COMBAT: True War Stories # 2 (December 1956)

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 author’s 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 Onslow did 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 !!!

COMBAT: True War Stories # 2 (December 1956)

Who is magazine cover illustrator Alan Wilson ???

A mystery that has troubled me for many a year is the identity of magazine illustrator “A. Wilson”. His works primarily graced the covers of American screen-related magazines. He also landed some “smooth” magazines. However, he never appeared on the cover a genuine pulpwood magazine, though some may consider a handful of his smooth magazines to be pulp in nature, due to the fiction content. His covers focused on accentuating the beauty of the female: her face, hair, makeup, and clothing from the shoulders to upper chest region, but never her breasts. Naturally, his screen-related covers featured popular film and stage actresses of the era, in all their glory, while his non-screen magazines sometimes had such persons depicted. Others are a complete mystery. Were they based on real people or not? The mysterious identity of “A. Wilson” lessened when I discovered he executed covers in Canada under the name of “Alan Wilson.”

I wrote various art institutes and museums in the hopes that Alan Wilson had exhibited with them, in either the United States or Canada. Shockingly, I hit the proverbial wall in both instances. Searching various census databases, I came across possible matches, but nothing definite. Alan Wilson’s name is about as common as John Smith. I’ve tried Archive.org and FamilySearch.org and US Census records. I do not have access to Ancestry.com nor most Canadian historical databases (assuming he is Canadian). At the moment, I’m not sure where he was born!

One possible match appears in the form of Alan Walrond Wilson, born 12 December 1910 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. His father was William Herbert Wilson (1870) and his mother was Bessie St. George Olive (1878). Alan married Frances Margaret Fraser on 15 July 1941; she was born 29 April 1910 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. The pair had two children; one for sure was Margaret Dianne Wilson (1949-1981) and she married someone with the surname possibly being Hayter. Alan’s marriage certificate states that he is a radio “wireless operator”. Given that our illustrator did illustrate some radio magazine covers, this could be a genuine match. His precise death is unclear, but it was prior to 1969. Unfortunately, 1931 Canadian census records won’t be made publicly available for a good long while. Granted, this could be meaningless if he is not the correct person.

Early in my research I had also come across Canadian commercial illustrator Alan Dent Wilson. However, he was rapidly nixed. Why? Well, he was born in the early 1920s, meaning he was an artist by the age of 5. Um, no dice, bub!

Alan Wilson should not be confused with American commercial illustrator Raymond Wilson Hammell, despite both doing covers for Radio Digest magazine in 1931. Raymond Wilson Hammell, a noted American artist born 12 June 1896; he died 23 February 1949. They both executed similar pieces, but the WILSON signatures are entirely different, every time. To be honest, I wish their signatures had either been identical or similar enough to warrant a closer look.

The earliest American cover I could trace appears on Screen Secrets magazine, February 1929, while the earliest Canadian cover I traced belongs to MacLean’s, 1 September 1933, a whole four-and-half years later! It hardly seems logical a man born, raised, and residing his whole live in Nova Scotia could possibly have been submitting paintings to New York, New Jersey, and Toronto publishers.

My love and interest in Alan Wilson began with the trio of covers he created for Mystic Magazine (1930-1931), signed as “A. Wilson”, of course. It seemed unusual that this had no profile page, no record in any historical books, etc. But of course, many such mysteries exist unsolved or go unnoticed. In America, he would go on to illustrate a minimum of 15 screen and radio related magazines, and 10 other assorted magazines, spanning 1929-1935. Many of his American radio and film covers are not signed by the artist on the cover, so that information often came from the Table of Contents page. If anyone collects those types of magazines, I’d love your input, as no doubt I’m missing many more entries. In Canada, I’ve confirmed he illustrated at least 25 covers for MacLean’s from 1933-1936 and one for Chatelaine in 1933. He may have done more for the latter, but that title is tough to locate.

So, in all, his 50+ works span 1929-1936, and then he abruptly vanishes. If anyone can fill in the blanks for me, I’d be deeply grateful to learn more about this illustrator.

Below is a partial list of his known American and Canadian appearances, as well as some bonus items at the bottom.

AMERICAN MAGAZINES:

1929 Feb – Screen Secrets
1929 Apr – Screen Secrets
1929 May – Screen Secrets
1929 May – True Confessions
1929 Jul – Screen Secrets
1929 Fall – Your Body
1929 Oct – Prize Story Magazine
1929 Oct – Screen Secrets
1929 Nov – Screen Secrets
1929 Dec – Screen Secrets
1929 Dec – True Confessions
1930 Nov – Mystic Magazine
1931 Jan – The Illustrated Love Magazine
1931 Jan – Mystic Magazine
1931 Mar – Mystic Magazine
1931 Apr – The Illustrated Love Magazine
1931 May – Radio Digest
1931 Jun – Radio Digest
1931 Nov – The New Movie Magazine
1931 Dec – Street & Smith’s Real Love Magazine
1932 Jul – Street & Smith’s Real Love Magazine
1933 Jun – Hollywood Movie Novels
1934 Jan – Street & Smith’s Picture Play
1934 Nov – Screen Play
1934 Nov – Radioland
1935 Apr – Screen Play

CANADIAN MAGAZINES:

1933 Sep 1 – Maclean’s
1933 Oct – Chatelaine
1933 Nov 15th – Maclean’s
1933 Dec 1st – Maclean’s
1933 Dec 15th – Maclean’s
1934 Feb 1st – Maclean’s
1934 Mar 1st – Maclean’s
1934 Mar 15th – Maclean’s
1934 Apr 1st – Maclean’s
1934 May 1st – Maclean’s
1934 Jun 15th – Maclean’s
1934 Jul 15th – Maclean’s
1934 Aug 1st – Maclean’s
1934 Sep 1st – Maclean’s
1934 Sep 15th – Maclean’s
1934 Oct 1st – Maclean’s
1934 Oct 15th – Maclean’s
1934 Nov 15th – Maclean’s
1934 Dec 1st – Maclean’s
1935 Mar 15th – Maclean’s
1935 Jun 15th – Maclean’s
1935 Sep 15th – Maclean’s
1936 Feb 1st – Maclean’s
1936 Mar 1st – Maclean’s
1936 Sep 15th – Maclean’s
1936 Nov 1st – Maclean’s

FOREIGN MAGAZINES:

1932 Apr – Hjemmet (Norway) original cover source unknown
1934 Dec – Suplemento (Argentina) cover from Street & Smith’s Picture Play (January 1934)

MISCELLANEOUS:

One lithograph and one “pin up” piece have also been discovered, both undated, sources unknown

Who is magazine cover illustrator Alan Wilson ???

Six Gun Serenade by Earle Sumner

WORLD DISTRIBUTORS Six Gun Serenade
Six Gun
Serenade (as noted on the cover and spine; Sixgun Serenade, as noted within) carries the byline Earle Sumner, and was published by World Distributors Incorporated, as part of their All Star Western series, likely around 1950. The artwork is signed simply “Anthon.” The novel runs from page 3 to 127. The final page lists other titles in the All Star Western Series. The interior front and rear covers are blank, wasted space. The rear cover features the following blurb for this novel:

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All-in-all, the blurb reads like any other typical western of the era, however, unlike the last western I read from the All Star Western series, this one features a superb plot, plenty of action, some romantic angles, etc. All the proper elements for an enjoyable western are present.

The story actually begins with Harry Crabb rushing into bar in Green Valley in search of a friend, Paul Martin. Harry has just returned from business in Apache City, a town that sprung up once the railway lines spread West. In a bustling bar there, he runs into Garry Swift, who has some time ago been released from the penitentiary for the murder of a Green Valley resident. Seems that Swift has returned from his Eastern imprisonment to exact revenge on all the parties responsible for the murder of his father, a decade earlier.

Green Valley was accidentally discovered by Swift’s father when he was still just an infant. Part of a westward-bound caravan, Swift senior explored a vast mountain and discovered his own version of Eden. Upon returning to the caravan, he found death and destruction at the hands of roaming, rampaging Indians. While sorting through the debris for all he could salvage, he hears a noise and discovers the infant hidden, safely ensconced by its mother, his dead wife. Stricken with grief, Swift takes his infant son Garry to what he dubs Green Valley and puts his entire life into its development.

Fast-forward through the years, the government refuses to acknowledge Swift’s rights to having grub-staked the entire valley, and allots only an eighth of an acre to him and anyone else that moves in. A feud develops between he and the larger, wealthy ranchers. Eventually, he’s roped and shot dead. Then a young man, Garry Swift pursues those responsible for his father’s murder and theft of his lands. However, after he murders a local inhabitant, the local sheriff arrested Garry Swift and sent him in shackles East.

A decade later, the sheriff is dead and his son Ken Morris has become sheriff in his stead. Ken grew up with Garry and they were close friends throughout childhood, roaming throughout the valley and discovering many of its various secrets, and keeping those findings to themselves. The late-sheriff’s deputy, Happy Hogan, becomes Ken’s deputy. It is from Ken that we learn the entire backstory of Garry’s father’s past and Garry’s eventually imprisonment. After Harry Crabb’s arrival, Ken spends time in the sheriff’s office reading through old files and wonders…just who did murder Garry’s father?

Ken decides to ride out of the valley and visit Apache City, in the hopes of crossing paths with his once childhood friend, in the hopes of persuading him to move along. Eventually running into Garry, the young vigilante declares to Ken to call him “Swift.” While at the bar, much discussion ensues, but Ken finds that the hatred fills the young man’s soul and that Garry Swift intends to run hell through Green Valley.

Departing, Ken runs into a gorgeous young lady. Discovering a star attached to his chest, she assumes that he is the local sheriff, and states that a man helping her off the train apparently made off with her luggage, disappearing somewhere between the rail depot and the hotel. Ken corrects her that he isn’t the local sheriff but happy to assist her. She eventually disgorges that she has purchased an abandoned plot of land within Green Valley and is planning to develop it for the use of raising hogs.

Surprised that this lovely beauty could possibly raise hogs herself startles him but she is certain of her abilities, and has two hands coming along to assist. She also plans to locally purchase horses to be eventually brought into Green Valley. Ken hopes to meet her again one day and she invites him to visit her any time.

Pages onward contain his infatuation with the young lady, visiting her farmstead, meeting her two hands, checking out the premises, visiting some more, etc. Later, he rides back to town to discover that Garry Swift, who has been missing for weeks, after his Apache City threats, has finally resurfaced and made a mockery of the locals. They realize the sheriff has been “visiting” instead of working and he is ridiculed. Fast of temper, and easily riled, he realizes that his father would never have made his blunder.

While organizing the town towards gathering himself a posse to hunt Swift, that worthy rides into town while they are all busy listening to the sheriff expound upon his plans. He walks into the general store, ties up the owner, tosses him out back into a barrel, and sets the store ablaze.

The sheriff is made the buffoon once more; Swift outmaneuvered the sheriff. Unable to figure out how Swift keeps making his assaults and escaping sans detection, Happy Hogan finally throws into Ken’s face that its mighty peculiar that Swift showed up right when the young lady and her crew arrived. The insinuation sets Ken’s temper ablaze and the strikes down his deputy, then forks leather and goes solo to hunt the malcontent.

Deeply troubled by Happy Hogan’s suggestions, Ken realizes that his deputy may well have stumbled onto the truth, but then dismisses the entire premise as fantasy. Having searched the valley all through the night, by morning, he is exhausted, and finds himself near the young lady’s property. Deciding to drop in, he is well-received and while she prepares coffee and a meal for him, she admonishes him for overworking and suggests he rest. This he does, slipping into a brief slumber. Reawakening, he departs, but not until after he lands a kiss on her. She’s shocked by the kiss, doesn’t appear to know how to react, but then alludes that she’s a lot on her mind, and seems happy.

He rides off into NeverLand, his thoughts in the clouds, day-dreaming about the girl, when, miles down the dirt path, a rope swishes down from above, and unseats the sheriff from his horse. Deposited roughly upon the turf, he attempts to extricate himself when Swift removes his hardware. Leaving him thus trussed, and firmly secured, he confiscates the gun, tosses it onto the horse, and tells Ken to start walking all those long miles back to town.

Swift’s intention is to humiliate Ken, and it works. He could walk back to the girl’s ranch, but he realizes he could never live down the shame. So, he decides to hoof it into town, hoping to sneak in under cover of darkness, and get Happy Hogan to release him. Life doesn’t work out that way. He trips, stumbles, falls, can’t get up, when a wagon rolls up and those aboard recognize the rolling dirty mess as their missing sheriff. Laughing hard at his discomfiture, he declines an offer to ride into town, deciding to finish the walk as intended. They ride on ahead, to share their newfound knowledge…

Realizing his career is doomed, he turns in his star right before the townspeople demand his resignation. Gathering some of his worldly goods, he boards his horse (which walked into town after Swift released it) and departs the valley, heads over the pass and out to Apache City.

There, he gets into a near-drunken brawl with some barflies, desiring to take his anger out through use of his fists. The city sheriff drags him away, thinks about charging him $200 for disorderly conduct, but decides the people in that particular bar needed shaking up, and charges only half the rate. Ken pays up, and sleeps off his fury…but not before asking the sheriff a question. Does the sheriff recall seeing the pretty girl?

Why, yes! In fact, he assisted her off the train and carried her luggage to the hotel for her.

Ken is gobsmacked. When he first had met her, she lied to him, claiming an unknown man carried her luggage and she never saw it again. What’s more, she HAD to know the man was the sheriff, and pretended that Ken, seeing he had a star on HIS chest, was the local sheriff. Yet, the Apache City sheriff stated clearly that he had informed her that HE was the sheriff.

Realizing that Happy Hogan may well be 100% correct, Ken follows up his inquiry with one more: how many horses did she locally purchase? He knows the farmstead has 14; he’s informed they purchased 15. Now he knows how Swift obtained a horse without being seen to cross the valley’s pass. She gave it to him.

Mentally destroyed by this information, he purchases a railway ticket, bound East, when he suddenly hears news that a major rancher was gunned down, and, another was shot but not dead. Learning that they were involved in the possible death of Swift’s father, and being close friends of his, he realizes that Swift has gone from prankster, to murderer. He must be stopped. However, he does not inform anyone of his intentions to remain. Instead, he leaves Apache City and rides away for several miles, before eventually checking his back trail, then circles wide, and enters the valley from a little-known pass.

What transpires next is guts. Under cover of darkness he crashes the girl’s ranch, finds that one of the hands is standing guard, knocks him out with his gun, and walks into the home, to find her. She is in a state of shock, seeing Ken standing there. Mortified, she doesn’t utter a word. He demands the truth and she confesses to everything, but firmly notes that Swift never murdered or shot those men, lest they tried to shoot him. She promises she forced him to not murder, and Swift is a man of his word.

Ken thinks a decade changes a man while incarcerated, that his promise means nothing. The other hand (Brent) sneaks in behind him, gun leveled. The girl orders him to drop his gun, not to harm the sheriff. Brent is ordered to ride with Ken to search for the missing Swift, and prove his innocence. While riding to town they discover a badly wounded Happy Hogan, shot via a rifle bullet, and badly battered. He mumbles a couple seemingly incoherent words, but they are enough for Ken to ascertain who might be the culprit behind the whole charade.

Realizing that Happy Hogan is knocking at Death’s door, he sends Brent along with the unconscious deputy onward to town to fetch the doctor. Ken swings his horse towards a ranch (on the off-chance anyone DOES own a copy, and wants to read the book, I won’t divulge the identities the villains) and pays them a visit. The boss isn’t home, his tophand answers the knock, demands to know why Ken wants to see the boss. Ken refuses to cop a reply, departs, but swings into shelter far away to watch the ranch’s proceedings. Many hands later depart, then, the tophand fetches his horse and rides into the opposite direction, up into the mountainous region.

Ken’s convinced he is paying the boss a visit, and at a discreet distance, follows the man up until he loses his trail. Backtracking, he discovers the cliche cleft between boulders, rides through, discovers a hidden cabin. Watching, he decides that Swift may be inside, a captive. But when the boss, tophand, and one other make to depart, Ken is left in a precarious position. He can’t get his horse to back out fast enough to escape their departure, so, he discovers another recess in the rocks, deeply shadowed, and muzzles his horse. The trio pass him undetected; after a good pause, he slowly moves out of hiding, and breaking into the cabin, discovers Swift tied up, ropes tied firmly to his thumbs, holding his suspended in the air, stretched, barely able to suspend himself on his tippy-toes.

Cutting him down, Swift collapses in a heap and deliriously realizes he’s been rescued by his childhood friend. Shots ring out and Ken realizes he blundered; while they may have passed him in the rocks, upon exiting the cleft, they would have seen the extra set of horse prints! Trapped inside the cabin with a seemingly beaten and battered Swift, he sets himself up to fight to the death. Swift proves more worthy than believed, and obtaining a six-gun, assists in holding off their assailants, when, inexplicably, the roof of the cabin begins to shudder…under the impact of numerous boulders loosed from above. Noting that the roof will soon cave in, they begin to panic, but the outlaws have other plans. Now that the roof has been breached, they’ve set the top afire!

Holding out as long as possible, the pair realizes they’ll have to abandon the smoky, blazing inferno. Exiting and firing on the run, they’re mystified to receive zero in return. The outlaws have vanished! Why? They soon discover that Brent has returned with a posse, and that those on the rocks atop must have seen them from far away. Likewise, the posse sees the smoke from the fire and have their bearings.

Boarding their own respective horses, they exit the hiding place and meeting up with the posse, quickly swap details and fork leather to pursue the remaining pair of villains: boss and tophand gunslinger, who we learn from Swift had confessed to murdering his father all those years ago!

Spotting the pair as tiny black dots in the distance making for a cave and underground river system, they barricade the pair inside and decide to maintain a safe distance, with the intention of outlasting them. Swift and Ken, meanwhile, from their childhood days of exploration, recollect higher up the mountain a tiny shaft in the rocks that’ll allow them to drop down above the pair, but it’s a dangerous descent without ropes and light to guide them. Rounding the top, they find the hole covered by a huge spider web and realize that the pair inside the cave likely aren’t aware of this secret entrance, as the web would be destroyed. Picking the web aside, they enter, only to have tragedy ensue.

One of the pair slips down the rocks and falls into the water, which itself is a death-trap, sucking everything down and under the ground, and out again to an unknown source (earlier in the novel a bunch of steers were forced down that river to their death). Both battered from their own respective falls eventually do get the better of both villains. No sense ruining the quick action for you. The whole book is loaded with great action sequences.

Story ends with both Swift and Ken carted away, shot, battered, unconscious, to recover in town. Waking up, Ken eventually finds Swift gone and learns from the girl that he has left, for good. He’s also given up his “claim” on the girl, who he was to marry, but discovers that she is in love with Ken. The townspeople forgive the girl for his cooperation in the Swift shenanigans, she offers Ken a job on another newly acquired ranch. Gaping, he can’t believe she wants him to be her tophand, when she clarifies: “Do I have to ask you to marry me?…I’m asking you to be Boss…and I want to be the first to carry the new brand.”

A damn fine novel, only, a damn shame that I do not know who the actual author is! If anyone possesses information towards solving the identity of Earle Sumner, I would be grateful.

Six Gun Serenade by Earle Sumner

Desert Intrigue by Earl Ellison (Hamilton & Co., 1949)

Desert IntriguePublished 1949 by Hamilton & Co., Desert Intrigue sports a charmingly romantic cover illustration by noted English artist Reginald Heade. The novel is penned by the pseudonymous Earl Ellison; that alias was, up until his untimely death, 100% written by N. Wesley Firth. Originally simply born as Norman Firth, he adopted the “Wesley” after his own father passed away. Firth was incredibly prolific and required the need to adopt numerous nom de plumes in order to have his fiction simultaneously published.

The publisher failed to paginate the novel. Assuming the frontis is Page 1, the story spans pages 3 through 94.

The next page begins a short story by Margaret Graham entitled One-Man Woman; this ends on Page 126. No clue who she is, though there was a fiction writer by that name operating at least between the 1890s-1910 era. This isn’t that woman. Pages 127-128 are ads.

Returning to Desert Intrigue, the blurb sets out the following:

Ever since Graham had been killed while flying in the R.A.F., Kathryn Morny had suffered an agony that nothing seemed to ease. But, sensibly, she realised that brooding would not help her face the empty years ahead, and when she learned that her new job was to take her journeying across the sun-drenched dunes of the Sahara, she felt that here was the opportunity she needed to escape from the bitterness that filled her heart. She felt drawn irresistibly towards the relentless desert, for her lover had been killed while flying over its far-flung wastes. Visiting the places, gazing at the scenes she knew he himself must have witnessed, somehow brought him very close to her…

Being an ardent fan and collector of Norman Firth, I originally thought, prior to viewing the blurb, that this book might just be another of his romance novels. A deeper hope held that due to the background image and suggestive novel title, it could be a French foreign legion novel! Dismayed by the latter, I was thrilled to discover the romantic novella actually contains mystery and action, and a bona fide plot.

Kathryn replies to a want-ad for a secretarial position to author and script-writer Steven Pendleton, who has been hired by the French government to write about the African desert, etc. Tagging along is his lovely wife, Fay. Naturally, one imagines that the distraught Kathryn will cause a catfight, attempt to become romantically involved with the author, but none of this is the case. They all get along perfectly.

Also involved with the adventure is a film crew consisting of an overweight French director, a camera and field man, and a cocky young Englishman (Ralph Cardingham) bent on conquering Kathryn. She is put off by his attitude, mannerisms, and speech.

While trekking across the desert wastes, Ralph sabotages the second truck (in which Kathryn, author, and wife travel) and his own group sets out early morning and creates a vast lead. They later are stuck in the shifting sands, and discover that truck #2 is nowhere in sight. Leaving his two pards behind to dig out the wheels, Ralph faux-heroically sets off on foot to rescue the missing truck, knowing full well it likely broke down at some point. However, Ralph runs afoul of a roving gang of bandits. They take him hostage and toss him in their fort. Shame they didn’t just behead him!

Meanwhile, back at truck #2, they have indeed broke down and realize that they must forge ahead on foot. Making their way across the desert, they spy the old abandoned WW2 remains of a known fort and make their way towards it, knowing that a well of water exists there. Entering, they are despondent to discover the place is inhabited…by many camels. Where are the owners?

Deciding to abandon the need for water, they make to quietly exit but find themselves rapidly surrounded by the murderous sheik-bandit and his gang of outlaws. They are tossed in the “jail” only to find the Englishman, Ralph, nonchalantly awaiting them. He bluffs his casual capture and the falsified facts of how he came to be there. The trio (Kathryn, Steven & Fay) believe maybe he isnt the scoundrel his reputation carries, after all. While yakking, the sheik enters and withdraws Kathryn to dine with; he is enamored by her beauty and intends to take her with him to his distant mountain stronghold.

In fact, they must leave soon, for a rival bandit-gang led by El Tigro is approaching. Little is known about the identity of El Tigro save that he is reportedly an Englishman who has adopted the ways of the Sahara and plunders and murders all in his path, but the more Kathryn learns about the violent El Tigro, the more she fancies he sounds like her lost love, Graham, who was shot down over the desert during the war years, crashed, and burned. His body was found nearby, charred.

Finding the fort soon under assault by El Tigro, who has zeroed on the sheik’s position, the villain again snatches Kathryn and sends her with his second-in-command to ride quickly to a remote mountain stronghold many miles distant. Remaining behind with his men, a blazing battle ensues. Realizing he is losing men and ground, the sheik abandons his ill-fated men to their demise and flees after his second and Kathryn…

El Tigro seizes control of the fort, learns people are locked inside, and brazenly busts in the door…to find himself face-to-face with an Englishman, a woman, and is stupefied to discover one of his WW2 flying mates (Steven Pendleton) in the cell. They recognize each other and it is revealed that El Tigro is indeed Kathryn’s dead lover, Graham! While much handshaking ensues, the cocky Englishman (Ralph) realizes he must rescue Kathryn first before El Tigro does, or he will have lost his sexual conquest. He leaps outside and steals El Tigro’s horse, and takes off in pursuit of the sheik and company.

El Tigro is infuriated by this act. That was his horse, and, the only horse remaining in the company. He must pursue via camel.

Fast-forward, the sheik’s second and Kathryn stopped for the night. The sheik eventually catches up and is enraged that the second didn’t continue onward through the night. He knifes the second to death. Not far on his heels, Ralph has gained ground via horseback and jumps the sheik! A dazzling fight ensues but ends with the sheik thrusting his knife into the young man. Leaving him for dead, the sheik grabs Kathryn, and departs for the stronghold…

Not much later, El Tigro arrives on the scene, discovers the young man mortally wounded, delirious, but still alive. Leaving Ralph behind, El Tigro continues his pursuit and eventually catches up with the sheik-bandit. The usual fight ensues, he wins, captures the bandit, and discloses his secret identity to Kathryn, however, no romance ensues. Graham believes that she married long ago and/or the young Englishman (Ralph) to be her lover. Plus, contracted to work for the French government under the guise of El Tigro, he is hardly free to pursue her. Keeping emotionally distant from her, they return to the wounded Ralph to find him tended by not only Steven and Fay, but, a French army company! How did they come to be there?

Well, El Tigro had sent communications back in advance of his raid on the fort, noting the sheik-bandit’s locale and requesting reinforcements. The bound bandit is turned over to French authorities and El Tigro is honorably discharged. Ralph informs all of his awful dreadful deeds but is forgiven by both Kathryn and the former El Tigro. Officially relinquished from active-duty, Graham is now free to pursue his former life…and Kathryn.

And the French film director? From all the aforementioned action, he now has a new motion picture idea, one that will not feature Ralph in the lead, but the late El Tigro, possibly, instead, who has suddenly found himself out-of-work, and he has the perfect romantic lead…

THE END … and then we tackle the bonus short story by Margaret Graham…who might well be an undiscovered alias for N. Wesley Firth…or not.

In short order, Denise is married to Robin Dane; her husband will soon pick her up and go on their honeymoon. Another woman appears on the scene; she claims to be married to the same man! Shows a marriage certificate. Our heroine is distraught, flees the abode, goes out for a drink; an old friend from her days of rural youth spots her and they chat. Denise does not disclose her marriage or woes. Her friend offers a farm-job with her and her brother. Accepting the job, the offer gives Denise the opportunity to escape her woeful predicament and not face the cad. While working on the farm, a young man attempts to convince the sister to marry him. She rebukes him. Our heroine learns why: she wants to be “loved,” and while the man does love her, he just isn’t “exciting.” Denise visits young man, explains what he needs to do to win her over. He takes this in stride and pursues the sister again: wins. With the sister soon out of the scene, Denise decides she can’t remain working on the farm, alone with an eligible bachelor. While short-cutting across the farm, Denise is nearly gored by a maddened bull. The farmer rescues her and clumsily professes his love for her. Denise isn’t the least bit interested. She still misses her own husband, Robin, but weeks have gone by…and remarkably, there he is! How did Robin find her? Well, she had written a letter to her landlady, no return address, but, postmarked the region she is in, which turns out to be a tiny area. Robin obtained the letter’s envelope, spotted the mark, traced it, and from there, asked around until he found her residence. He explains he also had a run-in with the “other wife” and that the woman was wrong. Her private detective had found the wrong man, that there are many other Robin Dane’s in England! When Robin confronted the other woman, she was equally dismayed she had wronged the young couple. All facts clarified, Denise and Robin continue their relationship, and…the farmer walks in to find them making out and he realizes he is now the odd-man-out. A sad ending for him, as he isn’t a bad fella.

Desert Intrigue by Earl Ellison (Hamilton & Co., 1949)

Fight Stories (v1 #3 – August 1928)

Fight Stories debuted in June 1928 as part of the Fiction House line of pulps and ran for 47 issues until its untimely demise May 1932. It would be resuscitated Spring 1936 and run for 59 additional issues until Spring 1952. Featured here is the 3rd issue, dated August 1928, sporting cover art by Abell Sturges. Story head illustrations credited to Frank McAleer and Allan Thomas per the contents page. I will be including below all of those illustrated story heads.

Jack Byrne‘s novelette Bare Fists is too damn good to provide an abridged synopsis. Jack debuted in the pulps the prior year and scorched out ten rapid-fire yarns, most for Fiction House’s Action Stories. Two cousins with an interest in the same girl duke it out in high school. “King” Carroll comes from money and moves on to college. The lady of interest likewise goes to the same co-ed school. Bill Carroll, son of a farming family, is without funds to pursue higher education. He remains behind, works and saves up money attend the same college. Entering as a freshman, he watches from afar a fight between a freshman and a sophomore. Why? An annual competition, freshman must face off against the sophomore defender to win the right not to wear certain clothes and hats or be hazed, etc. They always lose. The winner wins by beating their opponent and dragging them across the opposing line. “King” is chosen for the third round.

Bare Fists by Jack Byrne

The freshman’s challenger is unavailable, but the newly arrived Bill Carroll has already shown as a physical specimen. Dragging him forward against his will he is met with much surprise and hatred by his cousin. For the first time since that high school brawl, Bill greets his cousin. Nobody realizes they are related. At least, not then. “King” delivers a brutal knockout punch to Bill’s jaw. Delirious, on the ground, “King” rolls and drags him strugglingly toward that line. Bill revives in time, a mere foot away, and the pair duke it out. “King” likely wins at he falls unconscious upon Bill, knocking him backwards toward the line, but a freshman catches Bill and the entire field erupts into a free-for-all. Skipping tons of various scraps over the days and weeks, the pair are called before the dean and forced with expulsion or behave as gentlemen. “King” smartly says so long as they are campus, yes. Bill picks up the key words and concurs. The dean is smarter than these two dopes. He’s brought to the campus the boxing training legend “Spider” McCauley. His job is to train the pair to box. Moreover, a print sheet is circulated at the school enlisting other boys to join. These two however have no choice. “King” has been exiled from football by the faculty overnight and Bill is enlisted against his will. Either may refuse and accept a permanent car-ride home. Succeeding pages involve the pair getting in shape and Spider training all the boys. “King” has brute strength and finesse, whereas Bill shows quality but sloppy inside the mitts. Spider mentions to his assistant that Bill has a killer bare-fist punch that would have done well in the pre-mitt days, but his cousin would slay him in the ring. Bill is clearly superior within a challenger’s reach, but kept at bay, he’s done. Then again…his piledrivers spell doom if they connect. And a knockout counts! Arranging “King” to watch Bill after weeks of private training, Bill loses two rounds against a conditioned boxer then knockouts out the bloke in the third round. “King” isn’t impressed, but Spider repeats in less than 3 minutes, a well-conditioned boxer just went down to a work-in-progress. “King” hasn’t kept up his training, but smugly retorts to his classmates that his cousin won’t “get inside” of his reach. It angers Bill that he trains so hard while his cousin scrapes by in studies, scarcely works out, eats and smokes as he will, and fools around off campus. Bill even keeps away from girls, including high school sweetheart Mary Carson, who he passes at times on campus and sees with “King” too. She’s infuriated he won’t make time to spend time with her, yet notes “King” freely does so. He writes her a letter discussing the team eliminations bout Thanksgiving night. If he survives, he’d like to take her to the dance. She writes back an acceptance. That long-awaited night arrives, and eventually after several bouts, “King” and Bill Carroll are the last two standing and now it’s their turn. Bill is headed to the locker room to prepare when he overhears Spider and his assistant discussing Bill and “King” casually. Spider affirms that Bill will win against the lazy “King” who would easily win if he had trained. Bill is nothing by a second-rater. Stunned, Bill eases into the locker room and sits, stunned. Bill goes into the ring and toys with “King,” taking long punches from “King” to his face readily but while exposed, steps in and delivers kidney punches, gut busters, etc. Beating his cousin mercilessly, every time they clinch, Bill explains to “King” what he’s planning to do him. The crowd thinks “King” will win. Mary Carson is cheering on “King” too, while feeling bad that Bill is getting pummeled. “King” has clearly landed many more punches to Bill that vice versa, but Spider can see “King” is soft. Even Bill comments with each clench things like “your belly is soft,” and “that’s for drinking.” His cousin is torched, through, weak-kneed, yet won’t fall because Bill walks in and clinches to support him. After destroying his opponent, he inexplicably throws the match, telling “King” he plans to make sure “King” wins, that he has a future in the ring if trained properly. He’s willing to lose!!! But he has to do so with science, cleverly. Delivering a brutal fist to “King” that latter falls back scarcely supported by the ropes. The crowd is shocked. They thought he was solid the whole time. Not it is evident he is done, all a façade. Nobody hears it, but Bill whispers as he closes, telling “King” to swing. And he does, with every last willpower he can muster. The mitt connects and Bill goes down and enjoys the numerical count with each passing second. He won, oh, he won. And he’s going to make sure “King” keeps training, whether he likes it or not. After the match, Spider storms into the locker room, livid with rage. He immediately recognized a thrown match and demanded to know what Bill was doing. Bill replies that “King” will be the heavyweight champion and, getting up, leaves behind a confused Spider. Mary Carson is waiting for him to take her to the dance, but he says no, he lost. Mary knows better, and informs him he won. She knows! He rejects the dance. He hasn’t time for such things. He must remain focused, must train “King.” The pair walk side by side out into the night. Next day, Bill waits for “King.” That latter goes to town, skipping his training. Bill is there. A shadow. Calls him to task. And knocks “King” publicly flat out. He’s dragged back to campus. “King” won’t go to sleep at the proper time? Bill short-circuits the dorm’s wires! “King” is caught smoking off-campus; Bill slaps it out of his mouth and they fight, and Bill eventually drops his weakened cousin. “King” can’t stand up to Bill’s bare fists! His only chance is the ring. A week of this and “King” relents. He promises to train, wins the championships or do down trying. And however it ends, he’s coming back, back to a final show-down with Bill and his bare fists! “King” wins all his fights but each time loses his sanity. In his final fight, he is clearly crushed and insane, trying to strip of his gloves and muttering bare fists all he sees now is Bill Carroll in the rings. He mauls his opponent, going in for in-fighting jabs Bill Carroll style now, murderous blows. Bill back home reads of the wins but doesn’t know that “King” has lost his mind, is muttering bare fists at the bouts… “King” is suffering from blood lust. For 3 days Bill waits for his cousin at the train depot but he never arrives. He picks up Mary and takes her to the Homecoming dance. In the gym, he finds “King” there in a rich man’s tuxedo that makes Bill’s looks cheap. “King” invites Bill to step outside into the snow. He accepts. Mary is mortified. Following the pair outside, begging them not to fight, they strip down and strike. But this fight has no ring-rules, so “King” has the edge. He’s trained. He’s a killer. And he’s not fighting Bill. He’s killing him. Bill goes down, down, down, and “King” keeps grating out Bare Fists! Mary shrieks in fright, seeing not “King” but Death. That shriek pierces Bill’s foggy mind and snaps him awake. And from the ground, with a murderous piledriver coming down to meet his upraised delirious face, Bill comes alive. The conclusion has “King” knocked out and bloodied, Bill climbing unsteadily to his feet, bloodied, and Mary calling him a brute to his face for what he has done. Bill turns on his feet, swaying, and walks away, leaving her cradling the unconscious head of his cousin. He’s more bewildered and confused when she approaches him, beats him about the chest, the inexplicably hugs and kisses him. Was she up until that point confused as to which Carroll she loved? She would never in life tell him, but she had fallen in love with him many years ago, when they were 7 years old and he of the two Carroll’s rescued her cat. Women!

Abell Sturgess illustration

Fight Stories also ran boxing articles on current and past canvas sluggers such as this one. New Zealand-born boxer has an article called Tom Heeney’s Own Story, as told to William Morris. He famously came to America and battled Gene Tunney at Yankee Stadium 26 July 1928. Heeney arrived in America a year prior, had 9 bouts; 6 wins, 1 loss, 2 draws. His first loss and first draw in America incidentally were to the same man: Paulino Uzcudun Eizmendi. The second draw was to famed boxing legend Jack Sharkey. Heeney would ultimately chalk up his second loss, to Tunney, but this magazine debuted before that boxing bout took place. Abell Sturgess supplied a half-page illustration depicting what he thinks the first clash between Heeney and Tunney would look like.

The Broken Idol by T. W. Ford

Like Jack Byrne above, T. W. Ford debuted in 1927 with Action Stories magazine. Unlike Byrne, Ford was extremely prolific. Both lasted as long as the pulps did, until the mid-1950s. The natural progression to mass market paperbacks was a forgone conclusion. It’s uncanny that Ford doesn’t have his own Wiki page. James Reasoner thankfully had something to say about T. W. Ford on his Rough Edges blog, back in 2018. The Broken Idol features a wonderful action story-head and is spectacularly full of blood-and-thunder excitement. The Mauler is mauled by a fleet-of-foot boxer who in his better-trained days shouldn’t have stood a chance. But his trainer (Shifty) set him up for a fall. Battered, bloody, bruised, and a wholesale wreck, the ex-champ abandons the ring forever. However, his faithful “second,” a black man called Monk, convinces him he is still His Champ, and funds a fight. He loses. Shattered, he wholly gives up and catches the first ship outbound. Monk shadows him, following him from boat, to boat, to boat, to seashore dives, etc. People slice him, punch him, kick him, etc.; he absorbs all of it and slinks away. But Monk sticks to him like velcro, firmly believing that his broken idol will one day return. And that day arrives Down Under, at a bar. The local boxing hero stalks in with his crew and demands The Mauler and his man to vacate their table. The Mauler is drunk and slow to react, but Monk has simply personally had enough being pushed around. He steps forward and takes a stab at the local champ. The punch is ineffective. He knocks Monk about. Something inside The Mauler cracks, especially when they refer to his second as a nigger. Monk boasts that his man is The Mauler, ex-champion, etc. The local isn’t impressed, but when one of the fellows present attests that he recognizes the drunk sure-enough as The Mauler, a fight is arranged. And remarkably, The Mauler agrees! Monk trains The Mauler on the beach and strives to get him back into fighting shape. Two years of atrophy. Monk shaves the man clean and whips out the champ’s old cape, faded, salt stained. The Mauler puts it on and steps into the ring. Four rounds in and the Mauler knows he is defeated but this local pug. The Monk pulls a sly fast-one, confesses he lied, the pug is the local lightweight champion, and shows him a local newspaper announcing the fight. The Mauler stares at it, looks across the canvas at the local champ. He’s bloodied, weary, clearly not holding up. The Mauler’s pride surges. He can take this man. And he does. He flies across the canvas and delivers fast, powerful punches from his past, with energy not seen before. The man falls, and Monk confesses to another lie. That man was not a champ at all. He had cut-and-pasted the man’s name onto the newspaper from another fight! The Mauler doesn’t care. Informs the slight black man that Monk is now his manager and to go find him a champion to fight! It’s time to get back into shape and regain his lost title.

This issue launches the third installment of the four-part serial by Jack Kofoed entitled The Durable Dane, a true story telling of Bat Nelson against Joe Gans, along with a bunch of other glove-slingers.

The Fight Before Christmas by Arthur J. Burks

The Fight Before Christmas by Arthur J. Burks reads like a true account tale. It opens by inserting himself (Burks) as not only the narrator, but also noting that he also boxed once, as did other top-notch writers such as Jack London and Thomason. This tale involves two fighters in South America and the gentlemanly spirit they brought to the conclusion of their match: one not willing to knock out his opponent when delirious on the ropes; the other returns the favor by throwing in the towel when his opponent is unable to rise, so he pushes the ref aside and picks up his man to save him the loss. So, who won!?!?!?!

In The Bag! by George Bruce

George Bruce is an interesting person, and this site has some wonderful scrapbook letters from Bruce himself, well worth the visit. In the Bag! features Kid Duster with all the right moves but he simply does not have a “knock-out punch.” Pop Dooley is up against another Irish rival trainer and decides to pull a fast-one on him. While taping Kid Duster’s hands and applying talcum, he switches the powder for plaster of Paris, a fast-hardening gypsum. The “Kid” complains that his hands feel tight and can’t move, but Pop sends him unaware into the ring. The “Kid” dusts his opponent quickly, delivering shockingly hammer-blows that knock him flat. They win, but a local stoolie saw the plaster in use and turns informant to the competition. Irate, they plan a rematch, and apply the same plaster to their man. Pop doesn’t know this and also applies plaster to “Kid,” but before he does, the stoolie with deft fingers reaches into the boxer’s bag and swaps it out with real talcum powder. The “Kid” takes a brutal, bloody, rib-caving beating, but after a good rest from the bell suddenly finds his “punch,” despite having no assistance. He dances in and delivers long-reaching blows repeatedly to his opponent, dancing out of range of those plaster-fists, and wears down his opponent to a final knockout.

Famous Fights I Have Seen: Lavigne and Erne is a regular column feature bylined by the anonymous “Old Timer.” This article really dials it back in time. “Kid” Lavigne was born in 1869 and attained worldwide fame in 1896, becoming the first Lightweight Champion. He lost his title three years later to Frank Erne in a 20-round battle.

Fools for Luck by Miles Overholt

Fools for Luck is by Miles Overholt; he wore many hats over the course of his life; Miles was a dramatic film critic in Portland and relocated to Los Angeles; he also sold a slew of stories for the pulpwoods. A man walks under a ladder and shatters a large mirror on the way through, then survives being run down by a hearse only to rise from the dirty road wielding a purse with a large roll of bills inside. Nobody claims the cash but boxer Joe Edwards is impressed. He fires his manager and informs this complete stranger that anyone who can survive so much bad luck and come up with cash is his manager. See, Joe Edwards is superstitious. Very much so, so that now he has a man that seems to have faced bad luck and certain death to come out immaculate and now the lucky manager of Edwards. What does he know about managing a boxer? Nothing; that doesn’t matter. Our lucky manager discovers Edwards is a complete nobody. No ranked boxer will take him on. Not worth their time. But he has an old friend from school days who manages a ranked boxer and finally convinces him to meet his man in the ring. If Edwards wins, he will suddenly be known. Edwards begins losing the fight when he discovers his opponent (Biff Kelly) has a four-leaf clover tattooed on his arm. He can’t beat that sort of luck, can he? Our protagonist agrees until he spots a gent watching the bout with one leg up on a chair. Under that shoe? A horseshoe. Running up to said gent, he asks the man to place both legs up in plain sight for his boxer. Edwards sees the pair of horseshoes in his favor and pulverizes the sole clover. And our manager sees a way to continue winning decisions based on Edwards’ crazy superstitious beliefs. He makes the mistake of signing Edwards to duke it out with “One-Round” Mulligan, all muscle and speed Irish. He destroys Edwards throughout and with the 11th Round complete, is delirious. Our manager realizes that if we hit the 13th Round, Edwards is dead. He’s scared to death of 13, and so he reminds Edwards of this fact. It works. Edwards is so petrified of Unlucky 13 that he comes to life and goes toe-to-toe with Mulligan. Mulligan kisses the canvas. So Edwards takes on another canvas-killer and drops him too, on the way towards taking on Feenzie. Their certain of victory until the lucky manager discovers a flaw: this will be Edwards’ 13th fight! There’s only one recourse: divert Edwards into another fight! So he arranges unranked black boxer Big Benson to take a stab and Benson plays along with the rigged fight, enraging Edwards to step into the ring. After taking a good beating, our manager yells at him that he is now in his 13th fight! It works. He freaks, Big Benson drops him, and accepts his bribe funds. Next day, Edwards is happy and ready to fight Feenzie. With 13 out of the way, there are no more bad luck figures to figure in!

Zach the Giant Killer by Theodore Roscoe

Zach the Giant Killer by Theodore Roscoe initially seems more at home in Physical Culture magazine or the pulp Sea Stories. Theodore Roscoe has a short Wiki entry, too. He died in 1992, so I wonder if any pulpsters ever met the man. Zachary is second mate and suffering the indignations heaped upon him at sea by two heavies throwing their weight around while their canvas manager accompanies them on their sea voyage. The two are slated to duke it out in the ring but the world doesn’t know that they are chummy, nor managed by the same man. Also onboard is a trim wisp of a beauty in a blue dress who has never uttered a single word to Zachary. Torturing the second mate beyond reason, only the fight manager sees that Zachary is seething beyond his boiling point. The only thing keeping him in check is his position aboard the floundering boat. Measuring a mere 5 ft 4 inches, they loudly call him a “shrimp” and a “cheap sailor” and “half pint” and other derogatory remarks. Finally the girl makes her appearance and infers he isn’t much of a man if he takes all the verbal abuse they dish out. When he asks what’s he to do about it, she remarks he ought do what any other man would. He doesn’t. He keeps his tongue in check. Then comes a hurricane that wrecks the vessel. She takes on water, and lists. Everyone on board is placed into lifeboats and he suffers worse by being partnered with the mouthy boxers, manager, and the girl and her father. Four days later, he’s ashore and contracted to go back out to sea. He rather not, tired of his sea voyages, when to his amazed eyes approaches the duo he despises most in life along with their manager. Striking a firm pose before the pair, immovable, he intelligently verbally destroys the pair then in a series of quick, powerfully scientific strikes, K.O.s one boxer and the other gets into the wharf-side fight of the century. The manager attempts to interfere but is knocked aside; the wharf rats soon hear of the fight and encircle the pair. Zachary eventually knocks his man out, too, and collapses against a warehouse wall, bloodied, and spitting out a tooth. Into his field of vision comes the girl; shocked and awed she approaches him and he utters that he did just as she instructed. Well, he also does just what any other man would do, and teach her a lesson…he marries her and they have four children. He also abandons his second mate job and takes to the ring, clobbering towering behemoths. And so Zach the Giant Killer is born. An excellent blood and thunder yarn by a man that was the son of missionaries!

Keeping Fit by Jimmy De Forest was another regular feature of Fight Stories instructing men on how to stay fit for the fight, training, eating, etc. Were these articles really authored by the famed boxer / trapeze artist? Possibly. Jimmy is perhaps today best known (if at all) for managing Jack Dempsey. Bizarrely, there isn’t the typical Wikipedia entry for this guy. The articles ceased to appear in Fight Stories in 1932 when the magazine folded and Jimmy died later that same year, dirt poor. I don’t know if he wrote the articles or licensed his name to be used.

The Neutral Corner was a column supplemented by letters from readers and occasionally authors contributing to Fight Stories. They often discussed fights they saw, submitted corrections to prior issues, noted which stories they enjoyed the most, etc. Among the numerous fans writing in is pulpster Olin Lyman, an ex-sports editor and amateur boxer (for fun) himself. The consensus of readers largely agree that from the debut issue, George Bruce’s “Shoot that Left!” was the best story.

And as a bonus feature, I’ll supply this page near the end of the magazine, noting other magazines they publish and highlighting key authors and stories.

Fight Stories (v1 #3 – August 1928)

Search the Lady by Henri Duval

CURZON Search The Lady

Way back in 2019 I posted a blog entry on the Crime and Passion Series. As a refresher course on publisher history, etc., please click on the highlighted series name above or, click on the series name in the sidebar…

Search the Lady by Henri Duval (in this case the alias of N. Wesley Firth) was published 1946 by the Curzon Publishing Company. It ran 32 pages, tiny font, averaging 18,000 words. This title was printed twice, the first time priced at 9d, then at 6d. My copy is the second edition, released circa 1948.

The cover art is by noted artist S. R. Boldero (Stephen Richard Boldero) many years before he would become known for his cover art appearing on paperbacks in the mid-1950s through early 1970s. By this time, he was aged 48 years! What in the world was the doing before this? Is this one of his first cover paintings? His 1940s output is not even recorded on the Bear Alley blog site; this piece debuted nearly a decade before Holland’s earliest noted Boldero work. The FictionMags Index site records two internal magazine illustrations, each in 1949.

Unlike several other titles in the Crime and Passion Series, this one carries a blurb:

Vice and crime rule Britain’s Metropolis. This is the stark theme of this sensationally topical novel. So extreme, violent and ruthless do the vice lords become, that four public spirited young men decide that third degree methods must be used to break up the gangs. In order to “make the canaries sing,” they are prepared to flog the truth out of the molls and crooks who seek to terrorise the greatest city in the world. Here indeed is a really tough novel.

I can hear your big question now: does the novelette stand up to the blurb? Hmm…not hardly. Bear in mind that England was under strict censorship laws. They could infer a lot, but there were lines that authors and publishers alike simply could not cross. That’s not to say they didn’t dare do so and face fines and imprisonment for doing just that.

In Search the Lady, four friends meet at the Trades Club off the Mall after a series of intelligent robberies and murders come off without a hitch. With Pavlovian accuracy, the police all respond to the shrill whistle or beat of the bobby sticks, etc., and abandon their stations to attend or cordon off a crime-zone. This leaves other areas open to victimization. And victimize those other locales the crime boss does!

The friends include:
Chief Inspector Arthur Manning, of Scotland Yard
Stein, a wealthy magnate
Graham, a doctor
Jarrold (occupation unclear)

Jarrold actually is the one to suggest third degree, but Manning is initially all against the American practice of torturing criminals. Remarkably, Manning pulls a 180 and declares “The only way to fight murder and torture is with murder and torture.” What happened to not following the America’s brutal practices? Guess that was tossed out the window.

With Manning’s direct access to knowledge at The Yard, they soon obtain bearded and mustached disguises and tail a criminal from a recent heist. Capturing him, they toss him in Stein’s secluded cellar and threaten him. The crook is nicknamed Pinch Scrubbs (seriously?) and calls their bluff…or so he believes. Manning orders the boys to throw petrol on Scrubbs’ foot, lights a match, and the roast begins! Scrubbs screams as his foot catches fire and completely caves. He doesn’t know any names, save that he received orders from a man named Flannery, and a girl operating under the name of Linda Denvers.

Flannery can’t be found, but Linda Denvers can. Her residence is known by Scrubbs, as he was to later meet up with her and obtain his share of the profits.

Manning decides that he himself shall keep that appointment. Again putting on the absurd disguise, he ventures out and knocks at the all-ladies quarters. The landlady refuses to admit him, but he convinces her that he is Denvers’ brother. She relents, hesitantly, only because the girl had in fact noted she was expecting her brother. Against her own house rules, she admits the man. Knocking, the door opens and Manning is greeted by the young beauty found on the front cover of Search the Lady.

And believe me, he wants to, er…”search the lady.”

Excusing the nosy landlady, they parlay. Manning desires to know why the girl didn’t cry alarm. She confesses she was interested in ascertaining his true identity, and, would he possibly remove the absurd disguise which had already partially dislodged before her own eyes. Readjusting the beard, he grills her concerning the crimes. She disavows all, stating she is not a criminal, nor responsible for the murders. Finally, Manning convinces her to leave the premises with him to be grilled further and doing so, he is coshed over the head and left outside in the garden.

Coming to, he is miffed to find the girl gone, and confused as to how anyone knew he was meeting her. Did she somehow relay a message? The landlady, perhaps, is part of the gang?

Fast-forward, he meets his friends again, explains the lump on the noggin, the girl escaped, and they are back to nothing…except Pinch Scrubbs. They release him and then each take turns tailing him in the hopes that he will lead them to another gang member. Eventually, while drinking at a pub, he is met by another person. A meeting place is determined, and Manning hops a cab, and pays the cabbie to follow discreetly.

Deposited in an unsavory part of town, Manning briefly loses Scrubbs, but discerns a track through the woods that leads to an isolated, seemingly abandoned house. Sneaking up stealthily, he spies Scrubbs inside waiting patiently. And someone behind Manning informs him to reach for the sky. Turns out the destination was a means to trap Manning! Falling bait, he is led inside, trussed, and learns the ugly mug gunman is Flannery, an American. From this turd, he learns the big boss will be coming later to give final instructions regarding Manning’s fate, and the big boss had recently come from England to America.

A Scotland Yard man to the last, Manning slowly puts relevant fact Number One before his very eyes. Absolutely nobody outside his own crew knew that they were tailing Scrubbs. Fact Number Two, he now knows the boss has been to America. Only two people within the foursome have been to America, and one of them is lying trussed-up awaiting a death sentence. Who is it? Stein? Graham? Jarrold?

Enter the young lady, Linda Denvers! She was in another room, and finally walks in. She had heard a gunshot (Scrubbs had been shot multiple times after Manning made an initial attempt at freedom; Manning used Scrubbs’ body as a shield while Flannery finished him off, accidentally). Flannery candidly explains that Manning (who is feigning unconsciousness) murdered Scrubbs, then informs her that the boss and instructed she remain in her room. She whines that she is lonely and desires his company. Thinking she is making love-moves on him, he acquiesces, knocking back a lot of alcohol and demands a smackeroo from his future gun-moll. She kisses him on the forehead and he laughingly ridicules her. She finally has to give him a real smooch. Manning wants to vomit…

Eventually Flannery slumbers from too much alcoholic consumption and…Denvers grabs a knife, severs Manning’s cords (still pretending to be “out”) and then steals a letter from inside Flannery’s coat, then retreats to her room. Shocked at being released, he notes Flannery is still snoring away. Making his way up the stairs, one board creaks so he dashes all pretense at stealth and charges the door. Knocking it open he finds her partially undressed and no letter in sight. Allowing her to dress properly, he demands the letter; she feigns no knowledge of it. Finally, after an exhaustive search of the room, he determines to “search the lady.”

Mortified, she declares no proper gentleman would dare! Thankfully, Manning mans up to the situation and states “Then it’s lucky I’m no gentleman.” Sadly, English censorship comes into play and our author adroitly dodges the bullet by following that salvo by suggesting she hand over the letter and avoid her own blushes. She reaches down and extracts the letter. Reading it, he isn’t surprised to find it unsigned. The crime boss would hardly leave such a glaring clue. We eventually learn her real name is Vivian Lane, daughter of a banker who died as a result of the violent crimes. She desired to find the mastermind and kill the person or persons involved in the death of her father.

Remarkably, while planning to leave or even wait for the eventual arrival of the crime boss, they hear stealthy footprints nearing and…Jarrold enters! How does he come to be on the scene, when Manning had left no information as to his whereabouts?

Jarrold explains that obviously he was the next point-of-contact in the chain of tailing Scrubbs, and when Manning failed to report in from his last known location, Jarrold phoned the other two friends and retraced Manning’s steps. They knew he was at the pub watching Scrubbs. There, Jarrold determined he obtained a cab, learned which cabbie he hired, re-obtained that particular cabbie, was driven out to the last known location, and eventually found that isolated track through the woods, etc.

Then, another set of footprints can now be heard making for them! Hushing up and drawing their respective guns, they await the crime lord. Only, the door opens to reveal Graham. He repeats a nearly identical story, too, beginning with Jarrold’s call to he and Stein. In telling his story, another set of steps are hard and thus enters Stein.

You get the idea…

Flannery, still snoring, is bundled into an awaiting car, and dumped in Stein’s cellar. They plan to third degree him, but in the meantime, Manning must return to Scotland Yard and face some music. His chief is greatly angered by a lack of communication and Manning’s lack of proper protocol in reporting in, performing any work, nor obtaining any clues to solve the ongoing crime-wave that hasn’t abated a single moment. Manning does not inform his superior that he has actually been working, because doing so would reveal his unorthodox methods, and likely have him both terminated and locked away.

Departing from his boss’s scorn, he returns to the cellar to find Flannery missing! Manning now is certain he knows who is at the back of the brilliant crimes. But first, he must find Flannery. Knowing the man was too intoxicated to move on his own, plus, the solid door isn’t busted, he determines it must have a spare key or was picked. Searching the premises without informing its master, he finally discovers Flannery’s corpse.

Long story short, he phones Jarrold and Graham to return to the vast estate and abandon their locations. Then, while they are enroute, he walks in on Stein who is surprised to see him. Manning explains that he has called off the other two friends from watching for the big boss to arrive at the remote location. They each arrive, want an explanation. He gives the trio one: the big boss will never appear there to deliver the fatal news to kill Manning, because, HE IS RIGHT HERE IN THE ROOM WITH THEM.

Manning explains his moves, the fact that only these 3 mates knew his moves, that Flannery disclosed the boss had been to America and points out that aside from himself, only the wealthy Stein had also been to America. Plus, via Yard access, he discovers Stein’s prints on Flannery’s letter and that Stein once had a criminal background, involved in fraudulent stock companies.

Stein laughs, reveals a Mauser, instructs each member to tie up the next person, until only Manning and Denvers remains. She ties up Manning, and then Stein trusses her. Good old English literature…just couldn’t have the heroes all riddled by bullets from Stein, could we? Nope. He opens a window, climbs out, and is surrounded immediately by members of The Yard. Refusing to give up, he is gut shot. Mortally wounded, he remains on the ground while our remaining trio and the girl are unbound.

Manning walks outside, looks down upon Stein, who is dying, and proclaims he took a bullet but dodged the hangman….

Prologue…the Assistant Commissioner congratulates Manning, decides this one time to overlook proper protocol on Manning’s part but sternly states that he is to never again abandon The Yard and her esteemed practices. Manning agrees but declares that should the matter ever arrive to this point again, he will not hesitate to employ third degree. He departs into the waiting arms of Linda Denvers (aka: Vivian Lane) and eventually they are engaged, of course…

Search the Lady by Henri Duval

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

THOMAS P KELLEY Fast On The Draw

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fast on the Draw is blurbed as:

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

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

Good luck!

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

The Little Story Magazine (October 1919)

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

The Little Story Magazine (Oct 1919)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Little Story Magazine 1919 Oct ToC


The contents are as follows:

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

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

The author is Esther Grissen Richardson.
Her only other known pulp contribution is
“One Way to Judge” in
Young’s Magazine (May 1916).
I believe she was born as Esther Grissen in November 1890
in Oregon to Charles and Jennie. Her father per the 1900
census states he was born in Germany and is a bookseller.
Son Karl (age 17) is a clerk at the bookstore while sister Muriel (14)
is at school. Per the 1910 census, Esther E. Grissen lives with her
widowed mother and stenographer Muriel, while Esther is 19 and jobless.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Creasey Mystery Magazine # 2 (September 1956)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Creasey Mystery Magazine # 2 (September 1956)

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s return to what we do know…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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