

The next story, “Un-Reversible Error” by Wallis Reef, also involves a court case, as you might guess from the title. It’s a contemporary (for the time the pulp was published) Western mystery with the protagonist being an old sheriff. The tone is a little light without the story being an actual comedy. The plot involves a hoodlum who looks like he’s going to get away with murder until the sheriff comes up with a surprise. Not an outstanding yarn, but fairly entertaining.

Stuart Cloete’s name is familiar to me. I think I may even own a few of his novels set in Africa. His short story in this issue, “A Death in the Family”, is a grim tale about two twin brothers discussing a family tragedy that took place in the trenches of World War I. The whole thing is a little slow and bland until Cloete springs a wry, triple-twist ending that took me by surprise and redeems the story for the most part.

“The Peacekeeper” by Hugh Fullerton is a short bit of folklore/tall tale about Finn McCool. Or something. I can’t be more precise than that because I didn’t read much of the story before saying, “Nope, not for me.” Something about Fullerton’s style just grated on me.

“Blood and Guts” by William Langer is much better. It’s a well-written, character-driven story about an Army medic seeing his first action during an assault on a Japanese-held island in the Pacific.

“You Ain’t Gonna Believe This” is a Runyonesque tale about a prizefighter with four arms. Lawton Ford’s story evokes a few smiles, but no outright chuckles.

“The Shadow of a Mountain” by William Arthur Breyfogle is set in an unnamed Central American country where the German general who’s in command of the army stirs up a war with a neighboring country. There’s also a volcano that’s about to erupt. This starts out like it’s going to be a comedy but turns pretty grim before it’s over. Not a bad story, but decidedly odd.

It's not surprising that my favorite story in the issue is by Day Keene, who had a good career in the pulps before becoming one of the top paperback authors of the Fifties and Sixties. “In the Halls of Montezuma” is a crime yarn that also has a military angle, as a prizefighter-turned-gangster sets out getting his revenge on the guy who caused his fall from grace. The big twist at the end is completely predictable, but Keene was such a good storyteller that it doesn’t matter.

The final story in the issue, “The Mule That Loined Brooklyn” by Nick Boddie Williams, is similar in one way to Surdez’s “One For France and One For Me”. It’s about a downed pilot trying to escape from the enemy in World War II, only Williams’ story is set in Burma, the enemies are the Japanese, and the story is more of a farce than anything else. It’s okay, but lightweight enough to float off.

With that lineup of stories, this issue never rises above the merely okay level and flirts with below average. Day Keene’s story is good but definitely a minor entry in his body of work, and it’s the highlight. Langer’s story about the Army medic is also worth reading. There are some good issues of ADVENTURE from this era, but this one is pretty forgettable.

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