A striking and unusual cover by Norman Saunders graces this issue of one of my favorite Western pulps, WILD WEST WEEKLY. The line-up of authors and stories inside is outstanding, too, leading off with a Sonny Tabor yarn by Paul S. Powers writing as Ward M. Stevens. Also in this issue are stories by Walker A. Tompkins, Allan R. Bosworth, Chuck Martin, Lee Bond, and Ralph Yergen.
I have a limited number of copies of the print edition of ROCKET'S RED GLARE, the space opera anthology I edited and published earlier this summer, and for the next four days (through Monday, August 21), they're on sale for $10 each, including shipping (to the U.S. only). PayPal preferred but checks accepted. Email me or let me know in the comments if you want one. This book has gotten excellent reviews and I'm very proud of it. From distant galaxies to the mean streets of Hollywood . . . from the war-torn skies of France in 1918 to the far side of the moon . . . The stories in Rocket's Red Glare exemplify the adventure, courage, and sense of discovery so vital to the American spirit. Whether daring to cross interstellar space or battling alien conquerors when they come right to our own back yard, the characters in these tales never give up, never stop fighting for their country, their lives, their honor. Featuring all-new stories by Sarah A. Hoyt (part of her USAian series), Brad R. Torgersen, Martin L. Shoemaker, Lou Antonelli, James Reasoner, and more, Rocket's Red Glare is packed with space opera excitement, dazzling scientific speculation, gritty action, and compelling characters.
First of all, is that a great title or what? "Senorita Death" is the fourth Kid Calvert "novel" to appear in the pulp WESTERN ACES (in the April 1935 issue, to be precise, with the usual fine cover by Rafael DeSoto), and it's also the shortest one in the series. Perhaps because of that, author Phil Richards drops us right down in the middle of the action as good-guy outlaw Kid Calvert is trying to find out what's behind the disappearance of several wealthy men in the bordertown of San Pablo. His investigation takes him to a cantina where the beautiful Dolores Estrada is singing. Is beautiful gun-totin' sheriff Terry Reynolds finally going to have some competition for the Kid's owlhoot heart? Well, maybe, but there's not really much time for romance in this yarn, because the action hardly ever stops. Except for when the Kid is wounded in one of the many gunfights and passes out or gets hit over the head by a villain and knocked cold. The rest of the time there's lots of powder burning and a somewhat muddled plot about land speculation and the nefarious goings-on at the inappropriately named Peaceful Ranch. As always, Richards' prose is breathless and terse and full of movement. Action and dialogue and plot all hurtle forward at breakneck speed. I'm sure most modern readers would think this stuff is awful, but I'm continuing to enjoy the heck out of the Kid Calvert series. There's only one more to go, and I'll get to it soon.
I’ve never read
the Zane Grey novel on which this movie is based, so I can’t say whether or not
it’s a faithful adaptation. But taken on its own merits, it’s a pretty good
early Western that I’d never seen until now. The story involves two feuding
families, the mostly respectable Haydens and the mostly no-good Colbys, who
move from Kentucky to Nevada after the Civil War. Jed Colby, the patriarch of
his clan, spent fifteen years in prison for shooting a Hayden, and he sets out
to get his revenge by rustling all the stock from the Hayden ranch before he
wipes them out.
Mostly, though, it’s a Romeo-and-Juliet yarn, with a very young, and at this
stage of his career rather wooden, Randolph Scott playing Lynn Hayden, who
falls for Ellen Colby, the daughter of his family’s arch-enemy. Ellen is played
by an actress I’d never heard of, Esther Ralston, and she pretty much steals
the movie with her portrayal of a beautiful but badass frontier girl. Evidently
Ralston had a long and successful career in silent films but played mostly
supporting roles once the talkies came in. That’s a shame, because she’s great
in this one.
Elsewhere in the cast, the main villains are played by Jack La Rue and Noah
Beery Sr. La Rue, who usually played evil gangsters, is an evil cowboy in this
movie and is thoroughly despicable. Barton MacLane, Fuzzy Knight, and an also very
young Buster Crabbe are members of the Hayden family, as is an uncredited
Shirley Temple. John Carradine is supposed to be in the movie, too, in one of
those blink-and-you-missed-it roles, and I must have blinked.
There’s a lot of action in TO THE LAST MAN, and it’s well-staged by director
Henry Hathaway, with some good stunt and miniature work. Since this is a
pre-Code movie, the action is rather bleak and brutal at times, and we get a
couple of flashes of nudity, too, in a skinny-dipping scene with Ralston.
I enjoyed this film quite a bit. If you’re interested in early Westerns, it’s
well worth watching.
HEADQUARTERS DETECTIVE is a pulp that lasted only a few issues, but there were some good writers in its pages. This one features stories by Frederick C. Davis, George Harmon Coxe, Steve Fisher, Norman A. Daniels, and George A. McDonald, among others. With a lineup like that, I'm sure it was good reading.
Nice cover by the great H.W. Scott on this issue of SPEED WESTERN, and inside there's a very strong group of writers including Wayne D. Overholser, Walker A. Tompkins, Giles A. Lutz, Frank C. Robertson, and John Jo Carpenter (John Reese). If that's a salvage market pulp, I'll take it.
I've seen Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson's name on many pulp
covers over the years, but as far as I recall, I've read little if anything by
him. So I decided to remedy that and started off with THE SCARLET KILLER AND
OTHER STORIES, a collection of half a dozen yarns that all appeared in the pulp
THRILLING ADVENTURES in 1932.
The book starts off with "Guarded by Fire" (March), which finds
American engineer Jack Nelson in Paris, where he meets a beautiful young
Russian woman who holds the key to a fabulous treasure that's hidden somewhere
in her homeland. There seems to be a bit of a Dashiell Hammett influence in
this story. There's a sinister fat man, a weaselly little Soviet agent who
could easily be played by Peter Lorre, and of course the treasure that everyone
is after. Even with all that going for it, the story is still a bit on the
bland side. Not bad, but it seemed lacking in action and drama to me.
The scene shifts to the Texas/Mexico border country for "Fire and
Sword" (September), a fairly short, simple action yarn about a clash
between the U.S. cavalry and a gang of bandidos
from south of the border. I think this one is set in the early 20th
Century, the Pancho Villa era, if you will, but Wheeler-Nicholson isn't very
specific about that. It's an entertaining story, although there's not much to
It's back to Russia for the title novella (April), during the revolution when
U.S. army troops were sent to Siberia to protect American interests there. The
protagonist is a two-fisted American mining engineer who tries to rescue a
beautiful young woman from a bloodthirsty Bolshevik warlord known as the
Scarlet Killer. This one has a lot of action, with Cossacks charging around and
battling Bolsheviks, not to mention a really gruesome murder method employed by
the Scarlet Killer. The biggest drawback in this one is that the hero is dumb
as a rock. But to be fair, he hadn't read hundreds of pulp stories and so was
less likely to recognize all the bad guys' tricks.
As you’d guess from the title, “The Scourge of Islam” (October) is a Middle Eastern
adventure, as French crusader Hugh de Galliard, the only survivor from a group
of crusaders on their way to meet Genghis Khan, falls in love with a beautiful
girl, gets mixed up in Persian politics, is captured, escapes, teams up with
ol’ Genghis, and generally does a bunch of hacking and slashing. The epic
battle scenes are well-done and reminiscent of Robert E. Howard’s crusader
yarns. There’s a grisly execution method on this one, too. The ending is a bit
of a letdown, but overall this is a good story and my favorite in this
“The Fame of Albert Muggins” (November) is a comedy about a meek, weaselly
British soldier in Hong Kong, just before World War I, who finally explodes
under the mistreatment by his sergeant and wallops the non-com, then strikes an
officer as well and deserts his unit, escaping Hong Kong by stowing away on a
Spanish ship. This leads to a series of mildly amusing adventures. As a comedy,
this isn’t much, but Wheeler-Nicholson does an excellent job with the setting.
This collection wraps up with “The Dumb Bunny” (December), another story about
U.S. troops in Russia at the time of the revolution. In this one, a Bolshevik
plot to massacre a bunch of Americans is foiled by an unlikely hero. The
closing twist is a nice one, although it probably worked better and came as
more of a surprise in 1932.
Overall, my introduction to the work of Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson was
entertaining but not outstanding. He clearly knew his stuff when it comes to
military matters and was knowledgable about a wide swath of history. He came up
with some great concepts as well, but in these stories at least, the execution
is on the ordinary side for the most part. More colorful protagonists and a
little more blood and thunder would have helped. I have two more
Wheeler-Nicholson collections, and I enjoyed THE SCARLET KILLER AND OTHER
STORIES enough that I’ll certainly read them.
In thirteen take-no-prisoners pulp yarns, Robert E. Howard scholar Fred Blosser caroms from the Old West to the noirish streets of urban America, and then beneath the earth itself, into a primitive world of savagery, to slam you silly with the best in pulp fiction. By bullet and sword, fist and fortune, Blosser's square-jawed yet often brutal heroes face down the worst that evil has to offer: Ringo and Horn blow away bootleggers, outlaws, Mafia thugs and assassins, and other lowlifes, from the backstreets to the backwoods. Commander Manta and Agent Gila battle the hallucinogenic horrors of a would-be world conqueror in Washington, D.C. Dax the Go-Run struggles to survive in the savage, subterranean world of Kaal-Dur, as he goes in quest of a captive princess. All this, and hitmen vs Cthulhu, too. You can't go wrong with hitmen vs Cthulhu. Plus, Blosser serves up a quintology of non-fiction analyses of such pulp topics as Dashiell Hammett's "Nightmare Town" and the Mafia novels of Richard Posner.
In a movie possibly inspired by the real-life Cal Farley's Boys Ranch, Gabby Hayes plays a kind-hearted cattleman who runs a home for orphans and wayward boys near Lodestone, Arizona. Unfortunately, one of the boys is actually the son of notorious bank robber King Blaine, who has been sending loot to the kid for him to cache on the ranch. The boy doesn't know what he's been doing; he's just hiding the packages his father sends to him, as requested. Then King Blaine is shot and killed by a sheriff, and the members of his gang descend on the ranch to try to recover the loot. An added complication is the fact that the local banker (a very stereotypical female battleaxe) is about to foreclose on Gabby's ranch. Luckily for Gabby, his old friend (and former resident of the boys' home) Roy Rogers shows up to sort everything out, catch the bad guys, and sing a few songs with a Kansas City nightclub entertainer played by Dale Evans. SONG OF ARIZONA has most of the right elements: Roy, Dale, Gabby, the Sons of the Pioneers (although somewhat depleted by the fact that a few of them hadn't yet returned from serving in the military during World War II when this was filmed), and a couple of decent villains in Lyle Talbot and Dick Curtis. Unfortunately, it comes from the era between directors Joseph Kane and William Witney when Frank McDonald was helming Roy's pictures, and McDonald's entries in the long-running series are the weakest. In this case, everything is just too mild and heart-warming. The action pales next to what was coming up under Witney, and the musical numbers are lackluster compared to the extravaganzas staged by Kane (who also did action better than McDonald). So why watch it? Well, it's Roy, who was one of the best horsemen of all the movie cowboys and fun to watch as he chases down the bad guys. Gabby says "Durned tootin'!" There are a couple of decent stunts. And in my case, I thought I had seen all the Roy Rogers movies, but I didn't remember this one at all while I was watching it, which means I either missed it or saw it so long ago I'd completely forgotten it. Either way, that makes it an Overlooked Movie as far as I'm concerned.
Middle-aged Frank Raven used to be a lot of things—a blind monk, a cop, a private detective, and a hard drinker. Now he doesn’t do much except run a funky old movie theater in bucolic Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, dance and sing with the local troupe of Morris Dancers, and record bird songs on his phone. A lanky young wunderkind director, Nick Mooney, brings his Hollywood film crew to town and hires the “retired” Raven to protect his star: the wild, unpredictable, gorgeous, and prodigiously talented twenty-one-year-old Juliana Velvet Norcross, aka VelCro. Reluctant at first, Raven takes on the job and slowly sees that there is more to VelCro than the troubled rebel she appears to be. She probes the former monk for his thoughts on God, love, and the soul. But Raven has renounced many of his former beliefs, and VelCro’s questions cause him to re-examine his life. On the eve of filming, storms ravage the small village, and the river that runs through the center of town floods its banks. VelCro becomes ill and withdraws into the care of Sarah, the eighteen-year-old daughter of Frank’s girlfriend, Clara. The storm passes, VelCro recovers, and filming begins. But during the first shot, she is swept away into the river, leaving no trace. What role did VelCro’s director play in her life? Did she fall? Did she jump? Was she pushed? Frank and Sarah are driven to find out what happened. Here's the blurb I gave this book after I read an advance copy: If you'd asked me whether it was possible to come up with a new take on the private eye novel at this late date, I might have said probably not. But I would have been wrong because that's exactly what Fred DeVecca has done with THE NUTTING GIRL. Yes, Frank Raven is an ex-cop and ex-private detective who drinks too much and is haunted by his past, like so many of his fictional brethren, but he does so in the small, idyllic town of Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, where he's also part of a Morris Dancing group and records bird songs on his phone. He's also a former monk. When a Hollywood director arrives in Shelburne Falls to make a movie, a beautiful starlet goes missing, and it's up to Raven to find out what happened to her. With its offbeat protagonist, vividly rendered settings, and lyrical prose, THE NUTTING GIRL is one of the best debut private eye novels in a long time, and I'm eager to read whatever Fred DeVecca comes up with next. This really is an excellent novel and well worth reading.
There are only two stories in this issue of MARVEL SCIENCE STORIES, one by John Taine and the other by Harl Vincent. I know both names, but I don't think I've ever read anything by either of those authors. Maybe someone can tell me about them. In the meantime, I'll just look at that Norman Saunders cover, thank you.
Well, artist Albert Drake has certainly put his hero and heroine in quite a predicament on the cover of this issue of WESTERN ACES. I'm sure they'll get out of it, though. Inside this issue are stories by one of my favorites, J. Edward Leithead (one under his own name and one under his pseudonym Wilson L. Covert), Joe Archibald, Cliff Walters, Galen C. Colin, and others. I like that title, "Enough Rope for the Hangman".
THE EASY GUN is one of those novels that comes out of
nowhere and takes you by surprise. Published by Fawcett Gold Medal in 1970 and
promptly forgotten, it’s about 95% of a great Western. As for the unfortunate
other 5% . . . well, more about that later.
The story begins in El Paso with Big John Easy, a brawling gambler/con
man/outlaw who’s trying to go straight because he knows he’s set a bad example
for his 20-year-old son, also named John but known as Little Easy. The name is
ironic, because Little Easy is a massive six-and-a-half foot tall bruiser, even
bigger and tougher than Big John.
A dispute with a cattle buyer/gunfighter known as Long Gone Magoffin (this book
is full of great character names) leaves Big John dead and Little Easy on the
trail of the killer. Little Easy doesn’t know Magoffin’s name, but he knows the
man he’s after carries a gun with a fancy silver decoration on its black grips.
The trail leads to Ellsworth, Kansas, where Magoffin works for the villainous
Porter Jessup, a bizarre character who’s been in a wheelchair all his life
because of his crippled legs, but that doesn’t stop him from being truly evil
and establishing a criminal empire in Ellsworth, aided by his mute, giant,
former prizefighter henchman Burgoo.
If you’re worried that I’m giving away too much of the plot, all this happens
very quickly, and anyway, the real appeal of THE EASY GUN is the way Parsons
takes a whole heap of Western stereotypes (there’s even a crusading newspaper
editor who happens to be a blond, beautiful young woman) and turns most of them
upside down. Hardly anybody turns out to be exactly what you’d expect them to
be, although the plot plays out in a fairly predictable fashion, up to a point.
The writing is very good for the most part, leading up to a violent, epic
And that’s where THE EASY GUN drops the ball. Parsons rushes through the
ending, devoting only a few paragraphs to the apocalyptic battle that should
have been much more than it is. The last few pages of the book don’t work at
all, as far as I’m concerned. Earlier, Parsons had played very fast and loose
with the history and geography of Texas, which bothered me, but I would have
been willing to overlook that because I was really enjoying his style and
characters. That ending, though . . . I just can’t see it.
E.M. Parsons was best known as a TV writer, turning out scripts for various
Western and detective series in the Fifties and Sixties. As far as I can tell,
he published only three novels, all Westerns: TEXAS HELLER, from Dell in 1959;
FARGO, from Gold Medal in 1968; and THE EASY GUN, also from Gold Medal in 1970,
the same year he passed away. I have copies of the other two but haven’t read
them yet. I will, based on all the things I liked about THE EASY GUN. Maybe
I’ll like the endings better in the others. And it’s certainly possible
somebody else might think the ending of THE EASY GUN is just fine. Your
mileage, as the saying goes, may vary.
During the war years, BLUE BOOK got away from using historical covers as much and added some contemporary ones to the mix. This one by Herbert Morton Stoops features British tanks in the North African campaign and is excellent. BLUE BOOK always had a great blend of fiction as well, and this issue is no different with stories by H. Bedford-Jones (a BLUE BOOK regular, and this issue is a little unusual in that it has only one story by him, with nothing by his pseudonyms Gordon Keyne or Michael Gallister), Georges Surdez, Peter B. Kyne, Arch Whitehouse, Irvin S. Cobb, Jacland Marmur, Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, and Samuel Taylor.
An excellent, action-packed cover on this issue of BIG-BOOK WESTERN MAGAZINE. I don't know who the artist was, but he did a good job. Inside are stories by William Colt MacDonald, Ed Earl Repp, James P. Olsen, Art Lawson, Foster-Harris, and J.E. Grinstead, all top-notch pulpsters. Hard to beat a Popular Publications Western pulp.
"Children of the Sun" is the second of the Captain
Future novellas to appear in the pulp STARTLING STORIES (the May 1950 issue)
after the character was on a long hiatus. In this one, Curt Newton, the
adventurer/scientist known as Captain Future, and his three friends,
brain-in-a-box Simon Wright, android Otho, and robot Grag, are searching for a
fellow scientist who disappeared while doing research on Vulcan, a planetoid
circling the Sun inside the orbit of Mercury.
Author Edmond Hamilton, with a likely assist from his wife Leigh Brackett, does
a great job of world-building in this story. It seems from the context that
Vulcan appeared in an earlier Captain Future yarn, but if that's the case I
don't know which one. That background isn't necessary to enjoy this story,
which does a perfectly fine job of getting the reader up to speed. Vulcan is an
interesting world and seems at least sort of scientifically plausible. It's one
of those inner worlds like Pellucidar and Skartaris and is inhabited by
primitive descendants of colonists from the Old Empire, which collapsed
millennia earlier, as well as the strange creatures known as Children of the
It's not really a spoiler to say that Captain Future and his friends find the
scientist they're looking for, although how they go about it requires some
heavy-duty suspension of disbelief. To be honest I kind of struggled with that,
which is the main reason I didn't like this story as much as the previous one.
But it's very well-written, has the same sort of epic scope to it despite the
relatively short length, and once again uses a poignant, offbeat ending to
great effect. This is intelligent, big-idea, well-written space opera, just the
sort of science fiction I like.
I like a good historical costume drama, and while THE WHITE
QUEEN, a BBC mini-series from 2013 that ran on the cable channel Starz in the
U.S., isn’t quite a top-notch entry in that genre, it’s certainly watchable.
I imagine some of the people who watched this said, “Hey, what a rip-off! They
just stole the plot from GAME OF THRONES. Lancasters and Yorks? Come on!” Yep,
it’s the War of the Roses again, beginning in this version with King Edward’s
secret marriage to Elizabeth Woodville that kicks off all sorts of intrigue and
violence over the next twenty years, culminating with Henry Tudor’s defeat of
Richard III to become King Henry VII. I’m no expert on British history, but I
know just enough that I had a pretty good idea what was going to happen all the
THE WHITE QUEEN, based on several novels by Philippa Gregory, indulges in a
little historical speculation here and there, mostly about what really happened
to the princes in the Tower of London. Many years ago, I read a mystery novel
by Josephine Tey called THE DAUGHTER OF TIME, which features a British police
inspector passing the time while he’s recuperating from an injury by trying to
figure out what really happened to the princes. I remember thinking it was very
good, and I ought to reread it one of these days. But to get back to THE WHITE
QUEEN, I thought it did a reasonably good job of sticking to the history, but
that may be because, like I said above, I’m no expert.
I didn’t recognize anybody in the cast except one of the villains, but they all
do a pretty good job. There’s quite a bit of scenery-chewing, but it works in
context. An apparently low budget kind of hurts this production, though.
Whenever there’s a scene with the “armies” of the various contenders for the
throne, the so-called army usually consists of maybe two dozen guys standing
around. Then later, somebody will burst into a scene in some castle and
exclaim, “There’s just been a huge battle! Their guys beat our guys!” Or vice
versa. There are a couple of actual battle scenes, but they’re small-scale and
not very well-staged, with a lot of that quick-cut editing to disguise the fact
that there are only a couple dozen guys in the armies.
So why watch THE WHITE QUEEN? The history behind the story actually is pretty
dramatic and interesting, and it’s very much a real-life soap opera. And
there’s one aspect in which THE WHITE QUEEN maybe even outdoes GAME OF THRONES:
gratuitous nudity. Lots and lots of gratuitious nudity. So if you watch it, you
know what you’re getting into, as the actress said to the bishop.
I used to own a copy of this pulp many years ago, but I don't recall if I ever read it. I remember that cover by Walter Popp, though. My old editor and mentor Sam Merwin Jr. has a story in this issue, as does John Jakes. The other authors are E.K. Jarvis (a house name), William Morrison (who was really Joseph Samachson), and Ralph Sholto, about whom I know absolutely nothing. But it's an eye-catching cover and I always found FANTASTIC ADVENTURES to be fun.
You can't ask for much more out of a Western pulp than this issue of DIME WESTERN delivers. Start with a colorful, exciting cover by Walter Baumhofer and then add stories by Harry F. Olmsted, Walt Coburn, E.B. Mann, Gunnison Steele, John G. Pearsol, Miles Overholt, and more. And that's just a normal issue for this great pulp.
I read this novella, which originally appeared in the May 1955 issue of the legendary crime fiction digest MANHUNT, after I’d reread the
L’Amour novel and written my post about it. But “We Are All Dead” is good
enough and fits the day’s theme perfectly, so I decided I’d do a second post.
I haven’t read a lot of Bruno Fischer’s work, but what I have read has been
very good. “We Are All Dead” is the story of a payroll robbery and what happens
afterward. As if the title’s not enough to establish what’s coming, the first
line gives you a pretty good idea that things aren’t going to work out well for
the guys involved: The caper went off without a hitch except that Wally Garden got plugged.
But it’s getting to that noir ending that matters, and Fischer takes us on a
harrowing, suspenseful, very well-written ride with plot twists galore. I have
to admit, I saw the final big twist coming, but that didn’t detract any from my
enjoyment of Fischer’s pure yarn-spinning ability. This story has been
reprinted at least once, in THE NEW MAMMOTH BOOK OF PULP FICTION, and it’s also available as an e-book from Amazon. It’s
well worth seeking out, and it’s also made me feel like I need to read
something else by Fischer in the near future.
I first read this novel more than 35 years ago and
remembered that I liked it quite a bit. It's also one of Louis L'Amour's novels
that you don't hear much about, and a bank robbery is the driving factor in the
plot, so it seemed like a good choice to reread for Forgotten Heist Novels
After holding up a bank doesn't net them as much money as they expected, a gang
consisting of four men decide to rob a bank in another town that's famous for
never being held up successfully. The leader of the bunch is Considine; Dutch
is the explosives expert; Hardy is a young gunman; and the Kiowa is a tracker,
scout, and highly efficient killer. Considine has always avoided hitting this
particular bank because it's in his hometown, and the local marshal is his
former best friend who wound up marrying the girl they both loved.
HIGH LONESOME has the classic three-part heist novel setup: the planning, the
job itself, the getaway and pursuit. Complications, as they always do, ensue.
In this case the main complications are an old man and his beautiful daughter,
who are being stalked by Apaches. Do the outlaws get away, or do they risk
their freedom and their lives to help these pilgrims?
This novel held up very well on rereading. It's still my third favorite L'Amour
novel after TO TAME A LAND and FLINT. I'm not as big a fan of L'Amour's work as
many Western readers. His novels tend to have a repetitiveness and lack of
attention to detail, and there's a little of that in HIGH LONESOME, but for the
most part it's very tight and well-written. The second half of the book,
following the bank robbery, is especially suspenseful and effective. There's
one of those long, brutal fistfights you get sometimes in L'Amour books, and
plenty of other action as well. When he was at the top of his game, L'Amour was
very good indeed, and that's true in this novel. It works as both a crime novel
and a Western, and I'm glad this week's theme on Forgotten Books gave me a good
excuse to reread it. Recommended.
Here we have another of those self-referential covers: an issue of ADVENTURE with a guy sitting in front of a fireplace reading . . . an issue of ADVENTURE. The art, which I think is pretty good, is by an artist I've never heard of: Hibberd V.B. Kline (the V.B. stands for Van Buren). Is the premise a little cute? Yeah, but I think it works okay here. Inside the issue, there's no question about the authors: W.C. Tuttle, Gordon Young, Talbot Mundy, Gordon MacCreagh, J. Allan Dunn, and S.B.H. Hurst. That's a really strong bunch of writers.
Submissions for the 8th Annual WF Peacemaker Awards are now being accepted for works originally published in the year 2017.
First time in print must be between January 1, 2017, and December 31, 2017, no reprints or revisions. Limit of 2 entries per category. Books and short stories may be published in any country in the world (submissions must be in English) in print or electronic format. Electronic submissions must be made with Kindle/mobi or Word/text files. WF reserves the right to decline any submission for consideration of an Award.
Authors, agents, or publishers may submit a work for consideration of an Award.
At least three entrants in a category must be received during the submission period for an Award to be presented.
Novels and short stories must be set in the time period between 1830-1920 to be considered Westerns under WF guidelines. Time periods beyond the 1830-1920 traditional western focus may be included in submissions as long as the periods outside of the 1830-1920 span constitute no more than 50% of the story. At least 50% of the story MUST TAKE PLACE in the 1830-1920 period. NO EXCEPTIONS.
Nominees for the WF Peacemaker Award will be announced on 05/15/2018 and the winners will be announced on 06/15/2018.
The WF Peacemaker Award will be awarded in four categories:
Best Western Novel – Any novel published during the award year set in the appropriate time period (1830-1920), 30,000 words and higher. There are no format requirements. The novel may be a hardcover, trade paperback, mass market paperback, or eBook.
Best Western YA/Children Fiction– Any fiction written for ages 1-17 published during the award year set in the appropriate time period (1830-1920). May be a hardcover, trade paperback, mass market paperback, or eBook.
Best Western Short Fiction – Any short story, novelette, or novella published during the award year set in the appropriate time period (1830-1920), 500 words to 29,999 words. There are no format requirements. The short story may be published in any publication, print or electronic.
Best Western First Novel – Must meet the same requirements as Best Novel, and must be the author’s first published Western novel. If the author has published novels in any other genre they will not disqualify the author from the Best Western First Novel Award competition. Submissions for Best Western First Novel may also be submitted in the Best Novel category in the same year.
If sending print form, one copy of the work must be sent to each judge (3 per category), and the Awards Chair for a total of four, accompanied with the appropriate form. Electronic versions should be emailed to the Awards Chair, James Reasoner with the appropriate submission form. The electronic submissions will be distributed to the judges by the Awards Chair. All entries must be postmarked or received via email by midnight, CST, January 15, 2018. Judges should not be contacted by any entrant concerning their entry during the consideration period. Doing so may result in disqualification of eligibility for the WF Peacemaker Award. Works submitted will not be returned after the awards have been announced. There is no fee to enter. There will be no exceptions made to the submission procedures, for any reason.
Links to forms to include are at the bottom of the list of judges. You will need 4 copies for each printed entry, one for each judge and one for the Awards Chair.
I don't know who the cover artist is on this issue of THRILLING WESTERN, but I think it's pretty good although I'm not that fond of extreme close-ups on pulp covers. I'm certainly fond of a couple of the authors in this issue, though: A. Leslie Scott, one of my favorites, writing as A. Leslie with a railroading yarn, a subject he handled very well, along with the always dependable Lee Bond. The other stories are by Sam Brant (a house-name, so who knows), Cibolo Ford (a name that sounds like a pseudonym, but I don't know if it was or not), Victor Kaufman (an author I know nothing about), and William S. Sullivan, whose story in this issue is his only credit in the Fictionmags Index. I'd read this issue anyway, if only for the Scott and Bond stories; if the others are any good, it would be a nice bonus.
PARADISE THAT TIME FORGOT, from the Fall 1940 issue of JUNGLE STORIES, seems to
mark the arrival of yet another new writer behind the John Peter Drummond house-name, especially during the
first half of the novel, which is more low-key and realistic than the volumes
that have come before. Ki-Gor and Helene come across an expedition led by three
Americans: a brutal, alcoholic doctor; his meek, long-suffering wife; and an
equally meek anthropologist who is the couple's friend. They're supposed to be
in Africa to hunt gorillas, but really the wife and friend are trying to force
the doctor to dry out from his booze binges. This domestic drama is a decidedly
odd fit for a jungle adventure story.
Then part of the way through, everything lurches sideways and this becomes a
lost race yarn, and one with a fairly interesting and plausible basis, too.
Naturally, Ki-Gor, Helene, and the bickering Americans get trapped in the
hidden valley where the lost race lives and wind up in danger. Then another
abrupt shift in the plot and danger from another source rears its head. This
story gets a little schizophrenic after a while.
There's no Tembo George, no Bantu tribesmen. Ki-Gor's sidekick is a pygmy named
Ngeeso, and he's a pretty good character. Ki-Gor and Helene now live on an
island in the middle of a river, something I don't remember from previous
stories. But overall, KI-GOR—AND THE PARADISE THAT TIME FORGOT is well-written
other than not being able to make up its mind what sort of story it's going to
be. It has just enough going for it to be readable and entertaining, in a very
minor way. At the very least, it's an improvement over the previous novel in
Arizona Territory is heating up—and Kate and J.D. Blaze are about to get burned! A fanatical Apache medicine man is determined to bring about all-out war between his people and the army, and he's doing it by slaughtering as many white settlers as he can find. Kate and J.D. are drawn into this dangerous situation when a woman and her children are kidnapped by the Apache raiders and intended for a gruesome sacrifice. The Old West's only team of husband-and-wife gunfighters will need all their cunning and deadly skill to bring the captives back alive and stop the medicine man's scheme to flood the desert with blood! Legendary adventure writer Michael Newton is back with another gritty, fast-action novel filled with all the passion and excitement of the Old West.
The first exchange of dialogue in this movie is between Jack Elam and Clayton Moore. That right there ought to be enough to tell you whether you'd want to watch it, even though to be honest, and to get this out of the way right from the start, it's not very good. This is another Western that I'd never heard of before watching it recently. It's based on the real-life activities of Sheriff Henry Plummer, the notorious outlaw sheriff whose gang of thieves and cutthroats plagued the Montana gold fields, even while Plummer was pretending to be trying to catch them. In this version, Lon McCallister plays a young man who is duped by Plummer (played by an old, paunchy Preston Foster) into becoming a deputy without knowing that he's really working for the bad guys. Cute Wanda Hendrix, wearing tight jeans, toting a Winchester, and looking like she stepped right off a RANCH ROMANCES cover, plays the daughter of a stagecoach station owner who is an uneasy ally of the outlaws. Inevitably, as it did in history, a group of vigilantes is formed to go after the outlaws, and that sets the stage for the final confrontation. To get the bad stuff out of the way first, Clayton Moore is badly miscast as Plummer's chief henchman. With a mustache and goatee, he looks great, but he should have been the hero of this movie. When that distinctive voice of his rolls out, there's no way I could believe he's evil, although Moore tries hard, I'll give him credit for that. Which brings us to the movie's biggest weakness, bland little Lon McCallister, who might have made a halfway decent Audie Murphy-type hero if the script had given him anything to work with. Instead, his character is the dumbest, most useless protagonist I think I've ever seen in a Western. Honestly, Don Knotts in THE SHAKIEST GUN IN THE WEST is more of a Western hero than McCallister. On the plus side, there's plenty of action, including stagecoach chases, gunfights, and some decent stunt work. Wanda Hendrix looks good, Jack Elam has a fine time playing a club-footed, hatchet-wielding killer named Gimp, and Preston Foster seems to be channeling Roy Barcroft and Charles King in his performance as Henry Plummer. If you want a much better fictionalization of this story, read Robert E. Howard's great short novel THE VULTURES OF WAHPETON. I can't really recommend MONTANA TERRITORY as a movie, but I'm glad I watched it, for whatever that's worth.
Okay, now that's a creepy cover! It's by an artist I hadn't heard of named Victor Julius. I don't know if I would have bought that issue if I'd seen it staring out at me from the newsstand in 1933, but I would have noticed it, that's for sure. On the other hand, I might have bought it if I'd had an extra dime in my pocket, because inside are stories by Erle Stanley Gardner, E. Hoffmann Price, Arthur J. Burks, and Frederick C. Painton, all excellent writers. Don't know how well I would have slept that night, though, with that thing in the room with me.
ROMANTIC WESTERN was the Spicy imprint's answer to RANCH ROMANCES, I suppose, and it looks like it had some pretty good authors appearing in it. All the stories in this issue except one were published under pseudonyms: James P. Olsen writing as James A. Lawson, John A. Saxon writing as Rex Norman, Laurence Donovan writing as Larry Dunn, Robert Leslie Bellem writing as Jerome Severs Perry (a reprint of a story originally published in SPICY WESTERN under Bellem's name), and E. Hoffmann Price writing as John Prentice (Prentice being a house-name but this particular story is another reprint from SPICY WESTERN of a yarn published under the name Hamlin Daly, which was Price's exclusive pseudonym, as far as I know). Got all that? The only other story in the issue is by Jean Beaumont, who has only two credits in the Fictionmags Index, both from ROMANTIC WESTERN in 1938, so that may well be a pseudonym or house-name, too. That reprint information by the way, was compiled by the late Glenn Lord, who in addition to being the world's greatest Robert E. Howard fan also probably knew more about the Spicy pulps than just about anybody. I miss Glenn and am honored that I was able to call him a friend for a number of years. I think there's a lot of good reading in the Spicy pulps, and although I've never read an issue of ROMANTIC WESTERN, or even seen one, I'm sure I would enjoy it.
second novel (or novella, to be more accurate) featuring Kid Calvert and the
Calvert Horde is "Hell's Recruit", which appeared in the March 1935
issue of WESTERN ACES with the usual great cover by Rafael DeSoto. In this very fast-paced yarn, everybody is after the
notorious bank robber Eagle Hawn: our band of noble owlhoots, the forces of the
law led by Sheriff Terry Reynolds, and a gang of Mexican bandits ramrodded by
the evil and mostly insane Blade Morales. The reason all these factions want to
get hold of Eagle Hawn is because he's pulled off a series of robberies and has
cached a fortune in stolen gold, but no one knows where it is except him. And while
everybody is chasing after Hawn and his loot, Kid Calvert and Terry Reynolds
once more have to deal with their doomed love affair—doomed because they're on
opposite sides of the law and always will be.
If anything, this story is even more melodramatic and over-the-top than
Richards' previous effort, "Horde of Hated Men". The breathless,
breakneck action seldom slows down, and when it does, there's enough angst to
fill up two or three normal Western pulps. This oddball blend of shoot-em-up
and soap opera works better than it has any right to and really kept me
flipping the pages (well, digital pages, since I'm reading the ebook edition of
THE COMPLETE ADVENTURES OF KID CALVERT). However, modern readers should be
aware that "Hell's Recruit" is about as politically incorrect as it
can get. This doesn't bother me, since I know when it was written and
published, but it might some people. It also has a fairly large hole in the
plot involving the hidden gold, and I would have sworn that Terry Reynolds was
a brunette in the first two stories, not a blonde as she is here.
But despite all that, I had a heck of a good time reading "Hell's
Recruit". I really like the Kid and his band of heroic outlaws. There are
two more novellas in their saga, and I'm eager to read them.
Not only had I never seen this Western movie, I don't think I'd ever even heard of it until we watched it recently. It's certainly a little unusual for the time period in that there are no real "good guys". Four ex-cons are released from Yuma Prison and go after the loot from a hold-up that was hidden before they went to prison. The twist is that one of them (played by John Hodiak) wasn't even part of the robbery. He was just an innocent cowboy swept up by the posse when the others were captured. The actual fourth man who was in on the job got away, and the others are supposed to meet him and claim their shares of the loot. Hodiak wants a share, too, because he did the time even though he didn't do the crime. But the fourth man is dead, and nobody knows where the money is, except that it's supposed to be hidden in the town of Tomahawk Gap, and there are Apaches on the war path, and when they get to Tomahawk Gap it's a ghost town, deserted except for a crazy old geezer who's taking care of the graveyard, and they also have a girl on their hands, a Navajo prisoner they rescued from the Apaches, and it's a question of whether they'll all kill each other before they find the loot or will the Apaches get them? That's a long sentence, but that's the way the plot tumbles out in this movie, not always making complete sense but never slowing down, either. In addition to Hodiak, the guys after the money are David Brian (a suitably despicable villain), veteran character actor Ray Teal, and an incredibly young John Derek. The crazy old geezer is played by another great character actor, John Qualen (with no Swedish accent this time), and yet another great character actor, Percy Helton, has a small part early on. This is a good cast, and the production values are high for the most part. Lots of good stunt work during the Indian battles. The fistfights are embarrassingly bad, though, with the actors clearly missing each other by a foot or more. This could have easily been one of those hardboiled Western novels published by Gold Medal in the Fifties, by Lewis B. Patten or William Heuman or Harry Whittington. The bleak tone it achieves works really well. I'm not sure why I never ran across AMBUSH AT TOMAHAWK GAP before, but I'm glad I watched it now.
That's kind of a busy cover on this issue of PLANET STORIES, but the art is by Virgil Finlay, so I'm not complaining. There's a really strong line-up of authors inside, too, including Leigh Brackett, Raymond Z. Gallun, Nelson S. Bond, Ross Rocklynne, Ray Cummings, Henry Hasse, and Frederic A. Kummer, Jr. PLANET STORIES was always fun.
I really like the Fifties issues of RANCH ROMANCES. Generally great covers, of which this is another one, and top-notch authors. This issue includes stories by Frank C. Robertson, Joseph Chadwick, S. Omar Barker, Bryce Walton, Chandler Whipple, and Cy Kees.
I must have read
hundreds of comic books written by Gardner Fox when I was growing up, but at
that time I had no idea he was also a novelist. The only books by him that I
read were his sexy spy novels in the Lady From L.U.S.T. series, which he wrote
as Rod Gray. I figured Rod Gray was a real guy and never dreamed he was the
same person writing all those issues of THE FLASH and JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA
I read. Anyway, I've since learned that Fox was a prolific paperbacker and
wrote quite a bit of science fiction and fantasy under his own name, including
a couple of sword and sorcery series. I've seen these books around for years
and finally read one of them, KOTHAR: BARBARIAN SWORDSMAN, the first book in
the Kothar series.
Kothar is a mercenary swordsman from the northern land of Cumberia (any
resemblance to Cimmeria is totally coincidental, I'm sure), although he wasn't
born there. He was found as an infant in a boat that washed up in a bay, and
his true origins are unknown, at least when this book opens. Maybe his history
will be revealed later on. This volume consists of three related novellas,
which as far as I can tell were written for it, instead of being published
elsewhere and then collected here.
In the first story, "The Sword of the Sorcerer", Kothar is working as
a captain of foreign mercenaries in the land of Commoral, which is engaged in a
civil war between the witch Red Lori, who has claimed the throne through
sorcerous means, and Elfa, the rightful queen. Both women, of course, are
breathtaking beautiful. After a battle against Lori's forces in which he's the
only survivor, Kothar stumbles over the crypt of an ancient wizard who gives
him a magic sword and commands him to help Queen Elfa regain the throne. The
only catch is that whoever possesses the enchanted blade Frostfire can't own
anything else valuable, which amounts of a vow of poverty. With that in mind,
off Kothar goes to battle a sea monster, rescue another wizard who's on Elfa's
side, and hack and slash with a bunch of Red Lori's soldiers before finally
battling the witch in a final showdown. I don't think it's too much of a
spoiler to reveal that Kothar wins and Elfa's kingdom is restored to her.
The second story, "The Treasure in the Labyrinth", finds Kothar being
hired by a wealthy merchant to penetrate to the center of a labyrinth filled
with deadly traps and steal the treasure that's supposed to be hidden there. No
one knows what that treasure is, but everyone believes it's something immensely
valuable. Kothar, naturally enough, battles his way to the center of the
labyrinth, taking on several different supernatural menaces including a giant
spider, rescues a beautiful girl, and eventually recovers the treasure. There's
a twist, of course, but it's not too obvious and turns out to be fairly
satisfying. Even more than the first story, this one shows a lot of Robert E.
"The Woman in the Witch-Wood" is the Lady Alaine, a sorceress who's
been trapped there by an evil warlock who has taken over her castle. When
Kothar meets her, of course he agrees to defeat the warlock and lift the spell
holding Alaine in the evil woods. This leads to Kothar battling all sorts of
mystical dangers that the warlock throws at him, then squaring off against the
wizard himself. This final story in the book has a very nice twist at the end
that I didn't see coming.
Kothar makes one big mistake in this book: he leaves Red Lori alive, and
although she doesn't really play a part in the other stories, I have a hunch
she'll show up again in later books in the series to cause more trouble for
So what did I think of KOTHAR: BARBARIAN SWORDSMAN? Well, starting out, it
struck me as generic, derivative, and downright silly. And really . . . it is.
But somehow Fox won me over. His writing is vivid and fast-paced and has plenty
of action, as well as being appropriately creepy when it needs to be. And the
plots, while very typical of the genre, take an interesting turn here and
there. Plus Kothar is a likable protagonist, not the smartest guy around but
not exactly dumb, either, and certainly stalwart when it comes to battling
evil. Novellas like these are the perfect antidote to the enormous doorstopper
endless series that have come to dominate heroic fantasy. I had a lot of fun
reading this book. I have the other four books in the series and suspect that
I'll get around to them, too.
CIA agent Scott Stiletto is back in Brian Drake’s latest
novel THE FAIRMONT MANEUVER, and as usual, it’s a fast-paced espionage thriller
with plenty of action. In this one, Scott rescues a Swiss scientist who’s being
blackmailed by the Iranians into building triggers for nuclear bombs. That’s
just the beginning, though, as Scott then answers a call for help from an
ex-CIA colleague and former lover whose father has been murdered by mobsters
trying to pressure her into selling her fashion design business. Why would
mobsters want to take over a fashion design business, you ask? Well, in a
clever plot twist from Drake, the reason doesn’t turn out to be what you’d
I’m really enjoying this series for a couple of reasons. There’s a lot of
all-out action, and Drake is very good at writing it in a style reminiscent of
the classic men’s adventure novels. Also, Scott Stiletto is a very likable
protagonist, human but not weighed down with angst or some cliched back-story.
He’s one of the good guys and is very competent at what he does. Nor does Drake
burden the tale he wants to tell with page after page of padding, as so many
bloated contemporary thrillers do. THE FAIRMONT MANEUVER is lean and swift and
ARGOSY was still a full-fledged pulp in 1940, as you can probably tell by this octopus-fighting cover by Rudolph Belarski. Despite Foster-Harris's name being on the cover, he's not listed in the contents for this issue in the Fictionmags Index. However, there are stories by Donald Barr Chidsey, Johnston McCulley, Borden Chase, Robert Arthur, Jack Byrne, Kenneth Perkins, and David V. Reed, so that's no shortage of good authors.
That's an action-packed cover by Walter Baumhofer on this issue of WILD WEST WEEKLY, and the line-up of authors and stories inside is great: a Johnny Forty-Five story by Paul S. Powers writing as Andrew A. Griffin, a Border Eagle story by Walker A. Tompkins writing as Philip F. Deere, a Hungry and Rusty story by Samuel H. Nickels, a Shorty Master story by Allan R. Bosworth, and non-series yarns by William F. Bragg, Arthur Hawthorne Carhart, and Cliff Farrell writing as Nelse Anderson. Pretty entertaining from cover to cover, I expect.
Avalon is a
family name in this long-forgotten pulp novel, not a place. Originally
serialized in ARGOSY in September and October of 1919, it takes place on a
group of isolated islands off the coast of South Carolina. In pre-Revolutionary
times, these islands were granted by the King of England to the Avalon family,
who still rule them as a sort of feudal fiefdom despite the presence of a few
modern items such as automobiles, gasoline launches, and wireless communication
with the mainland.
The current master of Five Isles is Florence “Flurry” Avalon, who is a rugged
male despite his feminine name. Avalon is seldom in residence there since he
also runs a coffee plantation in South America, but his sister and younger
brother live in Cliff House, the ancestral family residence which serves as
this novel’s version of The Old Dark House . . . because that’s the kind of
story this is, filled with secret passages, villainous Spaniards, shipwrecked
survivors, mobs of torch-bearing villagers, unexpected shots in the night, and
love at first sight between Avalon and one of the passengers from the wrecked
schooner who show up at Cliff House.
The author of AVALON is Francis Stevens (the pseudonym of Gertrude Bennett),
who also wrote some early weird thrillers such as THE LABYRINTH and THE CITADEL
OF FEAR. I’ve read THE LABYRINTH and thought it was okay up to a point. AVALON
lacks as many weird elements, but its plot holds together better and overall I
enjoyed it quite a bit. Yes, it’s melodramatic, and its style is so
old-fashioned that it might be off-putting to most modern readers. But if you
can put yourself in the right frame of mind, the story moves along at a good
clip and some of the writing holds up well. It’s available in a reprint
edition from Beb Books, and
if you enjoy early pulp thrillers, you might want to give it a try.
(This post originally appeared in somewhat different form on May 11, 2008.)
Arizona Territory is heating up—and Kate and J.D. Blaze
are about to get burned! A fanatical Apache medicine man is determined to bring
about all-out war between his people and the army, and he's doing it by
slaughtering as many white settlers as he can find. Kate and J.D. are drawn
into his dangerous situation when a woman and her children are kidnapped by the
Apache raiders and intended for a gruesome sacrifice. The Old West's only team
of husband-and-wife gunfighters will need all their cunning and deadly skill to
bring the captives back alive and stop the medicine man's scheme to flood the
desert with blood!
Legendary adventure writer Michael Newton is back with another gritty,
fast-action novel filled with all the passion and excitement of the Old West.
I'd never heard of this movie, but hey, it's got Sam
Elliott (quite possibly my favorite living actor) and Rebecca Romijn in it, so
why not watch it? And as it turns out, LIES AND ALIBIS is a pretty
entertaining, if hard to follow, little thriller.
British comedian Steve Coogan plays a guy whose business provides alibis for
cheating spouses to help them get away with their affairs. Romijn, in an underwritten role, works for him. In a fairly predictable plot twist,
one of their clients winds up killing somebody and wants Coogan to help him
cover up the crime. As if that's not enough of a problem, Coogan is a former
con man whose partner has a five million dollar bounty on his head from a Saudi
prince they scammed. So people are after Coogan trying to get him to reveal
where said partner is. There's also a hitman stalking him. Sam Elliott plays
another hitman, this one known as the Mormon because he's, well, a Mormon.
Selma Blair is one of his wives. James Brolin is a rich guy who can't be
trusted. Lots of stuff happens, much of it not making any sense at the time,
but it finally all comes together okay, if you squint your eyes and
hold your mouth right.
LIES AND ALIBIS was written by Noah Hawley, who now writes FARGO. We've seen
the first two seasons of that series, and when I told Livia that this movie was
written by the same guy, she said, "I can see that." Quirky but
entertaining dialogue, unlikable characters that you somehow like anyway, and
lots of plot twists. I enjoyed it . . . but I think Rebecca Romijn is really
good-looking and I can listen to Sam Elliott talk all day, no matter what he's
talking about, so if you don't feel that way, you may not enjoy this movie as
much as I did. I had a good time watching it and didn't fall asleep, which is
my equivalent of the old "two thumbs up" bit, for those of you old
enough to remember that.