2015 October 30 “The Seven Pearls of Shandi” by Magruder Maury

13 The Seven Pearls Of Shandi

This colorful cover by Howard L. Hastings never figures into the story written by Magruder Maury. My typical cover art vs story-line complaint aside, the story hails from the 25 December 1922 issue of Short Stories magazine.

The author has a remarkably short history of writing, with tales only spanning 1921-1925. Now, I’ve only read this one tale by Maury, and, while it does have some weak moments (hell, even top-notch writers suffer from such lapses) the novel itself is a damn fun read. Furthermore, while not directly a detective story, the plot is written around four ex-soldiers being hired by a detective to guard a wealthy young lady and protect the seven pink pearls, from a gang of thieves led by a villain known internationally as The Gargoyle.

Maury uses a lot of misdirection and doesn’t unveil the facts behind this until the closing chapter(s), which I found quite amusing, since Maury sure had me taken in. Why? Well, the novel comes across as a young adult novel, simply written, very straight-forward, and as thus, you don’t expect that the author is dealing bullshit to you above-board!

The four guards are in England, down on their financial luck, with ex-flying ace French detective Ribot hires the quartet to guard the lady while maintaining a safe distance from her. They are not to interact, nor reveal their true purpose.

The lady, one Donna Blanquita (her full birth name is actually a mouthful) has recently acquired said pink pearls for an absurd sum, and the newspapers played up the purchase quite heavily. Ribot is contracted to ensure their safety, and in turn, he hires the four. They are informed to board a ship, the Juanita, which is bound for South America, Donna Blanquita’s homeland.

While aboard, the self-presumed leader of the quartet finds himself mentally romantically involved with the lady, despite realizing he is nothing to her. One night, he is assaulted on ship by two ruffians and given clearance to be heaved overboard, when he is rescued by the timely appearance of a crusty old wireless man.

The lady notes the next day that our hero (they all are, but, heck, he’s the focus here) is bandaged up and he finds himself talking to her about his pathetic overnight adventure. She continues to regularly chat with him and he finds her flirtatious advances pleasurable but eventually realizes that she is just likely funning him, being as they are at sea. Once ashore, she’ll abandon all pretenses and move on with her life.

While docking briefly at Funchal, Portugal, the rich lady and her escorts decide to traipse across the area, and invite our hero (MacGregor) to accompany them. He insists that he can not leave ship, and must keep his bunk mate company. She overrides his arguments and has them both disembark.

They enjoy a nice picnic and she is accosted while playing fairy, by two ruffians whom pull a gun and threaten to kill MacGregor is she doesn’t fork over the seven pearls. She surrenders her rings and other jewelry, but not the gems, proclaiming that they are safely still aboard ship, and does she look stupid enough to wear them on land where they could easily be stolen?

MacGregor’s friend then appears on the scene with two automatics in his pockets, but the pair flee rather than face the friend’s guns. Turns out he was bluffing. No guns. Just a flashlight and something else.

Humiliated at his inability to personally protect Donna Blanquita, MacGregor isolates himself from her further on-board contact as they ship out again for South America. Meanwhile, the wireless operator hands them (over the ensuing days) a series of notes from Ribot, which baffle the quartet. The notes seem to convey that Ribot knows precisely what is happening on the ship at all times!

The captain rams the ship onto a reef, and all hands and passengers jump to the lifeboats and flee, but the cruiser is firmly settled on the reef and not sinking. So, they all return to the ship. The old man proclaims that the wireless set is busted up.

MacGregor gets the Donna Blanquita safely back to her rooms, and she fairly professes her interest in him was direct, open, and true. He’s baffled by this, and demands an explanation. She explains simply that she not only likes his looks, but, the way he looks at her. (Well, shit, if life were only THAT easy, we’d all get laid daily). They are both astounded by the sudden appearance of a gun-wielding bandit… The Gargoyle himself has arrived and demands the pearls. MacGregor, annoyed at his continued losses throughout the novel, (says fuck this shit) and damn the gun to hell, attacks the man, and is rewarded by being (apparently) shot.

MacGregor secures the Gargoyle, the captain is arrested, as is another crew-member, and some woman whom makes a brief ornery appearance is also arrested, as having been a member of the thieves (she had also doped one of the quartet’s drinks, earlier).

And, as for Ribot? Turns out he was the wireless operator in disguise, and nobody knew it. I won’t delve into the plot misdirection(s), only because one never knows when one of you fellow pulspters might decide to acquire a copy online.

This book represents the only time one of Maury’s stories was bound as a novel (in English, that is). “The Seven Pearls of Shandi” is well worth the read, and a fun young adult red-blooded romp it truly is.

Now, onto the next novel in the series, book 14 by Anthony M. Rud, which I hope to finish in a day or two….

2015 October 30 “The Seven Pearls of Shandi” by Magruder Maury

2015 October 27 “Sky High Corral” by Ralph Cummins

12 Sky High Corral

Remarkably both the story and the cover art hail from the 25 March 1922 edition of Short Stories magazine. Of further note, this story splashed onto the silver screen four years later, under the same title, on 28 February 1926 (see: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0017402/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1)

Cummins’ tale has both heart and meat. The bare essentials…a grouchy rancher is annoyed that the Forest Rangers are forcing him to keep limitations on the amount of cattle he can herd within the range. They want to keep it to 200, while he has been letting them feed at higher counts without trouble for many years. The service hires out to a gunman to come in an settle up.

In rides a young man, of cheerful disposition, and he is readily accepted by the outfit as a young person that they themselves had sent for to work the ranch. (This part of the plot is baffling, since it never rears its head again, and, if they HAD indeed reached out for such a body, how come the real McCoy never shows up?)

Clearly, as the reader readily realizes, he works for the Forest Service. Rather than show his hand, he agrees to work and learns all he needs as thus, from the inside. He falls in love with the cowman’s daughter (naturally, right?) and comes to blows with the true villain of the story, a man whom is bent on creating a tourist trade out of the canyon.

When things go wrong, the villain sets the canyon ablaze, in an effort to slaughter all the cattle. Our young hero remarkably saves most of the cattle, while losing some to the blaze and ultimately, must shoot his own horse dead.

Fainting from the effort of forcing the cattle up the ravine away from the blaze and to safety, he is eventually found by the head cowman. Nursed back to health, there, by a fire, he finds on the fainted man a brass Forest Service badge and papers that seem to indicate his workings with the service against him. Annoyed, once the man revives, he kicks him out and won’t allow the young man any retort.

Not the least aggrieved, the hero retires into the canyon’s cabin, and next day goes up again to the place where he was saved, only to find the old man neatly bound, beaten, and burned by a brand in many places. He in turn brings the man down to the cabin to be nursed, and learns the villain has done all this. Worse, they discover that he has kidnapped the daughter.

Ergo, we now have the prerequisite rescue scene, a final fight, the villain dies, and the hero gets the girl.

2015 October 27 “Sky High Corral” by Ralph Cummins

2015 October 27 “The Canyon of the Green Death” by F. R. Buckley

11 The Canyon Of The Green Death

The 25 December 1921 pulp issue of Short Stories boasted the above pictured novelette, “The Canyon of the Green Death,” which, in all honesty, is a real humdinger. It ticks off numerous points that I found to be quite pleasing out of what should only have been a western.

Unlike our preceding authors, Buckley was neither American nor Canadian. Frederick Robert Buckley was born the 20 December 1896 in Lichfield, Staffordshire, England. He became a naturalized citizen on 2 May 1923 via the Superior Ct. in Fairfield County.

But to return to the novelette…. It begins with a fellow riding into a small town and finding the sheriff winged. He makes polite with the sheriff, a very young man, and then boldly asks what happened to him. He’s already properly surmised what did happen, but asks anyway. The sheriff becomes annoyed and hurls questions of his own.

We find our hero to be one J. C. Lonnergan (a name never mentioned again) in favor of his nickname, Lanky Lon, working currently as an officer for the United States Secret Service. His mission: to track down Chinese illegals. Rumor has it that tons of them have been making their way through this area, but Lon has temporarily lost the trail. Sheriff hasn’t heard anything of this, so Lon makes to leave but they are assaulted by a madman.

They beat off the fellow, and find that the madman has dropped a locket, depicting a lovely young lady whom the sheriff had seen weeks earlier, but vanished. He’s sweet on her, love at first sight, I suppose. Either way, he’s hooked on her. That aside, Lon decides to ride out into the desert and help track the assailant. But, when they ride out afar, Lon announces he must part ways with the green sheriff, since his mission is not that of the sheriff’s.

However, whilst riding away, the sheriff had ridden partly into a canyon and fires off a salvo of shots, bringing Lon back. The sheriff shows him what he has found. A dead Chinaman. Worse, aside from the part about being dead, he is gaunt and his body looks hollowed out beyond natural human conditions. Baffled and likely wanting to puke from their grisly discovery, they are soon assaulted by a long-distance rifle-man, whom pops off shots at their horses with the intent of popping holes through their water bags.

Lon realizes the dire predicament, and they grab what is left of the bags and the horses eventually are shot down. Stranded, miles from town, and without enough water, they are dead. Oddly enough, another cowboy rides in, and he is promptly shot down. Turns out he is another law enforcer, known to Lon. They rescue and pull the wounded Billy to safety. Realizing they are dead meat, they ride with the unconscious Billy upon a horse, toward the killer, and surrender.

Here, they are bodily searched and stripped of weapons, all save for a few hide-aways are found. They are led into a canyon, which around a corner, they find huts and buildings, etc., a small mining community. And tons of seemingly blind, gaunt, Chinamen, with a mixture of whites thrown into the mix.

Aside from the badly wounded Billy, the pair of shackled and sent down into a mine. The killers do not follow, for the mine means death to all that remain. It glows green in the darkness, and the sheriff and Lon come to realize they are in a radium mine, picking away chips and shoveling it into a barrow. Realizing the full import of the dire situation, impending blindness in the daylight and perpetual green behind their eyelids in the dark and eventual insanity, and death, Lon and the sheriff discuss escape, when, to their surprise, Billy comes around and proclaims he has some weapons secreted about his person.

They make good their escape, kick in the cabin the villains are in, and rescue the girl, whom was being forced to marry the madman, whom turns out to be a psycho imbecile. The whole end of the story has the makings of a really good (or really bad, depending on your interpretation) SPICY pulp story, with the Chinese, the torture devices the villains utilize, the lecherous half-wit madman, the wealth of deadly radium, etc. It would have made for a wonderful Spicy pulp cover, no doubt.

The story ends with the sheriff and the girl hooking up, the harassed miners, on their deathbeds, walling themselves up in the mine and detonating a bomb to seal themselves in forever, and Lon riding away, with Buckley noting that Lon is carrying onward, ever onward, on a personal mission of his very own….

The implication is that Lon will return in another pulp story. Whether he ever did or not, is unknown to me. Buckley went on to eventual pulp fame with the Luigi Caradosso series in Adventure magazine, and, contributing several dozen westerns starring Peg-Leg Garfield, a sheriff whom clearly has physical restraints yet manages to fulfill his occupational hazards throughout each story, within the pages of Western Story Magazine.

I happily recommend this tale to anyone to read, but wish there had been many more tales of Lanky Lon, whom, for all intents and purposes, it truly does appear that Buckley had desired to continue building a story-line around. Oh well !!!

2015 October 27 “The Canyon of the Green Death” by F. R. Buckley

2015 October 23 “The Devil’s Payday” by W. C. Tuttle

10 The Devil's Payday

“The Devil’s Payday” by W. C. Tuttle debuted in the 10 October 1922 edition of Short Stories, and the cover art hails from the 25 January 1923 issue. This was rendered by Remington Schulyer.

First and foremost, there are no stage’s held-up in this novel. (Nope. None.) No robberies, neither. No masked men. So, disregard the cover. (Wipe your mind clean. There you go !!! )

The tale takes place in a Western town called Wolf Point. It’s sheriff is “Paint” Harlan, and his deputy is “Whispering” Rombeau. (Why authors think that every fool in the West had nicknames, is beyond my ken. That aside…) The clear-cut painted villain is “Husky” Shane, a mountain of a man (because women never are mountains) and he is opening a new saloon, with gambling as corrupt they come. A rail-line is pushing in and through the town, so there is bound to be big business from them, and, the nearby miners.

Annoyed with facing competition, Shane has the competing saloon burned to the ground, and several perish in the flames, including a singing gal. Shane and his two evil companions remained behind in their saloon and talk about the crime, only to find that a drunken cowboy is still in their saloon. Turns out he ain’t all that drunk, and heard most of the conversation. Coincidentally, he was to be betrothed to the incinerated singing’ girl.

The cowboy calls out Shane, but is beaten badly, tossed out, and then vanishes. The sheriff, Harlan, goes to investigate, but Shane says he jumped horse and rode out of town. On a whim, the sheriff rides out and comes across a lady on a runaway horse, heading for the cliffs.

He saves her, only to find that she is a gal he saw ride in with “Zero” Dean (dumb ass nickname, sorry) whom is a gambler and gunman. Harlan notes several riders far out, and learns that they are after her and Dean, because they stumbled across the body of a dead man. Believing them to have killed the body, they hounded them. Dean appears on the scene and is unhappy that Harlan is present. Worse, he seems to know Harlan from a distant past, one that Harlan wishes to keep secret and buried….

The pair ride away and Harlan remains behind to await the posse of cowboys, and informs them it was impossible for Dean or the girl to have killed the man, since they were still in town. The dead man? Yeah. Fellow that was hooked on the singin’-gal. He blabbed, and Shane had him plugged.

Story dissolves into mayhem in Shane’s saloon, fight between he and Harlan breaks out, and the whole town turns into an insane brawling mess, as Shane orders it to be demolished.

Realizing the melee won’t end until he catches or kills Shane, Harlan pursues him and kills his man. Zero Dean dies of a broken and battered body, confessing that he does know Harlan, as Dean was Harlan’s brother’s partner, and killed the brother, and that Harlan’s name is clear, as they realize that they mistook him for his brother as the killer of Dean’s mother, whom actually was Shane. (I think…? The whole confession was rather convoluted) And to mix things up further, we are tossed that the girl with Zero Dean is actually Husky Shane’s daughter, but, she doesn’t know it, and in the end, she’s not informed.

Of the three Tuttle books I’ve now read, this one was extremely weak, leaving me very disappointed.

2015 October 23 “The Devil’s Payday” by W. C. Tuttle

2015 October 22 “The Second Mate” by H. Bedford-Jones

09 The Second Mate

Ripped from the 10 October 1922 issue of Short Stories, the cover adequately portrays the contents within, (though this particular scene itself never takes place, making the 25 July 1923 cover more appropriate, even though that magazine issue had yet to be printed). I’m not sure of the cover art origins, either. This very same pulp magazine also contributes the next novelette in the series….

Jim Barnes, the newly hired second mate aboard the Sulu Queen, is a rotten vessel and run by even worse aboard. The masters of the vessel are hung up on opium, drunk, etc. Those that are maneuvering the vessel are made up of Lascars, two China men, Macao men, Malaysians, a Dutchman, etc.

Their passengers consist of nine. Foremost, a family of Arabs, husband and wife and five young children. The remaining two passengers are white female missionaries bound for China. Bereft of adequate funds, they hire the disreputable vessel at half the rate than other ocean floaters.

Much later in the novelette, we learn that Jim Barnes took the position of second mate at the request of the consul, where the girls acquired the vessel. Jim had been sternly advised to make ship with the girls, needing an honest white man aboard to protect them. (Hold! Wait? Are white guys in fiction always to be hailed as honest and virtuous?) Thankfully, he is not alone…..

Coming off his shift, he’s approached by one of the China men and informed of mutiny. Jim casually updates the ladies, loads up handguns and puts them in a smaller craft. Then he has the engine room destroyed, ship turns to chaos and bloodshed. Jim goes to rescue the Arabs, only to find the husband knifed in the back, two children dead, and the wife dead too. He manages to rescue the three youngest and they board the small craft, and drop away with the two China men.

Eventually they get their whaler ship-shape, mast set, and head for Borneo. They are then assaulted by the crew of the Sulu Queen, each themselves having taken to boats, after likely sinking the destroyed mother ship, and stealing a load of cached opium. They must pursue Jim and kill all aboard, and perhaps, if lucky, capture the white women, use as sex slaves, then sell off.

Our crew escapes, only the next day to be hounded again, beach ashore, and Jim stays at the beach with one of the China men to hold off the army of scoundrels, while the two girls, one China man, and the children, paddle the ship upstream to a possible Dutch community.

Next day, the pair are rushed by numerous ships, and they shoot them down with their automatics and revolvers (which is absurd, since the enemy are armed with rifles). Jim and his partner end up winning the day, killing off most of the assault party and then are rescued by a Dutch patrol boat, armed with cannon and rifles.

The novelette is short and the narrative is fast. Jim Barnes is a plucky fellow, laughing in the face of death, joking about everything under the sun, until the very end, when he sends the girls up river to survive, knowing he is throwing his life, potentially, away.

He ends up proposing to the one girl whom is equally in love with him, and…. THE END !!!

2015 October 22 “The Second Mate” by H. Bedford-Jones

2015 October 21 “The Challenge of the North” by James B. Hendryx

08 The Challenge Of The North

Book 8 in the Garden City series brings us to “The Challenge of the North” by James B. Hendryx. Originally published in the 10 January 1922 issue of Short Stories pulp magazine, the cover art by Edgar Franklin Wittmack hails from the 10 July 1922 edition.

While the tale is one of the Frozen North timberland, the cover fails entirely to accurate depict the content within (yet again). Why the publishers couldn’t sit down and match up covers more accurately, or, make an attempt, is bewildering. But, that is neither here, nor there….

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. As expected, Hendryx delivers a beautiful wilderness tale wrapped up with a business venture (I tend to despise business stories, but it was essential to the overall plot), romance, deceit, and, a murder!

Putting the entire plot into this blog would take a hell of an undertaking, but, I will do the best possible….

The story opens with Oskar Hedin, head clerk of the fur department, owned by John McNabb, in Terrace City (while such a city does exist, in British Columbia, it is not clear whether this is the same as referred to in the story, or if Hendryx merely invented it). He is in love with McNabb’s daughter, Jean, whom has just turned 21. John had promised her a fur on her 21st, and sends her over to Oskar for a proper choosing. Oskar selects a baum marten and then deftly switches it out with a Russian sable worth tens of thousands of dollars (she is to return it the next day for proper fitting, at which time, he’ll swap it back to the original fur). Why? Well, Jean is to go about the town with John’s competitor, one Fred Orcutt, a banker, and his wife, as well as Jean’s boyfriend, Wentworth, a former Captain, honorably discharged after The Great War ended.

Wentworth notices that the fur is not a baum marten, and sneaks back into the department store and steals the cheaper fur. Then while at Orcutt’s home, he swaps the furs in the coat closet, and begs to be excused home as he left his wallet behind. Under this veil, he escapes with the sable.

Meanwhile, Oskar is waiting outside the theatre. He wants to see the effect of the sable on Jean. However, the fur was not given to Jean to please her; rather, it was placed there to tempt Mr. Orcutt’s wife, whom is a fur connoisseur, but refuses to buy from McNabb on general principle that they are sworn business enemies. To his horror, the sable is not wrapped about her. It’s the wrong fur!

In mortal terror, he flees the scene, returns to the store, has the guard open up and rummage through the fur department. Both furs are gone! Realizing his fate, to be sacked and possibly jailed, he awaits the inevitable. When business opens, he confesses to John, and while John believes him, he places him under arrest.

Oskar punches out the policeman and escapes, only to be recaptured shortly thereafter and jailed.

The scenario is later explained to Jean, and she cries that Oskar is innocent, and could never have stolen the fur. John is surprised by her passion, but elated because he both likes the young man and, secretly, had hoped that Oskar and Jean might one day wed. Before Wentworth had materialized, she had been interested in Oskar.

Oskar then finds that someone has posted for his $10,000 bail. Returning home, he is confronted by John, whom lays out a plan to confirm Wentworth as crook, schemer, and, nail his competitor, Orcutt, to the wall.

Under the imbecile guise of Sven Larsen, Oskar is sent north to God’s Lake (a real location). He shaves off his mustache and grows a beard, and plays the part of bumbling idiot and retained only for his superior knowledge of furs. This part he plays well, much to the ire of Wentworth, whom arrives days later, after being hired on by John McNabb.

John’s game is deep, and a win / win. He sends Wentworth to investigate the area for business feasibility in setting up a mill, transport of trucks and pulp-wood, etc. This Wentworth does, but sends the data to John and his enemy, Orcutt. Why the duplicity on Wentworth’s part? Pure strategy, to ensure he keeps a paying job, either way. John (lyingly) let slip that his contract expired in August, but it expires in July. Hence, if John never figures out the slip, Orcutt gets the deal and Wentworth gets a permanent position, with higher pay. If John does figure out his reportedly erroneous slip, then, well, Wentworth still is paid for his time, etc.

On arriving at God’s Lake, Wentworth is all-a-steam about his Indian guide, whom he beat with a whip. One RCMP Corporal Downey, whom happens to be on the scene, mentions that that particular Indian is bad medicine, and will kill him for his assault, but never fear, when he does, Downey will capture the Indian. Wentworth sluffs off the casual remark and is all arrogance over the matter.

He fails entirely to recognize Oskar for anything but a Scandinavian moron, and Wentworth goes on to fulfill his tasks. The appointed time in July arrives, John fails to make an appearance, and Orcutt shows up instead with the funds and signs the paperwork. Believing that he now owns the entire pulp-wood area, he and Wentworth strike out immediately to investigate the area.

Half hour later, the lawyer that signed over the project is approached by the erstwhile dimwit Oskar, whom suddenly is anything but, and wishes to sign the documents. The lawyer, Cameron, is flabbergasted, and states that the papers were already signed at noon, as agreed. Oskar notes that that is impossible, as it is only 11:30am. Cameron fails to see, and suspects a cruel joke. But, on viewing his own pocket watch, realizes that Orcutt’s watch was still set an hour later (clearly indicating the Terrace City is fictional in this story and could not possibly be WEST of God’s Lake, but must be EAST). Ergo, the contract is null and void.

Oskar, appointed representative, signs the new contract and hands over the funds.

Long story short, Orcutt is in financial ruin. He failed to recognize the trick for a whole month, in which time, he had already built up a trucking fleet and extracted the wood. John buys him out at 10 cents on the dollar, a nefariously crude offer that Orcutt himself had once earlier offered John, in spite!

Wentworth eventually arrives, and sneers in their faces that John and Jean are fools. He thinks the Orcutt deal is still on! They finally inform him it is not, after Cameron finally arrives on the scene and explains what happened in the past month that Cameron spent traipsing over Canada trying to track them down. He returns the $350,000 to Wentworth, as Orcutt’s rep, to return to Orcutt.

Oskar finally has his say and beats the man senseless, then digs in the man’s coat pocket for a key to the man’s trunk, and has a local Indian open the trunk and bring them the stolen Russian sable.

Wentworth is permitted to leave. Realizing he is bust, he makes to keep and steal the money, but his only avenue of escape is neither by road or trail. He must take to the river by canoe. This he does, and here, Hendryx enters the dark, horrific world of blood-and-thunder. He sends our whipped Indian after him. He chases him down the river and slowly catches up. All a game to him, our Indian, one Cree half-breed name of Alex Thumb, mentally tortures Wentworth, informing that he will kill him, then cut out his heart, and maybe eat it. Taxed by the threats, Wentworth flees.

Alex Thumb laughs, and allows him a four-hour lead, then pursues. Wentworth is eventually found, mired in muck and trying to stay alive holding onto a spruce. Extracted, Wentworth is tied to the same tree, and Alex eventually shoots him.

Far away, RCMP Downey hears the shot. He was already on Thumb’s trail, knowing he would kill Wentworth. An expert tracker himself, he finds the man shot dead, his heart dug out, and Alex roasting the $350,000 over a fire-pit.

2015 October 21 “The Challenge of the North” by James B. Hendryx

2015 October 19 “Apache Valley” by Arthur Chapman

07 Apache Valley

Debuting in the 10 June 1922 issue of Short Stories pulp magazine, with a cover rendered by Murphy, the original source of the cover is unknown to me. It has not be uploaded to FictionMags as yet….

This will be a short write-up, today. Mostly, because I am tired.

Foremost, despite the title and cover art, there are no Indians. It is a straight-forward tale involving a cattle-war between all those in Apache Valley against the villain. Boring tale.

THE END. (Aren’t you happy you read this blog today?)  🙂
The next book is more promising…….

2015 October 19 “Apache Valley” by Arthur Chapman