Fast on the Draw by Tex Elton (aka: Thomas P. Kelley)

THOMAS P KELLEY Fast On The Draw

Fast on the Draw by Tex Elton was published by Pastime Publications of Toronto, Canada.  This digest-sized paperback carries no copyright date but would be circa 1947 to very early 1948. English publisher Pemberton’s (aka: T. A. & E. Pemberton Ltd., as they are otherwise known) contracted Pastime to publish books on their behalf, due to strict paper rations in effect during and after the war. Hence why the red-circle on the cover sports no cover price. The Canadians didn’t fill it in, leaving it up to the English to do so. This further allowed Pemberton’s to export unsold copies to South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, etc.

The artwork is signed lower right by Canadian comic, humorous postcard, and magazine artist Wilf. Long; he is scarcely known in name, however, among SF and Fantasy aficionados, readily known for creating the gorgeous cover art to Thomas P. Kelley’s The Face That Launched a Thousand Ships which concerns the most beautiful lady in history, Helen of Troy (as a brunette) and the infamous Trojan War. In this novel, the narrator discusses the search for the burial and entombment of Helen, as rumor holds she was placed under a sleeping spell and…well, I won’t ruin the plot. Every serious collector ought to own a copy of that book, as it was Kelley’s first novel in 1941. Noteworthy fact: The first 4 chapters also appear in the ill-fated pulp Eerie Tales (July 1941) and the cover art depicts Helen of Troy as a slim blonde. Experts argue whether The Face That Launched a Thousand Ships was the first original Canadian-published fantasy novel, or not. The precise release date of the paperback is unknown and perhaps only Canadian fanzines may provide the most conclusive evidence.

Speaking of Thomas P. Kelley, Tex Elton is the alias of that worthy Canadian ex-boxer. He is best remembered in the pulp fiction community for his contributions to the American magazine Weird Tales. As I have already covered Kelley in prior posts (click on his tagged name) I won’t delve further. In fact, I covered another western by Kelley, via this publisher, earlier…the cover artist on THAT COPY was not signed but may be Wilf. Long, too.

This tale involves two Texas cowpunchers: Ham Spaulding is an older cowhand tagging along with recent college law graduate Joe Mondell, who prefers to ride the saddle than practice law. Having a falling out with his father, Joe forks leather and Ham follows him. The pair are penniless after being robbed (Joe) and the other loses his shirt gambling (Ham). Desperate for cash, they accept a job with a farm threshing outfit, not realizing the awful task ahead. Stranded penniless for a couple weeks of hard labor, they demand their earnings at gunpoint and depart. It’s not long before the chase is on and the pair steal a small boat and maroon themselves on a small island midstream. With the river running high, the pair sit tight and take their bearings…but come morning, they discover someone else has been on the island. Boot prints litter a worn path, which leads to a log. Looking in, they discover the looted cash from a recent bank heist. With the law already after them for having their earnings paid by gun, and now discovering the bank heist money in their hands, the duo is rightfully panic-stricken. Should they be found with the loot, nobody will believe they are innocent. Can you say “lynch-mob”?

Thomas P. Kelley expands what would have read as a fun short story into a long novella, filled with his usual expert padding and seemingly mindless dialogue. In the end, after various mishaps, they enlist the aid of the local marshal, who is running for office against the local sheriff (he’s up for re-election). Convincing the marshal of their innocence (actually, he’s certain they are insane, and nearly guns them down) the pair retreat under cover of darkness with the marshal, to the island, and remain hidden, waiting for the real bank robbing McCoys to make their entrance…the rushing heights of the river water is dropping, which means a navigable path by horse from land will be assured. The robbers are likely to make that trek and retrieve the loot.

And so embarks a nightly silence for days until a trio do ride across the river and make for the island. The three then attempt to capture the heist-men alive, but Joe plugs one to death (after the gunner pulls on Joe) and the other pair each run down their men. The marshal is gobsmacked to discover the identities and his run for office is assured.

Now, no proper western novel is complete without some form of lady-interest, and there is one, but she scarcely figures into the novel at all, except as a side distraction.

Fast on the Draw is blurbed as:

The story of two Texans who found themselves stranded and broke in a frontier city where Colts were Kings and each packed a deckful of death on his hip.”

Does this novella hold up to such a bold statement? Not really. I was searching for more gunplay, more dead men, but truly, we only obtain two dead men (a sheriff’s deputy being the actual first murder) but that aside, anyone interested in Kelley literature may wish to try to hunt themselves a copy, as a curiosity, at the least.

Good luck!

Fast on the Draw by Tex Elton (aka: Thomas P. Kelley)

The Little Story Magazine (October 1919)

The Little Story Magazine have been wrapped in a haze of obscurity, largely because copies are extremely rare, even to the point that some speculate that this was not the magazine’s original title. When I originally prepared this blog in 2016 only two copies were known. Unfortunately, my copy completely vanished after I sent all vintage papers to a secure storage site for safety during a massive storm. Only recently did it resurface, having accidentally slipped inside the pages of a pulp magazine.

The Little Story Magazine (Oct 1919)

Editor Wm. H. Kofoed advertised in The Editor, noting that he was launching this magazine (see Volume 50, Page 167). In the 25 July 1919 issue Kofoed is asking for submissions: short stories of 500 to 1,500 words, paying three-fourths a cent to a full cent per word on the stories merit. Any subject, except lewd. Come the 10 December 1919 issue, Kofoed was asking up to 2,000 words. The 25 December 1919 issue begs for stories of the Black Cat magazine variety, known for their unusual nature.

Wm. H. Kofoed is a name any pulpster will readily recognize; the link I provide notes that in 1919 he edited Brief Stories magazine. That’s incorrect. The magazine featured here IS THAT VERY magazine, under its original name. More on that in a moment. Kofoed a decade later edited Fight Stories magazine (launched 1928, ceased temporarily 1932) which is largely remembered today for the many Robert E. Howard tales.

The earliest known fully indexed copy shown on FictionMags Index site is March 1920 (v2 #4). Three later editions have also been indexed:

  • July 1920 (v3 #2)
  • April 1921 (v4 #4)
  • May 1921 (v4 #5)

The May 1921 edition is the only known copy of this magazine to be held by a library, located within the Harry Ransom Center (Texas) collection, originally owned by writer Tiffany Thayer. Why did he own this one issue? He’s not present within, unless under an alias. Tiffany later contributed when the magazine became Brief Stories, appearing the Oct and Nov 1922 issues.

With the July 1921 issue, The Little Story Magazine switched titles and became what pulpsters readily recognize as Brief Stories magazine but was still a side-stapled publication. A year later, it made the transition to standard pulp dimensions.

Here we have the October 1919 issue of The Little Story Magazine given to be “A Magazine of Very Short, Unusual Stories.” It was priced at 10 cents and ran to 32-pages. This tiny, stapled pamphlet measures 4.75 x 6.75 inches. The playful one-color cover art is illustrated by Schuyler Marx. Assuming it maintained a monthly schedule, we know when the magazine officially debuted.

The internal front cover (ifc) features the Table of Contents page and assorted other publisher’s data. Nine contents are given, but, in fact, there is a tenth item, located on the internal rear cover (irc) which I shall indicate shortly.

The Little Story Magazine 1919 Oct ToC


The contents are as follows:

  • 1 – The Science Machine – E. Grissen Richardson (ss)
  • 8 – The Bells – John M. Lynch (ss) (says “5” on ToC)
  • 11 – On Pass – Cyril B. Egan (vi)
  • 13 – His Own Hand – William E. Brandt (ss)
  • 18 – Lucky – Will H. Greenfield (vi)
  • 21 – The Better Half – Charles West Manzer (vi)
  • 23 – Clove Pinks – Marjorie Charles Driscoll (ss)
  • 29 – His Wife – Hilda Duane (vi)
  • 31 – To Kill or Not to Kill – H. L. Deimel (vi)
  • irc – Soliloquy of The Little Story Magazine
    E. E. Knight (pm)

The Science Machine is a gruesome weird tale. The elderly Mr. Lonsworth Lowe is on the verge of death. He explains to Mrs. Lowe, who is watching over him, that he wishes to donate his body to the American Institute for Medical Research. She’s totally against his being carved up. Mrs. Lowe has turned her eye to many of her husband’s interests, but she can’t swallow this. He collapses, and, seeing his gaping mouth, inert hands, proclaims him dead. Lonsworth was a scientist his whole life, and non-religious; she is the polar opposite. She has never understood him and is religious viewpoints. For the first time in her life, she disobeys his wish. Going into the basement, she extracts load after load of kindling and a box of excelsior. She lays the kindling all about the bed, lights it, and departs. She heads toward town, but, by some perverse instinct, halts, turns around, and waits for the vision of flame to rupture the house. She is soon rewarded. Inexplicably, she runs back toward and around the house, and then “like a frightened animal” up a hill behind the house. Then she hears a shrill holler that sounds like her deceased husband. A figure appears below and runs into the inferno. She collapses… The following day, a fellow professor informs Lonsworth he is lucky to be alive, but that his wife was found dead, likely of shock, up on the hill. Lonsworth says that she would be a prime candidate to be donated to the American Institute for Medical Research.

The author is Esther Grissen Richardson.
Her only other known pulp
contribution is
“One Way to Judge” in
Young’s Magazine (May 1916).

The Bells is something like the infamous old Paul Revere tale. It involves a Russian scene set in 1917, during the revolution. A man is in hiding, lacking an arm. His brother, a priest, will sound the bells, once, if no troops are in sight, and twice, if spotted. If not sighted, then under the cover of darkness, Ivan may slip away and perhaps, escape. However, two bells sound and he remains hidden, to accept his fate. A knock at the door, and the priest is mortified to see Ivan still there. He came to wipe all evidence of Ivan’s presence. Ivan proclaims he heard two bells. Then, the door is flung open, and a soldier proclaims, that the Czar is overthrown, and political prisoners are free.

John M. Lynch has also contributed three times to
Snappy Stories magazine, each in 1916.

On Pass is a weird tale, involving the return of a soldier that had not been seen since fighting in France. Inexplicably, he tells his friend at 4am that he must depart. Leave? Why? Headed west. Says he went West some time ago after a scrap at Argonne-Meuse. He’s only on pass until morning, then must ship out in his new berth. Then he says he has met St. Peter and St. Patrick. Our narrator then asks, “…what of Him?” The soldier leaves with that one unanswered, only to say that he will know, himself, one day.

Cyril B. Egan has contributed to Brief Stories,
Snappy Stories, Live Stories, Argosy All-Story Weekly,
The Saturday Evening Post, Life, Judge, Liberty,
and the Catholic World.

His Own Hand involves the lovely Clara, who is beset by two suitors. She cleverly explains to one of her suitors that the other is a nuisance and wants him to write them a letter, explaining that she does not wish to see them any further. Our suitor writes a slightly malicious letter; she reads it, and she finds it somewhat disturbing, but acknowledges that all is true, but she wouldn’t have written it so awfully. He states that you have to be solid on your convictions, and a deep thrust like that remove his competition. She says she will post it in a lavender colored envelope. He follows it around and waits for it to be delivered. Oddly, it isn’t. Going home, he opens his mailbox to find a lavender letter. She explains that his competitor’s letter was less cruel than his own!

William E. Brandt contributed to the pulp and slick mags
from 1920-1931. Barely more than a half-dozen
entries are recorded on FictionMags, and
most of those are articles, not stories.

Lucky is about a man who is far from lucky. When he spots a dollar bill flutter down the road, he tries to run it back to the owner, only to learn that the person in the taxi is a bookmaker, who he is nearly neighbors with. That evening, he tosses the bill out at him, and the bookmaker takes the bill with effrontery, then laughs, and walks away. Next we know, there is a knock at his door. Seems another fellow that nearly intercepted the fluttering bill is on his doorstep. He hands $50 to Lucky and explains that the bill had a secret female name penned on it as a code, as part of a cipher to swing a big deal. While Lucky got the bill, he saw the name and knew what to do with it. Later that night, the bookmaker hands him an envelope with $100 inside, and says “…hereafter don’t write your bets on the money!”

William Henry Greenfield was a pulpster,
churning out stories for the red-blooded readers
of Railroad Man’s Magazine, Top-Notch, Argosy,
Brief Stories, and many more.

The Better Half is love affair stuff. Wife is cheating on her husband. Wishes her decent husband was more like this other fellow. Goes home, and falls asleep, feeling guilty, while her husband is out, slaving for her. Her husband is out, cheating on his wife, and comes home to find her asleep, and feels guilty, for she is good and wholesome, and he calls himself a cad and falls asleep.

Charles West Manzer was apparently
a professor, and this may be his only known
literary piece (at least, the only one indexed) and
An Experimental Investigation of Rest Pauses (1927).

Clove Pinks is a humorously morbid tale involving a Dear Abby columnist, under the non de plume of “Madame Juliette,” whom in fact is a middle-aged grumpy bachelor, the original female wearer of said name having long-since retired. Kelly, the newspaper’s police reporter, is heckling Finley, after learning that the M.O. is putting up a love story contest. Finley must sort through the riff and raff, separating the fact from the fiction. Kelly laughingly departs, and disheartened, a nearby secretary, having received a bouquet of flowers, takes pity on him, and leaves him a clove pink blossom. He picks it up, inhales, and we are transported back to his youthful college years. He types up a story…. Three days later, Kelly is ribbing Finley over the hundreds of letters pouring in. The trash bin has overflowed. The floor is a walking hazard. Kelly randomly picks up a letter (Finley’s letter) and reads it aloud. It is a letter from the point of view of Finley’s girl, and details her romance, and that one day, her would-be lover disappeared. Kelly remarks it might be a fake, but…gonna print it? Under the desk, Finley’s hand is clinching a flower, tightly. No, he isn’t going to run it. He then nabs a railway timetable, to take a weekend off…. (what are his plans? elude the office for a spell? chase this forgotten girl?) We’ll never know.

Marjorie Charles Driscoll mostly wrote poems.
These appear in the “smart” magazines, such as:
Telling Tales, Snappy Stories, and Brief Stories.
She has also cracked Top-Notch, The Outing,
Ainslee’s, and Everybody’s Magazine, to
name a handful more.

His Wife involves a man making frequent trips. One day, he ends up in an automobile accident. His wife arrives, and in a fit of delirium, he calls for another woman’s name. That other woman enters….

Hilda Duane is a complete mystery to me.
Searches for this name yielded nothing of use.
If anyone can trace this author’s identity,
I would love to know.

To Kill or Not to Kill is a war story. John Pierson is worried. He is enlisting, and his friend, three years earlier, had departed America to join the German army. What if he should one day crest a hill, fight it out in a trench, etc., and find himself face-to-face with his old friend, Herman Schmidt. Would he be able to run him through with his bayonet? Blow his head wide open? Finish him off? Or would he be the dead party and Schmidt gazing down upon him. The war ended, and riding home on the train, Pierson finds all his worries were for naught. He never ran into Schmidt. We are never given to know whether Schmidt survived.

H. L. Deimel would appear to the very
same gentleman that helped to found
Deimel Linen-Mesh Underwear. He was a
doctor (of sorts) that attended Bennett (1884-1885).
To my knowledge, this is his only literary contribution.

Soliloquy of The Little Story Magazine is just that, a poem.

It was written by E. E. Knight, and I have
zero data on the identity of this person.

And here I leave you, my dear readers, with a full scan blow-up of the rear cover. The mag has a slight tear to the lower front cover, spine splits at top and bottom staples an inch apiece, age mottling, and this inscribed notation on the bottom of the rear cover, which appears to inform one Roland Nelson to depart at 8 for a meeting and arrive Friday morning. I’m not great at reading signatures but looks like J. A. Henney. Anyone else have a better stab or guess at this? Love to hear your thoughts.

The Little Story Magazine 1919 Oct rear cover
The Little Story Magazine (October 1919)

Creasey Mystery Magazine # 2 (September 1956)

I tackled the debut issue of the Creasey Mystery Magazine way back in 2015 (click HERE to re-read that entry first). Four years later, I am returning to the task of revisiting that magazine, with the second issue. This was more of a wake-up reminder than a plan on my part. A recent blog reader asked me a question, and her question prompted this assignment. So, I’m dedicating this blog entry to Pennie.

Creasey Mystery Magazine (v1 n2, September 1956) UK: Dalrow Publishing.
The first three issues sported identical covers (no doubt to save on design costs), but, the one solid color differed per cover. The first featured a light blue cover, while this one has a red cover.

The lead story is Death to Joy by John Creasey. The tale is smoothly written, fairly fast-paced, and feels like a precursor to James Bond. It features his recurring popularly favorite detective Richard Rollison, aka The Toff. The plot takes place in Durban, Africa. Rollison seems always to be coincidentally in the right place(s) to view overlapping cases of good and evil, but hell, that’s fiction for you. Here we have Rollison watching a young teenaged lovely lady laughing it up watching the playful antics of Zulu boy while she and her company, an aged woman, sit upon a rickshaw. Rollison notes that another person is also watching the pair. He’s swarthy, handsome, well-dressed, and his eyes betray his thoughts. Rollison doesn’t like him. Fast-forward, Rollison’s at a special party-affair. Everyone is present there, too. Rollison asks local journalist Jim Crane who the females are. The younger gal is Elizabeth Dunn, slated to inherit a fortune; the older lady is her aunt and guardian. A young man dancing with her is Tony Cornish, money made from real-estate. The evil-looking gentleman and his female companion? Klimmer, dabbles in illegal activities, but never been caught by the police. The woman? Not his wife, but perhaps a lover. Her identity is not known to Crane, nor is it ever truly clarified later in the text. Fast-forward to another day. Miss Dunn visits Rollison at his room, looking for assistance. He pauses her, discovers a snooper at the door, they fight, he knocks him down, someone down the haul pulls a gat and shoots at Rollison. He dodges the iron pill. That would-be killer escapes. He looks like a pan-handler, a character with recurring theme throughout the text. I won’t divulge more on that, as it’s relevant to the story. Rollison assigns George, his “negro” boy, to assist. George is faithful to Rollison from some undisclosed prior assignment. I’m not sure if he shows up in other stories or not, but had he been developed more, he’d have made an interesting character of his own merit. Miss Dunn shies away from Rollison after guns and death are employed, begs off, and leaves without hiring Rollison. Too late. He’s accepted the case, whether she likes it or not. The gist: she saw in the newspaper a man was murdered and Miss Dunn fears that her lover, Tony Cornish, was the killer. Evidence suggests this, especially after an altercation between Dunn and Cornish, in which he calls her a Delilah! Seems he believes she stole papers from his place, especially after blackmailer Klimmer staged the suggestion. How Rollison solves the case and disables each would-be killer makes for a fascinating read and finalizes in the cliché manner. Cornish and Dunn are joined, and Rollison asks Dunn to do him one favor. Rollison’s returning to England, could she give George a job? She accepts, proclaiming “A thousand jobs!” to which Rollison rejoins “He’ll only need one.”

The next tale is The Lernean Hydra by Agatha Christie, continuing her series of tales featuring the obnoxious Hercule Poirot. Originally debuting in America’s magazine This Week, 3 September 1939 as The Invisible Enemy and it soon appeared in England’s The Strand (December 1939). Hercule Poirot returns, hired to squash rumors in a small town. A doctor’s career is near ruin after his wife dies. Rumors spread like wild-fire that he and/or the younger lady he’s suspected of being infatuated with poisoned his invalid wife. Rumors also suggest that while he cared for her, he never loved his wife. Poirot insists from the doctor full disclosure, no matter what. He finally acquiesces that it is true: he never loved his wife, he did care for her during those sick years, he is interested in the younger lady, she likewise is interested in him, they have never professed their love openly nor proposed marriage. No, he did not murder his wife. So, Poirot accepts the assignment and like the many-headed Hydra, must investigate every major talking head to discover the original source of the rumors, and discover whether there is any real truth to the rumors.

The Case of the Thing that Whimpered by Dennis Wheatley is excerpted from his collection Gunmen, Gallants & Ghosts (London: Hutchinson, 1943). It features psychic/paranormal/ghost-hunting investigator Neils Orsen, a Swede with bizarre facial structures and features. No doubt the tale was originally published in a magazine or newspaper, but I’ve yet to trace the original source.

In The Unhappy Piano-Tuner, Julian Symons’ popular detective character Francis Quarles is visited by the titular character who is married to a unfaithful woman. Requesting Quarles aid in fixing his marriage, the detective rejects the assignment, but takes up the “case” as the woman is found dead and the tuner is held on the charge of murder! The evidence? An open bottle of wine…poisoned. Did the distraught husband commit the crime? The room boarder? The milk man? This tale originally appeared in the 20 July 1950 edition of London’s The Evening Standard.

Eric Allen presents Strong-Arm Man, a short story spanning a few pages and culled from London’s The Evening News, 5 January 1953. The body-guard is assigned to escort a jeweled lady from a flight but she inexplicably slips him the envelope containing said jewels while the drifts away briefly. In walks a man insisting that he has already kidnapped said lady, and wishes to offer cash for the jewels, in exchange for the safe return of the lady. The guard decides not to play ball, and slaps a cuff on his wrist and the other’s wrist, when inexplicably the woman re-enters the scene, not kidnapped at all, and claiming to have been looking all over the place for him. He uncuffs himself and attaches the cuff to her and the briber! Appears she isn’t the real McCoy and he knew that before any of this nonsense transpired. An absurd story that could have been better developed as a longer feature.

Driver’s Seat debuted in This Week magazine on 25 March 1951 under the title Lady, You’re Dead!. It features Inspector Queen and his son, Ellery Queen, solving the unbreakable case. Four brothers own a business. Each own an equal cut. One dies. That cut goes to his widow. The three brothers have squandered their earnings and have fancy women. The widow plays her hand at the board meeting. She knows each brother has been quietly selling off a percentage of their stock to finance their foolishness: gambling, cars, women, etc. The original “contract” drafted between the brothers legally states that when one owns a majority of the stocks, they have the right to buy out the remaining stocks. She’s been buying their sold stocks through “dummies.” The boys have one week…and then…they are OUT. Mortified, they consult their lawyers. She’s right. She’s also found murdered on the day they are to receive their buy-out checks. Stabbed. A rain coat is found sodden on the premises. It belongs to the brothers. Which brother? They are all the same size. Wear the same jacket. And each is covering for the actual killer. Ellery enters the scene and informs his father the killer make a grave mistake in leaving the jacket, as one side is more sodden than the other. It belongs to the man that stuck his arm out the right-hand window to make “signals” while driving (yes boys and girls, in the old days, we used arms, not electronic turn signals, just like on bicycles). Well, one of the brothers drives an imported British auto, which obviously has the steering wheel on the right side of the car, not the left. So, he’s clearly the killer. I say…Why?!?!?!? All the jacket proves is that the fool left it behind. It doesn’t prove he did the deed. So, I find a flaw in this decisive conclusion, and so would any lawyer.

Victor Canning’s The Cautious Safe-Cracker is more of a humorous irony tale than a mystery. Originally published 4 July 1954 in This Week magazine, the protagonist is a bad-luck safe-cracker that strives for one last big hurrah. Carefully planned to the last detail, he enters the widower’s home, opens the safe, extracts the jewels…only to discover the man-of-the-house dead. Cause of death was likely a heart attack, on the way down to the floor he smacked his head and bled. The thief is in a predicament. Caught with the jewels, he’ll surely hang for murder. Unable to simply toss the jewels back in the case and pretend he never was there, he steals out into the night, tosses the jewels into an abandoned, long-unused well, walks into town, and does his utmost to establish an alibi. All goes awry. He tosses a brick through a storefront window. Nothing. Enters, steals from the cigar shop. Nothing. The dog doesn’t assault him. The owner doesn’t wake. Good grief. Realizing it’s a botched attempt, he makes to leave. The dog suddenly decides to maul him. Screaming, the owner wakes, and the cops finally make an appearance. He’s arrested, jailed, serves his time, gets out, goes to retrieve the jewels…only to discover the town has filled the well with cement and erected a monument to the memory of the dead man on the well’s site.

Like the preceding tale, this one is meant to be one of irony, and less about mystery. Peter Cheyney’s The Humour of Huang Chen involves two rival Chinamen and their murderous raiding gangs in old 18th century China, always trying to one-up the other. In this case, Huang Chen’s rival (Li-Tok) raids one of his areas, murdering everyone. Some of his loyal men escape, and along for the ride, they have captured an imminent physician. He is blind and without tongue. Huang Chen takes one look at the man, orders him to be isolated in a bamboo cage, then orders his gorgeous daughter brought before him. Arriving, he gives her instructions to go out with a small escort and be captured by his rival. She does, and is. Li-Tok sends a letter courier noting that he has captured Huang Chen’s daughter, and desires a trade. The girl for the physician. Huang Chen naturally agrees. The trade is made, and later, he has a letter sent to Li-Tok, noting he planned the swap, for the imminent physician has the plague. Honestly, a flawed tale. Obviously those that were in immediate contact with the plague-ridden physician of Huang Chen’s men would have been likewise infected. Online sources note the earliest known appearance of this story appears in the Peter Cheyney collection You Can’t Hit a Woman and Other Stories (London: Collins, 1937). According to an Australian newspaper that syndicated the tale mid-1937, it originated in the Birmingham Weekly Post. This likely was in 1936, as I found the tale syndicated in England, very late 1936. Unfortunately, the BWP has not been indexed that far back as yet.

Dorothy L. Sayers’ The Inspiration of Mr. Budd originally was published in the American weekly pulp Detective Story Magazine for the 21st November 1925 issue and next year in the UK via Pearson’s Magazine, March 1926. The tale is not one of mystery. Budd is a down-on-his-luck hair stylist. A series of bad luck and tarnished family has led him to be impoverished and bear a tainted name, so he moves his once successful business to London to disappear. Subsequently, he has aspired to win every sort of lotto, prizes, etc., that turns up from businesses, in newspapers, etc. Just now, he is reading in the local paper that there is a 500 Pound bounty / reward for genuine information leading up to the arrest of a wanted man. Ironically, a man fitting the very description enters his establishment requesting his hair style to be changed, a trim and coloring, claiming his current girlfriend doesn’t like his current look. Budd realizes the man is a fraud, with a fake hair dye already covering the man’s real hair. But, how to confront or capture the man? He doesn’t have the nerve nor the training, and reflecting back on the ad, recalls the reward was for information, not actual detainment. Mixing up a special dye concoction, he finishes the assignment and the man departs. Budd wastes no time in rushing to the authorities and imparting his knowledge, and, just what he did to the man’s hair. That’s the joke! He created a dye concoction that turned the man’s hair absolutely green! Word is rushed to all outlets. The police learn a man matching the description is holed-up on an outbound vessel, and has requested a hair stylist. They bust in and arrest a man with green hair. Budd attains the reward and, suddenly, a rich elitist pays his shop a visit desiring her hair to be turned green so that she can brag to be his first legal customer after the sensationalized arrest of the wanted man.

With A High Tension Lead by Roderic Graeme filling out the remaining allotted fiction pages, I’m direly hoping against all odds for a genuine mystery story. Unfortunately, I do not know where this story originates, as this certainly can’t be the first publication, can it? The son of famed Blackshirt creator Bruce Graeme (whose full name is actually Bruce Graham Montague Jeffries), Roderic Graeme Jeffries presents me with a solid crime story. A young man arrives home to find his aged uncle dead, stabbed in the back. He informs his sister (they both live with the deceased). The vast property and money was mostly willed to the pair, with the rest divvied up among other parties, etc. However, it’s learned the will had been destroyed the day prior. Bizarre… Motive? Was someone written out of the will? Was there an argument? Police swarm the scene, dust for prints, etc. An investigator makes an appearance and begins to interview the sister first, for about an hour. He then moves on to the brother, and asks all sorts of questions and makes unusual comments along the way. The story title concerns that the young man’s car had a problem and he drove it home despite this. The investigator thinks he a fool for doing so, and elaborates why. This brilliant mystery is solved in typical Hercule Poirot fashion by a seemingly obnoxious investigator, and I’m not going to reveal the how and why of it. Bizarrely enough, JRG is only credited with two short stories on FictionMags. When his father tired of authoring Blackshirt novels, the son took up the series, cementing his name in history with his father.

The Creasey Mystery Magazine concludes with a book review section credited to Mr. Creasey (and going so far as to recommend one under his alias of Jeremy York) and an article by Michael Underwood concerning the metropolitan police.

Creasey Mystery Magazine # 2 (September 1956)

The Right Sort of Girl (x5 romances) by Isobel Townsend (x2) by Elizabeth Moss

MITRE PRESS The Right Sort Of GirlThe Right Sort of Girl is a collection of short stories by two authors: Isobel Townsend (x5) and Elizabeth Moss (x2). Measuring 4 ¾ x 7 inches, this 32-page side-stapled booklet was published by Fudge & Co., Ltd. (The Mitre Press) on March 1945. The two-color cover art (green and pink on white paper stock) was created by a person who annoying signed their works simply as “Doug” (also as “Douglas”).

While the title page, contents page, and initial story page spell Isobel with an “o,” the cover artist had other ideas, spelling the name with an “a.” Which spelling is correct?

As Isabel Townsend, she appears at least twice via the Mellifont Press Children’s Series, published in Dublin, Ireland. These were 32-pages and contain a multitude of short stories. She leads off one selection with her story The Magic Fairy Cycle and another with Inside the Piano. The British Library only appears to possess the latter booklet. It is conceivable that Townsend appears in other MPCS selections but not as the lead story.

Elizabeth Moss likewise surfaces at least once as the lead in the MPCS series too, with Red Cap. She also had two booklets published by the Mitre Press: Love is for Always and Bride to a Sailor, both in 1945.

Let’s return to what we do know…

3-9 ● The Right Sort of Girl ● Isobel Townsend ● ss
A young man returned from war meets with his deceased friend’s parents. In doing so, he must also perform the task of visiting the man’s girlfriend. He discovers the home, and that the girl, while quite beautiful, is quite dead inside. She has a seductively sexy sister and he falls for her. However, he feel duty-bound to invite the first girl along on their dates, etc. The lively sister uses all her wiles to ensnare the young man, and shockingly, the “dead” girl comes to love the soldier but for the other’s memory, refuses to fight to obtain his love. Lying about her availability, he dates the lovely girl only to find her repulsive and longing for the drab sister. Despondent of never seeing her again, as he is reassigned, he makes one last visit to the dead soldier’s parent’s house…only to find the girl there! Turns out she visits them regularly in memory of her lost love. Natural love takes its course and all are pleasantly happy. (Actually, a splendidly written story worthy of republication).

9-13 ● Return of a Hero ● Isobel Townsend ● ss
A soldier returns to town and dances with another man’s girlfriend. She hopes to make him jealous but instead, he shows no interest, going so far as to permit her to go out on the town with the soldier, to shows and dances and dine, etc. She does, but when his ration book proves to be out-of-date, he suggests the pair return to his pad. Reluctantly, she agrees, only to find herself trapped inside and the intended victim of a rapist! Screaming for help, the door is battered down and in rushes her boyfriend, along with a police force, to arrest the soldier. Turns out he is not a soldier, but illegally impersonating one!

13 ● Spice of Life ● Isobel Townsend ● ss
A young lady, part of a traveling act, becomes pregnant with her partner. While stuck at home, waiting to deliver the baby, her love is abandoned in favor of the young “thing” that replaces her. The showman running the act visits her upon returning to town and distressingly finds himself present as she begins to give birth right there! Running outside, he comically runs into two nurses, sends them up, and phones for a doctor. Waiting in the hall, they show him in, believing he to be the father! Realizing her lover is ensnared by the evil heart of his new partner, he schemes to connect the man to his estranged girlfriend…

19-23 ● The Fiancée Who Vanished ● Isobel Townsend ● ss
One of those odd stories often circulating over the decades of literature, essentially is an armchair story about an unscrupulous man, and another man’s actions to coerce him to forfeit his interests or he will be murdered. He leaves. Fast-forward some years in time, and some mysterious young man is courting a Major’s daughter, but nobody has ever seen the person. The tale is a bit broadly told and ends quite queerly, explaining that the reason nobody has ever seen the man because he is also a woman. To clarify, apparently the young man had been smuggling himself in the house in the guise of a woman, but when he saw the man who threatened his life years earlier at the mansion, he ran away, never to be seen again. Likewise, naturally, the woman also vanishes, as she was a fake entity.

24-27 ● The Punch and Judy ● Isobel Townsend ● ss
Our author’s last story with-a-twist involves a young lady and parents removed from the big city and social life to a remote part of England, the nearest tiny town 3 miles walk away, and an abandoned cottage nearby. But when the cottage finds a new resident in the form of an awkwardly shy government man on the scene doing private research, the young lady and man fall in love at first sight. While showing him about the countryside during a downpour, they reach a waterfall and a dilapidated wooden bridge across the roaring waters. Jumping up and down to show him the bridge is solid against his wishes, one of the planks gives way and she falls partly through. Rushing across, he extracts and rescues the girl from what was not certain death. She merely would have gotten soaked. They proclaim their love, choose not to inform her parents for some months as it would seem absurd, then when the time approaches for their marriage, she breaks it off. She is annoyed that he hasn’t shown any real manly affection for her the entire time! But, when another young man comes hiking up the trail, her eyes light up and she runs out to him, hugs and they kiss each other affectionately…only to have his face knocked in by her fiancée. He takes umbrage to his other man kissing his woman, and she explains that this other man is her brother, just returning from war!

28-30 ● When the Hour Came ● Elizabeth Moss ● vi
A young lady attending church hears the preacher state that everyone has their one moment in life and she wants to know when her one hour of life will come. Shy and unable to utter any real words or defend herself from an abusive father calling her daily a “slut” (twice, in fact) she is stuck inside the village hall when a desperate thief who pillaged the town’s rarities makes an appearance, demanding the keys to a fancy car outside from a wealthy woman. Inexplicably, she is enraged, grabs the gunman’s arm, and hurls him over her shoulder and his head smacks into the car’s fender. She faints, later recovers in a strange bed, hasn’t a clue what happened, hears in the outer chamber that someone heroically saved them from the gunman, and, saddened that the savior wasn’t her, makes her way home to her abusive father, demanding his meal and calling her a “lazy slut.” Good grief!

30-31 ● Love Among the Pigs ● Elizabeth Moss ● vi
A young man sworn off from marriage-life lays his eyes upon a lovely vixen pushing pigs into a pen. Learning the name of the family that moved into the area, he visits and courts the lovely girl. She yearns for city life and finer things but he tells his farming mate that he’s certain she is just saying those things to impress him. With their wedding day having finally arrived, the husband-to-be and best man finally meet the bridesmaid…a comely lovely vixen that is a dead-ringer for the lady that ushered the pigs into the marketplace so long ago! Turns out they are identical sisters and he not only courted the wrong girl under false pretenses, he is now stuck marrying that wrong girl.

It’s been a real pleasure reading these general-fiction romantic war tales, and a thrill to obtain this wartime publication after hunting it for nearly two decades! Perhaps one day someone will contact me with information to further identify either or both of these two authors.

The Right Sort of Girl (x5 romances) by Isobel Townsend (x2) by Elizabeth Moss

“Killer’s Progress” by Frank Griffin (UK: Pendulum Publications, 1947)

pendulum-killers-progress

If you enjoy reading British gangster fiction, then this book is certainly up your alley. In fact, it is written and handled better than much of what I have read from the 1940s-1950s. Initially, I felt that Killer’s Progress had that rough, early Darcy Glinto portrayal of American gangster-ism about it. In other words, just another Brit writing slush about American gangsters, gleaned from books or movies. Yes, it is just that, however, the author, Frank Griffin, by this time, has now accumulated 2-years of developmental writing under his belt. His first novel, already blogged here, was Death Takes a Hand. That novel was atrocious. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t make for a mean read, and as a quasi-fan of Griffin’s criminal yarns, that didn’t stop me from finishing the poorly executed novel. Griffin was a work in progress.

Killer’s Progress runs 96-pages and was published in 1947 by Pendulum Publications. The cover art is unsigned, but may be the work of Bob Wilkin or Philip Mendoza. Regarding the cover art? I’ve no idea what it has to do with the novel, save for symbolism.

The opening pages trace the origins of a young British boy who would grow up to join an American mob gang in Chicago. Born Angelo Antonio Spirelli, the young lad is different from others in that he scarcely shows emotion, even when informed by his father that his mother is dying. Stealing some flowers from a nearby grave stone, he sneaks to the grave of his mother and deposits them. His first theft. A week goes by and his father, despondent over the passing of his loving wife, fails to return to work and blows his brains out. Sent to live with his brutish uncle and abrasive aunt, young “Tony” plans his escape.

Fleeing from the premises, he joins a seafaring vessel at age 17. Large and husky for his age, he has no problem passing for an older boy. Sailing for South America, he is introduced to the various lower denizens of colorful “life,” as it were. In five months, he is hardened into a shell of a man, but with much personality and well-developed muscles.

On returning to Liverpool, he draws his ships’ wages, and departs. Having seen what liquor can do to a man, he steadfastly has kept away from the bottle the entire time, and has built up quite a wallet. However, life at sea has not prepared him for life on land, and he is about to learn a tough lesson from unscrupulous prostitutes. Preying on his loneliness and masculinity, he is convinced to drink heavily and his funds are stolen from him while quite drunk. Regaining his wits come morning, he awakens to find the gorgeous beauty of the nightly escapades sound asleep beside him to be quite ugly in the daylight.

Falling out of the stinky hole, he wanders the streets and eventually learns that his cash is gone. Worse yet, he hasn’t a clue where he slept. Realizing the girls were in a conspiracy to steal his wages, he slowly backtracks until he finds the rooms and demands his funds. But when a brute enters the scene, he finds he must not only match brawn but brains against an assailant that is used to handling young men of his type. Having taken a severe beating and nearly losing, Tony retaliates and pummels the man to death. Locating his lost wages, he also discovers a veritable fortune cached away by this miniature gang of hoodlums. He decides to steal all the stolen funds.

Assuming the identity now of Tony Spears, he takes up residence near Elephant and Castle, meets some lads his age at a bar and finds one of the boys picks his pocket. However, when the boys are set upon by a tough, Tony takes him down and tosses him into a shop window. The group runs away and the pickpocket sneaks the wallet back into Tony’s clothes. Tony is no dimwit by this time, and knew the first and second occurrence, and sets upon the man, thrashing him about.

Apologizing for the attempted theft, the boy confesses he returned the funds because Tony stood up to the man that accosted them, and that made them friends. But, when that young man’s girlfriend plays friendly with Tony, he discovers that he’s been outplayed again. He exacts vengeance upon the boy…then flees to America.

Arriving in America, he hooks up with distant relatives and witnesses a gang shooting. Entranced by the callous gun-play and fast cars, he rapidly joins a gang, moves quickly to a top position, but becomes foolishly embroiled in a love triangle, liquor, and dazzled by guns and murder and cash.

When an innocent blonde damsel shamelessly walks in with a bullshit tale about Tony’s boss being setup to be wiped out, Tony takes the bait. He sends his best friend out to tail the damsel, but the young man is returned to the gang dead, battered and bloody. That beating was clearly meant for Tony. Learning the gang leader is also missing, he loads up a car of gangsters and they hightail it to the mobster’s home only to find themselves trapped in a burning, fiery inferno. Everyone is wiped out, save for Tony (who ends up shot up) and his partner. They escape after mowing down the rival gang, and Tony is removed and takes a week to heal.

Frustrated at being played the fool, he gathers his guns and makes a final play. Tony realizes that he is foolishly in love with the false idolized image of the blonde, but can’t shake her from his mind. Busting into his old gangster base, he finds a lower tier bully in control. Tony is certain this cretin set him up from the beginning, especially when he finds the blonde with him!

Tony murders all the gang, and despite being shot to pieces and bloody, tries to attain the love and affection of the blonde. She thinks he is insane. Not realizing he is the innocent party, she pulls an automatic and shoots Tony Spears dead.

“Killer’s Progress” by Frank Griffin (UK: Pendulum Publications, 1947)

Possession by N. Wesley Firth

Possession 1

Possession was published by Grant Hughes Ltd., circa 1948.
The novel carries no byline on the covers, but the interior title page gives the author as Sheila A. Firth; she was the daughter of prolific author Norman Firth. Tragedy haunted the Firth family when Norman inexplicably died at the young age of 29, on 13-Dec-1949; cause of death given then was tuberculosis. He left behind Sheila (age 4) and a young wife (age 22).

Possession was actually issued twice, both with covers by noted English artist H. W. Perl.

The first edition was printed by The Fodhla Printing Co., of Dublin, Ireland. The inside front cover sports a typical Joan the Wad ad. Interior rear cover also features an ad, for Joan the Wad and Jack O’Lantern, etc. This true first edition (featuring likely Margaret Lockwood and Michael Wilding) failed to sell. Remainder stock was returned, covers stripped, and a new cover commissioned.

The second edition was printed and published by Grant Hughes, this time featuring one of Perl’s regular models. It’s unknown how well this edition sold. Both the inside front & rear cover is entirely white, no ads present.

Remarkably, neither edition is held by the British Library nor any other known major English library per COPAC, nor worldwide per WorldCat.

Possession 2

Contrary to the typical romantic plots, our heroine does NOT give up her Hollywood job in favor of love, but she is mixed up in the cliché “eternal triangle” plot…

Andrea Ellis was a nobody until discovered by producer Harry Grant. Pairing her with Steward Tracy for 5 years, the two have made Harry Grant a fortune and Andrea Ellis is now in demand to play the lead in the film version of the same play. Only thing is, she desires a break from acting.

Refusing to inform Harry Grant where she intends to vacation, she foolishly informs her private staff, and Steward Tracy, deeply in love with her, manages to extract the information. Learning she intends to abandon New York in favor of the beaches and playgrounds of Miami, he lets slip that he will vacation with her. Frustrated at the deception, she’s doubly-cross that Steward revealed her plans to Harry Grant.

Grant sees an angle and sends publicity agent Carl Cotton south to set the ball rolling, only that “ball” turns into a wrecking ball.

Arriving in Miami, Steward proposes marriage (he has been proposing numerous times and she has always turned him down). Now, upon the beach, she finally accepts, reluctantly, and he coerces a promise from her to not break the promise. Desiring to keep the engagement secret fails when a cub-reporter for a local paper arrives on the scene. Or was the reporter tipped off, further forcing the marriage?

To further worsen matters, Carl Cotton makes an appearance during the newsboy’s interview, and announces that Andrea Ellis is to be the “prize” date at the Krackly Krispy Krunchies Hour radio show; the winner is selected from a finalist of three men who are to provide the new winning tune for the show. She is not amused. The first two contestants aren’t noteworthy, but the third dazzles her the moment they each set eyes upon one another. It’s literally love at first sight.

With a love triangle forming, Andrea finds herself morally bound to a man she does not wholeheartedly love, and a man she does not know at all but feels inexplicably drawn!

The young man is Jay Niles, a “bum” who lives in the slums of Miami, in a converted railway car. Andrea, fascinated by the musician, convinces Jay to show her where he lives. Believing she is just some snob and wants to look down on the common poor person that can’t make good, they exchange words and she finally proves she is more than just an elitist. After all, she did not dress fancy, did not put on make-up, nor do her hair. She came to the date as a normal-looking girl.

The pair elude Carl Cotton’s appointed paparazzi and spend private hours alone. Andrea is intrigued to learn more about Jay and his musical interests; he seems to be quite talented. He plays an instrumental piece for her; she then asks to have it as a keepsake. Jay doesn’t care. It’s been offered everywhere. Nobody wants that type.

Never to see another again, she returns to her life and, when the producer offers her the next Broadway gig, she learns that the entire play is to be essentially silent, and without music! Discovering that Jay’s piece would fit the play perfectly, she presents it to Harry Grant only to be rebuffed without hearing the musical piece.

She then goes to the author of Harry’s production, and there has the music played. He loves it and tells Harry it is “in.”

Displeased with her move, Harry must accept the author’s decision, and further, realizes Andrea must be in love or infatuated with Jay. He is eager to destroy this relationship as he likes her and Steward Tracy together.

Jay becomes a success along with the play; his wallet grows from dust to greenbacks, etc. All the while, Jay refuses to see Andrea alone, as he does not wish to interfere with her engagement to Steward Tracy, who he personally feels is a swell guy.

But, when Steward accepts an acting job in Hollywood, and is gone for weeks or months, Andrea and Jay can no longer repress their desires and well…you can guess the rest! Still, they must keep their meetings secret lest the press discover the truth; their bosses too, and worse yet would be for Steward Tracy to learn second-hand that she has been unfaithful.

Jay insists she inform Steward in person of her decision to break off the engagement, but before she can, on his return flight to New York, the plane goes down in flames, killing nearly everyone onboard. Miraculously, Steward survives, only to have both legs fully amputated.

Jay convinces her that she must marry Steward as the truth would devastate him. Despite her desires not to, she is eventually guilted into marrying Steward. Jay removes himself entirely from the scene, and vanishes for an entire decade…

Ten years have passed, and Steward’s health has been in continual decline. His body was severely damaged from the plane crash and is succumbing to reality: death. He finally dies a happy man and she is free to pursue Jay. But will he even want her? Is he now married to someone else? Isn’t she visually too old, no longer youthfully desirable?

Well, Harry Grant and Carl Cotton drag her out from retirement and inform her that they have just the right position in a proposed play for her to fill. Arriving at Harry’s home, they meet out on the balcony and discuss the proposal. She is mystified as the role sounds like her real life drama. Harry concludes that they have found the perfect man for the role and in walks Jay, salt-peppered hair, older, but still very much in love with Andrea Ellis after all these years … THE END.

A very pleasant romance story, delightfully written by N. Wesley Firth. I confess that I was surprised he would attach his daughter’s name to such a work, given her young age at the time. Sadly, she passed away some years back, and never had the chance to read any of the works appearing under her name, nor under her mother’s name.

NOTES: Steward Tracy clearly is clearly supposed to resonate with readers as being Hollywood actor Spencer Tracy. Harry Grant came across to me as actor Cary Grant, as I couldn’t think of a producer with a similar name. Not sure who Andrea Ellis is supposed to portray. Nor certain who Carl Cotton or Jay Niles would be. Anyone have ideas?

Possession by N. Wesley Firth

Dust on the Moon by Mary E. Horlbeck (Crown Novel Publishing: 1946)

CROWN Dust On The Moon
DUST ON THE MOON

Dust on the Moon was published in 1946 by Canadian publisher Crown Novel Publishing Company. It’s a pleasure to finally get around to presenting this scarce Crown publication.

eBay seller “sfconnection” located in Indianapolis listed a copy many years ago. That copy had two red splotches on the lower left cover, and is found on worthpoint.com. I was prompted to release this Crown entry when Canadian collector / researcher James Fitzpatrick (of the Fly-by-Night blog) recently purchased my spare copy of another Crown scarcity, Death on the Slow Draw by John Frederick and featured it July 2021 on his blog. I’m glad to have added to his collection. If you haven’t visited James’ page, drop in and enjoy. I do from time-to-time and enjoy his posts on obscure Canadian wartime era books, etc.

Written by Mary E. Horlbeck, she had scarcely any known ties to the pulps until a little over a decade ago, when someone moved into her home discovered an abandoned scrapbook filled with 138 rejection letters spanning 1933-1937. When precisely they found that scrapbook is unknown to me, but they eventually posted their discovery on the buckfifty.org blog. I highly recommend readers to visit that blog and read their investigations into Horlbeck’s past.

The blogger notes that during that 5-year span, there were 4 acceptance letters, but, fails to inform readers of their location, story title, date, etc. More amazing is that a family-member, a grandson, to be precise, actually stumbled across that blog and left a comment. I have left a comment on the blog in the hope that one day the grandson may continue their discussion with me, so we may have more complete information. (Update: A year transpired and nobody has ever reached out to me. I prepared my own blog early 2020 and waited all this time in the hopes of a reply).

Her known pulp appearances are noted below:

  • Rain-Sprite (ss) Thrilling Love, 1937 October
  • Jitterbug Jangle (ss) Street & Smith’s Love Story Magazine, 1939 July 29
  • Star for a Night (ss) Street & Smith’s Love Story Magazine, 1943 September 21
  • Love Happens that Way (ss) Exciting Love (Canada), 1944 Spring

Not simply satisfied with copying other people’s research (ever, in fact), I always perform my own research, based on what can be found online. Sources utilized include various birth and death indices, census data, draft registration cards, and graveyards. Any errors in my data below is purely from those sources.

Albin Horlbeck was first married to Inez (Ina) May TOMLIN (born 1892 Feb 7 and died 1925 Nov 2) prior to the 1930 census, and gave birth to 3 children. Six years later, Albin married Mary ADOLPHSON and she came into the family with one child of her own, Jacqueline. It’s unclear to me whether Mary’s surname is a maiden or married/widowed name.

According to the 1930 Census, the Horlbeck’s lived at 2552 Benton Street, Edgewater, Colorado.

  • HORLBECK, Albin (age 41)
  • Glen T. (age 15)
  • Earl N. (age 12)
  • Fern E. (age 6)
  • ADOLPHSON, Mary E. (age 25)
  • Jacqueline C. (age 6)

Albin Richard Horlbeck married Mary Elizabeth Adolphson in 1931.

According to the 1940 Census, the Horlbeck’s lived at 2552 Benton Street, Edgewater, Colorado:

  • HORLBECK, Albin (husband, age 51) born in Illinois
    — proprietor (vegetable juice extracting)
  • Mary (wife, age 36) born in Wisconsin
    — assistant (vegetable juice extracting)
  • Glenn (son, age 25) born in Colorado
    — sales engineer (mining machinery)
  • Earl (son, age 22) born in Colorado
  • Fern (daughter, age 16) born in Colorado
  • FREDRICKSON, Jacqueline (daughter, age 16) born in Colorado
    — librarian (high school librarian)

More specific births and deaths are noted below, where known:

  • Albin R. Horlbeck (1899 Feb 28 — 1967 Feb 22)
  • Mary E. Horlbeck (1905-1967)
  • Glenn Tomlin Horlbeck (1914 Nov 1 — 1993 Feb 7)
  • Earl Neil Horlbeck (1917 Jun 20 — 2005 May 13)
  • Fern (unknown)
  • Jacqueline (unknown)

The frontis notes that the novel is “Complete and Unexpurgated.” If Dust on the Moon had an earlier appearance, it may well have been in a newspaper supplement, such as the Toronto Star Weekly Complete Novel or the Toronto Star Weekly Magazine sections, or in America, via the big-city papers, or maybe even the various “slick” magazines, many for which have never been fully indexed. From her rejection letters, we know that she not only submitted to the pulpwood magazines, but, also the slicks.

The tale opens with U.S. Marshall Ken Farnum riding home to his father’s family ranch, having recently finished an exploit against some outlaws known as the “Jaggers”. They are mentioned a couple times in passing, which made me wonder if Farnum had appeared in another hitherto unknown western (or not). He comes upon the ranch to discover his father shot dead and his brother shot and left for dead. The horses have all been stolen. Reviving his delirious brother, he relays to Ken that he saw the leader of the bandits shoot another outlaw for foolishly opening his mouth during the silent raid and uttering the words: “We’ll kick dust on the moon tonight, I reckon.” Realizing the phrase might have importance, Ken’s wounded brother (Jack) filed it away.

Jack reverts to unconsciousness. Grimly, Ken buries his father, then, decides to bury the outlaw too, in the family plot. Having finished their burial, a horse gallops up carrying Chick, an ancient family cowhand loyal to their father. Learning of the murder and thievery, he’s determined to ride with Ken to hell and back to avenge the family and reclaim their lost horses.

Ken agrees since he can’t stop Chick anyhow, and they bring the wounded Jack to a neighboring ranch, leaving Jack in the care of Ann Haverill, a girl Jack is sweet on. Slapping leather, the pair depart and hit the trail. Chick relays an odd tale he picked up a ways back, while drinking in town, regarding some young punk in love with the Haverill girl as Jack’s rival for her affections. Another rival was also present, that punk’s brother. In order to impress her, they were determined to ride Ebony, a horse of immense power and speed. Ken is tired of the seemingly pointless tale, but Chick points out that the punk’s brother was thrown from Ebony and pounded dead. The brother seemed unfazed, laughed even at the death, but then swore to avenge his brother’s death and hold the Farnum ranch and family responsible.

Ken now sees the conflict of interest. The punk may have bled information to a bandit about an undefended ranch with tons of prime horseflesh. With this in mind, he and Chick ride to the remote reaches (Arizona? or New Mexico?) where outlaws reign supreme. Entering the local saloon, Ken watches the crowd and is certain that here he will find his man, when a young lady inexplicably asks him to dance with her. He doesn’t want to but she seems to know who he is! She recollects him from his earlier adventures battling the Jaggers gang. While there, Ken is forced to shoot the gun-hand of a man that waddles into the saloon aiming to shoot a large “gentleman.” The lady he is dancing with is angered by his interference and departs. The local sheriff arrests the shot man. Ken is invited to talk with the “gentleman” but acts tough and says if he wants to talk, the big boy can come over to Ken.

Remarkably, big-boy (name of Parlanz) does just that and is impressed by the speed of Ken’s drawn guns, two six-shooters. It’s not long before he’s invited by Parlanz out to his ranch and offered the unscrupulous job of joining the gang on a future raid. He’s even given the secret passphrase of “dust on the moon.” Ken is now 100% convinced he’s found the man that killed his father, etc., but must secure his own family horses legally. Amusingly, Parlanz wants to ride Ebony and Ken must pretend not to recognize the horse. When Parlanz attempts the ride, he viciously hits her with his spurs and Ebony goes berserk, and tosses Parlanz. Ebony’s eyes show blood-lust for Parlanz, but Ken steps in before anyone can shoot the horse.

Long story short, Ken is betrayed, someone ransacks his room, he’s worried a member of the Parlanz gang found his hidden law-badge, he’s eventually hit over the head and tossed in jail, Parlanz keeps his six-shooters, the girl helps him to escape, he sneaks into Parlanz’s room at night and snags his guns and silently departs (he won’t plug the man while asleep), and informs Chick to ride and obtain as many deputized souls as possible to ride against the upcoming raid planned by Parlanz.

Chick succeeds and even brings back Ken’s brother, Jack. Waiting in various hiding places, they wait for Parlanz and his raiding party to arrive. They do. A wild shootout occurs, and everyone is instructed to not shoot Parlanz. Ken wants him but discovers his brother riding to get the man. Jack is brought down and taken out of the fight. Parlanz rides away with Ken in pursuit but Ken is knocked out. Parlanz escapes…back to his ranch.

Ken is brought back to consciousness and his body repairs in days. Ready to ride again, he realizes he must ride to Parlanz’s fortified ranch. Boarding the fiery Ebony, Ken reaches the ranch and catches up with Parlanz. Fighting it out, Ken is determined to avenge his father but is robbed by someone with a greater grudge against the man than his own. Ebony shrieks her rage and riding in, attacks Parlanz and stomps him to a lifeless pulp.

We eventually learn the dance-hall girl was married to the murdered outlaw on Ken’s father’s ranch, and the boy just fell in with the wrong crowd. She was out to avenge his death, but she now has fallen in love with Ken…and he asks her to marry him.

Dust on the Moon by Mary E. Horlbeck (Crown Novel Publishing: 1946)

Over the Top (January 1930) Street & Smith pulp fiction magazine

OVER THE TOP (Jan 1930)

Over the Top (January 1930) cover was created by Harry Thomas Fisk (H. T. Fisk). Someone took the time to apply packing tape the entire length of the spine. Sadly, the top of the cover lacks a chunk, but, the artwork below is largely unaffected. This was acquired along with two more sequential issues: February and March. Those will be read and blogged in the future.

The inside rear cover lays the bold claim that their policy insists all stories be written by men that served in the war, what they dub the “Big Scrap of ’17-’18”. Naturally, I was curious to know whether this was Fact or Fiction. After each plot summary, where known, I researched each author and provided information, which may be from a Wikipedia entry, FindaGrave.com, or various other sites.

Owen Atkinson’s THE PICTURE GUN details two foolhardy privates assigned to lug Sergeant Kiess’s baggage across No Man’s Land so that he can make motion pictures to bring back to the United States. The films are to capture live combat situations and boost American morale as American units beat the Germans. Kiess is fanatical about his Hollywood abilities but oblivious to the realities of actual warfare and death. The bodies don’t rise at the end of this “shoot.” The story has plenty of lighthearted humor etched in with scenes of carnage on both sides of the conflict.

Owen actual name is Marion Owen Atkinson and he was born on 22 June 1898 in Doniphan, Missouri. A rose to the rank of Commander in the United States Naval Reserve, served in The Great War (WW1) and in WW2. He died 29 October 1962, and was buried at the Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, California.

CASEY CONVALESCES is a humorous short by Edward Arthur Dolph, centering around two Irishmen that don’t seem capable of working within their unit. In fact, they are constantly drunk and getting into absurd situations. Sergeants Casey and Murphy return in another tale in which they are confined to a military hospital, to mend wounds and await future orders to return to their assigned units. Only problem is, they don’t like being locked up. The pair eventually commandeer the night nurse, steal her outfit, and then knock out an M.P., take his clothes, and hop an outbound train headed deep into France. They’re eventually caught singing drunk and paraded through the bombed French town before the men. In typical fashion, they manage to escape with even more idiocy.

Edward Arthur Dolph was born 19 June 1896 in Pinconning, Michigan. From 10 July 1916 to 1 November 1918 he was a cadet at the Military Academy (ergo, he did not serve during The Great War). From the academy he was promoted to the army and served for an unknown period of time (though I do have records up through 1919 overseas). He died 1 March 1982 in Newburgh, New York. He was married to Laura Belle Knapp and they had one child. Edward compiled a book on soldier songs from as far back as the Revolutionary War.

After having read a semi-serious lighthearted novelette and following that up with a pure tongue-in-cheek Casey short, I was desperately hoping that Over the Top magazine wouldn’t push my patience over the top! Damn it, I want a bloody effing war story! And Peter Henderson delivers with “I AIN’T A CAT!” Private Parker drags fellow Private “Smitty” Smith along to solve the mystery of what became of various missing American soldiers. The outfit was strung out around the French town of Buerre and instructed never to enter the ruins. (Incidentally, there is no such town, but the author may likely be referring to the French word beurre, which means butter in English). No Germans are known to be positioned there. And yet, Parker, assigned to a night watch crew, was slapped with dereliction of duty, sleeping on the job! His unit vanishes overnight, leaving only Parker the sole remaining member accounted for. Only, he insists he wasn’t asleep. He plans to enter the town at night against regulations with Smitty as company to watch his six. Parker’s on the prowl for a Frenchman with a slight in his neck. Smitty is curious as to how Parker knows that there is a Frenchman in this empty town with a slit neck, and keeps insisting that curiosity killed the cat. The story rolls along with Smitty giving us some Edgar Allan Poe treatment: fear of the dark, shadows, odd sounds, etc, And then a shrieking bandit hauls itself from the dark recesses, dragging its nails into Smitty and nearly bearing him to the ground. He throws the bandit off him, draws his sidearm and plugs two rounds into…a cat. (By which point I’m worried that I’ve hit a third humorous story). Well, those two shots do the trick. It’s not long before the shadows cough up very solid shadows, and one clamps a hand over Smitty’s mouth from behind! He kicks Parker hard, forward, to get him in the clear while biting his assailant and then killing him. Parker is oblivious and blind as to what happened, but Smitty and Parker make haste as German’s pop up out of nowhere and the real meat of the story takes place, with loads of killing. The body count climbs quickly as the pair dance their way through swarms of Germans, bullets, grenades, and all the while, Parker wants that Frenchman! I won’t ruin the conclusion, but it’s a damn fine read by an author that supplied only one pulp fiction story. I’m guessing the writer’s name is a house name. If anyone knows otherwise, I sure as hell would love to know.

Peter Henderson is a complete mystery to me. No other fiction story appears under this name in the pulps. The name is too commonplace to track.

Bill Morgan introduces me for the first time to his “Wound Stripe Quartet”. The quartet appear in several other issues, but here’s a recap: four war veterans form a singing quartet with the aim of traveling and entertaining active soldiers, etc. Well, they naturally have their own adventures along the way. In THE DAILY DRUNK, the quartet are in Paris and not receiving the usual accolades that they are used to. While lamenting their ill-reception, they spot the perpetually drunk Lieutenant Cannon, who obviously has the reputation of being perpetually soused. Three of the quartet believe he is absolutely wasted and an embarrassment to the United States, while one is convinced it is entirely an act. When they determine to escort Cannon home, the lieutenant abruptly becomes startling sober and essentially tells them to bugger off, that they are interfering with his affairs. Much later, the drunk lieutenant accosts them and asserts that he requires their assistance. He returns to sobriety and secretly enlists them in his undercover assignment. Cannon is hunting a pair of Frenchman known to be deserters and worse…they have stolen military parts, etc. The conclusion involves a lively bar room brawl that made for a grin-splitting night.

Bill Morgan wrote from 1928-1930 exclusively for Over The Top magazine. Another Bill Morgan would surface from 1944-1948 writing detective stories. Somehow, I doubt the two are one-and-the-same. The name could easily be William Morgan, but in any case, too damn common a name and could itself readily be an alias. Or perhaps even a staff editor.

BUDDIES IN ARMS is my first introduction to pulp legend Robert H. Leitfred. Shocking, I know, but true! I have never read a story by Leitfred prior. By this time, Leitfred had been writing (and selling) pulp fiction steadily for 7 years. Here we are introduced to Corporal Eli Horntrop, a lanky yet muscular young man with straw-colored hair. As a companion, he had previously enlisted Private Pluvius Johnson, formerly attached to the labor battalion at St. Nazaire. I say “formerly” because Pluvius is officially A.W.O.L.; Eli had convinced him that he would never see “action” unloading boats for soldiers moving forward. Pluvius is noted to be a Negro with the stereotypical Southern broken English, and is convinced he’s not actually A.W.O.L., but unofficially attached to Eli’s Rainbow Division. If Pluvius wants awards and medals, Eli had him convinced he had to abandon St. Nazaire and come with him. And come Pluvius did. Interestingly enough, there isn’t overt racism present. Nobody drops the “N” bomb, though yes Pluvius was described once as a Negro and later noted to colored. But all in good fun, Pluvius freely calls Eli “white boy.” This is a rather long explanation, I realize, but I want to establish that you are not reading a racist work of fiction here, though Eli is clearly in charge of Pluvius. At the start of this story, Eli and Pluvius are in the town of Sergy, near the River Oureq. The German’s and American’s have been bombing each other in and out of town. Neither at the moment have firm control of the area. Last time in, some of the men had found food and divvying it up among themselves, either ate or quickly buried their newfound rations. Well, Eli and Pluvius have returned to the buried meal. Eli instructs Pluvius to dig into the cellar. Breaking through to the cellar door, Eli drops in and discovers his black bread and baloney missing! In the loose dirt he spots footprints, and realizes that one of the other members that found the food stole his share. That unworthy soul is Sergeant Henderson, and he’s across the street in a barricaded building with a handful of troops preparing to hold off a German advance. Eli and Pluvius find themselves awkwardly in the open and nobody will open the doors. They are forced to drive through the window just as the German’s riddle their position. All of his is background to the fact that they meet a young American that has never seen action. His name is Lawrence “Pinky” Sellers, and he’s terrified. Pinky is impressed by Eli’s cool demeanor under fire and latched to his side as everyone abandons the tank-shelled building and escape the town. The Germans rapidly and efficiently take the town and situate massive guns at strategic positions to hold Sergy permanently. Eli is impressed to see dozens, perhaps hundreds, of troops escape Sergy. He wasn’t aware that so many were present. A lieutenant orders the men to surge forward and the Germans butcher them by the droves. Eventually they retreat, much to Eli’s ire, as they were practically at the town’s edge. Retreat, regroup, and try again. They do, only to get mowed down again, but this time penetrate the town. The trio are this time accompanied by Sergeant Henderson, who wastes a grenade toss. It lands mere feet from their location and the smart-thinking Eli drops his steel helmet onto the ticking time-bomb and hits the dirt. He then takes Henderson’s last grenade himself after that latter nearly killed his own men, and hurls it at the tank. He succeeds is killing the gunner atop the tank as Eli examines the grisly remains. A major eventually spots Eli and likes the way he operates under pressure. Assigns him to retreat from Sergy and back along the river road find the missing troop and supply transport, and redirect all assistance to Sergy. He takes Pluvius and Pinky along for the hike. Along the way they are attacked by Germans and Pinky catches shrapnel in his side. He’s delirious and bleeding to death. Spotting an approaching M.P. motorcycle and sidecar, he arrests their attention and informs them he is commandeering their wheels. They are convinced he and Pluvius are A.W.O.L. and both M.P.s set forth to arrest the pair. Thus ensues a fist-fight fit for Fight Stories magazine. Eli eventually knocks down his assailant and deposits Pinky in the sidecar, climbs aboard, and the M.P. grabs for him. Pluvius is having trouble with his own man, but takes the time to plant a solid fist into Eli’s man, enabling him to escape. Eli speeds away and glances back once, to see Pluvius taking on both M.P.’s. Eli arrives in the distant town of Epieds, and convinces the overburdened doctor to tend to Pinky, thereby saving his life. Later, the M.P.s catch Eli, cuff him, and bring him before a captain and a colonel, along with the likewise arrested Pluvius. Their case is presented, and Eli defends his case. The colonel upon hearing of Pinky dismisses all present, much to the chagrin of the M.P.s. When asked Pinky’s name, Eli is gobsmacked to discover he saved the colonel’s son. He knew that Pinky had secretly enlisted to prove himself to his “old man” but had no clue where he was assigned. He thanks Eli and asks if there is anything he can do for the Eli, who responds he just wants to eat. He and Pluvius enjoy from the upper rank’s own cook steak and potatoes, while a hungry Sergeant Henderson watches from afar, begging for a bite. Oh sweet irony!

Robert Henry Leitfred was born 5 August 1891 in Syracuse, New York. Sometime in 1918 he enlisted with the motorcycle corps. Robert died 6 August 1968 in Lagune Beach, California. This information and a lot more is readily available at the Pulp Flakes blog site.  But, did he see action? Additional research yields that Robert registered for the draft on 5 June 1918.

Lloyd Leonard Howard presents the stereotypical revenge tale. In AN ARGUMENT FOR TWO, fighter-pilot Joe Speers writes a letter to an unknown German pilot, demanding to be met solo in the air. Speers buddy was shot from the sky, in the back, while himself pursuing another German plane. Speers thought the tactic was pure cowardice. He has a friend place it in a tube with white trailers, dropped over a German field. It’s recovered and read. Next day, a German plane drops a return note, calling his bluff. Speers must bribe the flight mechanic to ready his plane and get him airborne before the major catches him. And yes, Speers gets his man, and the tale concludes on an entirely implausible note.

Lloyd wrote exclusively for Over The Top from 1928 to 1930 and spun a half-dozen more stories for 1930, 1933, 1934, before entirely vanishing. The draft index shows eight men by the name of Lloyd Howard. Irksome…

HELL’S DOORSTEP by Andrew Hale was more entertaining. “Snifter” Hogan, a daydreaming doughboy in the trenches dreams of earning a genuine medal to impress a girl back home in New York. Only, she is fickle and he is certain she’ll stray to another neighborhood man that has earned a medal from the French. He’s convinced the French medal was “purchased” and not actually “earned.” That aside, his two trench-mates wake him from a dream, reverting to reality. They are to storm the German’s. Everything goes wrong. One of his mates catches one and left behind to live or die. He and the other guy drop in a crater and watch as the Lieutenant foolishly plods onward, without backup! He catches a bullet and is knocked down. Is he alive? “Snifter” Hogan doesn’t know, but his body has already made up its mind. Somehow he avoids being shot full of holes, despite the buzzing hot lead all about him. Gets to the Lt., finds him alive, and carries him back only to land into another crater and come face-to-face with the New Yorker with the French medal. That latter notes Hogan caught a bullet through his calf and is lame, and decides to steal the Lt. from him and carry him himself and earn the medal. The pair get into a serious fight fight, with Hogan the shorter and slighter of the pair brutally battered. The villain snatches up the Lt., and hoofs it back, only to be shot to ribbons in the back. Hogan bravely limps over and snatches up the unconscious Lt., and eventually makes it back with his man. That odds of Hogan surviving hundreds of fired bullets and bombs is absurd, but plenty of doughboys survived the war doing just that.

Andrew Hale only supplied a few tales to this magazine and one to S&S’s Complete Stories, all in 1930. Was he a real person or a staff writer? Again, a case of a very common name, and five gentleman by this name turn up on the draft index.

A MATTER OF DISCIPLINE is by Cole Richards. Private Garrity and hundreds to thousands of men are in Argonne, trying to push forward and defeat the Germans. It’s raining, muddy, craters everywhere, bombs falling, bullets flying, and Garrity is slowly losing his shit…mentally. While hunkered against a tree, various men are killed next to him, each in a different grisly manner. One may think he is yellow, but he finally snaps and begins running, aimlessly, and in the darkness flails into a curtain, falls down steps and finds himself before Major Forstal. That latter determines that Garrity is a coward. Garrity takes the accusation personally and physically assaults his superior officer. The candle goes out and in the ensuing darkness they street brawl. Garrity eventually wins and realizes he murdered the Major. Mortified, he returns to his tree, or a tree, at the least. Next morning, another officer spots the disturbed Garrity, who confesses he killed the Major. They can’t afford at the moment to lose a man so he is sent forward to atone for his crime. Garrity readily agrees. Better to lose his life honorably as a stop-gap than hang from the gallows. Try as he might, Garrity simply can’t die. It’s not a matter of waiting for a German to run him through with a bayonet. He fights with every ounce of his being to defeat and break through every German line. He eventually survives where officers one by one are killed and finds himself at the very front placed in command of a unit. He whips them into shape, even beating up one man that lays claim to having enlisted six months before Garrity. Assuming full authority, he refuses to bend, refuses to yield to the advancing Germans…even when the dead Major Forstal shockingly makes an appearance and orders Garrity to stand down and withdrawal the men. Garrity laughs and leads his men forward. He refuses to gain ground only to lose it retreating, thereby losing more men. If you are going to lose men, lose them going forward! The Major goes forward with the unit and is impressed by Garrity’s cool and authoritative manner in the face of insane odds. They soon drop into a German-filled trench and an awesome fight ensues. The Major is physically outclassed and about to die when his assailant is blown away by Garrity, who himself is assaulted next by a muscular German. The fight and war scenes involving guns and bombs and grenades are splendidly detailed, generally hiding nothing of the grim realities of death and destruction. In the end, Garrity’s unit wins, and Garrity stumbles over to Major Forstal, apologizes for his assaulting his superior officer. The Major explains coughingly that as a matter of discipline, Garrity must be arrested and face proper charges. Garrity laughs. Nobody will be arresting him. He took a fatal shot at the beginning of the farce and has been a walking dead man ever since. The man drops in a dead faint. Forstal has two courses: let the man die, arrest him and he’ll die, or…. No, he constructs a third option, unorthodox it may seem, but one that obliterates the “crime.” Garrity can’t possibly have committed the crime if he is still at the very tree at the start of the conflict, where he received the fatal wound. He’d still be there, dying, and never been able to assault the Major, never take out various German gun nests, led a successful unit, etc. Tossing the dead weight upon his shoulders, the Major carries his burden several miles back, back, back, back to the tree, or at the least, a probable tree, and deposits his burden. He then hollers for a medical unit and chastises them for having left behind a wounded man. The medical man is flabbergasted, but one does not argue with a Major. After all, “discipline has its advantages.”

I am not sure who Cole Richards is, but if he wrote consistently this well, someone needs to unearth his ass and shake his skeletal phalanges. The above tale may well be the best damn story in this magazine. It’s psychologically demented and full of blood-and-thunder meat. I’m impressed that the editors of Street & Smith permitted so much graphic detail. While much is left to the imagination, the author does his damnedest to paint very clear, gruesome pictures. As Cole Richards, this person wrote from 1927 steadily throughout the 1930s, but only a single sale each in 1939, 1940, 1941, and 1943. I couldn’t locate a single Cole Richards in the draft index, however, I did locate one George Cole Richards born 23 February 1893 in Mahaffey, Pennsylvania, and working the rubber industry in Akron, Ohio.

The final tale is THE LAST CREST by Captain George F. Eliot. Machine-gun sergeant Owen Hurley of the 101st Australian Battalion decides to disobey the orders of the major and proceed as originally planned, and secure the third crest and hold the area against the advancing Turks. His unit is all but obliterated upon holding the area assigned. Setting up their machine gun, they mow down the Turks from behind, annihilating them. Realizing they are caught from behind, they turn and begin assaulting Hurley’s crew, eliminating nearly every last man before reinforcements assume control of the second crest and a wave of Australians win the day. The major approaches and congratulates Hurley on his successful initiative, and Hurley faints from blood loss. A simple tale.

George Fielding Eliot has a Wiki entry, for anyone that is interested. It’s well-worth the read, because Eliot was indeed a soldier during The Great War. He was born an American citizen whose family moved to Australia. He grew up there and enlisted in the Australian military. After the war, moved to Canada and became a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Later, moved back to the United States, working in military intelligence, from 1922-1933, rising to the rank of Major. His entire war-life and experiences served him greatly in authoring numerous action stories, spanning various countries and literary genres.

To wrap up the project, I’m dismayed to not be able to ascertain the identities to many of this magazine’s contributors, on the base claim that all served in the war of 1917-1918. One I proved clearly never served during the war, though he was a cadet and eventually went overseas. At the least, he was certainly exposed to the postwar conditions in Europe. The others? Maybe one day someone will find this blog and supply additional information on the unknown / unconfirmed gentlemen….

Over the Top (January 1930) Street & Smith pulp fiction magazine

She Was No Lady by Al Bocca

Unlike the previously blogged Al Bocca gangster novel, this story isn’t a gangster novel. Oh, don’t get me wrong…there are gangsters. The plot here revolves around protagonist Al Bocca (yeah, the fictional name of the author) who is a private investigator. More on the plot in a moment.

She Was No Lady

She Was No Lady was published by Scion Ltd. circa July 1950 per Whitaker’s Index under the Al Bocca alias; as previously discussed, this is one of a handful of pseudonyms belonging to Bevis Winter. The digest-sized paperback features cover art signed “Ferrari”. This was one of many aliases used by Philip Mendoza. One glimpse at the cover art (a canary blonde dame with large jugs, bra and scanties disclosed, and long shapely legs, wielding a small handgun) and you know that the Irish censor board were all over it. A quick look at their register proves we are correct. I imagine it was banned by other countries as well.

My copy has a faded “Brown’s Book Exchange” rubber stamped under the author’s name, and I’m grateful to the person that smartly placed it where the artwork itself would remain unmarred. It’s a well-read copy, with a reading crease, and several dog-ear creases to the lower right cover. Otherwise, clean and sound.

The novel opens on page 5 and concludes on page 127. Our protagonist (Al Bocca) is walking the street with his luggage, having just departed the Okeville Station (um, there’s no such place). He eventually enters a bar. Departing, he’s met by a gun-totin’ cretin, and soon joined by another creep. They force him into a taxi and eventually arrive in a disreputable part of California. (I’m not sure by this point what city we are in, but the author claims we are going to the corner of Wellington and Medusa; there’s no such intersection). They push him into a room, and an ape going by the name of Big Nick begins to systematically slap him around. Seems Bocca is suffering maltreatment due to a case of mistaken identity. They want some bloke named Murray. He convinces them to look at his identification. Wrong name, wrong guy, and worse yet, Bocca is a P.I.

Convinced that Bocca isn’t Murray, they apologize and help the messed-over Bocca to his feet. Big Nick instructs the hoods to drive Bocca to his lodgings. They do so, with reluctance. One decides to get smart and follows Bocca to his apartment door. Big mistake. Bocca has recovered his wits and decides to exact vengeance for the beating he suffered. After doing so, Bocca extracts the fellow’s gun, dumps out the cartridges, hands it back, and tosses him out.

Next day, Bocca is hired over the phone by a nameless entity. They meet at his apartment, and Bocca is nonplussed to find himself looking at a man that seems to resemble himself. This clearly is Murray, the guy the hoods were hunting. He’s got a job for Bocca: find a girl. Her name is Mickie. Seems Murray is worried about the girl who has gone missing. And he’s paying Bocca a cool grand in cash to find her.

We later learn from other sources that it’s believed she is holding jewels from a heist pulled off by a bunch of gangsters and her brother. So, the gist is there was a jewelry heist. Something went wrong. The jewels are missing. Some turn up at a pawn shop. The girl’s brother is arrested for passing stolen goods. He serves time. The girl is suspected of hiding the goods. Two rival factions are looking for the goods. Murray is later found dead in Bocca’s pad. Why? Did the killer(s) know he was Murray or think they were bumping off Bocca? Meanwhile, the brother escapes prison. Toss in a two-timing doll-face and you’ve got part of the picture. But let me tell you, Bevis Winter never, ever, makes it that easy. He likes to toss in a twist…somewhere.

Now, I won’t ruin the plot from here, but let me tell you, it’s a fun and wild ride, and reminds me just why I love reading Bevis Winter. His detective novels carry a strong pace, enough tough hard-boiled dialogue and sarcasm to make you smile throughout. The most irritating part of his novels: a lack of attention to regional details. If you are from California, his dropping of locales will bewilder you. Most are fake or so far apart that the distance makes no sense. Where is Bocca based? Hard to say, unless I can trace that very first novel that Bocca debuts. Even then, I’m not confident we will learn the truth.

Until then, I’ll look forward to tackling my next Bevis Winter novel.

She Was No Lady by Al Bocca

You Can Run So Far! by Michael Barnes

After an aborted attempt at reading a British gangster novel published by Curtis Warren Ltd., which I adamantly refuse to name (both because it was among the worst example of its short-lived era and I simply do not wish to acknowledge and create an absurd following among collectors of utterly ripe and smelly shit) I found myself choosing between a gangster novel or a tough detective novel. Then I thought, why not run with both options?

SCION You Can Run So Far

Published in 1952 by Scion Ltd., Michael Barnes writes You Can Run So Far! in the semi-traditional faux-American gangster-esque style with some slight plausibility.

Marc Bellini (a name best attached to an alcoholic mixed cocktail) is fleeing from New York police, when he happens upon a drunkard in a bar bound for England. Murdering him comes easy; he dons the dead man’s clothes, boards a boat under the assumed name of Luigi Oliveri, and escapes. However, Luigi, was no more innocent than our protagonist!

Waiting for Luigi is drug-peddler Charlie Sweet. He is nonplussed to find that the boat has arrived, but Luigi has failed to appear! He’s not the only one. The police had learned of the body-switch, but Inspector Jerry Carlton, alias “Commando,” arrives too late. However, he learns from a constable that Charlie Sweet had also been present. Interviewing Sweet within a club, he soon learns that Sweet is clearly a dishonest, underworld citizen, who simply has skated through life without being caught. Handing Sweet his business card, Sweet casually chucks it.

The Commando didn’t like that. Laying his hand upon the man’s arm, he exerts his sinewy strength upon Sweet’s arm and, striking perfectly a pressure point, places Sweet into extreme agony, and orders Sweet to pick up the discarded card, and retain it.

He does.

Departing, Commando tells his underling “Badger” to place a man on Sweet, watch him daily.

Eventually, events transpire that lead Marc to hook up with an old pal in a dive, and his old friend brings him unwittingly directly to Charlie’s lair, who becomes enraged, knowing full well that the police might be watching, and  Marc walks right into his place of business! He decides to get Marc out of the way by eliminating the man that killed Luigi. He sends him on an assignment that is rigged to fail. Either he dies, or, he is caught by the police.

The whole plot comes unhinged when Marc’s friend decides not to go through with that plan and save Marc’s hide. They escape and decide to set up their own organization, bring American real crime and violence to London, where the cops don’t carry guns! Their first stop: create bedlam at Charlie Sweet’s joint.

This accomplished, they continue to wreak havoc until Marc is forced into hiding. He busts into a girl’s flat. She is in love with Sweet, but has been systematically replaced by another, more attractive girl. Desperate to regain his love, she coerces Marc to kill the girl.

This goes awry when the younger girl’s older sister gets to Charlie Sweet first and plugs him. Badger takes the older sibling away. Then Marc makes his appearance. Taking them both hostage at gunpoint, he forces Commando Jerry to get him to the airport and board an international flight for South America, where he intends to disappear. These closing pages make for some great action-packed reading as Commando physically takes charge of the situation, tens of thousands of feet in the air, and dukes it out with the equally well-built Marc Bellini.

Pages 108-110 turn into pure a la “Passenger 57” movie chaos as the door blows open and Jerry forces Marc out of the plane, nearly dragging himself along for the ride. But when passengers grab his ankles, feet, legs, and begin dragging him back into the plane, Marc refuses to let go of Jerry as his own body is battered and buffeted, outside. Eventually, he loses his grip and screams away and down to his eventual splattering death…a modern thriller would have had him sucked into a plane’s turbines.

Not a strong novel throughout, the pace was adequate and the plot hung on just enough to keep me from tossing the book into the trash bin. The concluding action scenes redeemed the novel enough for me to recommend it to anyone that may be interested.

You Can Run So Far! by Michael Barnes