Sunday, April 28, 2024

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Adventure, June 1947

This is a pulp that I own and recently read most of. That’s my copy in the scan. The cover art is by Peter Stevens, who did quite a few covers for ADVENTURE during this era.

This issue starts off with the initial installment of an espionage serial set in post-war China entitled “He Who Rides the Tiger” by James Norman. As I usually do with serials if I don’t have all the installments on hand, I skipped this one. It may be an excellent yarn, but I don’t see any point in starting a story I can’t finish. Some of the other installments can be found in issues posted online. Maybe I’ll get around to reading it someday. To be honest, though, that’s not very likely.

Next up is a Western short story by the always dependable Frank Bonham. “Last Drive” is about the final run of a stagecoach. The former driver who is almost completely blind goes along as a passenger, and wouldn’t you know it, he’s forced into taking over the reins when Apaches attack the stagecoach. This is a well-written story with a nice final twist.

It's unusual to find a Dan Cushman story in a pulp that’s not published by Fiction House. He was a regular contributor to LARIAT STORY, ACTION STORIES, and JUNGLE STORIES. His long novella in this issue of ADVENTURE, “The Cask of Khabar”, which is set in the Congo, would have been right at home in JUNGLE STORIES, and again to be honest, it’s the main reason I picked this issue to read. Because of his resemblance to a dead man, American trader and self-professed “jungle tramp” Craig Thebes finds himself mixed up with a gang of ruthless criminals. A couple of beautiful women are involved in the scheme, too, of course. At times in this story, it seems like Cushman is trying to do a jungle version of THE MALTESE FALCON. Thebes is certainly hardboiled, and his banter with the evil Sir Roger Humphries reads like Sam Spade and Casper Gutman trading veiled quips. I think the ending is a bit less dramatic than it could have been, but that’s the only drawback in an otherwise superb pulp yarn that just makes me eager to read more by Cushman.

Samuel W. Taylor wrote a lot of Western, detective, and adventure stories for a wide variety of pulps. His story in this issue is called “Do Not Molest the Miracles” and is billed as an “Off the Trail” story. That fits it pretty well. It’s a whimsical tale of elves building houses for needy veterans during the post-war housing crisis, only to run afoul of government red tape. As a general rule, whimsy isn’t something I really enjoy, but this story is well-written and mildly amusing. It would have made a good, lighter-than-usual episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE.

Steve Hail wrote Westerns and nautical adventures. His story story “Doghole Circuit” in this issue definitely fits into the latter category. It uses the old “disgraced skipper is forced by a catastrophe to redeem himself and pull of a daring stunt” plot. In this case, the catastrophe is an erupting volcano and a passenger liner that’s run aground just off the Big Island of Hawaii. To a confirmed landlubber like me, this plot probably doesn’t resonate as much as it would with somebody who likes and knows something about ships. But I still thought it was a pretty good story anyway.

Being an Oklahoman, Clifton Adams knew the oilfields pretty well and could spin a good yarn using that setting. “The Crazy Kind” is about a prizefight between two oilfield workers with a rich new lease as the stakes. This is a lighter-weight, more humorous story than most of Adams’ work, but it’s still well-written and very entertaining. I never worked in the patch, but I had relatives who did and have been around that world some, so I’ve always had a fondness for novels and stories set there.

I’ll sometimes make an exception to my policy of not reading serial installments. If it’s the final installment, or by an author I particularly like, and the story wasn’t published later as a novel that I might read someday, I’ll give one a try. The final installment (of three) of “Salmon Sweepstakes” by Robert E. Pinkerton wraps up this issue. Pinkerton wrote a lot of stories and serials for the adventure fiction pulps, but I don’t recall ever reading anything by him before. This story is about the rivalry between salmon fishermen in the Pacific Northwest following World War I. I started it but couldn’t get interested in it, so I wound up setting it aside. If I’d been able to read the whole thing, I might have liked it better.

The stories by Cushman, Bonham, and Adams are good enough that I have to consider this a pretty solid issue of ADVENTURE. None of the other stories are bad, and I can't count off for serials because they're just the nature of the beast, so to speak. So I'd say that if you have a copy of this one, it's worth pulling off the shelf and giving it a shot.

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