Monday, October 31, 2016


Let's close out October with this mildly gruesome if not scary 1931 Detective Story cover by John A. Coughlin. John Jay Chichester's Maxwell Sanderson, who made his debut in 1925, is one of those gentleman thieves (his nickname is "The Noiseless Cracksman") who often turn up in detective pulps. Sanderson regularly earned Detective Story covers from 1926 onward, though there were periods when it wasn't clear whether the weekly cover was illustrating any particular story. Chichester would follow "Desperate Rogues" with a Sanderson serial in December, but after this issue Sanderson apparently lost favor. It's not clear whether Chichester wrote any more stories about him until 1934, and Sanderson seems to have been retired for good in 1935. This issue also continues a story written under Chichester's real name, Christopher B. Booth. The rest of the authors are the usual now-obscure lot, though I wonder who Asia Kagowan was.  Kagowan wrote regularly for Detective Story from 1930 through 1935, including a series about a character named Pooglesnup. Before that the name turns up in the old Life humor magazine of Roaring Twenties fame as its Chicago correspondent. Beyond that Kagowan's identity seems to be as much a mystery now as any solved in this issue.

VINTAGE PAPERBACK OF THE WEEK: Alexander Cordell, THE DEADLY EURASIAN (The Bright Cantonese, 1967-9)

The 1969 Dell paperback oversells Alexander Cordell's novel as a piece of exploitation -- "a novel of sexpionage" -- but while there are some florid descriptions of lovemaking this book isn't quite what someone looking for sexpionage in the late Sixties would expect. Cordell is best known for historical novels set in Wales but was raised in the Orient and made it a subject of several novels. He was a leftist if not an outright Maoist -- a later novel is set during the Long March of the 1930s -- which explains Cordell's unorthodox presentation of a Chinese Red Guard as his heroine. Mei Kayling is "the bright Cantonese," the brightness referring both to her intelligence and her naturally blonde hair, which she dyes to better pass for full-blooded Chinese. A true believer in Chairman Mao, Mei is part of the intelligence bureau, investigating the cause of a nuclear accident. Something isn't right about the story the government is telling about an explosion at a nuclear research facility; survivors recall the flash coming from a different location. To get to the bottom of the matter, Mei must sneak into Hong Kong with a flood of refugee victims of the explosion, many of them blind. There she's to meet an American naval deserter, a technician on a destroyer that apparently fired a missile into China. Mei must try to learn from the sailor, a black man named Dick Wain -- that's a name I would expect to see in a "sexpionage" novel -- whether the missile was launched accidentally or deliberately. The answer will determine whether China will retaliate or not, using their "Sea-Entry" strategy of smuggling nukes on board cargo ships into American ports.

To cut to the chase, Mei Kayling falls in love with Dick Wain (he's just plain "Negro" to her most of the time) and begins to resent the planned exploitation (or worse) of him by her superiors. That doesn't compromise her commitment to communism or her determination to fight its enemies. She takes the fight to the U.S., tracking down the vicious American operative who instigated the missile strike, a fellow fond of torturing and killing female Chinese spies. He's not the only problem she faces here. It develops that a faction of Chinese intelligence doesn't want to wait for Chairman Mao or the Politburo to decide how to respond; they intend to activate the Sea-Entry strategy and present their government with a devastated U.S. as a fait accompli. In an apparent rebuke to the conventions of spy thrillers, Mei defeats the ringleader of this plot but learns that taking one person down isn't enough to stop it. In its denouement The Bright Cantonese reveals itself as a sort of apocalyptic romance as Mei Kayling, sick of the cynical, exploitative ways of all governments, appears content to let the world burn -- the American dead alone are 38 million and counting as the novel closes --- so long as there's a chance that her lover still waits for her "a long way from the hypocentres."

The Bright Cantonese probably doesn't count as a pulp novel but it has plenty of purple prose. It's the sort that shows literary ambition, not the kind that counts the pennies per adjective. But it often can be just as overblown if not more so. As you might expect, Cordell is at his purplest in his love scenes.

I could tell of enchantment, but it was not this; of the fluttering bird in the hand or a spread-eagled assault on womanhood, but this was not so. It is a desperate shipwreck of love when you can remember it as nothing but a soothing joy; no elemental oneness, this, no sensuous stumble into love, yet a tumult for all the scheming, a gossamer fabric spun in starlight: a savage mating in a place of primitive wave-cry and fierce moonlight. His breath was sweet and clean; decency was on his tongue when he spoke to me. And when I opened my eyes wide to the man above me it was not Kwan, he who took and starved me, but the face of darkness, he who bestowed a rhythm of strength and beauty.

That may be bad writing to some, but it contributes to the novel's idiosyncratic identity. It may be one of a kind in the spy genre, and that alone may make it worth reading, if not for pure reading pleasure than for discovery of more that could be said or imagined  during the Cold War than we might have expected.

Sunday, October 30, 2016


This 1923 Adventure is one of the growing number of issues of that classic pulp that have been scanned and made available online. It has three real highlights. The lead novelette is Arthur O. Friel's "The Thirty Gang," a South American adventure featuring Friel's antihero "Black White." Around the middle you'll find "Pilgrim's Progress," one of Leonard H. Nason's mock-epic World War I tales, as ribald as editor Arthur Sullivant Hoffman would allow. The final story is the best thing in the issue: Arthur D. Howden-Smith's "Swain's Sons," recounting the short, unhappy marriage of Adventure's ultimate badass, Swain the Viking. He proves to be a sexist pig, but the wife gets little sympathy after conspiring with Swain's enemies and Swain is so guilelessly upfront in all his attitudes that it's hard to hold any of them against him. Besides these highlights there are Adventure regulars like J. Allen Dunn, George E. Holt, William Byron Mowery and Hugh Pendexter, plus other contributors. Classic stuff.

Saturday, October 29, 2016


Wild West Weekly was the first of Street & Smith's western weeklies to adopt a more ambitious cover art policy in the fall of 1938, and this brilliant piece of work from H. W. Scott was an early result. It would be a few weeks more before Western Story caught up. As usual, series characters predominate, including the magazine's flagship character, Billy West of the Circle J ranch, as written by Allan R. Bosworth under the Cleve Endicott house name.  This issue also features the last of six interrelated novelettes about Jim Tate by  Lee Bond as Andrew A Griffin, as well the latest Flash Moran story by William F. Bragg and the fourth in the short-lived Fiddlin' Deputy series by Harvey Maddux. Lee Bond gets another story under his own byline this week, while Samuel H. Nickels rounds out the fiction lineup. Maybe it drew a stampede of readers to the newstand like the stampede of horses on the cover.

Friday, October 28, 2016


One way to take your  mind off a gloomy winter, whether the weather or the news causes your gloom, is to bask in the sunlight of a vintage West cover like this one from 1931. The only name in the table contents that really means anything to me is W. C. Tuttle, who finishes his two-parter The Vinegaroon this issue. Frederick J. Jackson's Slivers Cassidy first appeared in Adventure way back in 1914, but the series didn't really start until Jackson brought the character West in 1926. There aren't really that many stories in the series -- the FictionMags Index counts nineteen stories, including one serial, though it looks like there are more than that -- and to my knowledge the series hasn't been anthologized but Slivers was popular enough to be name-checked on the cover most of the times he appeared. Jackson wrote stories, plays and screenplays in many genres; his best known stage/screen work may be The Bishop Misbehaves. As for the other authors, I've seen Stephen Payne's name a lot but I don't really have an opinion on him, and I have even less to say about Benjamin F. Ferrill, Norrell Gregory and Raymond W. Porter. West was coming out "every other week"  at this point but would have to go monthly approximately one year later. Doubleday, Doran did everything possible, it seems, to keep Short Stories on its twice-a-month schedule but West ultimately proved expendable, and by the fall of 1935 it was in other hands.

Thursday, October 27, 2016


This is the sort of thing I've been looking for all month, so of course, being unimpressed by the pulp weeklies' October 27 covers, I had to go to the slicks to find it. I can understand why the weeklies wouldn't have Halloween covers. The Munsey weeklies -- Argosy and Detective Fiction Weekly -- used their covers to promote stories inside, and those rarely addressed Halloween as an event, while the Street & Smith westerns were, well, westerns. So here's a Saturday Evening Post from 1928, with a cover by Frederic Stanley. This is where most pulp writers wanted to end up -- here or in Collier's. As it happens, several of this issue's fiction contributors were, or would be, pulpsters. Bernard Atkey, who finishes a two-part story here, was publishing in Blue Book contemporaneously, and would continue to publish his comic Hobart Honey stories there after the Post dried up for him. Charles Garland Givens, billed here as "Colonel Givens," gradually shifted into the detective pulps in the early 1930s. James Warner Bellah, whose later stories inspired some classic John Ford westerns, dabbled in pulp briefly, publishing three stories in Argosy in 1932. Benito Mussolini, who has a non-fiction piece here, did not publish in the pulps, though some may have accused him of having a pulpish imagination.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016


The combination of cover and title promise eccentric goings-on in Richard Wormser's "Sewn Up," the cover story of this 1935 Detective Fiction Weekly. While I know Wormser mainly for his Argosy adventure stories about entertainment-industry animal hunter Dave McNally, he's best known generally as a detective story writer. His "Complete Short Novel" is definitely short at 31 pages, but that is a long story for DFW. The other novelettes this issue are by Maxwell Hawkins and Ray Cummings, the latter continuing his "Crimes of the Year 2000" series with "The Metal Murderer." Fireman story specialist Karl Detzer and Harold de Polo contribute short stories, while Donald Ross (aka Fred MacIsaac) and Max Brand (aka we could go on all day) continue their serials, The Eye of Isis and Murder Me! respectively. In the spirit of the season, Robert W. Sneddon writes a nonfiction piece on "The Ghouls of Edinburgh." So will the lady remember the combination before someone she might care about gets his entire sock burned off? You'll have to buy this issue somewhere, for somewhat more than a dime, to find out.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016


The 25th usually is Short Stories day each month, and today brings a Short Stories double feature. William Ruesswig painted this nice cover illustrating an adventure of Aubrey St. John Major and Jim the Hottentot in 1931 to promote L. Patrick Greene's latest, "Veldt Gold." It's a strong image I can envision gracing the cover of a future volume in Altus Press's planned complete edition of the Major stories. The folks at Doubleday, Doran liked the cover so much they used it again exactly two years later.

Which issue would I rather have? I'd have to say the 1931 if only because the 1933 issue has been scanned and disseminated to digital collectors already. Neither one is really an all-star issue by today's standards, though the 1931 boasts not only The Major but also James B. Hendryx's two Halfaday Creek heroes, Corporal Downey and Black John Smith, in the conclusion of the serial Corporal Downey Takes the Trail. A lot of people liked Thomson Burtis, too, though I've never really warmed to him.

You can't be too hard on Short Stories about this repetition, because recycling covers really was one of the very few economies the publisher imposed during the Depression. While the magazine's great rival Adventure fluctuated drastically in both page count and frequency, Short Stories chugged along relentlessly, putting out 176 pages twice a month throughout the 1930s and until 1943, excepting a reckless experiment of 224 pages at a time in 1932. You still got more content in a month's worth of Argosy weeklies and paid less -- 40 or 50 cents for Argosy as opposed to 50 cents for a month of Short Stories --  but you didn't get much better value anywhere else.

Monday, October 24, 2016


At least once a year, and usually in the fall of course, Argosy would run a football cover and a football serial. You could depend on a baseball cover and often a hockey cover as well, but I don't recall any basketball covers. 1936's football serial comes from an unusual source, since George Bruce had long been a "war-air" specialist whose name had been above the title of two different aviation pulps earlier in the 1930s. Bruce had done a few boxing tales for Fiction House's Fight Stories, but he really started to branch out at Argosy, having published a baseball serial, The Speed King, earlier in 1936. Whatever we think of the sports pulps today -- and my impression is that we don't think much of them -- there clearly were incentives for writers to work in that genre. Navy football is the subject of Bruce's serial, and eighty years later the Middies are an aspiring football power again, ranked No. 22 in the nation this week.There's no table of contents for this issue in the FictionMags Index, but we see that Frederick C. Painton has a novelette prominently featured, while L. G. Blochman, L. Ron Hubbard ("Deep-Sea Diver") and Foster-Harris have standalone stories. H. Bedford-Jones concludes his serial Raid of the China Clipper while Eustace L. Adams continues his three-parter Red Chaos at Night. One seller identifies Will McMorrow and L.U. Reavis as the other contributors. Whether Annapolis Ahoy! is "The Finest Story George Bruce Ever Told" is certainly debatable, but I'm unprepared to debate the topic.

Sunday, October 23, 2016


In the golden age of Adventure the painted covers were decorative rather than illustrative. The most a cover would tell you was which writers were in that issue. You had no hint of what they were writing about it, because the cover was doing its own thing. Starting with this 1926 issue, the Butterick company that published Adventure adapted a diametrically opposed cover policy. Now you'd find out a lot about the contents, with no art on the cover at all. This put Adventure in line with the more literary squarebound magazines of the period like The Atlantic Monthly, The American Mercury and Harper's. It's said that the publishers wanted to elevate the tone of the magazine, but I wonder whether regular readers appreciated the change. I haven't seen issues from this period so I don't know what sort of feedback appeared in the "Camp-Fire" letters column. What I do know is that Butterick retreated a little in March 1927, when prestigious illustrator Rockwell Kent was brought in to do woodcut-style covers. By August of that year Kent was gone and Adventure had fully painted, purely decorative covers again. Perhaps not coincidentally, beloved editor Arthur Sullivant Hoffman departed shortly before.

At least this phase started strong, with a "full-length" novel by Talbot Mundy and novelettes by Arthur O. Friel and Leonard H. Nason leading the way. Two serials also launch this issue, by Gordon Young and F. R. Buckley. Harvey Ferguson makes his only Adventure appearance this issue, while Andrew A. Caffrey, Kingsley Moses and L. Paul join him. This issue may not be much to look at, but it does look like plenty of good reading.

Saturday, October 22, 2016


Those cool, sometimes nearly abstract Street & Smith western covers I identify with 1939 actually started a few months earlier. Wild West Weekly altered its cover design in the fall of 1938, removing former traces of a banner and opting more often for full-color backgrounds instead of the once-typical white. This is an early success of the new regime, painted with newly-characteristic symbolism by ace artist H. W. Scott. It heralds a Silver Jack Steele story by William F. Bragg, one of the few authors who got to do a series under his own name. Walker A. Tompkins was another, as this week's Tommy Rockford story shows. On the other hand, such an established name as J. Allen Dunn wrote the Whistlin' Kid stories as Emery Jackson -- which was only fair, I suppose, since Guy L. Maynard did so as well on other occasions. Lee Bond wrote the Jim Tate series (a miniseries of six novelettes in consecutive issues) as one of many incarnations of house name Andrew A. Griffin. Ben Conlon and Frank Carl Young contribute standalone short stories, while Warren Elliot Carleton presents the penultimate installment of an 18-part comic strip series about Sailor Anson. I'd like to think that the higher quality covers had a positive impact on sales, but I don't know one way or another and I suspect otherwise, since cover design turned more conservative again about a year later.

Friday, October 21, 2016


Writers like Frank Kane were born too soon. It's not hard to imagine Kane today making a mint off hardcover Johnny Liddell novels, though each probably would have to be a good deal longer than the terse paperback originals he ground out for Dell in the 1950s and 1960s. Kane figured out what he was good at early; he created Liddell in only his second published pulp story, a 1944 novelette in Columbia's Crack Detective Stories. Crack was Johnny's home for the rest of the decade, though Kane was also writing novels by the turn of the decade. In the Fifties Liddell worked the growing neighborhood during the golden age of the hard-boiled digest magazine, becoming a fixture in the legendary Manhunt as well as a supporting player in Mike Shayne's Mystery Magazine. No one makes great claims for Kane as a writer, but his Liddell novels were hard-boiled comfort food that many clearly enjoyed. At peak productivity he could finish four a year. Due or Die was a product of just such a productive period.

Johnny Liddell is a pretty generic hard-boiled dick, tough yet catnip to the ladies, though he has a steady girlfriend. Based in New York, he's seduced (in the scene illustrated on the front cover) into going to Las Palmas NV to help the mobsters running its casinos with a problem. Don't confuse the place with Las Vegas, which is mentioned in the story. Las Palmas is a still more corrupt place, run by the people who can't go back to their old haunts in the east, guarded by the cast-offs of police forces across the country. Someone is running a shakedown on the Las Palmas mobsters, having already killed one of the casino bosses while demanding a lump sum from the rest. They have to act fast because should another be killed, each survivor's share of the payoff will increase. "Fat Mike" Klein, whose moll recruited Liddell, wants the detective to track down the shake artist. But Johnny's hardly arrived before Fat Mike himself is killed. At first I thought Fat Mike might be pulling a fakeroo to shake down his colleagues, but we soon get pretty indisputable proof that he's quite dead. So whodunit? Kane offers us a good number of suspects, from Fat Mike's gangster peers to the corrupt cops who play rough with interlopers to a small-timer trying to muscle into the big time. You might even believe the moll might be behind it, but she and a rare good cop in town prove to be Johnny's best allies as he unravels the mystery. It's one of those mysteries that isn't solved by forensic clues, but by Johnny finding out something important that Fat Mike and only a very few others knew. Along the way there's standard but decently written hard-boiled action, and Kane gives you a good sense of the stakes when the bad guys prove willing to blow Liddell and all the other passengers of an airliner out of the sky to cover their trail. Some of the details are dated, as when Johnny compares one woman with the briefly-popular actress Juliette Greco, but his lean style should make the Liddell novels fairly accessible for the modern reader, so long the reader doesn't feel that a story lacks authenticity if it lacks profanity. Kane is like a decent but not profound craft beer; not an imperial stout or tripel ale, but it hits the spot and you'd have another bottle sometime -- and as a matter of fact I just picked up a nice copy of Two to Tangle (1965) this week.


Fred R. Miller, the author of this 1939 Detective Fiction Weekly's cover story, dabbled in pulp only briefly. He published two stories in DFW, including this one, and another in a 1941 issue of True Gangster Stories. Miller has a more interesting history outside pulp. Earlier in the Thirties he had been the editor of Blast: A Magazine of Proletarian Short Stories, where he published his first fiction. Miller criticized better-known leftist literary journals for being too refined or genteel, so perhaps pulp was a natural next step for him. "Dead Man's Blues" also appears to reflect Miller's interest in jazz, which found aborted expression in an unfinished collaboration with the poet William Carlos Williams. As a poet in his own right, Miller made it into The New Yorker a couple of times. Along with Miller's alleged "Feature-Length Novel" -- it's only 27 pages -- there's a serial chapter from Walter Ripperger, a novelette by J. Lane Linkletter and stories by Robert Leslie Bellem (a rare foray outside the spicy pulps), Hugh B. Cave and Philip Ketchum. This issue may lack DFW's big guns, but it may not be without interest.

Thursday, October 20, 2016


Three heavy hitters highlight this 1924 Adventure. W. C. Tuttle stars with a full-length (73 pages) Hashknife Hartley novel The Dead-Line. Talbot Mundy publishes the second installment of his latest Jimgrim serial, Om. Georges Surdez only has a short story, but "The Mountaineer" may well be the highlight of the issue, as Surdez may well be Adventure's best writer. Along with these there are short stories by John Dornan, Charles Victor Fischer, Bruce Johns, Alanson Skinner and Leo Walmsley. Whether this issue is worth your while depends on how much you like Tuttle. The Hashknife stories I've read maintain a better balance between comedy and serious matter than later stuff like the Sheriff Henry series. Having Surdez and Mundy in this number makes me more willing to take a chance on Tuttle.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


A reminder is in order that Wild West Weekly is the more kiddie-oriented of Street & Smith's western pulps. Maybe that's why cover artist Lawrence Toney shows us this gruesome victim from behind, and not face-forward as Kid Wolf sees it. As usual, Kid Wolf author Ward M. Stevens is actually Paul S. Powers. The rest of this 1940 issue may be relatively tame, but we do get an adventure of C. William Harrison's "Devil's Deputy" -- his fifth and last appearance, and "Death By a Nose" by Mojave Lloyd. Future western editor Robert O. Erisman contributes the novelette "Gunman's Colt Reprieve," Allan R. Bosworth and Gunnison Steele add short stories, and Chuck Martin concludes the serial Texas Law. That cover is definitely above and beyond the norm for Wild West, if not most western pulps of the period, but a sort of shudder probably is appropriate for the season.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


Do you find clowns scary? Many do, and perhaps Delton Prouse thought his red pagliacco suit and whiteface would strike terror into superstitious, cowardly criminals. Somehow it worked, and the mere idea of the Crimson Clown thrilled or at least amused Detective Story readers.  Still, Johnston McCulley had neglected him long enough for his first new story since May 1929 to be heralded as "The Crimson Clown's Return" in October 1930. Notice how the hero needs no introduction, apart from the letter he presents on the cover. Prouse would make three more appearances in the next year and then go dormant again, finally getting another "Return" in Popular Detective in 1944. The Clown aside, this issue has an unusual number of continued stories, though one of the three is only the conclusion of a two-parter. There are also four standalone stories, all by names mostly forgotten now.  One of the stories is "His Last Grin," which might make some clowns laugh.

Monday, October 17, 2016


This looks like a pretty good but probably expensive 1936 Argosy. It's most likely made expensive for the collector by Robert E. Howard's western comedy "Gents on the Lynch" and L. Ron Hubbard's "Test Pilot." These may already make the issue a good one for some readers, but if they weren't enough Eustace L. Adams starts a three-part serial, Red Chaos By Night, and Donald Barr Chidsey contributes an Nick Fisher-Eddie Savoy novelette, "Razzberries, Mex." Then there's the cover novelette by Allan Vaughan Ellston, serial installments from H. Bedford-Jones and western writer Edgar L. Cooper, and a short story by John Forbes, apparently the author's only appearance in Argosy. Whether you're a collector or a fan, it looks like you'd get good value from this issue.

Sunday, October 16, 2016


The "Law of the Solomons," according to Ralph R. Perry, is that "any native who enters the clearing of a white man unclothed, or carrying a weapon, may be shot." A lone female anthropologist is attempting to enforce this law against a "native orgy" virtually on her doorstep when Bellow Bill Williams arrives on the island of Rumakotu. Out pearling by himself, Bill got a booboo while trolling and soon realized that he has to see a doctor to escape blood poisoning. "To play a lone hand exacts its penalties," Perry notes. Rather than take a long run to Tahiti, Bellow Bill recalls that a trader on Rumakotu used to be a doctor and probably still knows enough to fix Bill's trouble. Instead of the doctor Bill finds the anthropologist besieged in her bungalow, and at least one native armed with an automatic rifle, when they're not supposed to have firearms of any sort. After fighting his way to the girl, Bill learns that the doctor has disappeared after attempting to calm the whipped-up natives, while a third white man has been lost at sea. Something about the story doesn't sound right to Bill, who's convinced by the native with the rifle that yet another white man, and a malevolent one, must be on the island. In short, there's a mystery for Bellow Bill to solve while safeguarding the plucky girl scientist against the natives. "Blood Payment" is one of the more indefensibly racist of Perry's stories, and while Bill is more physically handicapped than normal by his illness -- he never can shoot well, anyway -- the story isn't that much of a mystery since Bill's every hunch proves right, making him more infallible than he usually is in this series. This is still good, suspenseful pulp action from one of Argosy's more popular series of the early 1930s. You can read it for yourself by following the link below.


Detective Fiction Weekly was a little dodgy sometimes about crediting the authors of their cover stories. It makes for neater covers from an artistic standpoint but it wasn't really fair to the writers. The author of "If I Should Die" was Edward S. Williams, who wasn't exactly a nobody in the business. After an apparent false start with a 1931 western, Williams returned in 1934 as a detective writer and stuck. He'd been publishing in DFW since 1935, but it looks like he hadn't succeeded yet by this 1937 issue at creating a successful series character for the Munsey mag. He'd do better later with Dennis O'Ryley, aka The Voice, who became a regular feature in Popular Publications' Ace G-Man Stories in the early 1940s. Richard Sale, who had better luck with series characters, has a Daffy Dill story this week, while Edgar Franklin has a novelette about a relatively short-lived series character, George Batey. There are also novelettes by Maurice Beam and Joseph Millard, stories by Bert Collier, William T. Bannon, Vincent Hall and Carl Rathjen, and a serial chapter from Fred MacIsaac. Plenty of variety, at least.

Saturday, October 15, 2016


I own a copy of this 1930 Adventure but both covers have been scribbled on so you're better off with this relatively clean image. There's a strong lineup of fiction writers, with pride of place in my book going to Robert Carse's prison-ship story "Storm," but the hype went to the memoir of Emmett Dalton, the onetime wild west outlaw. Dalton's collaborator was veteran journalist and sometime screenwriter Jack Jungmeyer. Presumably Jungmeyer is responsible for the purple, melodramatic tone of the memoir, which doesn't read much like the reminiscences of a bandit. On the other hand, this was Dalton's second memoir, having written Beyond the Law, apparently on his own, back in 1918. That earlier effort was made into a movie in which Dalton himself appeared, while the Dalton-Jungmeyer memoir, published in book form as When the Daltons Rode, was made into a 1940 film starring Randolph Scott, with Frank Albertson as Emmett. There are also strong stories by Georges Surdez and Ralph R. Perry, a horse racing story by Thomson Burtis, a serial chapter from Hugh Pendexter, another slice of memoir from globetrotting mercenary Rafael de Nogales, and a T.S. Stribling mystery starring his psychologist detective Henry Poggioli, which I haven't read yet. I've liked what I have read overall.

Friday, October 14, 2016


From 1933, here's a somewhat grotesque Detective Fiction Weekly cover. Along with Francis Cockrell's cover novelette and a Judson Philips serial, this issue presents two established series characters: Sidney Herschel Small's Jimmy Wentworth and Stanley Day's Shamus Maguire, along with H. Bedford-Jones's one-week old Colin Haig, the protagonist of a six-week series of apparently interrelated short stories. Next week's entry, by the way, is "The Backward Swastika." Frank King contributes a short story while the ever-popular Convict No. 12627 contributes the purported nonfiction "Big Shots in Big Houses."

Thursday, October 13, 2016


Here's a slightly startling cover from a 1934 Detective Fiction Weekly. Among the weeklies, biweeklies and twice-a-months that make up the Calendar, DFW is probably your most likely source for spooky images, apart maybe from the twice-a-month days of Dime Detective. Herman Landon has the lead novelette and Edward Parrish Ware has the last of four Ranger Jack Calhoun stories to appear this year. The other series character this issue is Laurence Donovan's Boxcar Reilly, who had a sporadic existence. After making his debut here, Reilly went dormant, according to the FictionMags Index, until Donovan revived him for Street & Smith's character-driven Crime Busters pulp in 1937. According to the Index, Donovan wrote three Boxcar stories for Crime Busters, while Norman A. Daniels contributed another. Hulbert Footner of Mme. Storey fame continues his serial The Four-Toed Track, while David Crewe and Stephen Terry contribute short stories. David Crewe is listed as a house pseudonym for Popular Publications, but that doesn't account for the four stories under that name that appeared in Munsey's DFW in 1934-5. There's also a good-sized nonfiction piece by Tom Roan and the first in an occasional series of "Jujutsu" lessons from one John Yamado. Really, though -- how can you turn that face down???

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


Here's a vaguely sinister 1935 cover for Detective Fiction Weekly, advertising the return (and final bow) of Herman Landon's antihero Martin Dale, aka the Picaroon. The character had appeared thirty times in Street & Smith's Detective Story between 1921 and 1932. Landon had made his DFW debut back in January 1932 and had been dividing his time between the Munsey mag, Detective Story and Street & Smith's Complete Stories since then. While this issue may have marked the end of the Picaroon, Landon continued placing stories in DFW until 1938 and ended his pulp career in various Popular Publications detective mags. Regular DFW readers were probably more excited about the latest "Lady From Hell" story by Eugene Thomas, in which Vivian Legrand encounters, or is, "the London Queen of Crime." They also got a novelette by future Academy Award winner Charles G. Booth, a Ranger Jack Calhoun story by Edward Parrish Ware -- who'd been cranking them out since 1926, short stories by John H. Knox, Earl W. Scott and one Captain Havelock-Bailie, and a serial chapter from Max Brand. The "They're Swindling You!" headline heralds the debut of a nonfiction column by Frank Wrentmore that would run regularly in DFW until 1940. So you get an end and a beginning this issue, but that was probably pretty common in the weekly pulps.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016


This symbolic absence represents the 1941 demise of Argosy as a weekly magazine. The last Argosy Weekly has an October 4, 1941 cover date. In better times you could have expected an October 11 issue, but the next issue was dated November 1 beginning a biweekly schedule that would last only a few months before Argosy went monthly in the spring of 1942. I don't know the boardroom details in the case, but it seems that the Munsey corporation made some catastrophic decisions, starting arguably with the misadventure of the monthly All-American Fiction in 1937-8. There followed a quixotic attempt to expand the "Red Star" line, with old reliables Argosy and Detective Fiction Weekly shrinking as more doomed magazines appeared. How much creative errors like replacing cover paintings with a standard cover format, with only the text changing, had to do with the decline is unclear, though they couldn't have helped.  There may have been less demand for weekly pulps by this time, but Street & Smith were able to keep some going all the way through 1942. Say what you will about trends, but it's impossible to eliminate human error as a factor in this humbling of a once-mighty pulp magazine. In time, of course, and with the help of a different publisher, Argosy found a format that allowed it to outlive almost all its erstwhile competition in the pulp field, but fans in 1941 might not have believed such an outcome possible.

Monday, October 10, 2016


This day in 1921 was the cover date for Adventure's conversion to a thrice-monthly pulp and the beginning of its peak period. One year later, this 1922 issue has quite a formidable lineup, at least as far as I'm concerned, and a cover that's at least in the ballpark for marking the modern Columbus Day holiday. It features five of my favorite pulp writers: Talbot Mundy with a complete Jimgrim story; Georges Surdez with "The Yellow Streak;" Leonard H. Nason with "A Can of Jam," his second pulp story; J. D. Newsom with "Bad Luck," his third; and sea-story specialist Albert Richard Wetjen with "The Courtship of Captain Driscoll, " his fourth. If that's not enough, Hugh Pendexter's in the middle of a serial and you get stories by Albert E. Apple, Max Bonter, Eugene Cunningham, Frank H. Houston and animal specialist F. St. Mars. If the cover doesn't make you seasick it looks like great reading inside.

Sunday, October 9, 2016


Nothing dated October 9 really impressed me visually, so I've chosen this 1937 Argosy as a matter of virtual vanity, as it portrays my pulp identity of Samuel Wilson, the symbol of our nation. Presumably Sam is throwing out the first ball of a World Series game, which would be further proof that baseball was a faster sport back them. They only played 154 games and the Series itself was the only playoff. Note that Sam is throwing the first ball, not the first pitch. This had become a presidential tradition earlier in the century, but it was still beneath a chief executive's dignity to actually take the field for the ceremony. Anyway, while the FictionMags Index has no table of contents for this issue, it was scanned and uploaded some years ago, and that enables me to give you some idea of what Sam was selling this week.

Two of the serials are really good. They're Borden Chase's Smooth Kyle story Blue-White and Perfect, which was later made into a Michael Shayne movie, and Eustace L. Adams' Stunt Man, in which the title character is obliged to impersonate the actor he doubles for in movies when the star gets into a jam. It's odd that Argosy went with a generic Uncle Sam cover when this issue started a Sheriff Henry serial by W. C. Tuttle, but perhaps a cover artist missed a deadline. The lead novelette is L. G. Blochman's "The Imperfect Gentleman," set in Europe rather than the author's more usual haunts. An American gangster on the lam wants to live like a gentleman in Paris but encounters the notorious "apaches," the hoodlum types immortalized by that violent pas-de-deux dance you see in so many comedy shorts and cartoons from these years. Perhaps you can hear the music in your head as I mention it. The rest of the issue, I regret to say, has faded from my memory after about three years. It either says something about the stories or it says something about me.

Saturday, October 8, 2016


I imagine lumberjacks would make a tough crowd for any fighter, a crowd of pulp lumberjacks especially, given how they fight each other all the time. While this 1932 cover promotes Frank Richardson Pierce's novelette "Timber Bred," it also serves as a prophecy of what was coming for a new Argosy author. Frank Mercer Morgan had an abrupt pulp career. He's credited with a text story in a 1923 issue of Ace-High Magazine, and doesn't reappear until 1932. He published a story in West and a non-fiction piece in Blue Book before Argosy accepted his two-parter Golden Doom and prepared a "Men Who Make the Argosy" column for the new talent. After Golden Doom Mercer followed up immediately with the short story "Flame of the East." A month later he was finished as a pulp writer. Argosy had learned that Mercer was a blatant plagiarist. Golden Doom had been lifted from H. Bedford-Jones' 1924 novelette "Madagascar Gold" from Blue Book, while "Flame of the East" was taken from James Francis Dwyer's 1912 "Golden Woman of Kelantan," published in Red Book and reprinted in the Sunday supplement American Weekly. Perhaps Mercer thought that so much had been published in pulp that no one would notice if he reused some. If so, he underestimated the fan or collector mentality -- or else Bedford-Jones and/or Dwyer saw and remembered. One can only hope that the rest of this issue's contents -- serials by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert Carse and J. E. Grinstead, a Fred MacIsaac novelette, a short story by C. S. Montanye -- were as original as pulp could be by this point.

Friday, October 7, 2016


W. H. Hinton paints a thematically appropriate cover for this 1939 Western Story and its lead novella, Ney N. Geer's "Sidewinder Syndicate." I've had my doubts about "Ney N. Geer" but it proves to be the author's real name. Geer (1895-1974) had a relatively brief pulp career after starting late. He didn't publish his first pulp story -- or the first one the FictionMags Index is aware of -- until he was 41 years old. All his stories but one appeared in Street & Smith pulps. Geer's biggest success was his Potluck Jones series, as his being mentioned by name on this cover will attest. "Sidewinder Syndicate" is the exact halfway mark of Potluck's career, the seventh of his thirteen stories. He and Geer are joined here by old hand W. C. Tuttle, W. Ryerson Johnson, Wilfred McCormick and Cliff Walters, while Jay Lucas continues his serial Range of Hunted Men. The cover may well be the strongest thing in this issue, and it's a fine example of the Street & Smith aesthetic circa 1939.

Thursday, October 6, 2016


Borden Chase broke into the pulps in the March 1934 issue of Real Detective. He made it into Argosy with the novelette "Tunnel Men" that June. He then appeared in three consecutive issues of Adventure. By October he'd had a double success with East River. I'm actually not sure which came first: the serial Chase co-wrote with Edward J. Doherty -- a regular writer of nonfiction for the slick weekly Liberty --or the screenplay Fox would release the following February as Under Pressure, under Raoul Walsh's direction. I'm more certain that it was the film then in production more than Chase's good name that earned East River this cover. Chase had already established himself and his almost private subgenre of "sandhog" stories about the mighty men who dug tunnels under rivers or through mountains. The first installment seems to set up a romantic quadrangle of two brawling buddies -- Victor McLaglen would play "Jumbo," his longtime action/comedy partner Edmund Lowe "Shocker" -- and two women, one of whom loves Shocker but feels she owes an emotional debt to Jumbo, the other falling hard for Shocker but jealously recognizing the first's feelings for him. So much for the heart interest. For the male readers Chase and Doherty offer suspenseful action emphasizing how the sandhogs are always on the brink of disaster. In short, a decent opening installment. Given Walsh's rep as a canonical director, I'd really like to see Under Pressure now. Curiously, for all that Chase is best known now as a screenwriter of westerns, it doesn't look like wrote any westerns in his pulp career.

I'll have something to say about Ralph R. Perry's Bellow Bill Williams novelette "Blood Payment" when I scan and upload it this weekend. Apart from that, we continue with A. Merritt's final serial Creep, Shadow! and J. E. Grinstead's tale of alienated youth out west, The Kid From Hell, and we get a good-sized novelette from Fred MacIsaac  that I haven't read yet.  There's a baseball story by James W. Egan and Hapsburg Liebe's "The Black Schooner" about a public enemy, a Secret Service man and a band of hoboes.  In "Argonotes" there's a fascinating little letter from A. Carras of the Bronx who, inspired by the recent innovation of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, proposes a team of Argosy all-stars -- characters, that is, not authors. Interestingly, Carras fields a co-ed lineup, designating Hulbert Footner's detective Madame Storey as his starting pitcher. Here's the rest of his lineup.

1B - Peter the Brazen ("Loring Brent"/George F. Worts)
2B - the Roadrunner (aka El Paisano, Erle Stanley Gardner)
SS - Major Brane (Gardner)
3B - Bob Zane (Whispering Sands series, Gardner)
C - Tarzan of the Apes (Edgar Rice Burroughs -- most recently playing for Liberty, slick league)
LF -Carson Napier (Venus series, Burroughs)
RF - Bellow Bill Williams (Ralph R. Perry FTW)
CF - Singapore Sammy (Worts)
P - Mme. Rosika Storey (Hulbert Footner)

In a cute touch, Carras makes John H. Thompson's vagrants Bill and Jim the team's waterboys, and in what looks like a major dis to me he assigns W. Wirt's Jimmie Cordie "and his gang" as batboys. The real shocker here may be that Carras leaves frickin' Zorro on the bench. Apart from that, some readers may have preferred that Carras give the ball to Worts' Gillian Hazeltine, but for all I know Mme. Storey could take the defense attorney in a fight, or at least out-throw him. In any event, this list gives new meaning to the term fantasy sports, and on that note I leave you with this issue's sponsor:

Wednesday, October 5, 2016


Street & Smith made an interesting decision to give one 1940 Western Story cover to a nonfiction piece. 1940 was the 400th anniversary of Coronado's exploration of the future American west, and while many events commemorated his historic trek, there's no special significance that I know of to October 5 or the entire month in that narrative. Maybe the editor had been waiting for R. Edgar Moore to deliver his ten-page piece on the subject. Moore is credited with only nine stories in the FictionMags Index, and his Coronado piece is the last of them. The real pulp fan probably would have been more excited to have a Luke Short serial, Gunsmoke Graze, begin in this issue. Short is joined by a bunch of familiar faces: Harry F. Olmsted, Harry Sinclar Drago, Seth "Frank Richardson Pierce" Ranger, Bennett Foster, George Cory Franklin and pulp poet S. Omar Barker. A conquistador may have been an unusual sight up front, but otherwise Western Story regulars could be pretty sure of what they were getting.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016


How about a little voodoo? This 1930 Detective Story cover promises us a "Severed Head" but gives us a severed leg on that poor little doll. It has something to do, perhaps, with George Allan England's hero T. Ashley, who'd been around since 1918 but would really get down to business over the next few years. England may have been top-billed this issue but some people probably bought it to continue Edgar Wallace's serial The Clew of the Silver Key, complete with archaic spelling. In 1933 Street & Smith would take over Clues Detective Stories from Clayton but stuck with the modern spelling. Most of this week's authors are the usual Street & Smith veterans, though Leslie T. White makes his Detective Story debut at the precocious age of 27, after breaking into pulp at the start of the year.

Monday, October 3, 2016


This is probably the most expensive 1936 Argosy any collector will buy, if not one of the most expensive issues of the entire 1930s. That's because it features the three most collectible names Argosy published in those years. None of them is Theodore Roscoe, even though he has the actual cover story this time. However, L. Ron Hubbard is one, with his novelette "Mr. Luck." Edgar Rice Burroughs, mentioned curtly on top, is another, continuing his latest Tarzan serial. The third, who never had his name on an Argosy cover, is Robert E. Howard, who died on June 11 of this year. Friendly editor Jack Byrne, who had published Howard's boxing fiction in Fiction House's Fight Stories, wanted to promote Howard as a writer of comic westerns, but didn't start publishing the adventures of Pike Bearfield, the character Howard created for him, until this issue. Three Bearfield stories would appear during October, once every two weeks. I haven't seen any contemporary Argonotes to tell how Argosy readers responded to Bearfield, but some writers suggest that had Howard lived he might have had a very different identity as a writer and might be remembered today as a western humorist first and a sword-and-sorcery pioneer only later. I don't know. I haven't read the Bearfield stories but I've tried some about his precursor, Breckinridge Elkins, which Byrne published in Action Stories, and wasn't impressed. Admittedly,  I only read a couple of early stories, but I didn't find their "Haw haw, I guess I don't know my own strength" tone that funny. I prefer the El Borak stories that were appearing elsewhere at the same time, not to mention Red Nails, the Conan serial that had wrapped up in Weird Tales the previous month. But as faithful readers may have noticed already, I don't read pulps for laughs, unless they prove unintentional.

Not that they add to the resale value, but L. G. Blochman and H. Bedford-Jones have serials running this issue, while Anthony M. Rud and James Stevens contribute short stories. Speaking of big-name writers once more, however, French author Andre Malraux, some of whose subject matter would not be alien to pulp fiction, is this week's Man of Daring, as delineated by artist Stookie Allen. Quite a lineup, overall.

Sunday, October 2, 2016


Here's a just mildly spooky Detective Fiction Weekly cover from 1937, promoting Richard Sale's novelette, "Give, Ghost, Give!" Overall the issue has a decent-sounding lineup, with a novelette by Cleve F. Adams, stories by Wyatt Blassingame, Whitman Chambers, Bert Collier Norbert Davis and Eric Howard, plus a serial installment from Fred MacIsaac. Don't expect a lot of really scary stuff from the weeklies and twice-a-month mags in October, but I'll see what I can come up with just the same.

Saturday, October 1, 2016


The so-called "shudder pulps" were still new in 1933, but while this Dime Detective cover looks like part of the trend, and the Oscar Schisgall story "They Die in Flame" may also be, the real headline story, to judge from type size, is a real throwback. Craig Kennedy, Arthur B. Reeve's "scientific detective," had been solving crimes since 1910. Reeve, an early serial screenwriter, was near the end of the line here, and there's some speculation that he didn't actually write the Kennedy stories from this period. This was Kennedy's only appearance in Dime Detective. As the magazine favored long stories, there are only two more stories in this issue besides the Reeve and the Schisgall: John Lawrence's "The Corpse Was Cold" and Leslie T. White's "Stairway of Shadows." The cover by William Reusswig is reason enough to inaugurate the month of October with this magazine.