Clyde A. Warden and Western Trails pulp magazine

Quite possibly the coolest purchase I will make for all of 2023 (and we are only finishing up the 3rd month) is this batch of Western Trails magazines from the 1930s. Acquired back in early January 2023, I’ve been having fun slowly sorting through them.

The seller wasn’t altogether upfront, perhaps, about their overall condition. Or given they aren’t a pulp dealer, to be fair, I suspect the seller didn’t realize the various flaws. Some lack front covers. Some lack rear covers. The spines on the earliest ones aren’t great. Some that have the covers attached are by virtue of being glued to the first internal page or glued onto a sheet of paper as a means of reinforcement. Unfortunately, this seems to have occurred with the earlier issues. The latter half of the run are in better shape. Whoever originally owned all of these went to great lengths to assemble them (along with a short, broken 1930s run of Western Aces, which I also acquired).

But hell! The literature is present, which is a good thing, if you enjoy reading.

The first thing I noticed was the overwhelming quantity of Delos Palmer illustrations. If you are gazing at my attached pic of covers, that would account for most of the white background covers (the upper five rows). He vanished from being Western Trails regular cover contributor and focused almost exclusively illustrating several Spicy covers until 1939. By 1940, he had wholly abandoned the pulps.

The second thing I noted was that one Clyde A. Warden often copped the covers. Who the hell is that? I knew nothing about Clyde A. Warden before obtaining these. I love a good research project, so took a quick look at American census records and discovered that Clyde A. Warden was indeed a real person. Let’s begin with 1930 since that was when Clyde really began launching into the pulps, after his first known sale in 1929.

1930 Census:
Address: South Fourteenth Street
Salem, Marion County, Oregon
Birthplace: Oregon
Age: 22
Occupation: Author
Residing with his widowed mother, Ella (age 51) and younger brother Clifford (age 18)

This census is already interesting in that he is an Author, did not attend College, but did graduate high school. His earliest (known) pulp sale under his own name was via The Golden West Magazine, a two-part novelette in the April and May 1929 issues. After that he dedicated nearly all his time to Western Trails, beginning with the January 1930 issue. That issue also launched his recurring character: Bert Little.

This made me wonder if Clyde supplied fiction to any local newspaper supplements. Or to rural magazines, which are largely not indexed. I mean, what are the odds he graduated high school and began selling fiction at age 21? What did he do between high school and 1929? We have a two-to-three years unaccounted for.

He may have been employed by the Salem World per the Oregon Exchanges records as a “compositor”. This publication was based in Salem, Oregon, an evening edition only (sans Sunday) and founded in 1927. Clyde would have been 18 or 19 at this time. If this paper was digitized and available online, I’d kill to have access to it and see if we can locate anything inside credited to Clyde. The University of Oregon Library appears to be the only one with any holdings, covering 1927 October 20 through 1928 July 30. If my library still had a microfilm machine, I’d be placing an Interlibrary loan request. If anyone resides in Oregon and can access that film, I’d love to know!

Curious to learn about the widow and her husband’s name and occupation, I dialed it back a decade to track him down.

1920 Census:
Address: Bandon and Prosper Road
Age: 11
Prosper, Coos County, Oregon

The husband’s name was Joseph (age 59) and the wife’s name was given this time as Ellen (age 41). Two additional children, a son and a daughter, each older than Clyde, are listed. Carroll (age 18) and Verna (age 14). Joseph’s occupation was given as a miner in a gold mine.

1940 Census:
Address: Fifth Street
Ashland, Jackson County, Oregon
Age: 33
Occupation: writer

This entry is a little misleading. Clyde and his wife Helen (age 30) were lodging with his brother Clifford and his wife Elizabeth. The census notes that in 1935 Clyde and his Connecticut born wife resided in Los Angeles, California. Why? Was he pursuing a possible Hollywood script-writing career? Given the number of Bert Little tales, translating them to the silver screen seems logical. But more importantly, Clyde was still listing his occupation as an author, yet, his last known regular pulp appearance was in 1938. He wouldn’t have any further known sales until the April 1942 issue of Fifteen Western Tales magazine. Thirteen months later, same magazine, the March 1943 issue ran a novella. These would be his last two sales under his name. Were these original tales or ancient rejects? And why had Clyde abandoned Western Trails, especially after contributing about 85 (combo of Bert Little tales and non-series) from January 1930 until July 1938? That’s 103 months. Most of the issues Clyde failed to land were in this first year and final year.

A decade later, we learn that Clyde is no longer an author.

1950 Census:
Address: M Street
Sweet Home, Linn County, Oregon
Age: 42
Occupation: Tavern proprietor

Still married to Helen, the pair had niece Marilyn Estep (age 2) residing with them. Were they babysitting her when the census taker arrived? Helen’s occupation is given as bartender at the tavern. They pair apparently never had any children of their own. A tremendous shame as this eliminates the potential to contact direct descendants, aside from nieces and nephews, etc.

The Find-a-Grave website shows that Clyde Arthur Warden’s precise date of birth was 18 March 1908. He died at the young age of 56, on 20 August 1964 in Linn County. He is buried at Hilltop Cemetery, in Independence, Polk County, Oregon. This entry also provides additional family members lined to Clyde, as follows:

Father: Joseph Benjamin Warden (Born 1860, Died 1921)
Mother: Ella May, nee Aplington (Born 20 May 1878, Died 12 December 1960)
Brother: Carroll Vernon Warden (Born 13 March 1901, Died 1 October 1969)
Brother: Clifford Warden (Born 9 February 1912, Died 12 November 2000)

I’ve yet to verify what became of sister Verna. Did she marry before the 1930 census or die?

I don’t see any evidence that Clyde served or enlisted during the second World War, which I felt would have partially explained his 1940s disappearance from supplying fiction to the pulps. It was a lucrative market for him. What happened?

In any case, this all shaped up towards researching an obscure author. Only thing is, Ed Hulse of Murania Press announced that Will Murray had already prepared an article for this year’s special edition of Blood N Thunder magazine.

And so, my dreams of working up a project concerning Clyde Arthur Warden, author of the long-running Bert Little series, comes to an abrupt end.

As comedian Nigel Ng’s character Uncle Roger would say, Haiyaa!

After publishing this blog, fellow research Steven Rowe obtained a copy of Clyde’s obituary. From that, we now learn the following details:

Clyde was born in Gold Hill, Oregon, on 15 March 1908.
His family then moved to Salem, Oregon, where he attended school.
He moved to Sweet Home, Oregon, in 1948, where he would reside until death.
Clyde’s bar was the Circus Room Lounge and Restaurant.
He married Ordell Devlin on 26 May 1956.
Both his brothers and sister outlived him, as did his second wife.
We learn that his sister Verna did in fact marry, becoming Verna Bordier.

So, he remarried! What became of Helen? Death or divorce?

As for Ordell, she filed for divorce from Clyde in May 1964, a handful of months before he ultimately would die in August, on grounds of “cruelty”. The proximity from divorce to death leads me to now wonder just how he died. Age, health, liquor, etc.?

From the United States Social Security death index, I learned that Verna died in 1970. Sadly, this information is not found on the Find-a-Grave site.

Clyde A. Warden and Western Trails pulp magazine

Creasey Mystery Magazine # 3 (October 1956)

Creasey Mystery Magazine (v1 n3, October 1956) was published by Dalrow Publishing and like its preceding two issues, sports a solid one-color cover devoid of artwork. Edited by Leslie Syddall, this issue is filled with mostly reprints by quality writers of the mystery genre.

Creasey Mystery Magazine (v1 #3 – October 1956)

The lead novella is by John Creasey and titled Under-Cover Man. The tale originally appeared in a South African magazine, thus far untraced. It later was serialized in Australia’s Woman’s Day and Home beginning 1951 Jun 20. Two years later it was jointly published with Murder Out of the Past by UK: Barrington Gray, 1953 (I’ll be reading that tale in the next issue). This novelette opens with a frightened young lady fleeing from a tall man into a hotel. Hiding there, she is approached by a nice man who offers his assistance. He notices her fear of the tall man and convinces her to permit him to escort her out to his car, and away to meet his sister. Assures her calmly he really does have a car, really does have a sister. He’s not on the prowl. While at the car, the tall man approaches and our odd hero takes him down, disarms him of the knife he was attempting to bring forth. Creasey, ever the master at quick action yarns, spins the usual one here, but it flows admirably along. The gist: two men and two women vacation in South Africa. One man is murdered. Stabbed to death. The other collects what funds they have and makes for town. He can’t return but sends for her. She’s got no money; she arrives at the hotel to discover he’s not there! Enter…our hero. We learn there is some form of blackmail racket. But it goes even deeper than that, expanding into an even broader plot. Is anyone truly innocent? Our hero is clearly the under-cover man of the title. Why has he involved himself in the plight of this young lady? Why not simply involve the police? It’s a decent yarn and readily available for those interested in pursuing.

The Nemean Lion once more features Hercule Poirot. Written by Agatha Christie, the story debuted in The Strand, November 1939. I’ve mentioned prior that I find Poirot to be a frustratingly annoying person. Certainly not the sort of person I would enjoy spending time with, in any capacity. This story introduces readers to the fact that Poirot has effectively decided to retire, but not before tackling twelve cases that he has dubbed The Labours of Hercules, after the famed exploits of the Greek literary demi-god of legend. Unfortunately for Poirot, his first “labour” involves a Pekinese dog. It was dog-napped for ransom, that was paid, and the dog returned. So, who cares? The dog belonged to a woman. The husband cares. It was his money, and his wife did not inform him of the missing dog nor the ransom until after the issue was settled. He doesn’t care so much of the money. He has plenty. But it irks him regardless. And, another person likewise lost his wife’s dog via the same manner, but at a cost of 300 Pounds, 100 more than his own wife’s dog! Poirot takes the case and if you’ve read Poirot, he wraps it up quickly, but not to my satisfaction. He sends out his faithful man Georges to track a certain person; I’d already determined early that there were only two plausible culprits. I won’t divulge the identity but suffice to say that Poirot visits the person at their home and gives the person the opportunity to explain their actions. Despite a crime perpetuated more than once (several times, in fact) to various dog owners, Poirot permits the crime to go unpunished with a caveat.

The Missing Model by Peter Fraser appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald, 28 Aug 1954 and the BBC issued it in 1955 as a ‘Play for Broadcasting’), but it’s true first appearance was actually in The (London) Evening Standard, 13 December 1950. A couple are strolling past a shop window. The female watches a figure stumble in and collapse, dead. Returning with a constable, they are shocked to discover no dead body. Reaching out to the shop owner, he’s brought in to open shop when the detective notes that the alarm isn’t active. There’s no evidence of foul-play. The lady describes the clothes the dead person wore and notes a picture in the shop is that of the dead woman. Turns out she is their main model. Calling at her home, her mother states she is out but will return…she never does. Months pass and while no body nor clues surface, a circular was dispatched with a full description of the model’s clothes. Those turn up at a shop, the cops investigate, and we eventually obtain the killer and a case involving essentially industrial espionage.

A Dog’s Life by Michael Innes is listed on the story-page as a new story. This is false. It debuted in The (London) Evening Standard, 11 May 1950 and features his recurring popular Scotland Yard detective John Appleby. The story later was reprinted in America’s digest MacKill’s Mystery Magazine, September 1952. It’s undeniably an entertainingly flavored yarn, too. Appleby relates a case from many years earlier, in his younger years. He spends time at a cliffside town with the Lorio family, a strange couple. Something feels off about them, but he’s on vacation, not working. As he later confesses, a Yard man is always working, and must always be cognizant of this fact. While napping at the beach, he overhears a couple talking and making love. He’s mortified to recognize the voice of Mrs. Lorio making out with a strange man. Not wishing to be present to this love affair that is hardly his business, he sneaks away. Days pass find Appleby often walking with Mr. Lorio and his dog. One day the pair alone are walking along the cliffs; the wind is dangerously whipping about. Appleby has no interest in the edge, but Mr. Lorio suddenly discovers his dog down the cliffside, seemingly stuck. Appleby finds this intriguing and watches in shock as Lorio scrambles down the cliffside to rescue his dog, vanish from sight, then fall away into the sea far below to his death. Appleby runs and calls for coast guard assistance, etc., returns, and finds the dog climbed up on its own and Mrs. Lorio present looking for an explanation, seemingly mortified that her dear husband is dead, when the dog struggles lose and pursues a man that looks like vagrant. In fact, looks very much like the strange man Mrs. Lorio was having affair. The dog isn’t attacking. It loves its fleeing Master! Appleby discovers a clean-shaven Mr. Lorio and realizes the truth: the pair murdered another man to pretend it was Mr. Lorio that died to collect insurance money. Realizing he’s captured. Mr. Lorio jumps off the cliff, and Mrs. Lorio is arrested, sentenced to hang.

Peter Cheyney’s The Rope originally appeared in the 1920s-1930s. The earliest publication I’ve found is 28 June 1939 in The Wireless Weekly (Australia), a journal dedicated to the radio, and in England via the Staffordshire Advertiser, 10 Feb 1940. It was much later reprinted in MacKill’s Mystery Magazine, December 1952. This tale proves that if you give a criminal enough rope, they’ll hang themselves, no matter how smartly they plan. Getlin owes 700 Pounds to his friend Varne. His friend Varne is an alcoholic because Getlin once stole his girlfriend. He never recovered. Getlin doesn’t actually like Varne. He hates him. Hates him so much that he plans to murder Varne, and has a brilliant plan, planned over the course of a few years. Everyone in town has heard Varne drunkenly state he’s tired of living. Death by suicide: hanging. While Varne is drinking it up heavily in town, Getlin with the third spare given him by Varne (housekeeper has the other) enters the home. Arranges the suicide. Varne finally stumbles home, but Getlin gets tired of Varne drunkenly digging in his pockets for his house key. Unlocking the door, Varne falls through. Assisting the scarcely conscious man to his room, he arranges the noose about Varne’s neck, props him up, slips out of the room and in doing so, Varne slips and hangs himself. Next day, a constable comes to Getlin’s home to place him under arrest for murder. Where did he go wrong? Investigation states Varne was too drunk to tie the noose and hang himself. Plus, how did he get inside the home when his key was found in the street? The housekeeper was out of town. That leaves only Getlin.

The Case of the Red-Headed Women features Neils Orsen and is written by Dennis Wheatley. While its first publication remains unknown, it is known to be excerpted from Gunmen, Gallants & Ghosts (London: Hutchinson, June 1943). I say this because I genuinely doubt that GG&G was the first publication of all the bound stories. They feel more like pre-WW2 tales. In this psychic detective outing, Orsen is approached by friend Bruce Hemmingway to investigate a home recently purchased by newlywed clients. The home is the source of past deaths. Two redheaded women were hurled to their demise out the bathroom window; a man likewise died from that same window, but how he connects with the women is unknown. The question: is there a genuine haunting or is something more physical involved in the past-murders? Do the new owners have anything to fear? Possibly…if the wife is a redhead. Orsen accepts the invitation and sets up his photographic camera equipment outside said window and inside the bathroom. On the appointed night, Hemmingway and Orsen go to the home only to find that the newlyweds have already moved in, ahead of schedule. The pair must convince the husband to cater to their unexpected arrival and humor them until the ungodly hour of the fated wife’s scheduled demise…assuming it will actually occur. Orsen is convinced it will, when suddenly the wife, who is supposed to be asleep, is heard screaming in the bathroom. Orsen forces his way in ahead of the belligerent husband and discovers the wife very much alive, if not shaken by some supernatural ordeal. Collecting his equipment, Orsen develops the film and discovers that a ghostly form indeed had proceeded to hurl her out the window, an actual elemental. But why did it fail? Because powers of darkness can be beaten back by powers of light, namely, Orsen’s camera flash from outside the window!

The Skylight Man is by Nigel Morland and features his hard-nosed bitch of a detective, Mrs. Palmyra Pym. If that statement offends you, it shouldn’t. Pym’s stone-cold, abrasively coarse, etc. I’m not sure as to her age, but I dare say she’s probably in her 50s or so. Least, that’s how I read it. She’s called in to track a robber that can scale any building as agile as a cat and twice as fast. He made off with loads of cash. He was captured (accidentally) by a cop. Tossed in jail. Escaped, and killed a copper in the process. Every copper is hunting him to no avail. He has a girlfriend that has her own show at the BBC. She’s watched 24/7, certain the pair will contact one another. Pym finally cracks the case when she spots a blonde model and her unique nylons. They are coded in Morse, and the robber was once a navy man that can read Morse. Plus, being more than a bit of a “wolf,” he’s certain to first spot the sexy blonde’s legs on TV and then the code. They catch him alright, but Pym is miffed. Dozens of viewers also spotted the Morse code and phoned in asking if there was a cash prize for solving the code! I’ve read Nigel Morland previously and wasn’t too impressed with his works. The first time was via stand-alone novella The Big Killing.

Creasey Mystery Magazine # 3 (October 1956)