Outlaws Ride the Range by T. P. Monahon was published by Pastime Publications of Toronto, Canada. T. P. Monahon is the alias of Canadian ex-boxer Thomas P. Kelley, best remembered in the pulp fiction community for his contributions to the American magazine Weird Tales. The digest-sized paperback carries no copyright date but would be circa 1947 to very early 1948. The artwork is unsigned and features a masked bandit wielding six-shooters.
The cover might look familiar if you collect hero pulps. Specifically, “western” hero pulps. The cover was swiped from the July 1946 issue of Masked Rider Western. Makes me wonder if the other covers via Pastime Publications are also swipes!
During and shortly after WW2, some of England’s publishers looked to Canada to publish books on their behalf, due to strict paper rations. This particular paperback was contracted by Pemberton’s, as part of their Action Novel(s) series.
Notice the red circle on the lower right cover?
It lacks a cover price. That is where the printers ought to have inserted a cover price. I suspect the area was intentionally left blank by request of Pemberton’s. Leaving it blank enabled dealers in other countries to slap on an appropriate sticker-price, not just in England, but in other English colonies that Pemberton’s distributed their books.
The western here is actually not a novel, but a composite of historical fact meshed with Kelley’s fiction. The “stories” concern outlaws of the Wild West.
CHAPTER #: Outlaw(s) (Page numbers)
Chapter 1: Billy the Kid (4-24)
Chapter 2: Cherokee Bill (25-33)
Chapter 3: The Four Bad Men (34-38)
Chapter 4: Charley Bent (39-43)
Chapter 5: Belle Starr (44-51)
Chapter 6: “Bad Bill” Hollis (52-59)
Chapters 7-15: Jesse James (60-129)
I’ve researched the data found within the stories and found the names and those murdered, along with various events, to be historically fairly accurate. However, I’m not certain about the data on two chapters. Those include Chapters 3 and 6.
In regard to the former, there are rather obscure records about four unnamed bad men that created terror. Who were they? Why did they vanish?
Regarding the latter, I can’t find any record of Bill Hollis, but Kelley asserts that his downfall came when challenging outlaw Jesse James. If Hollis is fake, Kelley made a damned interesting fictional story to lead readers into the next series of chapters, representing the final half of the paperback!
And, as a matter of record, Jesse James was also one of Kelley’s specialties. He was so fond of the man’s legacy that he penned a novel entitled Jesse James: His Life and Death (Canada: News Stand Library #92 / Export Publications) in 1950. I’ve not had the opportunity to compare text, but I am interested in knowing if Kelley recycled any from this Monahon book.
Next Stop–The Morgue is the fourth (of 9) Steve Craig private-eye thriller, published by Herbert Jenkins Ltd. in 1956.
The blurb on the jacket reads:
“Craig is hired by an uncommunicative character to keep an eye on his daughter. The girl turns out not to be the man’s daughter, but she certainly bears watching.
Then Craig’s client dies in peculiar circumstances.
It looks like murder to Craig, and from half a dozen suspects with
ready-made motives he begins to comb the facts. But it is not all hard graft.
The girls in the case are shapely and disposed to be clinging; and Steve,
ever-ready to mix business with pleasure, does little to discourage them.
Kitty, knowing the symptoms, first purrs warningly and then shows her
manicured claws. Money, vice and scandal spice this story which starts
with the suspected murder of a mystery-man and ends with
the death of an alluring nymphomaniac.”
Well, that blurb isn’t entirely accurate. Kitty certainly doesn’t sharpen her claws on any competition. She scarcely shows sexual interest in Craig. And I’d hardly call the alluring girl a nympho, though she certainly utilizes her feminine abilities to get her way. The rest of the blurb concisely gives you the low-down, but leaves out a whole bunch at the same time. And I plan on doing the same, in case someone plans on obtaining a copy to read. But who cares when they are drooling over that luscious red-head doll-baby on the dustjacket? Without further ado, let’s provide some additional plot-fodder.
The story opens with an exhausted Steve Craig at home, tired and hungry. The doorbell rings. He opens it. An older gentleman (Daneston) enters, and hires Steve Craig to follow his daughter (Constance) discreetly. Steve accepts the assignment for $500 cash. Departing, Daneston enters the elevator and a young, lovely lady steps onto Steve’s floor. She seems to be searching for the right door, when Steve offers assistance. He’s convinced she is looking for someone named Dickerson (must be a neighbor, introduced in a prior novel) but she wants him!
Seems she has a problem with some guy blackmailing her, and she wants a strong man to make sure he leaves her alone after she pays. Steve ends up hijacked by Marcia Van Bergen and driven to her house-party. There is no blackmailer. Firing his ire further is the discovery that his own secretary (Kitty) aided in the deceit. Irritated, tired, and still hungry, Kitty placates his mood by insisting he stay for the party and enjoy the complimentary food.
Steve relents, and eventually is introduced to the younger sister (Betty) for whom the party is hosted. Left alone with her for a moment, he makes small-talk and offers to dance with her, only to rebuffed. Thinking she is a snob, he is later informed that she is actually paralyzed from the waist down.
Embarrassed, Steve seeks to apologize for his ignorance, only to stumble upon her outside in the dark, talking to a strong man named Marcus. Calling to her in the dark, he finds himself physically assaulted by this behemoth of a brute and knocked unconscious. Waking ten minutes later, he borrows a Caddy and returns home, to sleep and recuperate.
The next day, Steve assumes his role trailing Daneston’s daughter (Constance) all over town. She eventually leads him to a young man (Mike Larkman) involved in an aquatic job, something along the line of the famous Billy Rose’s Aquacade, which involves swimming, music, and dance. He’s young, fit, and good-looking.
Departing, her vehicular meanderings finally lands him at a remote, rural barn. He abandons his wheels and hikes on foot. Entering stealthily, he hears voices on the next level. Climbing a ladder, he sees Constance stroking and caressing a huge beast of a man. He appears to be an imbecile (and, yes, he is). To his disgust he watches as she kisses him. Ironically, he notices she is equally repulsed. She appears to be gearing him up for something awful, trying to increase his anger at someone. But who? Why? To what purpose? He slowly eases himself back down the ladder when it becomes apparent that Constance intends to leave, but Steve makes too much noise. They hear him and he hauls butt, only to be pursued by the behemoth, who turns out to be Marcus, the same man who assaulted him at the party!
Having lost track of his car in the dark, he’s overtaken but manages to escape. Next day, he goes to report to Daneston and finds him arguing with a young man wielding a gun. Entering, he breaks up the confrontation and goes so far as to disarm the hoodlum, who appears to be blackmailing Daneston to the tune of thousands of dollars.
Getting rid of him, Steve tells Daneston that Constance isn’t his daughter, that she’s actually Daneston’s much, much, MUCH younger wife! She’s 34 years younger. And was formerly his secretary for a good while. Not divulging his knowledge up to then of Constance’s moves, he stays on the job and follows her the next day to a remote cabin and finds Constance and aqua-boy Larkman having sex. Disgusted, Steve realizes the case is essentially done. He detests divorce case investigations. He wants out.
Next day, he calls Daneston, deciding to hand back what remains of the unspent $500 and quit the assignment, only to learn Daneston swan-dived off his balcony and went splat. Visiting the apartment, he walks in and speaks with the police and family doctor. Steve’s convinced that someone tossed Daneston over the balcony, and that while Daneston’s medication does make him drowsy, wasn’t sufficient for the mishap. Plus, Constance, the widow, is feigning to be distraught; Steve walks into her bedroom and finds her on the bed, with the doctor leaning over her, making out! That’s now her ex-husband, Larkman, Marcus, and the “good” family doctor she’s locked lips with. Good grief.
More things don’t add up (would hardly be a detective novel if they did) and he wants to know more about Marcus, the imbecile. Constance was winding Marcus up for something. Murder? He could have tossed Daneston over the balcony. But, why? Clearly Constance inherits, plus life insurance, etc. But what does Marcus get out it? Her? Maybe he thinks so, but no way in hell is she keeping that date!
Next day, Steve decides to visit Betty, the paralyzed girl. He learns that Betty and Marcus scarcely know each other. Marcus works at a farm run by an elderly couple. She, being crippled, tries to relate to the introverted, quiet Marcus. Eventually they hit it off, and Steve learns that Marcus has taken Betty for rides in his beat-up delivery truck, etc. Nothing more, nothing less. Betty insists that Marcus is not capable of violence, except in a protective manner. Then why assault Steve that night at the party? Betty informs him that her sister does not approve of Betty mixing with Marcus, and he was worried Steve had seen too much.
Not convinced, Steve trips out to the barn at night, to discover a corpse tossed against a fence. Turning on his flashlight, he gazes upon the beaten and throttled Constance. Looks like Marcus lost control and strangled her to death after learning she wouldn’t keep her promise. Steve hears a scream and finds Marcus hauling anotherwoman into the barn. Steve recognizes his own secretary, Kitty, as the victim! She came out there not wanting Steve to handle the beast alone, and, against his orders, she made the drive, but instead came upon Marcus in the dark. Steve eventually gets Kitty free of Marcus and ties him up to the sturdy ladder. Then he phones the police from the elderly couple’s home.
Betty learns of the arrest and arrives at the police station with a lawyer. They talk to the jailed Marcus and eventually gather that Marcus, just like Steve, accidentally came upon the corpse of Constance. In fear, he retreated, then heard a noise, and saw Kitty approaching. Fearing for her life, he grabbed her, smothered her mouth, and was secreting her into the barn for her own safety, fearing the murderer was still on the premises, especially since he saw Steve’s flashlight beam and believed Steve to be the culprit.
The police chief releases Marcus with the aid of additional facts. Constance had flesh under her nails from clawing her assailant. Marcus was scratch-free. Steve is annoyed at the embarrassment of having accused an innocent man of murder. We learn that Marcus was Daneston’s imbecile son, from his first marriage. That wife went insane and died in an asylum. Not wanting the son, he gave the boy to his late wife’s parents! Hence the elderly couple at the farm raising him.
There remains one last mission. Arrest the person that murdered Constance. That leaves only one person with a motive: aqua-boy Mike Larkman.
Steve revisits that isolated decrepit cabin and finds Larkman inside sitting against the wall, with not a care in the world. He confesses that his jealousy of Constance’s constant flirting with men incensed him. He even went so far as to catch her smooching Marcus! Confronting her outside the barn, the fiery Constance sent him into an insane frenzy. By the time they were finished arguing and pushing one another around, she was dead. Mortified at what he had done, he vacated.
Steve discovers that Larkman has overdosed on the late Daneston’s medication. Larkman is rapidly going from drowsy to unconscious. Lifting the dead-weight upon his shoulders, Steve hauls him out of the cabin and carries him to his car, then speeds to a ward six miles away. Instructing the doc what med the man overdosed on, they get to work pumping his stomach…so that he may live to die, properly, by execution.
A fun novel from start to finish, one I scarcely had the ability to set aside. Each concluding chapter begged me to read the next, and given that I tend to read at night, you can bet I lost hours of sleep each night. But, hey! how about a little bit of background on the author…
Following the conclusion of World War Two, Bevis Winter found work editing and publishing Stag, a humorous magazine, from 1946-1948. Between those years, he contributed articles and short stories to Stag and other publications, honing his literary skills. Following the publication in 1947 of Sad Laughter, a collection containing some of his humorous short stories, Bevis sold in 1948 his first thriller Redheads Are Poison, followed in 1949 with his second thriller, Make Mine Murder (blogged back in 2016).
An avalanche of novels flowed from his typewriter from 1950-1954, mostly under his alias: Al Bocca. With the mushroom-publishers going out of business due to harsh English fines, censorship, bannings, and jail sentences, Winter rapidly found work writing under his own name for the respectable publisher Herbert Jenkins, supplying them with nine Steve Craig thrillers. These have been translated worldwide into a variety of foreign languages. And much to my own personal delight, the late 2022 issue of Paperback Parade published by crime-collecting afficionado Gary Lovisi features a bibliography on Bevis Winter! And if you wish to read this novel, good luck! Some lucky person(s) purchased the few copies that were on ABE. Maybe they had an inside track to the Winter bibliography.
Romance Ashore is worth recording. It was published by Modern Fiction Ltd., measures about 5×7 inches, side-stapled twice, registered by Whitaker’s as appearing July 1945, and runs from pages 1 and just barely trips over into concluding on page 32. The cover art is clearly the work of H. W. Perl, and signed as such lower left, but not signed in Perl’s usual block-letter fashion. The author is given as Eugene Glen, one of many aliases used by Frank Dubrez Fawcett, the man behind the numerous gangster novels under the popular alias: Ben Sarto.
There are no ads, no copyright notices, no blurb. The interior front and rear covers are blank; the rear is blank. In fact, that is a lot of wasted space. The publisher could have listed all the books they had published to date. But they didn’t.
One further title would appear under the Eugene Glen alias: Passion Adrift (likewise appearing July 1945). As the British Library has noted, when the war ended, they finally began to record hundreds of stock-piled wartime publications, often months, even years, after they had initially debuted. There is a good chance that this was published 1943-1944, especially based on the artist’s signature. I own an original Perl, and it signed and dated 1943. Romance Ashore takes place a short while after the conclusion of the North African campaign, which was May 1943, which is another reason I’m sure this item appeared prior.
The opening lines of the novelette is depicted on the front cover. A young man climbing the stairwell of a tenement building notices a door ajar; and, inside that room?
The vision was one of a young girl seated on a chair, elbows on the ledge, gazing out of the window to where the tall masts and funnels of the newly berthed liner dwarfed the houses in between. Never had Victor Brunt seen such dazzling, youthful beauty. Her delicate profile disclosed an attractively retroussé nose, shapely lips parted, revealing a dazzle of small, white teeth, rounded pink cheeks of rosebud bloom and naturally wavy hair creaming back from her temples like waves from the bows of a ship. Her attitude, leaning forward as she was, displayed a lovely full bosom. Her short frock, crumpled over the thighs, showed adorable plump knees. Altogether, though quite evidently in her teens, this girl displayed all the charms of mature womanhood, yet cast in the most delicate mould.
Victor, given shore-leave, is there to visit his shipmate’s sister, and perhaps, his future wife. But the vision within that room has captured his imagination. Who is she? Why is the photo on the floor? Why does she gaze upon the berthed ships? Is she spoken for?
Dragging himself away from making a fool of himself, he ascends to the next landing and while interacting with his friend’s sister, she confides to him she deplores the women that sell themselves to the seamen, and that one lives directly below her. What, the teen-aged beauty?!?!? Victor can hardly believe his ears.
Attending the local dance, he is distracted when the young lady crosses his path and appears to meet his eyes; a mute communication is loudly spoken between each other. Or so he wishes to believe. Surely she is neither a siren of the sea, nor a whore upon the seashore!
They finally dance together and the event is pure intoxication for Victor. His infatuation becomes love and he finds himself face-to-face with one of her recent male conquests, a seafaring brute by the name of Peter. The two fight outside in the torchlight (flashlights) when about 50 are obtained to form a circle. But when air raid sirens sound, the fight is aborted and everyone seeks the bomb shelters.
Nazis begin bombing the seaport town. Victor escorts the young lady, whose name is given as Adora, to a shelter. After the surrounding buildings are bombed and the planes depart, Victor assists in digging out the wounded and dying. Later, meeting one another again, his clothes are a wreck and his face darkly smudged. The following description proves modernly to be a low point in the story’s arc, but is in keeping with the times:
She looked at him, at first with overwhelming relief at his safety, then with her characteristic teasing look. “You look exactly like a nigger, with the whites of your eyes showing like that.” Then she broke into a silvery laugh. “What a mess your uniform is, Vicky. Will you be called over the coals by the old man?”
She invites him up to her flat to clean off the mess, and he stretched himself luxuriously in the pink enamelled (sic) bath, fragrant with scented crystals.
After some casual chit-chat, Victor professes his love for her, but is jealous of the men who have come before him, and may yet come after him, when he must leave the port and perhaps not return for months or more. Who else will she see? What of all the photographed men upon her wall, with inscriptions of their love for her? And the numerous love letters? Unable to restrain himself, he forces himself free and makes to escape, but Adora has other ideas.
He heard the soft swish of her silken dressing-gown…he spun on his heel and saw her standing before him, the discarded dressing-gown lying in a colourful heap on the carpet. The vision that met his eyes made him draw in his breath sharply. The full perfection of her form stood revealed in all its irresistible allure. Her dimpled shoulders, shapely arms and beautifully moulded legs would have inspired any artist to attempt their portrayal. Her skin reminded Victor of pink-and-white rose petals, so exquisite was its colouring and texture. Her firm, high breasts, rose-tipped, showed distractingly beneath a wispy brassiere of peach silk. Her rounded thighs merged their fullness in close-fitting panties, also in peach silk. As she stood there, with the silken folds of the dressing-gown at her feet, like symbolic waves, she might have posed for Psyche leaving her bath, Venus emerging from the sea, or a youthful Aurora springing like dawn from a rising sun.
It’s hard to believe that this could have come from Frank Dubrez Fawcett, author of countless gangster-crime novels. And yet, the cleanly presented sexual prose almost leaves me wondering why I haven’t ever revisited a Ben Sarto novel. Did I miss something?
The next chapter has Victor waking up, briefly confused, in a single bed, with a very cute Adora snuggling next to him. He wastes little time in reassessing his position, his seaward departure, and again, all those damnable photos upon the walls. How can he compete? Will his departure from port avail her of an open revolving door for other lonely men? He speaks his bitter thoughts and she assumes a strong position, speaking her mind firmly and ousting him from her life for his thoughts and jealousy.
Staggering out the door, he is shamefacedly met by his mate’s sister and future wife. She’s mortified to see him come out of the harlot’s room; he’s mortified to be seen, and one further revelation:
“By George!” he said to himself, though the very thought made him go hot and cold by turns. “I never left any money on Adora’s mantelpiece!”
This is the first clear reference to the fact that Adora may be a paid-woman, but Duprez adroitly dances around UK censors by avoiding such terminology, glorified sex, and other censor hot-buttons.
Back aboard ship, Victor overhears another seaman discussing the peach-ashore by name of Adora. He’s overwrought by emotions, kicks himself for a fool. She clearly has plenty of men in her web. He entreats his shipmate friend to write a letter to his own sister to pave the way for him to re-enter her life and clarify that nothing actually happened between he and Adora. The letter concisely notes that after the air raid he was invited to her quarters to clean up and no extracurricular activity occurred. Victor is convinced this white lie will put him in the clear.
Returning ashore, he sneaks up past Adora’s floor and knocking at his old flame’s door (Violet) she opens up and permits him to explain himself. Victor professes his undying love and affection only for Violet, proposes marriage, she gets all hot and excited and makes out with him in a way that bothers him inwardly. Sure, she feels all the wonderful, heated emotions for him now, but what about later? Will it fizzle? Or will he always see Adora before his eyes and his love for her ruin his future relations with Violet?
Taking her out to the local dance, he’s shaken to see Adora dancing with another man, and she coolly does not appear to notice him. Victor and Violet sit out the next dance, and while drinking at the table, Victor overhears an older couple mention Adora by name and her wondrous virtues.
The older man states: “…I fear most of her pen-friends will fall in love with her when they meet her face to face. A bit risky for her, I mean.”
Oblivious of the table-talk, Violet comments: “I do hope the North African business will make the Nazis surrender. The war can’t last so very long now. But, Victor, you’re not listening!”
He’s not, and she soon learns he is eavesdropping on the elderly couple, so she now takes notice of the conversation, and the elder lady replies: “…She told me that she could always tell by the way the boys wrote to her whether they were likely to become uncomfortably amorous. Then she uses a big-sister technique that freezes them cold and, certainly, the offenders never get a chance of taking her out after that…” and in regard to money-raisers, she “sings, arranges dances, suggests games and competitions…[Adora] collected more than twice as much money as any of the others. It swelled…the Fund enormously!”
Violet has heard enough and pulls one of her I’ve-got-a-headache routines to excuse them from the affair. Demanding she be taken home, Victor does. Violet not only knows she is beat, but she has also entirely misjudged Adora.
Having brought Violet home, she releases Victor from his marital proposal and any future obligations. To add insult to her injured feelings, they overhear a violent cry for help downstairs. Peter is mauling Adora for playing with him.
Victor charges down the steps and delivers two crushing blows. Peter collapses, but, remarkably, instead of running into his arms, Adora is more concerned for Peter’s well-being. She insists he is really a good man, just drunk, and insists Victor assist him. Playing the gentlemanly role, Victor drags Peter from semi-consciousness to full cognition and Peter is now a cool gentleman himself, even going so far as to thank Victor for knocking sense into him! Peter departs and Victor is drawn into Adora’s room…
…and Violet, on the floor above, having watched the whole tableau unfold, tragically sobs: “Good-bye, romance. Good-bye Victor. Why did God allow us to meet?”
Now I have to locate a copy of Passion Adrift, to see if it holds a candle to this little romantic jewel.
Combat is [according to the editor] a magazine with “true” war stories and a sprinkling of fictionalized war stories, and a combination of truth and fiction. The editor was Leslie Syddall.
Son of Albert Syddall (born 1899) and Rosannah (Rose) H. Stott (born 1893), Leslie was born 1922, and like his parents, in Bolton. Albert moved to the United States in 1926, with an occupation listed as “tin plate” worker and final destination initially entered as Philadelphia. This was crossed out and Wooding, Connecticut penciled in. No such place exists, so I’m not sure what the Wooding refers to. His English home address was: 84 Union Street, Bolton. I don’t think the residence exists today (online street images are interesting). Early 1927, Rosannah and son Leslie traveled to the United States. They returned to England that same year, then returned again in 1929, with a residence given as Philadelphia, PA. Rosannah left her son in England when the pair returned later in 1929, placed him in school, and then she returned to her husband Albert in Philadelphia. The 1930 United States census gives his occupation as a metal sheet laborer. Rosannah’s occupation in 1927 is given as that of a “hosiery winder” in 1927; as housewife in 1929. Leslie Syddall married Frances Johnson in 1956 in his hometown of Bolton. The pair had two children: Julie Syddall (1958) born in Farnsworth, and Barbara Syddall (1961) born in Bolton. Just how Leslie Syddall got into publishing is unknown to me.
The magazine was published by Vernon Publications but is generally considered Dalrow Publishing. If the cover format and layout looks familiar to British science fiction fans, that’s because Syddall clearly was working with the assistance of Peter Hamilton, editor and founder of Nebula Science Fiction magazine. Hamilton used the same format from 1952-1959, a tall digest magazine with the title and price and number up to with a white backdrop, the illustration squarely below that, and a thin white strip at the bottom often advertising the authors or a comment. Combat used that same formula. Don’t think so? I’ve posted both here for comparison! The connection is strengthened once you spot ads for Nebula inside issues of Combat. The artist for all illustrated covers was R.W.S., short for Ronald W. Smethurst.
The lead story is Tim Carew’s Gurkha Soldier, and it’s as authentic as they come. Despite that, I’d love for someone from India alive during WW2 to read this story and comment about the accuracy. The author notes that the story is “substantially true”, but the characters and regiment is a work of fiction. So, would you label this as a true story (as FictionMags Index has) or a fictional short story? I lean heavily toward the latter. Jitbahadur Pun is convinced to enlist in the British army during WW2 by a local surviving wounded veteran from the Great War. His experiences range from exposure to hot shower water, being forced to use soap, trim his lengthy hair to near baldness, and dress in military attire. Learning the various use of arms, hand-to-hand combat, tossing grenades, formation, and even riding on a train add to his new life experiences. A very different life to that of a dirt hill farmer. He and his new fellow Indian friends are sent east to battle the Japanese and during trench warfare he witnesses the brutality of life and death. His friends and superior officer are shot down. Snatching up his friend’s machine-gun, sans orders, he leaps up and moves forward, covering dozens of yards. He’s eventually shot but keeps going, mowing down the enemy and tossing a grenade. The next-in-line of command orders the men up and onward after seeing Jitbahadur Pun taking the offense. Our hero ends up losing a limb, recovers in hospital, and by 1951, returns home and is a celebrated hero. The story is filled with numerous terms from India and local flavor, etc., lending further authenticity. Searching online, the protagonist’s name should likely be spelled as “Jit Bahadur Pun”. Tim Carew was born 8 July 1921 at Bury St. Edmunds. Searching the Birth-Marriage-Death UK site I found a Carew died 1980, however, Tim Carew wasn’t his real name. The Library of Congress gives his name as John Mohun Carew. This I confirmed against the UK Birth-Marriage-Death Index, matching his surname and birth info; he died 3 September 1980. He indeed did serve with the Gurkhas down in India and other nearby countries. I am left to wonder if the above short story was excerpted from his autobiographical novel, All This and a Medal Too (1954). If not, it certainly first appeared in the British Army Journal no. 3 (January 1950) as by Captain J. M. Carew.
Next up is A Mission for Odette by W. F. Cousins. This appeared (per FictionMags Index) in London’s The Evening Standard, 4 May 1955 as part of their Did It Happen? series, but in fact is a work of fiction. As to the identity of W. F. Cousins, he ranked as a Captain and was an army PRO in Austria from 1946-1953. Captain Cousins became a staff member of Soldier magazine. This magazine debuted March 1945, but I’ve not had access to it to substantiate his full identity. In 1959, he was still with Soldier magazine and a co-winner of the Sir Harry Brittain Coronation Trophy (along with Sydney Spicer). The story takes place six years in the future after Germany loses the war, in a series of brief flashbacks before returning to the present and culminating in the protagonist completing his assignment: the delivery of a ring to a Jewish concentration camp victim. While in a concentration camp and slated for death in the gas chambers, Odette Churchill is given by Frau Knopf her gold ring. Somehow Knopf had managed to safeguard it past Nazi authorities and into the camp. Despite the Nazis knowing they were losing the war and the end was near, they continued to gas their victims. Realizing her number was likely up, Knopf gives her ring to Odette for safekeeping. If they both survive, Odette is to find a way to return the ring. If Knopf dies and Odette survives, make the most of the ring’s value. Odette survives but is not certain as to the fate of Knopf. Years pass, and discovering that Knopf may be alive, Captain Cousins (the protagonist) must cooperate with authorities in tracing her down and delivering the ring. He succeeds in locating her and after having her describe and sketch the ring, he extracts from a sealed box the very ring she sketched. To say she is shocked and surprised to be reunited with her ring is an understatement, especially since she is homeless and impoverished. The ring will help. It’s a feel-good story and apparently the second time the story has been told, the first time by Odette Churchill’s husband, per a blurb of this story in the Singapore Free Press, 6 September 1955. Bizarrely enough, there sort of really was a real Odette Churchill, only this was an alias; her real name was Odette Sansom, and her background is quite interesting. However, nowhere on her Wikipedia entry does it mention this story nor Captain Cousins.
One Eye, One Hand, One V.C. is by David Lampe Jr., and is the true story account of Belgian officer Carton de Wiart. Not making the grade in university, de Wiart enlisted in the Second Boer War and lost his eye. He would go to earn numerous injuries but always return to the front. He served in The Great War and various other campaigns. He lost his hand when it was blown to a pulpy mess, but not before extracting his own fingers when the doctor refused. The hand had to go shortly thereafter, regardless. The author provides a wonderful, partially fictionalized account of de Wiart and it is damned good fun. His capture during World War Two after his plane crashed led him to be locked away at the Castello di Vincigliata, and his subsequent escape through tunnels that took half a year to construct reminds me of the classic movie The Great Escape. I suspect this article originally debuted in an American “men’s” magazine, as he contributed to 1950s magazines such as True, Swank, and Flying Magazine, etc., but I’ve failed to nail it down.
Biscay Cruise by Stanley Maxted is another article in the Did It Happen? series that appeared in The Evening Standard, 24 June 1955. The table of contents page for CCM mistakenly gives it as Biscay Bay. The tale involves the narrator bringing along a Canadian Naval HQ friend aboard the HMS Onslow. The mission: discover whether the German’s shore guns along the Bay of Biscay were still being manned. While the tale does not provide any concrete dates, the real-life HMS Onslowdid traverse this tract of water from July to August 1944.
Ray Carr brings us a short fiction story entitled Back Room Boy. Carr’s real name is Emile Charles Victor Foucar; born in 30 May 1894, Foucar rose to the rank of Second Lieutenant during The Great War and earned a Military Cross. He became a barrister and moved to Burma, residing there through World War Two and enlisting, rising to the rank of Colonel. While in Burma, he was instructed to write an account on the Burma affair. A decade later, Dennis Dobson published I Lived in Burma (1956). This short fiction story involves the “safe” adventures of Archie Fordingley, a good-looking, intelligent, self-made young businessman in his late 20s. The second world war is in full swing, and his unintelligent underling Jack Smith goes to war. Fearing the war will destroy his business by avoiding conflict, Archie eventually joins the war effort purely as a “back room boy”, an intelligence officer that sees no conflict. He bounced into Africa, then India, and now is sent to the Burma front, to gather intelligence on Japanese movements, etc. Arriving by Jeep, he is to meet with Major Denham but discovers a Jap sniper took him out. He’s introduced to the next gentleman in command, one Lieutenant Smith. Naturally, this is his old subordinate, Jack Smith. Only, he seems fresh, alive, lost a lot of weight and enjoys both the command and the war. Archie is woefully out of his class and realizes his ranking insignia matters little to the warrior before him. Jack shows him the rounds, all the while instructing him to be careful, duck, don’t rattle the bush, etc., Jap snipers, ya know! Well, the Japs cut them off and Jack takes command of one unit only to find the young man covering their other flank has been killed. Sitting on his duff, Archie digs up an ounce of courage, and lifting up a rifle, takes over the unit whose last ranking officer died. Holding out, the night passes, and come morning, all is silent, and Jack is glad the conflict is over, his first real action. Rising, he decides to check in on Jack, only to hear someone holler: “Careful, sir, snipers!” Archie smiles at the edge of the trench back at the young man as a bullet rips through the air and knocks him dead. Foucar would go on to have 15 stories published in Combat. Bizarrely, not a one are recorded as reprints. Was Foucar providing the magazine with original stories, or had these appeared elsewhere in some unknown English newspaper?
Sino-Japanese Incident is by Jack Borg, his first of three stories within the pages of Combat magazine. Borg is the alias of Philip Anthony John Borg, predominantly an author of a few dozen western novels as Jack Borg and nearly 30 more under two more pseudonyms, marking the trio of war stories as unusual entries. This a fictional account during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). Lieutenant Ugimoto is ordered by his Japanese commanders to seek out organized Chinese bandits creating havoc upon Japanese troops and use whatever means at his disposal. Coming upon a poor starving village, he interrogates the villagers, but they feign ignorance. The lie is in their eyes and after discovering two hidden rifles, he orders the entire populace to be slain and the village burned to the ground. Marching out, Ugimoto’s ragged troops are foot-tired, sleep deprived, themselves starving and thirsty. Eventually, one of his reconnaissance men spots a lush, secluded farm. On the property, an old man and young lovely girl. The man is interrogated but he just smiles at them. Angered, he’s tossed aside and they try the girl. She gives them no information on the rebel bandits. Ugimoto decides he’s going to spend the night inside, with the girl. Next day, a frantically frightened sergeant enters. Ugimoto dresses and steps outside to find the old man on his knees, the clothes stripped off and now he knows why the thirsty village and rebels have not ransacked this tiny farm. The man has leprosy. He’s shot dead. Turning on his heels, Ugimoto re-enters the home. The girl exposes some of her flesh, smilingly showing her spots. He shoots her dead, too, then extracts his honorable sword to disembowel himself. The sergeant bows out and runs away from the dreaded leprosy, only to find himself and his ragtag Japanese men riddled by lead from the hidden rebels. They’d been there all the time.
Bevil Charles supplies The Brief Return…, which centers around the protagonist (Reuben) being an archaeologist and unearthing a four-foot Mycenean statue of Aphrodite on the island of Cyprus. To protect it, he secretes the treasure in a crumbling church to the goddess on the island’s hill. He wishes to obtain a military truck to safely remove it to Nicosia, only the girl he is dating (Janet) is daughter to Major Holliday, in command of local forces. It’s unclear whether soldiers or terrorists recently attacked one of their own. Regardless, they are withdrawing from the area, as it is unsecure. During the process, the Major is ordered to investigate the island; rumor is the assailants have a stash of arms cached nearby. So, the Major informs Reuben he may not have a truck, nor can he go rescue the Goddess of Love. Janet wishes to see Cyprus and all her beauty, but her father has continuously blocked her interests. She knows Reuben is making covert plans to somehow rescue the statue. So, Reuben waits for the patrol and rolls his wheels into the procession. Nobody notices the extra truck. He then drifts away from them, being the tailing truck, and eventually hears movement in back of his truck. Someone is moving forward towards the curtained partition. Stopping and jumping out, he gruffly calls to the stowaway, who he expects to be a murderous soldier or terrorist only to find Janet inside. Unable to return her to safety, the two proceed to the crumbling hillside church and she is in awe of the beauty of Aphrodite. Reuben’s love for her admiration of the workmanship behind the statue’s history rapidly turns to horror as he realizes the enemy has been there ahead of him, and deposited crates of arms, dynamite, and grenades. Surely they will return, and double sure, they know the Major is to investigate the island. Cleary the rumor of their location was a plot to attack Janet’s father and crew, to murder all of them. Reuben must somehow run down the hill and intercept the Major before he hits the most likely point, a bridge-crossing! Instead, he hears voices outside and while Janet is inside packing up the smaller artefacts for Reuben, he watches in horror as a couple of killers approach. One splits away while the other gets closer. His stengun is still in the church, on the floor. All he exited with was Aphrodite, to place in the truck. He knocks out the man with the Goddess of Love! Then trusses the unconscious man. Heads down the hill after Janet’s father. Time passes and she is mortified to see the enemy moving in. Reuben can’t possibly make it in time, so she does the only thing possible to arrest everyone’s attention: she pulls pins and hurls two grenades into the church! They detonate and all the arms, dynamite, grenades, everything explodes. She’s thrown back by the concussive blast, but the earth-shattering explosion has done the job. The Major and men stop and turn their guns upon the enemy who are now spotted in rapid retreat after losing all their weapons. But, they are running directly towards Reuben and his stengun. He returns fire. They are all mopped up or captured. Hurrying up, Reuben finds Janet on the floor and professes his love for her, etc., and the Major walks in and learns all of what happened. He’s angry with the pair and naturally would court-martial them if they were under his command, but learning that Reuben sacrificed the Goddess of Love to save his daughter, he accepts that Reuben might actually be man enough to marry his daughter after all…then departs and chews out his N.C.O. An action-packed story that must have appeared elsewhere, I imagine…but where? Bevil Charles’ only claim to fame is that he also contributed the short story Night Flight to the Creasey Mystery Magazine which was adapted as Flight to the East in the Alfred Hitchcock Presents television series. This aired on 23 March 1958 and was reviewed and blogged by Jack Seabrook on his site concerning The Alfred Hitchcock Project, in which Jack is actively reviewing every episode and attempting to track down the source of inspiration. I was glad to assist Jack by providing him with a copy of the original story and suggestion as to the author’s actual identity. In my opinion, Bevil’s wartime action story is the more competent tale of the two, and not only ages well, but could easily be adapted to film. Bevil committed suicide at the age of 33. Perhaps someone will obtain his obituary (if one exists) which may clarify his life history and why he died so young. In case you are wondering, his full name was Bevil Charles Bertram Nance-Kivell. The latter part of the hyphenated name had struck an immediate chord; one Felix Kivell also appears in issues of Creasey Mystery Magazine. It was an easy guess that this was an alias. Eventually I’ll read, blog and review his later works, too.
Private Ted Hollows has just made his first kill, and one of them was a young, beautiful Malayan girl mixed amongst the armed bandits. The world blurs and later he’s in his tent. It’s nighttime and he’s not handling the situation very well. Under the cover of darkness Hollows slips away and staggers towards a distant coastal village, tired, thirsty, delirious. He collapses at the end of town and wakes the next morning. Walking in, he enters what essentially is a bar, orders a drink, and is accosted by two of the enemy. They order him to step outside. Unarmed and clearly a dead man whether he fights it out or not (after all, he is a deserter, so his fate is sealed either way) he calmly accompanies the pair outside. They raise their guns to shoot him down in the back and he flinches as the guns go off, mowing him down. Realization that he’s unscathed, causes him to eye the situation closer. Were they toying with him, teasing, only to still him? No; they are both dead in the dirt. His sergeant and another soldier step forward, reclaim Hollows, and inform him they are shipping out, going home. His asshole of a sergeant has a smile on his features, something nobody has ever seen prior. What’s more, a wink and a fatherly nod, he informs Hollows that none of this transpired. The story is entitled Ambush and written by George Sayce. I’ve no further record of this writer, but he could be English journalist George Ethelbert Sayce (1875-1953) who turned into a newspaper proprietor. He edited for a time the Brecon & Radnor Express.
Frank McKenna’s Bread is a humorous wartime story. It begins years after The Great War when two former POWs run into each other at a restaurant, and the one ribs the one dining on bread. He’s baffled as to the bread remarks until he reflects back to the war, when they were captives of the Germans. While out doing manual labor, a non-soldier German calls to him. Looking to and fro in case it is a trick, he approaches the hidden German who offers bread in exchange for money. Is he kidding? The POWs are poorly fed and vastly malnourished. He lacks the funds, so involves his friend. They investigate the German, find out he is legit, and with much pooled cash, obtain a few loaves of bread! The pair then set up a bargain system with the other inmates, and soon have tons of items to barter for bread. But what if the German tricks them, steals the goods, and keeps the bread? Our “hero” approaches the German and then screams “Unterofficer kommen.” The man flees for his life, while our two guys crawl in and discover a bag filled with loaves of bread. Too much for them. So they must share with the entire POW camp. Every man hides a loaf or two in their clothes and march under their German guards to the camp. But when one loaf, then two, fall from under the garments of one POW, they freak out until the guard snatches up each loaf and himself secretes them in his clothes! The climax is the next day all the POWs have bloated faces and bellies and arms for some bizarre reason. Allergic reaction? When the guards call them outside, they are mortified. The sentries call over Lt. Klaus, and he reprimands the captees, stating no German would ever look so…that is, until the German that snatched two loaves comes outside with the same bloated features! I’d sure love to know where this story originally was published.
Payment Deferred by H. M. Fisher originally appeared in the pamphlet-magazine called Lilliput (March 1943). It’s a short vignette. A man is promoted. In the newspaper, instead of 1942, there was a typo. It states promoted in 942. His cronies suggest he write the royals for a thousand years of backpay. In a drunken foolish stupor, he does just that, and posts it off. Next morning, he realizes to his horror what he has done. He receives a letter in kind, agreeing to the request! The flipside of the paper, however, shows someone has a sinister sense of humor, as they relate that since he was the only promoted officer a thousand years ago, he’s to be held accountable for missing stores of equipment and property during the Norman invasion. Said costs slightly outpace what was owed him, to the effect they request he pay them!
Graham Fisher relates History’s Most Fantastic Jail-Break, reportedly related to him by Wing-Commander R. W. Iredale (Robert Wilson Iredale) of the Royal Australian Air Force. While the name of the secret operation is not given, this true story concerns Operation Jericho. Interested parties may click on the link to read the recorded history there. I located via New Zealand digitized newspapers this tale was printed 7 January 1956 in The Press as History’s Most Fantastic Gaol Break. It was translated into Norwegian and appeared in the magazine Luftens Helter # 33 (January 1958) complete with photos, published as Amiens-raidet by Graham Fischer (sic).
During December 1944, our unnamed protagonist has escaped a poorly guarded makeshift concentration camp: a farmer’s stable. He’s got but a few Reichsmarks in his pocket, not confiscated by the Nazis. On the run, he makes it to a small town but can’t travel by rail too far. Anything more than 100 miles requires a police passport. So he must take short rail trips. But when he arrives in Amstetten, a small northern town in Austria, the ticket lady denies him on the ground that he is a foreigner. He realizes his accent gave him away, and to avoid arousing further suspicion from The Angel of Death, he leaves. He is forced to walk all night to the next railway station, to avoid capture. Afterall, the blonde bitch is suspicious and might call in the police. At the next station, he walks up and requests a ticket, only to be sold a return ticket to Amstetten! He’s mortified. He can’t ask the agent to cancel it and get a different one, in the opposite direction. It would clearly be a red flag. Then inspiration! He asks the same seller if he can have a return-ticket for when he is through being in Amstetten, so he does not have to obtain one at a later date? Yes; he succeeds but must settle in for the night and then take that second train. The author is George A. Floris, and his protagonist, now years after the war has concluded, wonders if the evil blonde, The Angel of Death, is still on duty at the ticket office, or married with a family, or realizes that she may have been his or someone else’s executioner. Floris has at least one article in The Contemporary Review no. 1053 (October 1953) entitled Hungary Under Horthy. He also wrote various articles and letters in The Economist, Sight & Sound (The Film Monthly), Blackfriars, and in US editions of Newsweek. His real name per 1956 British naturalization records is Gyorgy Sandor Schäffer, originally from Hungary. His real name turns up at least once in this foreign newspaper from 1929, the Budai Napló (7 January 1929). I wonder if this tale is a real-life account of his own escape from the Nazis, ergo, an excerpt from a book, or some other source?
This next entry is pure fiction. When Johnny Robins Flew… by Miles Tripp involves a young 18-years old Aircraftman, Second Class, overhearing Canadian flyers arguing about a leaflet-drop they are about to embark on. Seems their rear turret gunner is AWOL with some dame, late for their flight. Johnny Robins realizes this is his opportunity and steps forward. Casually explaining he can handle the gun and has experience, they finally acquiesce. He obtains a jacket and gear, but while in flight, discovers his gear is not enough to properly protect him from the freezing cold elements. He also lacks a parachute. And his helmet-gear does not have the proper apparatus to obtain oxygen. A simple flight goes awry when he suffers from oxygen deprivation and in delirium we see him interact with his girlfriend in various scenarios. Meanwhile, the Nazis flak is peppering the sky and planes take off in pursuit. The Canadians run into trouble and are screaming at him to return fire. He snaps briefly out of his reverie to return fire and takes out a plane sure to kill them. He then faints away from lack of oxygen. One of the crew checks on him and makes the discovery, and they rapidly blanket him with anything possible to save his life, but his fingers and toes are clearly frostbitten. The fictionalized scenario of their landing and having to move his body without anyone noticing is insane, and worse, he’s not permitted to admit he was on that flight. Despite harsh interrogation, he never confesses. The military thinks he merely smuggled aboard to see some action, not realizing he replaced another man. That other man, meanwhile, is brought up to speed and must rehearse his false role in the conflict. He earns a medal, and the now mostly fingerless Johnny Robins, married to his girlfriend, reads of the report, conflict, and medal. She too knows the truth and keeps it secret. He never earns a pension from “self-inflicted injuries” and years later, in the mail arrives the medal, with a note stating that it really belongs to him. I’m not sure where the story was first published, but I managed to trace an earlier edition in Chambers’s Journal (June 1953). Miles Tripp is an English mystery writer and novelist, born 5 May 1923 and died 2 September 2000.
No Bouquets for These by Arthur Catherall is the first of five serial installments. Suspecting it may have appeared previously, I discovered that Tempest published the full serial years earlier as a novel under the byline “Third Mate” in 1951 (per Whitaker’s Index). This alias is not listed anywhere online, as far as I can see. I located a single edition for sale on ABE. The seller only offered up a pitifully reduced quality scan (see here) so I wasn’t able to blow it up and identify the artist. Arthur Catherall’s novel is not recorded on his Wikipedia entry. Nor is a single copy held by any major English libraries, nor found on WorldCat listings. I don’t own a complete run of Combat’s serialization, so I beg your pardon and won’t delve any further.
Assuming, that is, that anyone actually survived reading up to this point !!!
A mystery that has troubled me for many a year is the identity of magazine illustrator “A. Wilson”. His works primarily graced the covers of American screen-related magazines. He also landed some “smooth” magazines. However, he never appeared on the cover a genuine pulpwood magazine, though some may consider a handful of his smooth magazines to be pulp in nature, due to the fiction content. His covers focused on accentuating the beauty of the female: her face, hair, makeup, and clothing from the shoulders to upper chest region, but never her breasts. Naturally, his screen-related covers featured popular film and stage actresses of the era, in all their glory, while his non-screen magazines sometimes had such persons depicted. Others are a complete mystery. Were they based on real people or not? The mysterious identity of “A. Wilson” lessened when I discovered he executed covers in Canada under the name of “Alan Wilson.”
I wrote various art institutes and museums in the hopes that Alan Wilson had exhibited with them, in either the United States or Canada. Shockingly, I hit the proverbial wall in both instances. Searching various census databases, I came across possible matches, but nothing definite. Alan Wilson’s name is about as common as John Smith. I’ve tried Archive.org and FamilySearch.org and US Census records. I do not have access to Ancestry.com nor most Canadian historical databases (assuming he is Canadian). At the moment, I’m not sure where he was born!
One possible match appears in the form of Alan Walrond Wilson, born 12 December 1910 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. His father was William Herbert Wilson (1870) and his mother was Bessie St. George Olive (1878). Alan married Frances Margaret Fraser on 15 July 1941; she was born 29 April 1910 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. The pair had two children; one for sure was Margaret Dianne Wilson (1949-1981) and she married someone with the surname possibly being Hayter. Alan’s marriage certificate states that he is a radio “wireless operator”. Given that our illustrator did illustrate some radio magazine covers, this could be a genuine match. His precise death is unclear, but it was prior to 1969. Unfortunately, 1931 Canadian census records won’t be made publicly available for a good long while. Granted, this could be meaningless if he is not the correct person.
Early in my research I had also come across Canadian commercial illustrator Alan Dent Wilson. However, he was rapidly nixed. Why? Well, he was born in the early 1920s, meaning he was an artist by the age of 5. Um, no dice, bub!
Alan Wilson should not be confused with American commercial illustrator Raymond Wilson Hammell, despite both doing covers for Radio Digest magazine in 1931. Raymond Wilson Hammell, a noted American artist born 12 June 1896; he died 23 February 1949. They both executed similar pieces, but the WILSON signatures are entirely different, every time. To be honest, I wish their signatures had either been identical or similar enough to warrant a closer look.
The earliest American cover I could trace appears on Screen Secrets magazine, February 1929, while the earliest Canadian cover I traced belongs to MacLean’s, 1 September 1933, a whole four-and-half years later! It hardly seems logical a man born, raised, and residing his whole live in Nova Scotia could possibly have been submitting paintings to New York, New Jersey, and Toronto publishers.
My love and interest in Alan Wilson began with the trio of covers he created for Mystic Magazine (1930-1931), signed as “A. Wilson”, of course. It seemed unusual that this had no profile page, no record in any historical books, etc. But of course, many such mysteries exist unsolved or go unnoticed. In America, he would go on to illustrate a minimum of 15 screen and radio related magazines, and 10 other assorted magazines, spanning 1929-1935. Many of his American radio and film covers are not signed by the artist on the cover, so that information often came from the Table of Contents page. If anyone collects those types of magazines, I’d love your input, as no doubt I’m missing many more entries. In Canada, I’ve confirmed he illustrated at least 25 covers for MacLean’s from 1933-1936 and one for Chatelaine in 1933. He may have done more for the latter, but that title is tough to locate.
So, in all, his 50+ works span 1929-1936, and then he abruptly vanishes. If anyone can fill in the blanks for me, I’d be deeply grateful to learn more about this illustrator.
Below is a partial list of his known American and Canadian appearances, as well as some bonus items at the bottom.
1929 Feb – ScreenSecrets 1929 Apr – Screen Secrets 1929 May – ScreenSecrets 1929 May – True Confessions 1929 Jul – Screen Secrets 1929 Fall – Your Body 1929 Oct – Prize Story Magazine 1929 Oct – Screen Secrets 1929 Nov – Screen Secrets 1929 Dec – Screen Secrets 1929 Dec – True Confessions 1930 Nov – Mystic Magazine 1931 Jan – The Illustrated Love Magazine 1931 Jan – Mystic Magazine 1931 Mar – Mystic Magazine 1931 Apr – The Illustrated Love Magazine 1931 May – Radio Digest 1931 Jun – Radio Digest 1931 Nov – The New Movie Magazine 1931 Dec – Street & Smith’s Real Love Magazine 1932 Jul – Street & Smith’s Real Love Magazine 1933 Jun – Hollywood Movie Novels 1934 Jan – Street & Smith’s Picture Play 1934 Nov – Screen Play 1934 Nov – Radioland 1935 Apr – Screen Play
1933 Sep 1 – Maclean’s 1933 Oct – Chatelaine 1933 Nov 15th – Maclean’s 1933 Dec 1st – Maclean’s 1933 Dec 15th – Maclean’s 1934 Feb 1st – Maclean’s 1934 Mar 1st – Maclean’s 1934 Mar 15th – Maclean’s 1934 Apr 1st – Maclean’s 1934 May 1st – Maclean’s 1934 Jun 15th – Maclean’s 1934 Jul 15th – Maclean’s 1934 Aug 1st – Maclean’s 1934 Sep 1st – Maclean’s 1934 Sep 15th – Maclean’s 1934 Oct 1st – Maclean’s 1934 Oct 15th – Maclean’s 1934 Nov 15th – Maclean’s 1934 Dec 1st – Maclean’s 1935 Mar 15th – Maclean’s 1935 Jun 15th – Maclean’s 1935 Sep 15th – Maclean’s 1936 Feb 1st – Maclean’s 1936 Mar 1st – Maclean’s 1936 Sep 15th – Maclean’s 1936 Nov 1st – Maclean’s
1932 Apr – Hjemmet (Norway) original cover source unknown 1934 Dec – Suplemento (Argentina) cover from Street & Smith’s Picture Play (January 1934)
One lithograph and one “pin up” piece have also been discovered, both undated, sources unknown
Six GunSerenade (as noted on the cover and spine; Sixgun Serenade, as noted within) carries the byline Earle Sumner, and was published by World Distributors Incorporated, as part of their All Star Western series, likely around 1950. The artwork is signed simply “Anthon.” The novel runs from page 3 to 127. The final page lists other titles in the All Star Western Series. The interior front and rear covers are blank, wasted space. The rear cover features the following blurb for this novel:
All-in-all, the blurb reads like any other typical western of the era, however, unlike the last western I read from the All Star Western series, this one features a superb plot, plenty of action, some romantic angles, etc. All the proper elements for an enjoyable western are present.
The story actually begins with Harry Crabb rushing into bar in Green Valley in search of a friend, Paul Martin. Harry has just returned from business in Apache City, a town that sprung up once the railway lines spread West. In a bustling bar there, he runs into Garry Swift, who has some time ago been released from the penitentiary for the murder of a Green Valley resident. Seems that Swift has returned from his Eastern imprisonment to exact revenge on all the parties responsible for the murder of his father, a decade earlier.
Green Valley was accidentally discovered by Swift’s father when he was still just an infant. Part of a westward-bound caravan, Swift senior explored a vast mountain and discovered his own version of Eden. Upon returning to the caravan, he found death and destruction at the hands of roaming, rampaging Indians. While sorting through the debris for all he could salvage, he hears a noise and discovers the infant hidden, safely ensconced by its mother, his dead wife. Stricken with grief, Swift takes his infant son Garry to what he dubs Green Valley and puts his entire life into its development.
Fast-forward through the years, the government refuses to acknowledge Swift’s rights to having grub-staked the entire valley, and allots only an eighth of an acre to him and anyone else that moves in. A feud develops between he and the larger, wealthy ranchers. Eventually, he’s roped and shot dead. Then a young man, Garry Swift pursues those responsible for his father’s murder and theft of his lands. However, after he murders a local inhabitant, the local sheriff arrested Garry Swift and sent him in shackles East.
A decade later, the sheriff is dead and his son Ken Morris has become sheriff in his stead. Ken grew up with Garry and they were close friends throughout childhood, roaming throughout the valley and discovering many of its various secrets, and keeping those findings to themselves. The late-sheriff’s deputy, Happy Hogan, becomes Ken’s deputy. It is from Ken that we learn the entire backstory of Garry’s father’s past and Garry’s eventually imprisonment. After Harry Crabb’s arrival, Ken spends time in the sheriff’s office reading through old files and wonders…just who did murder Garry’s father?
Ken decides to ride out of the valley and visit Apache City, in the hopes of crossing paths with his once childhood friend, in the hopes of persuading him to move along. Eventually running into Garry, the young vigilante declares to Ken to call him “Swift.” While at the bar, much discussion ensues, but Ken finds that the hatred fills the young man’s soul and that Garry Swift intends to run hell through Green Valley.
Departing, Ken runs into a gorgeous young lady. Discovering a star attached to his chest, she assumes that he is the local sheriff, and states that a man helping her off the train apparently made off with her luggage, disappearing somewhere between the rail depot and the hotel. Ken corrects her that he isn’t the local sheriff but happy to assist her. She eventually disgorges that she has purchased an abandoned plot of land within Green Valley and is planning to develop it for the use of raising hogs.
Surprised that this lovely beauty could possibly raise hogs herself startles him but she is certain of her abilities, and has two hands coming along to assist. She also plans to locally purchase horses to be eventually brought into Green Valley. Ken hopes to meet her again one day and she invites him to visit her any time.
Pages onward contain his infatuation with the young lady, visiting her farmstead, meeting her two hands, checking out the premises, visiting some more, etc. Later, he rides back to town to discover that Garry Swift, who has been missing for weeks, after his Apache City threats, has finally resurfaced and made a mockery of the locals. They realize the sheriff has been “visiting” instead of working and he is ridiculed. Fast of temper, and easily riled, he realizes that his father would never have made his blunder.
While organizing the town towards gathering himself a posse to hunt Swift, that worthy rides into town while they are all busy listening to the sheriff expound upon his plans. He walks into the general store, ties up the owner, tosses him out back into a barrel, and sets the store ablaze.
The sheriff is made the buffoon once more; Swift outmaneuvered the sheriff. Unable to figure out how Swift keeps making his assaults and escaping sans detection, Happy Hogan finally throws into Ken’s face that its mighty peculiar that Swift showed up right when the young lady and her crew arrived. The insinuation sets Ken’s temper ablaze and the strikes down his deputy, then forks leather and goes solo to hunt the malcontent.
Deeply troubled by Happy Hogan’s suggestions, Ken realizes that his deputy may well have stumbled onto the truth, but then dismisses the entire premise as fantasy. Having searched the valley all through the night, by morning, he is exhausted, and finds himself near the young lady’s property. Deciding to drop in, he is well-received and while she prepares coffee and a meal for him, she admonishes him for overworking and suggests he rest. This he does, slipping into a brief slumber. Reawakening, he departs, but not until after he lands a kiss on her. She’s shocked by the kiss, doesn’t appear to know how to react, but then alludes that she’s a lot on her mind, and seems happy.
He rides off into NeverLand, his thoughts in the clouds, day-dreaming about the girl, when, miles down the dirt path, a rope swishes down from above, and unseats the sheriff from his horse. Deposited roughly upon the turf, he attempts to extricate himself when Swift removes his hardware. Leaving him thus trussed, and firmly secured, he confiscates the gun, tosses it onto the horse, and tells Ken to start walking all those long miles back to town.
Swift’s intention is to humiliate Ken, and it works. He could walk back to the girl’s ranch, but he realizes he could never live down the shame. So, he decides to hoof it into town, hoping to sneak in under cover of darkness, and get Happy Hogan to release him. Life doesn’t work out that way. He trips, stumbles, falls, can’t get up, when a wagon rolls up and those aboard recognize the rolling dirty mess as their missing sheriff. Laughing hard at his discomfiture, he declines an offer to ride into town, deciding to finish the walk as intended. They ride on ahead, to share their newfound knowledge…
Realizing his career is doomed, he turns in his star right before the townspeople demand his resignation. Gathering some of his worldly goods, he boards his horse (which walked into town after Swift released it) and departs the valley, heads over the pass and out to Apache City.
There, he gets into a near-drunken brawl with some barflies, desiring to take his anger out through use of his fists. The city sheriff drags him away, thinks about charging him $200 for disorderly conduct, but decides the people in that particular bar needed shaking up, and charges only half the rate. Ken pays up, and sleeps off his fury…but not before asking the sheriff a question. Does the sheriff recall seeing the pretty girl?
Why, yes! In fact, he assisted her off the train and carried her luggage to the hotel for her.
Ken is gobsmacked. When he first had met her, she lied to him, claiming an unknown man carried her luggage and she never saw it again. What’s more, she HAD to know the man was the sheriff, and pretended that Ken, seeing he had a star on HIS chest, was the local sheriff. Yet, the Apache City sheriff stated clearly that he had informed her that HE was the sheriff.
Realizing that Happy Hogan may well be 100% correct, Ken follows up his inquiry with one more: how many horses did she locally purchase? He knows the farmstead has 14; he’s informed they purchased 15. Now he knows how Swift obtained a horse without being seen to cross the valley’s pass. She gave it to him.
Mentally destroyed by this information, he purchases a railway ticket, bound East, when he suddenly hears news that a major rancher was gunned down, and, another was shot but not dead. Learning that they were involved in the possible death of Swift’s father, and being close friends of his, he realizes that Swift has gone from prankster, to murderer. He must be stopped. However, he does not inform anyone of his intentions to remain. Instead, he leaves Apache City and rides away for several miles, before eventually checking his back trail, then circles wide, and enters the valley from a little-known pass.
What transpires next is guts. Under cover of darkness he crashes the girl’s ranch, finds that one of the hands is standing guard, knocks him out with his gun, and walks into the home, to find her. She is in a state of shock, seeing Ken standing there. Mortified, she doesn’t utter a word. He demands the truth and she confesses to everything, but firmly notes that Swift never murdered or shot those men, lest they tried to shoot him. She promises she forced him to not murder, and Swift is a man of his word.
Ken thinks a decade changes a man while incarcerated, that his promise means nothing. The other hand (Brent) sneaks in behind him, gun leveled. The girl orders him to drop his gun, not to harm the sheriff. Brent is ordered to ride with Ken to search for the missing Swift, and prove his innocence. While riding to town they discover a badly wounded Happy Hogan, shot via a rifle bullet, and badly battered. He mumbles a couple seemingly incoherent words, but they are enough for Ken to ascertain who might be the culprit behind the whole charade.
Realizing that Happy Hogan is knocking at Death’s door, he sends Brent along with the unconscious deputy onward to town to fetch the doctor. Ken swings his horse towards a ranch (on the off-chance anyone DOES own a copy, and wants to read the book, I won’t divulge the identities the villains) and pays them a visit. The boss isn’t home, his tophand answers the knock, demands to know why Ken wants to see the boss. Ken refuses to cop a reply, departs, but swings into shelter far away to watch the ranch’s proceedings. Many hands later depart, then, the tophand fetches his horse and rides into the opposite direction, up into the mountainous region.
Ken’s convinced he is paying the boss a visit, and at a discreet distance, follows the man up until he loses his trail. Backtracking, he discovers the cliche cleft between boulders, rides through, discovers a hidden cabin. Watching, he decides that Swift may be inside, a captive. But when the boss, tophand, and one other make to depart, Ken is left in a precarious position. He can’t get his horse to back out fast enough to escape their departure, so, he discovers another recess in the rocks, deeply shadowed, and muzzles his horse. The trio pass him undetected; after a good pause, he slowly moves out of hiding, and breaking into the cabin, discovers Swift tied up, ropes tied firmly to his thumbs, holding his suspended in the air, stretched, barely able to suspend himself on his tippy-toes.
Cutting him down, Swift collapses in a heap and deliriously realizes he’s been rescued by his childhood friend. Shots ring out and Ken realizes he blundered; while they may have passed him in the rocks, upon exiting the cleft, they would have seen the extra set of horse prints! Trapped inside the cabin with a seemingly beaten and battered Swift, he sets himself up to fight to the death. Swift proves more worthy than believed, and obtaining a six-gun, assists in holding off their assailants, when, inexplicably, the roof of the cabin begins to shudder…under the impact of numerous boulders loosed from above. Noting that the roof will soon cave in, they begin to panic, but the outlaws have other plans. Now that the roof has been breached, they’ve set the top afire!
Holding out as long as possible, the pair realizes they’ll have to abandon the smoky, blazing inferno. Exiting and firing on the run, they’re mystified to receive zero in return. The outlaws have vanished! Why? They soon discover that Brent has returned with a posse, and that those on the rocks atop must have seen them from far away. Likewise, the posse sees the smoke from the fire and have their bearings.
Boarding their own respective horses, they exit the hiding place and meeting up with the posse, quickly swap details and fork leather to pursue the remaining pair of villains: boss and tophand gunslinger, who we learn from Swift had confessed to murdering his father all those years ago!
Spotting the pair as tiny black dots in the distance making for a cave and underground river system, they barricade the pair inside and decide to maintain a safe distance, with the intention of outlasting them. Swift and Ken, meanwhile, from their childhood days of exploration, recollect higher up the mountain a tiny shaft in the rocks that’ll allow them to drop down above the pair, but it’s a dangerous descent without ropes and light to guide them. Rounding the top, they find the hole covered by a huge spider web and realize that the pair inside the cave likely aren’t aware of this secret entrance, as the web would be destroyed. Picking the web aside, they enter, only to have tragedy ensue.
One of the pair slips down the rocks and falls into the water, which itself is a death-trap, sucking everything down and under the ground, and out again to an unknown source (earlier in the novel a bunch of steers were forced down that river to their death). Both battered from their own respective falls eventually do get the better of both villains. No sense ruining the quick action for you. The whole book is loaded with great action sequences.
Story ends with both Swift and Ken carted away, shot, battered, unconscious, to recover in town. Waking up, Ken eventually finds Swift gone and learns from the girl that he has left, for good. He’s also given up his “claim” on the girl, who he was to marry, but discovers that she is in love with Ken. The townspeople forgive the girl for his cooperation in the Swift shenanigans, she offers Ken a job on another newly acquired ranch. Gaping, he can’t believe she wants him to be her tophand, when she clarifies: “Do I have to ask you to marry me?…I’m asking you to be Boss…and I want to be the first to carry the new brand.”
A damn fine novel, only, a damn shame that I do not know who the actual author is! If anyone possesses information towards solving the identity of Earle Sumner, I would be grateful.
Published 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:
Eversince 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 isn‘t 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.
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.
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!
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’sOwn 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.
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 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!?!?!?!
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 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 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.
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…
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.