The Long Sleep by Al Bocca

The Long Sleep was published in 1950 by Scion Ltd. and represents the 4th book written by Bevis Winter under the Al Bocca pseudonym. The cover art is signed Ferrari; this is the alias of Philip Mendoza, who also signed as: Garcia, Zero, Gomez, etc.

The novel opens with Rick Morrison walking down the ‘hood, having recently been released from prison for a small-time crime. He’s looking to hook up with his girlfriend (Lola Madigan) only to discover that she has been two-timing him with an Italian “wop” by the name of Matt Corelli.

Disclaimer: Keep in mind that this is a 1950s novel, and we are still fairly fresh from exiting World War Two against the Germans and Italians. Slurs such as “wop” were commonplace terms in “gangster” novels. Any racism in these novels are not necessarily any reflection on the author’s actual personal beliefs.

Disgusted that Lola has been lip-smacking Corelli, Rick decides he will snatch her back from Corelli… But first, he needs money.

Picking up where he left off (criminally) he hooks up with another ex-jail-mate by the name of Lee Ackerman, who has the schematics to a rich old man’s home. He also knows that he and a butler are the only pair in residence, their movements, sleeping patterns, etc. Breaking in proves to be easy, but the whole scene goes haywire when the old man atop the staircase points a firearm down at them.

Rick refuses to shoot the old man. What’s worse, Lee Ackerman finds himself in a tussle on the ground with the butler. Tossing his handgun down to Lee in the darkness, Rick moves to leave when the gun goes off. The butler is done for, and the old man falls down the staircase to his death. Departing the house with the stolen goods, they hook up with their driver (a young female named Sonia) and speed away.

The goods are cached along the way and the trio split up. Rick phones his partner the next day only to discover a voiceless person has answered the phone. Repeating the call again nets the same result. A lifted receiver, but no speaker! Fearing the worst, Rick discovers via the newspaper that the police have arrested Ackerman and Sonia. The former has been charged with murder. Blood and dirt and scrapings are found on his body and clothes. Sonia, being quite young and inexperienced with the law, apparently has coughed up the fact that a third party (Rick) was involved.

Realizing the police are hunting him, Rick enlists the aid of Lola to obtain a fast car, then he races to where he believes the money and jewels are cached, finally discovers the location and the pair make their getaway. Lola isn’t too keen on bugging out on Corelli, as he has long reaches. The man practically owns her, having gifted her with jewels, furs, etc.

Ditching their wheels, the pair stereo-typically hop a railway car and sleep off their fright inside and permit the train to assist in their nocturnal escape. With the train coming to a sudden stop, Rick and Lola jump out before their “car” can be searched. Lola’s having no fun over the expense of having ditched a cozy situation with a repulsive-looking man in the city versus being on the lam with a loser with a pretty face.

They eventually obtain another set of wheels and make their way to San Francisco, and into the joint run by Siegal. Explaining that he is a wanted man out East, and having pulled off a botched jewelry heist, Siegal agrees to help but unwilling to match Rick’s cash demands for the jewels. Figuring the jewels to be too hot, he offers a much lower rate and travel out of the country. But the deal sours when Seigal learns that Rick has a girlfriend along for the ride. Demanding that Rick brings the jewels and the girl along for inspection, Rick finally relents and agrees to the terms.

Arriving at the agreed meeting place proves to be Rick’s undoing. Turns out that back East, Corelli has put out the word that a hood has made off with his girl and wants the girl back…and the man held. Rick is beat and knocked out and left in a houseboat. Waking up sore and bloodied, Rick scours the houseboat for a means of escape. All means are firmly secured. But, discovering he still has matches, he sets door frame ablaze and rapidly begins to suffocate from the flames and smoke. The door frame begins to weaken as he continues to throw his body against it then finally parts.

Making his escape, Rick drops into the water as people ashore notice the boat is on fire. Swimming far from the scene, he drags his body from the water. His suit is a mess, his twisted and battered, but he makes his way into a shady part of town and is met by a prostitute, who takes him up to her apartment to get cleaned up…after he promises to pay her.

While in her pad, we learn her sob story. Her old man died at San Quentin in the gas chamber after a botched job, leaving her a widow, and working her body for cash. Rick and her end up on the bed making out. Next day, he phones a cab and makes to leave, promising to mail her the money. Shockingly, she states she doesn’t want the money, that he can keep it. She’s more interested in skipping town with him, just for him. Not the money. Just goes to show you can’t always judge a book (or a person) by their circumstances. That’s something that turns up in various books I’ve read by Bevis Winter…a moral within a story.

Meanwhile, on that very day of Rick departing the prostitute’s pad, Siegal has Lola bound and gagged in his place. He’s developing a soft spot for her sultry body and decides to rape her before Corelli arrives. In fact, he spouts his intentions to her quite clearly, explains that Corelli would never believe her over him anyway. That Rick has been disposed off on the wharf. You get the gist…and so he removes her gag, she begins calling him all manner of names and other foul things spew forth. Siegal begins to paw her, remove her garments, kiss her all over, which proves to be a fatal mistake. Lola sinks her teeth into his neck and removes a chunk of flesh and he, in a fit of rage, heaves her. Distracted by his less than affectionate amorous intentions, he vaguely hears a scraping sound… The window opens and Rick leaps in, a gun in hand.

Siegal is mortified, and has every right to be. He’s stuck in a room with a vengeful maniac and he himself has foolishly bolted the door from allowing his toughs to enter and save his life while he molested Lola!

Retrieving the jewels from Siegal’s jacket, Lola departs by means of the fire escape, and Rick levels the gun and puts two rounds into Siegal’s gut. Dropping down after Lola, they both make off to his secreted wheels, when another shot in the dark is fired, and two gunmen step out of the darkness. They are Corelli’s men. And Lola is captured. Rick knows he’s bested…

…and now we are formally introduced to Corelli as a fat, flabby, jowl-faced character, with broken English. Corelli and his thugs decide to take Rick out to the rural part of California, find a good canyon, and push Rick in his stolen jalopy off the cliff. Rick doesn’t like this idea one bit and puts up a struggle, only to be knocked over the head; Lola herself is physically shaken like a rag and slapped violently by Corelli a dozen times.

Rolling the clock backwards to Rick and Lola’s escape and immediate capture by Corelli’s hoods, Siegal’s guards break in the door and find their boss dead. Spotting the open window, they look out into the darkness and spot 3 male figures and a dame climbing into a luxury sedan. Certain that Corelli and his 2 hoods have pulled a double-cross (not realizing it is Rick, the girl, and 2 hoods) they gather their own wheels and heavy artillery. Siegal’s smartest guard, Murphy, is the one to utter the oath that whomever killed their boss will receive “the long sleep” treatment. Hence the title of this novel.

Knowing full well where Corelli usually hunkers down, Murphy and the boys locate the rental and decide to rig the rental for a whole different sort of trip. Retreating to their own wheels, Murphy is pumped to follow the rental and see what sort of mayhem ensues…

Tossing Rick into his own stolen wheels, Corelli climbs into the rental, and the pair of cars make for the mountains. Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, the driver of Rick’s wheels looks back in the mirror and in horror watches as his boss’s rental is out of control. The steering, clutch, brakes, all are useless. The car careens out of control on the bridge, over the rails, and plummets over the side, taking Corelli, one guard, and Lola down to certain death. Rick’s driver pulls over and gets out, looking down. There’s no need to look for survivors. His both and partner are dead, the jewels also having gone down with them. Murphy and the boys are enjoying the deadly bedlam.

Cops are immediately on the scene. The driver makes a run for it, pulling his gun. Another cop opens the rear door of the car and finds Rick unconscious, stuffed inside. The guard doesn’t get far before he is shot dead. And so ends this novel…we can only figure that Rick goes to jail as the final loose end, an obvious conclusion as he is a wanted man.

If you are into gangster novels and movies, this one certainly picks up the pace in the last quarter of the novel with all manner of twists and turns in the plot, violence, sex, etc. What it lacks is Bevis Winter’s customary facetiousness. Literally, there is no sarcasm and wit present, but plenty of subtle irony.

The Long Sleep by Al Bocca

The Living World by Carl Maddox (E. C. Tubb)

The Living World was written by E. C. Tubb under his alias Carl Maddox and published by C. Arthur Pearson (1954) via the Tit-Bits Science Fiction Library series. The cover illustration by Ron Turner features a space-suited man, firing a beam into the planet’s surface while gaping in fright as the very surface expands outward and seems to be reaching up and toward him in a menacing manner. It’s a gorgeous work of art and one I imagine readily gripped potential reader’s with awe.

The tale opens with ship captain Rex Tendris arriving at the planet Deneb IV to attend the Auctions, a flesh-for-sale event. He is disgusted by this but is searching for an old friend, Carl Stanert (a spaceship engineer skilled in the tending of Hyper-Drive engines) whom he knows has been captured and is to be offered for sale at the auction. While on the planet, Rex befriends a young officer (Stef Carson); he invites Rex to share his accommodation.

Attending the Auctions, the engineer he seeks comes up on the auction-block and Rex Tendris gets into a minor bidding war and wins Carl Stanert. He in turn asks Rex if he has any additional funds, to which Rex acknowledges he does. Carl asks Rex access to those funds to purchase a decrepit old wizened man.

Getting into a heated auction with Bronson, an evil space man possessing immense wealth, Bronson relents and permits the pair to win the professor. Rex’s funds are now wholly spent.

Rex Tendris, Carl Stanert, Stef Carson, and Professor Whitney depart the Auctions and Carl explains that the professor has discovered the whereabouts of the Cradle. The Cradle refers to an ancient alien civilization that once colonized the galaxies. The remains of their long-since abandoned worlds have been discovered and explored by humanity. Humans desire to locate the home world of this lost race, along with the preciously rare metal urillium used on those worlds.

Rex is in disbelief, but after they attempt to coax the coordinates from the professor, someone outside the room fires a deadly shot. That shot was meant for Rex, but the professor catches the murderous shot himself. With his last dying breath, the professor writes the coordinates on the ground with his blood.

The information is valuable but useless to Rex Tendris. He hasn’t funds to refuel or rebuild his broken vessel of a ship, but Stef volunteers his own saved funds. He has dreamed of the romantic stars and exploring them. Rex attempts to dissuade him, that the world afar is not just glamor and riches. Stef is undeterred, so Rex accepts and Stef becomes a ready member of the venture, to split the proceeds equally among themselves. Assuming they survive.

Rapidly departing the planet, Rex orders Carl to get the hyper-drive functional. He is certain Bronson will stop at nothing to get the coordinates or blast them out of space; Bronson may well not require the coordinates from them, if he was able to decipher the bloody marks left by the professor on the ground.

Bronson’s ship approaches and opens fire. Rex’s ship only has one turret against Bronson’s trio, and Rex’s turret is inaccurate. Carl manages to get the hyper-drive engines functional and they vanish, leaving behind a very angry Bronson. While he might have professor’s coordinates, that does not mean he knows where Rex will come out. The race is on!

Unfortunately, Rex’s ship was battered by the assault and the engine-room is in ruin. The hyper-drive is vibrating and Carl is certain that the vibrations will worsen to the point of turning them into jelly. Carl with the assistance of young Stef manage to mend the engine-room and make it functional. Setting the coordinates for the approximate location of the Cradle, Rex exits hyper-drive just outside the Coalsack. With the aid of hyper-drive, one may pass through the Coalsack with ease; the real danger occurs once more when they exit. There could be all manner of debris where they return to normal time and space. Plus, the hyper-drive is not functioning properly.

Tense minutes pass when the ship was set to abandon hyper-drive, but Rex personally attends to this and he gazes upon a sinister-looking planet. Better than this is the fact that he discovers a sleek vessel in orbit circling the alien planet! Seemingly abandoned, the trio take it for their own according to space laws. No living bodies are found inside, yet the ship is fully functional. How long has it been there? What of the crew? Are they on the planet? Dead or alive?

Removing the ship from orbit, they fly over the planet and eventually a smaller vessel is spotted on the surface. Realizing it was the landing ship, Rex lands and with Carl, they investigate. Looking inside the ship’s screen Rex sees a wreck of a human in tattered clothes and unkempt hair, gibbering insanely.

Rescuing the figure and returning to the newly acquired ship, Rex coaxes out of the maniac that he was the captain of the doomed venture. He remained within the landing vessel while four others explored the planet. Utilizing a drill, they attempted to mine the surface…then the planet assaulted them. The captain in a fit of fear then dies while reliving the memory.

Instructing Carl and Stef to man the ship’s turrets, Rex repeats the earlier explorer’s mission and with a drill, attacks the planet’s surface. His mind is battered by a painful shriek that assaults him. Carl and Stef fire at the planet’s surface surrounding Rex and he is safely brought back aboard the ship to explain what happened.

The surface is made of liquefied urillium metal, but it is alive, sentient. How is this possible? Rex surmises that they arrived where the Cradle had once been located, but they are five million years too late. The Cradle is no longer there, in space. With proper mathematical computations, they may be able to compute where the Cradle has shifted in space.

So, if this is not the Cradle, what is this planet of living metal?

Rex believes at one time the planet was constructed by the ancient beings using the urillium, perhaps as a self-repairing robot, and then abandoned. The area is highly radioactive and over the millions of years the urillium developed a life of its own.

Donning his space suit once more, Rex exits the ship and lasers off small chunks of urillium waste from the planet. Being a sentient planet, Rex had a mental conversation with it, a bargain that essentially states he departs with some of the rare metal and never returns, nor divulges the location of the planet, otherwise more greedy adventurers will return and murder the living planet for its wealth.

The urillium planet agrees to the terms and Rex and his two companions vacate the living world quite rich, to have more future adventures…

The Living World by Carl Maddox (E. C. Tubb)

“Oh! Miss Green” by Harry Lex (UK: Curtis Warren, 1954)

Oh! Miss Green was published January 1954 by Curtis Warren Ltd., and given on the cover to be by “Harry Lex,” clearly a pseudonym. Sadly, the identity of the author is currently unknown. At least one other novel appeared under this name: Main Drag.

The cover artist is not known, and proclaims at the bottom “Private Eye and Public Dolls.” The rear cover lists a handful of other titles recently released as available in Curtis Warren’s hardcover “Lion Library” series. The Lex title here is given to be a “detective” novel.

It isn’t.

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Oh! Miss Green may well have a detective, but he certainly isn’t solving any crimes. The novel involves American gangsters pursuing Julia Green (the dame on the cover should actually have blonde hair and green eyes), and per the author, a “figure that made Jane Russell look like she’d been on a six months’ slimming course.”

Per the blurb:

Mike Reilly, Private Investigator, was waiting for his first case when in walked the eye-shattering Julia Green — and, brother, was this girl hot! Because she had seen him murder Jerry Saunders in Chicago, Cal Johnson, big-time racketeer, had flown to London in pursuit of Julia and was out to remove her and her evidence to a place where she would no longer be a threat to his own life. To protect Julia, Mike calls in Pete Redowski and his boys; an through the streets of Soho, Chicago hoodlums and Pete’s boys chase each other. To trap Johnson, the D.D.I. Reynolds asks Julia to return to the Diamond Club for a farewell performance. The trap is sprung but Johnson outwits Reynolds and Mike, and Julia is trapped. How they turn the tables on the Chicago racketeer is the highlight of this fast-moving and most exciting first novel by Harry Lex.

The blurb actually reads more like a plot synopsis than anything else, which adequately saves me all the time in the world from having to regurgitate the plot-vomit. Naturally, Reilly is captured and beaten up, and later saves the girl from Cal Johnson, and, also from Morelli, an ape of a “hood” brought over from America who specializes in murdering with his bare hands or a rope. All the typical fanfare of British gangster novels are present in this charming novel, and the stereotypes of American gangland literature naturally made their way in.

Despite the standard fare of gangster-esque literature, this novel held my attention long enough to warrant jumping off a very high cliff. The fact is that the majority of the British gangster novels are complete rubbish. That aside, it is a competently written novel and damnably rare. Given that this was published January 1954, and that Edmund Cooper churned out 3 original novels for Curtis Warren Ltd. during this period, naturally I wonder whose real name lies behind Harry Lex.

“Oh! Miss Green” by Harry Lex (UK: Curtis Warren, 1954)

“Detective Crime Stories” by Lee Dexter

Detective Crime Stories

Published 1949 by Curtis Warren Ltd., Detective Crime Stories collects 1 novella and 2 novelettes. The first is by Lee Dexter (real name, Denis T. Hughes) and, frustratingly enough, it has no working title. The remaining novelettes are supplied by Bevis Winter.

Independent reporter Lee Dexter is asked by an old friend (Danny) to look into the murder of his father; he mentored Lee many years earlier as a cub reporter. Arriving in town, Lee runs across unsavory characters in his quest to unearth the truth. He learns that the old man had been running articles in the paper slandering one of two men running for office. Oddly enough, he had been slandering a seemingly “clean” citizen.

To worsen matters, the murdered man’s son takes over the town newspaper and runs a column citing the other would-be politician (correctly) as the murderer. Said party sends a bunch of hooligans down to the paper and destroys all the apparatuses, and beats up Danny and the employees. Hospitalized, Lee looks in on Danny, and insists he remains there until steady.

While the son is bedridden, Lee has a bunch of parts flown in and gets the paper operational again. With proper adeptness, he adroitly runs off a proper paper, full of allusions and facts, and has enough papers printed to be given to every citizen … for free!!!

This naturally angers the gangster-politician; he kidnaps the rival’s daughter, to whom Danny is in love! Lee and Danny (now out of the hospital) join forces to hunt the missing girl and end up rescuing her in a shack, far away. Witness to her own abduction, she is able to point out the villains and have them arrested.

The story concludes with her father in office, and Danny getting hitched to the girl. This criminal affair cleared up, Lee Dexter returns to New York City.

The above is well-written, if not somewhat erratic, but pleasurable enough to retain the reader’s interest.

The next tale is a novelette by Bevis Winter, entitled The Ghoul. And it sure is an intriguing story. Private investigator Sebastian Riffkin is holed-up during a storm at home, when a short man enters and spiels his recent life problem. He needs Riffkin’s help. See, he got in deep at a gangster’s party, gambling to the tune of $600. Well, he doesn’t have anything close to that. Deciding to end his life by jumping off a skyscraper rather than let the gangster work him over, he is halted by a feminine voice. Turning, he is shocked to see a girl up there with him. She offers to pay off his debt, cash in hand. In return, she wants his soul. (Heh? What kind of a gangster story is this, you ask? Souls go hand-in-hand with the weird and uncanny genres, not crime thrillers, right? Right. I agree. Well, the author has other ideas.) He accepts the offer, pays off the debt. So, Riffkin asks, why is this guy in his place, and what is the new problem? The bloke states that the dame said to meet her and her boyfriend at midnight, at Riffkin’s place! Riffkin is not amused and asks for the name of the boyfriend. Turns out he is none other than “Muscle” Goole, aka, “The Ghoul.” He died a short while ago, and Riffkin is partly held to blame. The pair of ghosts ethereally put in their appearance, and demand the man’s soul, so that the Ghoul can shield himself behind a “cleaner” soul than his own and enter the pearly gates. (Note: Heaven and Hell, etc, are never directly mentioned. Nor is God, etc.) Riffkin tricks the pair out of obtaining the soul, stating that the man sold HIM a second mortgage on his soul. (Can you hear the canned laughter?) Instead, Riffkin sends out an invitation to the man that held the party in which the client is now in debt, because he in reality was directly responsible for The Ghoul’s death! He foolishly arrives at Riffkin’s place and the two ghost lovers appear before him and he is led to trip down a long flight of steps and dies. They collect the soul and go UP. It’s not long before they return to Riffkin’s apartment, lamenting those UP there rattled off a list of crimes against the dead man’s soul, making him unfit for The Ghoul to use. Riffkin finds this amusing, that those UP THERE know more about DOWN HERE than the police could ever prove! Realizing that THEY have a better accounting system on Earth life than live humans do, that rules out The Ghoul using the gangster’s soul. Since the pair want to stay together (ah, lovers!) Riffkin suggests the dame use the soul instead, to further tarnish her image, and they both will be then refused and sent packing, together, DOWN THERE. It backfires. The Ghoul is unloaded to go to DOWN THERE, and they are separated. She returns, spitting fire, and crushed, until Riffkin states that there is a swell guy UP THERE already looking for a swell gal, and so she departs to hook up with him! It works.

It’s a goofy, humorously written gangster-ghost story, but nicely handled and entertaining to the very last.

In Pickle Profit, Bevis Winter brings back Sebastian Riffkin to do some dirty work. A lawyer wants him to make sure a young man does not marry until he is 30 years of age, or he will be disinherited out of several millions of dollars. He takes on the task, befriends the young man, and finds the trouble worse than he thought. The young man is a romantic and attaches himself to babes constantly, who in turn try to latch onto the now-wealthy man. The catch in the clause also stipulates that the lawyer, on reading the Will, can not divulge to any party the sub-clause, regarding marriage, etc. Despite this, he divulged it secretly to Riffkin, knowing he could trust him with this assignment. He comes to fail when the man clearly is enamored with a girl and she, him! But, remarkably, she announces that she can’t, won’t, and shall not marry him! Fine for Riffkin, but he smells a rat. Turns out she is on the up-and-up. She was born into a cult that believes in avoiding marriage, due to broken vows, etc, and she is torn between her sect beliefs and her love for the young man. Riffkin to the rescue! I won’t ruin the absurdity of the plot twists, but, they end up married AND retain the millions, without divulging the sub-clause. The ending and coincidences are highly improbable, but hell, you ARE reading a FICTION story!!!

 

 

“Detective Crime Stories” by Lee Dexter

Death on the Slow Draw by John Frederick (1946)

CROWN Death On The Slow DrawJust like the last John Frederick western I blogged about two years ago (Love Packs a Six-Gun) the title herewith was never a pulp story. The cover art depicts gamblers playing cards while a gunslinger walks up, gun drawn. There is no such scene anywhere in this story. Odds are, the cover (and title) was meant for some other western. Reading the first several pages clears up the mystery. How? Well, I had once-upon-a-time owned the original pulp it appeared in. Sadly, I auctioned it off in 2013 (the pulp depicted here was my sold copy).

Death on the Slow Draw was published by the Crown Novel Publishing Company (Canada, 1946). The artwork on the digest-paperback is unsigned. The tale originally debuted in Western Story Magazine, 21 June 1924 as “The Girl They Left Behind Them”.

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Appearing via Frederick Schiller Faust’s alias John Frederick, the author achieved his greatest fame under the pseudonym of Max Brand.

The story involves a blonde giant called Jack Innis. He has traveled the lands and seas and built his bodily frame to steel and trained his hands to all manner of combat and can handle all weapons: from six-guns to rifles to knives. He is a proficient killing machine.

Innis makes his way to the town of Oakwood and falls in love, at first sight, with the beautiful face of Stella Cornish, daughter of the local sheriff. Stella feels no love for Innis; he is repulsive. The sheriff finds the brute appealing, for here at last is a real man. He tries though to explain (at various points) to Innis that he is wasting his time on his daughter…

Innis beats up her would-be dancing partner. Anyone gets in his way learns the error quickly, and painfully. It’s not long before Stella tires of his presence, and her inability to gaily attend dances and flirt with other young men. She learns of a man of famed fighting repute, and writes to his last known residence. That worthy Innis adversary arrives in the beastly and ugly form of Miles Ogden. Stella pours her heart out to Miles, and promises to marry him if he removes Innis, permanently.

Innis is lazily swimming in a creek when a voice-ashore hails him. He takes in the massive monster and realizes that here may well be his match. After a brief battle of vocal wits, they toss knives into a tree. Then swap bullets at a target. A perfect match, each time. Perfect shots, and quick draws, each. Finally they decide to settle things with fists. The battle royal ensues and sadly ends with Miles Ogden losing consciousness when his head strikes a rock. Innis retrieves his hat and douses the man. Convinced he was struck down and defeated by Innis, that latter worthy can’t honorably accept the win, and confesses that a rock did Ogden in. Ogden now is bolstered to his former self.

Innis demands an explanation for the assault, and Ogden explains he is in love with a girl, and that she has a suitor that won’t go away. The light dawns and Innis explains the only thing the girl loves is herself. To prove it, he surrenders one of his prized six-guns and instructs Ogden to show the gun to Stella and explain he has defeated Innis and has given him the boot.

Introducing himself to the sheriff, the latter is amused by the entrance of another man to woo his daughter and tries to warn him otherwise. Receiving permission to go inside, Ogden delivers his tale to Stella; he witnesses the pure evil delight in her eyes and finds that she wants to keep the six-gun as a souvenir. What’s more, she wiggles out of her promise to marry him and states they should get to know one another first. Realizing Innis was correct, he confesses the man is still in the picture, snatches the gun, and stalks out…and into town and into Innis’ room. From then on, the pair are roommates and both continue to court the girl until one man shall win her.

Skipping a lot of relevant padding, a hunter comes to Oakwood and proclaims that he has spotted an elusive silver fox. Stella is unclear as to the excitement, so her father explains its rarity and value. Into her eyes creeps a clever plan, a means to rid herself of both suitors. Offering herself as final prize to the first man who brings in the rare silver fox, the pair make off into the frozen wilderness.

Ogden is better suited to trap and secure the wolf, having a background in hunting. Innis lacks any hunting experience, but is game, nevertheless.

While inspecting his own traps, Innis tires halfway through and returns to his makeshift tent to find someone fleeing the scene. Inspecting the tent, he finds his ammunition and food stores missing. Angered by the deceit, he pursues the fleeing bastard, dead certain that he is on the trail of Ogden, for who else but Ogden would…?

Fueled by anger, he easily overtakes the fleeing man and discovers his quarry is an older, bearded man. Threatening death but granting life for a full, honest confession, the man proclaims he is in the hire of Miles Ogden. The food was stored away not far from Innis’ camp, and is restored. Likewise the munitions, which is in a pack on the old man’s back. The old man informs Innis where Ogden’s camp is, and Innis packs up, and heads out to deal death to Ogden.

Rifle readied and both six-guns loaded, he rapidly makes his way towards Ogden’s camp but foolishly loses his footing and slides down a hill, destroying a leg in the process and knocking himself unconscious. Coming to rapidly, he is mortified by his split open leg and immediately tourniquets it, tightly, which only pains him more. Dragging himself under the side of a fallen tree for shelter, Innis fires off an S.O.S. salvo from his guns until he is left with one last round in the chamber. Saving that to end his own life rather than freeze to death, he drowses off until he becomes aware of an evil creature staring at him. The fright fully awakens him to realize that the silver fox is there and just as it turns to flee, Innis wastes his final bullet killing the fox.

A pair of voices in the near distance proclaim that they heard a shot fired and stumble across the dead silver fox they were chasing. Turns out, of course, that the pair is Miles Ogden, and the other is the thieving old bearded man! Elated at the score, the old man dives upon the fox and begins cutting it up…but Ogden only has eyes for Innis. Discovering he slew the fox, Ogden confesses his deceit, admitting his fear that Innis, despite his clear hunting inexperience, might luck into fox, and sent his helper to trick Innis.

Spotting that Innis is bodily injured, he drags the man out from under the tree, has his helper start a fire, and sets to mend Innis’ deadly wound. He also proclaims that he will see to it that Innis not only survives, but will make sure he gets Innis and the silver fox to Stella. Ogden realizes that his honor and the man’s friendship means more to him than Stella Cornish’s false love.

Months transpire, and eventually the pair make their way out of the frozen wilderness. Innis is limping, and Ogden is on his bad side, supporting him. The people of Oakwood seem shocked, maybe even appalled, to see both of the two brutes making their way back into their lives. Knocking at the Cornish home, the door opens and they are met by the sheriff. He’s happy to see them, and explains that Stella sent them on a wild goose chase, that the silver fox does not exist…but he is shocked to witness Innis slowly extract from his pack the silvery-black pelt of the fox!

All for nothing, for the sheriff explains that Stella merely wanted them out of the way and…is married! She married a man that he describes as one that Innis can not kill, for he is not a man at all worthy of physical battering. But the sheriff states that the final laugh falls upon his daughter, who will learn that married life is work, for she hasn’t exerted a day of labor in her entire life!

The scene switches to find both men on horseback out around the Rio Grande, and Innis suddenly takes to whistling gaily. Ogden is shocked by Innis’ suddenly merry tune, and the latter explains that Stella’s father sure knew her way better than they did…but he also had a longer head-start! Sheriff Cornish had tried to warn the two men.

An amusing story from start to finish, leaving me wanting to read more works by Mr. Faust. For any interested in this story, it was reprinted in the collection Red Rock’s Secret (Five Star, 2006, 1st hardcover … Leisure Books, 2008, 1st paperback … an audiobook also exists) and contains 2 other novellas. The blurb online is partially accurate. It states: The Girl They Left Behind Them is an extraordinary story about big Jack Innis, who finds himself attracted to Stella Cornish, daughter of the local sheriff. The problem for Jack is that Miles Ogden claims Stella as his girlfriend and has terrified or intimidated every other man who has ever dared show any interest in her. Um…Miles did not come before Innis, so whoever constructed the blurb is in error.

Either way, the reprints are readily available, cheap, via eBay, ABEbooks, or any other used book site, etc. The original pulp is scarce and the Canadian digest-paperback version that I utilized is extremely rare.

As a side note, I was surprised to learn that Faust and his assorted aliases have largely fallen into obscurity. As a user of Instagram (via PULPCOLLECTOR), the hashtag #MaxBrand largely is used for a line of clothing / apparel and accessories. As for #FrederickFaust … the few that appear come from my own posts! Has this legendary, prolific, and highly competent western writer totally vanished from the reading public?

In a word: Yes

It’s plausible that the fate of his legacy has slid into the mired past due to dying young from a shrapnel wound in 1944 while acting as a correspondent in Italy during WW2. Another fact is that he wrote under over a dozen pseudonyms, instead of purely establishing himself under one or at worst two aliases. With over 500 novels and 300 stories, it’s hard to fathom this fiction factory could vanish.

Now, by comparison…

Zane Grey died in 1939, five years earlier than Faust. His literary output was much, much less and yet he left behind a larger footprint, with over 4000 posts attributed to his hashtag! He also did not use pseudonyms.

The only other western pulp fictioneer worthy to compare would be Louis Lamour, but he was born later than both men and survived four decades longer, outlasting the demise of the pulps, something neither Zane Grey nor Frederick Faust achieved, except posthumously. Despite that fact, Lamour incredibly has only netted over 5000 hashtags on Instagram. The clear winner as thus would be Zane Grey, on an output vs hashtag percentage basis.

Death on the Slow Draw by John Frederick (1946)

The Indestructible by Rolf Garner (1954)

The Indestructible
The Indestructible
by Rolf Garner (alias of Bryan Berry) was published by Hamilton & Co. as Panther Books #104 (1954) with cover art by John Richards. It appeared in paperback and hardcover editions.

The novel belongs to a trilogy involving the fate of Venus aeons after atomic warfare obliterated much of life on Venus and on Earth. This, the third novel — having followed Resurgent Dust (1953) and The Immortals (1953) — may readily be read as a stand-alone novel.

Various citizens on Venus are “hearing” voices in their head, advising them to not make a voyage. But, most of these citizens have no plans to make any sort of voyage. When a fisherman makes a trip to the city to see a doctor about the voices in his head, he is nonplussed to learn that others have likewise heard the same warning! The doctor calls Lord Kennet, ruler of Venus, and the lord himself makes an appearance to discuss the issue with the citizen.

None of the citizens hearing the voices have anything in common, and it’s not long before we discover that his own wife has also heard the same voices! Later we learn that perhaps the message is to stop Lord Kennet from blasting off from Venus…in a newly-constructed spaceship, built with the intention of visiting Earth. But who is sending the message? And, how? Telepathy? Lord Kennet does not care. Nothing will stand in his way to visit Earth…not even the discovery that two of his own flight crew have likewise received that very same message!

Blasting off from Venus, the voices continue to beat at the two onboard the ship until…they abruptly cease. Both are stymied by the silence. However, they are rapidly approaching Earth and must decide where to land, etc. Kennet decides to land the ship in a remote area, seemingly devoid of life. In fact, no real sign of life was apparent, anywhere, save for some animals.

Dropping the ladder, they are shocked to discover muscular beings headed their way, with flamethrowers and swords. Noting that the humans are using their flamethrowers, Kennet unlimbers his atomic pistol, ,returns fire, and kills some of the approaching men. His efforts are in vain as he and his men find themselves telepathically immobilized! A voice in their head proclaims that they are prisoners and forces them to drop their weapons. Kennet, realizing that someone has invaded their thoughts, forces himself to think of anything…anything…but the fact that he is immortal.

What? Oh yes, I forgot to mention, earlier in the novel, the author rehashes the prior novel’s and notes that another being, an immortal, had passed on to Kennet and his wife immortality and the ability to heal themselves. Kennet is certain that such knowledge in the wrong hands would be devastating. Even the citizens of his own planet are entirely unaware of the “gift” that was bestowed upon the Venusian lords.

The Venusian crew are telepathically forced to march through the marshes and into an elevator shaft. Eventually, they arrive at the villain’s fortress, are jailed, and left to rot in their assorted cells, when, remarkably, another telepathic voice visits Kennet. This new voice must convince Kennet that he is NOT in the employ of the villain’s telepathic crew. He is the last telepath among the rebels. The remnants of the local rebel faction, that is. Most of the rebels were murdered while sending out their warnings across space to Venus, trying to warn them to not make the trip to Earth. The villain’s telepaths picked up the mental transmissions and sent out their killbirds to annihilate the rebels.

The killbirds are large, electronic machines that hover forever above the ground, perhaps by some anti-gravitational means, and are highly weaponized. They also seem to possess some form of intelligence guiding system, and are operated by a remote control device wielded solely by the main villain, simply referred to as the Overlord. From the descriptions of the killbirds, they sound like modern-day killer drones. Apparently, after the atomic wars, these killbirds remained forever in existence, perpetually stationary around the earth, never moving. That is, not until the Overlord’s minions discovered a secret computer room and got everything operational. Discerning their purpose and abilities, the Overlord quickly assumed control of the entire planet. (Side note: why any of the assorted good-or-bad telepaths didn’t simply freeze the Overlord and then take the remote is beyond me.)

Returning to the rebel telepath, whose name is Grant, they work together to effect the Venusian’s escape. Faking having been poisoned by Earth-foods, the guards worry that they may die and bring in the doctor…however, the regular doctor is not who arrives, but someone else. Turns out this is Grant, the telepath. Upon entering the jail, he rapidly immobilizes the jailers, frees the Venusians, and quickly they make their escape, slaying anyone in their way.

Once out of the city, Grant leads them to another secreted rebel, who takes them to a functional submarine. The Venusians are informed that telepathy does not work under the deep depths of water. Grant remains behind, to throw off the Overlord’s minions and confuse the two telepaths. Satisfied that he has pulled off his task, Grant dons diving suit hardware and meets the submarine. There, Kennet and Grant privately devise a means to retaliate, destroy the killbirds, and eliminate the Overlord.

But, how can they pull this off, when the killbirds assassinate everything before humans can get in distance to cause them potential destruction? Returning to the surface, they put their mission into action.

Utilizing his immortality and ability to rapidly heal, Kennet walks boldly out into the open where his spaceship is heavily guarded and proclaims that he is unkillable, because his God (Ata) has gifted him.

They try. They fail.

The killbirds are sent in and shoot him with what must be lasers. Kennet rapidly reconstructs himself. All the while, Grant protects his brain against attempts by the evil telepaths from seizing control of him. While all are shocked and distracted, Kennet whips out his atomic pistol from behind his back and shoots down the pair of killbirds. Then the game is on! Why? When one killbird falls, the next nearest killbird on the planet will abandon its post to investigate and fulfill the prior’s mission, against the commands of the Overlord’s remote control device! Kennet stands his ground time after time as each killbird eventually appears and fires at him. In the end, he is surrounded by great heaping piles of slagged killer machines.

The Overlord himself is dead, having been slain by the rebels; the telepaths are both dead; the army is on the run or slaughtered. Kennet is all for killing everyone in the city, but Grant convinces Lord Kennet that once the city realizes the Overlord and top minions no longer exist to instill fear, that one by one they will be quite elated to throw down their arms and return to peaceful means….

The first half of the novel was sluggish, with a strong desire to build a firm foundation for the rest of the novel’s plot, but, really began to pick up the pace once the Venusians landed on Earth and were captured by the Overlord. Overall, the novel receives a passing grade and I can’t wait to one day go backwards and read the preceding novels in the trilogy.

The Indestructible by Rolf Garner (1954)

“Same Song, Next Verse” by Max Steeber and Richard Bernstein (1953)

PANTHER 91 Same Song, Next Verse
Same Song, Next Verse by Max Steeber and Richard Bernstein Panther Books 91, 1953

In 1953, UK publisher Hamilton & Co., via their mass market paperback line Panther Books, published two books within the same month, co-authored by Max Steeber and Richard Bernstein.

Those books:
Same Song, Next Verse – Panther # 91
One If by Night – Panther # 93

Both writers are Americans from the Hollywood film industry, and both books are likely rejected film scripts that they reformatted into novels, which only found an available print market in England.

Richard Bernstein was born August 8, 1922 in Rochester, New York and died October 29, 1983, in North Hollywood, California. During the late 1940s-1970s, he was a screenplay and film writer along with producer on various films.

Max Steeber is the alias of Maximilian Petrus Ribbers; he was born on January 10, 1919 and died on February 22, 2011 in Van Nuys, Los Angeles, California.

Jointly, the two also worked on the film The Gun Hawk.

The cover art to Same Song, Next Verse is by John Richards, and features an iconic dangerous blonde in yellow attire; in the background, a hulk-like brute. Reading the yellow strip at the top of the cover, you know immediately the brutish fellow with the Three Stooges-esque “Moe” haircut is a boxer.

The story opens with boxer Tony Alvarez mentally drifting back in time over the sequence of events that landed him in a car with two strange fellows: his promoter and a hanger-on, essentially.

Tony only knows how to fight. That’s his occupation, and he means to get to the top of the game and be rich. But he is always in hock to his promoter, throughout the novel. Snatches of his memories flit by quickly and without any real consistency or warning to leave any reader confused. We know in one moment Tony finds his father dying from a knife-wound, and learning the killer’s identity; he finds the slayer and despite knowing he’s up against a professional killer, wades into the knife-man; bloodied, Tony eventually disarms and kills him. The knife-man was already a wanted man for Tony’s father’s murder, and now Tony has added his own name to the role-call of wanted men by the local police. With his promoter’s aid, they flee the city. (Despite later in the novel returning to his hometown, no further mention of this murder is made, nor is he arrested.)

The rest of the novel is a succession of boxing fights, all wins, and his promoter taking a swing at a beloved New York boxer. Tony is supposed to lose, but instead, he wins and they rake in the moola. Naturally, the mob aren’t happy. We all know you don’t mess with the mob.

Through it all, Tony wants this night singer and stripper named Connie (the canary on the book’s front cover) to be his wife. He eventually strong-arms her into marrying him, crushing her hands until they bleed into his own meaty palms. Once the ceremony is complete, she hauls off and slaps him and disappears. He’s deeply angered but his promoter convinces him to ignore her (he can’t) and move along, that she will come back…only things take a turn…

The mob. They want their money. The promoter refuses to have Tony take the fall, because he can’t convince Tony to do any such thing. It’s not in his genetics. So, they beat the promoter viciously (no details given) and suddenly he placates them, that he will find a way.

So, he over-trains Tony, and keeps him drinking too much. Add fuel to the fire, he knows that Connie is sour over the marriage. Visiting her privately, he convinces her to join him in ruining Tony before the big fight. The mob stands to win BIG if Tony falls.

Enter Tony, going to Connie’s pad; she liquors him up and he discovers something wrong with the firewater. When the phone rings, he beats Connie to the phone and hears his promoter’s voice on the other end asking to know if the plan went through without a hitch. Realizing he’s been slipped a mickey, he departs without even dealing Connie any harm! Fast-forward, Tony is in the ring, his promoter missing, and getting out-boxed. He can’t seem to connect, deliver a solid blow, he’s too sluggish, and despite all this, refuses to throw in the towel. Eventually, he is K.O.’d

His fast fall from grace, his promoter fleeing town with his wife, and penniless, he attempts to abandon the squared ring and obtain a normal slob’s job. No go. Every job he takes, he destroys. He can’t even drive a simple route without destroying 3 trucks! Some years pass, he’s absolutely destitute, and makes one last try at the ring. He survives his bout, wins, but the cost is he loses vision in one eye.

Despite his eyesight loss, he determines to head West for another scheduled fight, but plays chicken with an approaching train, which he is certain he can beat. He is speeding recklessly across the terrain. He’s crossing the tracks at an angle in which he can finally turn his good eye along the rails and the bright head-beam of the locomotive obliterates Tony…

Naturally, the heavy-weight champion of the rails wins. It always does.

“Same Song, Next Verse” by Max Steeber and Richard Bernstein (1953)

Dimension of Horror by Sydney J. Bounds

HAMILTON Dimension Of Horror

Dimension of Horror was published in 1953 by Hamilton & Co., being No. 70 in the Panther Books series. The story begins on Page 5 and ends on Page 160. The cover sports an enticing illustration by Richards, featuring a female with green hair. The blurb atop the cover reads:

“ALIEN thought-waves strike FEAR into the heart of Man”

Perhaps so, but Bounds adroitly dodges that assertion by gifting readers initially with what feels like a casual space-adventure novel. Novelist Alexander Black is an undercover secret agent sent from Earth to investigate tensions on Venus. At all costs, war is wished to be avoided. Venus in the end would lose, as the colonists all live under a dome, but for some bizarre reason, Venusians bear evidence of hatred towards the people of Earth.

The story opens with Black in a Venus bar watching a woman with bright green hair. Soon they get to talking together over a drink and he discerns that Sadie Lubinski is a Venus secret agent. She knows too much about who he is…

Worse yet, a brute in the bar is hollering anti-Earth banter and calls Black out in front of the crowd. Black adroitly dodges the confrontation by informing the brute that everything he has said about Earth is 100% accurate. This befuddles the brute. But enough on that…Sadie and Black depart and board a Venus taxi.

Black sees a strange grey-suited pale-featured person watching them from another vehicle. Having the girl wait, he circles the vicinity, to confront the individual, and…discovers the vehicle empty! Where did he go? He couldn’t possibly have disappeared into thin air. Could he?

Black returns to Sadie’s taxi, disturbed, and while riding, they banter; eventually she is deposited at her abode, and she requests he call on her tomorrow. Leaving her, he departs and the Venus driver drops him off in an unsavory part of town, refusing to drive any further for fear of being injured by a growing mob surrounding the vehicle.

Black exits but soon finds himself the deadly focus of an insane mob, bent on murdering him. Running for his life, Black outdistances the unruly maniacs and leaping acrobatically up upon a beam, secretes his body into the shadows while the frenzied, bloody-thirsty mob mindlessly hurries by in pursuit of a person that no longer exists before them.

The next day, Black calls on Sadie, but she is not taking calls. Perhaps she is out. Perhaps she set him up to die and thinks “mission accomplished.” Black is irked by the self-admission that he is very much interested in Sadie, on a romantic level.

Either way, Black isn’t waiting. He decides to explore further afield. Outside the domed zone, he discovers that Venus has prehistoric creatures that are very much alive. Some attack his transport, but his driver has access to powerful weapons that slay every creature… Arriving at a mining facility, he is blocked from accessing the grounds, despite possessing the equivalent of a press pass granting him full access.

Returning to the city, he is brought before a Venusian official and informed that for his own safety he needs to return to Earth. Certainly he can’t accept the forced offer, and declines, taking his own chances. It’s not long after that he is picked up and meets with a Venus agent named Lingstrom who is not what he seems. Black finds the man to be some form of telepath. Lingstrom invades his mind, bent to obtaining Black’s mission, etc. Black attempts to steer his thoughts in other directions. All attempts fail…until Black focuses his attention on the sexy Sadie Lubinski and the love he feels for her. Lingstrom is immediately repulsed by what he sees.

But his mental accomplishment is short-lived as Lingstrom beats him down. Realizing he is mentally doomed, Black removes a secreted special pill from the hollow of one of his teeth. It enables enhanced strength and abilities…for a very short while. Agent Black snaps the cords binding him, punches one captor, takes out another and leaps out a window. The stimulant wears off and…Black takes off, running as quickly as possible. The hunt is on, and the villains are in hot pursuit, when inexplicably, the little grey-suited man pulls alongside and offers Black a lift!

Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, Black accepts the ride and the pair speed away, escaping pursuit, enter a hideaway, and descend underground. Herewith we are introduced to Yzz-Five, who turns out to be an alien from another dimension, assuming a nondescript humanoid form. Truth being, his form is so hideous that for humanity to actually see him in his true form would cause instantaneous insanity! Yzz-Five possesses the power of telepathy and the body Black sees is actually fictionally impressed upon his senses, as with anyone else that sees him.

The alien telepathically teleports Sadie to the hideout, and Yzz-Five explains that he (or ‘it’ since it does not represent either ‘sex’) has watched Agent Black and Sadie Lubinski closely. Because of their affinity for each other, and, being from soon-to-be-warring planets, he has chosen them to enlist against the true war: the invasion of their worlds by his Emperor. In his dimension, the Emperor creates chaos on other worlds and dimensions, conquering and bending their will to his. The war between Venus and Earth is actually a mentally-impressed action by the Emperor’s underlings, other beings from Yzz-Five’s world.

Not quite convinced, Black and Lubinski are jointly sent hurling through the dimensional realm to land on Yzz-Five’s world, to be enlightened by other rebels. Unfortunately, the Emperor captures and rapes their minds; thankfully, the rebels rescue the pair and because of their mental exposure to the Emperor, their really isn’t much convincing required. Enlightened of the situation, they are sent back to Yzz-Five to plan a rebellion on Venus against the Emperor’s forces.

All plans go sideways when the Emperor preemptively instructs his forces to release an atomic bomb at the ore mining facility. The destruction is massive, the dome is cracked in places, life is in mass peril. Using their telepathic abilities, they take to the air and inform the Venusians that Earth has launched an assault on Venus and that Earthman Alexander Black, a secret agent under the guise of an author, and Venusian Sadie Lubinski, a traitor, are to be caught and killed.

The finale comes with the realization that the only way to stop the insanity is to fight insanity with more insanity. Yzz-Five and his few local fellow telepaths mentally assault a false general and bombard him until his false image fails. The Venusian’s, unable to comprehend or take in what they are seeing, rip and rend the exposed alien to pieces. The war on Venus is ended before it could begin, but Earth must be stopped from dropping their bombs!

Black is transferred to the radio station and he contacts the Earth fleet, aborts the attack, and the fleet lands to assist the colonists, what small percentage that remains alive and sane.

The villainous aliens remove themselves back to the home planet, now that they have been exposed, and the Emperor’s plot is foiled. Yzz-Five informs Black that he must leave, for the rebels will continue their fight for other worlds in other dimensions.

Black and Lubinski marry on Mercury, but she can’t remain away from her fellow people. Informing Black of this, he realizes he can’t stop her, so the pair jointly return to Venus, to assist and rebuild…

An unusually fun science fiction romp. Personally, I’m not an avid science fiction reader, and have never been properly exposed to one of Bounds longer works. I strongly recommend fans of vintage science fiction to seek out and read Dimension of Horror

I suspected that such a book might have been reprinted, so I checked with Bounds’ agent, Phil Harbottle. He told me:

Dimension of Horror was first reprinted as a Wildside POD paperback some 20 years ago. The text was a facsimile of the Panther edition, but they used a new cover (awful minimalist design) and stupidly misspelt the author’s name as ‘Sidney J. Bounds’. Its licence expired after seven years and it was withdrawn and went out of print (leaving me stuck with a pile of copies I’d bought and had signed by the author). It has been reprinted twice since, retitled and revised by me as The Vanishing Man. First as a Linford Mystery Large Print paperback (2010) and by Endeavour (now Lume Books) in their Venture Science Fiction series (2017) in both paperback and eBook.

 

“It is important to note that as an agent I faced a difficult challenge in selling all my clients’ (Bounds, Fearn, Glasby, Tubb and others) 1950s SF novels to Linford’s editors as MYSTERIES, where they had to be adjudged acceptable to MODERN READERS who would have no experience in reading SF at all. The novels HAD to be tweaked to remove ANYTHING that was flatly impossible or plain wrong, in the light of modern-day knowledge. They had to be set either clearly in the future, or taking place today or in the NEAR future.  There could be no alien flora or fauna existing in the solar system. No Martians or Venusians, no breathable air on Mars or Venus, and so on.

“By hard work and careful editing, I managed to sell SCORES of 1950s SF books to Linford as mysteries.  Some, because of the authors’ skill and foresight, were virtually unchanged; others varied from very little (e.g. Tubb’s The Stellar Legion) to extensive (Fearn’s Man of Two Worlds) rewrites. I used a range of devices, such as alien protagonists coming from another solar system, or from another dimension.  To sell The Vanishing Man, I moved the action from Venus to Mars, where the events takes place under a pressurised dome, and the Martians are colonists descended from Earth. The alien menace from another dimension was able to remain unchanged.  I contrived to keep nearly all of  Bounds’ wording and actions: Black still left the city is his transporter, but instead of being attacked by dinosaurs in a jungle he was attacked in a desert by a Martian DUST STORM. The action narrative flow and events were unchanged.

Endeavour’s attractive POD paperback edition is still in print, and an absolute bargain at just £4.99. The earlier Thorpe edition used to be even cheaper when Amazon were offering ex-library copies from a pound or so, plus £2.50 postage, but be warned! These cheapo Thorpe editions (contractually out of print and withdrawn from sale after five years) are rapidly disappearing and being replaced by prices of £20 and up, or simply vanishing altogether. I haven’t checked the status on The Vanishing Man or other books for some time. Your blog readers may need to check Abe and eBay as well as Amazon to find these editions. And with the Linford Mystery series closing down after April this year, the few non-library copies are set to become high-priced collectors’ items—especially the many posthumous titles that are actually world first editions, such as Tubb’s To Dream Again (2011).”

For those interested in acquiring the first revised edition of The Vanishing Man, copies of the Thorpe edition can be found on eBay accompanied by the following blurb:

Popular novelist and secret agent Alec Black is on an undercover mission on Mars.
The Martian colonists are preparing for a major offensive against earth and someone is stirring up war-fever. Black must try to prevent it, or the whole system will be engulfed in atomic war. When Black finds himself shadowed by a man who, when confronted, vanishes into thin air, his investigation turns into his strangest case and very soon he’s plunged into a dimension of horror…

Prefer an original, vintage copy from 1953? Two copies currently are available on ABEbooks.com but…the cheaper of the pair is an exlibris hardcover (US $15) and the more expensive copy is the paperback edition (US $30). Both are Good condition and both are likewise only available in Australia! Otherwise, no other editions are currently available for sale online.

Dimension of Horror by Sydney J. Bounds

Deadshot Riders! by Rex Hays

THOMAS P KELLEY Deadshot Riders

Deadshot Riders! by Rex Hays was published by World Distributors Incorporated, as part of their All Star Western series, likely around 1950. The artwork is unsigned. The novel runs from page 3 to 111, with 112 noting the name and address of the printer. The interior front and rear covers are blank, wasted space. The rear cover features an advertisement for another western in the series.

Rex Hays 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. He also authored fantasy novels such as:

The Face That Launched a Thousand Ships
(Adam Publishing Company, 1941)
I Found Cleopatra
(Export, 1946)
Tapestry Triangle
(Peveril, 1946)

Richard Stanley, aka “Dick”, returns home aboard his horse, Six-Bits, after having been away for a length of time. He finds his sister’s homestead a smoking ruin and the occupants (her husband and cowhands) very much dead. The only thing keeping him together mentally is his romantic-love on a neighboring farmstead, young Polly Marshall.

The mystery of who murdered them remains unsolved and about a year passes, when Dick proposes his marital interests for Polly to her father, only to be rebuffed. A heated argument ensues and ugly words are exchanged. Dick rides away infuriated, while the father rides into town for business reasons. Unaccountably delayed, Polly fears for her father’s rather late return while her mother figures the husband is delayed due to his assignment in town.

Polly inexplicably suffers through a “vision” featuring her father stumbling, bloody and dying, a piece of paper in his hand, then falling dead. Not long after, news arrives that her father is found dead, stabbed to death. Who is the murderer?

The sheriff and posse arrest Dick on suspicion upon learning of the argument, and, Polly’s mother rides up, wielding Dick’s bloodied knife! He claims it was lost, prior. To top it off, he refuses to confess to his actual whereabouts the night Polly’s father was murdered. So, into the jail cell he goes…for nearly a good chunk of the novel. The novel shifts focus to Polly, instead.

Polly arouses the interest of the Judge and he goes too far into investigating the murder, and, the mysterious “vision” Polly had regarding some form of paper. Knowing that her father had extended loans to various parties, he is surprised to discover the sheriff owed Polly’s dad a couple thousand dollars. Could the sheriff be guilty? The sheriff doesn’t take kindly to the investigation and locks him up, too.

A lot transpires. Dick is broke out of jail by a masked bandit, whose ears give him away to the jailers (they pick him up later) and Dick recognizes his identity immediately, as being a close friend. Dick gets into a scrape with a posse, meets up with Polly, who arrives after hearing gunshots; they break away into the badlands, loads of insane padding ensues, and Dick eventually returns to town with an injured Polly. Dick is arrested while at the doctor’s and thrown back in jail to await his trial.

He is found guilty…then an unknown man rushes in with unusual features. It’s revealed that this man is a wanted man that Dick, while Polly’s dad was dying, rescued, and nursed back to health. Not knowing he was a wanted man, Dick had helped and returned him to health, etc. Feeling a debt to Dick, he brazenly exposes his life to the court-room, going so far as to walk in sans any handguns! He calls the deputy out to confess where the knife came from, as they apparently know one another, and the cowardly deputy confesses the sheriff committed the murder. A shootout occurs, and, well, you can guess the rest…

Polly and Dick prepare to marry, Polly’s bitter Dick-hating mother must admit she was wrong about thinking Dick was the killer, and the Judge proposes to marry Polly’s widowed mother! Dick has a proposal of his own: how about a double-wedding!

Deadshot Riders! is not a brilliant piece of work, but, Kelley hammered out (at least) four westerns quickly for the UK market, circa 1947-48. It’s unclear WHY the title was chosen as it has nothing to do with the novel. Perhaps it was merely catchy. Whatever the case, the western was not horrible enough to warrant my writing off of Mr. Kelley. I intend to tackle further Kelley western novels in the future.

If you are interested in Thomas P. Kelley, then perhaps you should visit his agent’s official website. Kelley is actively represented by Darling Terrace Publishing. His agent has authorized 3 weird and fantastic works via the Pulp Fiction Bookstore and an additional 3 works via Amazon include:

I Stole $16,000,000
The Black Donellys
Vengeance of the Black Donnellys

 

Deadshot Riders! by Rex Hays

Forgotten Trails by Frederick C. Davis

SHARMAN ELLIS 01 Forgotten Trails
Forgotten Trails by Garry Grant Sharman Ellis Ltd.

Taking a brief sojourn from reading crime and science fiction stories, I’ve briefly returned to reading Western stories. Not just any Western, either. These continue my further exploratory readings into author Frederick C. Davis. Having previously read some of his crime tales, as reprinted by the British publishers Sharman Ellis Ltd., I decided to extract another Western chosen by the same publisher.

Forgotten Trails carries Davis’ “Garry Grant” pseudonym and is the first in their Western Novel Library series, however, the tale did not originally appear under this alias. The novelette actually debuted under his own name in the 30 July 1927 issue of Argosy All-Story Weekly. Initially, this excited me, for the simple fact (to me) that ARGOSY ran either stories of decent quality or of arousing interest. And having recently just finished reading the author’s lost 1921 crime thriller The Copper Room, I was very much ready for a Western.

Reprinted here in a trim digest-paperback format, this Western fills out all 64 pages, and likely was reprinted around 1935-1936. The rear cover advertises their new mystery series, both also by Davis, indicating the mystery and western series each began about the same time.

The story opens with Arthur Post speeding along a dirt road in Arizona towards an old ranch, in search of the last known whereabouts of his nearly identical brother. Years earlier, his brother had written their father a letter from that location, and then vanished. Now, their father, on his death bed, has died and left the entire family fortune equally divided among his two sons. A gentleman rather than a greedy cretin, Arthur now drives West from the Big City out East, hunting his brother, to learn whether he is dead or alive.

Arriving at the ranch, he finds that the home is aflame, and lends a hand in putting out the fire. Seems the kitchen caught fire. Having finished, a young lady exclaims “Ben!” in shock. Seems she has mistaken Arthur for his brother. However, he is thrilled as this means his first lead has paid off. He has found a clue, and that clue did not turn out to be a dead end. After explaining his actual identity to the young lady (Reita Burnett) he asks for her assistance in providing further leads.

Sadly, she doesn’t know where his brother went to. He remained only a short while, determined to move along and make a man of himself. Prove himself worthy to his father, who rejected him years earlier, for being likewise rejected by the army during The Great War as unfit to serve. This failure to meet the needs of the nation was too great for their father and he was cast out and banished. On his death-bed, the father informs Arthur that the will was unchanged and that he loves his son, Ben.

And so began Arthur’s adventures in the far West, and Reita supplies him with the names of the local sheriff and neighbors, to perhaps supply further details. Jumping once more into his coupe, he tears off and not long after, is assaulted from behind by the stereotypical “yellow menace” that pulps thrilled to have thrown into the mix. The Oriental apparently smuggled himself aboard the coupe by holding onto the rear of the vehicle and pounced upon Arthur. Having stabbed Arthur, the latter manages to dislodge his assailant and brings his coupe back upon the roadway before pitching over the precipice to his death.

Wounded and bloodied from the stabbing, he returns to Reita’s ranch to be mended. Mortified by the assault, they clean his wounds and put him to bed in a room to be shared with another man visiting from out East, a college-aged youth who is studying the local rocks, etc., for a large enterprise. The next day, they hear a noise outside and find that same man dead, bitten by a snake. He has some of his samples about his body and on his horse. Investigating the findings, Reita is nonplussed, but her husband-to-be (the ranch boss) is certain that there is great wealth in the form of coal on the lands.

Arthur visits the ranch’s neighbors, who they know has an Oriental cook and housekeeper, and the dilapidated structure is bossed by a Mexican (racially referred to as a “greaser”). Here, he finds the very same Oriental that assaulted him, an aging Mexican, who is shocked or scared at the sight of seeing Arthur (thinking he is Ben) and that man’s fiery spiteful daughter, who wields a rifle and has her sights on introducing his innards to the outside world.

Making haste his departure in search for healthier grounds, Arthur visits the town sheriff and learns that Ben left for parts unknown with two other men, one of whom was later found dead, stabbed to death. The mystery and plot thickens, and then a young boy arrives while they are talking and he appears shocked to see Arthur, as well. This boy leaves and is later found to be trying to murder the old Mexican!

Rescuing the kid from near-death at the nefarious hands of the Chinaman, Arthur compels the boy to come with him and takes his gun from him. The boy confesses that he knows who Arthur is, and that he grew up in Ben’s care, after his own father was murdered by the Mexican, years earlier.

The reader, led to believe that there is a much deeper motive at work, eventually has the tables turned on them to learn that while Davis has adroitly woven a tale with racial slurs, informs us that our preconceived notions are all wrong, and that we should not judge a person by the color of their skin. While it is true that the Mexican did murder the boy’s father, it was out of revenge for what they did earlier to him.

While on the Mexican’s own death-bed, he confesses that many years earlier, his wife was dying, and he had sent the loyal Chinaman in search of a doctor. He was captured and detained, not knowing how to speak English. Following in his steps, the Mexican went in search of a doctor but did not have a horse to speed his travels. Seeing the young boy (then as a child with three men), he spots that they have horses and steals one. Not realizing that he has performed a grave injustice, because he can only think of his own world crashing down if his wife dies, he speeds off. The men quickly jump the remaining horses, and being better riders, capture the Mexican. They tie him up and beat him mercilessly, then leave him to die. He didn’t speak English, so couldn’t convey to them his need for their horse. Extricating himself from the ropes, he knifes one man to death and pursues the others. But they have made good their escape.

Ben had gone to California and took care of the boy. Going into the cannery business, his education and developed physique eventually moved him up in the business to the point of owning a controlling interest. Fairly wealthy by his own right and hard work, he has become the man his father was assured he never would be.

All are surprised when he eventually arrives on the scene, having left California in hot pursuit of the youth, fearing the boy would attempt to murder his father’s killer. He is equally nonplussed to see his own brother. The story ends on the natural path that the brothers shake, their father’s will is explained, and while he returns West to his business with the boy (and a lot richer), Arthur remains behind to win Reita’s heart.

What? Oh, I forgot to tell you…her fiancee turns out to be a double-crossing creep, who was playing up to the Mexican’s daughter, and is already married (falsely) to her. I say falsely, because she believes she IS married to him, but, he had a fake preacher marry them. Learning that he intends to marry Reita, and confused over the matter, she eventually learns of the deceit, captures him and the preacher that intends to marry he and Reita, and wielding her rifle, with Arthur as a legal witness, holds her own version of a shotgun wedding. Removing the creep from Reita’s path, Arthur’s path is now clear to date the young lady. Turns out in typical literary fashion that Reita actually had already fallen in love with Arthur, never really loved the creep, and they sell the ranch to the rock mining interest, who arrive on the scene to proclaim that they aren’t interested in the low-grade coal found on the lands, but the large deposits of asbestos (which I find amusing that something deemed illegal these last few decades was once-upon-a-time a hot commodity). Ranch sold, the youngish couple head back East together, married.

All-in-all, it’s actually a brilliant story, all the more because Davis throws the era’s racial biases in the reader’s face(s) and then explodes it all to smithereens. This story was well-worth the read!

Forgotten Trails by Frederick C. Davis