Forgotten Trails by Frederick C. Davis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forgotten Trails by Frederick C. Davis

Murder Gets Around by Robert Sidney Bowen

Murder Gets Around is the sequel to Make Mine Murder, and once more features detective Gerry Barnes and (less prominently) his girlfriend, Paula Grant.

Murder Gets Around
Full Dust Jacket art

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.

Murder!

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).

Murder Gets Around by Robert Sidney Bowen

The Devil’s Dozen by Frederick C. Davis

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.

SHARMAN ELLIS 08

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.

They (including this story) are as follows:

The Devil’s Dozen by Frederick C. Davis

Tracks of the Turtle by Frederick C. Davis

SHARMAN ELLIS 07Once more I return to the 1930’s with publisher Sharman Ellis Ltd. (Click on the publisher name in the TAGS section).

The cover art (cropped along the right edge in error by the printer) is simply signed as “S.E.C.” The cover closely adheres to a closing scene in the story. One wonders if the artist read the story or if the editor supplied the artist with the idea.

Tracks of the Turtle is the 7th title in the “Mystery Thrillers” series, and spans exactly 64 pages. The story features Clay (Oke) Oakley and his assistant, Archibald (Archie) Brixey. Oakley operates Secrets, Incorporated, a Hollywood detective firm that often-times works outside the law in the best interest of their Hollywood clients.

In this particular case, Oakley has received a call from a mansion, indicating that a murder has been performed. On arrival, a gorgeous lady and man accept their call, but assure the duo that no murder been committed, and, no such call had been made from the premises.

To their astonishment, a man is murdered out back near a shed, and wet prints are found near the corpse. Oakley suspects foul play on multiple fronts, and he and his partner immediately depart the scene in favor of their home base, rather than confront the police, whom are not very favorable toward them.

The next morning, the lady phones Oakley to return to the mansion. She explains that her father lives in the “shed,” which is more than it appears. She hires Oakley to unravel the case while protecting her father from a potential arrest and public humiliation. The family is afraid that the world would deem him insane.

The story becomes quite convoluted as we learn that she is an inept actress, that her father is rich and hell-bent on pushing all his monies towards her future in acting. The male that had opened the door earlier, with her, is her brother. Turns out that neither of them are actually the presumed insane man’s children. He adopted them as children, and reared them as his own.

Why? Well…

The father suffers from a malady of the glands; they fail to sweat. He lives in the shed and copper pipes everywhere drip water and create an artificially damp environment. The shed is home to numerous turtles. The damp environment and pipes drip on the man even while he sleeps, to assist in his bodily functions. He fears that his malady is hereditary, so avoided having children of his own.

While investigating this shed, Brixey suffers from the dampness and contracts a cold, which while hardly noteworthy, introduces this somewhat bungling character as comic relief.

Further murders occur when the director of the girl’s first-ever feature film is being produced. He is found dead, after a gun is discharged. Wet footprints are at the scene of the crime, indicating the father was present. All clues point to him as the murderer, only, Oakley sees it differently.

Each murdered candidate was already dead! The shot(s) fired and that were heard never were the killing shots. They merely indicated a gun had gone off, and to draw someone to the dead bodies. The actual killer, while brilliantly leading the cops astray, hadn’t tricked Oakley one bit. The killer wanted the bodies to be found. But why? In all instances, wet footprints are present, and, each assassinated person had received a threatening note, signed with a turtle. Clearly the killer wanted the father to be accused of the crime.

But what was killer’s motive?

In this case, it’s simply MONEY.

The children each stood to inherit 50% of their father’s net worth upon death. And he is (or, was) worth millions. However, he has been pumping all his money into the movie, and the movie is an over-budgeted whale of a doomed project. Turns out the son is the murderer, of course. In the final scenes, at home, he shoots his sister in the leg, she faints (see the girl on the desk on the front cover). The other girl, gagged and bound to a wall post, is Oakley’s fiery red-headed secretary; she is given the author’s lazy treatment of quantitatively ejaculating that he should stay away from blondes. Cliche!

Before Oakley arrives to save the day, the father has arrived, and he attempts to get the drop on his son. He drops into the room and levers a round into his old gun, fires, and click! The gun fails to discharge. The son knocks him down, but, in the interval, Oakley jumps in (with the aid of a policeman) and they take care of the son. The policeman has a history and grudge against Oakley for interfering in past cases, and still believes that he ought to be arrested for (earlier) assaulting an officer (himself) and that the father is ultimately still guilty of murder.

Oakley works fast to prove his case and free the father from the clutches of what is clearly a policeman whom should be suspended from duties or re-assigned to another district. However, right or wrong, Oakley should be brought in on assault charges, which Davis (our author) blissfully overlooks.

All in all, a pleasing crime tale, and I can’t wait to tackle another Frederick C. Davis pulp story in the near future….

Tracks of the Turtle by Frederick C. Davis

Love Packs a Six-Gun by John Frederick

CROWN Love Packs A Six-Gun

When a battered copy of Love Packs a Six-Gun by John Frederick slid across my field of vision, I didn’t wait a second to snatch it up. The author is one of many aliases used by Frederick Schiller Faust, better known under his most famous alias, Max Brand.

Interestingly enough (to me) I had never read (to my recollection) any works by Mr. Faust. And given the somewhat obscurity of this Canadian publication via the Crown Novel Publishing Company, now was my opportunity. Printed in 1946, and noted to be “complete and unexpurgated,” I dove right in.

The cover art depicts a blond gunslinger facing off against an unknown figure, his own hand resting casually by his own six-gun. Behind the blonde is a red-dressed lady. The lower portion of the cover is mangled, leaving me to guess whether an artist signed the book or not, but, I have seen one other copy, and no signature was in evidence on that copy, either. However, if I had to guess, I would choose my Canadian artist to be Harold Bennett, based on the style of the “fingers” on the foreground gunman.

The original publication of this story initially had me baffled. This novelette never appeared in the pulps under this title, under any of his aliases. Reading the story quickly cleared the air….

Love Packs a Six-Gun debuted in Western Story Magazine, 26 March 1923 as “The Abandoned Outlaw” under the John Frederick alias.

The story introduces readers to two young boys playing at a schoolyard. The first, Oliver Beam, is an intelligent jock-sized boy, the boy that nobody can beat. The second is Clancy Stewart, a year younger, and his family recently moved out West. His father assigns the young Clancy to pick out the school bully, essentially, and beat him up. Beam is bewildered that this young upstart should mess with him, especially since he is noticeably smaller in frame than himself. The duke it out and Beam is further dumbfounded to find the younger boy a fair match for his oversized brawn. Neither refuse to give up and only break when a young pretty girl, Sylvia West, runs over to stop them from killing each other. Both are bloodied and bruised beyond recognition.

Each boy goes home, and while at Beam’s home, a knock at the door reintroduces the battered Clancy, demanding Beam to continue the fight. Clancy’s father refuses to permit him to step indoors until the fight is settled, with Clancy as victor! So ends Chapter One.

The next chapter slings us into the future. The boys are grown, graduated, in one form or another, and Beam is in charge of his father’s estate, and the richest bachelor in the region. Clancy’s family has always been dirt-poor, inept farmers, and his family is dead and gone. The “estate” is deeply in debt, and creditors have all come upon his father’s recent death to call in their debt(s). Nearly penniless, Clancy laughs them away, but one returns to collect or kill, so being his reputation.

Clancy easily guns the man down, walks into his cabin, phones the sheriff, and confesses to the killing. However, with no witnesses, he’s leery of being arrested. The sheriff is certain of the man’s innocence, and fully aware of the dead man’s reputation.

However, a janitor in town despises Clancy, for he represents everything that he himself is not. A born coward, Clancy is brave in the face of any fear. So, overhearing the sheriff talking on the phone to Clancy, he devises a plan to race afoot out of town, run into the oncoming Clancy, and lying to him, inform that the sheriff intends to arrest Clancy for the murder and use him as a springboard toward the upcoming re-elections.

Convinced, Clancy turns and rides away. Meeting Sylvia West at her father’s ranch, she has yet to hear of the murder, but Clancy informs her and she finally extracts from him that he loves her. Taking a chance, she kisses him, and realizes now, fully, that she is in fact in love with Clancy and not Oliver Beam. That fact had always been left undecided. She cares not for Beam’s money or good-standing. She’s ready to throw her life away and marry an outlaw.

Departing town and region, Clancy flees to parts unknown, works an ore mine, strikes it relatively rich enough to be financially solvent, returns, and presenting his hard work to Sylvia, she finds him inside and out a new man. Clancy again leaves….

Oliver Beam is certain that the outlaw is in the region. In fact, he is certain. Sylvia West is, while always friendly toward him, affectionately cold and distant. On this basis, he spends time at her father’s ranch and one night spots her on horseback riding into the wilderness. Whilst on foot, he chases her, knowing he can keep up because she has to ride slowly at night.

Stealthily he follows and she eventually reaches a remote cabin and finds the two lovers. Listening in, he finally enters the cabin and…well, let’s just say it ends in a shootout. Clancy wins, despite Beam’s astoundingly fast draw. Shot down, but not dead, the mortally wounded Beam is taken in and Sylvia dresses his wound and sends Clancy out for help. He returns with a clergyman, and instructs the man to convince her to marry Beam! She has no certain future with himself, and Clancy knows it, having been convinced by Beam. Bewildered by his assignment, the man rides down and attempts to convince the girl to marry Beam…

Clancy rides away, only to find a notice hammered on a cabin stating that Clancy is a free man, all charges dropped! Turns out that the janitor, on his death-bed, confessed his sin to the sheriff.

Overjoyed, Clancy rides back quick as hell to save Sylvia from marrying Beam. He eventually comes upon the clergyman, whom explains that Sylvia fought him tooth and nail, but in the end, he prevailed, and the two are married.

Clancy, dejected, rides away, only to reflect in astonishment that he wasn’t beat by the law, by Beam’s quick draw, but by a janitor, the town outcast.

The story has subsequently been collected in 1997 and 1998, first by publisher Thomas T. Beeler (Circle V Western, large print edition) and next year via Dorchester / Leisure Books mass market paperback edition. The tale also exists narrated on audio cassette.

Love Packs a Six-Gun by John Frederick

“Make Mine Murder” by Robert Sidney Bowen

When the mangled copy of Robert Sidney Bowen’s Make Mine Murder slid across my line of sight, I cringed, but I read it. Why…? A year prior (2015 or early 2016) I had read, for the first time, a short story by Mr. Bowen appearing in a wartime issue of Dare-Devil Aces. The tale intrigued me enough to wonder if this novel was actually a wartime propaganda novel disguised as a murder-mystery, or really what is purported to be.

BOWEN - Make Mine Murder

Make Mine Murder opens with Gerry Barnes arguing with future wife (Paula Grant) over his decision to become a private detective. Gerry served in the 2nd World War and has inherited enough money (from the stereotypical dead uncle) to do whatever he desires.

He desires to be a dick-for-hire.
She desires to marry him.

He tosses her the challenge of finding him his first case, preferably a nice juicy murder.

She does, which is where all credulity is thrown out the window. Still, the eye-rolling scenario is necessary to not only catapult our facetious protagonist into his first real case, but, toughen him up to reality. And boy, does he bungle it up awfully, showcasing that one, he is a flawed detective, and two, he can take his licks and learn from them. Ergo, he is human, and I like that in a story.

So…lovely Paula goes home to clean up and powder her nose, etc., and discovers a corpse in her bed. Hence, our charming cover art. She freaks out, and immediately phones Gerry, to get his ass over there, but pronto!

He tries. He really does. He fails….

An ape named Jake walks in and informs him that his boss demands his presence. Now. Gerry isn’t keen on keeping this newly formed appointment, and insists on getting past the ape. Nothing doing. He soon is introduced to the back seat of an automobile, tossed down, and kept in the dark as to the boss’s location.

The boss is one Mr. White, and while I’m not entirely certain, he may be an albino. He is described as good-looking and sporting the appearance of maintaining a tan, with pink eyes. His hair isn’t mentioned, but given his eyes and namesake, one leans toward believing he is an albino. But, then, how about that tan? Mystifying.

Mr. White wishes to hire the newly-created detective to find a missing person. Why? He wants an untried detective, with no reputation, to maintain a low-profile, plus, he has heard that Gerry has a huge ego. That ego means he will work hard to solve the case for Mr. White, with or without the hefty fee he promises.

The problem? Mr. White doesn’t know what the missing man looks like. He’s never met him. We do learn that the missing man has something Mr. White wants.

Gerry wants no part of this heist-Gerry-and-hire-Gerry plan, but Mr. White and his ape have other plans, and he tactfully agrees to accept the offer, lest he disappears, too!

The novel goes haywire as Gerry attempts to locate the missing person, whom he is certain is Paula’s dead man, while keeping out of the reaches of the police inspector (Bierman), whom wants his full cooperation or he’ll stomp him like a bug. With the aid of the usual newspaperman thrown into the mix, and a handful of socialites to create confusion, the novel haphazardly is drawn to a final conclusion and the killer revealed, but not before further murders are committed. Gerry solves the case, and that is the only thing that saves his rump from being tossed into the slammer. The generally tongue-in-cheek mood of the story takes an abrupt hard-boiled edge in the concluding pages, which was very much not expected.

Naturally, I won’t reveal the actual workings of the plot or the killer’s identity. In reading the book, you’ll figure that out readily enough, I’m sure, but, Bowen has fun forcing Gerry to learn the truth for himself, and, why.

I thoroughly enjoyed this romp through postwar America and the images Bowen created. The socialite scenes are in keeping with how Hollywood perceives the rich and eccentric to act and behave, without conscious thought to the realities of the rest of the world.
The steady pace, snappy dialogues, and fast action keep the reader hooked.

Have YOU ever read this novel? I’d love to hear your input.

Bowen’s best remembered in the pulp community for creating the Dusty Ayres and His Battlebirds magazine series. Among American’s youth during World War Two, he is fondly recalled for his Dave Dawson series and Red Randall war series.

Wikipedia has an entry for the author, but I’ve not dug deep enough yet into it to discern how accurate some of the data actually is, however, it’s fair to say that the majority is.

Now, as it turns out, this title has seen a handful of editions.

1946 – Crown (252-pages, 1st edition, hardcover in jacket)
1947 – Ideal Publishing Company (168-page mass market paperback)
via the Black Knight series, Number 30, unabridged
1949 – Checkerbooks (96-page paperback, abridged)
from the Library of Basil Rathbone series, Number 3
1955 – Original Novels Foundation (130-page booklet, likely abridged)
via the Star Books series, Number 277 (Australia)

And, at least one translated:
1959 – Ark’s Forlag (160-pages)
via the Rekord series, Number 67 (Denmark)
printed in Danish, as “De døde mænds guld”

The edition I have is the Black Knight edition. The cover art is unsigned, but features a man, dead, in a bed, and a woman looking on in horror. Thankfully, this scene actually does appear in the novel, and wasn’t a bogus cover created to generate sales.

“Make Mine Murder” by Robert Sidney Bowen

Gunman’s Bluff by Frederick C. Davis

SHARMAN ELLIS 02 Gunman's BluffI don’t normally read Westerns, however, given that Clark Aiken was the alias of Frederick C. Davis, and I have already read a few published by Sharman Ellis, why commit myself solely to crime tales by this author? To be even more frank, I’ve never actually read a western by Davis.

Gunman’s Bluff appears here as by Clark Aiken, and the story spans pages 1 through 55. The remaining pages of this 64-page thin stapled digest-sized paperback is filled with an uncredited short story (“Beef Stung”) which turns out to be by Frederick C. Davis.

Apparently, this title appears twice by Davis. The second time was in 1935, and the lead character is registered as “Duke Buckland.” No such character appears in my copy. So, we can scratch that one. The earlier title appears for the November 1929 issue of North-West Stories. No further details are noted, however, it is likely that this is the correct story (it ran under his own name in the pulp, rather than under his alias).

The tale opens with “Kid” Corbin riding home to his father’s ranch, which is a destroyed bit of history. Burned out and left to die, his father suffered a horrible fate at the hands of a band of killers led by the vicious El Zorra, a masked bandit that nobody apparently has ever seen, save for various heads of the organization of murderers and pillagers.

Having arrived, Corbin is greeted by a neighboring rancher’s daughter (Derry Murchison) whom Corbin is in love with. Hardly has she ridden across the hill when someone with a long-range rifle attempts to annihilate Corbin. Hearing the echo of the shot, she rides back to investigate. Combining their limited information, she again departs and he rides to town, to meet with the local sheriff.

Sheriff Kinsburn was the person who initially wrote to Kid Corbin to apprise the young man of his father’s death. While in town, Corbin finds the horse belonging to the sniper, and the rifle in the scabbard. Calling the killer out, he guns him down. Much to his chagrin, when the sheriff comes to investigate, someone has made off with the dead man’s rifle. With zero evidence present, the sheriff is forced to arrest Corbin.

Corbin is forced to escape. He can’t solve the mystery in jail, and does not expect a fair trial. The town is loaded with the crooked element, and they want to lynch him.

Breaking free, someone in the dark hands him a gun. The mysterious party is a man, and that is all that Corbin discerns. Nabbing his horse, he takes off and is pursued by the sheriff and posse.

Shot and wounded, he rides into dense foliage and finds himself cornered. Inexplicably, someone from the party assists in his rescue. Turns out to be the girl’s father, from the neighboring ranch. Tricking the posse to chase Corbin in the opposite direction, the pair sneak off to his home. Quickly imparting information and questions, Corbin learns that this man was NOT the person that handed him a six-shooter. The mystery continues….

The girl’s father hides Corbin in another room just as the sheriff rides up and confronts Mr. Murchison. The latter isn’t interested in assisting the sheriff in corralling the young man, and insists that the sheriff is inept and that Corbin is innocent. Annoyed, the sheriff departs.

The story goes all over the place, before settling down to Corbin sneaking into the enemies lair in a cave, disguising himself as one of the marked bandits. All goes awry, he is captured, and while taken away by two men to be murdered, one of the masked men inexplicably shoots the other and shoots a sniper. Effecting their escape, Corbin is nonplussed to learn that this person was not only the man that gave him a six-shooter earlier in the novella, but, he is also his very own dead father!

We later learn that while he was indeed home when the ranch-house was set aflame, someone else was also in the home with him at the time. It was that person’s body they found charred to a crisp. Delirious, and near death, the senior Corbin dragged himself out the back door, wounded, and passed out far away from the burning home. The killers believed him dead the whole time. (Wait a minute! In what world does a gang of killers set fire to a house, after emptying their guns into it, and not cover all exits?)

Realizing he was better off playing the part of a dead man, he infiltrated the gang by wearing a mask and following the gang to their hideout. As thus he remained, the entire time, until his son goofed and blundered into their hands.

The pair pull off a few tricks and in the end rope the leader, whom turns out to be the sheriff, the only logical person left that could be the villain, unless it was someone else yet to be introduced to the reader.

Naturally, the story ends on good terms: the father lives; Mr. Murchison, wounded, also lives, and they go into partnership. And the young lovers? They will inherit everything….

Gunman’s Bluff by Frederick C. Davis