N. Wesley Firth’s western novel Blazing Guns published by Hamilton & Co. has been on my wants list for a very long time. It features a wonderful action illustration by Oliver Brabbins (aka “Brab”) who is one of my favorite artists from the postwar period. Scarcely a decade later, the hunt for Blazing Guns had come to an end. And a screeching halt.
Blazing Guns is not a novel. In fact, it contains 1 short story and two short novelettes, none of which feature the cover title. And the publication itself is neither a side-stapled booklet nor a digest paperback. It’s actually the same size as the publisher’s side-stapled science fiction magazines, Strange Adventures and Futuristic Stories, measuring 7¼″ x 9¾ inches. Why the publishers decided to go with such a large format rather than their standard stapled booklet format is beyond me.
The lead story is Injun Trouble, spanning pages 3 to 9. The title is misleading. The actual trouble is Scanlon, a frontier scout who signed up with the frontier soldiers thinking he’d maintain a free hand in how he operated. Prior to his enlistment, he was known as King of the Prairie and often hunted and killed Indians. However, upon enlisting and sent to a far west fort, he’s forced to adhere to orders and discipline and not exercise his own (better) judgment. He’s finally locked in a cell after refusing to travel East to another regiment slowly headed West. The fort desperately requires reinforcements after discovering their two closest neighboring forts have fallen and all the troops are dead. This discovery comes about when one loan bloody soldier escapes and managed to make the fifty-mile journey on foot to where Scanlon is stationed. Refusing his orders to seek rapid help, which they are certain will never arrive in time, he’s locked away for insubordination. The colonel himself dons frontier scout clothes and isn’t seen again until many hours later when his severed head is tossed into the fort. Scanlon is freed to assist to go scout. The fort desperately needs to know what they are up against and when the Indians plan the raid. Slipping out, Scanlon comes face-to-face with a warpaint visage. They grapple and Scanlon shoves his Bowie into the man’s neck. The Indian doesn’t make a noise. Doesn’t scream. Silence towards approaching and wiping out the White Face is necessary, and he maintains this even in death. Realizing the fort is doomed, Scanlon decides to hell with them but is forced back into the fort. Fighting on the wall, most of their men are wiped out or badly injured. It’s clear that one more rushed assault and the fort will fall. The Indians come carrying battering rams and improvised ladders to scale the walls. Scanlon has seen enough and abandons his post, only to be shot in the back for desertion. Bullet lodged near his spine, he continues on his slow trod to the armory, and waits. Everyone is wiped out and screams issue as Indians begin taking scalps. The armory door bursts in and Scanlon lights a match. An arrow imbeds itself in his chest. The lit match drops and the whole world erupts. Next day, the fort is a charred ruin, no walls standing, no one alive. The American flag remarkably still flies high, though. Scanlon wasn’t abandoning his post. He was acting independently, using his own best judgment. Knowing they were beaten, rather than die and surrender the fully stocked armory to the Indians, he blew the hundreds of warpainted faces straight to hell.
Next up is The Insects of Death Valley, a short novelette spanning pages 10 to 20. This story is actually a “lost world” Old West fantasy of sorts. The one genre Firth was not capable of writing with any degree of quality (by postwar standards) was both science fiction and fantasy. This tale was possibly originally created for the Strange Adventures magazines. In it, two young men are fishing when a message-in-a-bottle appears. Opening it, they discover it is written by a prospector who had vanished. The letter details that he found a secret cache of gold and a map how to get in, but advises that whoever finds the letter, to please bring climbing gear to get out. Why? Because he is stuck and can’t escape. An unusual request, but the pair finally decide to investigate whether the letter and map are genuine or a just a practical joke. Enlisting the aid of a tame Indian, the trio obtain all necessary supplies, food, lantern, tent, etc., and climbing into their canoe, hit the river and subsequent rapids. None of skilled at the rapids but manage to survive. Following the map, they are surprised to learn that the narrowing river does indeed travel under the mountain; but does it come out the other side or will they be trapped and die? The canoe crashes into a large rock and the canoe is smashed to smithereens. They manage to swim to safety but one member is concussed. Dragging him along, the trio discover the river indeed does penetrate the mountain into a lush paradise. It’s also populated by insanely large insects and other land dwellers. Squirrels and skunks are distinctly larger than normal, but the man-eating spider chasing them is gargantuan. Gold or not, they realize these insane creatures are worth a fortune themselves but meaningless unless they can escape. They’ve lost their gear overnight because they erroneously camped out on top of a hill that turned out to be an ant hill. The ants are massive and haul their gear underground. Worse yet, a maniacal laughter is present and they fear the prospector has gone insane. However, when they discover the veins of exposed gold upon the rocky cliffs, they also discover the prospector, his blood and gore exposed upon the ground. He’s very dead, shot by a gun. Thinking it suicide, the Indian corrects them. No powder burns to the face, and no weapon. It was done by another person within the lost valley! Someone shoots at them, but misses, taking off their hat instead. Turns out the other person had found the lost valley ahead of the prospector and is a Wanted Man. He escaped the law and accidentally located the lost world via discovery of a hidden cave. Cave? What? That means he didn’t access the world via the river, and, this means the trio can escape sans the lost climbing gear. But the killer has other ideas and while planning to kill the trio in the cave, makes the fatal mistake of stealing their lantern and striking a match to fire it up. A massive moth drops upon him. Distracted by the behemoth moth, the trio subdue him. Naturally, they escape, file papers securing rights to the world, gold, etc., and the two young men decide that the Indian was part of the whole adventure and split the gold three ways.
The final story is Pudding Wins His Spurs, filling the remaining pages, 21 to 32. Twenty boys win a contest for having written the best original Wild West essay for their school. The prize? They and an adult are sent to a remote Wyoming ranch to see what real Wild West life is like. One of the twenty is nicknamed Pudding, for he is immensely fat. An insatiable appetite and a mouth that won’t cease lying and a braggart chest that won’t stop puffing itself up, Pudding is in for loads of hilarities and embarrassment at his own expense and stupidity. He makes glaring grammatical and spelling mistakes concerning Western terms such as pommel and stirrup, which become pummel and syrup. The boys harangue and rib him. Arriving at the town he brags he can handle anything but when gunshots sound, he dives under the boardwalk. Two robbers run out of the bank while a third holds the horses and they effect their escape. Later, a buckboard arrives with an aged rider who brings them to the ranch. They are given Western clothes. Pudding can’t fit. The boys assist in pushing and shoving him into the chaps, much to their mirthful delight. Next they are to learn how to handle a revolver, as they discover their guns actually contain live ammunition. They aren’t to be worn as ornaments. Explanation comes by way of they might be out riding and find themselves up against snakes or the trio of wanted men! Pudding can’t shut up and is brought forward to prove his bragging shooting prowess. After numerous attempts to fire his revolver, the old hand informs him the safety catch is on. (I’ll pretend the author didn’t actually state that a true revolver has a safety catch). Matters worsen when the old hand states the gun is now on hair-trigger mode. (Sigh; yes, I realize this story by now is supposed to be 100% a comedy and a parody…). The gun “goes off” and Pudding in fright drops it on his foot, whereupon he screams he’s shot his own foot. Later, launching his fat ass onto a horse causes more mirth after he brags he’s a solid horseman. They end up putting the braying ass on a donkey. (See what I did there?Hee Haw! Hee Haw!). Long story short, at night he’s starving, sneaks from the room, pops open a barrel of syrup, and begins dipping uneaten stale pancakes in and eats. Unknown to him, earlier, the trio of criminals rode up. With the one watching the horses, the pair of brothers use the immense syrup barrel to climb up to the second story window, and break in. They are there stealing the payroll. Meanwhile, Pudding has taken off the barrel’s lid. Back at the boy’s rooms, two of the boys had padded out to see where Pudding went. Guns strapped on, they come up against the man watching the horses. In the dark he mistakes their identities and they draw on him. He hollers for help, and his comrades jump out the window to his rescue…and both land inside the barrel. (Seriously?) Pudding jumps up and tosses the lid on top and sits on it. They eventually push him off but the noises have woken the ranch hands and everyone comes up, guns drawn. The trio are captured and the boys all attain the reward. The story is juvenile and would be more at home in Gerald G. Swan’s numerous Schoolboys Albums or Cute Fun papers to which Firth also contributed fiction. One would think that perhaps this was a rejected manuscript but I can’t see Swan rejecting this one at all.
In the end, the first story to Blazing Guns was excellent as the conclusion was wholly unexpected. The second story was a bit silly but the fantasy elements caught me by surprise. The third story as a work of juvenile humour throughout had me wryly smiling at the absurdities, but it was amusing nonetheless. The English across many decades had hundreds of these type of schoolboy stories that involve a Fatty, Tubby, Porky, etc. type of character as the butt of jokes. Blazing Guns might not be an award-winning selection, but it’s worth owning (to me) for the all-action Oliver Brabbins cover art.
Dumb Mahoney’s Music by Hoyt Merion is a 64-page side-stapled booklet published by The Ely Press, priced at 1/- and features cover artwork that is unsigned.
A while back I blogged another Hoyt Merion title. To my knowledge, these are the only pair The Ely Press published. It is unclear just when The Ely Pres published their novels, as no copies are held on WorldCat, nor via the British Library or any associated libraries on the COPAC database! The author also appears as Hoyt Merrion (two “r’s”) via Wells Gardner, Darton & Co with a slew of novels, both in booklet and paperback format, from 1947 to 1951.
More irksome (to me) is the fact that I haven’t a clue who Hoyt Merion / Merrion truly is. These tongue-in-cheek westerns aren’t the best-written pieces, but they aren’t horrible either. In fact, they are mildly entertaining.
When local sheriff Dirk Gruner is murdered, a new one must be obtained, however, nobody in Lean Butte is idiotic enough to take the job. Rustlers have frequently made it clear that any interference means a swift death.
Word makes the rounds quickly that “Dumb” Larry Mahoney has accepted the position and plans to ride into town. The idea that Mahoney could be sheriff, let alone put two coherent thoughts together, is met with much mirth. Mahoney once lived in Lean Butte but due to immense ridicule at his endless moronic statements and actions, his widowed mother removed themselves to another town to obtain a fresh start in life. Mahoney grew up with the fascination of becoming a lawman.
Mahoney takes the star and begins to practice on a quick-draw and unleashing lead quickly from behind the fenced yard of his new home. Every day the people laugh at the steady musical staccato of Mahoney trying to hone his hand to gun-butt. He’d never had much money to afford bullets, but now that he is sheriff, he’s got ready access to both guns and bullets. And daily, he loads, draws, pulls and drills inanimate targets.
And every evening, he rides out into the countryside to try and find the rascal rustlers and their pilfered four-legged mooing meat. One night, while out on a ride, he’s met by a bullet crossing the plains. He falls to the ground and plays possum. The assailant approaches and Mahoney kills the man dead. Unfortunately, he’s soon captured by the rustlers, his identity discovered, and spared an instant death. Everyone knows Mahoney is “dumb.” So they tar-and-feather him and send him back to Lean Butte, tied to his horse.
The entire town soon learns of his arrival. His mother is beside herself that nobody has assisted their sheriff, so she unties the silent Mahoney and brings him indoors. Days pass, nobody has seen Mahoney, but it’s obvious his mother is working daily to remove the tar.
So days have passed and one day Mahoney stalks forth from his abode, tar still evident on his person and in his hair, and much to the surprise of Lean Butte, begins his gun music again! Then he takes to horse and calmly trots out of town to search once more for the rustlers.
Eventually he spies a lone horseman, follows him to a rocky area, then through a maze, discovers a wide area, a hut, and sneaking up, listens to plans for a future raid. Slipping away under cover of darkness, he obtains some rancher’s willing to assist in their capture. After all, they’ve all lost cattle. So, while under the cover of darkness the next night, they wait and eventually the sun rises. Yet, no rustlers!
Returning to town, they discover that the rustlers had hit several abandoned ranches, those ranches belonging to the men that rode with “Dumb” Mahoney. Seems he was outfoxed, duped into following the lone rustler and duped into a fake rustling plan! They never intended to use that location again, but wanted Mahoney to gather assistance which would leave various ranches abandoned or shorthanded. His help is irritated, and one owner goes so far as to beat Mahoney to a pulp in front of the men and women of Lean Butte. His mother runs out of the home and beats the assailant over the head with a broom handle, knocking him out. Then she retrieves her son and drags his form into the house.
Time passes once more. And Mahoney is at it again! We hear the music of gunfire behind the fence. This time, though, townsman Jess Linty wishes to make peace and invites Mahoney to the saloon for a drink. Well, Mahoney doesn’t “drink.” Linty is fine with that, and Mahoney accepts, only to request of the bar man an orange juice and lime. While drinking and talking with Linty, two unscrupulous men at a table start trouble with Mahoney, but Linty walks up to them and tries to make peace. Guns are drawn and much to the amazement of those present, Mahoney beats them to their irons and kills them. He’s fairly certain a third gun had been fired at him but when he looks at Linty, that man is still fanning his gun at the dead pair who are fallen. Mahoney is slow “upstairs” to figure this but is dead certain Linty fired upon him! Linty ejaculates how impressed he was at the speed in which Mahoney drew and his deadly accuracy.
Nonplussed by the entire scene, Mahoney departs to think it out in silence. He’s certain that Linty drew him to the saloon for the expressed purpose of dying at the hands of the two gunmen. But why? Something troubles Mahoney, as he realizes that he missed an earlier clue, something someone had said to him…something that ties Linty to the rustlers. It finally hits him that Linty had stated something about the rustlers being “Big chiefs with black masks.” But Mahoney had never told a soul that the leader of the rustlers wore a black mask.
Now certain that Linty must certainly be the leader of the rustlers, and the cause for the insider information leaking out constantly, he rides out once more, ready to flip the deadly game into his own hands. But he pulls a bluff, and doesn’t ride out at night, which everyone is prepared for. This time he rode out in plain sight on his normal trek, but far out, made a wide arc so that he could watch the town from a good distance. Sure enough, a lone rider is soon seen departing Lean Butte for the rocky hills.
Following from a discreet distance, Mahoney shadows the rider, who he is confident to be Linty. He soon discovers how the rustled cattle disappears without a trace. They are driven up the rocky defile, and through a cave, into a hitherto unknown valley like something out of a lost race fantasy novel. He captures Linty at gunpoint. Linty is shocked to find himself on the short end of a gun barrel, and Mahoney standing behind it. This seems impossible, for he is certain that Mahoney is still in town! After all, who else did he hear making gun music behind the fence? Mahoney smartly confesses he enlisted his eager mother to fire off the rounds continuously at a specific hour! Dumbfounded at having been outsmarted, Linty is a shadow of himself and readily obeys Mahoney’s orders to the hooded villain to command his men to unlimber their hardware.
Having captured the entire lot, he has Linty’s two main men tether everyone then he takes care of the pair, too. Next day, he rides into Lean Butte with the entire rustling lot…and Jess Linty in front, tarred and feathered for all to see.
Quite possibly the coolest purchase I will make for all of 2023 (and we are only finishing up the 3rd month) is this batch of Western Trails magazines from the 1930s. Acquired back in early January 2023, I’ve been having fun slowly sorting through them.
The seller wasn’t altogether upfront, perhaps, about their overall condition. Or given they aren’t a pulp dealer, to be fair, I suspect the seller didn’t realize the various flaws. Some lack front covers. Some lack rear covers. The spines on the earliest ones aren’t great. Some that have the covers attached are by virtue of being glued to the first internal page or glued onto a sheet of paper as a means of reinforcement. Unfortunately, this seems to have occurred with the earlier issues. The latter half of the run are in better shape. Whoever originally owned all of these went to great lengths to assemble them (along with a short, broken 1930s run of Western Aces, which I also acquired).
But hell! The literature is present, which is a good thing, if you enjoy reading.
The first thing I noticed was the overwhelming quantity of Delos Palmer illustrations. If you are gazing at my attached pic of covers, that would account for most of the white background covers (the upper five rows). He vanished from being Western Trails regular cover contributor and focused almost exclusively illustrating several Spicy covers until 1939. By 1940, he had wholly abandoned the pulps.
The second thing I noted was that one Clyde A. Warden often copped the covers. Who the hell is that? I knew nothing about Clyde A. Warden before obtaining these. I love a good research project, so took a quick look at American census records and discovered that Clyde A. Warden was indeed a real person. Let’s begin with 1930 since that was when Clyde really began launching into the pulps, after his first known sale in 1929.
1930 Census: Address: South Fourteenth Street Salem, Marion County, Oregon Birthplace: Oregon Age: 22 Occupation: Author Residing with his widowed mother, Ella (age 51) and younger brother Clifford (age 18)
This census is already interesting in that he is an Author, did not attend College, but did graduate high school. His earliest (known) pulp sale under his own name was via The Golden West Magazine, a two-part novelette in the April and May 1929 issues. After that he dedicated nearly all his time to Western Trails, beginning with the January 1930 issue. That issue also launched his recurring character: Bert Little.
This made me wonder if Clyde supplied fiction to any local newspaper supplements. Or to rural magazines, which are largely not indexed. I mean, what are the odds he graduated high school and began selling fiction at age 21? What did he do between high school and 1929? We have a two-to-three years unaccounted for.
He may have been employed by the Salem World per the Oregon Exchanges records as a “compositor”. This publication was based in Salem, Oregon, an evening edition only (sans Sunday) and founded in 1927. Clyde would have been 18 or 19 at this time. If this paper was digitized and available online, I’d kill to have access to it and see if we can locate anything inside credited to Clyde. The University of Oregon Library appears to be the only one with any holdings, covering 1927 October 20 through 1928 July 30. If my library still had a microfilm machine, I’d be placing an Interlibrary loan request. If anyone resides in Oregon and can access that film, I’d love to know!
Curious to learn about the widow and her husband’s name and occupation, I dialed it back a decade to track him down.
1920 Census: Address: Bandon and Prosper Road Age: 11 Prosper, Coos County, Oregon
The husband’s name was Joseph (age 59) and the wife’s name was given this time as Ellen (age 41). Two additional children, a son and a daughter, each older than Clyde, are listed. Carroll (age 18) and Verna (age 14). Joseph’s occupation was given as a miner in a gold mine.
1940 Census: Address: Fifth Street Ashland, Jackson County, Oregon Age: 33 Occupation: writer
This entry is a little misleading. Clyde and his wife Helen (age 30) were lodging with his brother Clifford and his wife Elizabeth. The census notes that in 1935 Clyde and his Connecticut born wife resided in Los Angeles, California. Why? Was he pursuing a possible Hollywood script-writing career? Given the number of Bert Little tales, translating them to the silver screen seems logical. But more importantly, Clyde was still listing his occupation as an author, yet, his last known regular pulp appearance was in 1938. He wouldn’t have any further known sales until the April 1942 issue of Fifteen Western Tales magazine. Thirteen months later, same magazine, the March 1943 issue ran a novella. These would be his last two sales under his name. Were these original tales or ancient rejects? And why had Clyde abandoned Western Trails, especially after contributing about 85 (combo of Bert Little tales and non-series) from January 1930 until July 1938? That’s 103 months. Most of the issues Clyde failed to land were in this first year and final year.
A decade later, we learn that Clyde is no longer an author.
1950 Census: Address: M Street Sweet Home, Linn County, Oregon Age: 42 Occupation: Tavern proprietor
Still married to Helen, the pair had niece Marilyn Estep (age 2) residing with them. Were they babysitting her when the census taker arrived? Helen’s occupation is given as bartender at the tavern. They pair apparently never had any children of their own. A tremendous shame as this eliminates the potential to contact direct descendants, aside from nieces and nephews, etc.
The Find-a-Grave website shows that Clyde Arthur Warden’s precise date of birth was 18 March 1908. He died at the young age of 56, on 20 August 1964 in Linn County. He is buried at Hilltop Cemetery, in Independence, Polk County, Oregon. This entry also provides additional family members lined to Clyde, as follows:
Father: Joseph Benjamin Warden (Born 1860, Died 1921) Mother: Ella May, nee Aplington (Born 20 May 1878, Died 12 December 1960) Brother: Carroll Vernon Warden (Born 13 March 1901, Died 1 October 1969) Brother: Clifford Warden (Born 9 February 1912, Died 12 November 2000)
I’ve yet to verify what became of sister Verna. Did she marry before the 1930 census or die?
I don’t see any evidence that Clyde served or enlisted during the second World War, which I felt would have partially explained his 1940s disappearance from supplying fiction to the pulps. It was a lucrative market for him. What happened?
In any case, this all shaped up towards researching an obscure author. Only thing is, Ed Hulse of Murania Press announced that Will Murray had already prepared an article for this year’s special edition of Blood N Thunder magazine.
And so, my dreams of working up a project concerning Clyde Arthur Warden, author of the long-running Bert Little series, comes to an abrupt end.
As comedian Nigel Ng’s character Uncle Roger would say, Haiyaa!
After publishing this blog, fellow research Steven Rowe obtained a copy of Clyde’s obituary. From that, we now learn the following details:
Clyde was born in Gold Hill, Oregon, on 15 March 1908. His family then moved to Salem, Oregon, where he attended school. He moved to Sweet Home, Oregon, in 1948, where he would reside until death. Clyde’s bar was the Circus Room Lounge and Restaurant. He married Ordell Devlin on 26 May 1956. Both his brothers and sister outlived him, as did his second wife. We learn that his sister Verna did in fact marry, becoming Verna Bordier.
So, he remarried! What became of Helen? Death or divorce?
As for Ordell, she filed for divorce from Clyde in May 1964, a handful of months before he ultimately would die in August, on grounds of “cruelty”. The proximity from divorce to death leads me to now wonder just how he died. Age, health, liquor, etc.?
From the United States Social Security death index, I learned that Verna died in 1970. Sadly, this information is not found on the Find-a-Grave site.
Creasey Mystery Magazine (v1 n3, October 1956) was published by Dalrow Publishing and like its preceding two issues, sports a solid one-color cover devoid of artwork. Edited by Leslie Syddall, this issue is filled with mostly reprints by quality writers of the mystery genre.
The lead novella is by John Creasey and titled Under-Cover Man. The tale originally appeared in a South African magazine, thus far untraced. It later was serialized in Australia’s Woman’s Day and Home beginning 1951 Jun 20. Two years later it was jointly published with Murder Out of the Past by UK: Barrington Gray, 1953 (I’ll be reading that tale in the next issue). This novelette opens with a frightened young lady fleeing from a tall man into a hotel. Hiding there, she is approached by a nice man who offers his assistance. He notices her fear of the tall man and convinces her to permit him to escort her out to his car, and away to meet his sister. Assures her calmly he really does have a car, really does have a sister. He’s not on the prowl. While at the car, the tall man approaches and our odd hero takes him down, disarms him of the knife he was attempting to bring forth. Creasey, ever the master at quick action yarns, spins the usual one here, but it flows admirably along. The gist: two men and two women vacation in South Africa. One man is murdered. Stabbed to death. The other collects what funds they have and makes for town. He can’t return but sends for her. She’s got no money; she arrives at the hotel to discover he’s not there! Enter…our hero. We learn there is some form of blackmail racket. But it goes even deeper than that, expanding into an even broader plot. Is anyone truly innocent? Our hero is clearly the under-cover man of the title. Why has he involved himself in the plight of this young lady? Why not simply involve the police? It’s a decent yarn and readily available for those interested in pursuing.
The Nemean Lion once more features Hercule Poirot. Written by Agatha Christie, the story debuted in The Strand, November 1939. I’ve mentioned prior that I find Poirot to be a frustratingly annoying person. Certainly not the sort of person I would enjoy spending time with, in any capacity. This story introduces readers to the fact that Poirot has effectively decided to retire, but not before tackling twelve cases that he has dubbed The Labours of Hercules, after the famed exploits of the Greek literary demi-god of legend. Unfortunately for Poirot, his first “labour” involves a Pekinese dog. It was dog-napped for ransom, that was paid, and the dog returned. So, who cares? The dog belonged to a woman. The husband cares. It was his money, and his wife did not inform him of the missing dog nor the ransom until after the issue was settled. He doesn’t care so much of the money. He has plenty. But it irks him regardless. And, another person likewise lost his wife’s dog via the same manner, but at a cost of 300 Pounds, 100 more than his own wife’s dog! Poirot takes the case and if you’ve read Poirot, he wraps it up quickly, but not to my satisfaction. He sends out his faithful man Georges to track a certain person; I’d already determined early that there were only two plausible culprits. I won’t divulge the identity but suffice to say that Poirot visits the person at their home and gives the person the opportunity to explain their actions. Despite a crime perpetuated more than once (several times, in fact) to various dog owners, Poirot permits the crime to go unpunished with a caveat.
The Missing Model by Peter Fraser appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald, 28 Aug 1954 and the BBC issued it in 1955 as a ‘Play for Broadcasting’), but it’s true first appearance was actually in The (London) Evening Standard, 13 December 1950. A couple are strolling past a shop window. The female watches a figure stumble in and collapse, dead. Returning with a constable, they are shocked to discover no dead body. Reaching out to the shop owner, he’s brought in to open shop when the detective notes that the alarm isn’t active. There’s no evidence of foul-play. The lady describes the clothes the dead person wore and notes a picture in the shop is that of the dead woman. Turns out she is their main model. Calling at her home, her mother states she is out but will return…she never does. Months pass and while no body nor clues surface, a circular was dispatched with a full description of the model’s clothes. Those turn up at a shop, the cops investigate, and we eventually obtain the killer and a case involving essentially industrial espionage.
A Dog’s Life by Michael Innes is listed on the story-page as a new story. This is false. It debuted in The (London) Evening Standard, 11 May 1950 and features his recurring popular Scotland Yard detective John Appleby. The story later was reprinted in America’s digest MacKill’s Mystery Magazine, September 1952. It’s undeniably an entertainingly flavored yarn, too. Appleby relates a case from many years earlier, in his younger years. He spends time at a cliffside town with the Lorio family, a strange couple. Something feels off about them, but he’s on vacation, not working. As he later confesses, a Yard man is always working, and must always be cognizant of this fact. While napping at the beach, he overhears a couple talking and making love. He’s mortified to recognize the voice of Mrs. Lorio making out with a strange man. Not wishing to be present to this love affair that is hardly his business, he sneaks away. Days pass find Appleby often walking with Mr. Lorio and his dog. One day the pair alone are walking along the cliffs; the wind is dangerously whipping about. Appleby has no interest in the edge, but Mr. Lorio suddenly discovers his dog down the cliffside, seemingly stuck. Appleby finds this intriguing and watches in shock as Lorio scrambles down the cliffside to rescue his dog, vanish from sight, then fall away into the sea far below to his death. Appleby runs and calls for coast guard assistance, etc., returns, and finds the dog climbed up on its own and Mrs. Lorio present looking for an explanation, seemingly mortified that her dear husband is dead, when the dog struggles lose and pursues a man that looks like vagrant. In fact, looks very much like the strange man Mrs. Lorio was having affair. The dog isn’t attacking. It loves its fleeing Master! Appleby discovers a clean-shaven Mr. Lorio and realizes the truth: the pair murdered another man to pretend it was Mr. Lorio that died to collect insurance money. Realizing he’s captured. Mr. Lorio jumps off the cliff, and Mrs. Lorio is arrested, sentenced to hang.
Peter Cheyney’s The Rope originally appeared in the 1920s-1930s. The earliest publication I’ve found is 28 June 1939 in The Wireless Weekly (Australia), a journal dedicated to the radio, and in England via the Staffordshire Advertiser, 10 Feb 1940. It was much later reprinted in MacKill’s Mystery Magazine, December 1952. This tale proves that if you give a criminal enough rope, they’ll hang themselves, no matter how smartly they plan. Getlin owes 700 Pounds to his friend Varne. His friend Varne is an alcoholic because Getlin once stole his girlfriend. He never recovered. Getlin doesn’t actually like Varne. He hates him. Hates him so much that he plans to murder Varne, and has a brilliant plan, planned over the course of a few years. Everyone in town has heard Varne drunkenly state he’s tired of living. Death by suicide: hanging. While Varne is drinking it up heavily in town, Getlin with the third spare given him by Varne (housekeeper has the other) enters the home. Arranges the suicide. Varne finally stumbles home, but Getlin gets tired of Varne drunkenly digging in his pockets for his house key. Unlocking the door, Varne falls through. Assisting the scarcely conscious man to his room, he arranges the noose about Varne’s neck, props him up, slips out of the room and in doing so, Varne slips and hangs himself. Next day, a constable comes to Getlin’s home to place him under arrest for murder. Where did he go wrong? Investigation states Varne was too drunk to tie the noose and hang himself. Plus, how did he get inside the home when his key was found in the street? The housekeeper was out of town. That leaves only Getlin.
The Case of the Red-Headed Women features Neils Orsen and is written by Dennis Wheatley. While its first publication remains unknown, it is known to be excerpted from Gunmen, Gallants & Ghosts (London: Hutchinson, June 1943). I say this because I genuinely doubt that GG&G was the first publication of all the bound stories. They feel more like pre-WW2 tales. In this psychic detective outing, Orsen is approached by friend Bruce Hemmingway to investigate a home recently purchased by newlywed clients. The home is the source of past deaths. Two redheaded women were hurled to their demise out the bathroom window; a man likewise died from that same window, but how he connects with the women is unknown. The question: is there a genuine haunting or is something more physical involved in the past-murders? Do the new owners have anything to fear? Possibly…if the wife is a redhead. Orsen accepts the invitation and sets up his photographic camera equipment outside said window and inside the bathroom. On the appointed night, Hemmingway and Orsen go to the home only to find that the newlyweds have already moved in, ahead of schedule. The pair must convince the husband to cater to their unexpected arrival and humor them until the ungodly hour of the fated wife’s scheduled demise…assuming it will actually occur. Orsen is convinced it will, when suddenly the wife, who is supposed to be asleep, is heard screaming in the bathroom. Orsen forces his way in ahead of the belligerent husband and discovers the wife very much alive, if not shaken by some supernatural ordeal. Collecting his equipment, Orsen develops the film and discovers that a ghostly form indeed had proceeded to hurl her out the window, an actual elemental. But why did it fail? Because powers of darkness can be beaten back by powers of light, namely, Orsen’s camera flash from outside the window!
The Skylight Man is by Nigel Morland and features his hard-nosed bitch of a detective, Mrs. Palmyra Pym. If that statement offends you, it shouldn’t. Pym’s stone-cold, abrasively coarse, etc. I’m not sure as to her age, but I dare say she’s probably in her 50s or so. Least, that’s how I read it. She’s called in to track a robber that can scale any building as agile as a cat and twice as fast. He made off with loads of cash. He was captured (accidentally) by a cop. Tossed in jail. Escaped, and killed a copper in the process. Every copper is hunting him to no avail. He has a girlfriend that has her own show at the BBC. She’s watched 24/7, certain the pair will contact one another. Pym finally cracks the case when she spots a blonde model and her unique nylons. They are coded in Morse, and the robber was once a navy man that can read Morse. Plus, being more than a bit of a “wolf,” he’s certain to first spot the sexy blonde’s legs on TV and then the code. They catch him alright, but Pym is miffed. Dozens of viewers also spotted the Morse code and phoned in asking if there was a cash prize for solving the code! I’ve read Nigel Morland previously and wasn’t too impressed with his works. The first time was via stand-alone novella The Big Killing.
Adventure Trailsdebuted in June with a publication date of July 1938 on the Table of Contents page. Published by Manvis Publications, Adventure Trails would join the growing list of Red Circle magazines issued by Martin Goodman.
Martin Goodman would go on to found Timely Publications the following year, with their first comic debuting with a cover date of October 1939. Timely became Marvel Comics two decades later. Some pulp artists also worked on Goodman’s comics.
The cover art features a bronzed white man with a six-shooter, rescued by a native girl, who is seen cutting his hands free from the death pole while a tribe of natives look on, preparing to kill them both. The artwork is signed H. W. Scott, lower right corner. Short for Howard Winfield Scott, an artist born 1897, he entered the pulp illustration market in the mid-1920s and prolifically contributed throughout the 1940s and tapering off quickly in the early 1950s. For a full bio, click on his full name.
Over the years, I have frequently alluded that Martin Goodman may have utilized his various house names to hide the acquisition of reprinted pulp stories. This was met with open derision by some in the pulp community.
So, I finally decided to read a Martin Goodman pulp from my collection. Upon reading the opening pages to the first tale, I laughed. I had indeed read this story before! Proving my theory without any sweat on the first story! Could I prove more? If not, at the least, I’ll provide a plot synopsis and hopefully other pulpsters will reply in kind to this blog and contribute.
Copping the cover is Rodney Blake’s Singapore Thunder, a novella that actually appeared during the early 1920s. An easy claim to establish as upon reading the opening lines, I realized I had not only read this tale, but also blogged it back in 2015. Rodney Blake is a house name for the Red Circle magazines. In this instance, it hides the identity of one of the pulps most prolific writers of all time, H. Bedford-Jones. The original published title is The Second Mate, as published in the pulp Short Stories, 1922 October 10. It was later bound as a softcover / paperback in 1923. Please click on The Second Mate to visit my original post and view the softcover editions artwork. Or, read on for the plot, below:
Jim Barnes, the newly hired second mate aboard the Sulu Queen. Jim took the position of second mate at the request of the consul because of fear of what would become of honest girls who foolishly sailed with this particular vessel. Not long into sailing Jim learns of a planned mutiny. Alerting the female of the impending danger, Jim acquires some guns and loads them into the attached smaller craft. Blood-and-thunder ensues after Jim sabotages the engine room and the men battle to the death. Jim fails to safeguard all the passengers aboard but rescues two girls and some children. Along for the ride is a Chinaman. The whaler is pursued by survivors of the Sulu Queen and the cached opium. Jim must be murdered and the rescued women captured if possible and sold into the sex slave racket. Jim and the girls make for the shores of Borneo. Secreting the group on land, Jim and the Chinaman face impossible odds and hold of the mutineers. They are eventually themselves rescued by a heavily armed Dutch patrol boat.
The next story inside is The Brass Peacock by John Cannon, yet another house name. This one conceals William Corcoran and originally was The Curse of the Brazen Peacock, from Mystery, 1933 January edition. This tale may perhaps be the first Mark Harrell taxicab detective story. It certainly was the first published in Mystery magazine, however, Corcoran had a history of writing taxicab / hack stories for the pulps, so I’m not confident Mark Harrell couldn’t have possibly appeared elsewhere. In fact, at the time of writing this piece, FictionMags did not have his other Mystery contributions noted properly as Mark Harrell stories. Four more were not noted, but I obtained access to two and found Harrell indeed to be present, leaving two more unconfirmed. A month prior to the debut of The Curse of the Brass Peacock found Corcoran in Street & Smith’s Detective Story Magazine with Cab Call in the 1932 December 10 issue. I’d love to know if Harrell makes his debut there or not. Regardless, the story opens with Mark Harrell driving his cab and picking up a swarthy client with a heavy box in an unscrupulous part of New York City, then driving him to a more affluent part of the city. Upon arriving, we are introduced to a young man and seductively beautiful woman, and the house-attendant. All three are waiting impatiently for the arrival of the swarthy man, known as Wahid. The young man is Fletcher, the woman is Vornoff. The attendant asks the newly arrived Wahid where Watterson is, as he is not answering their calls. Nobody saw him leave his upstairs apartment. Harrell is with them, having assisted in hauling in the cumbersome metal box. Wahid boards the elevator to check for himself; he returns and informs the company that he found Watterson dead. While they all go up to confirm, Harrell steps out, can’t find a local policeman, steps back in, phones the police. They arrive, then Inspector John Force of Homicide arrives and takes over the crime scene. Harrell is largely a background character witnessing the crime as a whole and through his eyes the story is laid bare. He was a former global adventurer and seafarer and married; divorced, he lost everything and invested what little he had left into a taxicab. Through this means we are introduced to Harrell’s life activities and why he is literally in on the case. John Force can’t immediately solve the case however, Harrell, a former globetrotter exposed to much of the Orient and Middle East, etc., is somehow vastly familiar with many countries and their assorted local “tribes” and clans and beliefs. This is hardly likely. He’d also have to be multilingual as well, among other unlikely traits. Harrell showcases his brains by adroitly shifting what is known from Force’s interrogation process into sequences that eventually prove everyone’s alibis are accurate save for Wahid’s whereabouts. I won’t ruin the plot but suffice to say, Wahid plays the cliché role of the deceased Watterson’s faithful Eastern assistant until the item within the metal box leads him to murder. Wahid sets the scene to lead the police to believe Miss Vornoff to be the killer, too. A fight ensues between Fletcher and Wahid, but Harrell steps in and displays some martial arts maneuver twisting Fletcher loose while retaining a firm hold upon Wahid. Exposed for what he is, Wahid makes to murder Fletcher with a kukri-like weapon, ripping the souvenir from the wall and hurling the blade at him. Harrell tackles Fletcher but the wooden haft slams into Miss Vornoff, knocking her down. Wahid makes his escape but meet the wrong end of a policeman’s revolver down the hall. Case closed.
Next is Dancer of the Rio Grande by Eugene A. Cunningham, a real author this time as opposed to a house name. Ergo, the story could be original or a retitled reprint. Only way to know is to read the story and put it down here for you to decide! All I know is Eugene Cunningham’s short story Dancer of the Rio Grande feels more like a spicy magazine tale than a pulpwood magazine sale. The plot takes place in Mexico, just across the border. Inside the Blue Moon cantina, a lovely young lady (Lois) has danced for six weeks. She attracted the eyes of an American fighter pilot, Joe Carr. He’s in love with Lois after “spending” one day with her. Rafael, owner of the joint, sees the young pilot’s interest. Threatening to kill Joe lest she pursue the infatuation, Rafael orders her to break off any intention to flee with the man. Informing Rafael she is only playing the pilot for his roll of money doesn’t assuage Rafael. Returning to the floor, she sits with the pilot, and he speeds up their flight, with plans to meet and depart for America that night. Later, in her room, she hears gunshots. Afraid Rafael has carried out his threat, she rapidly runs to the agreed upon meeting place, Morales’ restaurant. She runs into another man, a frequenter of the cantina, Pedro. He’s aware the pilot was ambushed and shot. Together they locate the downed man, who has been winged. Pedro carries him. The pair cross the Rio Grande River, avoiding the local bridge, knowing Rafael and his men will be watching. Joe Carr rouses and well, you can guess the rest of the plot. It’s not a brilliant piece of literature. Clearly the magazine ran this one just for the locale and suggestive sauciness.
In R. A. Emberg’s Hawaiian Escapade, two men and a young woman, each a stranger to one another, are stranded in a boat after a squall sank the ship they were on. Bound for Honolulu from Sydney, the trio aboard have neither oar nor sail, one canteen of water, scant food, and even less clothing. The men have on only pajama bottoms; the lady, a loose blouse. No distress call was made via wireless. None of the three are ship employees, nor trained in the ways of shipping. They are at the mercy of the Pacific Ocean. But when one of the men, a burly ass, decides he has had enough of the other man, he attempts murder. He’s desires to be closer to the female after having seen her fully nude. She had been in the water, to keep cool, rather than bake in the naked sun. But an approaching shark forced her to climb in, quickly, without any attempt at decency. Wanting proximity to the woman and a change in position on the slim boat, the two men clash. The assailant falls overboard, and a shark drags him under. A swifter if not more painful death than the pair of survivors expect, should they not be rescued. Remarkably, a ship is sighted, and they are rescued and brought aboard the Island Queen, a ship bound for Sydney. A rather simple tale with the feasible chance of future romance between the pair, even though she is engaged! She sent her suitor a wireless stating that due to nerves, she would be returning to Sydney for a few weeks. Showing the letter to her fellow boat mate, he’s bewildered. What does it mean? She lays it on the table: they’ll be alone in Sydney for a few weeks. Will they romance and see what comes of it? Or will she be open to a romantic affair and then return to her fiancé? It’s left to the reader’s own self-indulgent imagination. Well, if this story is yet another reprinted work, it might not be difficult to trace. Emberg under his own name didn’t author many stories prior to Hawaiian Escapade. Top-Notch magazine in April 1937 ran a short story entitled Loot of the Island Queen. Ah gee, wasn’t that the name of the ship that rescues the pair? Yes. If it’s not the same story, then Emberg’s use of the same ship name is remarkably unimaginative.
Flaming Range appears under the house name James Hall. Sam Young is minding his own business at the local train depot when a sweet young voice calls to him. Turning, he beholds a lovely young lady but thinks she’d be prettier without the makeup. Turns out she arrived on the westbound train and was to wait for her uncle. He is old and greedy Mr. Dent, a man who own mortgages on many lands or has loaned out monies to farmers at high interest rates. Sam gets a buckboard from Pitchfork and drives the young lady to her uncle’s derelict home. This might seem contradictory to the seemingly rich man lending money, but that’s just how he seemingly operates. Only recently, Dent has been calling all loans to be repaid within legal time frames or the reclaims each person’s property. Two gun-sharks in town have had enough, and liquored up, they and others equally dimwitted ride out to tar and feather Dent. Learning their plans, Sam rides from town and derails their plans. Days later, Sam learns the pair of gunners were thrown out of town after a hand of cards went awry. Extra cards were in the deck, and the player sitting in was the sheriff’s brother-in-law! Infuriated over the duplicity, the pair ride to Dent’s to illicit revenge. Sam learns of their ill-tidings and fearful of their typically vengeful intentions, rides hard to Dent’s ranch fearful for the niece. He discovers Dent dead. Stepping in, he pistol whips one gunner unconscious, steps in, and covers the deadlier of the two. The niece’s frightened visage makes him realize he’s overstepped his play. The other guy is behind him, on the ground, bloodied, gunhand extended. Caught in a crossfire, bullets sail to and fro. Sam kills the guy on the ground, the guy on the ground slings lead into his partner, and Sam catches one in the leg and one against a rib busting a lung and knocking him down and out. Next thing we know, two of Sam’s mates walk in and take in the scene. Assuring the girl that Sam is too tough to die, she faints. They phone the sheriff for help and a doctor, free the girl, and bring down a mattress to toss Sam onto. The girl revives and runs to Sam and nestles his head in her lap. When he comes to, it’s to find himself looking up into her eyes. Flaming Range is a tale of guns flaming and hearts aflame. It’s unclear whether this house name hides a reprinted story or a new story. The next month, Henry Kuttner had the tale Dictator of the Americas appear under the James Hall alias in Marvel Science Stories, and that was an original story.
Peril Island appears under the house name Ken Jason and I am certain I have read this story elsewhere. Sadly, I can’t place where or what the original story was. Hopefully a fellow pulpster will recognize this tale. Tori, son of a chief, made a young teen chief at 16 when a whaling captain murdered his father. Swore to kill all foreigners that come to their islands. This they did, for 3 years. At 19 met Sepeli, a young girl from a nearby island village. Love at first sight. While wedding and feasting, a ship with a hole in its side harbored at their island. Though sworn to kill foreigners, Sepeli begged Tori to not slay them on their special day. So they aided the men. Aboard was the Viking-like giant Olav Nystrom, world traveler and rich to boot. He is invited to the feast and brings along little bottles of alcohol. Liquored up, Tori and Sepeli are too drunk to resist Olav who shames the drunk Tori and carries away his woman. Sworn now to hunt down Olav and murder the man, Tori leaves his island and duties and enlists on various boats, traveling the shipping world and learning all its ways. Years pass. He eventually meets up with Olav and his wife, Sepeli. Neither recognize Tori, for so many years have passed and Tori no longer resembles his younger self. Olav has squandered his wealth. Tori, employed as Olav’s man-of-many-jobs, alludes to a distant reef with gold upon it. Truth is, it’s close to where he and Sepeli are from, which is Fitu Tuli, an island between the Fijis and New Zealand. Desperately in need of funds, Olav puts all his remaining funds into a boat and the trio sail for doom. Sabotaging the boat, it bursts into flames and explodes while the trio are ashore. Nobody suspects Tori, believing it to be an accident. They have no access to fresh water and the pair weaken as Tori by night swims out to an underwater freshwater stream, daily. Tori gleefully reveals his identity and tries to kill Olav, but he wards him off with his blade. Days pass. Tori returns and tries to convince Sepeli to return home with him. She extracts Olav’s secreted knife and plunges it into Tori then impales herself. Tori blacks out, later revives to see her hugged about her husband’s body. Both are dead. Weak from loss of blood, Tori makes for the water and is floating, near death, out to sea, when he is rescued by Tom Landgrebe and Alden, Tom’s supercargo. They had all met at the opening of the tale and coincidentally cross paths with Tori floating lifeless at sea. It’s here we learn of Tori’s life and movements. Tom and Alden listen to the entire story then Tom proclaims like Hell will Tori be turned over to the authorities for murder. Olav had it coming and Tom swears to turn their boat 100 miles off course and deposit Tori at his home island and informs Tori to remain there and keep his mouth shut.
Next is Gods of Fury by house name John Carlisle, and it reads like an Argosy magazine entry. Allan Brant is an American archaeologist born in South America. His father amassed a small fortune excavating gold. Upon his untimely demise, Allan inherited the wealth and with Wiley, his friend and airplane mechanic, the pair travel and explore the length of the southern continent. The pair survive their plane crashing in the jungles of Costa Rica only to discover a lost race. Captured, they witness the ancient tribal sacrifice of knifing open altar-victims and ripping out their hearts. A blood offering to Huitzilopochtli. And Allan and Wiley have stumbled into at least a second night of it. Will they be offered, too? Next day, guards bring frijoles and tortillas to feast upon. Allan is now convinced this is not wholly a lost race at all. Or one not unaware of the outside world. Having eaten, the pair are led to the king (Maxica) who speaks fluent Spanish. How? His own people are sent out to learn the ways of the outer world and their language. Maxica is descended from a long line of Anahuac, long believed to be extinct to the world. His people mingled with the Ixtlop. Also present is a young 20-something girl, Margo, the king’s daughter. The murderous priest (Guat) is an Aztec. Both the Anahuac and Aztec lines merged here after fleeing from the onslaught of the Spaniards. The king’s people retained royal rights while the Aztecs kept the annual sacrificial customs alive. How? By raiding the distant inhabitants of the Chiriqui Lagoon (in Panama) and kidnapping their people. Allan and Wiley are fortunate. The sacrifices concluded the final night they witnessed Guat rip out live-beating hearts. There is no escape, save up a narrow mountain pass that is heavily guarded. They may live in Ixtlop in peace, but only for a year. Then their mortal time will perish upon the Aztec altar. Escorted from the room, Allan takes in one parting look at Margo, and sees something in her eyes. Six months pass. Maxica and Allan enjoy intelligent discussions about Ixtlop history. Margo doesn’t speak Spanish but Allan has learned enough of the language to converse. It’s clear she is infatuated with him. Wiley doesn’t speak a lick of Spanish but his eyes see the truth. They clearly are in love. Asking King Maxica if in six months they are still to be executed, Maxica sorrowfully proclaims he is but the King, that Guat has all rights to priesthood duties. They will be slain. Margo cries that the pair must escape. Allan asks if she will come with him, and Maxica accepts their love as true and assures them that he will leave the path clear for their attempt to flee. Through spies, Guat learns of Maxica’s betrayal and calls forth the entire people of Ixtlop, as is his priestly right. Here, he lies and states that to appease Huitzilopochtli, the pair must be immediately sacrificed, else Irazú will erupt and take everyone’s lives. Countering this death blow, Allan, disguised, steps forth and proclaims that he is a messenger from Quetzalcoatl. If the Americans are not released, then Mount Blanco will erupt and burn all to death. (NOTE: although Irazú itself is real, Blanco is fake). Allan demands that as messengers of the gods, the pair must face off and fight with maquahuitls (sic, macuahuitl) which are ancient Aztec wooden clubs embedded with obsidian blades. The pair attempt to bludgeon each other. Allan’s weapons breaks and as Guat thunders in for the kill, Allan hurls the remains of the weapon into Guat’s face. Distracted, Allan hurls forward and knocks Guat down the stone steps to his death. Sneaking away, escape isn’t evident as Irazú suddenly erupts in Guat’s favor, despite Allan having beaten him. Ash and debris are raining down upon Ixtlop. It’s obvious the hidden city will be destroyed, buried in molten hell and ash. Rushing to the royal dais, Allan rescues Margo but finds her father dead. The trio manage to escape via the mountain trail and in uncustomary pulp fashion, Margo survives the escape with Allan. In most pulp adventures the girl either breaks free and returns to die in her homeland or hurls herself off the cliff to her death. Bizarrely, nobody else bothered to attempt to escape up the trail with them. Everyone died in the city. Even the guards of the pass vacated their posts and ran down to the city. Despite some historical mistakes or purposeful errors, such as the fake additional volcano, this was by far the most entertaining story and I’d love to be informed the original publication by a fellow knowledgeable pulpster.
East of Borneo is yet another story appearing under a house name, this time being Rex Evans. In truth, the story originally was Cork of Borneo by H. Bedford-Jones from Fawcett’s Triple-X Magazine, 1925 December, and this itself appeared first in the UK via Cassell’s Magazine, 1925 July. No doubt the American magazine sat on it too long, permitting the English magazine to get the story into circulation first. The novelette opens with a seemingly out-of-character young man walking in and answering a call for work from the local consulate. The man however dismisses the young man, but that latter man is persistent and demands to be assigned the required task. The official explains that he is waiting for a local legend, a man known as Cork of Borneo. Angered the man won’t leave, he official calls in a local man to throw him out. The man enters and in fright, begs off. He recognizes the man before him. The young, good-looking man who looks anything like a bronzed Doc Savage jungle man, explains that he is Walter Cork, and that is why the native man refused to cooperate. So: the mission? An archeologist and his daughter and assistant with natives are far in the jungle. Claims to have discovered a lost town with treasure. Unfortunately, the sinister Jan Mayerbeer and his two killers (Sterns and Ruyter) with hired natives are also in pursuit of the lost treasure. Cork immediately departs. Meanwhile, upriver in the jungle, John Lawton and Mary Maynter escaped the lost city, re-hiding the treasure. Mary’s father died from malaria, and John is dying. He dies, but informs Mary to run for her life, certain that man-tracker Sterns is likely the man on their trail. The natives won’t protect them. He dies. Sterns walks in and threatens her lest she not cough up the location of the goods. She refuses despite Sterns’ brutal aggression, and he only ceases when he is no longer her focus. Her eyes are behind him. Cork is there, nonchalantly. A blow-dart whistles through the air, nails Sterns, and he dies. Cork had kept a promise to a murdered tribe to kill Sterns in vengeance. Cork keeps his promises. The story goes on to become an excellent blood-and-thunder Far East story. They go upriver to face off with Mayerbeer and Ruyter. Leaving the girl and eight men at a longhouse, Cork and a handful of men proceed into the core and discover Ruyter and his men. Capturing and disarming them, Cork decides to walk them back to the river and dismiss them, but he trips over a ground root. Ruyter concusses Cork and uses him as a human shield while both groups of natives fight to the death. All dead, Ruyter heaves the unconscious Cork out into the river to be ripped asunder by the crocodiles. Ruyter walks to the longhouse and finds eight men dead upon the ground and Jan Mayerbeer calmly sitting there. He used sleight of hand and Houdini mischief and no doubt ventriloquism to scare the eight guards. Conquered, he makes a magic bowl of rice and entreated the eight to eat the rice and it would protect them from evil spirits. So, they did, suffered stomach aches, consumed opium and went to sleep. The pain in the stomachs? Arsenic added to the rice by Mayerbeer. Leading the captured Mary Maynter to the lost city, they force her to reveal the hidden chamber. Prying loose the boulder(s), they enter the dark chamber which is supported by a long piece of strong-wood. Sending the girl down alone, Mayerbeer forces her to hurl up to him the small stone Gods. These he blindly tosses backwards up to Ruyter. Mayerbeer becomes angered when only stone Gods reach his hands. Where is the gold! Gold is always buried with lost city Gods. When one of the stone Gods clangs against the ground he reaches back and wipes off the dust. Not stone at all, but gold Gods. Mary has passed out in the chamber from dust inhalation, and Mayerbeer intends to seal her in alive once the last of the Gods are retrieved. Exultant, he exits and is mortified to discover Ruyter dead, his face smashed by one of the Gods he blindly hurled back at Ruyter. He clearly struck the man a deathblow to the head. Matters worsen when Cork makes his own presence known. The crocs didn’t get him. Nor did Ruyter’s men get all of his natives. Mayerbeer is certain Cork is bluffing until he spies at least one recessed native with a blow dart at the ready. Momentarily defeated, he cooperates with Cork. Mary’s body is heaved out of the chamber and Cork informs Mayerbeer that he will not kill the man. In fact, he intends to permit Mayerbeer to keep the remaining Gods that are in the chamber but must retrieve them himself. Elated to discover Cork is weak-minded after all, he agrees to terms and enters the chamber. Cork draws his pistol and shoots, shattering the strong-wood holding the stone in place. It collapses, sealing Mayerbeer inside until the next intrepid explorer should one day discover his bones. The story ends in typical fashion with Cork nervously and shyly almost asking a question of Mary, who reads in his shyness his love for her. A superb man’s adventure story in which the hero is lean and not bronzed and muscular at all, but average height with charming looks but intelligent and respected by the locals. A damn shame our author seemingly wrote only the one Cork of Borneo tale. If he wrote more, they ought to be collected.
Lon Taylor’s Tiger-Face is the final story within Adventure Trails and brings us face-to-face with yet another house name! Pearl buyer Andrews is requested by the United States government to attend a pearl auction on a privately owned atoll. The aged owner is Chinaman Lee Suey Yung. The government wants to secure the island for air rights before any other agency does. Shipping out on the Glo’ster Maid with a Swede mate and native sailors, they sail through the atoll’s narrow and shallow entrance. One way in, one way out. Climbing into the whaler, Andrews rows ashore and is captured by what amounts to be pirates. The leader has what Andrews describes as a tiger’s face, and an Australian accent. Tiger Face is there purely for the rare pearls. He’s captured and secured the island. Andrews’ men are also captured and brought ashore, all tossed into a fenced compound and guarded by riflemen. In confinement Andrews meets a young man related to Yung and who has heard of Andrews during his brief work assignments in Honolulu. We learn old man Yung is being tortured. Later, Yung with blistered and burned feet is tossed into the compound. He coughed up the location of the pearls. Andrews via the younger Yung as translator gets the old man to sign air rights over and leaves ownership still in the Yung family. He then sneaks through the fence while the guards aren’t paying close attention. Swimming to his ship, he radios for help, digs up dynamite, frees the ship and sails her into the narrow pass. Here he dynamites a hole in the ship, and she partially sinks in the shallow pass. Come daylight, Tiger Face and his gunners row out to the Glo’ster Maid and find Andrews aboard, waiting. Informing them they can’t move or blow the ship in time to escape before an American warship arrives, he negotiates their free passage if they behave.
Some Take a Lover reportedly debuted in 1933 via hardcover publisher The Macaulay Company (New York) is a fairly scarce sex novel about “free love” among a wealthy elite family and its many consequences. The Library of Congress records the publication date as 3 January 1933, which to me indicates it likely appeared late 1932 during the Christmas season. Who knows!
Ann Du Pre is the alias of Grace Lumpkin. Who is she? Well, online data suggests that she was a Communist and a believer in the concept of free love, even among married couples. This novel comes on the heels of The Roaring Twenties and the collapse of the stock market leading into The Great Depression. Communism was on the rise during the 1930s, especially within the artistic and literary circles. I don’t personally know much about the author but gleaned some from Wikipedia (never an authoritative source, mind you) but mostly I looked into historically digitized archives from her era.
The edition I am reading was published by The National Publishing Company (Toronto, Canada) in 1946, in paperback format. The cover states that it is A Superior Publication while inside states as published by the Duchess Printing and Publishing Co. Limited”. The blurb (below) is from inside the paperback edition.
This novel centers around the ultra-wealthy elite Singleton family. The aged matriarch is bed-ridden and given to frequently rewriting her Will. The entire family has been called to the Singleton estate and each has their own room(s). I give this the plural because there are also children present.
The main protagonist is the seemingly timid granddaughter, Natalie. She’s in love with an artist (Paul). They are not married and technically living in sin. The entire black sheep family (ay, that’s the entire lot) judges her in a wide variety of malicious ways. They however have their own faults: cheating husbands, they themselves are having affairs, gambling issues, you name it, and it is all there. Yet they defend their actions as acceptable while Natalie is the scandalous one.
The only person she feels close to is her cousin Katherine, who freely admits in the opening pages the only reason Grandmother tolerates her is because Katherine is her official bootlegger.
Natalie is given a private audience with her grandmother who does not approve of Natalie and requests that she obtain a dictionary and read to her the definitions of 3 words. The words chosen are to describe Natalie, only, Grandmother Singleton isn’t sure how best to describe her, and informs Natalie that she is to make the ultimate decision. The words?
See, Grandmother Singleton has maintained a book with index cards detailing each relative and their marital partner along with an un-nice word or more about each person. It’s an ugly job that Grandmother requests of Natalie. Take the book, show it to no one, obtain a typewriter, and type up the entire handwritten mess and keep it organized. Return the entire lot when finished. Grandmother doesn’t appear to approve of any of the lot.
The cards are painfully amusing to read, but they also provide a deeper insight into the characters in the novel.
Shoreham, Arthur — married to Marie Louise Guilliame. Arthur is noted to be “lazy and weak” and “lives on Marie Louise’s money”. She’s essentially a slut and flirts heavily with any man, regardless of their availability.
Singleton, Benjamin — “charming devil” and married to Sarah Lowell with children who have “dirty little minds”. Flirts with women but is in love with the Stock Exchange. Well, no truer words are noted there than that, and for that reason, they are essentially flat broke.
That’s just a couple of sample entries, greatly abridged by me.
Upon returning with the book, Grandmother Singleton rips scathingly into Natalie.
Sick of the entire situation, Natalie packs her belongings. She came at the request, not because she desired to. And unlike the rest, she has no desire to put her hands out for the family money!
Future chapters revolve around all the assorted characters discussing their sex lives or lack thereof, finances, and the absurd whims and antics of the rich and elite that they themselves indulge in.
Each chapter pretty much delves into the failed relationships of the various family members. Everyone’s warped and flawed sexual desires comes to an abrupt end when Benjamin, sore and tired of Marie Louise open sexual flirtations with Benjamin, pulls a gun, shoots her then turns the gun upon himself. She survives. His shot took her in the shoulder, whereas Arthur blew his own head off.
Katherine is tired of her husband cheating on her. He’s mystified as she had agreed to their free love relationship. Katherine corrects him. She only agreed to it to keep him. She actually is in love with her husband. But, realizing that she has lost, she asks for a divorce. He’s only confused and baffled by the whole exchange.
Katherine asks to move in with Natalie and her boyfriend, Paul. She accepts. Then the widowed Marie Louise asks to likewise move in. Natalie again accepts, but she is certain Marie Louise might not actually move in. Too, who would want the nympho to have access to Paul?
Katherine’s soon-to-be ex-husband asks Natalie if it would be alright to call upon her future roommate. Natalie realizes that he’s come around to the fact he’s screwed up, wishes to mend his ways and start over again with Katherine, if at all possible. She thinks it a lovely idea.
In the end, Grandmother doesn’t die. The doctors get her kickstarted again. She pretty much kicks everyone out of the house and tells them they are all living in sin, regardless of whether they are married or not. In marriage, all are hypocrites as they are cheating on each other, regardless of the free love agreement they made. She’s disgusted with the whole lot of them. Of Natalie, not married but living with a single man, she acquiesces that at the least Natalie is in love with her man and gives her money to get a marriage license, immediately.
Today, Grace Lumpkin’s socialistic novel of free love and marital slavery and the demise of the family unit is quite scarce. The 1933 first edition in hardcover rarely turns up. In fact, at the time of this article, only one copy was found online for sale. Hardcover, no jacket, for $150.
The paperback edition was not known to exist to many indexers until 2022 when I stumbled across a worn, water-damaged copy (largely only affecting the spine and pages along the binding). No doubt there are more copies out there, closeted in private collections. No copies of the Canadian paperback edition have been found online. No copies are held in any libraries, according to WorldCat.
Outlaws Ride the Range by T. P. Monahon was published by Pastime Publications of Toronto, Canada. T. P. Monahon is the alias of Canadian ex-boxer Thomas P. Kelley, best remembered in the pulp fiction community for his contributions to the American magazine Weird Tales. The digest-sized paperback carries no copyright date but would be circa 1947 to very early 1948. The artwork is unsigned and features a masked bandit wielding six-shooters.
The cover might look familiar if you collect hero pulps. Specifically, “western” hero pulps. The cover was swiped from the July 1946 issue of Masked Rider Western. Makes me wonder if the other covers via Pastime Publications are also swipes!
During and shortly after WW2, some of England’s publishers looked to Canada to publish books on their behalf, due to strict paper rations. This particular paperback was contracted by Pemberton’s, as part of their Action Novel(s) series.
Notice the red circle on the lower right cover?
It lacks a cover price. That is where the printers ought to have inserted a cover price. I suspect the area was intentionally left blank by request of Pemberton’s. Leaving it blank enabled dealers in other countries to slap on an appropriate sticker-price, not just in England, but in other English colonies that Pemberton’s distributed their books.
The western here is actually not a novel, but a composite of historical fact meshed with Kelley’s fiction. The “stories” concern outlaws of the Wild West.
CHAPTER #: Outlaw(s) (Page numbers)
Chapter 1: Billy the Kid (4-24)
Chapter 2: Cherokee Bill (25-33)
Chapter 3: The Four Bad Men (34-38)
Chapter 4: Charley Bent (39-43)
Chapter 5: Belle Starr (44-51)
Chapter 6: “Bad Bill” Hollis (52-59)
Chapters 7-15: Jesse James (60-129)
I’ve researched the data found within the stories and found the names and those murdered, along with various events, to be historically fairly accurate. However, I’m not certain about the data on two chapters. Those include Chapters 3 and 6.
In regard to the former, there are rather obscure records about four unnamed bad men that created terror. Who were they? Why did they vanish?
Regarding the latter, I can’t find any record of Bill Hollis, but Kelley asserts that his downfall came when challenging outlaw Jesse James. If Hollis is fake, Kelley made a damned interesting fictional story to lead readers into the next series of chapters, representing the final half of the paperback!
And, as a matter of record, Jesse James was also one of Kelley’s specialties. He was so fond of the man’s legacy that he penned a novel entitled Jesse James: His Life and Death (Canada: News Stand Library #92 / Export Publications) in 1950. I’ve not had the opportunity to compare text, but I am interested in knowing if Kelley recycled any from this Monahon book.
Next Stop–The Morgue is the fourth (of 9) Steve Craig private-eye thriller, published by Herbert Jenkins Ltd. in 1956.
The blurb on the jacket reads:
“Craig is hired by an uncommunicative character to keep an eye on his daughter. The girl turns out not to be the man’s daughter, but she certainly bears watching.
Then Craig’s client dies in peculiar circumstances.
It looks like murder to Craig, and from half a dozen suspects with
ready-made motives he begins to comb the facts. But it is not all hard graft.
The girls in the case are shapely and disposed to be clinging; and Steve,
ever-ready to mix business with pleasure, does little to discourage them.
Kitty, knowing the symptoms, first purrs warningly and then shows her
manicured claws. Money, vice and scandal spice this story which starts
with the suspected murder of a mystery-man and ends with
the death of an alluring nymphomaniac.”
Well, that blurb isn’t entirely accurate. Kitty certainly doesn’t sharpen her claws on any competition. She scarcely shows sexual interest in Craig. And I’d hardly call the alluring girl a nympho, though she certainly utilizes her feminine abilities to get her way. The rest of the blurb concisely gives you the low-down, but leaves out a whole bunch at the same time. And I plan on doing the same, in case someone plans on obtaining a copy to read. But who cares when they are drooling over that luscious red-head doll-baby on the dustjacket? Without further ado, let’s provide some additional plot-fodder.
The story opens with an exhausted Steve Craig at home, tired and hungry. The doorbell rings. He opens it. An older gentleman (Daneston) enters, and hires Steve Craig to follow his daughter (Constance) discreetly. Steve accepts the assignment for $500 cash. Departing, Daneston enters the elevator and a young, lovely lady steps onto Steve’s floor. She seems to be searching for the right door, when Steve offers assistance. He’s convinced she is looking for someone named Dickerson (must be a neighbor, introduced in a prior novel) but she wants him!
Seems she has a problem with some guy blackmailing her, and she wants a strong man to make sure he leaves her alone after she pays. Steve ends up hijacked by Marcia Van Bergen and driven to her house-party. There is no blackmailer. Firing his ire further is the discovery that his own secretary (Kitty) aided in the deceit. Irritated, tired, and still hungry, Kitty placates his mood by insisting he stay for the party and enjoy the complimentary food.
Steve relents, and eventually is introduced to the younger sister (Betty) for whom the party is hosted. Left alone with her for a moment, he makes small-talk and offers to dance with her, only to rebuffed. Thinking she is a snob, he is later informed that she is actually paralyzed from the waist down.
Embarrassed, Steve seeks to apologize for his ignorance, only to stumble upon her outside in the dark, talking to a strong man named Marcus. Calling to her in the dark, he finds himself physically assaulted by this behemoth of a brute and knocked unconscious. Waking ten minutes later, he borrows a Caddy and returns home, to sleep and recuperate.
The next day, Steve assumes his role trailing Daneston’s daughter (Constance) all over town. She eventually leads him to a young man (Mike Larkman) involved in an aquatic job, something along the line of the famous Billy Rose’s Aquacade, which involves swimming, music, and dance. He’s young, fit, and good-looking.
Departing, her vehicular meanderings finally lands him at a remote, rural barn. He abandons his wheels and hikes on foot. Entering stealthily, he hears voices on the next level. Climbing a ladder, he sees Constance stroking and caressing a huge beast of a man. He appears to be an imbecile (and, yes, he is). To his disgust he watches as she kisses him. Ironically, he notices she is equally repulsed. She appears to be gearing him up for something awful, trying to increase his anger at someone. But who? Why? To what purpose? He slowly eases himself back down the ladder when it becomes apparent that Constance intends to leave, but Steve makes too much noise. They hear him and he hauls butt, only to be pursued by the behemoth, who turns out to be Marcus, the same man who assaulted him at the party!
Having lost track of his car in the dark, he’s overtaken but manages to escape. Next day, he goes to report to Daneston and finds him arguing with a young man wielding a gun. Entering, he breaks up the confrontation and goes so far as to disarm the hoodlum, who appears to be blackmailing Daneston to the tune of thousands of dollars.
Getting rid of him, Steve tells Daneston that Constance isn’t his daughter, that she’s actually Daneston’s much, much, MUCH younger wife! She’s 34 years younger. And was formerly his secretary for a good while. Not divulging his knowledge up to then of Constance’s moves, he stays on the job and follows her the next day to a remote cabin and finds Constance and aqua-boy Larkman having sex. Disgusted, Steve realizes the case is essentially done. He detests divorce case investigations. He wants out.
Next day, he calls Daneston, deciding to hand back what remains of the unspent $500 and quit the assignment, only to learn Daneston swan-dived off his balcony and went splat. Visiting the apartment, he walks in and speaks with the police and family doctor. Steve’s convinced that someone tossed Daneston over the balcony, and that while Daneston’s medication does make him drowsy, wasn’t sufficient for the mishap. Plus, Constance, the widow, is feigning to be distraught; Steve walks into her bedroom and finds her on the bed, with the doctor leaning over her, making out! That’s now her ex-husband, Larkman, Marcus, and the “good” family doctor she’s locked lips with. Good grief.
More things don’t add up (would hardly be a detective novel if they did) and he wants to know more about Marcus, the imbecile. Constance was winding Marcus up for something. Murder? He could have tossed Daneston over the balcony. But, why? Clearly Constance inherits, plus life insurance, etc. But what does Marcus get out it? Her? Maybe he thinks so, but no way in hell is she keeping that date!
Next day, Steve decides to visit Betty, the paralyzed girl. He learns that Betty and Marcus scarcely know each other. Marcus works at a farm run by an elderly couple. She, being crippled, tries to relate to the introverted, quiet Marcus. Eventually they hit it off, and Steve learns that Marcus has taken Betty for rides in his beat-up delivery truck, etc. Nothing more, nothing less. Betty insists that Marcus is not capable of violence, except in a protective manner. Then why assault Steve that night at the party? Betty informs him that her sister does not approve of Betty mixing with Marcus, and he was worried Steve had seen too much.
Not convinced, Steve trips out to the barn at night, to discover a corpse tossed against a fence. Turning on his flashlight, he gazes upon the beaten and throttled Constance. Looks like Marcus lost control and strangled her to death after learning she wouldn’t keep her promise. Steve hears a scream and finds Marcus hauling anotherwoman into the barn. Steve recognizes his own secretary, Kitty, as the victim! She came out there not wanting Steve to handle the beast alone, and, against his orders, she made the drive, but instead came upon Marcus in the dark. Steve eventually gets Kitty free of Marcus and ties him up to the sturdy ladder. Then he phones the police from the elderly couple’s home.
Betty learns of the arrest and arrives at the police station with a lawyer. They talk to the jailed Marcus and eventually gather that Marcus, just like Steve, accidentally came upon the corpse of Constance. In fear, he retreated, then heard a noise, and saw Kitty approaching. Fearing for her life, he grabbed her, smothered her mouth, and was secreting her into the barn for her own safety, fearing the murderer was still on the premises, especially since he saw Steve’s flashlight beam and believed Steve to be the culprit.
The police chief releases Marcus with the aid of additional facts. Constance had flesh under her nails from clawing her assailant. Marcus was scratch-free. Steve is annoyed at the embarrassment of having accused an innocent man of murder. We learn that Marcus was Daneston’s imbecile son, from his first marriage. That wife went insane and died in an asylum. Not wanting the son, he gave the boy to his late wife’s parents! Hence the elderly couple at the farm raising him.
There remains one last mission. Arrest the person that murdered Constance. That leaves only one person with a motive: aqua-boy Mike Larkman.
Steve revisits that isolated decrepit cabin and finds Larkman inside sitting against the wall, with not a care in the world. He confesses that his jealousy of Constance’s constant flirting with men incensed him. He even went so far as to catch her smooching Marcus! Confronting her outside the barn, the fiery Constance sent him into an insane frenzy. By the time they were finished arguing and pushing one another around, she was dead. Mortified at what he had done, he vacated.
Steve discovers that Larkman has overdosed on the late Daneston’s medication. Larkman is rapidly going from drowsy to unconscious. Lifting the dead-weight upon his shoulders, Steve hauls him out of the cabin and carries him to his car, then speeds to a ward six miles away. Instructing the doc what med the man overdosed on, they get to work pumping his stomach…so that he may live to die, properly, by execution.
A fun novel from start to finish, one I scarcely had the ability to set aside. Each concluding chapter begged me to read the next, and given that I tend to read at night, you can bet I lost hours of sleep each night. But, hey! how about a little bit of background on the author…
Following the conclusion of World War Two, Bevis Winter found work editing and publishing Stag, a humorous magazine, from 1946-1948. Between those years, he contributed articles and short stories to Stag and other publications, honing his literary skills. Following the publication in 1947 of Sad Laughter, a collection containing some of his humorous short stories, Bevis sold in 1948 his first thriller Redheads Are Poison, followed in 1949 with his second thriller, Make Mine Murder (blogged back in 2016).
An avalanche of novels flowed from his typewriter from 1950-1954, mostly under his alias: Al Bocca. With the mushroom-publishers going out of business due to harsh English fines, censorship, bannings, and jail sentences, Winter rapidly found work writing under his own name for the respectable publisher Herbert Jenkins, supplying them with nine Steve Craig thrillers. These have been translated worldwide into a variety of foreign languages. And much to my own personal delight, the late 2022 issue of Paperback Parade published by crime-collecting afficionado Gary Lovisi features a bibliography on Bevis Winter! And if you wish to read this novel, good luck! Some lucky person(s) purchased the few copies that were on ABE. Maybe they had an inside track to the Winter bibliography.
Romance Ashore is worth recording. It was published by Modern Fiction Ltd., measures about 5×7 inches, side-stapled twice, registered by Whitaker’s as appearing July 1945, and runs from pages 1 and just barely trips over into concluding on page 32. The cover art is clearly the work of H. W. Perl, and signed as such lower left, but not signed in Perl’s usual block-letter fashion. The author is given as Eugene Glen, one of many aliases used by Frank Dubrez Fawcett, the man behind the numerous gangster novels under the popular alias: Ben Sarto.
There are no ads, no copyright notices, no blurb. The interior front and rear covers are blank; the rear is blank. In fact, that is a lot of wasted space. The publisher could have listed all the books they had published to date. But they didn’t.
One further title would appear under the Eugene Glen alias: Passion Adrift (likewise appearing July 1945). As the British Library has noted, when the war ended, they finally began to record hundreds of stock-piled wartime publications, often months, even years, after they had initially debuted. There is a good chance that this was published 1943-1944, especially based on the artist’s signature. I own an original Perl, and it signed and dated 1943. Romance Ashore takes place a short while after the conclusion of the North African campaign, which was May 1943, which is another reason I’m sure this item appeared prior.
The opening lines of the novelette is depicted on the front cover. A young man climbing the stairwell of a tenement building notices a door ajar; and, inside that room?
The vision was one of a young girl seated on a chair, elbows on the ledge, gazing out of the window to where the tall masts and funnels of the newly berthed liner dwarfed the houses in between. Never had Victor Brunt seen such dazzling, youthful beauty. Her delicate profile disclosed an attractively retroussé nose, shapely lips parted, revealing a dazzle of small, white teeth, rounded pink cheeks of rosebud bloom and naturally wavy hair creaming back from her temples like waves from the bows of a ship. Her attitude, leaning forward as she was, displayed a lovely full bosom. Her short frock, crumpled over the thighs, showed adorable plump knees. Altogether, though quite evidently in her teens, this girl displayed all the charms of mature womanhood, yet cast in the most delicate mould.
Victor, given shore-leave, is there to visit his shipmate’s sister, and perhaps, his future wife. But the vision within that room has captured his imagination. Who is she? Why is the photo on the floor? Why does she gaze upon the berthed ships? Is she spoken for?
Dragging himself away from making a fool of himself, he ascends to the next landing and while interacting with his friend’s sister, she confides to him she deplores the women that sell themselves to the seamen, and that one lives directly below her. What, the teen-aged beauty?!?!? Victor can hardly believe his ears.
Attending the local dance, he is distracted when the young lady crosses his path and appears to meet his eyes; a mute communication is loudly spoken between each other. Or so he wishes to believe. Surely she is neither a siren of the sea, nor a whore upon the seashore!
They finally dance together and the event is pure intoxication for Victor. His infatuation becomes love and he finds himself face-to-face with one of her recent male conquests, a seafaring brute by the name of Peter. The two fight outside in the torchlight (flashlights) when about 50 are obtained to form a circle. But when air raid sirens sound, the fight is aborted and everyone seeks the bomb shelters.
Nazis begin bombing the seaport town. Victor escorts the young lady, whose name is given as Adora, to a shelter. After the surrounding buildings are bombed and the planes depart, Victor assists in digging out the wounded and dying. Later, meeting one another again, his clothes are a wreck and his face darkly smudged. The following description proves modernly to be a low point in the story’s arc, but is in keeping with the times:
She looked at him, at first with overwhelming relief at his safety, then with her characteristic teasing look. “You look exactly like a nigger, with the whites of your eyes showing like that.” Then she broke into a silvery laugh. “What a mess your uniform is, Vicky. Will you be called over the coals by the old man?”
She invites him up to her flat to clean off the mess, and he stretched himself luxuriously in the pink enamelled (sic) bath, fragrant with scented crystals.
After some casual chit-chat, Victor professes his love for her, but is jealous of the men who have come before him, and may yet come after him, when he must leave the port and perhaps not return for months or more. Who else will she see? What of all the photographed men upon her wall, with inscriptions of their love for her? And the numerous love letters? Unable to restrain himself, he forces himself free and makes to escape, but Adora has other ideas.
He heard the soft swish of her silken dressing-gown…he spun on his heel and saw her standing before him, the discarded dressing-gown lying in a colourful heap on the carpet. The vision that met his eyes made him draw in his breath sharply. The full perfection of her form stood revealed in all its irresistible allure. Her dimpled shoulders, shapely arms and beautifully moulded legs would have inspired any artist to attempt their portrayal. Her skin reminded Victor of pink-and-white rose petals, so exquisite was its colouring and texture. Her firm, high breasts, rose-tipped, showed distractingly beneath a wispy brassiere of peach silk. Her rounded thighs merged their fullness in close-fitting panties, also in peach silk. As she stood there, with the silken folds of the dressing-gown at her feet, like symbolic waves, she might have posed for Psyche leaving her bath, Venus emerging from the sea, or a youthful Aurora springing like dawn from a rising sun.
It’s hard to believe that this could have come from Frank Dubrez Fawcett, author of countless gangster-crime novels. And yet, the cleanly presented sexual prose almost leaves me wondering why I haven’t ever revisited a Ben Sarto novel. Did I miss something?
The next chapter has Victor waking up, briefly confused, in a single bed, with a very cute Adora snuggling next to him. He wastes little time in reassessing his position, his seaward departure, and again, all those damnable photos upon the walls. How can he compete? Will his departure from port avail her of an open revolving door for other lonely men? He speaks his bitter thoughts and she assumes a strong position, speaking her mind firmly and ousting him from her life for his thoughts and jealousy.
Staggering out the door, he is shamefacedly met by his mate’s sister and future wife. She’s mortified to see him come out of the harlot’s room; he’s mortified to be seen, and one further revelation:
“By George!” he said to himself, though the very thought made him go hot and cold by turns. “I never left any money on Adora’s mantelpiece!”
This is the first clear reference to the fact that Adora may be a paid-woman, but Duprez adroitly dances around UK censors by avoiding such terminology, glorified sex, and other censor hot-buttons.
Back aboard ship, Victor overhears another seaman discussing the peach-ashore by name of Adora. He’s overwrought by emotions, kicks himself for a fool. She clearly has plenty of men in her web. He entreats his shipmate friend to write a letter to his own sister to pave the way for him to re-enter her life and clarify that nothing actually happened between he and Adora. The letter concisely notes that after the air raid he was invited to her quarters to clean up and no extracurricular activity occurred. Victor is convinced this white lie will put him in the clear.
Returning ashore, he sneaks up past Adora’s floor and knocking at his old flame’s door (Violet) she opens up and permits him to explain himself. Victor professes his undying love and affection only for Violet, proposes marriage, she gets all hot and excited and makes out with him in a way that bothers him inwardly. Sure, she feels all the wonderful, heated emotions for him now, but what about later? Will it fizzle? Or will he always see Adora before his eyes and his love for her ruin his future relations with Violet?
Taking her out to the local dance, he’s shaken to see Adora dancing with another man, and she coolly does not appear to notice him. Victor and Violet sit out the next dance, and while drinking at the table, Victor overhears an older couple mention Adora by name and her wondrous virtues.
The older man states: “…I fear most of her pen-friends will fall in love with her when they meet her face to face. A bit risky for her, I mean.”
Oblivious of the table-talk, Violet comments: “I do hope the North African business will make the Nazis surrender. The war can’t last so very long now. But, Victor, you’re not listening!”
He’s not, and she soon learns he is eavesdropping on the elderly couple, so she now takes notice of the conversation, and the elder lady replies: “…She told me that she could always tell by the way the boys wrote to her whether they were likely to become uncomfortably amorous. Then she uses a big-sister technique that freezes them cold and, certainly, the offenders never get a chance of taking her out after that…” and in regard to money-raisers, she “sings, arranges dances, suggests games and competitions…[Adora] collected more than twice as much money as any of the others. It swelled…the Fund enormously!”
Violet has heard enough and pulls one of her I’ve-got-a-headache routines to excuse them from the affair. Demanding she be taken home, Victor does. Violet not only knows she is beat, but she has also entirely misjudged Adora.
Having brought Violet home, she releases Victor from his marital proposal and any future obligations. To add insult to her injured feelings, they overhear a violent cry for help downstairs. Peter is mauling Adora for playing with him.
Victor charges down the steps and delivers two crushing blows. Peter collapses, but, remarkably, instead of running into his arms, Adora is more concerned for Peter’s well-being. She insists he is really a good man, just drunk, and insists Victor assist him. Playing the gentlemanly role, Victor drags Peter from semi-consciousness to full cognition and Peter is now a cool gentleman himself, even going so far as to thank Victor for knocking sense into him! Peter departs and Victor is drawn into Adora’s room…
…and Violet, on the floor above, having watched the whole tableau unfold, tragically sobs: “Good-bye, romance. Good-bye Victor. Why did God allow us to meet?”
Now I have to locate a copy of Passion Adrift, to see if it holds a candle to this little romantic jewel.
Combat is [according to the editor] a magazine with “true” war stories and a sprinkling of fictionalized war stories, and a combination of truth and fiction. The editor was Leslie Syddall.
Son of Albert Syddall (born 1899) and Rosannah (Rose) H. Stott (born 1893), Leslie was born 1922, and like his parents, in Bolton. Albert moved to the United States in 1926, with an occupation listed as “tin plate” worker and final destination initially entered as Philadelphia. This was crossed out and Wooding, Connecticut penciled in. No such place exists, so I’m not sure what the Wooding refers to. His English home address was: 84 Union Street, Bolton. I don’t think the residence exists today (online street images are interesting). Early 1927, Rosannah and son Leslie traveled to the United States. They returned to England that same year, then returned again in 1929, with a residence given as Philadelphia, PA. Rosannah left her son in England when the pair returned later in 1929, placed him in school, and then she returned to her husband Albert in Philadelphia. The 1930 United States census gives his occupation as a metal sheet laborer. Rosannah’s occupation in 1927 is given as that of a “hosiery winder” in 1927; as housewife in 1929. Leslie Syddall married Frances Johnson in 1956 in his hometown of Bolton. The pair had two children: Julie Syddall (1958) born in Farnsworth, and Barbara Syddall (1961) born in Bolton. Just how Leslie Syddall got into publishing is unknown to me.
The magazine was published by Vernon Publications but is generally considered Dalrow Publishing. If the cover format and layout looks familiar to British science fiction fans, that’s because Syddall clearly was working with the assistance of Peter Hamilton, editor and founder of Nebula Science Fiction magazine. Hamilton used the same format from 1952-1959, a tall digest magazine with the title and price and number up to with a white backdrop, the illustration squarely below that, and a thin white strip at the bottom often advertising the authors or a comment. Combat used that same formula. Don’t think so? I’ve posted both here for comparison! The connection is strengthened once you spot ads for Nebula inside issues of Combat. The artist for all illustrated covers was R.W.S., short for Ronald W. Smethurst.
The lead story is Tim Carew’s Gurkha Soldier, and it’s as authentic as they come. Despite that, I’d love for someone from India alive during WW2 to read this story and comment about the accuracy. The author notes that the story is “substantially true”, but the characters and regiment is a work of fiction. So, would you label this as a true story (as FictionMags Index has) or a fictional short story? I lean heavily toward the latter. Jitbahadur Pun is convinced to enlist in the British army during WW2 by a local surviving wounded veteran from the Great War. His experiences range from exposure to hot shower water, being forced to use soap, trim his lengthy hair to near baldness, and dress in military attire. Learning the various use of arms, hand-to-hand combat, tossing grenades, formation, and even riding on a train add to his new life experiences. A very different life to that of a dirt hill farmer. He and his new fellow Indian friends are sent east to battle the Japanese and during trench warfare he witnesses the brutality of life and death. His friends and superior officer are shot down. Snatching up his friend’s machine-gun, sans orders, he leaps up and moves forward, covering dozens of yards. He’s eventually shot but keeps going, mowing down the enemy and tossing a grenade. The next-in-line of command orders the men up and onward after seeing Jitbahadur Pun taking the offense. Our hero ends up losing a limb, recovers in hospital, and by 1951, returns home and is a celebrated hero. The story is filled with numerous terms from India and local flavor, etc., lending further authenticity. Searching online, the protagonist’s name should likely be spelled as “Jit Bahadur Pun”. Tim Carew was born 8 July 1921 at Bury St. Edmunds. Searching the Birth-Marriage-Death UK site I found a Carew died 1980, however, Tim Carew wasn’t his real name. The Library of Congress gives his name as John Mohun Carew. This I confirmed against the UK Birth-Marriage-Death Index, matching his surname and birth info; he died 3 September 1980. He indeed did serve with the Gurkhas down in India and other nearby countries. I am left to wonder if the above short story was excerpted from his autobiographical novel, All This and a Medal Too (1954). If not, it certainly first appeared in the British Army Journal no. 3 (January 1950) as by Captain J. M. Carew.
Next up is A Mission for Odette by W. F. Cousins. This appeared (per FictionMags Index) in London’s The Evening Standard, 4 May 1955 as part of their Did It Happen? series, but in fact is a work of fiction. As to the identity of W. F. Cousins, he ranked as a Captain and was an army PRO in Austria from 1946-1953. Captain Cousins became a staff member of Soldier magazine. This magazine debuted March 1945, but I’ve not had access to it to substantiate his full identity. In 1959, he was still with Soldier magazine and a co-winner of the Sir Harry Brittain Coronation Trophy (along with Sydney Spicer). The story takes place six years in the future after Germany loses the war, in a series of brief flashbacks before returning to the present and culminating in the protagonist completing his assignment: the delivery of a ring to a Jewish concentration camp victim. While in a concentration camp and slated for death in the gas chambers, Odette Churchill is given by Frau Knopf her gold ring. Somehow Knopf had managed to safeguard it past Nazi authorities and into the camp. Despite the Nazis knowing they were losing the war and the end was near, they continued to gas their victims. Realizing her number was likely up, Knopf gives her ring to Odette for safekeeping. If they both survive, Odette is to find a way to return the ring. If Knopf dies and Odette survives, make the most of the ring’s value. Odette survives but is not certain as to the fate of Knopf. Years pass, and discovering that Knopf may be alive, Captain Cousins (the protagonist) must cooperate with authorities in tracing her down and delivering the ring. He succeeds in locating her and after having her describe and sketch the ring, he extracts from a sealed box the very ring she sketched. To say she is shocked and surprised to be reunited with her ring is an understatement, especially since she is homeless and impoverished. The ring will help. It’s a feel-good story and apparently the second time the story has been told, the first time by Odette Churchill’s husband, per a blurb of this story in the Singapore Free Press, 6 September 1955. Bizarrely enough, there sort of really was a real Odette Churchill, only this was an alias; her real name was Odette Sansom, and her background is quite interesting. However, nowhere on her Wikipedia entry does it mention this story nor Captain Cousins.
One Eye, One Hand, One V.C. is by David Lampe Jr., and is the true story account of Belgian officer Carton de Wiart. Not making the grade in university, de Wiart enlisted in the Second Boer War and lost his eye. He would go to earn numerous injuries but always return to the front. He served in The Great War and various other campaigns. He lost his hand when it was blown to a pulpy mess, but not before extracting his own fingers when the doctor refused. The hand had to go shortly thereafter, regardless. The author provides a wonderful, partially fictionalized account of de Wiart and it is damned good fun. His capture during World War Two after his plane crashed led him to be locked away at the Castello di Vincigliata, and his subsequent escape through tunnels that took half a year to construct reminds me of the classic movie The Great Escape. I suspect this article originally debuted in an American “men’s” magazine, as he contributed to 1950s magazines such as True, Swank, and Flying Magazine, etc., but I’ve failed to nail it down.
Biscay Cruise by Stanley Maxted is another article in the Did It Happen? series that appeared in The Evening Standard, 24 June 1955. The table of contents page for CCM mistakenly gives it as Biscay Bay. The tale involves the narrator bringing along a Canadian Naval HQ friend aboard the HMS Onslow. The mission: discover whether the German’s shore guns along the Bay of Biscay were still being manned. While the tale does not provide any concrete dates, the real-life HMS Onslowdid traverse this tract of water from July to August 1944.
Ray Carr brings us a short fiction story entitled Back Room Boy. Carr’s real name is Emile Charles Victor Foucar; born in 30 May 1894, Foucar rose to the rank of Second Lieutenant during The Great War and earned a Military Cross. He became a barrister and moved to Burma, residing there through World War Two and enlisting, rising to the rank of Colonel. While in Burma, he was instructed to write an account on the Burma affair. A decade later, Dennis Dobson published I Lived in Burma (1956). This short fiction story involves the “safe” adventures of Archie Fordingley, a good-looking, intelligent, self-made young businessman in his late 20s. The second world war is in full swing, and his unintelligent underling Jack Smith goes to war. Fearing the war will destroy his business by avoiding conflict, Archie eventually joins the war effort purely as a “back room boy”, an intelligence officer that sees no conflict. He bounced into Africa, then India, and now is sent to the Burma front, to gather intelligence on Japanese movements, etc. Arriving by Jeep, he is to meet with Major Denham but discovers a Jap sniper took him out. He’s introduced to the next gentleman in command, one Lieutenant Smith. Naturally, this is his old subordinate, Jack Smith. Only, he seems fresh, alive, lost a lot of weight and enjoys both the command and the war. Archie is woefully out of his class and realizes his ranking insignia matters little to the warrior before him. Jack shows him the rounds, all the while instructing him to be careful, duck, don’t rattle the bush, etc., Jap snipers, ya know! Well, the Japs cut them off and Jack takes command of one unit only to find the young man covering their other flank has been killed. Sitting on his duff, Archie digs up an ounce of courage, and lifting up a rifle, takes over the unit whose last ranking officer died. Holding out, the night passes, and come morning, all is silent, and Jack is glad the conflict is over, his first real action. Rising, he decides to check in on Jack, only to hear someone holler: “Careful, sir, snipers!” Archie smiles at the edge of the trench back at the young man as a bullet rips through the air and knocks him dead. Foucar would go on to have 15 stories published in Combat. Bizarrely, not a one are recorded as reprints. Was Foucar providing the magazine with original stories, or had these appeared elsewhere in some unknown English newspaper?
Sino-Japanese Incident is by Jack Borg, his first of three stories within the pages of Combat magazine. Borg is the alias of Philip Anthony John Borg, predominantly an author of a few dozen western novels as Jack Borg and nearly 30 more under two more pseudonyms, marking the trio of war stories as unusual entries. This a fictional account during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). Lieutenant Ugimoto is ordered by his Japanese commanders to seek out organized Chinese bandits creating havoc upon Japanese troops and use whatever means at his disposal. Coming upon a poor starving village, he interrogates the villagers, but they feign ignorance. The lie is in their eyes and after discovering two hidden rifles, he orders the entire populace to be slain and the village burned to the ground. Marching out, Ugimoto’s ragged troops are foot-tired, sleep deprived, themselves starving and thirsty. Eventually, one of his reconnaissance men spots a lush, secluded farm. On the property, an old man and young lovely girl. The man is interrogated but he just smiles at them. Angered, he’s tossed aside and they try the girl. She gives them no information on the rebel bandits. Ugimoto decides he’s going to spend the night inside, with the girl. Next day, a frantically frightened sergeant enters. Ugimoto dresses and steps outside to find the old man on his knees, the clothes stripped off and now he knows why the thirsty village and rebels have not ransacked this tiny farm. The man has leprosy. He’s shot dead. Turning on his heels, Ugimoto re-enters the home. The girl exposes some of her flesh, smilingly showing her spots. He shoots her dead, too, then extracts his honorable sword to disembowel himself. The sergeant bows out and runs away from the dreaded leprosy, only to find himself and his ragtag Japanese men riddled by lead from the hidden rebels. They’d been there all the time.
Bevil Charles supplies The Brief Return…, which centers around the protagonist (Reuben) being an archaeologist and unearthing a four-foot Mycenean statue of Aphrodite on the island of Cyprus. To protect it, he secretes the treasure in a crumbling church to the goddess on the island’s hill. He wishes to obtain a military truck to safely remove it to Nicosia, only the girl he is dating (Janet) is daughter to Major Holliday, in command of local forces. It’s unclear whether soldiers or terrorists recently attacked one of their own. Regardless, they are withdrawing from the area, as it is unsecure. During the process, the Major is ordered to investigate the island; rumor is the assailants have a stash of arms cached nearby. So, the Major informs Reuben he may not have a truck, nor can he go rescue the Goddess of Love. Janet wishes to see Cyprus and all her beauty, but her father has continuously blocked her interests. She knows Reuben is making covert plans to somehow rescue the statue. So, Reuben waits for the patrol and rolls his wheels into the procession. Nobody notices the extra truck. He then drifts away from them, being the tailing truck, and eventually hears movement in back of his truck. Someone is moving forward towards the curtained partition. Stopping and jumping out, he gruffly calls to the stowaway, who he expects to be a murderous soldier or terrorist only to find Janet inside. Unable to return her to safety, the two proceed to the crumbling hillside church and she is in awe of the beauty of Aphrodite. Reuben’s love for her admiration of the workmanship behind the statue’s history rapidly turns to horror as he realizes the enemy has been there ahead of him, and deposited crates of arms, dynamite, and grenades. Surely they will return, and double sure, they know the Major is to investigate the island. Cleary the rumor of their location was a plot to attack Janet’s father and crew, to murder all of them. Reuben must somehow run down the hill and intercept the Major before he hits the most likely point, a bridge-crossing! Instead, he hears voices outside and while Janet is inside packing up the smaller artefacts for Reuben, he watches in horror as a couple of killers approach. One splits away while the other gets closer. His stengun is still in the church, on the floor. All he exited with was Aphrodite, to place in the truck. He knocks out the man with the Goddess of Love! Then trusses the unconscious man. Heads down the hill after Janet’s father. Time passes and she is mortified to see the enemy moving in. Reuben can’t possibly make it in time, so she does the only thing possible to arrest everyone’s attention: she pulls pins and hurls two grenades into the church! They detonate and all the arms, dynamite, grenades, everything explodes. She’s thrown back by the concussive blast, but the earth-shattering explosion has done the job. The Major and men stop and turn their guns upon the enemy who are now spotted in rapid retreat after losing all their weapons. But, they are running directly towards Reuben and his stengun. He returns fire. They are all mopped up or captured. Hurrying up, Reuben finds Janet on the floor and professes his love for her, etc., and the Major walks in and learns all of what happened. He’s angry with the pair and naturally would court-martial them if they were under his command, but learning that Reuben sacrificed the Goddess of Love to save his daughter, he accepts that Reuben might actually be man enough to marry his daughter after all…then departs and chews out his N.C.O. An action-packed story that must have appeared elsewhere, I imagine…but where? Bevil Charles’ only claim to fame is that he also contributed the short story Night Flight to the Creasey Mystery Magazine which was adapted as Flight to the East in the Alfred Hitchcock Presents television series. This aired on 23 March 1958 and was reviewed and blogged by Jack Seabrook on his site concerning The Alfred Hitchcock Project, in which Jack is actively reviewing every episode and attempting to track down the source of inspiration. I was glad to assist Jack by providing him with a copy of the original story and suggestion as to the author’s actual identity. In my opinion, Bevil’s wartime action story is the more competent tale of the two, and not only ages well, but could easily be adapted to film. Bevil committed suicide at the age of 33. Perhaps someone will obtain his obituary (if one exists) which may clarify his life history and why he died so young. In case you are wondering, his full name was Bevil Charles Bertram Nance-Kivell. The latter part of the hyphenated name had struck an immediate chord; one Felix Kivell also appears in issues of Creasey Mystery Magazine. It was an easy guess that this was an alias. Eventually I’ll read, blog and review his later works, too.
Private Ted Hollows has just made his first kill, and one of them was a young, beautiful Malayan girl mixed amongst the armed bandits. The world blurs and later he’s in his tent. It’s nighttime and he’s not handling the situation very well. Under the cover of darkness Hollows slips away and staggers towards a distant coastal village, tired, thirsty, delirious. He collapses at the end of town and wakes the next morning. Walking in, he enters what essentially is a bar, orders a drink, and is accosted by two of the enemy. They order him to step outside. Unarmed and clearly a dead man whether he fights it out or not (after all, he is a deserter, so his fate is sealed either way) he calmly accompanies the pair outside. They raise their guns to shoot him down in the back and he flinches as the guns go off, mowing him down. Realization that he’s unscathed, causes him to eye the situation closer. Were they toying with him, teasing, only to still him? No; they are both dead in the dirt. His sergeant and another soldier step forward, reclaim Hollows, and inform him they are shipping out, going home. His asshole of a sergeant has a smile on his features, something nobody has ever seen prior. What’s more, a wink and a fatherly nod, he informs Hollows that none of this transpired. The story is entitled Ambush and written by George Sayce. I’ve no further record of this writer, but he could be English journalist George Ethelbert Sayce (1875-1953) who turned into a newspaper proprietor. He edited for a time the Brecon & Radnor Express.
Frank McKenna’s Bread is a humorous wartime story. It begins years after The Great War when two former POWs run into each other at a restaurant, and the one ribs the one dining on bread. He’s baffled as to the bread remarks until he reflects back to the war, when they were captives of the Germans. While out doing manual labor, a non-soldier German calls to him. Looking to and fro in case it is a trick, he approaches the hidden German who offers bread in exchange for money. Is he kidding? The POWs are poorly fed and vastly malnourished. He lacks the funds, so involves his friend. They investigate the German, find out he is legit, and with much pooled cash, obtain a few loaves of bread! The pair then set up a bargain system with the other inmates, and soon have tons of items to barter for bread. But what if the German tricks them, steals the goods, and keeps the bread? Our “hero” approaches the German and then screams “Unterofficer kommen.” The man flees for his life, while our two guys crawl in and discover a bag filled with loaves of bread. Too much for them. So they must share with the entire POW camp. Every man hides a loaf or two in their clothes and march under their German guards to the camp. But when one loaf, then two, fall from under the garments of one POW, they freak out until the guard snatches up each loaf and himself secretes them in his clothes! The climax is the next day all the POWs have bloated faces and bellies and arms for some bizarre reason. Allergic reaction? When the guards call them outside, they are mortified. The sentries call over Lt. Klaus, and he reprimands the captees, stating no German would ever look so…that is, until the German that snatched two loaves comes outside with the same bloated features! I’d sure love to know where this story originally was published.
Payment Deferred by H. M. Fisher originally appeared in the pamphlet-magazine called Lilliput (March 1943). It’s a short vignette. A man is promoted. In the newspaper, instead of 1942, there was a typo. It states promoted in 942. His cronies suggest he write the royals for a thousand years of backpay. In a drunken foolish stupor, he does just that, and posts it off. Next morning, he realizes to his horror what he has done. He receives a letter in kind, agreeing to the request! The flipside of the paper, however, shows someone has a sinister sense of humor, as they relate that since he was the only promoted officer a thousand years ago, he’s to be held accountable for missing stores of equipment and property during the Norman invasion. Said costs slightly outpace what was owed him, to the effect they request he pay them!
Graham Fisher relates History’s Most Fantastic Jail-Break, reportedly related to him by Wing-Commander R. W. Iredale (Robert Wilson Iredale) of the Royal Australian Air Force. While the name of the secret operation is not given, this true story concerns Operation Jericho. Interested parties may click on the link to read the recorded history there. I located via New Zealand digitized newspapers this tale was printed 7 January 1956 in The Press as History’s Most Fantastic Gaol Break. It was translated into Norwegian and appeared in the magazine Luftens Helter # 33 (January 1958) complete with photos, published as Amiens-raidet by Graham Fischer (sic).
During December 1944, our unnamed protagonist has escaped a poorly guarded makeshift concentration camp: a farmer’s stable. He’s got but a few Reichsmarks in his pocket, not confiscated by the Nazis. On the run, he makes it to a small town but can’t travel by rail too far. Anything more than 100 miles requires a police passport. So he must take short rail trips. But when he arrives in Amstetten, a small northern town in Austria, the ticket lady denies him on the ground that he is a foreigner. He realizes his accent gave him away, and to avoid arousing further suspicion from The Angel of Death, he leaves. He is forced to walk all night to the next railway station, to avoid capture. Afterall, the blonde bitch is suspicious and might call in the police. At the next station, he walks up and requests a ticket, only to be sold a return ticket to Amstetten! He’s mortified. He can’t ask the agent to cancel it and get a different one, in the opposite direction. It would clearly be a red flag. Then inspiration! He asks the same seller if he can have a return-ticket for when he is through being in Amstetten, so he does not have to obtain one at a later date? Yes; he succeeds but must settle in for the night and then take that second train. The author is George A. Floris, and his protagonist, now years after the war has concluded, wonders if the evil blonde, The Angel of Death, is still on duty at the ticket office, or married with a family, or realizes that she may have been his or someone else’s executioner. Floris has at least one article in The Contemporary Review no. 1053 (October 1953) entitled Hungary Under Horthy. He also wrote various articles and letters in The Economist, Sight & Sound (The Film Monthly), Blackfriars, and in US editions of Newsweek. His real name per 1956 British naturalization records is Gyorgy Sandor Schäffer, originally from Hungary. His real name turns up at least once in this foreign newspaper from 1929, the Budai Napló (7 January 1929). I wonder if this tale is a real-life account of his own escape from the Nazis, ergo, an excerpt from a book, or some other source?
This next entry is pure fiction. When Johnny Robins Flew… by Miles Tripp involves a young 18-years old Aircraftman, Second Class, overhearing Canadian flyers arguing about a leaflet-drop they are about to embark on. Seems their rear turret gunner is AWOL with some dame, late for their flight. Johnny Robins realizes this is his opportunity and steps forward. Casually explaining he can handle the gun and has experience, they finally acquiesce. He obtains a jacket and gear, but while in flight, discovers his gear is not enough to properly protect him from the freezing cold elements. He also lacks a parachute. And his helmet-gear does not have the proper apparatus to obtain oxygen. A simple flight goes awry when he suffers from oxygen deprivation and in delirium we see him interact with his girlfriend in various scenarios. Meanwhile, the Nazis flak is peppering the sky and planes take off in pursuit. The Canadians run into trouble and are screaming at him to return fire. He snaps briefly out of his reverie to return fire and takes out a plane sure to kill them. He then faints away from lack of oxygen. One of the crew checks on him and makes the discovery, and they rapidly blanket him with anything possible to save his life, but his fingers and toes are clearly frostbitten. The fictionalized scenario of their landing and having to move his body without anyone noticing is insane, and worse, he’s not permitted to admit he was on that flight. Despite harsh interrogation, he never confesses. The military thinks he merely smuggled aboard to see some action, not realizing he replaced another man. That other man, meanwhile, is brought up to speed and must rehearse his false role in the conflict. He earns a medal, and the now mostly fingerless Johnny Robins, married to his girlfriend, reads of the report, conflict, and medal. She too knows the truth and keeps it secret. He never earns a pension from “self-inflicted injuries” and years later, in the mail arrives the medal, with a note stating that it really belongs to him. I’m not sure where the story was first published, but I managed to trace an earlier edition in Chambers’s Journal (June 1953). Miles Tripp is an English mystery writer and novelist, born 5 May 1923 and died 2 September 2000.
No Bouquets for These by Arthur Catherall is the first of five serial installments. Suspecting it may have appeared previously, I discovered that Tempest published the full serial years earlier as a novel under the byline “Third Mate” in 1951 (per Whitaker’s Index). This alias is not listed anywhere online, as far as I can see. I located a single edition for sale on ABE. The seller only offered up a pitifully reduced quality scan (see here) so I wasn’t able to blow it up and identify the artist. Arthur Catherall’s novel is not recorded on his Wikipedia entry. Nor is a single copy held by any major English libraries, nor found on WorldCat listings. I don’t own a complete run of Combat’s serialization, so I beg your pardon and won’t delve any further.
Assuming, that is, that anyone actually survived reading up to this point !!!