Sunday, August 28, 2016
THE PULP CALENDAR: August 28
The cover threatens a fascist takeover of the U.S., but the first installment of Martin McCall's Kingdom Come in this 1937 Argosy plays out more like a horror story. A tough, obsessed G-Man -- he joined the force after his wife died accidentally during a gangster shootout -- investigates the fatal mutilation of a fellow agent and enters a strange marsh country of idiot albino hillbillies, where the soil shows unexpected evidence of artillery fire, and where a hillbilly settlement is finally wiped out by poison gas. That's where it starts to head toward modern conspiracy-thriller territory. "Martin McCall" was a house name at Munsey that was later assigned to E. Hoffman Price when he wrote the "Matala, the White Savage" stories for the company's Red Star Adventures in 1940. Whether McCall was always Price -- the name first appears, reportedly, in a 1932 nonfiction squib -- I don't know. In any event, that creepy opener fronts a strong issue of the venerable weekly, which also boasts a Nick Fisher-Eddy Savoy novelette by Donald Barr Chidsey and a Foreign Legion adventure by the master of that subgenre, Georges Surdez. There's also a fish-out-of-water golf story by Howard R. Marsh, a couple of northwestern shorts by Foster-Harris and Samuel W. Taylor, serial chapters by Arthur Leo Zagat and Bennett Foster, and a Frederick C. Painton oddity about a ventriloquist and a psycho stoker alone in a lifeboat after a shipwreck, which goes in an all-too-predictable direction when the men land on an island and are captured by idol-worshipping savages -- you know, the sort who'll worship anything, including a ventriloquist's dummy. It's politically incorrect, sure, but its retrospective campiness adds to its entertainment value today, and Painton usually was a pretty good writer regardless of content. 1937 was arguably Argosy's last really good year, and this issue mostly lives up to the expectations my claim might create. Like many issues from that year, it's been scanned and made available online, so you may still be able to track it down.