Saturday, April 13, 2024

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Dime Western Magazine, January 1946

This is a pulp that I own and read recently. That’s my copy in the scan. My guess as to the cover artist is Robert Stanley, but I’m not certain about that. There are a couple of things about this one I don’t like—the guy’s hands and arms don’t look quite right to me, and neither does his holster—but overall it’s an effective cover.

I’ve said this many times before and probably will again, but Walt Coburn was really inconsistent in his work, especially in the second half of the Forties onwards. But he’s still one of my favorite Western authors because when he’s on his game, he’s really, really good. “Mail-Order Outlaw” in this issue is one of his really, really good stories. The cover calls it a novel, but at 16 pages, even with fairly small print left over from the war years and paper rationing, it’s more of a novelette. Even so, Coburn manages to give this tale of a young cowpuncher who falls in with a gang of bank robbers a bit of an epic feeling. The action is great, the protagonist is very likable, and the villains are despicable. It’s also more tightly plotted than many of Coburn’s stories, which tend to sprawl around and get melodramatic. The sense of authenticity is there as always. No matter how over-the-top Coburn’s plots could get, the characters and settings always ring true. This is a superb story, one of the best by Coburn that I’ve read.

I don’t know much about Michael Oblinger, just that he wrote several dozen stories for various Western pulps. His short story “Hell-on-the-Hoof” starts out with a horse identifying a killer, but that’s just the opening act in a very convoluted tale about an accused murderer hunting down the real culprits. I didn’t think this story was well-written and didn’t care for it.

Since the cover date on pulps was the off-sale date, that means this January 1946 issue of DIME WESTERN was actually on the stands in December 1945. Accordingly, there’s a Christmas story included in the line-up, the novelette “Colt Christmas at Bitter Creek” by Rod Patterson. Last year I read a pulp yarn by Patterson that I enjoyed quite a bit, as well as his novel WHIP HAND, which I found pretty flat and uninspired. Now that I’ve read this story, I’m starting to suspect that Patterson was better at less than novel length. “Colt Christmas at Bitter Creek” is about the showdown between two feuding ranches during a blizzard. It’s well-written, moves right along, and has a nice hardboiled tone. I still want to try more of Patterson’s novels, but I’ll be keeping an eye out for his pulp stories.

Charles Handley is another forgotten pulpster. His story “The Devil’s Sky-Pilot” is a short-short about an outlaw-turned-preacher—or is he? The twist ending in this one is pretty predictable, but it still works and the story is fairly entertaining.

Tom W. Blackburn often wrote stories that weren’t about the usual cowboys, outlaws, lawmen, etc. The protagonist of the novelette “Battle Call For Big-Wheelers” is a partner in a freight company located in a Sierra Nevada mining boomtown. Double-crossed by a man he considered a friend, framed by a rival for murder, Cole Banning finds himself in a mighty deep hole and Blackburn just keeps piling more trouble on his head until I honestly wondered how in the world Banning was going to get out of this mess. But he does, and although the resolution might have been just a tad too quick and convenient, this is still a really good story with interesting characters, strong writing, and plenty of action. Blackburn’s work is nearly always good and this one is no exception.

John Richard Young wrote a couple of dozen Western and adventure stories for various pulps in the Forties and Fifties. His story in this issue, “Law of the Blizzard-Born” is an animal yarn about an old hunter stalking a wolf. This type of story with little or no dialogue and some, if not most, of the story written from the point of view of the animal is one that I just have trouble reading. I wound up skimming this one and didn’t like it.

The novelette that wraps up this issue, “The Phantom Hangman of Yellow Jacket”, is another mining camp story. Somewhat unusual for a Western pulp, it’s also a murder mystery as a ruthless vigilante known as The Citizen is killing people in the camp for no apparent reason. The son of a mine owner who is one of the victims returns from San Francisco, where he’s been something of a wastrel, to grow up and get to the bottom of things. As it turns out, this story isn’t a particularly strong mystery, but it does have a good protagonist and some nice action as it moves along at a fast pace. The author, Harry F. Olmsted, is one of my favorites. Olmsted was known to farm out some of his work, much like Ed Earl Repp, so there’s no way of knowing if some other author had a hand in this one. The story reads like the other Olmsted stories I’ve read, but that may be because even on the ghosted stuff, he did a lot of editing and revising. Regardless of the details, which we’ll likely never know, this is a solid, entertaining yarn.

Overall, this issue of DIME WESTERN MAGAZINE is quite a mixed bag. There are a couple of stories I didn’t like, but the others range from good to excellent and include one of the best Walt Coburn stories I’ve read. So I’d say that if you have a copy on your shelves, it’s well worth reading.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, the hand holding the gun is especially weird. All the fingers on that hand look kinda blobby and boneless and too shiny. The knuckle on his trigger finger looks like an enormous bug bite that’s swelling up and about to pop.

I can’t place the artist either — it doesn’t really look much like Stanley to me, but I don’t think it’s Cherry or DeSoto or Harris. There were so many artists painting in that same general style at the time, it could be anybody.


James Reasoner said...

The face looks like Stanley's work to me, the rest of it not so much. Maybe he was just in a hurry on this one.