Friday, December 23, 2016
THE PULP CALENDAR: December 23
For a brief time in the late 1930s, Argosy made a No-Shirt McGee story by Frank Richardson Pierce a holiday tradition. No-Shirt was a versatile character. Pierce could write tales of the old sourdough's youth, back when he was a mere chechako in the Klondike, as in 1937's "Christmas on the Trail." Or he could write about McGee in the present-day, when he drifted up and down the Pacific Coast with his protege, Bulldozer Craig. That's the approach he took for his 1939 story "Christmas on Ice," in which No-Shirt is in Hollywood as a technical advisor to the movies. They're making an Alaska picture, Icebound, but it lacks authenticity. No-Shirt, a sourdough Stanislavsky, says the problem is that the actors have never experienced Arctic cold. He suggests a location shoot and in this fantastic tale the studio chief thinks that's a swell idea. His next brainstorm is to tell the actors that their boat is stuck in the ice, in order to put some anxiety into their performances. But of course the boat really gets stuck in the ice, only for Hollywood gossip columnists to dismiss the story as a publicity stunt. Pierce had done this sort of story before, down to tempers flaring and snapping and the crew fighting with one another. He throws a few twists in, including a romantic triangle that doesn't turn out as expected and a not-quite-murder mystery -- a couple of people get stabbed -- in which nobody dunnit. Overall, this is a less Christmasy story than "Christmas on the Trail," which we'll take a closer look at shortly, but at least it justified a festive seasonal cover. You can read "Christmas on Ice" and the rest of the December 23, 1939 Argosy, which includes the final story in Philip Ketchum's Bretwalda cycle and the conclusion of Robert Carse's Nazis-in-Haiti serial Dark Thunder, at unz.org.