Tuesday, May 31, 2016


When I did a Google image search for Western Story for May 31, 1930, the results included a bunch of pictures of Clint Eastwood, who was born on that day and turns 86 years old today. All the more reason to do a western pulp, though this one looks a little odd to me. Is it just me, or does this cowboy look like Winston Churchill on a dude ranch? Maybe the cigar does that to me. As for who's really in this issue, Robert Ormond Case and Robert J. Horton are the headliners with a novelette and serial, respectively, but they get top billing only because Frank Richardson Pierce preferred to appear under his Seth Ranger pseudonym, while Frederick Faust uses two different aliases, George Owen Baxter and David Manning, but not his best known, Max Brand. Perhaps the most interesting contributor this week is Rogers Terrill, who places a story here not too long before he became one of Western Story's main competitors as the editor of Popular Publications' western pulps. In that role, he's often given credit for elevating the western genre above the standard set by Western Story and inferior "gun dummy" pulps, so I'd be interested in seeing whether Terrill practiced what he preached.

Monday, May 30, 2016


First published in hardcover as an Inner Sanctum Mystery, The Burden of Guilt could best be described as a psychological mystery novel, more of a whydunit than a whodunit. Police detective Connell takes a call from a minister -- a prison chaplain, actually -- confessing his murder of his wife and her lover. Connell arrives to discover that the lover is his best friend Irving Freed, a celebrity of sorts hailed by some as "the conscience of America." Physically frail and artistically gifted, Irving shunned his obvious career path to challenge himself physically, first as an incompetent football player and later as a volunteer for both Mao's Long March and the Spanish Civil War. He apparently hooked up with the chaplain's wife while doing a stint in prison, but despite the chaplain's confession something doesn't seem right about the story to Connell. He becomes convinced that the chaplain was psychologically manipulated into killing the couple by a master manipulator, the warden of Broadmoor prison, and despite the fact that no one has ever been convicted of that sort of manipulation, Connell resolves to find some way to bring the warden down. His investigation involves piecing together Irving Freed's life and career from the handful of mourners who attended his funeral, with the thought of revealing a motive for the warden's presumed scheme, as well as how he did it.The investigation is also a way for Connell to work through his own intense grief and anger over Irving's death, as well as a sense of guilt he shares with many other people -- excepting the warden, of course.

Gordon was no pulpster, though he published a story in the post-pulp Argosy in 1950, shortly before Burden of Guilt appeared. His novel is more psychologically ambitious and politically conscious than the typical paperback mystery, though his somewhat overwrought style doesn't seem out of place between paperback covers. What really comes through the mystery plot is a preoccupation with the psychology of masculinity. Irving Freed, for instance, is determined to prove himself a real man in emulation of his physically powerful stepfather, a caring man and loving husband who doesn't want Irving to hurt himself and urges him to develop his obvious talent for the arts. Irving has something Oedipal going on, too, since by emulating his stepdad he hopes to earn the love his mother has always denied him as the spawn of a loveless first marriage to an incompetent, moribund would-be artist. Meanwhile, Herbert Spathe, the murderous chaplain, fell under the influence of the future warden when the latter became the lover of Spathe's widowed mother, the man's powerful will making him a replacement father figure. Gordon's speculations darken when he introduces the figure of Melvin Vye, a famous war correspondent whom I first assumed to be a riff on Ernest Hemingway -- Gordon even introduces the character with a suspiciously punning "phony-earnest" greeting. In his lifetime, Hemingway was seen as both a philosopher and embodiment of masculinity in some rationalized-primitive form. But then Gordon goes and makes Melvin Vye an open homosexual, a "queen" as the relevant chapter describes him. That would seem to suggest that Vye has another model, but I also recall that some contemporaries inferred latent homosexuality from Hemingway's concern with manhood. Interestingly, in light of the real Hemingway's destiny, Vye has a hunch that proves true and nearly turns the plot upside down. He suggests to Connell that Irving Freed himself killed his lover and then himself in a suicide pact, while Spathe showed up after the fact to pump an extra round into each corpse out of spite. Despite this, Connell remains convinced that Fletcher Boone, the warden, was responsible for the deaths.

A set of letters from Spathe to his wife, degenerating from forgiving resignation to damning rage, seems to serve as proof of Boone's manipulation of the chaplain and his indirect torment of a woman he apparently intended for himself. It's still hard to build a legal case against Boone from this, but Connell's really out for revenge, and that he can get through the same sort of psychological manipulation Boone supposedly exerted on his victims. Connell's vengefulness -- we see it in the first chapter when he impulsively smacks Spathe in the face -- and his unforgiving grief over Irving's death might throw his own feelings for his friend into question, but Gordon is careful to show us the death devastates many people, from Irving's mom and stepdad to a former lover to an exiled Spanish republican commander who betrayed him, and so on. The way Gordon lingers on this persistent grief and guilt while more generic writers might move on quickly marks Burden of Guilt as a more literary noir than normal, though its hard-boiled roots remain obvious all the way through. "It's very irritating to be caught in a helpless position you idiotically daydreamed yourself into, and I made up my mind that this was one Number One Fathead who was not going to cook in his own axle grease," goes one typical first-person passage. And for those curious about what's on page 123, I give you "You had to understand his sickness before you realized that the esthetic quality was, in fact, a pure lack of masculinity." If the novel has a major weakness, it's that the master manipulator, Warden Boone, proves all too easily manipulated. Connell seems able to get under Boone's skin effortlessly, when we might expect a master manipulator to be more poker-faced. Connell's breaking of Boone doesn't ring as true as the broken-ness of Irving Freed's friends and family, which may only indicate that Ian Gordon was really interested in the grief, while the guilt was an afterthought.


By coincidence Memorial Day 2016 falls on the traditional day, as it must every so often. But I don't have a Memorial Day pulp cover to mark the occasion. I get the impression that pulps were less likely to do holiday-themed covers than the slicks, probably because pulp covers (Adventure aside) are designed to promote specific stories, none of which in a May 30 issue might have a military theme. Looking at the lineup of this Adventure for Memorial Day 1923 I can guess that George Surdez's story deals with the military, but it's probably not the U.S. military. Herve Schwedersky's "Behind the Lines" is almost certainly military as well, but you still have to ask whose military? The lead stories, if we can judge by the cover billing, are "The Defense of Yang Chou," by William Ashley Anderson, who had some first-hand experience in China as a tobacco man, and the serial "Hurricane Williams' Revenge" by Gordon Young, acclaimed long afterward as a pioneer of the hard-boiled style. There are shorter pieces by Negley Farson, Will H. Grattan, Frank H. Huston, Chester L. Saxby and Barry Scobee. The cover seems to be the only pulp work by one H. O. Holman, and it must have made an impression, because Adventure would return to the minion with a vicious animal on a leash motif, as we saw back on March 15. May you, too, observe the holiday as you see fit.

Sunday, May 29, 2016


Richard Sale had been publishing the adventures of Daffy Dill in Detective Fiction Weekly since late 1934. Earlier in 1937 he had created a new series character, the photographer Candid Jones. What better way to put Jones over than to team him up with the more-established Daffy in a team-up story, Candid Jones's fifth appearance so far that year? "Flash!" was reprinted just last year in an issue of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine and so may be more easily available than any other story about either character. Older still than Daffy Dill was Johnston McCulley's Thubway Tham, the lisping pickpocket, who in this issue makes his DFW debut after running in Street & Smith's Detective Story since 1918.  Tham would appear just once more in DFW before returning to the Street & Smith embrace that fall. The other series character this issue is J. Lane Linklater's Sad Sam Salter, here making the second of three appearances, all from 1937. Max Brand and T. T. Flynn continues their serials -- and, yes, this is a detective and not a western magazine -- while Edwin Baird, Bob Gordon, Douglas Newton and Robert H. Rohde contribute short stories. Not a bad package, probably.

Saturday, May 28, 2016


The great mystery of this 1938 cover is which of the three authors listed wrote "Murder Wears a Rose?" Is it Judson P. Philips? No, for Philips was continuing the serial We Trade in Death, in which he launched a would-be alternative to the Park Avenue Hunt Club, namely the Old Town Detective Agency. Is it Frederick C. Painton? No, for Painton's novelette is the more badass-sounding "Doctors of Doom." That leaves us with the least interesting option, William E. Hayes, a railroad story specialist and onetime editor of Munsey's Railroad Stories. Of course, it always could have been none of the above, since you never know for certain what cover editors are thinking. Frank Gruber is the best-known of the short story contributors to this issue. He's joined by Eric Howard, Cyril Plunkett and Arden X. Pangborn, who was in the middle of a happy run of stories in three consecutive issues. Howard's helpful story is titled "Never Sock a Dame." I suppose someone in 1938 would have thought that "politically correct."

Friday, May 27, 2016


There may be no more terrifying representation of the Yellow Peril than Rudolph Belarski's 1939 Argosy cover launching Arthur Leo Zagat's dystopian "Tomorrow" series. Here is no robed and long-nailed mandarin, nor a shuffling hatchet man of Chinatown -- the normal stuff of pulp iconography -- but a modern solider, one representing multitudes. Such a figure may still haunt some American imaginations today, but he is probably Chinese rather than presumptively Japanese, as in 1939, and better armed still. Zagat's premise is that an "Asafric" coalition of nonwhites could overwhelm and enslave the United States, yet a relative handful of white kids, largely self-raised in lucky isolation in a healthy outdoor environment, could then tip the balance against occupation and in favor of resistance. In effect, Dikar and the Bunch are a little village of Tarzans, and pulpdom knew that no one was either more noble and more savage, in all the good ways, than a white savage, even when they talk and often act like overgrown children. It's a rather embarrassing fantasy, and from our vantage point it can't help but seem wrong, for all that Japan was a legitimate threat to world order in 1939, to imagine the sort of race war Zagat does when Hitler was right there in front of everybody. It's hard not to infer that Zagat saw the Yellow Peril as more menacing than the Aryan Peril, though I don't wish to suggest that he minimized or ignored the Nazi threat. It may just have been that if you really want to write about white savages, giving them white enemies somehow isn't making the most of the premise. In any event, I had more to say about "Tomorrow" and the other contents of this issue two years ago, when I only gave myself one pulp a week to write on an experimental basis on my movie blog, Mondo 70. So follow this link to read more about it.

Thursday, May 26, 2016


The main attraction of this 1934 Argosy for me is right on the cover. "Buddha's Whisker" is a fun standalone Singapore Sammy story by George F. Worts. Sammy Shea is always on the trail of his deadbeat crook of a dad or else raising money to continue the hunt, and in this novelette he and sidekick of the moment Lucifer "Lucky" Jones get drawn into a plot to steal a sacred relic that ends with Sammy thisclose to finally catching up with his punk parent. While Worts's Peter the Brazen stories, written under the name of Loring Brent, feature a stalwart, upright hero, the Sammy stories are charmingly disreputable in the almost amoral manner of South Seas or Asian adventure. "Whisker" is the last Sammy novelette; Worts would bring the character back in three serials over the next two years, including the 1935 three-parter Shark Bait that will be showcased on this blog.

There are no new serials this week as the issue concludes J. Allen Dunn's Forbidden Mountain while continuing F. V. W. Mason's The Barbarian and Frederick "Evan Evans" Faust's Montana Rides Again. Anthony M. Rud contributes the novelette "The Marked Deuce" set in South America, while Theodore Goodridge Roberts writes a short story, "The Hero," about an unlikely hero who inspires a ship's stand against an infamous pirate and his ship.Albert Richard Wetjen usually wrote stories of men at sea but with "Hammerhead" he tries his hand at animals at sea and comes up with something reasonably entertaining for the genre. The serials are as entertaining as fragments can be but "Buddha's Whisker" and the Wetjen story really make this issue worthwhile. I like The Barbarian enough that I'm gradually piecing it together. I have the next chapter, for instance, but the main attraction of the June 2, 1934 Argosy, as you'll see a week from now, is another Bellow Bill Williams story by Ralph R. Perry. Don't miss it.

The May 26 Argosy is sponsored by:

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


This 1946 issue is one of just a handful of issues of Short Stories available at unz.org, Ron Unz's tremendous collection of 20th century periodicals. In 1946 Short Stories was still chugging along on a twice-a-month schedule; only Ranch Romances kept a similar pace. In the wake of World War II there probably was no going back to the swashbuckling, filibustering pulp of the pre-war years, but Short Stories could still throw together a respectable package. I haven't read every story in this issue -- too many are too aspiringly humorous for my taste -- but Gordon Keyne's "Sea Snow Comes High" is a pretty good story. "Keyne" was the favorite alias of "king of the pulps" H. Bedford-Jones. As Keyne, he kept up with the times with a slightly noirish tale of a disappointed war veteran -- his girl didn't wait for him -- who gets drawn into a coastal cocaine smuggling operation run by a former POW who isn't all he seems. He falls for a girl with troubles of her own. She was a WAC whose boy didn't wait for her, and now her dad's a hophead whose property is being used by the smugglers. The ending's a little unlikely -- the old hophead goes vigilante on our villain and the gangster trying to muscle in on the racket -- but Jones/Keyne at his best was a nearly effortless storyteller who still managed to give his stories personality. I remember reading Andrew A Caffrey's cover story a couple of years ago -- it's a "complete novel" while Keyne's story is a "novelette" even though the Caffrey is only one page longer -- but I don't remember much about Priority on Grief other than that I didn't care much for it. E. Hoffman Price's serial China Clipper is probably good, but reading only Part Two of four hasn't seemed worth my while. The rest of the issue includes a comic western by S. Omar Barker, a comic sea story by Francis Gott, another comedy by Ray Palmer Tracy, and tales in a more dramatic vein by Jim Chapman, John E. Kelly and H.S.M. Kemp. Follow the link below and check the issue out yourselves.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016


Like its Munsey stablemate Argosy, Detective Fiction Weekly got an urgent makeover at the end of April 1941, replacing an ugly standard photo collage with something short of an actual cover painting, yet still original art in a minimal way. As you can see here, the cover art is not much different from an interior illustration. At a moment when pulps were facing a formidable new challenge in the form of comic books, I don't know what Munsey's idea was here, apart from not having to pay for cover paintings. The "Now! 16 More Pages" on the cover advertises a page increase that happened back in March, after readers complained that the Munsey pulps at 50 triple-columned pages were difficult to read. In some ways it remained business as usual at DFW. Judson Philips' Park Avenue Hunt Club was still in business after seven years, for instance. Veterans like Theodore Roscoe and Hugh B. Cave were still publishing, while this issue marks the DFW debut of future genre star William Campbell Gault. Edwin Baird, William Brandon and Kay Krausse are the other fiction contributors. DFW fits seven stories (including Roscoe's serial) into its 66 pages, along with Robert W. Sneddon's nonfiction piece, W. A. Windas's cartoon page and the longrunning "Solving Cypher Secrets" column. It still sounds like an attractive package for ten cents, but it doesn't look as attractive as it used to.

Monday, May 23, 2016


After reducing its schedule from thrice monthly to twice monthly in April 1926 Adventure went out with publication dates of the 8th and 23rd of the month until it resumed the more typical 1st-and-15th schedule with the new year. The presumptive highlights for May 23 are Sidney Herschel Small's lead novella, the 61 page "The Sun Crows," and Arthur D. Howden-Smith's continuing serial A Manifest Destiny. Small specialized in solid East-West stories, set both in the Orient and in American Chinatowns, and I presume -- knowing there are people to correct me if I'm wrong -- that his lead story this issue is in that general vein. Arthur O. Friel is also on board, but only with a short story, the second of apparently three he wrote in a nine-month period about a character named Job Briggs. The short stories are by F. St. Mars, Charles Victor Fischer, John Dorman, future Pulitzer Prize winner Royce Brier and David Thibault. The other long story this issue is "The Pearls of La Paz" by William P. Barron. This may have been a story in a series about the ship Maggie May and its crew that Barron had begun back in 1923. Barron didn't publish much in the pulps, placing only one story after 1930. He published plenty elsewhere, at least in the early 1920s, as attested in Writer's Monthly, the organ of the Home Correspondence School, where Barron apparently learned his trade. One Writer's Monthly item from 1922 mentioned that Barron had published several stories in the Chicago Ledger, a weekly story paper. As it happens, the Falvey Library of Villanova University has digitized many issues of this potentially very interesting publication. You can find out more at Villanova's digital library. I know I plan to give this trove a closer look sometime.

Sunday, May 22, 2016


Theodore V. Olsen (1932-93) broke into pulps at the tail end of the era. He began publishing in the most tenacious of all pulps, the Thrilling group's Ranch Romances, in 1956, when the magazine was still coming out every other week. He published fifteen short stories there in a two-year period and had another in the final issue of Thrilling's mightly monthly, Texas Rangers, in 1958. The future was in novels. Olsen had published his first in 1956. Now he got busy and published another in 1959. Beginning the following year he had a good run of novels under the beloved Fawcett Gold Medal imprint. High Lawless is the second of Olsen's Gold Medals.

Costello, a gambler, killed our hero Channing's protege, a young man who couldn't lay off the cards. The gambler proves to be a kind of human Macguffin, disappearing for most of the novel once he takes refuge at the Anchor ranch, owned by Costello's uncle, Santee Dyker, once a gambler himself but a far more formidable figure than his cowardly nephew. Anchor's ramrod Streak Duryea is the man who whipped Channing like a dog to make him lay off Costello, but that only prods our hero to see revenge against the entire Anchor ranch. The easy way to do this is to side with Anchor's rivals in an impending range feud. The boss of the rival range was murdered recently -- by Streak, we learn -- and the land falls to an unlikely heiress, a young Swedish woman who had done a lonely old man a rare kindness. She has the bankroll to secure an important lease of land and finance a big cattle purchase, and the main action of the novel is the cattle drive, menaced constantly by an Anchor goon squad. Inevitably, and in spite of the lady's squeamishness, she and Channing fall in love. As inevitably, the novel's climax finds her in personal peril as Dyker reverts to the strongarm tactics he'd tried on an old mountain man earlier, only to be thwarted by Channing.

Olsen is best known for his two novels that were turned into films, The Stalking Moon and Arrow in the Sun, the latter filmed as Soldier Blue. High Lawless is a journeyman work in which Olsen seems to struggle with the longer format, even at 138 pages. Its main problem is a lack of focus in the conflict. You don't expect Costello to be eclipsed so totally as an antagonist by Dyker and Streak, and when he reappears toward the end it's as an implausible plot device, a loser given the essential task of executing a captive Channing by an overconfident Dyker, even though the reader can see Costello screwing up from miles away. Olsen hints at hidden depths to Streak's characters, showing him initially as an honorable antagonist reluctant to flog Channing, but once he's established as a murderer he's a pure villain. And as if these three villains weren't too much, Anchor brings in a hillbilly gunfighter to kill Channing, without giving the man any information to prevent him from being utterly outwitted by our hero. Channing's increasingly amorphous revenge agenda isn't enough to really individualize him compared to the more alienated or psychologically rich characters in other paperback westerns. That weakness aside, High Lawless is a decent action western with plenty of fighting and one very good set piece in which the bad guys try to stampede the good guys' cattle with nighttime pyrotechnics. The novel is disappointing in some ways but not so much that you wouldn't give Olsen another chance, especially if you can assume that the later novels will be better.


Maybe it's just me but there's a kind of deadpan absurdity to that cat hovering the right shoulder of that sinister, dripping wet bearded gentleman on this 1937 Detective Fiction Weekly cover.Even before you get started with Max Brand's "baffling mystery," The Face and the Doctor, you have the baffling mystery of what the cat's doing there. It's not the Doctor, certainly. Could it be the Face? It seems unfair for the story not to be The Face, the Doctor and the Cat. Anyway, Brand's novel is a two-parter, joined this issue by Part Two of T. T. Flynn's Murder Caravan on the serial side. There are short stories by Bob Gordon and Richard Hobart and novelettes by Edward Parrish Ware and Hugh B. Cave, who had one of the longest genre-fiction careers. Already a veteran of eight years at this point, Cave continued writing into the 21st century. I don't know how Max Brand ranks as a mystery writer, but that cat cover definitely has me curious.

Saturday, May 21, 2016


The yellow peril appears to be in peril itself in Paul Stahr's cover for this 1932 Argosy, illustrating an H. Bedford-Jones story. Meanwhile, there are sports stories, and then there are army sports stories, a subgenre Lt. John Hopper may well have had to himself. To illustrate the whims of posterity, Hopper is pretty much forgotten today, while Theodore Roscoe, whose novelette Ten Minutes After Two goes unmentioned on the cover, has been brought back into print in the 21st century, and has had a biography published, by specialty house Altus Press. Hopper's two-parter is joined by serials from Robert Ormond Case (also profiled in "Men Who Make the Argosy"), Frank Richardson Pierce and Fred MacIsaac. A special guest star this issue, and for much of 1932, is journalist Lowell Thomas, one of the early publicists for Lawrence of Arabia and the voice of Movietone News, who contributed a series of fact-based stories to the venerable weekly. I don't know how well he went over since I haven't read many "Argonotes" from that year, but as a rule Argosy readers resented nonfiction comment in their pulps. Little did they know that within a generation a hankering for "true" stories would hasten the pulps' demise.

Friday, May 20, 2016


Compare H. W. Scott's May 17, 1941 Western Story cover  with his outlandish image from a 1939 Wild West Weekly. This is pure symbolism, or at least I'm going to assume that a miniature skull sculpture doesn't figure in the Silver Kid's latest adventure. But I suppose that the possibility that the cover doesn't tell you what's going on inside was part of the problem. I infer a problem from Street & Smith's adoption of a more conservative cover format before the year was over. I don't know how popular S&S covers from this period are, since they lack the lurid action that defines pulp for many fans and collectors, but I find them fascinating. As for the insides, Lee Bond gets two stories this week, one under his own name, the other the penultimate novelette in the six-week Cliff Merchant series, credited to Andrew A. Griffin. Apparently the other story is the penultimate entry in Bond's Calamity Boggs series, which he started back in 1931.That predates T. W. Ford's Silver Kid, the presumptive star of the issue. Ben Conlon and C. William Harrison have standalone stories, while Chuck Martin continues his Rawhide Runyon series. I don't want to disparage what I haven't read, but I do wonder whether more imagination went into the cover than the stories inside some weeks.

Thursday, May 19, 2016


Now this looks like what modern readers might expect from pulp: barbarism in the Robert E. Howard mode. It's more like the Talbot Mundy mode, actually. F. W. V. Mason's The Barbarian (I have a couple of chapters, but not this opener) is a Briton captured and enslaved by ancient Carthage who becomes embroiled in the intrigues of Romans and Spartans while dodging the lustful intentions of a Carthaginian princess. This is a more straightfaced period piece than Mason's later Lysander of Chios, but both are pretty entertaining adventure stories. The other serials this issue are J. Allen Dunn's Forbidden Mountain and Evan "aka Max Brand" Evans' Montana Rides Again. Along for the ride are Jack Allman, Foster-Harris, Hapsburg Liebe and H. H. Matteson. Of these. Matteson can be good and Allman can be very good. I'll probably get this someday in order to have The Barbarian complete, though I could just as easily track down the revised paperback version, with the title rendered plural, which Mason published in the 1950s. That probably would prove slightly racier, but something might be lost from the original as well.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


H. W. Scott's cover for this 1941 Western Story is much more conventional than the work he and others did for Street & Smith covers just two years earlier. While he occasionally works from an unusual camera angle, so to speak, Scott is clearly under orders to do without the close-ups of hands or objects, or more abstract cover concepts. The company now wants complete human bodies in action. These covers are often well rendered but, for me at least, they don't pop the way the more creative 1939 covers do. Of course, people weren't buying pulps based on an aesthetic impression of the cover art. More likely, if they wanted stories with action they expected covers with action. As for the stories, Peter Dawson (Luke Short's brother in real life) launches a five-part serial, The Stageline Feud, but Cliff Farrell gets the cover for his novelette "Death's Table Stakes." while Dawson goes unmentioned among the "Others." He shouldn't have felt too bad, since Seth Ranger (aka Frank Richardson Pierce) didn't merit a mention for his short story "Red Back Trail." Meanwhile, comparatively minor writers like Arthur H. Carhart, George Cory Franklin and Kenneth Gilbert get billing on the cover. There's also a story by Glenn H. Wichman about his series character Hep Gallagher, who dated back to 1932. According to the Fiction Mags Index, "Hep the Goat-Getter" is a reprint from a 1938 Western Story. That seems like bad form for Street & Smith, since reprints usually were a sign that business was bad, but I wonder whether the prolific Wichman simply reused a title without remembering that he'd used it before, without a very busy editor noticing or caring much. It would surprise me more if such things didn't happen in the pulp business.


Polo? Somehow I have a hard time imagining the pulp audience as polo fans, much less players. In 1935, however, there was at least one person, Tommy Hitchcock, who was a nationally-known celebrity by virtue of playing polo, and I suppose the sport had the same sort of aspirational cachet for ambitious youngsters that football did when it was dominated by the Ivy League. In any event, the folks at Argosy clearly thought that a polo cover and lead story (by F.V.W. Mason) would sell. Mason's a good writer but any sort of sports story is a tough sell today, however people felt about them eighty years ago. More promising is a novelette by Karl Detzer, who was surprisingly good in the perhaps unpromising genre of fireman stories. H. Bedford-Jones continues his series about his spy, The Sphinx, while George F. Worts wraps up a Gillian Hazeltine legal-thriller serial and Theodore Roscoe continues his War Declared. Paul Annixter and William Merriam Rouse contribute short stories. The polo thing makes this possibly the least inviting Argosy of 1935, which is still my favorite year for the venerable weekly. Even this issue is probably pretty good if we give Mason a chance.

Monday, May 16, 2016


An understatedly creepy cover fronts this 1931 Detective Story, advertising Judson P. Philips' story "The Death Call." The big names this issue are Edgar Wallace, continuing the serial On the Spot, and Zorro creator Johnston McCulley, apparently intending to retire another of his creations. McCulley is one of the ancestors of superheroes by virtue of his costumed crimefighters. Perhaps the strangest of these, just on appearance, was the Crimson Clown, created in 1926. The mystery man who was really Delton Prouse often got the cover once his series was under way, but had just had that honor two weeks earlier. That May 2 cover probably is as formidable as the character would ever look. John A Coughlin's cover for that issue looks like something Alex Ross might come up with today.

I've never read any Crimson Clown stories, so I can't judge him on more than a superficial level. The May 16 story is "The Crimson Clown's Romance," but according to Robert Sampson's Yesterday's Faces it's not the Clown himself falling in love. The series simply stops here, but McCulley brought the character back for a belated encore in a 1944 story in the Thrilling group's Popular Detective. The rest of the May 16 lineup includes Detective Story mainstay Charlotte Dockstader, Ronald Everson, John Foland, Warren Kimsey and Charles Kingston. I can't say much about the stories, but for the first half or 1931 or so Detective Story has some great art direction on the covers. McCulley probably realized that a costume character often made a really cool cover. Street & Smith definitely took that idea to heart, but writers other than McCulley benefited the most from it.

Sunday, May 15, 2016


This 1933 Adventure was the last twice-a-month issue of the once-mighty pulp under the old regime. Less than a year earlier, the publisher had slashed the page count in half, from 192 to 96 pages, and cut the price by more than half, from 25 cents to a dime. Adventure's troubles presumably were peculiar to its publisher, since Short Stories continued to churn out two a month at 176 pages apiece and Street & Smith kept Complete Stories on the same schedule at 160 per. Starting in June, Adventure would become a monthly, its page count increasing to 128, its price to 15 cents. Popular Publications would briefly restore it to twice-a-month after acquiring Adventure in 1934. Even in the diminished form in which we find it in May 1933, Adventure could still field a formidable lineup. This issue has two of the magazine's superstars: Harold Lamb starting the serial The Golden Horde and W. C. Tuttle continuing a Hashknife Hartley serial, Rifled Gold. An extra attraction for me is Albert Richard Wetjen's lead novelette In The Tradition; I learned to like his sea stories in Collier's and his pulp stuff is at least as good. There's also room for stories by Allan Vaughan Ellston, Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, Perry Adams and Raymond S. Spears. If you didn't know what Adventure had been a year before you'd be really impressed. You probably should still be impressed a little.

Saturday, May 14, 2016


Hashknife Hartley and his sidekick Sleepy Stevens were two of the longest lived and most beloved western characters in pulp fiction, yet on this 1938 Argosy cover, apparently advertising one of W. C. Tuttle's stories about them, they're upstaged by a pretty girl. I sort of get this. It's one thing if Tuttle's doing one of his Henry Harrison Conroy stories; Henry is instantly recognizable as a misplaced W. C. Fields type, only more chubby, in the still-wild west. I don't know if Hashknife of Sleepy was as recognizable.  I've seen several Hashknife covers (including the Dec. 15, 1934 Argosy) and the man looks fairly nondescript. Jumping from Adventure to Argosy to Short Stories, I don't know if readers would recognize all the covers as portraying the same man. Meanwhile, a girl with a gun is almost always a pulp winner, and for all I know such a girl actually figures in Tuttle's "Short Rope For Rustlers." As for the rest of the issue, C. S. Forester was Argosy's new star of 1938, the venerable weekly having introduced Horatio Hornblower to American readers earlier in the year. They wouldn't have him for long, as Forester was destined for the slicks, but along with three Hornblower serials Argosy ran the short story, "The Brand of Eve," which had premiered in England less than two months earlier. Max Brand and Borden Chase continue their serials, The Living Ghost and I'd Climb the Highest Mountain, as does Walter Ripperger (This Doll Must Die) while the usually dependable Frederick C. Painton throws in a short piece, "Old Gent With Whiskers." Ol' Hashknife may have been the main selling point, but there's something to be said for sex appeal, too.

Friday, May 13, 2016


Never bring a knife to a gun fight. The Oriental gentleman on the cover of this 1933 Detective Fiction Weekly apparently never heard that advice. "The Tong of Terror" is probably as generic a title you could choose for a Chinatown story, but Sidney Herschel Small, whose name is prominently misspelled, probably makes his latest Jimmy Wentworth story more entertaining than something in this genre should be today. Along with Small there's a typical DFW lineup this week: Fred MacIsaac, George F. Worts, Allan Vaughan Elston and Ray Cummings, among others. I was curious about Milo Ray Phelps, who wrote comic stories about a bumbling safecracker named Fluffy McGoff from 1931 until his death in 1937. It seems he was a poet on the side and had a couple of lyrics published in The New Yorker. And once upon a time, in 1922, he won a contest put on by the Dodd, Mead publishing company for the best jingle advertising George Barr McCutcheon's latest novel, Yollop. Here it is:

A story both timely and touchin'
Is 'Yollp,' by Mr. McCutcheon;
With its ludicrous theme
It unveils with a scream
A new 'bar' in George's escutcheon.

How do you compete with that?

Thursday, May 12, 2016


It's too bad that we don't know much about the 1934 Argosy issue behind this wacky Robert A. Graef cover. The Fiction Mags Index doesn't have a table of contents, so we have to infer the serials from surrounding issue and rely on sellers for more information. The battle of the primates, of course, illustrates the cover story, the debut installment of J. Allen Dunn's three-part Forbidden Mountain. The other serials are Fred MacIsaac's Devil and the Deep (conclusion) and Evan "Frederick Faust again" Evans' Montana Rides Again (part three). The Grinstead on the cover is most likely J. E. Grinstead, a western specialist, while "Gardner" is almost certainly Erle Stanley, and Heartwood Auctions identifies his novelette as "Proofs of Death." Heartwood also lists Richard Howells Watkins and Eustace L. Adams among the contributors. The Adams story could be one of his badass adventures or one of his goofy comedies about Fish the drunken test pilot. I'm less willing to guess about the Watkins, though I suppose sports is more likely than anything else. It'd be great is someone who owns this issue can give us more info, but since this is a 1934 Argosy maybe I'll do it eventually.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Pulp Reading: ARGOSY, APRIL 17, 1937, COMPLETE

It took long enough, but here, finally, is the complete scan of Argosy for April 17, 1937, the issue that provides the wallpaper for this blog. Some of you have already sampled the cover story, Donald Barr Chidsey's "Graveyard of the Gods," which I uploaded last month. Here's a reminder of what else you'll be getting this time:

I plan to move forward with the following issue, for April 24, which will complete Joel Townsley Rogers' "Locusts from Asia" and give you more of the other two very good serials. Along with "Graveyard," the Adams and Radcliffe serials and Albert Richard Wetjen's "Madness of Captain Jonas" are the highlights of this issue, but once you've read all the stories you can rank them however you see fit. The fun begins when you click the link below to download this vintage issue of the venerable weekly:


If memory serves, "Hell Island," this 1935 Argosy's cover story, was the first story by Eustace L. Adams I ever read. It won Adams a 21st century fan. "Long Novelette," as the thing's described inside, is truth in advertising; at 48 pages, it'd be a "Short Novel" if not just plain "Novel" in other pulps. "Hell Island" is a typical Adams product of this period, throwing a world-weary American adventurer into Latin American mayhem. For someone whose main gig was writing aviation stories for kids, Adams did this more mature, hard-boiled stuff very well. The story and the entire May 11, 1935 issue are available at unz.org, and here's your direct link to "Hell Island." I regret to say the Adams story is all I've read from this issue, though I have Richard Wormser's novelette, "You Have to Learn Sometime" on my e-reader somewhere. Theodore Roscoe and George F. Worts continue serials, the latter featuring ace defense attorney Gillian Hazeltine, while Anthony M. Rud is probably the best known of the short story contributors.It may not have the most stellar lineup of authors, but since Argosy was arguably at the height of its powers in 1935 I'm sure it's another solid issue. When you consider that "Hell Island" takes up approximately one-third of it, you can hardly go wrong.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


Here's a movie tie-in edition of William Mulvihill's novel that regrettably renders the movie poster art nearly indecipherable. The novel was first published by Putnam, which ballyhooed it by giving the author the first-ever $10,000 Putnam Literary Award. That must have worked, because Sands of the Kalahari eventually made the New York Times bestseller list. Mulvihill was no pulp writer, though Sands was serialized in the British Argosy magazine, a separate entity from the familiar American mag with a wider mix of literary and genre stuff. I've never seen the film Cy Endfield made from Sands, but I suspect the movie is pulpier than the novel was. Take a look for yourselves;  Criterion Dungeon uploaded the trailer to YouTube.

There's a lot less baboonery in Mulvihill's novel, and at no time does a baboon wield a stone axe. He writes one scene establishing the hierarchy of the troop, but for the most part the creatures are victims of the story's human villain, the American playboy O'Brien. Played by Stuart Whitman in the movie, O'Brien devolves into a monster, driving off other survivors of the initial plane crash and attacking the baboons in order to make the food and water supply in the survivors' mountain sanctuary last longer for himself and the only female, Grace Monckton. Mulvihill is interested in the wide range of human reactions to the challenge of survival in the desert. The character who eventually becomes the hero, Mike Bain, starts as the sickliest survivor, a former Navy Seabee gone to seed who has to go through alcohol and cigarette withdrawal before he can become a useful member of the group. At 192 paperback pages, the novel takes time to show the characters developing, while flashing back liberally to formative moments from their pasts. It's gratifying to see Bain, an engineer by training, track bees to their nearly inaccessible hive and figure out a way to extract the life-sustaining honey, and it's more shocking after that to have O'Brien force him into the desert at gunpoint. We've seen him do this before. A character who didn't make it into the movie, the black Ivy League professor Jefferson Smith, discovers a cache of ostrich eggs which can be used as water tanks, allowing the survivors to set up water stations for wider exploration of the desert. After proving his usefulness, O'Brien forces him to walk away -- he does this when he and his victim are separated from the others, so he can say they've gone crazy and he couldn't stop them -- because the only things that matter to O'Brien are hunting and reducing the number of mouths to feed. He convinces himself that he isn't killing them -- and, in fact, the only one of his victims who dies is the one who tries to fight him, and that one ends up killing himself by accident -- because he gives them a chance to find civilization and bring help for the others. But it becomes clear eventually that O'Brien isn't really interested in being rescued. His relentless desire for things he doesn't have makes the life of a wilderness hunter perfect for him, while it makes the man himself a menace to the other male survivors and an insensitive boor toward Grace, who is defined mainly by her irrepressible horniness for O'Brien.

"Do you want me?"
"I've got you," he said.

She kissed him lightly. "I mean do you like me? I think I'm in love with you." She'd said it now. It had been easy.
"You want me like you've never wanted anything," he said.
"Yes, it's true. Do you love me?"
"A little bit?"
"Don't be silly, Mrs. Monckton." His hand were hot on her back now, his fingers digging in, hurting her.
"Please ... you want to, don't you? You want me?"
"Not any more, Mrs. Monckton. I want what I haven't got and I've already got you." He picked her up like a child and put her on the sand....

There follows what reads like a rape because disillusioned Grace is yelling, "I'll kill you! I'll kill you!" throughout. But she feels better tomorrow and hopeful that O'Brien will love her someday. Virtually brainwashed by lust, she's hard to convince that O'Brien is forcing people to likely death, but a happy ending for poor Bain seems likely. Mulvihill hides Bain from us for several chapters, not giving us the point-of-view chapters of his ordeal that he gives to Smith and to the South African pilot, Sturdevant, who tries to make it through the desert voluntarily. That makes his unexpected reappearance to defeat O'Brien a nice surprise.

I finished the novel thinking that Sands could be adapted into a modern TV miniseries. It's a twisty kind of story full of moments when you think things can't get worse for one of our heroes, but they do. Sturdevant makes it through the desert to a mining station, only to be thrown in jail as an accused diamond thief. Smith is rescued by Bushmen, only to be sold into slavery in some godforsaken village. While we learn that someone finally must have listened to Sturdevant's story, we never find out what happened to Smith after we last see him impressing his village captors with basic medical skills. It's almost as if Mulvihill is suggesting condescendingly that the African-American academic has found a rightful place as a servant to the abject -- or else the author simply forgot about him, just as the movie decided to ignore him completely. That seeming lacuna aside, Sands of the Kalahari is a good survival thriller I'd readily recommend to anyone looking for exotic adventure without the 21st century bloat.


Through the 1920s, Short Stories usually placed its cover art against a white background dominated by its red sun motif. A certain monotony resulted from all the whiteness, but there were dramatic exceptions like this 1927 cover by James Reynolds. A massive midnight sun advertises a James B. Hendryx Alaska serial against a midnight background. I'd be most interested in the short story by J. D. Newsom, "Fried Chicken," but J. Allan Dunn's novelette "The Valley of the Wind" is likely to be good stuff, too. I recognize Robert Pinkerton ("The Jug of Faith") S.B.H. Hurst ("The Pirates of the Irawaddy") and Hapsburg Liebe ("The Belled Ghost") among the other authors, but railroad story specialist Harry Bedwell ("The Lightning That Was Struck"), Bruce Johns ("Snitch"), A. H. Miller ("Shifting Cargo") and Paul Sand ("The Galloping Clue") are mostly if not entirely unknown to me. Miller's story, for instance is the first of only two he published in pulp, both in Short Stories. The mix of authors and intriguing titles plus that terrific cover make this one an issue I wouldn't mind reading someday.

Monday, May 9, 2016


This 1936 Argosy is one of my more recent acquisitions. Not this copy, however; I was busy trying to finish a complete-issue scan of another Argosy (you'll see it here later this week) and didn't get around to my usual front, back and index routine for my own copies. Come back tonight and I may have those scanned in. Anyway, I've only recently started to explore 1936 in the pages of Argosy. It's been mostly virgin territory because unz.org only has the January 4 issue and no one to my knowledge has scanned any other issues from that year.This issue's attraction for me was threefold. It has novelettes by Donald Barr Chidsey (the cover story) and Robert Carse and a short story by Ralph R. Perry -- one of his first after retiring Bellow Bill Williams. I haven't read any of the issue yet so I can't tell you much about these stories, though I'm really looking forward to Carse's "Destiny Walk" at a generous 38 pages. The kings of pulp, Max Brand and H. Bedford-Jones, both have serials in here, Brand starting Big Game and Bedford-Jones finishing River Devil, while John Wilstach continues one of his circus stories, Big Top Banners. There's also an animal story by Kenneth Gilbert and an Aleutian islands story by H. H. Matteson, who seems to have specialized in that sort of thing. Chidsey was really getting busy at Argosy this year, publishing ten stories in 1936 when he had only placed three the previous year. He'd be one of the venerable weekly's mainstays for the rest of the decade and was pretty consistently good at it. The first half of 1936 looks like a good period to collect on the cheap,before Edgar Rice Burroughs brings Tarzan back, before Robert E. Howard's posthumous run of western stories starts, and before L. Ron Hubbard shows up. Look for more 1936 issues from my still-growing collection later this year.

Sunday, May 8, 2016


After reducing its publication schedule from thrice-monthly to twice-monthly in 1926, Adventure's publication dates were the 8th and 23rd of the month for the rest of the year. The magazine actually reverted to thrice-monthly for one last time that December, closing the year with the odd stunt of a December 31 issue followed virtually immediately by a January 1 issue. There was, no doubt, more of a gap between the dates those issues actually arrived on newstands. Anyway, here we are in May, with a decent lineup headed by Arthur O. Friel, introducing the series character Sixto Scott, and Gordon Young, with his long-popular series character Don Everhard. Eyebrows might raise at that name had editor Arthur Sullivant Hoffman not been something of a prude who wouldn't allow the words hell and damn into his pages. Ranking ahead of Young for me are Arthur D. Howden-Smith, here continuing a serial, and top-hand western writer Ernest Haycox. H. Bedford-Jones is here, too, with something simply titled "Son." Leonard H. Nason would make this a major issue if he weren't doing non-fiction this time. George E. Holt contributes a Mohamed Ali story, Bill Adams presumably adds a sea story, and F. St. Mars presumably includes an animal story. Overall a typically strong lineup, and with Adventure back to twice-a-month the typical issues should have more concentrated quality than before, when the standard already was very high.

Saturday, May 7, 2016


Every so often the Argosy cover editor made a boo-boo. This 1938 issue looks promising from the cover, since you're promised the start of a Max Brand serial as well as stories by Robert Carse and Borden Chase. Well, scratch Carse. According to the Fiction Mags Index, he actually made no contribution to this issue. For Carse substitue Frank Richardson Pierce, with the novelette "Highpockets," Captain Dingle, with the short story "The Smoking Monkey," along with Paul Annixter, Walter Ripperger (continuing the serial This Doll Must Die) and Samuel Taylor. As for Max Brand, I don't know what he was up to with The Living Ghost. I found no evidence that the serial was ever reprinted in book form. I did find out that when Frederick Faust's heirs renewed the copyright on the serial, it was listed -- by mistake or by way of correction -- as The Living God. That mystery aside, this issue isn't all it could be in Carse's absence, but Brand, Chase and Pierce are a pretty good threesome, too.

Friday, May 6, 2016


In 1939 the editors at Street & Smith seem to have challenged their cover artists to come up with as many unorthodox camera angles as possible. In this Richard Case cover for Western Story we're looking into a broken mirror behind a bar at a gun dummy turning on whoever fired the shot that broke the mirror. Again, I don't think this illustrates anything inside; someone just thought it made a cool image. There's interesting billing on the bottom of the cover. Walt Coburn and Seth Ranger (aka Frank Richardson Pierce, who also has a serial running this week) are known quantities, but Phil Sharpe was only the magazine's "Guns and Gunners" columnist. That doesn't say much for the other fiction writers this number, who happen to be Anson Hard and B. Bristow Green, both veteran writers but clearly not names that promoted a magazine. If Sharpe outranked them I guess it tells us that western pulp fans -- believe it or not! -- loved their guns. S. Omar Barker has one of his quaint poems here too, if those impress you.

Thursday, May 5, 2016


Here's an early issue of West. It's Vol. 2, No. 3 from 1926, but it took just six twice-a-month issues to make a volume in those days. The Fiction Mags Index doesn't label W. C. Tuttle's story "Rainbow's End" as a series story, but we're clearly expected to know who "Peaceful" is. Presumably he's Peaceful Peters, the protagonist of a 1920 Short Stories novelette (hence from the same publisher as West) that was made into the 1922 movie Peaceful Peters. There's no way to know how many Peaceful Peters stories Tuttle wrote, as there's no titling gimmick to tip us off, unless you're a Tuttle completist. We know that he wrote a string of stories about the character for Street & Smith's Western Story in 1937-8. Tuttle could work a character a long time, so there may be more beyond those that aren't clearly labeled. Anyway, one of Tuttle's peers, Frank Richardson Pierce, lands a short story this issue, while Murray Leinster, later better known for science fiction, gets the "complete novel" (53 pages) advertised on the cover. Charles Wesley Sanders starts a serial, Young Lightning, while Hugh F. Grinstead, Howard E. Morgan, Stephen Payne and Al Priddy bring up the rear. The funny thing about this issue is that it sports a so-so cover by James C. McKell, who would graduate to Saturday Evening Post cover, while the inside front cover sports a frontispiece by the legendary western artist Charles M. Russell, one of three he'd contribute to West in the final year of his life. That seems just a little backwards to me.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016


Fantastics, as Argosy called science fiction or fantasy stories, didn't often get the cover of the venerable weekly. There probably were more sports-story covers in a given year, though Argosy published fantastics more often than the covers would suggest. This fantastic 1940 cover spotlights a departure in genre for Frederick C. Painton, who typically wrote about contemporary international intrigue. "The World That Drowned" launched a short-lived "Time Detectives" series consisting of another novelette in October 1940 and a serial the following year. I read this issue approximately one year ago, but I regret to say that I remember nothing about Painton's cover story, nor anything about the other stories except for Charles Marquis Warren's outstanding and brutal western serial Bugles Are For Soldiers. As this is the period of Argosy's precipitous decline, I don't entirely blame my erratic memory. The most I can say for the rest is that I remember liking Roy de S. Horn's Robin the Bombardier series set in late medieval England, which continues here with the conclusion of the two-parter Bowman's Banner. Overall, however, it's probably safe to say that most of the contents fail to live up to Rudolph Belarski's dramatic cover.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016


Adventure came out twice a month for the first part of 1921 before going thrice-monthly that October. You can understand the demand for more. This issue has three of the magazine's big guns: Talbot Mundy with the serial Guns of the Gods; W. C. Tuttle with his most enduring hero, Hashknife Hartley, and Arthur O. Friel with his Amazon River adventurers Pedro and Laurenco. On top of them, Adventure had a special guest star in John Buchan, author of The 39 Steps and other Richard Hannay adventures, who her continues  a serial apparently written for the American pulp, The Path of a King. Frontier specialist Hugh Pendexter launches his latest serial, The Torch-Bearers, while less lasting names like Clyde B. Hough, Edwin L. Sabin, Chester L. Saxby and Norman Springer contribute short stories. What was amazing was that when Adventure increased its frequency it did not seem to dilute its quality; until it reverted to twice-a-month in 1926 it remained the best pulp on the market.

Monday, May 2, 2016


Years ago, when I was a little girl, I used to wake sometimes in the night. I'd lie in bed, and hear the far-away cries of the hunting things in the night, and they'd fill me with a kind of lonesomeness and terror for all the creatures that were being hunted in the darkness. 

Morgan Taylor's frightened reminiscence gives William L. Stuart's novel its title, though people may know the story better under the title Twentieth Century-Fox and Otto Preminger gave it, Where the Sidewalk Ends. By the time this Avon paperback appeared in 1954, the movie was no longer a selling point worth mentioning. In case you're not familiar with the movie, the back cover copy sums up the plot pretty well. To fill in a little, we're first introduced to Morgan Taylor and her boyfriend, a troubled former sports and war hero turned would-be writer, as he loses his and her money in a classy gambling parlor. Having been thrown out for getting into a fight with another patron, the boyfriend becomes a prime suspect when the other patron is found dead at the casino. Detective Mark Deglin, just passed over for promotion, goes to the boyfriend's place to question him but hits him a little too hard. Moments later, he learns that the police have captured the confessed killer. Now Deglin has to dispose of the body and make it look like the guy fled town because of the killing. Cop and victim look sort of similar, being about the same size, so Deglin puts the stiff's clothes on to go in and out of the building, finally dumping the body off a nearby waterfront. That should wrap it up; everyone should buy that the guy panicked over possibly being implicated in the murder and made himself scarce. But Morgan wants to reconcile with her beau and won't accept that he's vanished, and a persistent reporter writes up her angle on the story. The publicity pushes the police to continue looking for the man, until they turn up a witness who saw someone dressed like her neighbor, but clearly not him -- the real man waved to her every time he went out -- carrying a suspicious large object. Soon enough, the body is pulled from the water, but to Deglin's horror he has committed a just about perfect crime. Every piece of evidence turned up points away from him -- he used gloves in the victim's apartment -- but toward Morgan and a former boyfriend who'd gotten into a fight with the more recent one recently. Deglin apparently can live with having killed a man, but seeing an innocent take the blame is more than he can bear. Such are the makings of a story that's half-Dostoevsky, half-Cornell Woolrich and well grounded in working-class cop life. Deglin's troubled relationship with a torch singer clearly was troubled, as was he, before the disaster of the novel, but Stuart -- who never wrote for the pulps, as far as I can tell -- does a good job understating Deglin's dysfunctions in order to keep him sympathetic in his desperation and mounting guilt, even when he's poised to murder an inconvenient stoolie in cold blood. You can understand why Hollywood saw it as perfect raw material for a film noir. I haven't seen Where the Sidewalk Ends, but I have it scheduled to record on my DVR later this week, so I ought to have something to say about it soon on my movie blog. On its own, Night Cry is a good example of the bad-cop subgenre. Compact at 156 paperback pages without sacrificing atmosphere, it's the kind of good short novel you hardly see anymore, presumably because there's not enough profit in it.


This 1936 issue of Detective Fiction Weekly was the fourth cover for Eugene Thomas's "Lady From Hell," Vivian Legrand in little more than a year of existence. This one isn't the most flattering shot, but I suppose you have to blame the intensity of the moment that shows on her face. You try to shoot and drive at the same time; I bet it's pretty stressful! While Legrand is the star of the issue -- note that her author isn't mentioned on the cover, though that may be a vestige of the original pretense that she was a real person -- the big name for posterity is thriller master Cornell Woolrich, while the big name for collectors isn't even on the cover. L. Ron Hubbard broke into pulps in 1934 and broke into the Munsey pulps two years later, beginning with the March 14 DFW. "They Killed Him Dead" is Hubbard's second story for the weekly. I know nothing about Franklin H. Martin, Milo Ray Phelps or the presumably pseudonymous "Broadway Jack." But I did learn that serial author Donald Ross was an alias for Fred MacIsaac, while "The Light Cure" author Beech Allen was an alias for H. C. Langer, and as was often the case in pulp, initials are an important tip-off. In this case, the H. stood for Hedwig, the author being the wife of fellow pulpster Anatole Feldman. A pretty impressive lineup, overall.

Sunday, May 1, 2016


John Howitt's cover for this 1934 Dime Detective is almost tasteful by shudder pulp standards. Nearly everything draws your eyes away from the lashes on the male victim's back. This grim scene presumably illustrates Erle Stanley Gardner's novelette "The Smoking Corpse." For me, as established the last time we looked at Dime Detective, the highlight here would be Frederick Nebel's Cardigan story "Read 'Em and Weep." I read a Cardigan every few weeks or so and am still only in volume one of Altus Press's four-volume complete collection. I've liked them all so far.  Some short-lived series heroes get fresh outings here: This week's "Hot Money" was the second of five outings for Roger Torrey's Johnny Carr, while Maxwell Hawkins' "Duchess of Death" (maybe that's the cover story!) is the fourth of six appearances by the Jones brothers. Gardner's is a standalone story as is "Zero Hour" by Anson Hatch -- a short-lived pseudonym for Phillip Clark, who also wrote as Harrison Keith for Nick Carter before switching to his real name in 1935. Nebel and Gardner alone probably made this issue worth your dime in 1934 or however much more you'd pay for it now.