Tuesday, April 23, 2024

25 Years of WesternPulps

On April 23, 1999, I posted the first message on the WesternPulps email group, which I created that day on a platform called OneList. A couple of years before that, while attending a mystery convention in Dallas called Cluefest, I heard Bill Crider and Steve Brewer talking about something called Rara-Avis. That was my introduction to the concept of email groups, and shortly after that, I subscribed to Rara-Avis.

Eventually, I got the idea that there ought to be a group devoted to the Western pulps, and so I started one. That first message seems to have been lost in the group's migration from platform to platform over the years, but here's a quote from the second one:

Now that the list is growing a little, we need to get some posts on it. I recently read two Western pulp novels, both of them Jim Hatfield stories from TEXAS RANGERS: "Renegade Roundup" from the July 1937 issue, and "Terror Stalks the Border" from the September 1937 issue. Both are supposedly by A. Leslie Scott, writing under the Jackson Cole house-name. "TSTB" is definitely by Scott, who has such a distinctive style. Most of the time, "RR" reads like Scott, too, but there are a few passages that sound like someone else's work, perhaps an editor's. Or perhaps Scott rewrote another author's story that failed to pass muster. At any rate, they're both good stories and very enjoyable.

Now, a question, or actually a request. In reading Western pulp stories, please be on the lookout for an author who uses the word "Coltmen" instead of "gunmen". Whoever this author is, he wrote at least a couple of Hatfield stories ("Gun Harvest" and "Brand of the Lawless"), but I've never been able to identify him. His use of "Coltmen" is probably his most distinctive stylistic feature; I've never encountered it anywhere else except in the two stories mentioned above.

This list is wide open for discussion of anything related to Western pulps, including current Western novels that have pulp elements or influences. I'm a Western writer myself, and I know that many of my books have been influenced by my pulp reading.

In case you're wondering, the "Coltmen" author mentioned above was soon identified by my friend Jim Griffin as J. Edward Leithead, and I've read many of his stories since then and adopted several of his catchphrases as my own, an example of that pulp influence in my writing that I mentioned. Over the years, many, many such questions about authors have been answered on the list.

In its early years, the group was pretty busy, hitting its high in messages with 705 in February 2002. But this was just as interest in blogs was rising, and the activity tailed off. Then a few more years went by and Facebook and other social media took up even more of people's time and interest. WesternPulps became a fairly low-traffic group averaging less than a hundred messages per month, although there are still flurries where a topic engages the members' interest and the messages flow faster again for a while.

Early in the group's history, a reader named Kent Johnson joined and really added a lot of energy to the proceedings with many questions and comments, and he also uploaded a wealth of lists and other information to the group's files section. Sadly, Kent passed away after a few short years. Other early contributors who brought a great deal to the list were Todd Mason and Juri Nummelin, both of whom were also members of Rara-Avis, and the above-mentioned Jim Griffin, Western author and friend of long-standing. And they still contribute to the list, making them the longest active members other than myself.

OneList, the group's original platform, was taken over by E-Groups, which was in turn acquired by YahooGroups, which was WesternPulps' home for many years. Back in 2018, seeing that YahooGroups was soon going to be discontinued, I migrated the group to a new platform called Groups.io, where it continues to this day. (Rara-Avis, which has been around even longer, is currently on Groups.io as well.) By this point in social media history, email groups are practically pre-historic, of course, but I don't care. When I started WesternPulps 25 years ago, I never gave any thought to how long it would be around. I wouldn't have guessed that it would still exist two and a half decades and almost 30,000 posts later. But I decided several years ago that it will continue as long as I'm able to maintain it and there's a platform for it, even if it gets back to the point where I'm just sending messages to myself, as I was in the beginning. It's been a labor of love for a long time now, and I still love it. If any of you are interested in joining, it won't take up much of your time or clutter your inbox (it's low-traffic, like I said), and you'll have access to the group website with a huge amount of information about Western pulps and Westerns in general in the message archive, the files section, and the photo section. And you might have the answer to the next question somebody posts about a particular author or pulp.

The STAR WESTERN cover at the top of this post isn't a great scan, but it was one of the first, if not the first, image uploaded to the group. Thank you for reminiscing with me today.


ZenRuss said...

My son gave me "Star Western" edited by Jon Tuska with 22 stories from the Star Western pulps for Christmas but I haven't read it yet. I will though, the older I get, the more I appreciate the slam-bang action of a pulp story.

James Reasoner said...

That's an excellent anthology. You'll enjoy it. All of the pulp collections edited by Jon Tuska are good and well worth reading.