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
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.
The Little Story Magazine have been wrapped in a haze of obscurity, largely because copies are extremely rare, even to the point that some speculate that this was not the magazine’s original title. When I originally prepared this blog in 2016 only two copies were known. Unfortunately, my copy completely vanished after I sent all vintage papers to a secure storage site for safety during a massive storm. Only recently did it resurface, having accidentally slipped inside the pages of a pulp magazine.
Editor Wm. H. Kofoed advertised in The Editor, noting that he was launching this magazine (see Volume 50, Page 167). In the 25 July 1919 issue Kofoed is asking for submissions: short stories of 500 to 1,500 words, paying three-fourths a cent to a full cent per word on the stories merit. Any subject, except lewd. Come the 10 December 1919 issue, Kofoed was asking up to 2,000 words. The 25 December 1919 issue begs for stories of the Black Cat magazine variety, known for their unusual nature.
Wm. H. Kofoed is a name any pulpster will readily recognize; the link I provide notes that in 1919 he edited Brief Stories magazine. That’s incorrect. The magazine featured here IS THAT VERY magazine, under its original name. More on that in a moment. Kofoed a decade later edited Fight Stories magazine (launched 1928, ceased temporarily 1932) which is largely remembered today for the many Robert E. Howard tales.
The earliest known fully indexed copy shown on FictionMags Index site is March 1920 (v2 #4). Three later editions have also been indexed:
July 1920 (v3 #2)
April 1921 (v4 #4)
May 1921 (v4 #5)
The May 1921 edition is the only known copy of this magazine to be held by a library, located within the Harry Ransom Center (Texas) collection, originally owned by writer Tiffany Thayer. Why did he own this one issue? He’s not present within, unless under an alias. Tiffany later contributed when the magazine became Brief Stories, appearing the Oct and Nov 1922 issues.
With the July 1921 issue, The Little Story Magazine switched titles and became what pulpsters readily recognize as Brief Stories magazine but was still a side-stapled publication. A year later, it made the transition to standard pulp dimensions.
Here we have the October 1919 issue of The Little Story Magazine given to be “A Magazine of Very Short, Unusual Stories.” It was priced at 10 cents and ran to 32-pages. This tiny, stapled pamphlet measures 4.75 x 6.75 inches. The playful one-color cover art is illustrated by Schuyler Marx. Assuming it maintained a monthly schedule, we know when the magazine officially debuted.
The internal front cover (ifc) features the Table of Contents page and assorted other publisher’s data. Nine contents are given, but, in fact, there is a tenth item, located on the internal rear cover (irc) which I shall indicate shortly.
The contents are as follows:
1 – The Science Machine – E. Grissen Richardson (ss)
8 – The Bells – John M. Lynch (ss) (says “5” on ToC)
11 – On Pass – Cyril B. Egan (vi)
13 – His Own Hand – William E. Brandt (ss)
18 – Lucky – Will H. Greenfield (vi)
21 – The Better Half – Charles West Manzer (vi)
23 – Clove Pinks – Marjorie Charles Driscoll (ss)
29 – His Wife – Hilda Duane (vi)
31 – To Kill or Not to Kill – H. L. Deimel (vi)
irc – Soliloquy of The Little Story Magazine – E. E. Knight (pm)
The Science Machine is a gruesome weird tale. The elderly Mr. Lonsworth Lowe is on the verge of death. He explains to Mrs. Lowe, who is watching over him, that he wishes to donate his body to the American Institute for Medical Research. She’s totally against his being carved up. Mrs. Lowe has turned her eye to many of her husband’s interests, but she can’t swallow this. He collapses, and, seeing his gaping mouth, inert hands, proclaims him dead. Lonsworth was a scientist his whole life, and non-religious; she is the polar opposite. She has never understood him and is religious viewpoints. For the first time in her life, she disobeys his wish. Going into the basement, she extracts load after load of kindling and a box of excelsior. She lays the kindling all about the bed, lights it, and departs. She heads toward town, but, by some perverse instinct, halts, turns around, and waits for the vision of flame to rupture the house. She is soon rewarded. Inexplicably, she runs back toward and around the house, and then “like a frightened animal” up a hill behind the house. Then she hears a shrill holler that sounds like her deceased husband. A figure appears below and runs into the inferno. She collapses… The following day, a fellow professor informs Lonsworth he is lucky to be alive, but that his wife was found dead, likely of shock, up on the hill. Lonsworth says that she would be a prime candidate to be donated to the American Institute for Medical Research.
The author is Esther Grissen Richardson. Her only other known pulp contribution is “One Way to Judge” inYoung’s Magazine (May 1916). I believe she was born as Esther Grissen in November 1890 in Oregon to Charles and Jennie. Her father per the 1900 census states he was born in Germany and is a bookseller. Son Karl (age 17) is a clerk at the bookstore while sister Muriel (14) is at school. Per the 1910 census, Esther E. Grissen lives with her widowed mother and stenographer Muriel, while Esther is 19 and jobless.
The Bells is something like the infamous old Paul Revere tale. It involves a Russian scene set in 1917, during the revolution. A man is in hiding, lacking an arm. His brother, a priest, will sound the bells, once, if no troops are in sight, and twice, if spotted. If not sighted, then under the cover of darkness, Ivan may slip away and perhaps, escape. However, two bells sound and he remains hidden, to accept his fate. A knock at the door, and the priest is mortified to see Ivan still there. He came to wipe all evidence of Ivan’s presence. Ivan proclaims he heard two bells. Then, the door is flung open, and a soldier proclaims, that the Czar is overthrown, and political prisoners are free.
John M. Lynch has also contributed three times to Snappy Stories magazine, each in 1916.
On Pass is a weird tale, involving the return of a soldier that had not been seen since fighting in France. Inexplicably, he tells his friend at 4am that he must depart. Leave? Why? Headed west. Says he went West some time ago after a scrap at Argonne-Meuse. He’s only on pass until morning, then must ship out in his new berth. Then he says he has met St. Peter and St. Patrick. Our narrator then asks, “…what of Him?” The soldier leaves with that one unanswered, only to say that he will know, himself, one day.
Cyril B. Egan has contributed to Brief Stories, Snappy Stories, Live Stories, Argosy All-Story Weekly, The Saturday Evening Post, Life, Judge, Liberty, and the Catholic World.
His Own Hand involves the lovely Clara, who is beset by two suitors. She cleverly explains to one of her suitors that the other is a nuisance and wants him to write them a letter, explaining that she does not wish to see them any further. Our suitor writes a slightly malicious letter; she reads it, and she finds it somewhat disturbing, but acknowledges that all is true, but she wouldn’t have written it so awfully. He states that you have to be solid on your convictions, and a deep thrust like that remove his competition. She says she will post it in a lavender colored envelope. He follows it around and waits for it to be delivered. Oddly, it isn’t. Going home, he opens his mailbox to find a lavender letter. She explains that his competitor’s letter was less cruel than his own!
William E. Brandt contributed to the pulp and slick mags from 1920-1931. Barely more than a half-dozen entries are recorded on FictionMags, and most of those are articles, not stories.
Lucky is about a man who is far from lucky. When he spots a dollar bill flutter down the road, he tries to run it back to the owner, only to learn that the person in the taxi is a bookmaker, who he is nearly neighbors with. That evening, he tosses the bill out at him, and the bookmaker takes the bill with effrontery, then laughs, and walks away. Next we know, there is a knock at his door. Seems another fellow that nearly intercepted the fluttering bill is on his doorstep. He hands $50 to Lucky and explains that the bill had a secret female name penned on it as a code, as part of a cipher to swing a big deal. While Lucky got the bill, he saw the name and knew what to do with it. Later that night, the bookmaker hands him an envelope with $100 inside, and says “…hereafter don’t write your bets on the money!”
William Henry Greenfield was a pulpster, churning out stories for the red-blooded readers of Railroad Man’s Magazine, Top-Notch, Argosy, Brief Stories, and many more.
The Better Half is love affair stuff. Wife is cheating on her husband. Wishes her decent husband was more like this other fellow. Goes home, and falls asleep, feeling guilty, while her husband is out, slaving for her. Her husband is out, cheating on his wife, and comes home to find her asleep, and feels guilty, for she is good and wholesome, and he calls himself a cad and falls asleep.
Clove Pinks is a humorously morbid tale involving a Dear Abby columnist, under the non de plume of “Madame Juliette,” whom in fact is a middle-aged grumpy bachelor, the original female wearer of said name having long-since retired. Kelly, the newspaper’s police reporter, is heckling Finley, after learning that the M.O. is putting up a love story contest. Finley must sort through the riff and raff, separating the fact from the fiction. Kelly laughingly departs, and disheartened, a nearby secretary, having received a bouquet of flowers, takes pity on him, and leaves him a clove pink blossom. He picks it up, inhales, and we are transported back to his youthful college years. He types up a story…. Three days later, Kelly is ribbing Finley over the hundreds of letters pouring in. The trash bin has overflowed. The floor is a walking hazard. Kelly randomly picks up a letter (Finley’s letter) and reads it aloud. It is a letter from the point of view of Finley’s girl, and details her romance, and that one day, her would-be lover disappeared. Kelly remarks it might be a fake, but…gonna print it? Under the desk, Finley’s hand is clinching a flower, tightly. No, he isn’t going to run it. He then nabs a railway timetable, to take a weekend off…. (what are his plans? elude the office for a spell? chase this forgotten girl?) We’ll never know.
Marjorie Charles Driscoll mostly wrote poems. These appear in the “smart” magazines, such as: Telling Tales, Snappy Stories, and Brief Stories. She has also cracked Top-Notch, The Outing, Ainslee’s, and Everybody’s Magazine, to name a handful more.
His Wife involves a man making frequent trips. One day, he ends up in an automobile accident. His wife arrives, and in a fit of delirium, he calls for another woman’s name. That other woman enters….
Hilda Duane is a complete mystery to me. Searches for this name yielded nothing of use. If anyone can trace this author’s identity, I would love to know.
To Kill or Not to Kill is a war story. John Pierson is worried. He is enlisting, and his friend, three years earlier, had departed America to join the German army. What if he should one day crest a hill, fight it out in a trench, etc., and find himself face-to-face with his old friend, Herman Schmidt. Would he be able to run him through with his bayonet? Blow his head wide open? Finish him off? Or would he be the dead party and Schmidt gazing down upon him. The war ended, and riding home on the train, Pierson finds all his worries were for naught. He never ran into Schmidt. We are never given to know whether Schmidt survived.
H. L. Deimel would appear to the very same gentleman that helped to found Deimel Linen-Mesh Underwear. He was a doctor (of sorts) that attended Bennett (1884-1885). To my knowledge, this is his only literary contribution.
Soliloquy of The Little Story Magazine is just that, a poem.
It was written by E. E. Knight, and I have zero data on the identity of this person.
And here I leave you, my dear readers, with a full scan blow-up of the rear cover. The mag has a slight tear to the lower front cover, spine splits at top and bottom staples an inch apiece, age mottling, and this inscribed notation on the bottom of the rear cover, which appears to inform one Roland Nelson to depart at 8 for a meeting and arrive Friday morning. I’m not great at reading signatures but looks like J. A. Henney. Anyone else have a better stab or guess at this? Love to hear your thoughts.
Dust on the Moon was published in 1946 by Canadian publisher Crown Novel Publishing Company. It’s a pleasure to finally get around to presenting this scarce Crown publication.
eBay seller “sfconnection” located in Indianapolis listed a copy many years ago. That copy had two red splotches on the lower left cover, and is found on worthpoint.com. I was prompted to release this Crown entry when Canadian collector / researcher James Fitzpatrick (of the Fly-by-Night blog) recently purchased my spare copy of another Crown scarcity, Death on the Slow Draw by John Frederick and featured it July 2021 on his blog. I’m glad to have added to his collection. If you haven’t visited James’ page, drop in and enjoy. I do from time-to-time and enjoy his posts on obscure Canadian wartime era books, etc.
Written by Mary E. Horlbeck, she had scarcely any known ties to the pulps until a little over a decade ago, when someone moved into her home discovered an abandoned scrapbook filled with 138 rejection letters spanning 1933-1937. When precisely they found that scrapbook is unknown to me, but they eventually posted their discovery on the buckfifty.org blog. I highly recommend readers to visit that blog and read their investigations into Horlbeck’s past.
The blogger notes that during that 5-year span, there were 4 acceptance letters, but, fails to inform readers of their location, story title, date, etc. More amazing is that a family-member, a grandson, to be precise, actually stumbled across that blog and left a comment. I have left a comment on the blog in the hope that one day the grandson may continue their discussion with me, so we may have more complete information. (Update: A year transpired and nobody has ever reached out to me. I prepared my own blog early 2020 and waited all this time in the hopes of a reply).
Her known pulp appearances are noted below:
Rain-Sprite (ss) Thrilling Love, 1937 October
Jitterbug Jangle (ss) Street & Smith’s Love Story Magazine, 1939 July 29
Star for a Night (ss) Street & Smith’s Love Story Magazine, 1943 September 21
Love Happens that Way (ss) Exciting Love (Canada), 1944 Spring
Not simply satisfied with copying other people’s research (ever, in fact), I always perform my own research, based on what can be found online. Sources utilized include various birth and death indices, census data, draft registration cards, and graveyards. Any errors in my data below is purely from those sources.
Albin Horlbeck was first married to Inez (Ina) May TOMLIN (born 1892 Feb 7 and died 1925 Nov 2) prior to the 1930 census, and gave birth to 3 children. Six years later, Albin married Mary ADOLPHSON and she came into the family with one child of her own, Jacqueline. It’s unclear to me whether Mary’s surname is a maiden or married/widowed name.
According to the 1930 Census, the Horlbeck’s lived at 2552 Benton Street, Edgewater, Colorado.
HORLBECK, Albin (age 41)
Glen T. (age 15)
Earl N. (age 12)
Fern E. (age 6)
ADOLPHSON, Mary E. (age 25)
Jacqueline C. (age 6)
Albin Richard Horlbeck married Mary Elizabeth Adolphson in 1931.
According to the 1940 Census, the Horlbeck’s lived at 2552 Benton Street, Edgewater, Colorado:
HORLBECK, Albin (husband, age 51) born in Illinois
— proprietor (vegetable juice extracting)
Mary (wife, age 36) born in Wisconsin
— assistant (vegetable juice extracting)
Glenn (son, age 25) born in Colorado
— sales engineer (mining machinery)
Earl (son, age 22) born in Colorado
Fern (daughter, age 16) born in Colorado
FREDRICKSON, Jacqueline (daughter, age 16) born in Colorado
— librarian (high school librarian)
More specific births and deaths are noted below, where known:
Albin R. Horlbeck (1899 Feb 28 — 1967 Feb 22)
Mary E. Horlbeck (1905-1967)
Glenn Tomlin Horlbeck (1914 Nov 1 — 1993 Feb 7)
Earl Neil Horlbeck (1917 Jun 20 — 2005 May 13)
The frontis notes that the novel is “Complete and Unexpurgated.” If Dust on the Moon had an earlier appearance, it may well have been in a newspaper supplement, such as the Toronto Star Weekly Complete Novel or the Toronto Star Weekly Magazine sections, or in America, via the big-city papers, or maybe even the various “slick” magazines, many for which have never been fully indexed. From her rejection letters, we know that she not only submitted to the pulpwood magazines, but, also the slicks.
The tale opens with U.S. Marshall Ken Farnum riding home to his father’s family ranch, having recently finished an exploit against some outlaws known as the “Jaggers”. They are mentioned a couple times in passing, which made me wonder if Farnum had appeared in another hitherto unknown western (or not). He comes upon the ranch to discover his father shot dead and his brother shot and left for dead. The horses have all been stolen. Reviving his delirious brother, he relays to Ken that he saw the leader of the bandits shoot another outlaw for foolishly opening his mouth during the silent raid and uttering the words: “We’ll kick dust on the moon tonight, I reckon.” Realizing the phrase might have importance, Ken’s wounded brother (Jack) filed it away.
Jack reverts to unconsciousness. Grimly, Ken buries his father, then, decides to bury the outlaw too, in the family plot. Having finished their burial, a horse gallops up carrying Chick, an ancient family cowhand loyal to their father. Learning of the murder and thievery, he’s determined to ride with Ken to hell and back to avenge the family and reclaim their lost horses.
Ken agrees since he can’t stop Chick anyhow, and they bring the wounded Jack to a neighboring ranch, leaving Jack in the care of Ann Haverill, a girl Jack is sweet on. Slapping leather, the pair depart and hit the trail. Chick relays an odd tale he picked up a ways back, while drinking in town, regarding some young punk in love with the Haverill girl as Jack’s rival for her affections. Another rival was also present, that punk’s brother. In order to impress her, they were determined to ride Ebony, a horse of immense power and speed. Ken is tired of the seemingly pointless tale, but Chick points out that the punk’s brother was thrown from Ebony and pounded dead. The brother seemed unfazed, laughed even at the death, but then swore to avenge his brother’s death and hold the Farnum ranch and family responsible.
Ken now sees the conflict of interest. The punk may have bled information to a bandit about an undefended ranch with tons of prime horseflesh. With this in mind, he and Chick ride to the remote reaches (Arizona? or New Mexico?) where outlaws reign supreme. Entering the local saloon, Ken watches the crowd and is certain that here he will find his man, when a young lady inexplicably asks him to dance with her. He doesn’t want to but she seems to know who he is! She recollects him from his earlier adventures battling the Jaggers gang. While there, Ken is forced to shoot the gun-hand of a man that waddles into the saloon aiming to shoot a large “gentleman.” The lady he is dancing with is angered by his interference and departs. The local sheriff arrests the shot man. Ken is invited to talk with the “gentleman” but acts tough and says if he wants to talk, the big boy can come over to Ken.
Remarkably, big-boy (name of Parlanz) does just that and is impressed by the speed of Ken’s drawn guns, two six-shooters. It’s not long before he’s invited by Parlanz out to his ranch and offered the unscrupulous job of joining the gang on a future raid. He’s even given the secret passphrase of “dust on the moon.” Ken is now 100% convinced he’s found the man that killed his father, etc., but must secure his own family horses legally. Amusingly, Parlanz wants to ride Ebony and Ken must pretend not to recognize the horse. When Parlanz attempts the ride, he viciously hits her with his spurs and Ebony goes berserk, and tosses Parlanz. Ebony’s eyes show blood-lust for Parlanz, but Ken steps in before anyone can shoot the horse.
Long story short, Ken is betrayed, someone ransacks his room, he’s worried a member of the Parlanz gang found his hidden law-badge, he’s eventually hit over the head and tossed in jail, Parlanz keeps his six-shooters, the girl helps him to escape, he sneaks into Parlanz’s room at night and snags his guns and silently departs (he won’t plug the man while asleep), and informs Chick to ride and obtain as many deputized souls as possible to ride against the upcoming raid planned by Parlanz.
Chick succeeds and even brings back Ken’s brother, Jack. Waiting in various hiding places, they wait for Parlanz and his raiding party to arrive. They do. A wild shootout occurs, and everyone is instructed to not shoot Parlanz. Ken wants him but discovers his brother riding to get the man. Jack is brought down and taken out of the fight. Parlanz rides away with Ken in pursuit but Ken is knocked out. Parlanz escapes…back to his ranch.
Ken is brought back to consciousness and his body repairs in days. Ready to ride again, he realizes he must ride to Parlanz’s fortified ranch. Boarding the fiery Ebony, Ken reaches the ranch and catches up with Parlanz. Fighting it out, Ken is determined to avenge his father but is robbed by someone with a greater grudge against the man than his own. Ebony shrieks her rage and riding in, attacks Parlanz and stomps him to a lifeless pulp.
We eventually learn the dance-hall girl was married to the murdered outlaw on Ken’s father’s ranch, and the boy just fell in with the wrong crowd. She was out to avenge his death, but she now has fallen in love with Ken…and he asks her to marry him.
Over the Top (January 1930) cover was created by Harry Thomas Fisk (H. T. Fisk). Someone took the time to apply packing tape the entire length of the spine. Sadly, the top of the cover lacks a chunk, but, the artwork below is largely unaffected. This was acquired along with two more sequential issues: February and March. Those will be read and blogged in the future.
The inside rear cover lays the bold claim that their policy insists all stories be written by men that served in the war, what they dub the “Big Scrap of ’17-’18”. Naturally, I was curious to know whether this was Fact or Fiction. After each plot summary, where known, I researched each author and provided information, which may be from a Wikipedia entry, FindaGrave.com, or various other sites.
Owen Atkinson’s THE PICTURE GUN details two foolhardy privates assigned to lug Sergeant Kiess’s baggage across No Man’s Land so that he can make motion pictures to bring back to the United States. The films are to capture live combat situations and boost American morale as American units beat the Germans. Kiess is fanatical about his Hollywood abilities but oblivious to the realities of actual warfare and death. The bodies don’t rise at the end of this “shoot.” The story has plenty of lighthearted humor etched in with scenes of carnage on both sides of the conflict.
Owen’s actual name is Marion Owen Atkinson and he was born on 22 June 1898 in Doniphan, Missouri. He rose to the rank of Commander in the United States Naval Reserve, served in The Great War (WW1) and in WW2. He died 29 October 1962 and was buried at the Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, California.
CASEY CONVALESCES is a humorous short by Edward Arthur Dolph, centering around two Irishmen that don’t seem capable of working within their unit. In fact, they are constantly drunk and getting into absurd situations. Sergeants Casey and Murphy return in another tale in which they are confined to a military hospital, to mend wounds and await future orders to return to their assigned units. Only problem is, they don’t like being locked up. The pair eventually commandeer the night nurse, steal her outfit, and then knock out an M.P., take his clothes, and hop an outbound train headed deep into France. They’re eventually caught singing drunk and paraded through the bombed French town before the men. In typical fashion, they manage to escape with even more idiocy.
Edward Arthur Dolph was born 19 June 1896 in Pinconning, Michigan. From 10 July 1916 to 1 November 1918 he was a cadet at the Military Academy (ergo, he did not serve during The Great War). From the academy he was promoted to the army and served for an unknown period of time (though I do have records up through 1919 overseas). He died 1 March 1982 in Newburgh, New York. He was married to Laura Belle Knapp and they had one child. Edward compiled a book on soldier songs from as far back as the Revolutionary War.
After having read a semi-serious lighthearted novelette and following that up with a pure tongue-in-cheek Casey short, I was desperately hoping that Over the Top magazine wouldn’t push my patience over the top! Damn it, I want a bloody effing war story! And Peter Henderson delivers with “I AIN’T A CAT!” Private Parker drags fellow Private “Smitty” Smith along to solve the mystery of what became of various missing American soldiers. The outfit was strung out around the French town of Buerre and instructed never to enter the ruins. (Incidentally, there is no such town, but the author may likely be referring to the French word beurre, which means butter in English). No Germans are known to be positioned there. And yet, Parker, assigned to a night watch crew, was slapped with dereliction of duty, sleeping on the job! His unit vanishes overnight, leaving only Parker the sole remaining member accounted for. Only, he insists he wasn’t asleep. He plans to enter the town at night against regulations with Smitty as company to watch his six. Parker’s on the prowl for a Frenchman with a slight in his neck. Smitty is curious as to how Parker knows that there is a Frenchman in this empty town with a slit neck, and keeps insisting that curiosity killed the cat. The story rolls along with Smitty giving us some Edgar Allan Poe treatment: fear of the dark, shadows, odd sounds, etc, And then a shrieking bandit hauls itself from the dark recesses, dragging its nails into Smitty and nearly bearing him to the ground. He throws the bandit off him, draws his sidearm and plugs two rounds into…a cat. (By which point I’m worried that I’ve hit a third humorous story). Well, those two shots do the trick. It’s not long before the shadows cough up very solid shadows, and one clamps a hand over Smitty’s mouth from behind! He kicks Parker hard, forward, to get him in the clear while biting his assailant and then killing him. Parker is oblivious and blind as to what happened, but Smitty and Parker make haste as German’s pop up out of nowhere and the real meat of the story takes place, with loads of killing. The body count climbs quickly as the pair dance their way through swarms of Germans, bullets, grenades, and all the while, Parker wants that Frenchman! I won’t ruin the conclusion, but it’s a damn fine read by an author that supplied only one pulp fiction story. I’m guessing the writer’s name is a house name. If anyone knows otherwise, I sure as hell would love to know.
Peter Henderson is a complete mystery to me. No other fiction story appears under this name in the pulps. The name is too commonplace to track.
Bill Morgan introduces me for the first time to his “Wound Stripe Quartet”. The quartet appear in several other issues, but here’s a recap: four war veterans form a singing quartet with the aim of traveling and entertaining active soldiers, etc. Well, they naturally have their own adventures along the way. In THE DAILY DRUNK, the quartet are in Paris and not receiving the usual accolades that they are used to. While lamenting their ill-reception, they spot the perpetually drunk Lieutenant Cannon, who obviously has the reputation of being perpetually soused. Three of the quartet believe he is absolutely wasted and an embarrassment to the United States, while one is convinced it is entirely an act. When they determine to escort Cannon home, the lieutenant abruptly becomes startling sober and essentially tells them to bugger off, that they are interfering with his affairs. Much later, the drunk lieutenant accosts them and asserts that he requires their assistance. He returns to sobriety and secretly enlists them in his undercover assignment. Cannon is hunting a pair of Frenchman known to be deserters and worse…they have stolen military parts, etc. The conclusion involves a lively bar room brawl that made for a grin-splitting night.
Bill Morgan wrote from 1928-1930 exclusively for Over The Top magazine. Another Bill Morgan would surface from 1944-1948 writing detective stories. Somehow, I doubt the two are one-and-the-same. The name could easily be William Morgan, but in any case, too damn common a name and could itself readily be an alias. Or perhaps even a staff editor.
BUDDIES IN ARMS is my first introduction to pulp legend Robert H. Leitfred. Shocking, I know, but true! I have never read a story by Leitfred prior. By this time, Leitfred had been writing (and selling) pulp fiction steadily for 7 years. Here we are introduced to Corporal Eli Horntrop, a lanky yet muscular young man with straw-colored hair. As a companion, he had previously enlisted Private Pluvius Johnson, formerly attached to the labor battalion at St. Nazaire. I say “formerly” because Pluvius is officially A.W.O.L.; Eli had convinced him that he would never see “action” unloading boats for soldiers moving forward. Pluvius is noted to be a Negro with the stereotypical Southern broken English, and is convinced he’s not actually A.W.O.L., but unofficially attached to Eli’s Rainbow Division. If Pluvius wants awards and medals, Eli had him convinced he had to abandon St. Nazaire and come with him. And come Pluvius did. Interestingly enough, there isn’t overt racism present. Nobody drops the “N” bomb, though yes Pluvius was described once as a Negro and later noted to colored. But all in good fun, Pluvius freely calls Eli “white boy.” This is a rather long explanation, I realize, but I want to establish that you are not reading a racist work of fiction here, though Eli is clearly in charge of Pluvius. At the start of this story, Eli and Pluvius are in the town of Sergy, near the River Oureq. The German’s and American’s have been bombing each other in and out of town. Neither at the moment have firm control of the area. Last time in, some of the men had found food and divvying it up among themselves, either ate or quickly buried their newfound rations. Well, Eli and Pluvius have returned to the buried meal. Eli instructs Pluvius to dig into the cellar. Breaking through to the cellar door, Eli drops in and discovers his black bread and baloney missing! In the loose dirt he spots footprints, and realizes that one of the other members that found the food stole his share. That unworthy soul is Sergeant Henderson, and he’s across the street in a barricaded building with a handful of troops preparing to hold off a German advance. Eli and Pluvius find themselves awkwardly in the open and nobody will open the doors. They are forced to drive through the window just as the German’s riddle their position. All of his is background to the fact that they meet a young American that has never seen action. His name is Lawrence “Pinky” Sellers, and he’s terrified. Pinky is impressed by Eli’s cool demeanor under fire and latched to his side as everyone abandons the tank-shelled building and escape the town. The Germans rapidly and efficiently take the town and situate massive guns at strategic positions to hold Sergy permanently. Eli is impressed to see dozens, perhaps hundreds, of troops escape Sergy. He wasn’t aware that so many were present. A lieutenant orders the men to surge forward and the Germans butcher them by the droves. Eventually they retreat, much to Eli’s ire, as they were practically at the town’s edge. Retreat, regroup, and try again. They do, only to get mowed down again, but this time penetrate the town. The trio are this time accompanied by Sergeant Henderson, who wastes a grenade toss. It lands mere feet from their location and the smart-thinking Eli drops his steel helmet onto the ticking time-bomb and hits the dirt. He then takes Henderson’s last grenade himself after that latter nearly killed his own men, and hurls it at the tank. He succeeds is killing the gunner atop the tank as Eli examines the grisly remains. A major eventually spots Eli and likes the way he operates under pressure. Assigns him to retreat from Sergy and back along the river road find the missing troop and supply transport, and redirect all assistance to Sergy. He takes Pluvius and Pinky along for the hike. Along the way they are attacked by Germans and Pinky catches shrapnel in his side. He’s delirious and bleeding to death. Spotting an approaching M.P. motorcycle and sidecar, he arrests their attention and informs them he is commandeering their wheels. They are convinced he and Pluvius are A.W.O.L. and both M.P.s set forth to arrest the pair. Thus ensues a fist-fight fit for Fight Stories magazine. Eli eventually knocks down his assailant and deposits Pinky in the sidecar, climbs aboard, and the M.P. grabs for him. Pluvius is having trouble with his own man, but takes the time to plant a solid fist into Eli’s man, enabling him to escape. Eli speeds away and glances back once, to see Pluvius taking on both M.P.’s. Eli arrives in the distant town of Epieds, and convinces the overburdened doctor to tend to Pinky, thereby saving his life. Later, the M.P.s catch Eli, cuff him, and bring him before a captain and a colonel, along with the likewise arrested Pluvius. Their case is presented, and Eli defends his case. The colonel upon hearing of Pinky dismisses all present, much to the chagrin of the M.P.s. When asked Pinky’s name, Eli is gobsmacked to discover he saved the colonel’s son. He knew that Pinky had secretly enlisted to prove himself to his “old man” but had no clue where he was assigned. He thanks Eli and asks if there is anything he can do for the Eli, who responds he just wants to eat. He and Pluvius enjoy from the upper rank’s own cook steak and potatoes, while a hungry Sergeant Henderson watches from afar, begging for a bite. Oh sweet irony!
Robert Henry Leitfred was born 5 August 1891 in Syracuse, New York. Sometime in 1918 he enlisted with the motorcycle corps. Robert died 6 August 1968 in Lagune Beach, California. This information and a lot more is readily available at the Pulp Flakes blog site. But, did he see action? Additional research yields that Robert registered for the draft on 5 June 1918.
Lloyd Leonard Howard presents the stereotypical revenge tale. In AN ARGUMENT FOR TWO, fighter-pilot Joe Speers writes a letter to an unknown German pilot, demanding to be met solo in the air. Speers buddy was shot from the sky, in the back, while himself pursuing another German plane. Speers thought the tactic was pure cowardice. He has a friend place it in a tube with white trailers, dropped over a German field. It’s recovered and read. Next day, a German plane drops a return note, calling his bluff. Speers must bribe the flight mechanic to ready his plane and get him airborne before the major catches him. And yes, Speers gets his man, and the tale concludes on an entirely implausible note.
Lloyd wrote exclusively for Over The Top from 1928 to 1930 and spun a half-dozen more stories for 1930, 1933, 1934, before entirely vanishing. The draft index shows eight men by the name of Lloyd Howard. Irksome…
HELL’S DOORSTEP by Andrew Hale was more entertaining. “Snifter” Hogan, a daydreaming doughboy in the trenches dreams of earning a genuine medal to impress a girl back home in New York. Only, she is fickle and he is certain she’ll stray to another neighborhood man that has earned a medal from the French. He’s convinced the French medal was “purchased” and not actually “earned.” That aside, his two trench-mates wake him from a dream, reverting to reality. They are to storm the German’s. Everything goes wrong. One of his mates catches one and left behind to live or die. He and the other guy drop in a crater and watch as the Lieutenant foolishly plods onward, without backup! He catches a bullet and is knocked down. Is he alive? “Snifter” Hogan doesn’t know, but his body has already made up its mind. Somehow he avoids being shot full of holes, despite the buzzing hot lead all about him. Gets to the Lt., finds him alive, and carries him back only to land into another crater and come face-to-face with the New Yorker with the French medal. That latter notes Hogan caught a bullet through his calf and is lame, and decides to steal the Lt. from him and carry him himself and earn the medal. The pair get into a serious fight fight, with Hogan the shorter and slighter of the pair brutally battered. The villain snatches up the Lt., and hoofs it back, only to be shot to ribbons in the back. Hogan bravely limps over and snatches up the unconscious Lt., and eventually makes it back with his man. That odds of Hogan surviving hundreds of fired bullets and bombs is absurd, but plenty of doughboys survived the war doing just that.
Andrew Hale only supplied a few tales to this magazine and one to S&S’s Complete Stories, all in 1930. Was he a real person or a staff writer? Again, a case of a very common name, and five gentleman by this name turn up on the draft index.
A MATTER OF DISCIPLINE is by Cole Richards. Private Garrity and hundreds to thousands of men are in Argonne, trying to push forward and defeat the Germans. It’s raining, muddy, craters everywhere, bombs falling, bullets flying, and Garrity is slowly losing his shit…mentally. While hunkered against a tree, various men are killed next to him, each in a different grisly manner. One may think he is yellow, but he finally snaps and begins running, aimlessly, and in the darkness flails into a curtain, falls down steps and finds himself before Major Forstal. That latter determines that Garrity is a coward. Garrity takes the accusation personally and physically assaults his superior officer. The candle goes out and in the ensuing darkness they street brawl. Garrity eventually wins and realizes he murdered the Major. Mortified, he returns to his tree, or a tree, at the least. Next morning, another officer spots the disturbed Garrity, who confesses he killed the Major. They can’t afford at the moment to lose a man so he is sent forward to atone for his crime. Garrity readily agrees. Better to lose his life honorably as a stop-gap than hang from the gallows. Try as he might, Garrity simply can’t die. It’s not a matter of waiting for a German to run him through with a bayonet. He fights with every ounce of his being to defeat and break through every German line. He eventually survives where officers one by one are killed and finds himself at the very front placed in command of a unit. He whips them into shape, even beating up one man that lays claim to having enlisted six months before Garrity. Assuming full authority, he refuses to bend, refuses to yield to the advancing Germans…even when the dead Major Forstal shockingly makes an appearance and orders Garrity to stand down and withdrawal the men. Garrity laughs and leads his men forward. He refuses to gain ground only to lose it retreating, thereby losing more men. If you are going to lose men, lose them going forward! The Major goes forward with the unit and is impressed by Garrity’s cool and authoritative manner in the face of insane odds. They soon drop into a German-filled trench and an awesome fight ensues. The Major is physically outclassed and about to die when his assailant is blown away by Garrity, who himself is assaulted next by a muscular German. The fight and war scenes involving guns and bombs and grenades are splendidly detailed, generally hiding nothing of the grim realities of death and destruction. In the end, Garrity’s unit wins, and Garrity stumbles over to Major Forstal, apologizes for his assaulting his superior officer. The Major explains coughingly that as a matter of discipline, Garrity must be arrested and face proper charges. Garrity laughs. Nobody will be arresting him. He took a fatal shot at the beginning of the farce and has been a walking dead man ever since. The man drops in a dead faint. Forstal has two courses: let the man die, arrest him and he’ll die, or…. No, he constructs a third option, unorthodox it may seem, but one that obliterates the “crime.” Garrity can’t possibly have committed the crime if he is still at the very tree at the start of the conflict, where he received the fatal wound. He’d still be there, dying, and never been able to assault the Major, never take out various German gun nests, led a successful unit, etc. Tossing the dead weight upon his shoulders, the Major carries his burden several miles back, back, back, back to the tree, or at the least, a probable tree, and deposits his burden. He then hollers for a medical unit and chastises them for having left behind a wounded man. The medical man is flabbergasted, but one does not argue with a Major. After all, “discipline has its advantages.”
I am not sure who Cole Richards is, but if he wrote consistently this well, someone needs to unearth his ass and shake his skeletal phalanges. The above tale may well be the best damn story in this magazine. It’s psychologically demented and full of blood-and-thunder meat. I’m impressed that the editors of Street & Smith permitted so much graphic detail. While much is left to the imagination, the author does his damnedest to paint very clear, gruesome pictures. As Cole Richards, this person wrote from 1927 steadily throughout the 1930s, but only a single sale each in 1939, 1940, 1941, and 1943. I couldn’t locate a single Cole Richards in the draft index, however, I did locate one George Cole Richards born 23 February 1893 in Mahaffey, Pennsylvania, and working the rubber industry in Akron, Ohio.
The final tale is THE LAST CREST by Captain George F. Eliot. Machine-gun sergeant Owen Hurley of the 101st Australian Battalion decides to disobey the orders of the major and proceed as originally planned, and secure the third crest and hold the area against the advancing Turks. His unit is all but obliterated upon holding the area assigned. Setting up their machine gun, they mow down the Turks from behind, annihilating them. Realizing they are caught from behind, they turn and begin assaulting Hurley’s crew, eliminating nearly every last man before reinforcements assume control of the second crest and a wave of Australians win the day. The major approaches and congratulates Hurley on his successful initiative, and Hurley faints from blood loss. A simple tale.
George Fielding Eliot has a Wiki entry, for anyone that is interested. It’s well-worth the read, because Eliot was indeed a soldier during The Great War. He was born an American citizen whose family moved to Australia. He grew up there and enlisted in the Australian military. After the war, moved to Canada and became a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Later, moved back to the United States, working in military intelligence, from 1922-1933, rising to the rank of Major. His entire war-life and experiences served him greatly in authoring numerous action stories, spanning various countries and literary genres.
To wrap up the project, I’m dismayed to not be able to ascertain the identities to many of this magazine’s contributors, on the base claim that all served in the war of 1917-1918. One I proved clearly never served during the war, though he was a cadet and eventually went overseas. At the least, he was certainly exposed to the postwar conditions in Europe. The others? Maybe one day someone will find this blog and supply additional information on the unknown / unconfirmed gentlemen….
Heritage Auctions on May 20th will go live with a remarkable collection of rare pulps. I decided to finally release this blog I prepared years ago to coincide with the fact that HA also has a copy listed. Their copy sports worn, rubbed covers, creasing to spine, etc., but might be better than my copy, given that mine has a strange blue mark on the cover. I’m not complaining. It’s a rare item, and condition hardly matters. Or, does it?
A copy is indexed on the FictionMags Index site, but whoever sent FMI their data is all kinds of WRONG! Click on the link above and follow my logic.
Foremost, the information states that only ONE STORY is inside this magazine. That’s 100% wrong. Now, you might say that perhaps the other stories were ripped out of the magazine and the original supplier of that data never noticed. Hooey! The start of the second story begins on the back of the concluding first story. Ergo, if they truly thought only one story was present, they should have noticed that the sole indexed tale was also missing the concluding page of text!
Second mistake? It’s recorded as a pulp. That’s not really accurate. True, the stories originated in the American pulp Dime Mystery Magazine, but this isn’t pulp-format. Would you say pulp stories reprinted as a paperback anthology is a pulp? No.
Third mistake? Aside from stating that the Jacobson story isn’t present, that person also failed to mention the THIRD story on the cover. Yeah, that one, at the bottom of the cover in the red banner strip.
So, let’s clear up a lot of misconceptions and get this one right.
Mystery Magazine (circa 1946) was published by William C. Merrett (a WCM Publication bubbled-in lower right cover) and priced at 2/-. It measures 5.5 x 8.5 inches, and is a stapled digest-sized magazine. The cover art originates from the 1938 July issue of Dime Mystery Magazine (as do the first two stories) and, lucky YOU, if you enjoy my post, you can READ those first two stories online by clicking HERE but alas, not the third tale; that appeared in the 1939 July edition (a year later from the prior two).
From cover to rear, the magazine represents 36 pages, although the first un-numbered page, Page 1, begins behind the front cover. The rear cover is numbered 35 and contains the conclusion to the final tale. There isn’t a Table of Contents page.
(1-12) “Goddess of the Half-World Brood” by Henry Treat Sperry Dime Mystery Magazine, 1938 July
(13-26) “The Werewolf of Wall Street” by Edith and Ejler Jacobson Dime Mystery Magazine, 1938 July
(27-35) “Horror’s Holiday Special” by Wayne Robbins Dime Mystery Magazine, 1939 July (as by W. Wayne Robbins per FMI site)
GODDESS OF THE HALF-WORLD BROOD
by Henry Treat Sperry
A delightful tale that immediately delivers on the weird vibe. Husband and wife of undisclosed ages are shipwrecked on an island that ought not to exist. Jim and Marion stumble ashore after their private vessel slams onto a coral reef and sinks, thanks to a hurricane. Drenched and exhausted, Marion is oblivious to the dozens of glowing eyes in the dark reaches of the island-jungle, but Jim takes it all in quite gravely. The pair discover a pathway, clearly constructed by humans, and discover a cottage. Knocking on the door while watching those ever-present eyes, Jim hurls his lone weapon (a piece of wood from their wrecked ship) at the shadowy beasts and finds the cottage isn’t locked. Opening the latch, they slip in and find the recently slain remnants of a “Negrito” (hey, the author’s word, not mine) torn all to hell and partially eaten. Marion screams and Jim pushes her into a chair facing away from the grisly mess. Covering it up, he looks up stunned into the barrel of a “large-calibre pistol” held by a “deeply tanned young man of about my own age.” We soon learn that he also shipwrecked upon the island 8 years earlier with an original crew of 12 men, his sister, and the “Negrito” later acquired at a port. We later learn the sister was 16 at the time of their voyage, so now we have an approximate age of all currently alive. The tanned youth’s name is Richard Wanderleigh; his first name is never repeated. The sister soon arrives and is dressed skimpily; the sister calls him “Dick” when she discovers the carcass in the home, instead of outside, where she has purposefully left it. She’s angered at him for dragging the corpse inside, but reason isn’t disclosed, as she makes like a clam upon seeing they have visitors. The tale unwoven is that one by one each of the dozen men mysteriously dies and in their place a strange beast, or, as she calls them, a “shroud” appears. Jim begins to form a theory, as these jackal-like beings seem to sport human-like traits. Is there some strange, mystical powers acting upon these beings? We don’t know, but we do know that the Wanderleigh excursion involved tracking a specific “thing” and that they found it before their untimely accident. Is this unnamed thing responsible for the men’s deaths and subsequent birthing of the shrouds? Another day passes, Jim is exploring the otherwise tiny island, when he locates the sister (Sicily) sunning herself while surrounded by all of the shrouds (one has its head resting on her bare thigh). They rise, sensing his approach, and make to rend him to pieces but abort the attack at her command. Is she partially in control of these beasts? She details that her brother is not to be trusted, and that he has made wild claims that she is a Siren and responsible for all the men’s deaths, that they all coveted her, etc. Meanwhile, the island appears to be disturbed, and it is clear that it is prone to blow itself to smithereens. All hell breaks loose. Jim splits and returns to the cottage in search of his wife, only to find her missing and her clothes ripped to shreds on the floor. Realizing Wanderleigh has her, he goes nuts, not knowing even where to begin his search. Bewilderingly, while running about, one of the shrouds convinces him to follow it in the opposite direction he had chosen to search. It eventually leads him to Sicily who explains she has never known love, practically throws herself upon Jim, but constrains herself and informs him that his wife, Marion, is captive aboard a sea-faring vessel that Wanderleigh built in secret, but Sicily accidentally discovered, while exploring (with her shrouds, no doubt). Jim runs down to the water alcove, finds the vessel, the island is still blowing itself apart and spewing gasses and lava everywhere, the world is shaking in every direction, but he manages. Locating it, he does battle with Wanderleigh, who shoots him once in the fleshy part of the shoulder (cliché, missing the bones) and splits his skull a glancing blow, before Jim grabs the man’s head-hair, and lands a solid knock-out blow. Boarding the vessel, he unties the naked Marion, and discovers the boat is not only ship-worthy, but, submarine-worthy, being entirely turtle-decked and streamlined. After all, when the island blows, in all likelihood the vessel didn’t stand a chance of escaping; it would be dragged down and down and down until the suction released them, if at all. Before battening himself in with Marion, he entreats Sicily to leave the island with them, but she says no. He finally attempts to carry her, only to find the shrouds nipping his heels and must give up. They all depart and Jim watches in pained anguish as Sicily and her brood decide to stay and die. Back aboard, Jim tethers Marion inside (for safety) and while pushing away, watches far in the distance as Sicily and the brood of shrouds rise up against the volcano rim and one by one jump in. With each “death” a lava geyser belches skyward to envelop each being. Jim goes under, seals the hatch, tethers himself in, and prepares for the volcanic ride of a lifetime. Yes, they survive, and an hour later he pops the hatch as they are on the surface once more. The island is gone, but in those final moments, he was certain that he did not see 12 beasts leap into the fiery liquid flames…”it was twelve men…”
THE WEREWOLF OF WALL STREET by Edith and Ejler Jacobson
Chet Wallace, a Wall Street multi-millionaire, taps his son, a doughnut truck-driver, for an investigative job. Originally, Chet had no intention of simply giving his son the luxury life. He wanted him to earn his living and place in the world by his own means. However, there are strange events transpiring on Wall Street. And he needs an outsider. Enter one Ronald (Ronnie) Wallace. We learn that he wants Ronnie to look into Harry Gaines, one of his partners, to explain his wild buying and selling sprees. Harry inexplicably walks in and begins drawing cold water from the water-cooler in Chet’s office. One gulp, two gulp, three…and keeps going, insatiably. It is hot outside, and inside, but not in Chet’s room, since he’s the top dog, but it shouldn’t be that hot. Harry and Ronnie say hello to each other (they do know one another) and shake and Ronnie discovers the man’s hand is ice-cold and frail-feeling to the touch. He informs father that the man is clearly sick. Chet says “sick or crazy…or both.” Later in the day, Ronnie phones his girlfriend, Terry, to explain he must call off their date, but before he can, she informs him she is standing him up tonight. From her voice he can tell she doesn’t actually want to, and learns she is going over to the Haines’ home to be with Marcia, Harry’s wife. Something is clearly wrong, and Ronnie informs her that if they are to be a couple, they do things together. She accepts, they go over, hear a painful scream, Ronnie batters down the door, leaving Terry in the hallway while he investigates, and discovers the ravaged remains of Marcia, a bloody mess, and barely alive. And outside on the fire escape landing, leering in from the window, a twisted ugly white face that looks like Harry-gone-mad, with purplish eyes and red teeth. He returns to tend to Marcia, only to find her face and throat is mostly gone. Her blood is pouring out of her and while he staunches the flow, he can’t stop the fact that she is dying. Terry is missing (did she see Marcia and run?) and Ronnie is covered in blood, making him out to be the murderer. Fleeing the scene, he makes his way home (after calling for a doctor and police) and runs into Sandra Howard, a woman his father saved from a motor accident and gave a blood transfusion to. Now she apparently lives with them? There’s a lot of odd holes in this story. Anyway…Ronnie gets cleaned up and fresh clothes on. Harry Gaines appears at their home, and asks Sandra to come with him. They argue the point, but she acquiesces, much to Ronnie’s surprise. What hold does Harry have over Sandra? And how could the cold-blooded murderer so calmly dare walk into the Wallace household without batting an eye at Ronnie? Ronnie jumps into his roadster to pursue Harry and Sandra through New York, but loses them. He eventually determines that they were headed for Wall Street. But, at night? That district is closed at night, empty of virtually all night life. He parks, and comes across what appears to be a hooker. She asks if he is interested; he blows her off, and then wonders what she is doing hooking in an area devoid of life. Doesn’t add up; she should be in a higher populated zone. Following her, Ronnie watches her enter his father’s Wall Street building; he runs up and tries the door and WHOOSH! something flies by and splats on the pavement beside him. It was a female. She was either thrown out the window or jumped. Either way, she’s a pancake now. The doors open and a couple of things like Harry Gaines come out and scoops up the carcass and drag it inside. He hears what he believes is Terry’s voice scream for help, but a cop appears. Ronnie explains that people are inside murdering other people (yeah, that sounds sane). Arrested, he’s taken to the station, and released on bail after his father comes and pays. A day has gone by and he’s freaking out. Terry might be dead. And he hasn’t a clue how to proceed. His father has him work at the office that day, to keep an eye on Harry Gaines and all the others that are acting strangely. He receives news from Chet that Terry is okay. Apparently she is with Sandra, who is tending her in an hysterical state. Sandra used to be a nurse, and is caring for her, and states Terry doesn’t want to see Ronnie. Supposedly, Terry thinks she saw Ronnie murder Haines’ wife, Marcia. So Sandra is caring for her, and has her own daughter, Maxie, assisting. Terry is mentally beside himself. He, kill Marcia? Perhaps she saw all the blood on him, then? Midway through the work day, Ronnie, while thinking up a plan, sitting in his father’s office, is surprised by Harry Gaines walking in. He looks like death and accuses Harry of keeping Terry on ice. Threatening to call the police on Harry, the latter states that he lives with his wife and could easily claim he fled when he saw Ronnie murder her. Laughing, he departs and goes back to work. Ronnie soon discovers that Harry is actually buying while the world is selling. Everything he is buying dirt cheap is seemingly worthless…or, is it? Many of those investments would likely rebound in the future. Ronnie quickly sells everything Harry is buying before the hammer of the day concludes. Mortified and whiter than a sheet, Harry staggers in and proclaims he himself is likely a dead man now due to Ronnie’s efforts. Harry states he’ll die of a thirst water can’t slake, and makes for Ronnie. He protects himself and knocks Harry down, and gashes him, but barely a drop of blood comes out. In fact, he hardly has any blood to bleed! Harry eventually expires there on the office floor, leaving Ronnie with only one clue: to be in the Wall Street district again at night. But, where? Which building? Wait! the hooker! Will she be out there again? She is! He approaches her that evening, and she escorts him to a locked investment firm, and miracles, extracts a key! Leading him inside, they drink and he passes out. Waking up, he finds himself tethered to a chair and facing Sandra!!! She’s the mastermind behind everything and explains that when she received her blood transfusion, she learned it wasn’t enough and Chet kept helping until his own doctor advised against it. So, she turned to others and they developed leukemia. Well, she brainwashed them into continuing to help her and signing over their fortunes, too. Her own daughter, about Ronnie’s age, assisted. In fact, under all that hooker makeup is Maxie. Ronnie is appalled and discovers that they appear to have fed off of…him! Will he eventually develop the same sickness as these leukemia-werewolves? She forces him to call Chet over to marry Sandra, so that she can legally obtain an appearance for her sudden wealth, and in exchange, Terry gets to live. After much threats and a showcase of werewolf-like men hovering over the nearly nude Terry, Ronnie acquiesces and phones dad. Chet arrives, and goes in the room where Terry is held, actually knows what is going on, to some degree, when shockingly, in Terry’s room, someone fires a shot. Chet runs in there, more shots are fired, and out comes his dad supporting Terry on one side, and…Maxie on the other side??? She explains her mother had gone too far, and she didn’t want Ronnie hurt because she secretly was in love with him, too; she pulls out a gun and blows her own head off. Ronnie collapses from blood loss, to wake up another day. Terry is there, caring for him, and explains she remembers nothing after Marcia’s body was discovered. She had been drugged the whole time. Ronnie, fearing for Terry’s life, explains he can’t marry her until he knows his own condition. Chet flies in a famous doctor, and tests him. He’s clean! or, is he? They marry, but every night, Ronnie lies there and wonders when he will grow thirsty and rip into the sleeping form at his side….
HORROR’S HOLIDAY SPECIAL by Wayne Robbins
Generally, I detest a humorous horror story, but Robbins handles the choice wondrously. The scene is a locomotive bound for destination-unknown, but, our narrating protagonist, Steve, is ultimately bound for Colorado, to be locked up in a mental institution. Aboard the train is his fiancée (Connie), business partner (Vance, who is trying to steal Steve’s girl), and Steve’s doctor, who keeps doping Steve to keep him calm, sleeping, and unable to simply think. Certainly a dangerous combination… While dinner is being served, a porter is delivering a meal under a domed tray to a woman diagonal from their seating arrangements. Lifting the dome, Steve describes the decapitated, bloody head that rolls off the tray and thuds upon the ground, rolling about. Everyone is mortified. Steve can’t control his laughter. All assume that he, the resident nut, somehow roamed the train and sliced off the man’s head. Where is the body? That’s soon located, without hands. Where are the hands? Another corpse is discovered dangling outside a window (yes, the train is still moving) and the head inside the sill, barely attached. Opening the window to retrieve the dead man, they lose the body, which is sucked outside and lost forever, while the head remains in their hands. Steve finds the other person’s missing hands in his effects, stuffs them in his own pockets, and decides he must ditch them. Until then, he returns to his seat, exhausted. The drugs are taking their toll. A woman and an annoying whining boy are asleep, a comforter over them both and trailing upon the floor. He crawls under the comforter to sleep! While there, the everyone aboard goes nuts realizing that Steve is missing. Stampeding past his location, he soon realizes the air is suffocating under there, and, blood is pouring down on him from above. The child is dead, and his head soon falls off. He places the head on the woman’s lap and exits. Seeing the crowd far ahead investigating, he tosses them the hands and locks himself in the ladies’ lavatory. The hands land, screams emit, they break down the door, and strap him into a straight-jacket (did all 1930s trains have one???) While constrained to a berth, all go to sleep, and he finally wakes from his drug-induced slumber. Restrained, he swings his tethered legs over the side and knocks out a guard. Then he slices the legs apart on the metal bed, cutting his legs in the process. Now loose, he ambles around and finds Vance murdering other people on the train, one by one. Worse yet, he has Connie, and has temporarily dyed his hair blonde and is speaking like Steve. Connie is convinced. Clearly Vance is the killer and has been placing all these deaths at Steve’s fingers to ensure he is locked away forever, and then he can take over the business. Steve spots the BREAK-IN-CASE-OF-EMERGENCY glass, does so, and rapidly slices his way through the straight-jacket enough to wrench free one arm, then another… (seriously?) Well, we know how this ends. He takes down Vance, saves Connie (Vance had decided to kill her because she had earlier sworn undying devotion to Steve and would never leave him) and must beat a confession from Vance that he is the actual killer before the survivors decide to do something very final about Steve.
Just 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”.
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 Themis 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.
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!
Murder Gets Around is the sequel to Make Mine Murder, and once more features detective Gerry Barnes and (less prominently) his girlfriend, Paula Grant.
1947 – Crown Publishers (192-pages, 1st edition hardcover in jacket)
1955 – Lindqvist forlag (189-pages)
via the Meteor series, Number 27 (Sweden) as “Diamanter Till Bruden”
1956 – Horisont (142-pages)
via the Meteor series, Number 15 (Denmark) as “Diamanter der dræbte”
1957 – Kotkan kustannus (184-pages)
via the Tiikeri series, Number 14 (Finland) as “Timanttisormus morsiamelle”
The novel never saw a mass market English-language edition, in America, England, or Australia, to my knowledge. However, it was heavily syndicated in American small-town newspapers in late 1948 through 1949.
The murder centers around a love quadrangle. Gerry and Paula are dining and Paula is jealous of Gerry’s flirtations with a blonde while Gerry is angry due to a Frenchman’s interests in Paula. There’s only one way to eliminate the situation.
Assuming you read my blog entry on Make Mine Murder, you’ll recollect the dead man in that novel was found on Paula’s bed. Here, we flip the scenario, and place the deceased client literally in Gerry’s office. In his office chair, to be precise. Gerry walks into his office, late, slated to keep an appointment with a Frenchman that served with the Underground resistance against the Nazis during WW2. He met the man at a party, and the man got into fight with another Frenchman.
Having arranged to meet that morning, he is chagrined to find the man at his desk, dead, a knife in his back. On the desk is a check to retain his services.
To make the situation more awkward, the police inspector from the first novel unexpectedly walks in, which perhaps is the worst coincidence in the world, but, truth is, shit happens. Gerry now has a murdered man in his office, and an inspector that isn’t generally pleased to have a new private dick working in his city. And a dead man presenting itself as material evidence to possibly lock Gerry away, to boot. Thankfully, the inspector realizes that Gerry couldn’t possibly have committed the crime (why not?) and logically, certainly wouldn’t have done it in his own office (again, why not?).
Unlike the prior novel, which heavily featured his snappy girlfriend, this one gives her the backseat treatment and Bowen permits his green detective more space to flex his wings. And get beat-up more often.
Gerry stumbles through life and meets various members of The Underground movement, and slowly unravels the plot, but not before being captured, blindfolded, severely beaten to near-death, and dumped unconscious into the river. Remarkably, his body floats to shore and he is rescued. Kind of. He wakes up in a shelter for drunks. They found him battered but reeking of alcohol, and lacking any form of personal identification. Realizing that he ought to be dead and can’t be released, he tells the caretaker to contact the police inspector. This he does, not believing the drunkard to be who he claims.
Naturally, he is nonplussed to have a real police inspector show up, and extract Gerry from his care. Gerry is forced to confess all he knows to the inspector; later, he is brought home to get cleaned up and get real food into his system. A plan of attack of constructed, and Gerry plays his cards to the hilt, placing himself once again in harm’s way.
In the end, murders in the novel was committed to obtain an illegal trade in stolen diamonds. I won’t ruin the climax of this pulp political thriller by unveiling the identity of the villains, etc. Hence why I have strictly avoided dropping names, other than that of Gerry and his girlfriend. Personally, I enjoyed this novel seismically more than the first, as Bowen digs deeper into a tougher, grittier position than his first effort.
Obtaining a copy of this scarce novel might be a tougher proposition. Currently, there is only one copy on ABE for $45 (plus shipping).
A while ago, I wrote up a story by Frederick C. Davis reprinted in England by the 1930’s publisher Sharman Ellis Ltd. (If interested, click on the publisher’s name in the TAGS section). The cover art is simply signed as “S.E.C.” and I haven’t a clue who that would be, but the cover art closely adheres to a scene in the story (except the maid does not actually see the murder take place, as depicted here).
The Devil’s Dozen is the 8th title in the “Mystery Thrillers” series, and spans exactly 64 pages. The story features Davis’s recurring character, Lieutenant “Show-Me” McGee, as a policeman that disbelieves all evidence set before him until he solves the crime to his own satisfaction. Davis wrote a good handful of McGee tales during the early 1930s before bringing the series to an abrupt demise. I’m not sure how well the others fared in comparison to this one, but if they each were of equal measure, then as a whole, they aren’t too damn awful.
The story opens with the murder of Mr. Leach at the hands of Mr. Townland. We know this because Mr. Leach’s maid, Clarice, personally admits him to his home that night. Stunningly, after gunning down Leach, Townland phones the police, asks for the exact time, then explains to the officer over the phone (who turns out to be McGee) that he has just murdered Mr. Leach.
Bizarrely enough, upon rushing to the home of Mr. Townland to effect an arrest, McGee finds him likewise dead, an apparent suicide, but discovers that Townland was dead before Mr. Leach was murdered by him.
How is that possible?
McGee immediately dismisses all known factors and accepts only two facts. Both men are dead; Leach’s death is a known case of murder with a supposed witness, and Mr. Townland’s death is not a suicide case; he was actually murdered, and there are no powder burns on his clothes.
Both have the distinction of being employed at the same business. What’s more, while alone with the second stiff, McGee discovers a man hiding on the premises, trying to stealthily escape. David Washburn is caught and interrogated by McGee. Learning that Washburn arrived shortly ahead of McGee, he ascertains that David is present because he was searching for a missing man, name of Sylvester Morrison, at the request of Morrison’s daughter, Patsy, who he intends to marry.
Nonplussed, McGee discovers that Morrison likewise works at the same business, and that he is the Chief Automotive Engineer at LuxCar. He and the two dead men were the only three to have top secret clearance to a specific division working on a prototype that would extend driving distance vs fuel consumption. Such fuel economy would revolutionize the automotive industry and lock LuxCar in as the Number One builder of this specific engine.
Ergo, Morrison’s mind is now worth billions of dollars. Sniffing out a possible ransom case, McGee meets with the daughter, and not long afterwards, sure enough, a ransom is made out in the name of half-a-million dollars. The automaker is ready to pay that and more, to secure Morrison.
With zero police presence on the scene, McGee, from far away on top of a building, watches the money drop-off point. The funds are tossed off a bridge attached to a flotation device. Nobody picks up the bundle. It drifts down river, and then, mysteriously, turns around and heads against the flow!
Realizing that the bundle has somehow been fetched, McGee quickly escapes the building, and speeds along a riverside road. He passes what seems to be a granny hauling goods home. Discovering the parcel opened and empty, McGee chases down the granny, offers her a ride. She declines and he speeds off. Secluding himself a distance away, he watches the woman enter another vehicle, and it departs. Realizing that the woman is beyond-a-doubt involved, he, at a discreet distance, pursues the vehicle to a remote district, off a dirt road, to an abandoned derelict house.
He draws his gun, throws his bulk against a door, and bounding in, we are introduced to the kidnappers. Gunning both down, he retrieves the goods, and learns from the one surviving member several facts. One, that Morrison isn’t actually missing: he’s currently suffering a case of amnesia and in a holding cell at police headquarters! Two, that as surmised, Townland did not murder Leach. The dead kidnapper actually was a make-up artist (he was also the disguised old woman). Before making good with his knowledge, the building is suddenly blown thunderously to pieces by several automatic weapons. The kidnappers both are now dead and the fate of McGee is left unknown…
So, who opened fire on the house?
Enter the Devil’s Dozen, a close-knit group of hardened criminals that are on the outs locally, and prior to vacating the city, decide to pull one last gig. After hearing that a local man is worth potentially millions of dollars (since the ransom was announced at $500,000, the leader realizes he might be worth twice that) the gang learn that the two kidnappers were operating in their region, and that it must be they who kidnapped Morrison. (The logic behind this is told in more detail, but I won’t cover that here).
Knowing the location of their hideout, they await their return, then watch as McGee sneaks in. Waiting outside, they listen in and overhear the whole confession, including Morrison’s whereabouts. Obtaining said data, they murder everyone inside, and then speed off to the city…
In the city, they phone in fake calls to the police, demanding immediate assistance at the LuxCar plant, which is far out of town. Leaving a handful of officers to run the precinct, the dozen men fan out and storm the vacated police station.
Weary and bloody (and miraculously alive) McGee deliriously arrives in time to barricade the dozen assailants inside and assume a one-man assault on his own place of employment. In lustrous blood and thunder fashion, we readers are provided our own guilty pleasure as a gun battle ensues, and Davis artfully draws up a waged battle of wits vs bullets.
In the end, many of the dozen are dead or wounded, some arrested, and old man Morrison’s amnesia timely dissipates and he is bewildered to find himself in police custody. McGee faints dead away from exhaustion, adrenaline, and blood loss, to wake up in a hospital bed.
Two weeks pass, still at the hospital, and an officer delivers to him an addressed envelope. Opening it, he learns of Washburn’s marriage, and, finds himself the recipient of a “Thank You” check, totaling $10,000, signed by LuxCar’s owner! After all, what is $10k to LuxCar, when Morrison’s mind is worth billions?
According to the FictionMags Index website, there were only eight “Show-Me” McGee tales. If I am lucky, maybe one day I will have the privilege of reading more of them.