Saturday, December 31, 2016

Wait 'til next year!

The first year of True Pulp Fiction was fun, but I found myself not doing everything I wanted to. That's inevitably when you juggle three blogs, a job, and everything else in life. But now that I've completed the Pulp Calendar I can look forward to a greater variety of content in 2017, with more attention to pulp stories than pulp covers. The first thing I'm going to do in 2017 is take January 1 off, to mark the definitive end of the Calendar. Don't expect daily content next year, though I do have a gimmick planned to guarantee a steady stream of posts. This will be another cover project, but the focus will be on a magazine that's not a pulp. Thanks to the resources of, I plan to introduce a This Day in Collier's Weekly feature highlighting the contributions of pulp (and pulpish) writers to one of the nation's most popular slick magazines during the golden age of storytelling. Slicks like Collier's are where most pulp writers wanted to end up, though some got there at the expense of their real talent. At the same time there was plenty of blood and thunder in the slicks, especially in the 1930s, and the magazine published some of the era's greatest or at least most popular western writers, from Zane Grey to Luke Short, who was in the middle of a serial when Collier's folded at the end of 1956.

Along with the Collier's project and the ongoing Vintage Paperback of the Week series (which I hope to keep more consistently on a weekly schedule), I want to do more in-depth story reviews calling attention to what's good, bad and weird in pulp fiction. In some cases I'll be working my way story by story through magazines in my collection. Sometimes I'll rely on published collections, paper and electronic, so I can comment on writers out of my price range like Robert E. Howard. I've been toying with the idea of doing thematic days of the week for different genres, but if that happens it'll evolve over the course of the year as I figure out what I want to do and what I'll have time to do. Now that the Calendar is finished this blog is free to go off the map, so to speak, and I hope following it will prove as much an adventure for you as writing it will be for me. Happy New Year!


The Calendar ends by looking forward, appropriately enough. I had a hunch that the love pulps were the ones most likely to acknowledge New Year's Eve, and this 1938 Love Story from Street & Smith proved me right. The authors are unknown today except to whatever love-pulp fans or collectors exist. As one might expect, the majority of contributors are women who don't have to turn their first names into initials to get published. Turnabout is fair play, however, as Vivian Gray, author of the serial Orchids In Her Hair, turns out to be Harry Walter Anderson. This issue has not just New Year's content (at least one story and one poem) but a Christmas story, reflecting the fact that this particular number was on the stands at least a week before the cover date. The December 24 issue had plenty of Christmas content, too, of course.

This ends the Pulp Calendar, but True Pulp Fiction continues in 2017. Look for another post later today to see what I'm planning for the new year.

Friday, December 30, 2016


Our last Adventure on the Calendar is a 1925 issue that was recently scanned and uploaded to Yahoo's pulpscans group. The highlights are long novelettes by Arthur O. Friel and Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur, the former dealing with a South American coup d'etat, the latter with intrigues in the court of Henry II of England. There's also a good-sized story by J. D. Newsom about the Foreign Legion on the Western Front in World War I, sea stories by Charles Victor Fischer and Aimee D. Linton, a pretty bad historical fiction about Miguel de Cervantes in the Great Adventures of the Super-Minds series by "Post Sargent," the conclusion of a J. Allen Dunn two-parter and the beginning of a Gordon Young western serial. La Rue of the 88 is one of those stories where a supporting character, perhaps unexpectedly, steals the show. We don't see that much of him in this opening installment, but Young found himself writing stories about Red Clark of Tulluco for the next two decades, mostly in Short Stories. Friel and Newsom provide some real-life background material for their stories in the "Camp-Fire" letters section. As a whole a pretty good issue, as usual for this period under Arthur Sullivant Hoffman's supervision.

Thursday, December 29, 2016


One more look, at least, at how Western Story celebrated Christmas in its year-end issues. This one's from 1934, but there's nothing inside I can automatically identify as Christmas content. My best guess is that Dabney Otis Collins' "Mesa Miracle," a four-page short story, may have something to do with the holiday. Otherwise it looks like standard western stuff, and while there are no big names inside, at least in retrospect, Frederick Faust is hiding in there under the wrappings of Hugh Owen. This is a name Faust used only briefly; "Owen" made his debut in the December 8 issue and took his final bow on February 16, 1935. The explanation probably has something to do with these being Faust's last-ever contributions to Western Story, apart from one short story in January 1938. For more than a decade, under his various aliases (the best known being Max Brand) he had been ubiquitous in the Street & Smith weekly. A new era was beginning for author and publication alike.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016


The holiday season continues at Street & Smith's Western Story. Here's the Christmas cover for 1929.

This one's from 1940.

In earlier times Western Story advertised its content as "Big Clean Stories of Outdoor Life." It shouldn't surprise us to see the magazine take Christmas so seriously with that attitude. As with yesterday's pairing, you'll see that the earlier issue is heavier on the Christmas content, with such stories as Cherry Wilson's "Lonesome Santa Claus," Hugh F. Grinstead's "Doubling for St. Nick" and Frank Richardson Pierce's "Dad Simms Plays Santa." I'll guess that "Hungry Ground," Pierce's contribution under his Seth Ranger pseudonym, offers an alternative to the festivities. Speaking of pseudonym, Frederick Faust is here under his less-common Peter Henry Morland pen name, continuing his serial The Horizon of Danger. Pierce contributes the one obvious Christmas story in the 1940 issue, "Santa Claus in Chaps," while S. Omar Barker inevitably offers a poem, "Bunkhouse Christmas." These and other items are bracketed by the beginning of a Bennett Foster serial and the conclusion of Peter Dawson's. One suspects that the Christmas stories got somewhat monotonous over the years, there being probably only a limited number of situations you could write up, but readers with the holiday spirit probably didn't mind much.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016


Paperback originals from the 1950s were sometimes more ambitious than their genre reputation suggests. They probably were the last resort for writers who couldn't land a hardcover contract, for whatever reason. So long as a publisher saw something exploitable in the story, and you could at least write competently, you had a shot at softcover. Williams Forrest presumably had the competent part nailed down. He never published any pulp fiction, apparently, but went straight to the slicks. During the 1950s he appeared frequently in The Saturday Evening Post, the top slick weekly, and he'd published novels before. The Great Debauch isn't exactly Post material, as the exploitation cover suggests. This relatively hefty original (220 pages) belongs to a briefly popular genre set in Allied-occupied Europe (or Japan) after World War II. The subject matter of such stories can be summed up best as "fraternization." Debauch adds a fresh angle by making his protagonist, Lt. Mike Fathom, responsible for discouraging fraternization through propaganda broadcasts to American troops. That angle associates Debauch with another contemporary subgenre concerned with the power of advertising and the anxieties of advertising men.

Mike is, of course, a hypocrite, or else we'd have no story. Like many GIs, he takes full advantage of the awesome power he has over the helpless civilian population of a defeated country. Fathom's story takes him on an arc from contempt to compassion for Germans, though his love interest actually is a French woman, one of many who went or were sent to Germany during the war, all of whom are suspect on some level. For a while a threat looms over the story after we learn that the Americans are hunting a French woman who'd ratted out GIs to the Gestapo. Could it be Jeanine, Mike's girl? Apparently not, but we get a strong sense of the vulnerability of all women to occupiers and vengeful compatriots. Mike shares a building with Russian troops whom he has to discourage at gunpoint from raping a maid, until the night he loses interest. The Russians play a small role in the story, however, and Americans are quite menacing on their own. We meet a Major Dickey and see him kick a German prisoner to death during an interrogation, for instance, but neither he nor any of the variably disturbing characters we encounter really counts as a villain. The sudden shift in priorities from war to occupation seems just as traumatizing for the troops, on an emotional level at least, as any battle.

The cover goes just a little overboard in conveying the tone of the novel. While Forrest is restrained (or constrained) in his language, Debauch has the intimate frankness one probably expects in paperback originals. In its efforts at intimacy Debauch betrays its author's aim at something bigger than a paperback original. Forrest writes post-coital scenes in the stiltedly conscientious style you might identify with Ernest Hemingway's later work, in a manner meant to convey a certain gravitas to the lovers' emotional intimacy, if not also the dialogue of Americans with foreigners. Forrest also aspires to a sensuality of description, both earthy and abstract, more reminiscent of Norman Mailer and his contemporaries. As you might suspect, it's very hit-and-miss but you come to admire the earnestness of Forrest's effort to craft consciousness while flexing writer's muscles one rarely exercised writing for the Post. He also has a good eye for dramatic episodes, from one woman's violent attempt to resist repatriation to Mike's peculiar rescue of an old aristocratic couple from the humiliation of having to sweep the streets while bourgeois Germans (no less or more guilty in his eyes) look on mockingly. The strangest storyline involves Mike's obsession with the poor German family living across the street from his quarters and their struggle to maintain dignity in privation. He eventually decides to give the daughter of the family a maid's job, and the unstable Major Dickey takes her on as a lover even after Mike learns that she's not the daughter of the family but the last loyal whore of an old pimp and his wife. Dickey clobbers Mike when he impugns the girl's honor, only to learn that the girl, who had threatened to spit in Mike's mouth while he was down, has syphilitic chancre sores in her own mouth and has likely given Dickey the clap. That on top of his guilty feelings about killing a German leads to Dickey's suicide, moments after Mike had saved him from getting shot by an American sentry. That subplot puts us more firmly in paperback-original territory, but as a whole Great Debauch is most interesting for the ways it tries, not always successfully, to transcend its softcover bounds.


Here's more of Western Story in holiday mode. The first cover is from 1930.

This one's from 1941.

The earlier issue has more Christmas content. I can identify at least the obvious stuff, like Hugh F. Grinstead's "Santa Rides Horseback," George Cory Franklin's "White Christmas" and Frank Richardson Pierce's "Toy Mushers," as well as D. C. Hubbard's poem, "Christmas Starved."The only one I'm sure of from 1942 are Ed Moore's story, "Cow-Country Christmas," though I suspect that S. Omar Barker's poem "Shepherds of the Range" has a holiday theme as well. Street & Smith's Detective Story never seemed to share the holiday spirit. Its December 27, 1930 cover shows a yellow-peril menace, while its Christmas Day cover for 1932 has a man strangling a woman. I imagine Love Story got pretty Christmassy  when the occasion arose, but we lack much of the physical evidence to prove it, at least in the FictionMags Index. I guess western fans were a more sentimental lot than detective story readers. Make of that what you will.

Monday, December 26, 2016


And you thought you had to fight for that perfect gift? Return with us now to the thrilling days of 1942, near the end of Western Story's long run as a weekly magazine. Street & Smith tended to run holiday-themed or at least wintry covers on the last issue each year of its weekly western pulps. There'd usually be holiday-themed content as well. It isn't clear whether the cover actually illustrates L. L. Foreman's "Gunman of Gallows Town," or whether that story had any holiday elements. But there can be no doubt about George Cory Franklin's "Christmas on the Lake Fork," or S. Omar Barker's "Cow-Range Christmas."  By this time old-timers like Walt Coburn or Frank Richardson Pierce (or "Seth Ranger") weren't dominating Western Story the way they used to. Apart from Franklin, this issue boasts mostly a younger generation of writers, including Foreman, Peter Dawson, Tom W. Blackburn, Leslie Ernenwein and Bob Obets. Western Story would make it through January 1943 and halfway through February before finally cutting back to biweekly.

Sunday, December 25, 2016


Argosy's editor sounds almost ashamed of his 1937 Christmas cover in his intro to this issue's Argonotes page, which he declares an Xmas-free zone.

In spite of the date on this week's cover, the general reindeer and mince-pie effect of our cover, and the novelet-gesture in the general direction of the merry gentleman in the fur-trimmed red suit, this is going to be one place in the magazine where the Yule is a Forgotten Season. In fact, right here and now we declare this corner a Hospice Sacred to All Ye Winded Shoppers and Package-Laden Pedestrians who firmly intend to let out a Loud Scream if anyone so much as hums Jingle Bells within earshot.

The editor confesses to Christmas fatigue, reminding us that already by 1937 people felt that the Holiday (shopping) season went on all too long. I've wondered this month why there weren't as many holiday-themed pulp covers in December as you might expect, and the answer should have been obvious to me. Pulps were all about escapism, and for many people Christmas itself was something to be escaped. Despite that, here is Frank Richardson Pierce's "Christmas on the Trail," starring his beloved sourdough No-Shirt McGee in his younger "beshirted" days. In fact, it's a tale of his first adventure in the Yukon as the greenest of checakos, back in 1897 -- McGee is presumably in his late fifties as he narrates from 1937. He isn't really the protagonist of his story, however. The real hero of the story is Two-Step Sue, a dance-hall girl with a heart of gold who takes pity on a young family risking everything on the trip north and acts as their secret Santa as well as morale-booster for McGee and the whole struggling group. There's pathos to the story as she breaks up with her more mercenary boyfriend along the way, but this turns out to be the sort of Christmas story with a happy ending for everybody, or at least for everyone who survives the avalanche midway through the tale. It went over well enough that a late December McGee story became a short-lived Argosy tradition (1937-40), though there was only one other Christmas cover during that run. For a pulpy dose of holiday cheer from almost eighty years ago, give "Christmas on the Trail" a look by following this link.

Saturday, December 24, 2016


Nothing says "Christmas Eve" like a hanging, and that's just what this 1938 Wild West Weekly promises. It only gets better once you consult the table of contents and learn that there will be "Bullets for Kid Wolf's Christmas." I fear they won't come gift-wrapped, but I suspect they'll arrive by express, if you get my drift. But leaving the hero's plight aside, Street & Smith's western pulps generally were better about including holiday motifs in their covers at this time of year than the Munsey weeklies were, even if their policy resulted in some disturbing juxtapositions. I suppose their hearts were in the right place just the same. Covers like these made readers mindful of those less fortunate at this sacred time of year. Sure, it was still the Great Depression, but at least you weren't getting hung like a stocking, and that knowledge should have put some extra spice in your gruel. Here's hoping you don't expect to be hanged in the year to come.

Friday, December 23, 2016


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

Thursday, December 22, 2016


I remember reading about the time William Gaines, the publisher of EC Comics, was called before a congressional committee to testify about the violent content of his since-acclaimed horror comic line. Gaines was confronted with a cover that showed a woman's head that had just been severed from her body, and he was asked whether he thought the cover was in good taste. Gaines said he thought it was in good taste, since it did not actually show blood dripping from the victim's neck.

To my knowledge no one ever brought pulp publishers before Congress to answer for their youth-corrupting content, and yet ...

So I suppose the critics had a point who said that pulp magazine covers often repelled potential readers, or made them embarrassed to read them on the bus or train. I can definitely imagine this 1934 Detective Fiction Weekly turning off our more sensitive forebears, however much they may have wanted to read the latest exploit of Judson P. Philips' gentlemen vigilantes in the Park Avenue Hunt Club, or the latest caper of H. Bedford-Jones' gentleman thief Riley Dillon -- or, if it came to that, the latest, or to be precise the second adventure (of five total) of Richard Sale's Owl-Eye Venner. This doozy is particularly shocking because DFW covers at this time usually were relatively sedate compared to the rising "shudder pulps" or even to DFW's Munsey stablemate Argosy. It wouldn't surprise me if the editors got some negative feedback from readers, though we'd probably have to track down some early 1935 issue to find out what they let people say about it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016


I apologize for the reproduction quality -- this copy looks like it's been out in a storm like that cowboy was -- but no other magazine bearing his date says "First Day of Winter" like this 1935 Western Story. There's a slight mystery to this issue: Bennett Foster is listed as a contributor on the cover, but he isn't listed in the FictionMags Index's table of contents. Instead, the lead novel, "Buzzard Bait," is credited to a William LeFevre, making his first and only appearance in pulp, according to the Index. Was this Foster under a pseudonym, unbeknownst to the cover editor? Only someone more expert than I can answer.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016


A. L. Ripley was Adventure's go-to guy for pirate covers. While the magazine's covers were rarely if ever illustrative during Arthur Sullivant Hoffman's editorial regime, Ripley's effort isn't entirely irrelevant, since the lead story for this 1922 issue is H. Bedford-Jones' Pirates' Gold. There's an  additional nautical touch inside, presumably, in the form of sea-story specialist Albert Richard Wetjen's story "The Unforeseen," and yet another from an unforeseen source in western specialist Alan LeMay's "Ghost Lanterns." Both Pirates' Gold and LeMay's story are included in Wildside Press's invaluable electronic Megapacks. I haven't gotten to Pirates' Gold in my own copy of the HBJ Megapack, but James Reasoner presents a concise synopsis here. Thomson Burtis, Hugh Pendexter, and F. St. Mars are among the regulars turning up this time, and Joel Townsley Rogers is along for the ride as well.

Monday, December 19, 2016


There's no table of contents for this 1936 Argosy in the FictionMags Index, but an eBay seller has helpfully scanned the table of contents from the issue itself. The cover story, "Gorilla Cargo," presumably is part of Richard Wormser's series about entertainment-industry animal hunter Dave McNally. The contents-page synopsis says simpy, "A monkey amok in mid-Atlantic." The serials this week are Lester Dent's Hades (part three of three: "Showdown with the demon of the Arizona caravans"), H. Bedford-Jones' Will o' the Wisp (part four of five: "The Army of France lies mouldering in its tents tonight!") and Eustace L. Adams' The Man With the Painted Smile (part two of four: "A doom ship with a mutinous crew is O'Malley's first command"). Of Joel Townsley Rogers' novelette "The Rubber Check," Argosy says nothing except to challenge readers to "Test your deduction on this baffling, eerie mystery." The short stories are John Hawkins' "Money Player" (golf), Frank Richardson Pierce's "Old Man Terry's River" (Alaska) and William Chamberlain's "Queer Street" ("Where anything happens -- and does!"). In "Argonotes," Bedford-Jones elaborates on his use of the notorious Caligostro in Will o'the Wisp, noting that while the count was a "rank trickster in many ways ... an utterly callous and unscrupulous man capable of the vilest actions," as of December 1936 "the secret of his 'elixir' and his cures has never been solved."

Sunday, December 18, 2016


This 1937 cover probably isn't the sort of scene that comes to mind if people recognize the name of Cornell Woolrich. Known for his noirish thrillers, Woolrich occasionally broadened his interests for Argosy. His previous story for that pulp was "Black Cargo," dealing with slavery. According to Woolrich chronicler Francis M. Nevins, Woolrich wrote "Guns, Gentlemen," to go with Emmett Watson's pre-existing cover. It seems to have been something more than some Ruritarian adventure, however, since it was later reprinted (as "The Lamp of Memory") in an anthology of Woolrich's horror and fantasy stories. He reportedly submitted it to Argosy as "The Twice-Trod Path," but "Guns, Gentlemen" definitely goes better with the cover. All this aside, the issue's highlight is probably L. Ron Hubbard's big novelette (by Argosy standards at 39 pages) "Orders is Orders," or else the second installment of Eustace L. Adams' serial Loot Below -- which would be made into a 1941 B movie called Desperate Cargo. Three movies would be made from Adams stories -- including two versions of "Sixteen Fathoms Deep," made 14 years apart, both with Lon Chaney Jr. -- while he wrote an original screenplay for the 1933 film Under Secret Orders. North Pole explorer Matthew Henson is this issue's "Man of Daring," though artist Stookie Allen condescendingly refers to him as an "Arctic Man Friday" for Robert E. Peary. Still, it's probably a rare appearance by a black man in the weekly illustrated feature.

Saturday, December 17, 2016


Perhaps taking inspiration from Dashiell Hammett's description of Sam Spade as a "blond satan," Carroll John Daly, credited by some with inventing the hard-boiled detective before Hammett, created black-haired, vampiric looking Satan Hall, a police detective with a license to kill. After making his debut in Street & Smith's Detective Story, Hall moved to Munsey's Detective Fiction Weekly for an approximately five-year run. This 1932 issue was his fifth appearance; each time, Satan's picturesque features earned him the cover. His streak continued for another five appearances, and only once during his time at DFW did he not get the cover. Daly bounced the character from magazine to magazine, company to company for another two decades, including a brief stop at Black Mask, but Satan Hall never got another cover -- though that may be him under a hat in a 1954 Famous Detective featuring his final story. Also in this issue, Sidney Herschel Small's "The Crimson Coffin" is credited to his Jimmy Wentworth series in the FictionMags Index, but as far as DFW was concerned at this point, Small's recurring Tong villain Kong Gai was the main attraction. The other series character this time is Robert Rohde's Reggie Chivers, the Red Duke, who was near the end of a run that started in May 1929. Hulbert Footner continues a serial while John Reid Byers, John Hunter John H. Thompson and J. (Joseph, not John) Lane Linklater contribute short stories.

Friday, December 16, 2016


Whenever I see Max Brand credited on a Western Story cover I always want to check out the rest of the authors, especially when I don't recognize the names, to see if Frederick Faust was cashing a second check under one of his many pseudonyms. Max is all by his lonesome this time, however, -- and his serial was published as a novel later under the more generic title Mountain Riders -- but if you're interested in pseudonyms, this 1933 issue sports a couple. The serial Outlaws Three, which concludes this issue, apparently is the first appearance of "Peter Field" a pseudonym used by many authors and many publishers, to whom a later series of "Powder Valley" novels were credited. Meanwhile, "Carlos St. Clair," a prolific Western Story contributor, was actually Carolyn St. Clair King, a woman writer who did without giveaway initials in her pseudonym. W. C. Tuttle and Robert Ormond Case, of course, appear as themselves.

Thursday, December 15, 2016


A few days ago we saw George F. Worts' Singapore Sammy get a story named for him more than a year after he first appeared in print. That's nothing! Gordon Young's Don Everhard first appeared in 1917, and it took until this 1928 Adventure for him to get a story called "Don Everhard." Of course, this may only mean that Young or editor Anthony Rud couldn't think of a title for this latest story. This became more of a problem later; in both 1933 and 1936 Young published stories titled simply, "Everhard." Great claims are made for this character, namely that the reputedly emotionless Everhard is an important precursor to the hard-boiled detectives who began appearing in Black Mask in the 1920s. I've probably read too little of Everhard to judge objectively, but from the fragments I've read I doubt that Young was much of a stylistic influence on Carroll John Daly, Dashiell Hammett, Frederick Nebel, etc. In fact, his style is as emotionless or stilted as his character. Young aside, this isn't exactly an all-star issue of Adventure. Its highlight for me would probably be Ralph R. Perry's short story "Bulldog," while the biggest name in it, apart from Young, would be J. Allen Dunn. The new serial this issue, Dust and Sun, is by Clements Ripley. Whatever it was about, someone saw something cinematic in it, for in 1930 it became the early Humphrey Bogart picture A Devil With Women. Ripley went Hollywood himself, eventually, contributing to the screenplays of Bette Davis' Oscar-winner Jezebel and William Wellman's Buffalo Bill. His novel Black Moon was made into a still-underrated 1934 voodoo picture with Fay Wray. With that sort of CV, his Dust and Sun could very well be very interesting....

Wednesday, December 14, 2016


Does it seem odd that Hulbert Footner's detective Mme. Storey is the star of this 1929 Argosy's cover story, and one of the pulp's most popular series characters, but isn't shown on the cover? I suppose it's because she's never actually "taken for a ride" herself in the story. That bit of gangster slang had been popularized by the recent talkie hit The Lights of New York, in which it almost instantly became legendary as an example of stitled line reading. The other cover story is a new railroad serial by Francis Lynde, a real old-time (age 73) who'd been publishing since 1894. I hadn't heard of him before finding his name here, but that's because my interest in Argosy starts after 1930, and that was the year Lynde died. Elsewhere this issue, Erle Stanley Gardner wraps up a two-parter, Fred MacIsaac continues his serial Run, Dan, Run! and H. Bedford-Jones carries on with his fictional account of Cyrano de Bergerac, while J. E. Grinstead, John H. Thompson and Harold de Polo contribute short stories.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016


Not long after they slipped from weekly to biweekly status, the Munsey flagships Argosy and Detective Fiction experimented with photo covers that were (probably) paid publicity for movie studios. This 1941 effort is actually the only such photo cover for the former Detective Fiction Weekly. Gloria Franklin is identified as a Republic Pictures starlet but only made three pictures for that studio, and only appeared on screen seven times in a brief career, three times uncredited. Her big role, from a pulp standpoint, was Fah  Lo Suee in Republic's 1940 serial Drums of Fu Manchu. She had ninth billing in 1941's The Gay Vagabond. I guess the cover didn't help her much. Arguably, she was already finished. She wouldn't make another movie until 1947. No novelettes this issue; only short stories and an installment of Richard Sale's serial The Devil's Mistress. Dale Clark and William R. Cox are the best known of the other authors. The two "True Crime Mysteries" are the cover story, J. Hoyt Cummings' "Romantic Killer" and J. Denton Scott's "Marked for Murder." Detective Fiction would limp along in this fashion until March 1942, when it went monthly. In July, in a desperate attempt to woo the true-crime crowd, Munsey took "Fiction" off the cover altogether.

Monday, December 12, 2016


Edmond Hamilton was one of the founding fathers of "space opera," spacefaring tales in which science took second place to the conventions of adventure stories. The nickname "World-Wrecker Hamilton" testifies to an apocalyptic tendency in his stories, while the term "space opera," used to describe his work, echoes the "horse opera" label for formulaic westerns. Hamilton started out in Weird Tales back in 1926 and kept busy through the 1960s. No doubt beloved by many old fans for his Captain Future series and other adventures, he's probably considered the inferior writer in the household he shared with his wife Leigh Brackett. The Starwolf series was a late effort in a more hardboiled style that lasted for only three books. The protagonist is not the Starwolf but a Starwolf, one of a piratical race that plagues the stars, albeit an exceptional one. Morgan Chane is part Tarzan, part Superman -- the latter a character Hamilton wrote during the Golden Age of Comics. He's the son of human mercenaries who settled on the pirate planet Varna, a high-gravity world of finely-furred strongmen who are unbeatable space pilots because "nobody could endure physically the shattering impact of inertial stress [they] endured, maneuvering their little ships at man-killing velocities." The gravity is too much for Morgan's parents, but the boy grows into a mighty man, possibly stronger than any human in the galaxy, and a Starwolf in his own right until he falls out with friends and has to fake his death to escape their vengeance.

In The Weapon From Beyond Chane is rescued by a ship of mercenaries from Earth, headed for planet Kharal. Hamilton tells us that Earth is a relatively poor planet because the other planets in its solar system are resource-poor, so its primary export is its resourceful, honorable fighting men. Initially contemptuous, Chane comes to respect the Earthmen, especially their captain John Dilullo. They've been hired by the arrogant Kharalis to investigate reports that their longtime enemies, the albino Vhollans, have acquired a superweapon. Since Chane is genetically human he can pass for a Merc, though displays of superhuman strength and speed threaten to reveal him as a Starwolf. Only Dilullo knows that that's exactly what he is, and while he intends initially to exploit that knowledge and hold it over Chane, he too warms to his new colleague. Together they infiltrate Vhol, offering to sell the natives weapons or their own services, in order to find the secret weapon. The big twist is that the secret weapon isn't a weapon at all. It's the wreck of a massive expeditionary vessel of an apparently benign species, the Krii -- this book appeared in the same year that Marvel Comics introduced the Kree space empire -- that only records specimens from across the universe and uses no weapons whatsoever. Their science is so advanced, however, that they can neutralize all the technology and weapons of Vhollans or humans. The arrival of a Krii rescue mission after who knows how many years would be an anticlimax if you're expecting a big battle, but it has its appeal on a sense-of-wonder.

Hamilton writes artlessly in a manner that only betrays its age when he indulges in goofy made-up techno-jargon like the Mercs' "ato-flash." He sometimes editorializes in oddly irrelevant fashion, as when he describes a Vhollan red-light district that "was a gusty, crowded place but was not sinful, for most of these people had never heard of the Judeo-Christian ethic and did not know they were sinning at all." He isn't big on character development and most of his world-building is of the throwaway sort. Weapon From Beyond is padded somewhat by episodes that have no plot value but are meant to provide a momentary thrill, as when Chane's outing on a Vhollan pleasure boat is interrupted by, or interrupts, the ritual feeding of sea monsters.  It's really pretty bad for its first half, but picks up considerably in the second. The action highlight is an attack on the Merc ship by Starwolves who may or may not be hunting Chane. Hamilton ratchets up the tension by reiterating how hopeless the fight must be before Dilullo takes Chane's advice that the best defense against Starwolves is a good or reckless offense. One we discover the Krii ship and meet the Vhollan scientist who's been exploring it and resisting his military's demands for exploitable technology, it feels like this is what Hamilton wanted to write about all along. The last half of this 154 pager redeems it enough to make Weapon From Beyond worth enduring its first half, but there's no denying that this was old-fashioned stuff already when it first appeared almost 50 years ago, a trifle even by genre standards. Still, I can't complain when I only paid a dollar for it. It's worth at least that much.


George F. Worts' Singapore Sammy made his debut in Short Stories in 1930. After five appearances in little more than a year, Sammy moved to Argosy, where Worts was publishing his Gillian Hazeltine series under his own name and the Peter the Brazen stories as Loring brent. This 1931 issue reintroduces Sammy to the pulp public with a two-party story named for the protagonist. It may be Sammy's first cover. His last Short Stories appearance is top-billed on the May 10, 1931 cover, and I assume the same cover was used for the "Mid-September" British reprint, but the character coming out of the water in a diving suit with a rifle doesn't look like the redhead Argosy readers would come to recognize. In any event, after being reintroduced in dramatic fashion Sammy went on hiatus until 1933, which is regrettable since the adventurer with a grudge against his dad is easily the best of Worts/Brent's three major creations. Overall this looks like a decent issue to have, thanks also to novelettes by Eustace L. Adams and F. V. W. Mason. The continuing stories are Kenneth Perkins' bayou mystery The Tavern of Terror and J. E. Grinstead's western Golden Derringers, while Foster-Harris, Kenneth MacNichol and William Merriam Rouse contribute short stories. Should you choose to get Singapore Sammy complete you'd get novelettes by Erle Stanley Gardner and H. Bedford-Jones in next week's issue. You could definitely do worse.

Sunday, December 11, 2016


A dramatic Rudolph Belarski cover fronts this 1937 Argosy, one of many from that year that have been scanned and made available online. I read it a couple of years ago and recall that the first installment of Eustace L. Adams' Loot Below nearly lived up to that cover. Unfortunately, the thing I remember most vividly about this issue is that Robert Griffith's "complete novel" "Rhythm in the Ring" was probably the most racist story I'd ever read in the Argosy. Griffith was a boxing story specialist who broke into the slicks during the war, publishing regularly in Collier's from 1943 to his retirement or death in the early 1950s. His premise this time is that a black contender times his footwork and punches to the music of his favorite jazz band as they play outside the ring. The most insulting thing about it, actually, is the editorial comment that Griffith's premise might explain the success of Joe Louis and other black champions. As a rule, or at least in my experience, Argosy avoided "darky" humor (as opposed to Blue Book and the major slicks), but this is a rotten exception. There's more bad comedy in Lester Dent's serial Genius Jones and one of Foster-Harris' Mr. Weeble stories, but along with the Adams you get an installment of Borden Chase's Sandhog and a Frank Richardson Pierce No-Shirt McGee story to balance things out.

Saturday, December 10, 2016


Here's a straightforward wartime cover for a 1943 issue of Short Stories, illustrating E. Hoffman Price's lead novelette "According to Plan" -- at 43 pages they may even have called it a novel. Despite the relevance of Price's piece, this issue has a strong Klondike flavor, featuring both the magazine's most popular series, the Halfaday Creek tales of James B. Hendryx, but also Frank Richardson Pierce's wise old sourdough No-Shirt McGee, who abandoned his Argosy birthplace in favor of Short Stories in 1942. You also get short stories by Berton E. Cook and H. S. M. Kemp, an episode of H. Bedford-Jones' sci-fi series "Tales of the Strato-Shooters," and a mystery serial chapter by Harry Bridge. Looks like a pretty good selection for a magazine that was still cranking out 160 pages twice a month in one of pulpdom's most impressive long runs.

Friday, December 9, 2016


It seems like there was a perpetual struggle over at Detective Fiction Weekly against the temptation to make their covers look like vaudeville or fight-card posters with all the names and descriptions. Sometimes artists and editors resisted that temptation to tremendous effect, as we've seen a few times this year. More often, I fear, the thought was: "Let's try to mention as many things as possible that somebody might be interested in." One result is this wordy 1939 cover ballyhooing Handwriting Analysis and Cipher Solving along with the (hopefully) Outstanding Short Fiction. DFW probably needed all the specialized readers it could get at this point. It had been shrunk to 112 pages, presumably so the Munsey Corporation could use the paper saved for all its futile new Red Star magazines. They still had an ace to play in Erle Stanley Gardner, who was not so flush from the success of Perry Mason that he would not bother publishing in pulp anymore. That fall he had switched loyalties from Street & Smith to Munsey, moving his popular character Lester Leith from Detective Story to DFW. This week's "At Arm's Length" apparently was a standalone story without a series character. William Brandon's contribution is "Pat and Mike and Murder," while Hugh B. Cave contributed "Laugh, Clown!" DFW was still able to squeeze in short stories by Martin Lehigh and Lawrence Treat along with an installment of Dale Clark's "Cop's Crusade" serial, along with all the non-fiction stuff. Curiously unbilled on the cover is FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, who has a piece here on "Problems of Law Enforcement," which I suppose he'd know better than anybody.

Thursday, December 8, 2016


Who is this guy??? Someone new to Detective Fiction Weekly would probably get no clue from this 1934 cover, though the new reader probably could guess that it isn't Texas Kitty. I can eliminate H. Bedford-Jones' Riley Dillon, since I'm used to seeing him on covers in top hat and monocle. So he's either Anthony Rud's Jigger Masters, F. V. W. Mason's  Hugh North, or a generic gunman. Dillon was a gentleman thief HBJ brought over from Mystery magazine, where his stories appeared under the Rodney Blake pseudonym. Masters was a character Rud revived in 1933 after writing a run of stories about him back in 1918. North had been starring in his own book series since 1930, and would continue well into the 1960s, but Mason published a number of novelettes in the pulps; "Crime of the Legion" is one of two to appear in DFW. And if that weren't all for this week, there's the debut of a series character, Laurence Donovan's Pa Howdy, who would appear three times in DFW over the next few months before going into hibernation. Donovan would revive him for a run of stories in G-Man Detective beginning in 1942. Ernest Poate and K. (for Kay or Kaye, another case of initial only = female) Krausse contribute short stories. As for Texas Kitty, perhaps only those who've actually read this issue can tell who she was....

Wednesday, December 7, 2016


If December 7 seems early for a Christmas cover, consider that this 1928 issue of The Popular Magazine  from Street & Smith, is also its "Early January" issue for 1929 as well as its Holiday Number. This tells us both how soon the issue hit newsstands and how long it was expected to stay there. The Popular had been weekly earlier in 1928 but had recently retrenched to twice-a-month, the cover dates being the 7th and the 20th. It seems also to have jumped in page count from 144 to 176 pages per issue. Of the authors, I'm more or less familiar with two of them, Fred MacIsaac and Henry Herbert Knibbs, but the others, including two poets, are mysteries to me. Thomas Boyd, who wrote the lead novel, worked mostly in the slicks, while A. M. Chisolm, W. B. M. Ferguson and William Hemmingway who by this time appeared almost exclusively in The Popular. Holiday content includes Ferguson's "Merry Christmas" and Willard E. Solenberger's poem "Christmas on the Trail." I suspect I'll have better luck finding Christmas-themed covers than I've had for other holidays, but we'll see.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016


Approximately one year before yesterday's cover, here's a Detective Story woman possibly putting herself in peril. I appreciate the artist's commitment to detail in illustrating the madman's drooling anticipation of freedom, however limited by the size of that window. The author of "The Madhouse Dupe," A. E. Apple, specialized in supercriminals, eventually pitting his two prize specimens, the Asian menace Mr. Chang and the more scrupulous thief Rafferty, against each other in two 1931 stories. Elsewhere this issue, Johnston McCulley's lisping safecracker Thubway Tham borrows the Street & Smith microphone from the cover for "Thubway Tham on the Air," while Charlotte Dockstader, Ronald Everson, Roy W. Hinds, Ray Humphreys, Ainsworth Morgan, Morgan I Tooke and Donald Van Riper contribute stories and Herman Landon continues the serial The Silver Chest. Tham, Humpheys and Van Riper would be the very next week, while Dockstader had been in just last week. A weekly story magazine was a dependable market for the industrious.

Monday, December 5, 2016


A starkly dramatic woman-in-peril cover fronts a 1931 Detective Story with two prominent female contributors. For cover author Marion Scott, the Street & Smith weekly probably was a step down in prestige as it became her primary market after several years of publishing regularly in Black Mask. Similarly, Elisabeth Sanxay Holding published mainly in the slicks, both before and after her serial Brides of Crime wrapped up this week. It was one of three serials Holding published in Detective Story between August 1931 and March 1932. She returned sporadically to pulp but continued to stick to the slicks as she became one of the most acclaimed mystery writers of her time. The male contingent is led by Johnston McCulley, who begins the three-part serial A Million-Dollar Dog, but his colleagues are as obscure today as Marion Scott is, compared to McCulley and Holding.

Sunday, December 4, 2016


Lionel White is probably best known for his novel Clean Break, which is itself better known as The Killing, the title under which Stanley Kubrick and Jim Thompson filmed their late-noir classic in 1956. A number of White's stories were filmed, including this slight novel, which probably lost little in its conversion into an episode of Thriller, the early Sixties anthology series hosted by Boris Karloff. My edition is from September 1961 so Merriweather may have been reissued to benefit from interest created by the TV show.  At 121 pages it's one of the shortest paperback novels I've read and you can sense that White struggled to get it to novel length. The first-person narration gets repetitive at times as the narrator tends to recap things in a manner that made me wonder whether this had been a serial first -- apparently not, though. White is considered a master of the caper story -- another novel is called The Big Caper -- but Merriweather is more of a whodunit. The narrator, Howard Yates, is a straitlaced lawyer and recent widower who is drawn into a maelstrom engulfing his friends and neighbors, Charles and Ann Merriweather. They seem normal enough apart from having lost their only child in a freak driveway accident, but one day Ann confides to Howard her belief that someone tried to kill her by asphyxiation one night when Charles wasn't home. The Charles is taken in for questioning when a dead body turns up unexpectedly in the trunk of his car. He has an alibi, based on the estimated time of death, but isn't eager to publicize it. As Howard learns, Charles spent the night of the mystery man's death with another woman. Charles claims not to know the dead man, but Howard learns that Charles' mistress knew him. He grows increasingly convinced that Charles is keeping something from him, and as circumstantial evidence makes the case against Charles more solid -- we learn that the dead man was a gambler and bookie and that Charles had made some big withdrawals from his bank account recently -- Howard becomes convinced that the only way to save Charles' life, still presuming him innocent, is to tell a lie in which Charles did kill the man to rescue Ann from his attack. Ann is willing to perjure herself -- she'd explained earlier that she'd taken sleeping pills and was dead to the world on the crucial night -- on the condition, now that she knows of Charles' infidelity, that he agree to a legal separation. In the end, Charles insists on telling his version of the truth, however hopeless it looks....

Most people making their way through Merriweather will find themselves torn between two assumptions. They'll either presume that Ann Merriweather is the killer, having lied about taking the pills, or they'll assume that Howard did it and is playing an unreliable narrator, since he often seems too naive to be true. I won't spoil the story any more than it's been spoiled in the last 57 years, but I will warn you that there is more to Charles Merriweather's story than he lets on to his lawyer. Don't confuse my reluctance to spoil the story with a recommendation. It only means that anticipating the big reveal is really the only thrill this trifle can offer. I may call it a mystery but it hardly qualifies as a detective novel, since Howard Yates is one of the worst detectives you'll ever encounter and it's up to someone else to finally explain to us what actually happened, almost in deus ex machina fashion. It's all been buildup for the sort of twist ending you'd expect at the end of a half-hour radio or TV show. The best I can say for Merriweather is that it's very readable despite the narrator's rather stilted manner, and it's over quick. The best I can say for Lionel White is that I've read Clean Break and that book is a classic -- and I'd still be willing to read more of his work in that line.


No animals were harmed in the making of this 1926 Western Story cover. This was the period when the Street & Smith weekly boasted of its "Big Clean Stories of Outdoor Life," which means we're not dealing with Spicy Western here. This looks like a typical Twenties issue with two items from Frederick Faust. As Max Brand he wraps the serial The Iron Trail, while as George Owen Baxter he continues The Bells of San Filipo. "Baxter" was one of Faust's longer-lived pseudonyms; he started using it in 1920, by which time he'd already been writing as "Brand" for three years. Other familiar names this time include Frank Richardson Pierce with the lead novelette and Robert Ormond Case with a story about his series character Lonesome McQuirk. Less familiar names are Reginald C. Barker (with the promising contribution "Frozen Beans"), H. H. Matteson (whose "Tum Tum" is presumably more of a northwest story) and Frank Triem, who takes us back to culinary territory with "With a Pinch of Salt." Add the regular columns and non-fiction features and you get 144 pages a week, a pretty good deal at the time.

Saturday, December 3, 2016


Argosy took credit for introducing C. S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower to the American reading public, and they probably deserve some share of the credit. Hornblower first saw print in this country in book form when Beat to Quarters (known in Great Britain as The Happy Return) appeared in April 1937. Argosy stepped in in February 1938 when it serialized the second novel, A Ship of the Line, one month prior to its American publication and two months prior to its UK appearance. While waiting for Forester's next, Argosy reprinted Beat to Quarters as a serial in September. The third novel, Flying Colours, was published in Britain in November 1938. Little more than a month later Argosy began its serialization. The complete novel appeared in January 1939. You could tell Hornblower had caught on because he next appeared in a slick magazine, Collier's, in 1940. In 1941 Forester gave Argosy a deleted chapter from Ship of the Line that was published as the short story, "The Bad Samaritan." After that Argosy was out of the running for Hornblower stories, Forester's favored port being the Saturday Evening Post.  Elsewhere this issue, firefighter specialist Karl Detzer continues his series of novelettes about rookie fireman Michael Costello and Judson Philips continues his annual football serial, while Holmes Alexander, Edgar Franklin, George Michener and Garnet Radcliffe contribute short stories and the magazine finishes its reprint of A. Merritt's The Ship of Ishtar. Argosy had shrunk from 144 to 128 pages earlier in the year, and now it was relying on reprints in an alarming way, though to be fair, they advertised their reprints on the cover as "by popular demand" special attractions. The next issue started John Buchan's 39 Steps, which I presume was tied into an American release of Alfred Hitchcock's film version of the story. But however they spun it, reprints were not a good sign for Argosy.

Friday, December 2, 2016


The man on the cover is definitely a bad guy, yet I suspect that, all else being the same, someone would object to putting him on a cover today because it would somehow glorify the organization he may be presumed to represent. He is not a Klansman, however, but a member of a cult investigated by T. T. Flynn's Mike and Trixie in a story that was reprinted in the mighty Big Book of Pulp Stories a few years ago. This issue also features a Daffy Dill by Richard Sale and the second Rex Sackler story by D. L. Champion, who would take the character to Black Mask for a decade-long run starting in 1940. Dale Clark continues the serial Cop's Crusade and Bert Collier contributes a short story to round out this issue's fiction content. The lead story may not be what the cover seems to promise, but if the cover got your attention it's still doing its job.

Thursday, December 1, 2016


Here's a remarkable 1934 Argosy in a less than remarkable copy from my own collection. This issue was a must-have for me because it has two of my favorite things in a pulp magazine: a Bellow Bill Williams story by Ralph R. Perry and a Tizzo the Firebrand tale by George (Frederick Faust) Challis. This is, in fact, the conclusion of Tizzo's two-part debut, The Firebrand, but that event is understandably overshadowed by the cover feature, the opening installment of Theodore Roscoe's seminal voodoo serial A Grave Must Be Deep! Roscoe, of course, is writing about Haitian zombies, not the kind that eat brains. He was no doubt inspired by recent voodoo movies, including Bela Lugosi's White Zombie and the Fay Wray vehicle Black Moon, but Grave shapes up on first impression as yet another "old dark house" story in an exotic setting. A starving artist's girlfriend and patron is an heir to a relative who died and left a fortune in Haiti. Accompanied by a well-spoken native lawyer, the couple travel to the "magic isle" and encounter a variety of grotesques -- and that's just in the old man's household. He's left a will putting the girl far back in the order of succession to his fortune, with a stipulation applying to all heirs requiring them to stay at his estate for a certain amount of time. Need I add that the girl moves a couple of steps closer to the big payday in this installment alone? Perhaps I should add that the old man also stipulated that he be buried Haitian style with all the safeguards against being turned into a zombie, while the lawyer blusters that he doesn't believe in such stuff. For some people Roscoe's writing will be irredeemably racist, but this is a story in which everyone but our hero and heroine is a grotesque caricature, be they black or white -- that extends to a German hanger-on whom everyone calls "the Nazi." It promises to be all quite deranged, and I look forward to catching up with the rest of it someday.

Meanwhile, Bellow Bill looks to be in a bad spot. He joins the chase after a high-class island dinner party is interrupted by a half-naked Melanesian crashing the party, cleaving the skull of a society matron and stealing her sapphire necklace. Diving after the savage, he sees the culprit getting into a boat and assumes, since the sea is still stormy after a hurricane, that the gang must be heading for a nearby island known by Bill as the haunt of Knife-Hand Foster, a notorious "blackbirder" named after the retractable bayonet he wears over a mutilated hand. He finds Foster in his own boat, having killed the Melanesians in "self-defense" but claiming that he saw the sapphire necklace go over the side during the melee. Bill doesn't believe it but has no real clue where the thing might be, and no idea of how to get at it except to go to the rat-infested isle of Mahia, where more human rats await him. Bill and his creator are in good form here as Perry emphasizes that our hero has rushed overconfidently into a situation where he may be out of his depth, pitted against not one but two blackbirders -- slave raiders to you -- who seem to be working together but may also have separate agendas that make them hard to predict. As usual, Perry excels at throwing obstacles in Bellow Bill's path, including the vicious, hungry little title creatures. Few pulp writers do action thrillers as well as Perry, and anyone who's become a Bellow Bill fan this year should enjoy this one.

It's not Robert Carse but Richard Wormser who writes this issue's Foreign Legion novelette. While Carse contributes a sea story about an officer who takes big risks in search of fame, even when situations don't necessarily require his intervention, Wormser writes something more like a detective story in a Foreign Legion setting. This makes a difference. The protagonist of "To Hell For the Devil" is a detective who hopes to make a name for himself by capturing one of the gang who kidnapped, tortured and mortally injured the heir to a prominent fortune. A combination of ambition and indignation over the fate of the victim drives the detective to pursue his man across the Atlantic and into Africa, where he finds that his quarry has enlisted in the Legion. This is a problem, since the Legion doesn't cooperate with American law enforcement. It depends too much on fugitives from justice for its manpower, and turning over a wanted criminal, no matter how heinous his crime, would discourage enlistments. Our detective sees no alternative to enlisting in the Legion himself in the hope of coming across the fugitive, even though the Legion is fully aware of his identity and purpose and is determined to keep him as far away from his man as possible. For a while it becomes a standard Legion story as the chubby middle-aged detective is whipped (not quite literally) into shape and almost loses track of his mission. But a big battle brings together many units and gives him the break he's looking for. Had this been a typical Legion story, the sort Carse, Georges Surdez or J. D. Newsom wrote, you might expect hunter and quarry to bond in battle, forcing a dilemma on the detective in the end. But Wormser is writing a detective story, and once the big battle is out of the way the detective grabs the fugitive and bolts for the border, knowing full well that he'll be shot for desertion if the Legion catches up with him. Wormser's unorthodox approach freshens up some of the familiar Legion tropes, and even if his story does end somewhat anticlimactically it's a good read.

Rounding out the issue are Hapsburg Liebe's short story "Kid Sheriff" and an installment of Ralph Milne Farley's sci-fi/horror serial The Immortals.  This is such a good issue overall that instead of scanning the Bellow Bill story alone, I've scanned and uploaded the whole thing. It's a hefty .cbz file that you can convert to a .zip and then adapt to suit your viewing or reading needs, but it ought to be a treat for any pulp fan. You can get it by clicking on the link below:

And before I forget, this issue was sponsored by:

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


Richard H. Rodger's nice balloon cover gives this 1924 Adventure a sort of cover banner that contrasts nicely with the sky below. Inside, this issue features two of Adventure's longest-lived characters. W. C. Tuttle's Hashknife Hartley started in Adventure back in 1920 and mostly stayed there for 15 years. He continued in other pulps, especially Short Stories, until 1951. F. R. Buckley's Luigi Caradosso actually makes his debut this issue in "Cartel to Wm. Shakespeare," and would stay loyal to Adventure to the bitter end of the pulp era. The Renaissance adventurer would take his last bow in March 1953, just before Adventure changed into a larger-format men's-adventure magazine. Talbot Mundy wraps a serial and Hugh Pendexter starts one this issue, while mainstays Charles Victor Fisher, Charles Tenney Jackson, William Byron Mowery and F. St.Mars, among others, contribute short pieces. This isn't my ideal issue of Adventure -- that would have some combination of Harold Lamb, Georges Surdez, Leonard H. Nason, J. D. Newsom, etc. -- but it's probably pretty good in its own right.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


Paul Stahr's cover painting for this 1930 Argosy looks to me more like something you'd see on the cover of a slick than on a pulp magazine, but it's a nice piece of work heralding the latest Gillian Hazeltine serial by George F. Worts. This issue virtually belongs to Worts, who also wraps up a Peter the Brazen two-parter under his Loring Brent alias. Posterity values more highly A. Merritt's continuing serial The Snake Mother, while it hardly remembers the names of the other authors appearing this week. They are Oscar J. Friend, who continues a western serial, Harold Montanye (any relation to C.S.?) with a novelette, and short story writers Elliot Balestier, Howard Ellis Davis and Jack Falcon. Balestier is an old-timer who first published in Argosy back in 1905, while this issue is Falcon's first and only appearance in the venerable weekly, at least under that name.

Monday, November 28, 2016


Emmett Watson's cover promises piratical action inside this 1936 Argosy, but today's collectors will want the issue for its stories by Robert E. Howard and L. Ron Hubbard. Howard's western "Vulture's Sanctuary" was the last of a posthumous run of stories in the venerable weekly. Hubbard's "The Ethnologist" at least has an interesting title. Along with these two and cover author H. Bedford-Jone, this issue boasts novelettes by T. T. Flynn and L. G. Blochman, a short story by William Merriam Rouse, and serials by William E. Barrett and George Bruce. Not a bad lineup overall.

Sunday, November 27, 2016


At least some contemporary pulp fans knew that the man who wrote Doc Savage under the name Kenneth Robeson was actually Lester Dent. He'd gotten his start in pulp a few years before the Man of Bronze made his debut, but Dent didn't get many opportunities to use his own byline once Doc was underway. He did manage to publish a novelette in the prestigious Black Mask in October 1936, and from December 1936 through December 1937 he placed three serials in Argosy. Genius Jones is the last of these, and the bit of it I've read is pretty bad. The title character grew up in isolation from the civilized world but was surrounded by books. Naturally he's become a human encyclopedia who doesn't always get the real meaning of words once he's brought to the modern world. I don't care much for Dent as a writer, though some of Doc Savage is hilarious when read aloud. The leaden comedy of Genius Jones does not change my impression of the author. Fortunately, this issue also offers a No-Shirt McGee novelette by Frank Richardson Pierce in which the sourdough sage recalls a youthful adventure in Siberia, as well as a novelette by H. Bedford-Jones, and serial chapters by Borden Chase and Allan Vaughan Elston, along with short stories by Edwin H. Hoover and Paul R. Morrison. This is another Argosy issue from the pulp trove, so check it out by following this link.

Saturday, November 26, 2016


Street & Smith promises "Six Star Performers" in this 1934 issue of Complete Stories, but I don't know if modern pulp fans would grant anyone on the cover other than H. Bedford-Jones that honor. The author given top billing, William Bruner, rarely worked outside Street & Smith. He gets what probably passed for a book-length novel (it's 43 pages) while Bedford-Jones only contributes a short story. The authors not mentioned on the cover, C. S. Montanye and Carmony Gove, are probably at least as well know to pulp buffs as Bruner, James Clarke, Bob du Soe, Victor Maxwell or Robert McBlair. But they must have had their moments, or else why would Street & Smith think their names meant anything to anyone, and more than any story inside this issue? It just goes to show that pulp fame was ephemeral for many writers, and posterity often judged differently.

Friday, November 25, 2016


This 1930 number is one of the relatively few issues of Short Stories included in the pulp trove. The cover's nothing special as far as I'm concerned, and I don't recall having read Robert E. Pinkerton's "complete novel" of approximately 40 pages. Getting past that, however, there's a pretty strong lineup of authors here in an exotic variety of settings, and I was entertained by the stories of Robert Carse (Foreign Legion), Hugh B. Cave (Borneo), Karl W. Detzer (firefighting), Ernest Haycox (western),  Ralph R. Perry (Aleutians) and Sidney Herschel Small (savages in Formosa). You can sample it all at your leisure by following this link.

Thursday, November 24, 2016


This 1934 Argosy introduces Tizzo the Firebrand, the red-haired axe-wielding Italo-British swashbuckler who took the pulp weekly by storm over the next year. George Challis was one of the many aliases employed by Frederick Faust (the best known being Max Brand). This one came to be identified with period swashbucklers, if not primarily with Tizzo. In 1935 the Firebrand appeared in two three-part serials and four novelettes from February to August. With each new story Tizzo got the cover -- an unprecedented push over so short a period. I actually wonder whether Faust switched from serials to novelettes just so he could get more covers for his character. Anyway, they're great stories or Renaissance intrigue and mayhem, and his debut had to become part of my personal pulp collection.

As for the rest, I like what I've read so far of Ralph Milne Farley's The Immortals, and Max Brand's Scourge of the Rio Grande, which wraps up this week, is an interesting tale of smuggling illegal Chinese immigrants across the U.S.-Mexico border, with a somewhat sympathetic Chinese villain who's raised a white girl, a friend's daughter, as his own child. H. Bedford-Jones contributes a novelette in which a family melodrama plays out amid violence on the "Isle of Destiny," while J. Allen Dunn's "Samuel Slate Collects" gives us some nigh-omnipotent avenger punishing a ruthless businessman. Eustace L. Adams' "Dog Daze" is a short story in his comic series about a drunken demonstration pilot, while Hapsburg Liebe's "Hoss-Trade" deals approvingly with a hillbilly con artist. It was pretty entertaining overall, and it was sponsored by