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

2015 October 19 “The Lure of Piper’s Glen” by Theodore Goodridge Roberts


Herewith, book 6, was a surreal pleasure for me to leisurely peruse. I’m fond of Frozen North and tales of the oblique lumbering wilderness, if and when written in a carefree manner. Roberts captures your imagination between the pages of “The Lure of Piper’s Glen,” admirably writing what in all views may be tagged as a young adult’s novel. Told from the perspective of a man coming-of-age, Jim Todhunter packs his belongings, and instead of heading off to college, heads North, to seek adventure and learn a business education in the vast wildernesses of the Frozen North. Seeking a business partner, his father, somehow-or-other, sets up him with an unscrupulous vulture of iniquity hiding behind the veil of a righteous God-fearing man. The man, one Amos Hammond, owns a small business in the wilderness community, a general store, essentially, in which Todhunter, should he be interested, will invest his meager funds and become a business partner.

However, on arriving at the rail depot, he is not picked up in time by the sinisterly duplicitous Hammond, but, rather, greeted, eventually, by the rail ticket man, whom introduces him to a game of cards. Hammond finally arrives, very late, and immediately rails on the non-virtues of playing cards and gambling. Not one to back down, Todhunter rallies and informs that they were not gambling, merely playing cards, and if anything, Hammond should not have been unduly late.

Not used to having anyone brook argument with him, Hammond lapses into silence for most of the journey to his homestead. There, Todhunter meets son Mel, of equal age to himself, a daughter, and Amos’ wife. To varying degrees, all live in mortal terror of Amos and are starkly amazed that Todhunter has the gall to put him in his place.

Fed up one day of playing “shop”-keeper to a business that did zero all day, he closes and goes for a walk up the trail. Hence, he comes across another youth, some years older than he, whom accosts him and throws down a challenge. The two duke it out while the challenger’s sister watches in awe as Todhunter dispatches her unbeatable brother, Mark Ducat, self-proclaimed cock of the river.

Once Mark is situated to walking again, they shake and Mark is impressed with Todhunter. They fast become friends and the sister, Flora, is clearly enamored of the newcomer

Developments arise in which Amos kicks a widow out of her home after her husband dies and she can’t meet the interest payments, and Todhunter, in the winter, crosses her path one day. She begs ammo of him, and he surrenders a few. He later gets into a blistering fight with Amos after the man makes unkind accusations against him and the Ducat clan. Leaving the man beaten and battered in his sleigh (also obtained from another poor soul that could not “pay-up”) our youthful Todhunter rides away, but not before in the distance he hears a gun’s report. He assumes that Amos took one last parting shot at his back but keeps riding.

He arrives at the Ducat home and sleeps there. Next day, word arrives that Amos was shot and wounded, and that another had seen Todhunter leave the scene shortly before the shot was fired. The sheriff is due to collect Todhunter for attempted murder. Todhunter, not caring the least, says he’ll stand trial, for he is innocent, and they can’t prove anything. Flora wrongfully believes that he in fact DID shoot Amos and convinces him to run, but only after tricking him. When he refuses to run, she confesses that it was actually HER that shot Amos.

He flees, then, in order to protect her, but when the sheriff arrives and the widow also arrives, announcing (proudly) that she shot Amos, and only wished it had been buckshot and not rabbit pellet that Todhunter had given her, Flora realizes her mistake and sets out to find Todhunter.

With both out of the picture, enter now another character, whose position in the story is never really concretely established….Homer. Unaware that the widow had accepted full responsibility, all he hears is that Todhunter is on the lam. For some odd reason, he hates Todhunter and while dressing to chase the boy down, the grand-elder Ducat quickly slices open the bullets and empties the shells, leaving them to be harmless blanks. As a jest against Homer, for they think him a fool, they prank the four empty bullets on him and when he eventually does capture Todhunter, he fires and the gun fails to properly discharge!

Todhunter, with the aid of Flora, take him down. Sadly, they need Homer’s assistance, since Todhunter had injured himself the night prior with an ax upon his leg. Tricking Homer (after he revives) Flora helps to bind Todhunter and they drag him back to the Ducat home for eventual trial. But, the real trial was getting him brought in. Tuckered from the ordeal, Homer collapses at the end, and Flora unties Todhunter. They quickly explain to him the truth, and, embarrassed, Homer saddles up at night and rides away, likely to never be seen from again…..

The tale originates within the 25 May 1922 issue of Short Stories magazine. I am not sure which issue sported the cover art, since it has not been uploaded to the FictionMags database. If anyone can supply the original cover data to me, and an image, for the site, that would be wonderful. The cover art was rendered by Edgar Franklin Wittmack, dated 1922.

The cover has little to do with the content, but, it comes damn close, given that Homer does go after Todhunter, so, one could make that cover argument.

I highly recommend this tale to anyone that wishes to wallow away the nighttime hours, as I do, in pleasure-reading without straining the brain.

2015 October 19 “The Lure of Piper’s Glen” by Theodore Goodridge Roberts

2015 October 15 “Arizona Argonauts” by H. Bedford-Jones

05 Arizona Argonauts

H. Bedford-Jones’ “Arizona Argonauts” was originally printed in the May 1920 edition of Short Stories magazine while the front cover, rendered beautifully by Nick Eggenhofer, appeared on the 10 April 1922 issue. Sadly, the cover, once again, has zero to do with the contents within. There are no wild horse scenes within.

That doesn’t mean that the novelette isn’t any good. In fact, far from it. Personally, I have not read much H. B.-J., however, what I have read amounts mostly to his Oriental output, and those stories have been humdingers, for sure! I’ve never been fond of sea stories by any author. But, I digress.

This tale is very convoluted. We have a corrupt businessman whom is on the lam from his worries, looking to start a new life. The last of his possessions include his automobile, anything tucked therein, and a $500 wad stuffed down his sock. Skirting along the back roads of Arizona, he spots two hitchhikers. Never one to shy away from giving a free lift, he makes them the offer, only to find himself at the wrong end of a cylinder chambered with death. The pair are robbing him, but he learns that they are only looking for eats, not really money. The situation becomes mock-ridiculous, absurd, what-have-you, when one of the hikers turns out to be a famous surgeon that once operated on the corrupt driver, name of Sandy.

Sandy is shocked to see the surgeon, Murray, in such a condition. Murray confesses that he was run out of his profession once it was learned that he was a morphine addict. He has been free of the addiction since, but, can’t find work, so it is the road for him. His companion is an ex-safecracker, name of Bill. Both confess that they can’t now rob Murray, since they are all essentially of the same ilk.

Sandy offers them the ride anyway, as the one thing he has never had in life, is friends. They agree to be friends, and join forces. Sandy confesses his $500 wad and the pair confess they have more than that, even. They drive on to the (fictitious) town Meteorite. Here, they learn of a mining town further on in the middle of nowhere called Two Palms (I’ll spare you the time looking that one up, too. It’s also fictitious). While in the prior town, they openly remark to one fellow their interest in potentially buying a mine. This proves somewhat to be their undoing.

This rank fellow quickly writes and posts a letter to an unscrupulous denizen in Two Palms, and that person, Piute, along with another, name of Deadoak, jointly trick Sandy, a first-rank professional miner, into buying the mine and properties.

Sandy knows the whole thing is a sham, and quickly sends Bill to Meteorite anyway, to secure the deed and mortgage, proper. Piute and Deadoak intend on the same task, but are beat.

To mix things up, our wonderful author throws in some Oriental mystery. Arriving before our trio in an automobile was an Oriental man and his daughter, Claire, whom for all intents and purposes, is extremely beautiful, but, mystifying, appears to be wholly white! The town are flabbergasted by the pair, whom go out into the desert and take photographs.

As Sandy and his team arrive, they comically crash and wreck their flivvers. Bill is thrown threw the abandoned shop of a newspaper printer, and decides Fate tossed him in. Asking permission of the mayor, he is given to take over the facilities. He accepts.

Then the girl comes driving back into town, asking for a doctor. Murray jumps in and off they race, out into the desert. Her father, Lee, broke his leg. We later learn that he is interested in the same property that Sandy bought, so that he can establish a sanitarium and free the Chinese peoples of San Francisco from their opium habit.

Claire confesses she was (unofficially) adopted by Lee during the famous San Francisco fires. Her parents were missing, nobody disputed the adoption, and there you have it. Now Murray has zero racial tension to keep him from courting the girl. (sigh, so sad that authors were forced to insert all this racism, whether they believed in it or not).

Sandy is framed later into fighting a contractor whom recalls his criminal activities, and Murray is nearly equally railroaded into the pen on a charge of morphine and opium possession and distribution. However, Bill is on the scene and whips out his hideaway, demands the sheriff drop his gun and take him, alias “Shifty” Bill, in, on the wanted charge. The sheriff takes him instead as bigger game.

However, the whole thing unravels in the sheriff’s face. Lee informs the contractor to either drop the charges or lose his contract in building the sanitarium. Further, Bill had already done served time for that three-year-old wanted-poster in the sheriff’s office. Bill thinks it funny that he tricked the sheriff. And Murray? Well, turns out Lee’s private doctor had the drugs. Lee confronts him, is shot but does not die, however, Lee’s doctor dies from a rattler bite.

2015 October 15 “Arizona Argonauts” by H. Bedford-Jones

2015 October 13 “Spawn of the Desert” by W. C. Tuttle

And onto the fourth book, Tuttle’s “Spawn of the Desert.” I did not find this book as pleasing to read as the prior title by Tuttle, however, like the former, his expression and realistic dealings with the humanistic viewpoint continues to enthrall me.

04 Spawn Of The Desert

The novelette originates within the 10 May 1922 pages of Short Stories magazine while the cover art (by Nick Eggenhofer) is represented hails from the 25 June 1922 edition. It was also released as a motion film on 10 January 1923.

Enter two desert riders; “Le Saint” and “Duke Steele.” The names are truly quite absurd but I think Tuttle was honestly being playful. Neither character is portrayed as a good person. Both are man killers. How and why they have killed is irrelevant to the story as a whole, but, they have blood on their hands and neither are what they seem.

Duke joined up with Le Saint years ago but knows nothing about his pardner, save for his outward appearance(s). He is described as thus:

“…a mighty, weatherbeaten man, with a long, white beard…Surely he could not be a sinner, with the eyes of a dreamer, the nose of a prophet and the beard of a saint…”

Duke Steele is younger, given to be about 30 years of age and “…a face seemingly hewed from stone, although handsome…hair was black and he wore it low between his cheek and ear…”

They arrive in the midst of a funeral for the recently deceased Preacher Bill, whom was neither good nor bad, but had the habit of gambling. He was shot dead. Those in attendance spot the arrival of our pair, and mistake the elder man for a preacher. He does not deny the profession, and after some consideration, accepts their invitation to issue forth the final rites over Bill. Naturally, he thinks Bill a good soul but is interrupted and given the truth so he alters his recital to suit the purposes.

Le Saint and Duke are invited to stay at Calico, since they are now in need of a new preacher. They ask for a play to call home for the moment and take over Bill’s former abode, and quickly find the town run by one Silver Sleed, whom owns and runs much of the rocky, isolated desert town. With him are the traditional gunning henchman and a decent lass, his daughter, nickname “Luck.”

Turns out she, Luck, was being taught to read, etc, by the late Bill. She now shyly approaches Le Saint and asks if he will continue her studies, and remarkably, he agrees! Duke is likewise surprised, given their calling: gambler and killer.

Cutting out a lot of meat, Le Saint sets up a gambling table outside the saloon, and boldly proclaims that his game can’t be beat. Naturally, all the fools place their bets one at a time (his rules) and none ever win. They can’t. The pea is not under either walnut shell, of course.

Finally, Sleed tires of this and naturally, he knows the pea is not present. While he sends his goons out to deal with Sleed and uncover the other shell, call him a cheat, and gun him down, Sleed is in dire straights himself, playing cards against Duke, whom is cleaning him out. By the time they are finished, Sleed writes Duke a $46,000 I.O.U., at Duke’s insistence, rather than collecting on any of it.

He goes outside to find Le Saint being confronted. The henchman calls the bluff and wrenches up the other shell, and a gunfight ensues. Luck watches in horror as Le Saint is shot and Duke jumps out and shoots down the first, and direly wounds the rest. They run for their lives, or rather, Duke has to drag Le Saint, whom seems out of sorts.

Turns out, Le Saint is mentally unhinged, his mind thrown back a couple decades in time. We now are introduced to another man altogether, a Herculean beast, married with a baby, working the trappings of the Frozen wastelands with a partner, whom his wife insists is no good. He guffaws but one day returns early to find the truth. His partner is kidnapping wife and baby. He tosses them into a canoe and makes his escape.

Meanwhile, while his past comes gurgling forth from his incoherent lips, Luck finds them first and informs them the people of Calico are coming to hang them. She assists in getting them hidden in her father’s (Sleed’s) home, but this backfires, as the town figures it out. They then flee to the silver mines that dot the rocky terrain, but are thus chased.

Duke then notes that Le Saint has vanished! He refuses to escape without his pardner, and with Luck, return to the crowd chasing them, only to find that Le Saint is calling out Luck’s father, naming him Sleed Martin, the man whom killed his wife and (likely) child (though it is clear now to Duke at this point that Luck his Le Saint’s daughter).

The two clash, and everyone is awestruck that Le Saint is stronger than the other. He clubs him down, then carries him up to a high precipice, only to duke it out again. Eventually, he lifts Sleed and hurls him off the cliff, then whirling about, loses his own step and his body chases Sleed’s down to his own death.

Duke mounts up and departs Calico. Luck inherits all, becomes rich, can earn her own education if she wishes. And Duke? He does not inform Luck whom her real father is. He leaves, shreds the $46,000 I.O.U., and wonders, while riding away, if he is nuts…

2015 October 13 “Spawn of the Desert” by W. C. Tuttle