Weird Shorts: First Selection (Gerald G Swan, 1944)

Weird Shorts

Weird Shorts: First Selection was published by Gerald G. Swan in 1944 and priced at 7d. This 36-page stapled pamphlet contains 7 short stories. It is actually the only edition.

Up first is “In Alien Valleys” by Henry Rawle.
Typical social gathering at the local pub, one of those fire-side chats, discussing ghosts and psychical phenomenon and the traditional naysayers that take control of the conversation until the ‘silent-looker-on’ off to the side coughs their way into the discussion. This person is usually another noted scientist or doctor or, just some bloke that knew to attend one of these gatherings. In any case, his morbid tale is of his own mind suffering astral projection but the effects are proven by his awakening and the marks left behind by a giant taloned bird are upon his very body. Naturally, anyone can scoff at this conclusion. While the tale of being projected onto another planet was a fun read, the freshly made scars could be readily faked from a variety of sources. The tale has a very “dated” feel to it.

Henry Rawle has contributed many weird tales to the
British mags of old, including the following:

  • Armand’s Return, (ss) Ghosts & Goblins, 1938
  • The Bride of Yum-Chac, (ss) Occult #1 ’45
  • Dr. Gabrielle’s Chair, (ss) Space Fact and Fiction # 2 ’54
  • Fiorello (ss) New Acorn Jun/Jul 1949
  • Flashback, (ss) Occult #2 ’46
  • Gruenaldo, (vi) Weird Story Magazine #1 ’46
  • The Head of Ekillon, (ss) Ghosts & Goblins, 1938
  • In Alien Valleys, (ss) Weird Shorts #1 ’44
  • The Intruder, (vi) Weird and Occult Miscellany, 1949
  • Marley’s Masterpiece, (ss) Mystery Stories #18 ’39
  • Revanoff’s Fantasia, (ss) Tales of Ghosts and Haunted Houses, 1939
  • Silvester’s Oasis, (ss) Weird and Occult Library #3 ’60
  • The Voice of Amalzzar, (ss) Weird and Occult Library #2 ’60

Next is Trevor Dudley-Smith’s “The Immortal Guardian,” which also treads upon the usual. A woman’s long-suffering brother is dying, and, commits suicide. Before dying, he surrenders onto her his ring to wear, and promises to watch over her throughout life. Much time has past since his departure, and, while she and her husband are driving away to catch a flight, she is horror-stricken to note the ring is missing! They return to the hotel and learn that a maid found it in the shower drain. How did it fall off? It had never come off or been removed prior. They miss their flight, and next morning, while reading the newspaper, the husband is in awe to learn that the plane crashed. Was it fate, luck, coincidence, or … her brother?

The former name of Elleston Trevor, he obtained greater
fame later as Adam Hall with his “Quiller” crime novels.

Sigrid’s House” by Dallas Kirby is a tale of demoniacal possession.
Long ago, a lovely lady married a preacher and then tried to corrupt his soul and sell it to the devil. He fought her and the house exploded from within, after he fought her off with his silver cross. Every seven years, a stranger happens along and is stranded in the vicinity and happens upon the house and is never seen or heard from again. Enter our hero, a detective on assignment, headed off to investigate illegal transportation of drugs. He never makes his destination, for his wheels become stuck in the mud during a torrential downpour. Seeing a light in the distance, he decides to make a break for it and finds himself at a desolate mansion of sorts. Entering, a servant brings him to his master, a stunningly beautiful girl. Whether his drink was doped or she worked black magic upon him is unclear, but, he becomes aware dreamily that he has told her of his entire assignment, etc., and then jerks fully awake as a spark from the fireplace burns him. Shucking the evil power holding him, he’s now fully coherent and in perfect control of his faculties. Midnight is drawing near and he realizes that he is in the evilly rumored Sigrid’s House. He goes down to the basement, and finds the girl in a trance calling out to the devil himself, and an evil THING does manifest. Realizing that he is to be the final sacrifice to bring her Self back to life (and the demon, too) he lunges forward upon the preacher’s old silver cross, performs some brief battle with cadaverous creature from hell using the cross, and the home and explodes. He awakens in Hoyt, where he was to perform his duties. He is battered and bruised from his ordeal, but is being aptly cared for by a woman, whose husband found him dazed and near death, clutching in his hands a branch of wood in the form of a crucifix…

Dallas Kirby is the alias of David J. Gammon; he contributed two
other odd bits, both to the publisher Gerald G. Swan, being:

  • Come Brother, Come!, (ss) Weird and Occult Library #2 ’60
  • The Incredible Solution, (ss) Yankee Science Fiction #21 ’42

Night of Terror!” by E. A. Cross is more a crime story than a weird one.
Your typical fat, bloated, rich asshole is driving through the countryside when his car fails him. Walking to a home in the remote region during a storm, he is welcomed by an older man, whom turns out to be a scientist. While left alone, the visitor stumbles into the laboratory and discovers that the man is insanely carving upon brains of missing “other” visitors and leaving them alive as brainless halfwits. Scared out of his mind, the portly man tries in vain to escape but is captured, tied to a bench, and commits suicide rather than be operated upon. The joke is on him. The intent WAS to scare him to death, as a prank. The asshole, turns out, had stolen another man’s woman and she died. The scientist was the father, and the halfwit running around? the woman’s original betrayed lover, also in on the gag.

Elizabeth Anne Cross contributed at least two more shorts, both
to Swan, being general fiction stories. 

David Alun presents us with an awfully good tongue-in-cheek sinister spoof on Adolph Hitler as Udolph Litter. In “The Demon and the Dictator,” a lesser demon is sent to earth to corrupt a tiny country’s tyrant into committing flagrant atrocities. The dictator is repulsed by Melite, the ugly little demon, so it changes form to a fuckably cute little girl in a dancer outfit. We are led to believe that Udolph kisses the girl (and is zapped) and they might even have intercourse over the years. Melite convinces him to sign off on a form to provide Melite with a “ball” and in exchange, Melite gives him the world (sort of). Many many years pass and Udolph is conquering the world but is not ready to die just yet, each time becoming more and more wretched and evil. Melite suggests killing the Jews (I’m surprised this made it into the text). Tired of waiting, Melite uses his demon abilities to coerce Udolph to blow his brains out, and Melite collects an evilly hardened little ball, being Udolph’s soul. Melite was assigned to obtain a solidly functional soul-ball for the upper demons to play Rugby with, incidentally…. It’s a damn good story, despite the spoof being chillingly close to reality.

This author’s identity has never been cemented, however,
I suspect that this is David William Alun Llewellyn. Who?
Yeah, that’s what I said, too. Check out the following link.
If you read it and concur, let me know. I’m fairly confident this is our man.
http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/llewellyn_alun

In “The Revenge of Arnul,” author W. P. Cockroft presents a man whom has been wronged and robbed his whole life by a man that competed with and bettered him in all tasks and assignments and goals throughout childhood and later years, even going so far as to claim the woman he loved. Tired of the constant suffering, he went on to pursue a career in the sciences, an area the other had zero interest. Many years, decades perhaps, pass. The scientist sends a letter of invite to his one-time competitor, and he accepts, but brings a gun with him. He realizes that something is afoot, and is prepared to defend himself. The scientist informs him that he has created a time machine and he has succeeded in sending a motion camera into the future and recorded certain events. He shows him one such reel, indicating the wife’s great sorrow. And then he shows him his own death, being hanged for the murder of the scientist! Angered and frightened, he attacks the scientist and threatens to destroy the machines, believing the scenes are faked. While fighting, he fatally shoots the scientists, whom laughs to death, proclaiming his own death was what was needed to solidify the future’s reality, otherwise, it was just one of many such futures. With his dying breath, he tells his killer to play one last reel. The man plays the reel, which shows HIM entering the house, going into the library, talking to the scientist, and plays on through to the final kill scene. In a fit of utter insanity, he destroys everything and is arrested for murder. His lawyer can’t fathom why he won’t plead to self-defense, but, he’s seen the future, and knows that the hangman’s noose is unavoidable….

I wrote up another Wilfred P. Cockroft tale many months ago
(see: They Came From Mars) but never discussed the man himself.
He contributed to SF and Weird fandom alike from
1934 through 1954, appearing earliest in the world’s
first science fiction newspaper (Scoops), made a couple sales to
American pulps, appeared in Britain’s debut issue of Tales of Wonder, etc.

I. O. Evans presents a ghoulish Norse revival of “The Kraken.” Bringing in a geologist to investigate seaside phenomenon of the sea floor seeming to rise, Jarvis is gobsmacked to learn that the sea does indeed appear to have risen several dozen feet, making the bottom quite visible in places. Numerous tourists have come to the beach to take pictures, boats aplenty are adrift, anchored and watching, and the British navy is on the scene, when, inexplicably, the whole of the ocean floor suddenly rises and bubbles to the surface, becoming a rubbery gelatinous mass. The situation worsens when tentacled claws shoot out and begin grasping sea-goers and dragging them under for nourishment. Jarvis, our geologist, immediately realizes that they are dealing with the historically fantastic Kraken of Norse mythology, but, hasn’t a clue how to defeat the creature. The navy does battle with the beast, and the beast retaliates by pulling an entire warship under. Depth charges are unleashed, and the Kraken drops and creates a whirlpool that drags every ship under to a watery grave. Nothing seems to kill or permanently injure the beast. Bombs fail. Cannonballs bounce off the rubbery body. Anti-aircraft fire penetrates but really does nothing else, other than annoy the creature. In the end, it is the English weather that sends the critter swimming away to the deeper and COLDER recesses of the Atlantic depths.

Idrisyn Oliver Evans contributed only the one known weird story,
one science fiction tale involving a robot-boxer
(The Passing Show, 15 Jan 1938), and translated
two of Jules Verne’s tales (“Frritt-Flacc” and “Gil Braltar”)
both for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.
https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Author_talk:Idrisyn_Oliver_Evans
For further interest, here is a link detailing his books:
https://www.librarything.com/author/evansio

In conclusion, below are the publication’s specs:

Weird Shorts: First Selection [#1, 1944]
(London: Gerald G Swan, 7d, 36-pages, 4.75 x 7.5 inches, stapled pamphlet, cover art: unknown)
2 * In Alien Valleys * Henry Rawle
5 * The Immortal Guardian * Trevor Dudley-Smith
8 * Sigrid’s House * Dallas Kirby
15 * Night of Terror! * E. A. Cross
21 * The Demon and the Dictator * David Alun
25 * The Revenge of Arnul * W. P. Cockcroft (sic)
30 * The Kraken * I. O. Evans

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Weird Shorts: First Selection (Gerald G Swan, 1944)

Manhunt Detective Story Monthly (April 1955)

Manhunt 1955 April The April 1955 issue of Manhunt Detective Story Monthly digest pulp magazine is a humdinger of fascinating fiction.

Quite personally, I am not an avid fan of Hal Ellson, and his short tale “Blood Brothers” does nothing to dispel that opinion. The story is typical of his juvenile delinquent writings. Bunch of outcasts in a neighborhood are ruled by the iron-fist cruelty of the local bully. When one of the nicer boys is beaten to a pulp by one of the bully’s buddies and his girl molested on a rooftop, his crippled friend comes to the rescue, offering up a solution. See, he has a cousin and he is simply crazy about wanting retribution against the bully, whom apparently owes him money. The three go down and butt heads with the bully, and the crazy cousin gives him the rough riot act and threatens more of the same unless he coughs up the dough. He gives him a deadline. Deadline comes up, they go for the loot, and the bully isn’t able to scrape it all together. Shit goes sideways, the crazy cousin ices the bully, the other two scatter to the four winds in fright. They later hook up. The cousin has been captured, sent to jail, but, he won’t talk. They get a bigger gang together of outcasts and reclaim their neighborhood, bit by bit. They even give the ex-girlfriend the treatment, whatever it may be, by the hands of the cripple. Rape? Who knows. Everything is coyly inferred. It’s annoying. By story’s end, the new gang is going to take on a rival neighboring gang that has flexed their might too far across the line….

Next story is the gruesome reality that you can do a lot of damage while drunk. In Bryce Walton’s “The Movers,” Susie’s husband awakens from a drunken stupor to find that his wife has finally left him, the bills are unpaid, and movers are coming to take away the possessions, barrels and trunks, and packed and ready to go. However, during a drunken rage, he apparently murdered his wife and stuffed her into a barrel, and the movers find her. All the while, he rages on and on that they can’t take their possessions, that his wife is coming back, clearly unaware that he was butchered his own wife….

The Day it Began Again” by Fletcher Flora proves that Flora doesn’t ONLY have to write cliche murder stories with someone drinking a cocktail or being rich, although, well, partially, in this case. Carlos is in prison as a serial killer and his best friend is trying to convince the lawyer to set him free, etc., that he didn’t commit the killings. Thing is, he did murder all those girls and, his friend knows this. See, he hid the evidence himself, and, as the lawyer noted, all the serial killings ceased once Carlos was put away. His friend realizes that they only way to add “doubt” to the court proceedings is for the murders to take up where they left off, in the exact same manner. So he digs out those hidden shoe laces….

The Meek Monster” by Edward D. Radin reads more like a true crime story than fiction. Oh, right, that’s because it is. Rather than my writing it up, read the Wiki stub instead, on serial killer John Reginald Halliday Christie.

Alphabet Hicks returns in yet another Rex Stout short, “His Own Hand.” Hicks is dead-tired, headed home, when he is met by an officer whom interrogates him as to his whereabouts with certain bodies potentially involved in a murder case. The officer asks him to elaborate and leave nothing out, even odd conversation bits, etc. In the process of rehashing the events, he begins to have a theory as to who the killer is, but does not inform the officer. Rather, later, he is phoned by the parties involved, to come over, and discuss matters. He comes, still sleepy, and proclaims that he can actually put the entire case to rest. He knows the murderer. They all scoff but it soon becomes no laughing matter once he latches onto one person in particular and forces a confession. Not a very interesting Hicks story, and certainly not Stout at his best, but, that’s a matter of opinion, right?

For my monetary investment, George Bagby’s “Mug Shot” was well-worth the spend. Once again following the adventures of Inspector Schmidt, author George Bagby tags along for the entire investigation. Schmidt, while pacing down a street waiting for Bagby, is mugged. His assailant escapes. Bagby snatches the license plate. Thus begins a wild and woolly crime adventure, lots of dick work, dead bodies cropping up, drugs, a love affair of sorts, a false front of money, and deceit. The 40+ page novelette is a scintillating reminder that not everything is as it seems.

Sam S. Taylor supplies “The General Slept Here.” No real brilliance to the story. Private Detective Neal Cotten is asked to investigate the disappearance of a young lady’s aunt. Only thing is, she’s a fraud. The niece, that is. The aunt has vanished, but tracking her down doesn’t prove too arduous a task. In the process, he receives the long-sleep treatment via a love-tap to the skull and awakens to find the man he was to meet, stone-cold-dead with an ice-pick in his spine. Unimaginative and overused murder devices aside, it’s obvious that the dear old lady’s bed has a false bottom and stolen loot is piled into this. A snoozer’s only redeemable value could have been enhanced if Cotten pushed the faux-niece down an open elevator shaft. Oh well….

The next-to-last tale is “Sylvia” by Ira Levin. Lewis Melton has cared and protected his irresponsibly naive daughter all his life, and broken up a divorce in which the young man was stealing her funds. However, unbeknownst to him, she’s still madly in love with this crook. He learns that she has planned a great escape, convincing her dad to go on a trip, and while gone, she sends the help away, and has wired her lover to meet her at the airport. He learns all this while digging through her drawer and also find a gun, loaded. He thinks the gun is to kill her ex-lover, but, in truth, she murders her father. Why? Insanity.

One more tale. “The Impostors” by Jonathan Craig is one of those creepier tales. Husband and wife, he’s an artist, and wakes up one day to realize his gorgeous wife has been replaced by an older woman and ugly. He can’t bare to look at her. He kills off this woman so that his young wife will return to him and then sees the same thing in the mirror. His younger self is gone and replaced by an older thing. They arrest him before he can kill this self, but he plans, while in prison, to kill that person and meet with his hot wife again. Clear case of insanity, again.

Manhunt Detective Story Monthly (April 1955)

“The Oxbow Wizard” by Theodore Goodridge Roberts (1924)

60-the-oxbow-wizard
The Oxbow Wizard” (Garden City Pub, 1924) Theodore Goodridge Roberts

The Oxbow Wizard,” a highly popular young adult frozen north wilderness adventure novella, was the 1st of 3 experimental forays by Garden City Publishing into the “A Book for Boys” series. These were part of the even larger never-properly-define broader series of soft cover digest-paperbacks (similar to dime novels in format) for which I have already earlier blogged. Numbered “60” on the spine for the overall series, the rear cover adverts up to 62 titles, overall, and sports an internal copyright notice of 1924, and 1920 for the original, via Open Road’s publishers, Torbell.

No records to my knowledge has ever indicated where the novella originally was published, however, I have located serial installments of the novella in Torbell’s The Open Road. This was a magazine designed to encourage young boys and men to get out-doors, rather than remain indoors and idle. The serial begins the in December 1919 issue, with the installment titled “Up the Oxbow.”

Additionally, parts of this serial MIGHT appear in The Trail Makers Boys’ Annual (Volume 1, 1920) but I have never obtained a copy for confirmation, nor have I been able to ascertain the full contents of said volume, which contains “stories and articles for Canadian boys” by Canadian men.

These three boys books lack the reproduced covers from SHORT STORIES magazines that made the series initially so enticing to collect. Unable to trace all of the Open Road mags, I can’t be certain whether this cover image originates with the magazine or hails from an entirely different source. Hopefully one of our blog readers may one day solve that mystery!

The story introduces young men to the coming-of-age young Dan Evans. While cleaning out a boarder’s room, he stumbles across an abandoned green bound volume, later revealed to be the collected adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Having read various tales, he begins to apply the logic into his real-life adventures and solves small home issues. His father, never kindly disposed to his son, thinks he is acting “smart” and dislikes his good intentions. However, when a young lady mysteriously vanishes, he applies his newly aroused detective skills and inadvertently bumps into his “odd” uncle, whom is more than he seems. Realizing the young man is smarter than he looks, the uncle demands he continue on to his cabin, where he will meet him later. However, on arriving at the cabin, young Dan Evans discovers the place is occupied by the missing lady, being harassed by a hooligan. Evans takes out the interloper, and it is learned that she married and eloped with the uncle, secretly because the uncle is very shy.

Some time later, as a reward for his skill and assistance, his uncle, removed far and away from the wild and seated at a desk in the city, offers Dan the opportunity to take over his cabin and partner up with an older man, and trap the wild animals for their fur, etc. Dan gives up his lumbering job for the hardworking winter job of trapping.

Mysteries abound when the cabin is found broken into, supposedly by a bear, per his partner. However, Dan sees signs that a bear would not have caused. Time passes and Dan comes upon a woman whom imposes upon his good will to help her feed her starving babies. Her husband is at home, laid up. Dan discovers the man is actually heavily intoxicated, and notices bear claws under the bunk and, an extremely large bear fur on the ground, the dimensions for which match the assumed size of the mythical bear that broke into their cabin!

Realizing the drunk broke into his cabin (despite the girl claiming it was herself, with the good intention of salvaging food for her children) Dan decides to work in the family’s favor to keep them fed.

But when his traps are worked over, he realizes the drunkard is stealing his furs. Proof surfaces when the man, terribly drunk, is found by the partner. Unable to drag him to safety, he remains outside in the frozen wastes. Dan, upon returning to the cabin, discovers his partner missing, and quickly hunts him down. Finally realizing the man’s whereabouts, he is introduced to the drunkard, and they learn that he sold the fur(s) and bought mostly illegal liquor, rather than stocking up with food for his family.

When more of his traps are found disturbed, Dan is irked. Determined to best the drunkard, he utilizes his skills to bait the shiftless cretin, and tracks down the person peddling the illegal booze. With the aid of a policeman, the whole incident is nearly neatly handled.

Not the best story I’ve ever read by Theodore Goodridge Roberts. His other three entries, previously blogged about, better stood the test of literary time than this young adult farce. Overall, of the four titles via this publisher, “The Lure of Piper’s Glen” is undoubtedly the most entertaining.

“The Oxbow Wizard” by Theodore Goodridge Roberts (1924)