Saturday, April 30, 2016


The 30th brings us back to Adventure in its thrice-a-month glory days. This 1923 issue has a nice, almost eerie cover by A. L. Ripley and at least four major pulp authors, at least by my standards. Talbot Mundy wraps up his Jimgrim serial The Nine Unknown this issue. I'm in the middle of a Jimgrim story right now and I really like the early tales set in Palestine under the British Mandate. I understand that the series gets more exotic and philosophical later but I'm willing to take a chance on where it goes. There are also standalone stories (some of these may be novelettes) by two masters of imperialist adventure, J.D. Newsom and Georges Surdez, and sea-story stalwart Albert Richard Wetjen. Beyond these big four, there are authors that more veteran Adventure fans won't sneer at like F. R. Buckley, Thomson Burtis, George E. Holt, Barry Scobee and Hugh Pendexter, who has the issue's other serial. Frederick R. Bechdolt gets a mention on the cover for a nonfiction piece about Butch Cassidy. Just from the names this looks like an above-average issue of an above-average magazine.

Friday, April 29, 2016


Wasn't Wild West Weekly the lighter, more kid-friendly or Street & Smith's western pulps? I guess that means Western Story would give you the whole body of the hanged man, viewed from the front. Having the carrion birds dominate the cover while relegating the hanged man to a corner was a typical eccentric artistic device of Street & Smith circa 1939. It doesn't seem to promise kiddie fare, but the kiddies may have been made of sterner stuff back then. There was plenty of comfort writing inside, however.  J. Allen Dunn's Bud Jones is the senior series character this issue, having had adventures since 1927. William F. Bragg's Silver Jack Steele dates back to 1932, while Norman A. Hay had been writing Ricky McKee tales as William A. Todd since 1935. Much more recently, Lee Bond (writing as Andrew A. Griffin) had just started a weekly series of six novellas about Cliff Merchant of the Flying X the previous issue. One author, Frank Carl Young, apparently made up a totally original cast of characters that he never used again. Wild West Weekly apparently had at least one stand-alone short story every issue, but it's not as if the casual reader would have felt lost reading about long-lived series characters. I doubt that continuity was so tight in those days that you couldn't have understood the latest Silver Jack story without reading the last one, much less all of them -- but maybe I'm wrong.

Thursday, April 28, 2016


Detective Story seems to have been the primary American market for Edgar Wallace in the late 1920s, or at least in 1928. The British author appeared sixteen times in the Street & Smith weekly that year, though at the very end he moved to Munsey and spent most of 1929 in Detective Fiction Weekly. Wallace, perhaps the most popular thriller writer of his day, clearly was the star of this 1928 magazine, but pulp fans will recognize the prolific Judson P. Philips, who continues his serial The Marked Five. This issue offers more proof that pulps were more gender-balanced in the Twenties, since along with cover-billed Charlotte Dockstader Madeleine Sharps Buchanan appears with the conclusion of her serial The Hooded Horror. Roland Krebs presents the latest exploit of his team of Sheik and Simpson, who started out together the previous June and would continue until June 1930. Donald Van Riper has a short story but isn't mentioned on the cover, while Ernest Poate is mentioned on the cover, but his story isn't listed in the Fiction Mags Index. John A Coughlin's cover seems almost unfinished but I like its suggestion that something is going to go terribly wrong with man's modest-seeming science.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


Show Them Death, says ex-con Jack Callahan in his non-fiction cover story for this 1935 Detective Fiction Weekly, and apparently death is pink. Specifically, death in the electric chair is a terrifying pink. The sheer obscenity of the color is sure to scare those two cons straight. If it seems strange that DFW highlights a non-fiction item, please note the relative size of the word "Fiction" on the magazine cover. Just the same, that ugly white strip reminds us that there are fiction authors inside. Max Brand continues his Anthony Hamilton spy series while Fred MacIsaac continues his serial Death to a Tenor.  Pulp regulars Ray Cummings and Steve Fisher contribute short stories, as does the less familiar Robert W. Sneddon.  H. W. Guernsey (the initials stand for Guernsey's real name, Howard Wandrei) adds a novelette with the generic title (at least for this publication) "Public Enemy." You also get an Illustrated Crime and weekly columns on criminology, cyphers and the art of reading faces. I suppose that cover is as close to shudder-pulp territory as DFW ever got. At least it has people literally shuddering.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


Let's review. In January 1941 Argosy transformed from a 112 page pulp to a 50 page bedsheet with triple-column pages. In March the venerable weekly kicked its page count up to 66, with double column pages and easier to read type, while retaining the hideous photo-collage standard cover template adopted in January. Now, at the end of April, the desperate Munsey corporation makes further changes. This time the page count stays the same, but the publishers grudgingly realize that they need original art on the cover to sell the contents inside. They still won't spring for a cover painting, as they haven't since last summer, but at least a pen-and-ink drawing is something to catch the eye. It advertises the opening installment of E. Hoffman Price's historical adventure Drums of Khartoum, which most likely was good stuff.  This issue's most famous contributor only appears on the letters page. According to the Fiction Mags Index, Louis L'Amour, already a veteran pulp writer, writes to "Argonotes" to question some detail of a recent Cornell Woolrich story. The rest of the fiction this issue comes from Frederick C. Painton, here dabbling in time-travel science fiction; boxing story specialist Robert Griffith; Steve "I Wake Up Screaming" Fisher, continuing a proto-WW2 serial; Crawford Sullivan, most likely telling another tale of the Bilge & Binnacle Club in "Pandemonium Goes to Sea;" western writer Ray Nafziger; and Joel Townsley Rogers with "Blind is the Night," a novel of uncertain genre. The new look definitely is an improvement on the horrors of the winter, but it still looks almost amateurish compared to fully painted covers from the good old days of not so long ago. And there are still more changes to come in this annus horribilis for Argosy.

Monday, April 25, 2016


It looks like cover artist Remington Schuyler has his Yellow Perils mixed up. It should be a Japanese popping out of Short Stories' red-sun icon, but Robert Carse has written something called "Tong of Death" so a Chinese it must be. I'm willing to try anything by Carse but Chinatown stuff seems like it might be outside his comfort zone. It was a tricky proposition for anyone because the temptation always was to write Chinese characters all alike, or else in one of three modes: inarticulate coolie (the worst writers replace every r with an l for this type), hyper-articulate but stereotypically formal (e.g. "This dishonorable person is unworthy of your attention."), or westernized Number One Son type. Carse clearly is the star of the issue, while Charles Alden Seltzer was a veteran western writer and Cliff Farrell was in his sports period before becoming a western specialist himself. South Sea novelette writer Herman Peterson was popular enough to merit a cover mention, but I don't believe I've read anything by him. The other contributors are Hal Davenport, Carmony Gove, Paul Hosmer (about whom see Sai S. at Pulpflakes), Carlysle G. Raht, Walter Snow and Dex Volney. Short Stories may not have been Adventure, but I'd guess that any issue's lineup of authors was as trustworthy as that for its twice-a-month rival.

Sunday, April 24, 2016


I bought this 1937 Argosy in part to complete the two-part Joel Townsley Rogers story "Locusts From Asia" that began in the April 17 issue. The other main reason was Frank Richardson Pierce's "Sourdough," which is, I believe, the first appearance of possibly his most popular character, No-Shirt McGee. He's definitely in it, and that requires an update to the Fiction Mags Index, which lists the two-parter "Sable" (October 30 - November 6) as McGee's first-known appearance. Pierce would develop No-Shirt's backstory in later tales. In "Sourdough" we learn nothing about him except his reputation as "a man of strong character, great determination, with a thorough knowledge of Northern life and its various ramifications." He is, in fact, a sourdough, and we do learn what that means.

"To qualify, you've got to have seen the ice come in the fall, go out in the spring, and lived with a squaw and killed a caribou. And danged if I've ever been able to kill a caribou," No-Shirt tells his protege, Hollister Cadwallader Algernon Jones, scion of a very wealthy British family and determined to become a sourdough in his own right. No-Shirt assures him that "A man doesn't have to graduate in all subjects to get a diploma," but this is to discourage young Jones from disgracing himself with a native girl up north. McGee has been hired by the elder Jones to keep an eye of Hollister to make sure the lad neither disgraces himself nor gets ripped off. Over the course of the 13 page story No-Shirt himself gets conned by a sharp operator and persuades Hollister to buy a "salted" tract of land, despite McGee's assurance that he can detect any attempt to salt land with gold samples. No-Shirt ends up a bystander as Hollister figures out a way to con the conman -- but McGee often isn't the protagonist of his stories. He's as much a narrative device as a character much of the time. Pierce writes in a once-popular style through which a relatively uneducated character seems to address an audience rather than write a text. Thankfully, McGee doesn't speak in any ethnic or regional dialect. He makes a few grammatical errors, but mainly he narrates past events in present tense -- or he will in later stories, but not here. I think that device gives his stories an added immediacy, while McGee's personality gives the tales an entertaining slant. He's a man of experience, presumably in his fifties or sixties, who also knows his limitations and has a sense of humor about himself and the situations he finds himself in. The No-Shirt stories are the best things I've read from Pierce, and No-Shirt's narrative voice has a lot to do with that.

I haven't had time this week to get too far into this issue, but I have read the cover story, the opening installment of Max Brand's War For Sale. For whatever reason Frederick Faust used his most popular pseudonym for contemporary spy stories instead of using another established alias or making up a new one. In this serial an international cast of super agents vie for possession of blueprints for France's Maginot Line. Like most people, Faust/Brand assumed that the Germans would make a frontal assault on that fortress network and so want plans that would reveal its weak points. That assumption gives the story a certain tragicomic quaintness. In a subplot, a French journalist disappears in the middle of a series exposing a continental super-spy, only to appear in London, where our British female spy tries to recruit him on the assumption that he and his subject are one and the same. I don't know if any man in the story will wear a mask like the gentleman on the cover, but I think the cover would be less without it.

As for the rest:

I've also read Roy de S. Horn's novelette "Walls of Jericho," in which our protagonist, framed for a crime he didn't commit, breaks out of prison as a flood breaks out, only to break back in to rescue inmates and guards while taking revenge on the con who framed him, a man he thought had been executed. There are some dramatic descriptions of the flooding, but the resolution is too neat. Our hero was framed because a certain kind of knot, known only to sailors, was used to strangle a man, and wouldn't you know? During the crisis his supposed partner in crime has to use some rope and makes a perfect sailor knot, interpreted by all as instant exoneration for our hero. I've read better from this author, usually in the historical genre.

While I haven't read these installments yet, I can vouch for Eustace L. Adams's Revolution - With Pictures and Garnett Radcliffe's Doomed Liner based on last week's reading. I'm hoping that the conclusion of "Locusts From Asia" will reveal the fantastic reality behind last week's feverish imagery of a Yellow Peril intervention by air in World War I, led by a topless woman. Rest assured that you'll find out eventually, since I intend to upload complete scans of both April 17 and April 24 in the near future. I'll brief you on the Richard Howells Watkins and Dale Clark stories later. For now, this issue is sponsored by:

Saturday, April 23, 2016

It pays to advertise

A couple of days ago I was looking for something interesting to report about the western pulp author George Cory Franklin. When all else fails I throw a name into the Google News Archive search engine. Among other things, this is what I found:

My impression is that newspaper advertising for pulps was a rare thing. I'm used to seeing advertisements for The Saturday Evening Post in papers from this period, but I didn't think pulp publishers were ambitious enough to publicize themselves the same way. I could recall only one other time I saw a newspaper ad for a pulp; it was a 1935 ad for Argosy in the New York Sun, but that almost doesn't count since the Munsey company owned both The Sun and Argosy.  The ad above, for the September 20, 1930 Western Story, ran in a Spokane newspaper. Inspired, I entered "Western Story magazine" as a search term and got another hit.

This one, also from 1930, also came from Spokane, but unless Street & Smith owned all Spokane's newspapers I presume this was a national campaign that can be found in papers not included in the Google archive. These were the only two Western Story ads I found in a preliminary search. I moved on to author names, starting with Walt Coburn. That search turned up something unique: a 1929 ad for the Fiction House pulp apparently designed specifically for the Prescott Evening Courier, which was more or less Coburn's hometown paper.

The Google News Archive is doomed to remain a fraction of what it was meant to be, but what exists promises to be a rich source of material about pulp writers, as well as a resource for stories that appeared in weekend magazine supplements. There are many more historic newspaper sources out there, and I'm curious to know whether other pulp fans and scholars have come across this sort of advertising. I'll share more as I find them, and I'll appreciate any tips (informative, not monetary) readers can offer.


This 1932 Argosy has a solid lineup, led by Robert Carse with a Foreign Legion novelette. Ralph R. Perry and W. C. Tuttle contribute short stories; Perry's may not be a Bellow Bill but there's no reason for it to be inferior to that series. William Corcoran begins a two-parter this issue, while Ray Cummings writes part two of The Insect Invasion, Jack Allman adds part three (the conclusion) of Halloway's Debt and Sinclair Gluck contributes part four of Red Emeralds. It isn't so often that you get a neat progression like that. I haven't been impressed by Cummings and my knowledge of Corcoran is limited, but Allman and Gluck are pretty good. H.M. Sutherland has a story, too. There are enough strong authors to make this issue most likely worth having.

Friday, April 22, 2016


Here's another H. W. Scott special from 1939. From what I've seen browsing around the Fiction Mags Index, Scott usually a fairly dynamic artist, but working close-up as he presumably was encouraged to do this particular year gives his covers a concentrated focus that busier scenes, painted from a greater distance, often lack. The "Book Length Novel" this issue is actually fairly good-sized; Harry Sinclar Drago's "Cowboy... Say Your Prayers!" comes in at 49 pages, more than one-third of this 128 page Western Story. I haven't read too much from Drago but I have read one of his Bliss Lomax novels, The Fight For the Sweetwater, and liked it. As for the rest, Frank Richardson Pierce continues his serial Cattle Kings Die Hard, and he's usually pretty good, while John Colohan, George Cory Franklin and W. Ryerson Johnson contribute short stories.  Franklin was a late bloomer, breaking into pulps, publishing his first stories in Lariat at age 56 in 1928. His series character Chief first appeared in 1937; this issue's "Chief in Big Trouble" was the sixth of fourteen stories, the series ending in 1942. Johnson has the rare distinction of having written adventures of both Doc Savage and Mike Shayne, albeit under each character's house-author name. About Colohan I have nothing to say; perhaps people who've read his work can fill us in.

Thursday, April 21, 2016


That's an alarming cover for this 1934 Detective Fiction Weekly, and as was often the case for that magazine, in spite of its title, the cover story actually is a work of non-fiction. On the fiction side there's an unusual emphasis on series characters; the only piece not to feature one is Max Brand's serial X, the Murderer. Judson P. Philips sends his gentlemen vigilantes, the Park Avenue Hunt Club, for another outing, while Erle Stanley Gardner brings back his Patent Leather Kid.  Anthony Rud's Jigger Masters was created back in 1918 for a run of stories in the Green Book magazine, and was revived in 1933 after a 15 year hiatus. H. H. Matteson's "Eggs of Devilment" is the second story in his Hoh-Hoh Stevens series, while Roland Philips's "Goldfish Tell" is closer to the end of his Inspector Porky Neal series. Mackinlay Kantor's "The Hunting of Hemingway" is the last of three stories of Nick and Dave Glennan as well as Kantor's farewell to pulpdom, apart from a poem in a 1937 Adventure. He would move on to a slick and hardbound career that included the source stories for the films The Best Years of Our Lives and Gun Crazy, to give you an idea of his range, and climaxed with a Pulitzer Prize for Andersonville in 1955. With all the series characters, maybe Roan's nonfiction piece got the cover because it was the most original thing in the issue.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


The big guns of this 1922 issue of Adventure are Talbot Mundy, who contributes a complete Jimgrim story, "The Woman Ayesha;" Arthur D. Howden-Smith, who concludes a three-part Crusades-set serial A Son of Strife; Hugh Pendexter, who begins the serial Pay Gravel; and Gordon Young, who closes out the fiction part of the issue with the story "Shipwreck." The lesser lights include animal story specialist F. St. Mars, Paul L. Anderson, T. von Ziekursch, F.A.M. Webster and G.A. Wells. I'm not familiar enough with any of the last four to offer any comments, but substantial contributions from Mundy and Howden-Smith, at least, make this issue most likely worth having. As usual under Arthur Sullivant Hoffman's regime, the rather ominous cover probably has nothing to do with any of the stories inside.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


Argosy merged with All-Story Weekly in July 1920 and the two titles were given equal size in what proved for nearly six years a very top-heavy cover format. This is a 1924 issue whose contents are largely unknown, apart from the obvious cover story by Arthur Hunt Clarke, except to people who own a copy. Looking at the contents posted for the previous week's issue, we see that this one wraps up a serial by Laurie York Erskine, a name I've seen in the slicks, and continues others by Theodore Goodridge Roberts, who was still plugging away in the 1950s, by David Fox and by "The Queen of Floriana." Fox was a pseudonym for one Isabel Ostrander, and I'll bet the Queen is a female, too -- though you never can be 100% certain. According to a Heartwood Auctions listing there are two up-front female writers this issue besides the masked Fox and the likely Queen. One gets the impression that Argosy was a more diverse magazine at this time. In fact, this issue features something perhaps more rare than a female pulpster: a black pulpster in the form of Eric D. Walrond, who contributes the story "The Stolen Necklace" according to a biographical bibliography. Makes you wonder what was changing in the latter half of the Twenties besides the cover design -- though that was for the better.

Monday, April 18, 2016


This will be brief, since I'm no more familiar with Street & Smith's stable of Detective Story writers circa 1931 than I was last week. But this is another awesome cover that I couldn't pass up. Of the contents, I'll note this issue's one series character. Charles W. Tyler had been writing adventures for Big Nose Charley since 1917. "Big Nose Charley - Gentlemun" was the 31st in the series according to the Fiction Mags Index. An extensively-researched biographical sketch at the Mystery*File website describes Tyler as "perhaps the most prolific pulp writer you have never heard of." According to this article, Big Nose Charley proves to have been a criminal, not a crimefighter, but the series is meant for laughs. It seems like you'll find a lot of forgotten men (and probably women) in Detective Story, but then a couple of weeks later you'll have Johnston McCulley, Erle Stanley Gardner and Edgar Wallace all in one issue. It might be more interesting to discover the unknowns, but I'm more an adventure and westerns man, so I'll probably leave the spadework to others.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Pulp Reading: Donald Barr Chidsey, "GRAVEYARD OF THE GODS," ARGOSY, April 17, 1937

Donald Barr Chidsey (1902-71) merited a New York Times obituary for his nonfiction writing, with a passing mention of his novel writing. His voluminous pulp output, perhaps predictably, went unmentioned. Chidsey broke into pulps at the same time he was publishing irreverent historical biographies like Sir Humphrey Gilbert: Elizabeth's Racketeer (which can be found on the Internet Archive). He published his first pulp story in Street & Smith's Detective Story in July 1931, then turned up in Adventure at the end of that year. He picked up the pace in 1932, creating his long-running hero Nick Fisher for Detective Fiction Weekly and making his Argosy debut that summer. Chidsey soon was publishing all over the place, including the two most prestigious detective magazines, Black Mask and Dime Detective. For the latter he created the team of Morton & McGarvey, which he moved to DFW after an apparent falling out with Popular Publications that saw him stop publishing in Adventure after 1936. By 1937 he published primarily in the Munsey pulps (DFW and Argosy) with occasional forays into the slicks. Despite some early historical stories that presumably would be in keeping with his non-fiction interests, Chidsey became primarily a detective and crime writer, specializing in exotic locations, particularly for the Nick Fisher and Eddie Savoy team. He diversified in the war years, returning to Adventure and publishing more in Blue Book. He stuck around pulp almost to the bitter end, publishing his last pulp fictions in Popular's Fifteen Detective Tales in 1954. "Graveyard of the Gods" is a typical Chidsey product of the mid-thirties, though it doesn't have a detective as a central character. Point of view shifts from the Hawaiian native who drunkenly divulges a secret to the kidnappers who exploit it to the detective who tracks them and inadvertently tips off the native, a sacred guardian who must enforce a powerful tabu. It's a briskly paced story enlivened (or burdened) with pulp exotica and if you dig that sort of thing, or if it doesn't bother you -- and you wouldn't be a pulp fan if it did -- you should enjoy this story from the golden age of Argosy. My scan comes with the wild V.E. Pyles cover that I use for wallpaper, the early ad pages and this issue's table of contents. You can download it from the link below:


This cover should look familiar to you. The April 17, 1937 Argosy was one of the first issues of the magazine I acquired for myself, in large part because of that wild V.E. Pyles cover. At this early point in my collecting, after reading my way through the Argosy collection at, Donald Barr Chidsey was one of the authors I knew I liked; another early purchase got me his three-part 1938 serial Midas of the Mountains. "Graveyard of the Gods" almost lives up to that image. Some gangsters in Hawaii learn from a drunken native that a certain small island is taboo, the native alone visiting it to perform sacred services, and figure its isolation will make it an ideal spot to stash a kidnap victim. They fail to anticipate that the normally amiable native might get suspicious, much less wise to their sacrilegious scheme, though they might have been in the clear if not for a detective asking questions. It's a solid, punchy story that you'll be able to see soon. For now, let's see what else this issue has to offer:

Frank Richardson Pierce's "The Limit" is uplifting without getting too mawkish; a lumberman and hunter who loses a leg in an accident is demoralized, convinced that he'll never hunt again, until friends hook him up with a three-legged pointer to inspire him. Joel Townsley Rogers' "Locusts From Asia," as this week's Argonotes explain, was written back in 1928 but subsequently lost by the author for eight years or so. It's an odd, purple-prosed affair about British and German planes alike being attacked at the height of World War I by a mysterious fleet of advanced planes piloted by barely-human easterners and commanded by a feral-seeming topless woman. This week's first of two installments is padded by a protracted encounter between a German ace and his mentor, a Jewish scientist, in which the ace demands superweapons to fight the British with. After he stalks off, the scientist is captured by the mystery fleet. I found "Locusts" severely overwritten, but I found the premise just outrageous enough to keep me interested -- which makes it a good thing that I have next week's issue, too.

Next week will also give me another installment of Eustace L. Adams' Revolution -- With Pictures, another of his kickass serials from a period where he seemed to bat them out effortlessly. In this one, a newsreel team gets embroiled in a Latin American civil war. I don't have the first installment but an Argosy recap will usually get you up to speed easily enough, and Adams writes well enough to make even a fragment entertaining. I found the same to be true for this week's installment of Garnett Radcliffe's Doomed Liner, which is more of a mystery thiller than the sort of disaster story the title suggests. Some maniacal jiu-jitsu expert is on a murder spree -- his finishing move is the "bum's rush" --  and may be part of some bigger conspiracy. This installment takes place mostly on land and is primarily detective work, though the Scotland Yard hero has a hairsbreadth escape from a flood of water and rats at the climax. I haven't read much by Racliffe but he impressed me this time. I'm still working my way through the conclusion of Richard Wormser's Carnival Queen but I read the original installment and liked it some time ago and I'm pretty confident in Wormser as a rule.

Richard Sale's "Spin Down, Spin In" is an ultimately predictable tale of a widow who blames a flier with a bad reputation for her bereavement and learns flying in order to seduce him into a murder-suicide-by-crash scenario. It's predictable in its happy ending, but I suppose that if the widow followed through it would only be a gruesome anecdote. That leaves "The Madness of Captain Jonas" by Albert Richard Wetjen. During my exploration of the trove Wetjen became one of my favorite writers for Collier's, a slick that ran a lot of pulpy stories. His Wallaby Jim stories (eventually adapted for film) seem awfully violent for a family magazine, but he did a lot of more conventional sea stories as well. Wetjen didn't publish in Argosy very often -- his main pulp hangout was Fiction House's Action Stories -- so I wonder whether his Argosy stories are Collier's rejects with not enough action for Action Stories. There's not much action in "Captain Jonas," which is almost a Twilight Zone type story, the captain's madness being a superstitious nature that infuriates the new mate who narrates the story, and the twist being that a navigation decision attributed to supernatural influence, but resulting from a mundane accident, allows the crew to survive a fog without running aground. The short story is an entertaining compendium of absurdities effectively told with enduring dismay, and while it lacks the blood and thunder of Wetjen in full pulp mode it fits in Argosy just fine.

As of now I've scanned the Chidsey story and will make it available for download later today, and now that I have that head start I've a mind to do a cover-to-cover scan of a pretty decent Argosy from one of the venerable weekly's last good years. At my rate of work I hope to present the complete issue for download before the end of the month. I think you'll like it. And lest we forget, this issue was sponsored by:

Saturday, April 16, 2016


This 1932 issue of Western Story is truly a Faustian bargain. It gives you three Fausts for the price of one. Max Brand, of course was really Frederick Faust. George Owen Baxter was also Frederick Faust. On top of that, David Manning was Frederick Faust. So if you're keeping score, all three authors listed on the cover were the same person. Faust is responsible for 100 of this issue's 144 pages. The "others" are Frank Richardson Pierce (I'm surprised he didn't bring Seth Ranger along to even things up a little), George Corey Franklin and Dex Volney. That last is another pseudonym, covering for one Volney G. Mathison. Placing three stories in one issue (two of them are serial installments) wasn't unusual for Faust; he'd done it the April 2 Western Story as well. I've seen H. Bedford-Jones do the same stunt in issues of Blue Book, using his Gordon Keyne and Michael Gallister aliases -- but Blue Book was a monthly, and I'm not aware of HBJ pulling similar stunts in Argosy or Short Stories. Feats like this Western Story hat trick bolster the case for Faust, rather than HBJ, as King of the Pulps.

Friday, April 15, 2016


Launched as a monthly in November 1931, Popular Publications' Dime Detective graduated to twice-a-month in March 1933 and kept that schedule until the summer of 1935. It's regarded as the number-two detective pulp, critically speaking, after the legendary Black Mask. By this point in 1935 Dime Detective was aping Popular's trendy shudder pulps with cover scenes of torturous peril like this image by ace artist Walter Baumhofer. This Yellow Peril cover -- and leaving the ethnicity out of it, I suppose many taxpayers today feel like that poor woman under the cauldron -- illustrates a story by T. T. Flynn, a detective pulp stalwart before he turned into a western specialist in the 1940s. The real highlight of the issue for a pulp fan probably is (or ought to be) the Cardigan story by Frederick Nebel noted modestly in the lower left-hand corner. Nebel is probably the best pulp detective writer yet to be canonized by the wider culture. Whether his heroes are cops or private eyes (Cardigan being the latter), Nebel infuses them with a fury unmatched by any of his peers. He may be the most hard-boiled of hard-boiled writers because no one takes crap from anyone in his world. Cardigan, apparently modeled on the actor George Bancroft, rages equally at crooks and cops when they get in his way or treat others unfairly, but his sensitive side comes through in his dealings with his versatile and nearly equally hard-boiled assistant Pat Seaward. "Hell Couldn't Stop Him" strikes me as a plausible title for a Cardigan story. Altus Press has reprinted all the Cardigan stories in four volumes of print or e-books; they are definitely worth your while, and a Cardigan story alone probably makes a Dime Detective worth your time -- though I must warn you that you'll pay much, much more than a dime for one of these today.

Thursday, April 14, 2016


I don't own this 1934 Argosy, but you'll recall that I do own the previous week's issue. So I can say a little bit more about some of April 14's contents by referring to April 7's "Looking Ahead!" page. For instance, what's the deal with the giant pirate with the loud jacket on the cover? "Fred MacIsaac presents an unusual serial -- a queerly assorted group of passengers aboard a sailing vessel bound around the world. When mutiny threatens, they are quite literally between The Devil and the Deep." As for the pirate and his jacket, we must write those off as artistic license.

This issue has two novelettes. In Anthony M. Rud's "White Fires," "A jungle-trained white youth with strange powers falls into a crooks' haven in South America." In Weed Dickinson's "Crime in the Clouds," "It started as a press-agent's scheme and ended as the aviation crime of the year." Whatever it is, you'll have to read the April 14 number to find out.

The rest I have to figure out for myself. Karl W. Detzer's serial The Fatal Alarm got off to a good start last week so I trust it will stay good. Max Brand continues his western serial Brother of the Cheyennes, and people seem to have liked his work in that genre. That leaves Edward C. Acheson's "Alibi," apparently his pulp debut and his only appearance in Argosy. He turns out to have been the brother of Dean Acheson, the onetime U.S. Secretary of State, as well as a crime reporter for the Hartford Courant and, in later life, an OSS agent and professor of economics. By comparison, H. M. Sutherland, author of "Poker," was just a guy. He wrote a lot more than Acheson, and probably had to.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016


A very unusual cover design by C. Calvert for this 1935 Detective Fiction Weekly cover. I imagine it was quite daring not to show the protagonist's entire face. Prospective readers may have felt the way early moviegoers were expected to feel when early moviemakers experimented with close-ups: where's the rest of him? In case the cover isn't clear about this, Anthony Hamilton is Max Brand's Spy, the protagonist of a series of novelettes Brand started at the start of 1935. "Treason Against a King" is the fifth Spy story and the first since February. Brand would bat out three more before the end of May, take a breather, and wrap the series with a serial in December. Frederick Faust burned through characters like that; Tizzo the Firebrand (written by "George Challis") became immensely popular, to judge by how many Argosy covers he got in 1934-5, but Faust was through with him in less than a year. By comparison, Frank L. Packard's Jimmie Dale (aka the Gray Seal), whose latest serial continues in this issue, had been around since 1914, though "The Missing Hour," his last adventure, was only his second since 1922. The other series character in this number is H. H. Matteson's Hoh-Hoh Stevens, the star of "The Critter of Hell Bent Bay." Two nearly-omnipresent writers, Frank Richardson Pierce and Richard Howells Watkins, put in appearances, as do Robert H. Leitfred and old-timer Eugene P. Lyle. Every issue of DFW came with a number of non-fiction features, including "Illustrated Crimes." This week's is "The Elusive Sheik Slayer of Hoboken, New Jersey," which might well prove that truth is stranger even than pulp fiction.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


I have nothing special to say about the contents and authors of this 1941 Wild West Weekly. There are some familiar names (Walker Tompkins, Lee Bond, Chuck Martin) and apparently only one series character story (the final appearance of Sleepy Sloane by John B. Strong aka J. Allen Dunn). I just want to point out just how ugly this cover is, two years after Street & Smith covers were things of beauty on nearly a weekly basis. It'd be a shame if someone at the company thought that a cover like this would sell the magazine better than the often-brilliant 1939 cover designs. I'm not sure what's worse about this cover: the inert looking copy at the bottom or that hideous floating price box, which seems to have been placed where white space permits. And is that a recycled cover painting, perhaps? The overall slapped-together impression this cover creates makes me think so. Pulp covers are often admired today as works of art, but this one proves that not all of them were.

Monday, April 11, 2016

PULP READING: Robert Carse, "ADIOS," ARGOSY, April 7, 1934

Do a Google search for Robert Carse and it'll define him as primarily a nautical writer. That may more accurately describe his postwar career, but before World War II Carse (1902-71) was a versatile pulpster, many if not most of whose stories took place on dry land. He started out as a Great Lakes sailor, but after dabbling in journalism he tried his luck in the pulps and aimed for the top. His first published story, according to the Fiction Mags Index, appeared in Adventure in December 1925. He soon made his way into Sea Stories, but by the end of the Twenties war stories emerged as his specialty. He didn't appear in Argosy until the summer of 1930, but it soon became his primary pulp market. There he specialized in Foreign Legion stories and Devil's Island type stories. His 1934 story "Roll and Go," available at, is exceptional for being a more realistic, sympathetic take on the Great Depression, possibly inspired by the movie Wild Boys of the Road, and it may be one of the few hints in pulp of leftist sympathies that got Carse's name mentioned a few times by the House Un-American Activities Committee. His work does take an anti-fascist turn, possibly along "Popular Front" lines, in the later Thirties, but whether that made him a "premature anti-fascist" I can't say. When the war came Carse, in his fortieth year, joined the Merchant Marine and saw highly dangerous service on the Murmansk Run. Returning from the war, he continued to publish in Adventure and Blue Book but concentrated more on novels and non-fiction. If there were suspicions about his ideology or loyalty, they didn't keep him from getting published in conservative establishment magazines from The Saturday Evening Post to Boy's Life in later years.

"Adios" is more cynical than political. It concerns an old American mercenary who considers himself retired from the wars, but just when he thought he was out .... Old Man Anderson is manipulated by different factions vying for control of a Latin American country, but when their schemes inflict collateral damage on Anderson's friends, he decides to be a plague on both their houses. It's a brisk read at 13.5 pages and shows Carse in good pulp form. Here's a directory of Carse's Argosy stories and serial chapters available at, and you can add "Adios" to that by following the link below.


I'm getting to like the cover designs on early-1930s issues of Street & Smith's Detective Story. Like their late-Thirties western covers, these benefit from a lack of verbiage, to the point where this and many contemporary issues aren't even promoting any of the stories inside. That's all right with me since I know none of the authors in this particular issue, with a particularly tempting cover, except Barry Perowne, an English author (writing pseudonymously) whose main gig was as the authorized chronicler of E. W. Hornung's archetypal gentleman thief, Raffles, after Hornung's death. His story, the second installment of a three-part serial reprinted from the English story paper The Thriller, introduced Perowne's own creation, J.L. "Rick" LeRoy, who continued to appear sporadically through the Thirties. You'll notice that Street & Smith is more interested in promoting The Shadow, who in April 1931 graduated from mysterious narrator of the Detective Story radio program to pulp hero in his own right. The character doesn't appear on the covers of his earliest issues. During that time, Street & Smith were running a contest offering a cool grand (it'd be like winning fifteen grand now) for the best physical description of the mystery man. Since February, Detective Story had been offering "clews," for so they were called spelled then, to help readers piece The Shadow together. This issue appears to be the last to offer a clew, but for some time afterward the weekly kept that microphone logo as part of its cover design to remind readers that Street & Smith were out to be kings of all media. With The Shadow eventually making it into movies, comic books, etc., they definitely made a good try.

Sunday, April 10, 2016


This is Adventure going full blast. The April 10, 1924 issue assembles four of the magazine's mightiest writers, all with outstanding stories. Harold Lamb leads off with a massive 70+ page novel, The Making of the Morning Star, in which an English crusader encounters Lamb's Three Palladins, i.e. Genghis Khan and his Mongol companions, one of whom spends much of the story in disguise luring our hero to Tartary. You get a breather as Frank Robertson contributes a surprisingly entertaining story about sheep shearers; James K. Waterman offers what passes for a short-short in Adventure, a four-pager about blowing up whales with bombs, marred by a ship's cook's amosandandian dialect; and Bill Adams philosophizes for two pages. Then comes the third installment of Arthur O. Friel's four-parter The King of No Man's Land, an epic entertainment even on its own concerning men carving out empires in South America and running afoul of the established governments. This serial was the third outing of Friel's hero team of McKay, Knowlton and Ryan; the first, The Pathless Trail (1921) is available for download at the Internet Archive and is definitely a must-read for me. Following Friel is William Byron Mowery's grim tale of a northwest manhunt, "The Lob-Stick," a brief essay from Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur on "The Nordic Race," and a poem by Harold William Gleason. Then Georges Surdez takes over with his novelette "The White Man's Way." Surdez strays from Foreign Legion territory here but is as good as ever telling of a French colonial officer leading black troops into foreign territory to retrieve stolen rifles and falling in with an Italian officer who proves worse than he seems. Surdez is a little more racist toward Africans than he usually is toward Arabs ("Their business was killing. Thinking was the white man's.") but he's too good a writer not to invest the more important African characters with virtue and dignity, and as an adventure writer (both small a and capital A) he hasn't disappointed me yet. Our final intermission includes a sea story by a rare female contributor, Magda Leigh, a western short by Raymond S. Spears, and a poem about a returning war veteran by Leonard H. Nason who, had he appeared in prose, would have made it five titans this issue. As it is, the fourth is Arthur D. Howden-Smith, who tells another tale of Swain the Viking, who may be the most stone-cold badass hero in all pulpdom. Swain's salient characteristic is that he takes crap from absolutely no one. In "Swain's Justice" he feuds with a peer who makes the fatal mistake of bitching about his share of plunder from their last expedition. Howden-Smith writes with an archaic terseness that seems just right for Swain and his milieu, and he closes out the fiction section of this tremendous issue on a high note. After all that, there's still pulpdom's greatest letter column, "The Camp-Fire," in which Magda Leigh tells us about herself, while editor Arthur Sullivant Hoffman comments on an Army scandal, rants as usual -- lest you think "gun nuts" are a more modern phenomenon -- against contemporary gun control efforts, and publishes comments on a fascinating variety of subjects. Possibly the most amazing thing about this 192 page issue is that the publishers assumed that readers would be ready for another same-sized dose just ten days later. You, however, can take your time savoring pulp at one of its peaks after downloading this issue from the link below.

Saturday, April 9, 2016


The Yellow Peril is on the prowl on this 1932 Detective Story cover. It's actually a pretty good cover, all the more suggestive by hiding the victim's face and letting her legs and fingernails do the talking. Unfortunately, I can't say much about the issue apart from the cover -- and I don't know who painted that -- because none of the authors except Leslie T. White is familiar to me. The presence of an openly female writer should be noted, however. Charlotte Dockstader contributes the last of a series of stories dating back to 1928 about Spud McGee. Dockstader wrote for Detective Story for most of her career, which dated back to 1923, but around this time she was starting to diversify. She'd place stories in Detective Fiction Weekly and Ten Detective Aces the following year. Of Hector Gavin Grey, the author of the story illustrated on the cover, I know absolutely nothing -- except, now that I've looked him up, that this immigrant from Scotland killed himself in 1941, aged 41, but sealing himself inside a coffin. Apparently, writing pulps got to some people. Makes me want to read something by the guy.

Friday, April 8, 2016


Another cool H. W. Scott cover from a 1939 Street & Smith western pulp. Wild West Weekly may have been more of a "kiddie" pulp than Western Story, but for this year, at least, they shared the same bold, eye-catching cover aesthetic. I'm sure Kid Wolf was the same as he ever had been since 1929, but this sort of fresh imagery might inspire a fresh look at the familiar hero. Kid Wolf (as written, really, by Paul S. Powers) is the star this issue, but you also get C. William Harrison's Peaceful Perkins, Walker Tompkins' Firebrand, continuing a weekly series of novelettes that must have been a serial in all but name, and F. L. Stebbins' Pecos Wilson, a comic-strip character who'd been introduced two weeks before. Ralph Thurman contributes a stand-alone novelette -- meaning presumably without a series character, and Ralph Yergen throws in a short story. Whether the writers improved their game in 1939 the way the cover artists did, I can't really say.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

BELLOW BILL WILLIAMS in "The Wrong Move," ARGOSY, April 7, 1934

Bellow Bill gets slipped a Mickey and wakes up in a box on a boat. He isn't meant to suffocate because someone has placed weapons in the box with him, but what he's meant to do with them, not to mention where he is, exactly, are a mystery to the tattooed pearler. We know some of what's up because Ralph R. Perry has called our attention to the chess-playing Chinese who drugged Bill in the first place. In one sense Chen Fu treats Bill as a pawn in a game we only gradually understand, but he actually sees Bill as a queen -- chess is the only context where that's possible -- with tremendous disruptive power. Soon enough, Bill learns that he isn't welcome on the ship. Soon after that, he learns that he's not the only prisoner on board. To say anymore would spoil a well-plotted tale in which Bellow Bill must depend as much on his wits as on his strength. Suffice it to say that Bill is no man's chesspiece. This is one of seven Bellow Bill stories that Perry published in 1934, a year that saw either Perry's peak of productivity -- there were only three Bellow Bills the following year -- or the character's peak of popularity. None of the 1934 stories are available in the trove, but I have four of them. You'll see the other three from my collection, at least, later this year. For now, enjoy twenty pages of prime pulp action by clicking on the link below:


This 1934 Argosy is from my own collection. One of the "Two Adventure Novelettes" advertised on the banner is Ralph R. Perry's "The Wrong Move," which I'll be sharing with you later today. It's one of seven Bellow Bill Williams stories Perry published in Argosy that year, his most productive with his tattooed pearler. Let's find out a little more about the rest of the issue:

Cover author Karl Detzer specialized in firefighting stories. I like what I've read of him, and the first installment of The Fatal Alarm was pretty entertaining. Billing it as a "Chicago novel" rather than a "fireman novel" is apt, because Detzer is attentive to the role of petty politics in a firefighter's career. I haven't read more past this issue (there's an installment in the trove) but I'd consider a chapter an incentive when considering issues for future purchase. The other adventure novelette is Jack Allman's "The Curse of the Khans," a survival story set in Tibet back before the present Dalai Lama became a global icon of benign spirituality. The pulp Tibet, by comparison, is a barbaric place where the lamas often are far from benign. That may be unsettling if not scandalous to some modern readers, but on its own terms Allman's is a decent action story. Better still is Robert Carse's short story "Adios," in which an old American mercenary is drawn reluctantly into a Latin American revolution, only to take revenge on both sides. The other serials are Max Brand's Brother of the Cheyennes, which I find hard to judge, having dropped in the middle of it, and the conclusion of George F. Worts's The Gold Coffin, featuring his fighting defense attorney Gillian Hazeltine. It was the first bit of Hazeltine I ever read and I wasn't really impressed. Lawyers growl at one another a lot to set the overwrought tone. Read a Hazeltine, I say, and you'll appreciate how good Erle Stanley Gardner really is at this sort of thing. Lest I forget, Samuel Taylor contributes a western short story with a stuttering hero. The hero narrates the story, but Taylor thankfully refrains from having him narrate with a stutter. Instead, Stuttering Steve narrates in the colloquial present tense I associate with Frank Richardson Pierce's No-Shirt McGee -- not quite dialect, but not quite formally grammatical, either. Overall, it's a strong issue from one of Argosy's strongest years. I may share more of it with you besides the Bellow Bill story, and if I feel really ambitious I may scan the whole thing eventually. For now, this issue was sponsored by:

Wednesday, April 6, 2016


As was often the case in 1935, George "Frederick Faust" Challis's Tizzo the Firebrand gets the cover of this issue of Argosy, but while I enjoy the Firebrand stories they really should have given the cover to Peter the Brazen. Loring "George F. Worts" Brent's "Over the Dragon Wall" is the final appearance of his beloved Orientalist hero and a direct sequel to the 1934 serial Kingdom of the Lost. That serial ended on a stunning note with the apparent death of Peter's longtime girlfriend Susan O'Gilvie as a heroic sacrifice. In this coda to the entire series Brent takes that back in order to set up a romantic finale following the hero's hunt for a supposed dragon, commissioned by an American circus, in the Himalayan foothills. I don't know whether contemporary readers saw Susan's survival as a copout -- I remember seeing an "Argonotes" writer some time earlier demanding that she be killed -- or whether Brent/Worts was responding to popular outrage over her death. In any event, "Dragon Wall" was his final word on the subject and the beginning of the author's gradual withdrawal from Argosy and the pulps. As for the Firebrand, in The Storm Tizzo proposes to liberate his English mentor (and probable father) from a Perugian prison, cutting quite the swashbuckling figure along the way. Along with Brent and Challis this issue has a pretty solid lineup, including war-story specialist George Bruce, who was popular enough to have magazines named after him, and the outstanding action author Tom Curry. Bruce's "Tomorrow We Die" traces the feud of two American soldiers from the Boxer Rebellion to World War I, while Curry's "Jungle Guillotine" is characteristic Devil's Island adventure. In addition, you get an Anthony M. Rud animal story, H. H. Matteson's "Hind Hide," which lost me with all the silly nicknames he sticks on his characters, and the third installment of Fred MacIsaac's serial The Wild Man of Cape Cod. 1935 is my favorite Argosy year and this issue gives you a few reasons why. You can sample it for yourself by following this link to

Tuesday, April 5, 2016


Here's a stark cover from a 1930 Western Story, though I don't know whether an old man with a gun was really an inducement to buy or not. The actual main selling point of the issue was a nearly 50 page short novel by Max Brand, "Two Masters." In a Faustian bargain, you also get the continuation of a serial published under another of Frederick F's aliases, John Frederick. Speaking of aliases, it looks like either Frank Richardson Pierce or his alter ego Seth Ranger was placing a story in this magazine on a weekly basis in this period. In this number it was Ranger's turn with the short story "Wiped Clean." The other usual suspects include Robert Ormond Case and Jackson Gregory, while the less familiar (to me) George Cory Franklin and E. C. Lincoln contribute short stories. I actually have read some fiction from the few issues of Western Story from this period available at, and they're not bad at all.

Monday, April 4, 2016


When paperback books -- or pocket books, to distinguish them from bulkier 21st century paperbacks -- supplanted pulp magazines,  pulp writers outside the detective and science fiction genres had to satisfy an appetite for novels rather than short stories or novelettes. For many pulp veterans there was an easy way to satisfy this demand: convert old serials into novels. That's what F.V.W. Mason, already a busy novelist in the historical adventure and spy stories, did with the many serials he published in Argosy. Captain Judas, for instance, appeared exactly 85 years ago in the venerable weekly.

Pocket Books assures us that "This edition of Captain Judas was completely rewritten" by Mason, who clearly took advantage of the opportunity to make the language slightly saltier with a few "bastards" and at least one "son of a bitch." The Pocket Books edition seems just a little large for a pocket book at 234 pages, but Mason might not have needed to add too much to a six-part serial.

Amos Trent is a rugged American sea captain during the Jefferson administration with a grudge against the family who set him up to be court-martialed and dropped by the U.S. Navy, while pining for the family's beauteous daughter, Dorothea Sayles. He's manipulated into fighting a duel with Dorothea's brother in the middle of a high-society soiree, and the slight wound he suffers gives rival captain Arnold Estes a head start on a big payday with a much-wanted shipment of sugar. Trent tries to catch up but is burdened by unexpected passengers: Dorothea, her friend Sally Severn and Sally's banker father. While Dorothea is refined and retiring, all beauty but little brain -- her nickname is "Dodo" -- Sally is vivacious, hoydenish and witty, and her Paris fashions look like "near nudity" to the unsophisticated Trent. Still, he finds herself warming to her as she shows grace under increasing pressure. Trent's ship is beset first by the British Navy, seeking alleged deserters to impress, and then by the dread Barbary Pirates, who capture the ship with intent to enslave the surviving crew and passengers. Dodo and Sally are doomed to the harem unless Trent can convince the mirant, a Scots renegade turned Muslim corsair, to hold them for ransom in defiance of the local bashaw's will. The women are subjected to the ultimate humiliation of being paraded around naked, but Sally takes it like a trouper, while cowardly, selfish Dodo leaps at the chance to become the wife of the odious Arnold Estes who, also captured, sells out to the Muslims, converts and is made an officer. Trent, whom Estes framed for selling out an escape attempt, decides that since his people already see him as "Captain Judas," that he may as well convert himself as the only way to save Sally from transport to Constantinople. The odd thing here is that wild Sally finds that a step too far -- not that Trent doesn't feel guilty as sin himself. "What chance of the least happiness would we have, with me knowing you'd denied your God for me and you knowing I made you do it?" she protests. Not to worry: Amos Trent still has an exit strategy for both of them....

Captain Judas is to a degree a riff on Rafael Sabatini's The Sea Hawk -- not to be confused with the virtually unrelated Errol Flynn film of the same name -- in its focus on a Christian who turns renegade Muslim corsair. The story, with its dread of conversion, probably has fresh resonance in the 21st century, and may serve as a corrective in spirit to a more recent paradigm that portrays pirates and corsairs as a kind of primitive egalitarian democracy in which religion matters little. Authentic Muslims actually figure little in the story, as our hero deals mostly with the Scots renegade, who gives Mason an opportunity to play with dialect more, unsatisfied, presumably, with having given Trent a Scots sidekick. Modern readers find dialect of any sort repellent but, for good or ill, it was part of the music, so to speak, of pulp fiction, and Scots dialect, at least, isn't as stigmatizing as other possibilities. For the record, the Sayles family has a black butler but Mason goes a little easy on his dialect and fortunately the butler doesn't get much to say. Returning to Islam, Mason avoids casting aspersions on the faith itself, having Trent note while studying for his conversion that "it was the human distortion of Mohammedism that had made it a hateful creed, as the Inquisition had twisted Christianity into a grim mockery of its intended philosophy." The hate is real in the story, however, and readers today may be less inclined to dismiss it as a pejorative "Orientalist" fantasy -- though on the other hand the more likely you are to know what "Orientalism" is, the more likely you may be to see it everywhere. Enough of academia, though: the main point of this novel is exotic action, and Mason delivers the goods, from an early riot that menaces poor Dodo to the later naval action. He writes in an easy, readable style that makes Captain Judas an acceptable page turner. I have more Mason in my pulp collection, including most of his irreverent Macedonian serial Lysander of Chios (1935), and on the strength of Judas I'll be on the lookout for his novels in the used-book stores I haunt both locally and farther afield.


If anyone thinks of T. T. Flynn, it's probably as a western writer, his best known work being the Saturday Evening Post serial-turned-novel The Man From Laramie, the source for Anthony Mann's classic 1955 movie. But it wasn't until relatively late in Flynn's career -- no earlier than the late 1940s -- that westerns formed the majority of his output. He started out writing detective stories and in 1936, when this issue of Detective Fiction Weekly appeared, that was still his main gig. "Nitro! Nitro!" features his hardboiled team of Mike Harris and Trixie Meehan, who started out together in 1933. Only Mike gets billed on the cover but posterity treats man and woman as equal partners in the series. Another series character in this issue is Carroll John Daly's Satan Hall, who's in the middle of the serial Satan's Vengeance. Daly is a founding father of the hardboiled school of detective fiction as the creator of Race Williams for the legendary Black Mask magazine. Satan got his start in Street & Smith's Detective Story before making DFW his regular home from 1932 through the end of this serial. After taking a two-year sabbatical Satan made two appearances in Black Mask in 1938. He then showed up sporadically in Popular Publications crime mags through the war years. Two stories in Thrilling's Black Book Detective were followed by a very late outing in Columbia's Famous Detective Stories in 1954. While Daly is still known only to specialists, Cornell Woolrich has virtually been canonized; all he's lacking is a volume of his own in the Library of America. After spending much of his time at Popular's Dime Detective in 1935, Woolrich was placing more stories in the Munsey pulps in 1936, both in DFW (see this issue's "Mystery of the Blue Spot.") and Argosy. Along with these big names there's a serial by Donald Ross, who turns out to be the prolific Fred MacIsaac, who'd published two serials in DFW under that pseudonym the previous year. In addition, there's a novelette by Preston Grady, who's a mystery to me, a short story by Houston Day, and Richard Wormser contributes a puzzle, of all things, while Robert W. Sneddon contributes a nonfiction piece on werewolves. The John Knox mentioned on the cover doesn't actually contribute anything, according to the Fiction Mags Index, but the lineup looks pretty good without him.

Sunday, April 3, 2016


This 1918 issue is the earliest Adventure and earliest magazine to make the Calendar so far. I notice they weren't billing the authors at this point, probably not wanting to detract from the cover art. This relatively cartoony image comes from Ralph Barton -- his only Adventure cover, according to the Fiction Mags Index -- who became one of the early star cartoonists for The New Yorker before killing himself at age 39. Some familiar names -- W. C. Tuttle, Hugh Pendexter, Hapsburg Liebe -- were already contributing to Adventure. Two of the bigger writing stars of this period were the team of Farnham Bishop and Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur, who wrote historical adventures, including the exploits of medieval heroine Lady Fulvia, one of which appears in the next issue. A Fulvia story appears in the Black Lizard Big Book of Adventure Stories and is pretty good. Most likely overshadowing all these writers when this magazine was actually published was Edgar Wallace, whose Sanders of the River story this issue was a reprint from a 1914 British weekly. The lead novel (75 pages) is by Samuel Alexander White, who from his c.v. seems to have been a Northwest specialist. Ed L. Carson, Roy P. Churchill and T. Nichols contribute short stories, and that's all I can say about them. I can say no more about William Patterson White, who here continues the western serial Hidden Trails. I'm only slowly adapting my taste to the more distant past of pulp, having preferred stuff from the Twenties forward reflecting the hardboiled influence, but now I have someplace to go on the third of the month besides the predictable weeklies, so here's to variety!

Saturday, April 2, 2016


Here's something modern readers can identify with: an Arab peril! This 1932 cover presumably gives a scene from Sinclair Gluck's serial Red Emeralds. I was surprised to see that Gluck wasn't a very prolific pulpster. I found some of his Argosy stories with his series character Dan Brice in the trove, and the very first Argosy I bought for my own collection, a 1934 issue, had a Gluck story in it. It proved mediocre but the Brice stories were pretty good. I'd give this serial a chance, especially given the apparently exotic setting. The latest Tarzan serial continues, as do serials by Theodore Roscoe (a two-parter, really) and Thomson Burtis. Dependable Eustace L. Adams has a short story while veteran western writer J.E. Grimstead contributes a novelette and Charles S. Verral makes his fiction debut with "The Sharpshooter." One M. L. McEuen publishes his (or her) only pulp story this issue, "Don't Get Rough With a Lady." Most noteworthy of all is the debut of Stookie Allen's "Men of Daring," a weekly one or two-page comic in the style of Ripley's Believe It Or Not dedicated to courageous men as well as the occasional Women of Daring. Allen continued the feature for nearly ten years, publishing his last comic at the end of 1941. Some readers complained about the subtraction of a page or two of fiction, but I appreciate how the comic breaks up the monotony of the sparsely-illustrated Argosy and the content seems consistent with the magazine's commitment to action -- not to mention quality and variety.

Friday, April 1, 2016


Here's another title we haven't looked at before on the Calendar, though you have seen it on this blog. Dime Western was the flagship of Popular Publication's western line, founded at the end of 1932. Dime was a monthly for most of its existence, but flush with success Popular promoted the title to twice-a-month in September 1934 -- the same time it restored its recent prize acquisition, Adventure, to twice-monthly status. Popular's Dime Detective had been going the same pace since early 1933. Dime Western kept it up for not quite a year and a half, reverting to monthly in December 1935.  The yellow cover background was a Dime Western constant, in contrast to sister pulp Star Western's red background. This issue sports a characteristic Walter M. Baumhofer cover featuring a badass female. Women on Dime Western covers in this period seem either to be shooting people or freeing their men from captivity. This was, in fact, a longstanding feature of pulp westerns and no doubt one of the keys to the success of the last pulp standing, Ranch Romances, the covers for which, especially in the 1950s, often weren't what you'd expect from such a title. Getting back to Dime Western, this April 1 issue is typical if not generic by virtue of the participation of Walt Coburn, Harry F. Olmstead and Bart Cassidy -- the last of whom much of the time was Olmstead. John G. Pearsol was nearly as constant a presence; looking at the page on the Fiction Mags Index where I got this cover image, I see that he gets published in three of the next four issues. Oliver King was just getting started in pulps, having been the main writer, as Kent Thorn, for Popular's short-lived hero-team western mag, Mavericks. As King and Stone Cody, the author known in real life as Thomas Ernest Mount would be a popular mainstay for a generation. E. B. Mann wrote this issue's only series character, The Whistler, who wasn't the busiest gun-dummy out there. "The Whistler's Gallows-Trap" was only his fifth appearance since April 1933, and there'd be only one more. George Armin Shaftel published his first Dime Western story on New Year's Day; "Meat for the Vigilantes!" was his fourth of the year, but by the end of 1935 he would develop into more of a detective and crime story man. I've only read issues of Dime from the Forties forward, and I've liked them all. I remain tentative about Thirties westerns because I don't really care for the "yuhs" and "tuhs" and the more old-timey writing, but I do know that early Coburn is better Coburn and editor Rogers Terrill has a high reputation among pulp western helmsmen, so I'd probably trust a Dime Western, if not any Popular western from this period, more than others in the genre.