Saturday, May 31, 2014

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Leading Western, May 1949

LEADING WESTERN was a pulp from Trojan Publishing, the publisher of the Spicy and Speed lines, as you can probably tell from the cover. This looks like a decent issue with stories by J. Edward Leithead (one of my favorites), the ubiquitous Larry A. Harris, and Bryce Walton (better known for his science fiction), among others whose names are unfamiliar to me.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Forgotten Books: 361 - Donald E. Westlake

(This post originally appeared on October 30, 2005.)

I’ve read a lot of books by Donald E. Westlake over the years and have always preferred his more hardboiled novels to his comic capers (although those are pretty good, too). His series about the thief Parker, written under the pseudonym Richard Stark, is a high-water mark in the genre, and I like his novels about disgraced detective Mitch Tobin, written under the name Tucker Coe, almost as well.

361 is one of Westlake’s early hardboiled novels, published in 1962 and reprinted earlier this year as part of the great Hard Case Crime line. (It also happens to be the only Hard Case Crime reprint so far that I didn’t own in the original edition.) A few lines from the back cover copy sum up nicely what sort of book this is: “The men in the tan-and-cream Chrysler came with guns blazing. When Ray Kelly woke up in the hospital, it was a month later, he was missing an eye, and his father was dead. Then things started to get bad.”

That told me right away this was my kind of book, a real nose-buster of a novel, to use a line of cover copy from a different publisher. As it turns out, though, it’s more than a simple vengeance yarn, as Westlake springs a couple of decent plot twists that just make things worse for his protagonist/narrator Ray Kelly. The writing is terse throughout. Overall, an excellent book, and I’m glad the guys at Hard Case Crime brought it back into print.

UPDATE: The paperback edition of this one is still available on Amazon, as is a Kindle edition, which didn't exist back when I wrote this post.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Snatched! - Charles Boeckman

Over the past year or so I've become a big fan of the work of Charles Boeckman and even published a volume of hisWestern pulp stories (which if you're a Western fan and haven't read it yet, you should because they're really good). He's still a working novelist in his nineties and turning out top-notch work. His latest mystery novel is SNATCHED!, published by Pro Se Press, and it's the sort of suspenseful, fast-moving yarn I've come to expect from Boeckman.

Set on the Texas Gulf Coast, SNATCHED! is a classic private eye novel about detectives Kate McHaney and Craig Dawson, formerly married, now divorced, but still business partners. They're hired to find the kidnapped daughter of the mayor of the town where they live, a case that leads to multiple murders, shootouts (like many a Western hero, Craig Dawson is a two-gun man and doesn't hesitate to start blazing away, as that fine cover demonstrates), organized crime, and even an ambush by a World War I bi-plane.

This is a thoroughly entertaining novel that moves very swiftly through its complex plot. Kate and Craig are likable protagonists, and Boeckman does a fine job with the refreshingly different setting. If you're a mystery fan, this one is well worth reading.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Zombies From the Pulps!: The Empire of the Necromancers - Clark Ashton Smith

Of the Big Three authors from WEIRD TALES, Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, and Clark Ashton Smith, Howard is the only one whose work I've read extensively. So the next story in ZOMBIES FROM THE PULPS!, Smith's "The Empire of the Necromancers" (from the September 1932 issue of WEIRD TALES), was new to me. It's one of Smith's Zothique tales, set on a decadent, far future Earth where science has disappeared and magic has risen again. Two evil sorcerers are booted out of the city where they've been causing trouble, and while wandering in the desert they come upon the bones of a warrior and the man's horse. So what do they do? Raise both warrior and horse from the dead and press them into service as they travel on to a lost city that's been wiped out by plague, giving them many, many more bodies to reanimate. They set themselves up as emperors of this kingdom of the dead, but you know that sooner or later this is not going to end well.

This story shares several of the things that bother me about much of Lovecraft's work: long-windedness, a slow pace, and very little dialogue, which leads to a lot of telling and not much showing. But man, it's creepy and full of vividly grotesque imagery like one of the sorcerers riding that skeleton horse while the skeleton warrior shuffles along behind. Not to mention lurid plot elements such as necrophilia and murder. I'm a pretty tough sell when it comes to stories like this, but "The Empire of the Necromancers" won me over and I wound up liking it quite a bit, enough so that I'll probably read more of Smith's work one of these days.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Tuesday's Overlooked Movie Serials: Ace Drummond

(This post appeared in somewhat different form on October 13, 2005.)

ACE DRUMMOND was based on the comic strip of the same name that was "created" by Captain Eddie Rickenbacker. My guess would be that Rickenbacker didn't contribute much to the strip other than his name, but I could be wrong about that. Ace Drummond is known as the "flying G-man of the air", and in this serial he's sent to China to investigate sabotage plaguing International Airways' efforts to build an airport in Mongolia. It seems that a mysterious masked villain who calls himself The Dragon is trying to prevent the airport from being built because it's near the location of a secret mountain of jade.

There were a couple of things I liked about this serial. The recap at the beginning of every chapter is done in the form of a comic strip, which is an interesting, refreshing change from the usual serial recaps. Also, a very young Noah Beery Jr. plays Ace's sidekick Jerry and does a good job, already showing signs of the fine character actor he would become.

However, that doesn't make up for the glacial pace of the plot, the poorly done action scenes (you can sure tell this wasn't a Republic Pictures production), and the weakness of the lead actor, John King. As Ace Drummond, the skinny, narrow-shouldered King is about the frailest-looking serial hero I've ever seen. He also has the annoying habit of breaking into song in just about every chapter, and if that wasn't bad enough, it's always the same dumb song.

This isn't a terrible, unwatchable serial, but compared to good ones like ZORRO'S FIGHTING LEGION and S.O.S. COAST GUARD, it's pretty mediocre stuff.

UPDATE: It's been more than eight and a half years since I watched ACE DRUMMOND and wrote that post, and despite the negative things I had to say about it, here's what's odd: I still remember the serial pretty well, and my overall impression of it is more favorable than these comments make it sound. It's like the annoying parts have faded while the things that work remain clear in my mind. Maybe there's a lesson in that. Or maybe not.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Now Available from Rough Edges Press: Klaw #2 Town of Blood - W.L. Fieldhouse

When Klaw interrupted a lynching, he got more than he bargained for, finding himself involved in a deadly hunt for a fortune in buried gold, saddled with protecting a town where the citizens can't be trusted, and battling a gang of vicious outlaws led by Klaw's former commander in the Civil War who wants not only the gold but also the one-handed gunfighter's head! 

What John Klawson went through would have killed most men: beaten, shot, maimed by the loss of his gun hand. But this atrocity tempers Klawson's inner steel and turns him into one of the deadliest fighting machines the West has ever seen...the man known only as Klaw!

"Fieldhouse writes a gritty, violent, realistic action-western for those who are tired of the sanitized yarns of Louis L'Amour and who love stories about the Davids of the world taking on Goliath. A very entertaining and satisfying read!"--Peter Brandvold, author of STILLMAN'S WAR. 

“Western fiction has seen plenty of avenging protagonists over the years, hardened by savagery and betrayal, hell-bent on a course to settle the score with human scum undeserving of taking another breath. But few have ever been more embittered or relentless than Klaw … Replacing tortured flesh and bone with cold steel and determination, he turns the bloody remains of a body left for dead into a killing machine who can't be stopped … Bill Fieldhouse has created a memorable, uncompromising character with the grit, savvy, and willingness to go up against the toughest odds. Told in a no-frills, unflinching style, KLAW is an exciting Western adventure that will leave you clamoring for more.” – Wayne Dundee 

"All hail the long overdue return of a master of the action novel...No one does it like Fieldhouse”--Stephen Mertz

Available in e-book editions from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. The trade paperback edition should be available soon from Amazon.

UPDATE: The trade paperback edition is now available, too.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Complete Stories, February 1936

That "They Pack a Punch!" line ran on all the covers of this pulp for several months in 1936, and this particular cover seems to be trying to exemplify that. Inside are stories by Donald Barr Chidsey, Allan Vaughn Elston, Richard Howells Watkins, and C.S. Montanye, among others. I'm not familiar with James Clarke, the author of the lead novel, but I love the title: "Boozehead".

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Western Supernovel Magazine, May 1933

This pulp lasted only one issue under this name before it was retitled COMPLETE WESTERN BOOK MAGAZINE. The lead novel is by Dane Coolidge, one of the big names of the Western pulps. I have several of Coolidge's novels that were reprinted by Leisure and e-book editions of some of his earlier novels, but I haven't gotten around to reading any of them yet. Backup stories in this issue are by Stephen Payne and Clee Woods, both prolific contributors to the Western pulps.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Forgotten Books: The Colonel's Lady - Clifton Adams

Many of the Gold Medal Westerns during the Fifties displayed some of the same noir and hardboiled characteristics as the crime and suspense novels from that iconic publisher. Clifton Adams' THE COLONEL'S LADY certainly falls into that category, despite its title and cover that make it look almost like a Western romance.

Narrator Matt Reardon has been carrying around the memory of a beautiful blonde named Caroline for five years since the Civil War ended. His feelings for her are a mixture of love and hate, the result of a betrayal on her part during the war. When he finds out that she's married to the colonel in command of a remote cavalry outpost in Arizona Territory, Reardon enlists in the army so he can be stationed at the same fort and finally have a chance to resolve things with her. The problem is that a charismatic Apache war chief is putting together an army of his own and has a cunning plan to wipe out the cavalry.

Adams does a great job with the gritty details of cavalry life and in creating a protagonist who's obsessed with the woman who loved him and then betrayed him. The occasional outbursts of violence are very effective. This is the usual tough, terse sort of yarn I've come to expect from Adams. I don't think it was ever reprinted after the Gold Medal edition in 1952, which is a little surprising considering Adams' popularity. This one is well worth picking up and reading if you ever come across a copy.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Troll Mountain - Matthew Reilly

Matthew Reilly is best known as an author of big, action-packed thrillers, but in TROLL MOUNTAIN he ventures into YA heroic fantasy fiction with interesting results. Raf, the plucky young protagonist of this stand-alone novel, is a member of a tribe of humans that exists in a state of constant fear of the savage, brutal trolls who live on Troll Mountain just to the north of their valley. As if that wasn't bad enough, a mysterious illness strikes Raf's tribe, killing everyone who falls prey to it. The trolls have a cure for the disease, but they demand a high price for it: a lifetime of slavery. When Raf's young sister becomes ill, he decides on a daring plan of action. He's going to Troll Mountain to steal the cure.

This sets up a traditional fantasy novel quest, and Reilly handles it in a traditional manner for the most part. Raf meets an enigmatic older man who becomes a mentor to him, winds up with some other allies, has assorted adventures, and finally penetrates to the depths of Troll Mountain where he'll risk his life trying to get his hands on the cure for his sister's illness.

That disease and its cure are where Reilly throws in some interesting, unexpected angles, and that helps bring the novel to a satisfying conclusion. There's plenty of action along the way, which you'd expect from one of Reilly's novels. I've read only one other book by him, HELL ISLAND, which I thought was okay but maybe a little too action-packed (and regular readers of this blog can imagine how difficult it must be to provoke that reaction from me). TROLL MOUNTAIN is a little more leisurely, but in a good way. Overall I thought it was an entertaining book, and fans of YA heroic fantasy ought to enjoy it. 

Zombies From the Pulps!: The House in the Magnolias - August Derleth and Mark Schorer

"The House in the Magnolias" by August Derleth and Mark Schorer is another tale that first appeared in the pulp STRANGE STORIES, in the July 1932 issue. In this one, the narrator is a landscape painter, John Stuard, who comes across a picturesque old mansion just outside New Orleans surrounded by magnolias. Stuard wants to paint a picture of it, so he asks permission of a woman who lives there, the beautiful and mysterious Rosamunda Marsina, who reluctantly gives him permission to stay there while he's working. Stuard is attracted immediately to Rosamunda, but he's baffled by sinister noises he hears at night, and it won't come as a surprise to know that he decides to investigate and discovers more than he bargained for.

This is another story that seems to have been directly inspired by W.S. Seabrook's THE MAGIC ISLAND. There's even a line of dialogue referring to Haiti with that phrase. It's a good yarn, too, well written and no less compelling because we know where it's going. Derleth is more remembered as the founder of the publisher Arkham House than he is for his writing, but I've read a number of his stories and always enjoyed them. According to Jeffrey Shanks' introduction, Schorer was a long-time friend and occasional collaborator of Derleth's. Together they've written a very entertaining story in "The House in the Magnolias".

ZOMBIES FROM THE PULPS! e-book and trade paperback on Amazon.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Now Available from Rough Edges Press: Palmetto Empire - David Hardy

Empires clash in the Florida swamps in 1816 as England, Spain, and the young United States vie for this rich territory at the southern end of the continent. The native Seminole people make this a four-cornered war as they struggle to claim this land as their home. Caught in the middle of this bloody conflict is frontiersman Pete Privett, who tangles with a beautiful spy, deadly outlaws and pirates, and a ruthless British renegade jockeying to set himself up as the ruler of his own private empire in the swamps!

David Hardy's PALMETTO EMPIRE is a classic historical adventure novel set during the First Seminole War, packed with color, action, violence, and romance. Sweeping the reader into another time and place, it tells a compelling tale filled with realistic, intriguing characters and vividly captures a little-known but vital turning point in the history of the American nation.

I'm proud to announce that Rough Edges Press has published its first original novel, PALMETTO EMPIRE by my friend and fellow Robert E. Howard fan David Hardy. This is a top-notch historical adventure yarn, very much in the tradition of the sort of story that could have been published in, say, TOP-NOTCH or ADVENTURE, for those of you who are pulp fans. I was also reminded of the work of Frank Yerby and other authors in that vein. If you're looking for a well-written, exciting tale, check it out!

PALMETTO EMPIRE is available in e-book and trade paperback editions from Amazon, as well as in e-book editions available from Smashwords and Barnes & Noble.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Tuesday's Overlooked TV: Clutch Cargo

This cartoon was another favorite of mine when I was a kid. You'd have to have a kid's forgiving nature to be a fan of a show with such primitive animation and the bizarre technique of superimposing actual mouths over the drawings to provide movement when the characters talked. The stories were serialized in five-minute chunks each weekday, and then on either Saturday or Sunday they would all be aired together to make a half-hour episode. I watched every chance I got and probably came close to seeing all 52 stories that were produced. Clutch Cargo was a globe-trotting adventurer who looked like a cross between Dick Van Dyke and Race Bannon (from a better cartoon show). He got into assorted scrapes along with his young ward Spinner and their comic relief dog Paddlefoot. As I recall, the stories actually weren't bad, typical pulpish adventures, and that's probably what drew me in. The entire series has been released on DVD, and many complete episodes are available on YouTube.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Monday Morning Digest Magazine: Analog, January 1978

Although I've read many older issues of ANALOG over the years, the January 1978 issue was the first one I bought new (probably at Readers World, a store I've written about before on this blog). Some of the titles and authors stuck in my memory, so with a little research I was able to figure out which issue it was. That said, I don't remember anything else about the fiction, which includes stories by Dean Ing, Stanley Schmidt (soon to be the editor of the magazine, but in those days it was still edited by Ben Bova), Sam Nicholson, L.E. Modesitt Jr., and Kevin O'Donnell. I must have enjoyed it because I bought other issues later on, although as with most digest magazines, distribution was sort of hit-and-miss around here.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Adventure, January 1, 1928

Another minimalist but very effective cover from the iconic pulp ADVENTURE. This painting is by Remington Schuyler, an artist I'm not familiar with. I like it quite a bit, though. I also like the lineup of authors, which in addition to J.D. Newsom (a specialist in Foreign Legion yarns) includes F.R. Buckley, George Allan England, Murray Leinster, Leonard H. Nason, Stephen Payne, Hugh Pendexter, and A. deHerries Smith. Whew!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Complete Western Book Magazine, May 1952

As usual with a Norman Saunders painting, there's a lot going on in this cover from the May 1952 issue of COMPLETE WESTERN BOOK MAGAZINE, and it's really dynamic. Inside are stories by D.B. Newton, Paul Evan Lehman, Frank Castle, and Ray Townsend. A very entertaining issue, I suspect.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Forgotten Books: The Brass Monkey - Harry Whittington

When I think of crime fiction in the Fifties, one of the first authors who comes to mind is Harry Whittington. His novel THE BRASS MONKEY was published originally by Handi-Books in 1951, and it's one I hadn't read until now.

THE BRASS MONKEY opens with a scene that's reminiscent of Mickey Spillane: the narrator, private detective Jim Patterson, is standing in a seedy Honolulu apartment while the police investigate the death of Patterson's best friend from back in the States. The cops think it's suicide, but Patterson knows it's murder and is determined that he's going to find his friend's killer.

But from this point on things take some intriguing twists away from the Spillane model. Patterson isn't nearly as gung-ho about solving the crime as Mike Hammer would be. In fact, he sort of resents being drawn into the case. He'd rather live off the money of his wealthy, high society wife than go around being a gumshoe. He's a former pulp writer made bitter by an earlier failed love affair and a half-hearted private eye at best.

Another difference is that Patterson doesn't have a good friend on the police force like Hammer's buddy Pat Chambers. In fact, the cop investigating his friend's death actually has a personal reason for hating Patterson, as Patterson soon discovers.

He's also reluctantly involved in another case, a classic wandering daughter job that blossoms into a tangled mess involving blackmail, a dope ring, a beautiful stripper, and another murder for which Patterson is framed. He gets hit on the head and knocked out, as well as being slipped a mickey later on. He has to go on the run from the cops while he struggles to find the real killer and clear his name.

In other words, almost every cliché of hardboiled private eye fiction is to be found in THE BRASS MONKEY, which diminished my utter enjoyment of it not one little bit. I grinned all the way through this one, it was so much fun. I've been blessed in that I can put myself into the time period in which a book was written without much trouble, so I read this with the mindset of a guy who picked it up at a bus station newsstand in 1951. Also, those plot elements which seem so overdone to us now were a lot fresher 63 years ago. Already commonplace, to be sure, but not such blatant clichés.

Not only that, but as a protagonist Jim Patterson is a far cry from Mike Hammer, Shell Scott, Mike Shayne, Johnny Liddell, or any of the other private eyes of that era. Despite his occupation, he's one of Whittington's brooding everyman characters, doggedly determined but not the brightest guy in the room most of the time, basically decent but more than capable of acting like a heel at times, sympathetic overall but deeply flawed. The Honolulu setting is a nice touch, too, and is portrayed vividly by Whittington.

I thoroughly enjoyed THE BRASS MONKEY. It's very much of its time, a nasty, fast-paced slice of crime fiction. And it's available from Prologue Books as an e-book, which I highly recommend if you're a fan of hardboiled private eye novels. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Zombies From the Pulps!: The Dead Who Walk - Ray Cummings

Nobody could accuse Ray Cummings' "The Dead Who Walk", the next story in ZOMBIES FROM THE PULPS!, of being sedate. Just the opposite, in fact. This story from the first issue of STRANGE STORIES OF MYSTERY AND TERROR (usually referred to simply as STRANGE STORIES) in September 1931 is pure, straight-ahead, over-the-top, lurid pulp action. Needless to say, I really enjoyed it.

This tale opens with a young couple, newly engaged and enjoying a moonlit evening near a cemetery, witnessing a corpse breaking out of its grave and shambling around. With the animated corpse pursuing them, they flee to the caretaker's cottage and barricade themselves there. The walking dead man eventually wanders off.

This is the first of several such incidents in the valley where our young hero and heroine's wealthy families have resort homes. Terror grips the valley as the sheriff and his deputies seem powerless to find the walking corpses, let alone discover what strange power enables them to burst free of their graves.

I don't think it's too much of a spoiler to reveal that ultimately there's a somewhat reasonable explanation for all the grisly goings-on, in true Weird Menace fashion. It's not exactly a fair-play mystery, as Cummings' hero, the young man who saw the first corpse emerge from its grave, suddenly remembers things which have never been mentioned before that give him the answer to the mystery. But nobody reads a story like this for the puzzle. It's nearly all galloping action carried out in breathless, melodramatic prose. Cummings was there for the beginnings of science fiction, and his writing sometimes reads a little like a dime novel. He was a good storyteller, though, and knew how to keep the reader turning the pages. I had an excellent time with this one.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Scream Queen and Other Tales of Menace - Ed Gorman

SCREAM QUEEN AND OTHER TALES OF MENACE is the latest collection of Ed Gorman's short fiction from the great Perfect Crime Books. As you'd expect, this is a fine bunch of stories that cross over into a number of genres, although given the title of the collection there's a thread of fear that runs through all of them. "Cages", "Duty", and "The Brasher Girl" (a novella that served as the inspiration for Gorman's novel CAGE OF NIGHT) are science fiction...or horror...or both, if you look at them right. Several stories deal with serial killers. Others feature everyday joes trapped in bad circumstances, like the poker-playing protagonists of "Out There in the Darkness", which Gorman expanded into the novel THE POKER CLUB. This story is just full of pure suspense. The title story "Scream Queen" involves three young men with dreams that may well be unattainable and an actress famous in some circles, anyway, and is more mainstream fiction than anything else. No matter what sort of tale it is, it's told in finely crafted, melancholy prose that goes straight to the heart.

Some of these stories were new to me and some I'd read before, but that doesn't really matter. Gorman's stories are endlessly rereadable because they're filled with fascinating characters and plenty of nuanced observations about the world in which we live. Every time I read one I've read before I see something else I'd never noticed or look at things in a different way than I did the first time through.

If you've never read Gorman's suspense and dark fantasy stories, SCREAM QUEEN AND OTHER TALES OF MENACE is the perfect place to start. If you're already a fan, you know you're in for a treat.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Tuesday's Overlooked TV: Quick Draw McGraw

I mentioned El Kabong in a post the other day, that being a disguise used by cartoon character Quick Draw McGraw in fighting the bad guys. I don't know what made that show pop into my head, because I hadn't thought about it in decades. But obviously I haven't forgotten it. I was a fan when I was a kid, just like I was a fan of all the other Hanna-Barbera cartoons. This clip is just the opening, but there are a number of full episodes available on YouTube.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Now Available: Mockingbird and Big Earl - James and Livia Reasoner

They were an unlikely team, the big, gruff circuit court judge and the talkative Blackfoot girl. Together they travel across the Old West solving mysteries and bringing justice. Judge Earl Stark comes to El Paso to try the case of a man accused of a crime, but it's Mockingbird who finds the clues that lead to what really happened. A man's future depends on a missing dog, and it's up to Mockingbird to figure out the truth!

All you Judge Earl Stark completists will want to pick this up, since it's the rarest appearance of Big Earl, previously published only in a limited edition (as in, we printed it up ourselves and gave it to members of one of our daughter's classes when she was still in elementary school). It's a kid's chapter book aimed at 3rd and 4th grade level readers, but it has a little mystery and some good characters and, well, Big Earl is still Big Earl. I thought this one was lost forever, but Livia came across a copy at her parents' house and now it's back and widely available for the first time. Below is the original cover, with me as Big Earl and our daughter Joanna (who's now a 3rd grade teacher herself) as Mockingbird.


Sunday, May 11, 2014

Sunday Afternoon Bonus Pulp: Argosy, October 25, 1930

This is the only other pulp cover I could find with a "mother" on the cover: the Snake Mother from A. Merrit's fantasy novel of the same name. Other big name authors in this issue are Erle Stanley Gardner, Fred MacIsaac, and George F. Worts.

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Argosy, July 29, 1939

Not exactly a Mother's Day cover, but at least the lead story in this issue of ARGOSY has "Mother" in the title. "Mother Damnation" is the first part of a serial by the great storyteller Theodore Roscoe. Other authors in this issue include W.C. Tuttle, Philip Ketchum (with a "Bretwalda" story, part of a series about an enchanted battle ax), James Francis Dwyer, and C.K. Shaw. Not as star-laden an issue as ARGOSY sometimes produced, but I'll bet it was good reading. That cover, by the way, is by Rudolph Belarski.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Saturday Morning Bonus Pulp: Giant Western, December 1950

The cowboy's stopped a knife with his gee-tar. That's a pretty nifty trick. I suppose if he runs out of bullets he can wallop the bad guys with it like El Kabong. Inside there's a pretty good lineup of authors with the great W.C. Tuttle, Wayne D. Overholser, and Philip Ketchum, among others. I'm pretty sure I've seen an earlier version of that cover, minus the guitar, on another Western pulp from the Thrilling Group. I want to say it might have been a Masked Rider cover, but I'm too lazy to look it up.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Forgotten Books: Shadow of the Lariat - Jon Tuska, ed.

(This post originally appeared on July 29, 2008, in somewhat different form.)

This massive anthology claims to be a tribute to the pulp magazine LARIAT STORIES, but only five of the twenty-two stories it contains actually appeared there. The others all come from various pulps and slick magazines, although some of those authors also appeared in LARIAT STORIES from time to time. Regardless of where the stories first appeared, though, most of them are pretty good, making this a worthwhile collection. To me, any book that includes stories by Walt Coburn, Max Brand, T.T. Flynn, Les Savage Jr., and Lewis B. Patten is likely going to be worth reading, and all their entries in this volume are top-notch, with Savage’s novella “The Beast in Cañada Diablo” (which was also reprinted in a Leisure paperback of the same name) being particularly outstanding.

I also liked the stories by Eugene Cunningham, Luke Short, Barry Cord, Frank Bonham, Steve Frazee, Peter Dawson, and D.B. Newton. Newton’s “Reach High, Tophand!” is also one of the best stories in the book, with an unlikely but very likable hero. There were a few stories I didn't care for, but that’s to be expected in a book of this size. Jon Tuska provides the introduction and notes for the individual stories, but if you’ve ever read any of the various Leisure/Five Star/Thorndike collections of these authors, you’ve seen all of that material before. I enjoyed SHADOW OF THE LARIAT a lot. It’s an almost perfect collection of stories to read between novels, which is the way I like to read an anthology.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Zombies From the Pulps!: Salt is Not for Slaves - G.W. Hutter (Garnett Wilson)

G.W. Hutter's "Salt is Not for Slaves", which was published originally in the August/September 1931 issue of the pulp GHOST STORIES, also takes the form of one character spinning a yarn for another character, as several of the previous stories in ZOMBIES FROM THE PULPS! have done. In this case it's an old, old woman, a native of Haiti, who tells a tale of an ill-fated love affair doomed by voodoo and a slave rebellion. It moves right along at a brisk pace, with just enough lurid elements to make it an exciting story.

Hutter was really Garnett Wilson, who also wrote the early horror film WHITE ZOMBIE, which I've never seen. Judging by how much I enjoyed this story, I should probably check out the movie. 

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Tuesday's Overlooked TV: Steven Wright on The Tonight Show

I'm not sure why, but Steven Wright cracks me up more than just about any comic I can think of. This is his first appearance on The Tonight Show. He's so nervous he can barely keep going, but he's still very, very funny, at least to me.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Now Available: Last Chance Canyon - James Reasoner

Only desperate men dared to venture into Last Chance Canyon, like bounty hunter Rye Callahan and the deadly outlaw he pursued. The fate that awaited them inside the lonely box canyon was something neither man could have anticipated, and the question was whether either of them would make it out alive!

One of my Western short stories that's never been published in English before is now available exclusively at Amazon in an e-book edition. A big thank you to Juri Nummelin for making this possible. This is also the first of my e-books where I designed the cover. As many of you know, Livia broke her arm a couple of weeks ago, so I decided to see if I could publish one of our projects by myself. As it turned out, she did have to give me a little help and advice on the cover, but it's mostly my design. I hadn't read this story in many years, but I think it holds up pretty well and is an entertaining Weird Western yarn. I hope some of you will check it out and enjoy it.


Sunday, May 04, 2014

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Ace G-Man Stories, Sept.-Oct., 1939

It's the Angry Redhead's granddaughter--and she's got a tommy gun! Watch out, boys! Seriously, if this cover also had an old-timer with a bloody bandage around his head, it would have shown up on one of the Western pulps. ACE G-MAN STORIES could be counted upon for exciting covers. Inside this issue there are only two authors with whom I'm familiar, Emile C. Tepperman (with a Suicide Squad story) and Wyatt Blassingame (with a story about a character called the Ghost). That's enough right there for me to say that this is probably a pretty good issue.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Star Western, June 1935

A good-looking issue of my personal favorite of Popular Publications' Western pulps, STAR WESTERN. The cover is by Emery Clarke, and inside are stories by stalwarts Harry F. Olmsted, Robert E. Mahaffey, William F. Bragg, Art Lawson, Gunnison Steele, Barry Scobee, George Armin Shaftel, and Oliver King, who was better known under the pseudonym Stone Cody (his real name was Thomas Mount).

Friday, May 02, 2014

Forgotten Books: Beyond All Desire - Tom Phillips (Thomas P. Ramirez)

(This post originally appeared in somewhat different form on September 4, 2006.)

Look behind the soap-opera-like title and the soft-core porn cover of this book published by Monarch in 1961, and you’ve got . . . well, for the most part a soap-opera-like, soft-core porn novel. Which isn’t too much of a surprise considering that “Tom Phillips” was really Thomas P. Ramirez, who wrote dozens of Nightstand Books and Midnight Readers under the pseudonym Tony Calvano.

What makes this book better than it might have been is its behind-the-scenes look at a gigantic construction project, in this case an oil refinery and the company town that goes with it. Ramirez worked in the construction business, and those sections have an air of gritty authenticity about them. The corporate intrigue and sabotage and big business atmosphere make this book resemble a John D. MacDonald novel at times. The numerous lurid romantic entanglements are actually the weakest part of the story.

I don’t know if Ramirez wrote any other Monarch Books as Tom Phillips, but if I ever run across another one, I’ll probably pick it up.

(Update: I have quite a few books by Ramirez, but I don't recall if there are any Monarchs among them. I really need to read more of them.)

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Zombies from the Pulps!: Dead Girl Finotte - H. De Vere Stacpoole

H. De Vere Stacpoole is another author whose name was familiar to me from pulp covers and TOCs, but whose work I'd never read until now. His story "Dead Girl Finotte" appeared in the January 1930 issue of WEIRD TALES, and according to ZOMBIES FROM THE PULPS! editor Jeffrey Shanks, it's the first story to mention THE MAGIC ISLAND, the non-fiction book about Haiti by W.B. Seabrook that established much of the zombie lore that has influenced countless stories, novels, and movies. Because of this, Stacpoole's "Dead Girl Finotte" has a definite air of authenticity about it.

Other than that it's a fairly tame tale about a doomed love affair and the revenge that a grieving lover takes on a sinister plantation owner. Like Henry S. Whitehead's "Jumbee", it takes the form of a story being told by one character to another. It's leisurely but well written, and the ending works quite well. I lean toward the wilder sort of story myself, and I'm sure there's much more of that to come in this anthology.

Stacpoole's best-known novel, by the way, is THE BLUE LAGOON, on which the Brooke Shields movie was based.