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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fight Stories (v1 #3 – August 1928)

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

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

Bare Fists by Jack Byrne

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

Abell Sturgess illustration

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

The Broken Idol by T. W. Ford

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

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

The Fight Before Christmas by Arthur J. Burks

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

In The Bag! by George Bruce

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

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

Fools for Luck by Miles Overholt

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

Zach the Giant Killer by Theodore Roscoe

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

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

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

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

Fight Stories (v1 #3 – August 1928)

Search the Lady by Henri Duval

CURZON Search The Lady

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You get the idea…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Search the Lady by Henri Duval

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

THOMAS P KELLEY Fast On The Draw

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fast on the Draw is blurbed as:

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

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

Good luck!

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

The Little Story Magazine (October 1919)

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

The Little Story Magazine (Oct 1919)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Little Story Magazine 1919 Oct ToC


The contents are as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Creasey Mystery Magazine # 2 (September 1956)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Creasey Mystery Magazine # 2 (September 1956)

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s return to what we do know…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Killer’s Progress” by Frank Griffin (UK: Pendulum Publications, 1947)

pendulum-killers-progress

If you enjoy reading British gangster fiction, then this book is certainly up your alley. In fact, it is written and handled better than much of what I have read from the 1940s-1950s. Initially, I felt that Killer’s Progress had that rough, early Darcy Glinto portrayal of American gangster-ism about it. In other words, just another Brit writing slush about American gangsters, gleaned from books or movies. Yes, it is just that, however, the author, Frank Griffin, by this time, has now accumulated 2-years of developmental writing under his belt. His first novel, already blogged here, was Death Takes a Hand. That novel was atrocious. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t make for a mean read, and as a quasi-fan of Griffin’s criminal yarns, that didn’t stop me from finishing the poorly executed novel. Griffin was a work in progress.

Killer’s Progress runs 96-pages and was published in 1947 by Pendulum Publications. The cover art is unsigned, but may be the work of Bob Wilkin or Philip Mendoza. Regarding the cover art? I’ve no idea what it has to do with the novel, save for symbolism.

The opening pages trace the origins of a young British boy who would grow up to join an American mob gang in Chicago. Born Angelo Antonio Spirelli, the young lad is different from others in that he scarcely shows emotion, even when informed by his father that his mother is dying. Stealing some flowers from a nearby grave stone, he sneaks to the grave of his mother and deposits them. His first theft. A week goes by and his father, despondent over the passing of his loving wife, fails to return to work and blows his brains out. Sent to live with his brutish uncle and abrasive aunt, young “Tony” plans his escape.

Fleeing from the premises, he joins a seafaring vessel at age 17. Large and husky for his age, he has no problem passing for an older boy. Sailing for South America, he is introduced to the various lower denizens of colorful “life,” as it were. In five months, he is hardened into a shell of a man, but with much personality and well-developed muscles.

On returning to Liverpool, he draws his ships’ wages, and departs. Having seen what liquor can do to a man, he steadfastly has kept away from the bottle the entire time, and has built up quite a wallet. However, life at sea has not prepared him for life on land, and he is about to learn a tough lesson from unscrupulous prostitutes. Preying on his loneliness and masculinity, he is convinced to drink heavily and his funds are stolen from him while quite drunk. Regaining his wits come morning, he awakens to find the gorgeous beauty of the nightly escapades sound asleep beside him to be quite ugly in the daylight.

Falling out of the stinky hole, he wanders the streets and eventually learns that his cash is gone. Worse yet, he hasn’t a clue where he slept. Realizing the girls were in a conspiracy to steal his wages, he slowly backtracks until he finds the rooms and demands his funds. But when a brute enters the scene, he finds he must not only match brawn but brains against an assailant that is used to handling young men of his type. Having taken a severe beating and nearly losing, Tony retaliates and pummels the man to death. Locating his lost wages, he also discovers a veritable fortune cached away by this miniature gang of hoodlums. He decides to steal all the stolen funds.

Assuming the identity now of Tony Spears, he takes up residence near Elephant and Castle, meets some lads his age at a bar and finds one of the boys picks his pocket. However, when the boys are set upon by a tough, Tony takes him down and tosses him into a shop window. The group runs away and the pickpocket sneaks the wallet back into Tony’s clothes. Tony is no dimwit by this time, and knew the first and second occurrence, and sets upon the man, thrashing him about.

Apologizing for the attempted theft, the boy confesses he returned the funds because Tony stood up to the man that accosted them, and that made them friends. But, when that young man’s girlfriend plays friendly with Tony, he discovers that he’s been outplayed again. He exacts vengeance upon the boy…then flees to America.

Arriving in America, he hooks up with distant relatives and witnesses a gang shooting. Entranced by the callous gun-play and fast cars, he rapidly joins a gang, moves quickly to a top position, but becomes foolishly embroiled in a love triangle, liquor, and dazzled by guns and murder and cash.

When an innocent blonde damsel shamelessly walks in with a bullshit tale about Tony’s boss being setup to be wiped out, Tony takes the bait. He sends his best friend out to tail the damsel, but the young man is returned to the gang dead, battered and bloody. That beating was clearly meant for Tony. Learning the gang leader is also missing, he loads up a car of gangsters and they hightail it to the mobster’s home only to find themselves trapped in a burning, fiery inferno. Everyone is wiped out, save for Tony (who ends up shot up) and his partner. They escape after mowing down the rival gang, and Tony is removed and takes a week to heal.

Frustrated at being played the fool, he gathers his guns and makes a final play. Tony realizes that he is foolishly in love with the false idolized image of the blonde, but can’t shake her from his mind. Busting into his old gangster base, he finds a lower tier bully in control. Tony is certain this cretin set him up from the beginning, especially when he finds the blonde with him!

Tony murders all the gang, and despite being shot to pieces and bloody, tries to attain the love and affection of the blonde. She thinks he is insane. Not realizing he is the innocent party, she pulls an automatic and shoots Tony Spears dead.

“Killer’s Progress” by Frank Griffin (UK: Pendulum Publications, 1947)

Possession by N. Wesley Firth

Possession 1

Possession was published by Grant Hughes Ltd., circa 1948.
The novel carries no byline on the covers, but the interior title page gives the author as Sheila A. Firth; she was the daughter of prolific author Norman Firth. Tragedy haunted the Firth family when Norman inexplicably died at the young age of 29, on 13-Dec-1949; cause of death given then was tuberculosis. He left behind Sheila (age 4) and a young wife (age 22).

Possession was actually issued twice, both with covers by noted English artist H. W. Perl.

The first edition was printed by The Fodhla Printing Co., of Dublin, Ireland. The inside front cover sports a typical Joan the Wad ad. Interior rear cover also features an ad, for Joan the Wad and Jack O’Lantern, etc. This true first edition (featuring likely Margaret Lockwood and Michael Wilding) failed to sell. Remainder stock was returned, covers stripped, and a new cover commissioned.

The second edition was printed and published by Grant Hughes, this time featuring one of Perl’s regular models. It’s unknown how well this edition sold. Both the inside front & rear cover is entirely white, no ads present.

Remarkably, neither edition is held by the British Library nor any other known major English library per COPAC, nor worldwide per WorldCat.

Possession 2

Contrary to the typical romantic plots, our heroine does NOT give up her Hollywood job in favor of love, but she is mixed up in the cliché “eternal triangle” plot…

Andrea Ellis was a nobody until discovered by producer Harry Grant. Pairing her with Steward Tracy for 5 years, the two have made Harry Grant a fortune and Andrea Ellis is now in demand to play the lead in the film version of the same play. Only thing is, she desires a break from acting.

Refusing to inform Harry Grant where she intends to vacation, she foolishly informs her private staff, and Steward Tracy, deeply in love with her, manages to extract the information. Learning she intends to abandon New York in favor of the beaches and playgrounds of Miami, he lets slip that he will vacation with her. Frustrated at the deception, she’s doubly-cross that Steward revealed her plans to Harry Grant.

Grant sees an angle and sends publicity agent Carl Cotton south to set the ball rolling, only that “ball” turns into a wrecking ball.

Arriving in Miami, Steward proposes marriage (he has been proposing numerous times and she has always turned him down). Now, upon the beach, she finally accepts, reluctantly, and he coerces a promise from her to not break the promise. Desiring to keep the engagement secret fails when a cub-reporter for a local paper arrives on the scene. Or was the reporter tipped off, further forcing the marriage?

To further worsen matters, Carl Cotton makes an appearance during the newsboy’s interview, and announces that Andrea Ellis is to be the “prize” date at the Krackly Krispy Krunchies Hour radio show; the winner is selected from a finalist of three men who are to provide the new winning tune for the show. She is not amused. The first two contestants aren’t noteworthy, but the third dazzles her the moment they each set eyes upon one another. It’s literally love at first sight.

With a love triangle forming, Andrea finds herself morally bound to a man she does not wholeheartedly love, and a man she does not know at all but feels inexplicably drawn!

The young man is Jay Niles, a “bum” who lives in the slums of Miami, in a converted railway car. Andrea, fascinated by the musician, convinces Jay to show her where he lives. Believing she is just some snob and wants to look down on the common poor person that can’t make good, they exchange words and she finally proves she is more than just an elitist. After all, she did not dress fancy, did not put on make-up, nor do her hair. She came to the date as a normal-looking girl.

The pair elude Carl Cotton’s appointed paparazzi and spend private hours alone. Andrea is intrigued to learn more about Jay and his musical interests; he seems to be quite talented. He plays an instrumental piece for her; she then asks to have it as a keepsake. Jay doesn’t care. It’s been offered everywhere. Nobody wants that type.

Never to see another again, she returns to her life and, when the producer offers her the next Broadway gig, she learns that the entire play is to be essentially silent, and without music! Discovering that Jay’s piece would fit the play perfectly, she presents it to Harry Grant only to be rebuffed without hearing the musical piece.

She then goes to the author of Harry’s production, and there has the music played. He loves it and tells Harry it is “in.”

Displeased with her move, Harry must accept the author’s decision, and further, realizes Andrea must be in love or infatuated with Jay. He is eager to destroy this relationship as he likes her and Steward Tracy together.

Jay becomes a success along with the play; his wallet grows from dust to greenbacks, etc. All the while, Jay refuses to see Andrea alone, as he does not wish to interfere with her engagement to Steward Tracy, who he personally feels is a swell guy.

But, when Steward accepts an acting job in Hollywood, and is gone for weeks or months, Andrea and Jay can no longer repress their desires and well…you can guess the rest! Still, they must keep their meetings secret lest the press discover the truth; their bosses too, and worse yet would be for Steward Tracy to learn second-hand that she has been unfaithful.

Jay insists she inform Steward in person of her decision to break off the engagement, but before she can, on his return flight to New York, the plane goes down in flames, killing nearly everyone onboard. Miraculously, Steward survives, only to have both legs fully amputated.

Jay convinces her that she must marry Steward as the truth would devastate him. Despite her desires not to, she is eventually guilted into marrying Steward. Jay removes himself entirely from the scene, and vanishes for an entire decade…

Ten years have passed, and Steward’s health has been in continual decline. His body was severely damaged from the plane crash and is succumbing to reality: death. He finally dies a happy man and she is free to pursue Jay. But will he even want her? Is he now married to someone else? Isn’t she visually too old, no longer youthfully desirable?

Well, Harry Grant and Carl Cotton drag her out from retirement and inform her that they have just the right position in a proposed play for her to fill. Arriving at Harry’s home, they meet out on the balcony and discuss the proposal. She is mystified as the role sounds like her real life drama. Harry concludes that they have found the perfect man for the role and in walks Jay, salt-peppered hair, older, but still very much in love with Andrea Ellis after all these years … THE END.

A very pleasant romance story, delightfully written by N. Wesley Firth. I confess that I was surprised he would attach his daughter’s name to such a work, given her young age at the time. Sadly, she passed away some years back, and never had the chance to read any of the works appearing under her name, nor under her mother’s name.

NOTES: Steward Tracy clearly is clearly supposed to resonate with readers as being Hollywood actor Spencer Tracy. Harry Grant came across to me as actor Cary Grant, as I couldn’t think of a producer with a similar name. Not sure who Andrea Ellis is supposed to portray. Nor certain who Carl Cotton or Jay Niles would be. Anyone have ideas?

Possession by N. Wesley Firth

Dust on the Moon by Mary E. Horlbeck (Crown Novel Publishing: 1946)

CROWN Dust On The Moon
DUST ON THE MOON

Dust on the Moon was published in 1946 by Canadian publisher Crown Novel Publishing Company. It’s a pleasure to finally get around to presenting this scarce Crown publication.

eBay seller “sfconnection” located in Indianapolis listed a copy many years ago. That copy had two red splotches on the lower left cover, and is found on worthpoint.com. I was prompted to release this Crown entry when Canadian collector / researcher James Fitzpatrick (of the Fly-by-Night blog) recently purchased my spare copy of another Crown scarcity, Death on the Slow Draw by John Frederick and featured it July 2021 on his blog. I’m glad to have added to his collection. If you haven’t visited James’ page, drop in and enjoy. I do from time-to-time and enjoy his posts on obscure Canadian wartime era books, etc.

Written by Mary E. Horlbeck, she had scarcely any known ties to the pulps until a little over a decade ago, when someone moved into her home discovered an abandoned scrapbook filled with 138 rejection letters spanning 1933-1937. When precisely they found that scrapbook is unknown to me, but they eventually posted their discovery on the buckfifty.org blog. I highly recommend readers to visit that blog and read their investigations into Horlbeck’s past.

The blogger notes that during that 5-year span, there were 4 acceptance letters, but, fails to inform readers of their location, story title, date, etc. More amazing is that a family-member, a grandson, to be precise, actually stumbled across that blog and left a comment. I have left a comment on the blog in the hope that one day the grandson may continue their discussion with me, so we may have more complete information. (Update: A year transpired and nobody has ever reached out to me. I prepared my own blog early 2020 and waited all this time in the hopes of a reply).

Her known pulp appearances are noted below:

  • Rain-Sprite (ss) Thrilling Love, 1937 October
  • Jitterbug Jangle (ss) Street & Smith’s Love Story Magazine, 1939 July 29
  • Star for a Night (ss) Street & Smith’s Love Story Magazine, 1943 September 21
  • Love Happens that Way (ss) Exciting Love (Canada), 1944 Spring

Not simply satisfied with copying other people’s research (ever, in fact), I always perform my own research, based on what can be found online. Sources utilized include various birth and death indices, census data, draft registration cards, and graveyards. Any errors in my data below is purely from those sources.

Albin Horlbeck was first married to Inez (Ina) May TOMLIN (born 1892 Feb 7 and died 1925 Nov 2) prior to the 1930 census, and gave birth to 3 children. Six years later, Albin married Mary ADOLPHSON and she came into the family with one child of her own, Jacqueline. It’s unclear to me whether Mary’s surname is a maiden or married/widowed name.

According to the 1930 Census, the Horlbeck’s lived at 2552 Benton Street, Edgewater, Colorado.

  • HORLBECK, Albin (age 41)
  • Glen T. (age 15)
  • Earl N. (age 12)
  • Fern E. (age 6)
  • ADOLPHSON, Mary E. (age 25)
  • Jacqueline C. (age 6)

Albin Richard Horlbeck married Mary Elizabeth Adolphson in 1931.

According to the 1940 Census, the Horlbeck’s lived at 2552 Benton Street, Edgewater, Colorado:

  • HORLBECK, Albin (husband, age 51) born in Illinois
    — proprietor (vegetable juice extracting)
  • Mary (wife, age 36) born in Wisconsin
    — assistant (vegetable juice extracting)
  • Glenn (son, age 25) born in Colorado
    — sales engineer (mining machinery)
  • Earl (son, age 22) born in Colorado
  • Fern (daughter, age 16) born in Colorado
  • FREDRICKSON, Jacqueline (daughter, age 16) born in Colorado
    — librarian (high school librarian)

More specific births and deaths are noted below, where known:

  • Albin R. Horlbeck (1899 Feb 28 — 1967 Feb 22)
  • Mary E. Horlbeck (1905-1967)
  • Glenn Tomlin Horlbeck (1914 Nov 1 — 1993 Feb 7)
  • Earl Neil Horlbeck (1917 Jun 20 — 2005 May 13)
  • Fern (unknown)
  • Jacqueline (unknown)

The frontis notes that the novel is “Complete and Unexpurgated.” If Dust on the Moon had an earlier appearance, it may well have been in a newspaper supplement, such as the Toronto Star Weekly Complete Novel or the Toronto Star Weekly Magazine sections, or in America, via the big-city papers, or maybe even the various “slick” magazines, many for which have never been fully indexed. From her rejection letters, we know that she not only submitted to the pulpwood magazines, but, also the slicks.

The tale opens with U.S. Marshall Ken Farnum riding home to his father’s family ranch, having recently finished an exploit against some outlaws known as the “Jaggers”. They are mentioned a couple times in passing, which made me wonder if Farnum had appeared in another hitherto unknown western (or not). He comes upon the ranch to discover his father shot dead and his brother shot and left for dead. The horses have all been stolen. Reviving his delirious brother, he relays to Ken that he saw the leader of the bandits shoot another outlaw for foolishly opening his mouth during the silent raid and uttering the words: “We’ll kick dust on the moon tonight, I reckon.” Realizing the phrase might have importance, Ken’s wounded brother (Jack) filed it away.

Jack reverts to unconsciousness. Grimly, Ken buries his father, then, decides to bury the outlaw too, in the family plot. Having finished their burial, a horse gallops up carrying Chick, an ancient family cowhand loyal to their father. Learning of the murder and thievery, he’s determined to ride with Ken to hell and back to avenge the family and reclaim their lost horses.

Ken agrees since he can’t stop Chick anyhow, and they bring the wounded Jack to a neighboring ranch, leaving Jack in the care of Ann Haverill, a girl Jack is sweet on. Slapping leather, the pair depart and hit the trail. Chick relays an odd tale he picked up a ways back, while drinking in town, regarding some young punk in love with the Haverill girl as Jack’s rival for her affections. Another rival was also present, that punk’s brother. In order to impress her, they were determined to ride Ebony, a horse of immense power and speed. Ken is tired of the seemingly pointless tale, but Chick points out that the punk’s brother was thrown from Ebony and pounded dead. The brother seemed unfazed, laughed even at the death, but then swore to avenge his brother’s death and hold the Farnum ranch and family responsible.

Ken now sees the conflict of interest. The punk may have bled information to a bandit about an undefended ranch with tons of prime horseflesh. With this in mind, he and Chick ride to the remote reaches (Arizona? or New Mexico?) where outlaws reign supreme. Entering the local saloon, Ken watches the crowd and is certain that here he will find his man, when a young lady inexplicably asks him to dance with her. He doesn’t want to but she seems to know who he is! She recollects him from his earlier adventures battling the Jaggers gang. While there, Ken is forced to shoot the gun-hand of a man that waddles into the saloon aiming to shoot a large “gentleman.” The lady he is dancing with is angered by his interference and departs. The local sheriff arrests the shot man. Ken is invited to talk with the “gentleman” but acts tough and says if he wants to talk, the big boy can come over to Ken.

Remarkably, big-boy (name of Parlanz) does just that and is impressed by the speed of Ken’s drawn guns, two six-shooters. It’s not long before he’s invited by Parlanz out to his ranch and offered the unscrupulous job of joining the gang on a future raid. He’s even given the secret passphrase of “dust on the moon.” Ken is now 100% convinced he’s found the man that killed his father, etc., but must secure his own family horses legally. Amusingly, Parlanz wants to ride Ebony and Ken must pretend not to recognize the horse. When Parlanz attempts the ride, he viciously hits her with his spurs and Ebony goes berserk, and tosses Parlanz. Ebony’s eyes show blood-lust for Parlanz, but Ken steps in before anyone can shoot the horse.

Long story short, Ken is betrayed, someone ransacks his room, he’s worried a member of the Parlanz gang found his hidden law-badge, he’s eventually hit over the head and tossed in jail, Parlanz keeps his six-shooters, the girl helps him to escape, he sneaks into Parlanz’s room at night and snags his guns and silently departs (he won’t plug the man while asleep), and informs Chick to ride and obtain as many deputized souls as possible to ride against the upcoming raid planned by Parlanz.

Chick succeeds and even brings back Ken’s brother, Jack. Waiting in various hiding places, they wait for Parlanz and his raiding party to arrive. They do. A wild shootout occurs, and everyone is instructed to not shoot Parlanz. Ken wants him but discovers his brother riding to get the man. Jack is brought down and taken out of the fight. Parlanz rides away with Ken in pursuit but Ken is knocked out. Parlanz escapes…back to his ranch.

Ken is brought back to consciousness and his body repairs in days. Ready to ride again, he realizes he must ride to Parlanz’s fortified ranch. Boarding the fiery Ebony, Ken reaches the ranch and catches up with Parlanz. Fighting it out, Ken is determined to avenge his father but is robbed by someone with a greater grudge against the man than his own. Ebony shrieks her rage and riding in, attacks Parlanz and stomps him to a lifeless pulp.

We eventually learn the dance-hall girl was married to the murdered outlaw on Ken’s father’s ranch, and the boy just fell in with the wrong crowd. She was out to avenge his death, but she now has fallen in love with Ken…and he asks her to marry him.

Dust on the Moon by Mary E. Horlbeck (Crown Novel Publishing: 1946)