Sunday, January 15, 2017


This wartime issue of the National Weekly is part of my personal collection but, alas, Collier's is too big for my scanner and I can't share its full-color glory with you. Long ago when I bought it, the fact that it had stories by Sax Rohmer and Ernest Haycox didn't really matter to me. Now they enhance its value. Writing for the slicks, Haycox could produce stories entirely without action, like this issue's "Tavern at Powell's Ferry." It's a sentimental tale about a daughter taking leave of her father, and a suitor her younger sister covets, to join a traveling show. It's told from the father's point of view as he progresses from anxious suspicion to recognition that she's truly her father's daughter in her restless spirit. Haycox wasn't just a western writer but a good writer, period, so this is an effective short story of its kind. Rohmer's "The Mark of Maat" is written in that dated style I identify with the generation before Rohmer, in which we're put at a remove from the events of the story by a narrator whose telling of the story is part of Rohmer's story. Apart from a few wartime references it could have been written twenty years before. Two Brits in Egypt are rivals for a pretty nurse; one survives a plane crash and one does not -- but is the first one telling the truth? The nurse insists on the test of Maat, ancient goddess of truth, in an unearthed chamber sacred to the old cult. While Rohmer and Haycox are big names for us, you can see from the cover that the star fiction contributor this issue is Damon Runyon, author of the "Guys and Dolls" cycle of stories about lovable hustlers and their peculiar speech patterns. The intro to his "A Light in France" identifies Runyon as "the man who, singlehanded, rearranged the English language." If you've seen the Guys and Dolls movie you have some idea of what they mean. It's all a little cute for someone with more hard-boiled tastes, but the virtue of a magazine like Collier's was that there was something for nearly everybody in any given issue. Given the period, this issue has a lot of cool war correspondence, including a look at Iran's role in the war, and some amazing advertising art that isn't done justice by's black and white scan. With that caveat in mind, you can browse through this issue by following this link.

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