NICK CARTER and the “Empire of Crime”

In a fit of boredom, I decided to tap an American digest-pulp. Blindly extracting a book from the shelf, I found my fingers on a Nick Carter title. It wasn’t the first in the four-book series, so I moved my digits two to the left and extracted Empire of Crime by Nick Carter.

Granted, the world knows that Nick Carter (Nicholas Carter of dime novels) is an alias for a host of various authors, spanning several decades. I’m not interested in discussing them. There are plenty of other sites out there that have done just that, and to trod along those lines with something fresh and delightful…no. Just not doing it.

However, because there were only four issued by this publisher, Vital Publications, shortly after World War Two, this seems like an option. They were each reprinted by arrangement with Street & Smith, the magazine publishers of the Nick Carter pulps. As online records proclaim, the first 17 novellas were written by Richard Wormser, beginning in 1933.

Empire of Crime originally debuted as “Crooks’ Empire” in Nick Carter Magazine (April 1933). It was Wormser’s second Carter story. According to the FictionMags website, that was also his first fiction story. It seems incredible that the editors and bigwigs at Street & Smith should turn over a once-lucrative dime novel hero to a fledgling, untried author. And yet, that apparently is just what they did.

Or, did they?

Born in 1908, Wormser would have been 25 by this time. We know that from his memoirs he was already writing plenty by this time, but certainly he must have churned out some fiction prior to the Nick Carter stories. No?

In truth, his first sales were all to The Shadow magazine in 1932, under about a dozen different pseudonyms. Only the alias Conrad Gerson has been attributed to Wormser. Heaven knows what the others are. According to his own memoir (How To Become a Complete Nonentity), some issues had four stories by him, under four different aliases. I’m very tempted to take a stab at identifying those stories, but that is not the point of this post….

In this tale, special detective Nick Carter is hired by the New York City commissioner to track down a nationwide crime syndicate and destroy them. In gangster-era 1930s America, this novella was right at home with readers. If you are a Jason Bourne fan, you may wish to take special notice of this novel, because I would be splendidly shocked if the script writers hadn’t read this one themselves, including an amazingly daring elevator scene that, slightly altered, finds its way in the closing moments of the first Bourne movie (when Jason throws a dead body over the stairway and rides it to the bottom to cushion his fall).

But, I’m getting way ahead of myself….

Receiving a threatening death letter, Nick ignores the syndicates demands that he refuse the assignment. Hardly disposed to listening to the demands of criminals, Nick plunges into work, and is immediately attacked and captured. There ensues a crazy blood-and-thunder shooting scene in which Nick kills every assailant but one, and then doctors up his own appearance to match that of a criminal’s visage.

The pair arrested are brought before the commissioner for questioning. In his private quarters, Nick reveals his true identity.  With the commissioner’s sworn secrecy, Nick assumes the identity of one of the slain scar-faced criminals and is sent to prison. That prison being too soft for him, he is sent up the river to a tough-elements prison. There, he escapes and makes his way to a contact point on the outside. Said information was obtained from a prison-mate.

He eventually is led to a secret hideout. Nick is flabbergasted to learn that he is at the renown Kalgara’s Cover, a location that has been raided in the past, but turned up no evidence. Apparently the crooks in charge had outsmarted the police. Led down various tunnels, he is brought before the leaders and forced to explain how he came to escape, etc. They are upset over the demise of Nick Carter (whom is presumed dead, after the commissioner released info to the newspapers to run a circular about his death). The syndicate had grand plans for Nick Carter.

Nick, in the guise of the escaped criminal, is given the assignment of kidnapping a young wealthy heiress, for ransom. He refuses. Not in his line. After being roughed up a bit, he acquiesces, and a few thugs are sent to keep him in line.

He breaks in, gets away from the thugs, warns the girl, and phones the police. Hanging up the phone, her bedroom door opens with all 3 thugs in the house! A shootout occurs, and he is knocked senseless. The police arrive on the scene and Nick awakens. The girl is about to reveal that he is innocent but he motions for her silence, which, remarkably, she does just that. Led away from the scene as a criminal, he is cuffed. While distracted, Nick quickly slaps the other cuff on the girl’s arm, to force her to come with him. He knows that in all likelihood that there is another gang of hoodlums outside in a fast-car ready to mow him down with Tommy-gun fire. The syndicate doesn’t permit their kind to be captured. To be captured means loose lips, and those must be silenced.

Nick breaks away and tosses the girl over his shoulder and makes a run for it, while surrounded by New York’s finest. It’s all good fun, but, really, the author makes complete jokes out of the police nonstop throughout the novel. He escapes while carrying the girl (is he Hercules now?) and getting into a taxi (he’s already picked the cuff’s lock) they speed off to his own residence. Here, he squirrels her away in his abode in the care of his man servant. We never see nor hear of her again.

Sneaking off again, he makes his way back to Kalgara’s Cover, and explains how he escaped, once again. They are annoyed by his second failure and proclaim the death sentence. Nick smartly outwits the death decree by demanding a crooks’ fair trial, a rule that the syndicate does adhere to !!! Sadly, the sole remaining thug that broke into the girl’s home arrives and explains what actually happened, revealing that Nick Carter phoned the police. Sentenced again to die, he lucks out when the police decide once more to raid the place.

Death postponed, the lights are knocked out, and bedlam ensues. Shots are fired, and the door opens. Nick gets out with the assistance of another criminal, a mastermind high in the chain of command. Nick thinks that this other person is an investigator like himself, whom has snuck in and obtained the crooks’ trust, but in fact, he is a criminal. Foolishly revealing his identity to the man, he is nearly murdered.

While the police are actively raiding the building, Nick Carter finds Kalgara himself, hiding. Believing Kalgara to be a mere stooge, cashing in on the crooks using his facility, he helps Kalgara to escape, freely.

Escaping death once more, Nick Carter, wounded and battered, keeps moving. He soon tracks the New York communications to a radio tower, and breaking in, finds the man that last tried to murder him. Taking him down, Nick wipes out just about everyone present. He obtains diamonds that are meant to be transferred to Chicago. Taking these, he heads West to Chicago to crack that syndicate, too. While the novella constantly asserts that the syndicate is nationwide, it is clear that it is predominantly ruled by New York and Chicago interests.

Getting in contact with Chicago crooks, Nick is taken to another base. Here, he demands $100,000 for the diamonds. Learning that he is in front of the head crook here, he pulls his guns and we are gifted to another blood-and-thunder scene, on the top floor of a high-rise building. A Jason Bourne-esque moment occurs when Nick Carter must get from the top floor to the bottom, and kill everyone in his path. Unfortunately, the fastest route is the elevator, with all the dead men he has slain, piled up inside. He has cut off the power to the elevator, ruining the fuses. Using his gun, he shoots the elevator’s wires and the car drops. He jumps down and catches up in time (with the elevator) to smash at the bottom and he crashes into the corpses. Thrown and tossed about like a sack of potatoes, the beaten Nick Carter rises like the proverbial fucking Energizer bunny and, opening the elevator doors, (which ought to be a crumpled mess) exits, and shoots a bunch of baddies in the back, whom are shooting through holes in the walls at the police.

Suffering from numerous gunshot wounds, he is led away from the building after the police teargas bomb the place. Inside an ambulance, an attendant injects him, and freshly juiced-up, Nick escapes the ambulance, lands on the ground, and runs back to the scene of carnage. Going back up to the top of the high-rise, he breaks open a radio communication system, extracts TNT (the crooks blow themselves up rather than be captured, but Nick had cut off the power source, earlier), and rewires the radio so that he can track the frequency to the crooks’ lair.

Flying overhead, he finds the lair, and disabling his aircraft, crash-lands it among the fields of an apparent farm. He is captured by two thugs, whom, assuming he is legitimately a downed pilot, never frisk him. Led to a barn house, Nick Carter immediately takes the offensive, taking all concerned off-guard. Killing one thug, he breaks into the house and heads up the stairs only to be met by another assailant. Diving aside, the gunner shoots and kills the second thug that breaks into the room behind Nick Carter. Returning the favor, Nick kills the stairway man, and is met by a machine gunner.

Lobbing a grenade up, he eventually makes his way up the stairs and kills the gunner. The wall reinforced, Nick tosses in two more grenades and the wall comes down. He finds himself facing only two more crooks. One is a major head, but the other is Kalgara himself, no longer the cowering drunkard he appeared to be. Nick realizes he goofed and shoots the first man dead so that he can get at Kalgara. Getting too close, Kalgara gets his large ham-fist hands on Nick and goes to swing him about but misjudges his position and ends up throwing his own body out a window and down to his untimely death, in what must be one of the most eye-rolling scenes I read overall.

The book ends with Nick in bed at another nearby farm and he passes out…after reading a newspaper that announces big budget cut-backs in New York, which means he will only receive half the original proposed fee that the commissioner promised him.

NICK CARTER and the “Empire of Crime”

“The Crater of Kala” by J. Allan Dunn

When I first read “The Crater of Kala” by Joseph Montague, I honestly did not realize that this alias belonged to pulp fiction legend J. Allan Dunn. A quarter into the story, I began to wonder about the identity of the author whom had written such a quality sea adventure. Now, there is already plenty of information about Dunn readily available to anyone reading this article, so I won’t even bother to touch upon his life. Anyone interested in pursuing that route should click on his name.

The story was first printed in the American pulp People’s (1922 Dec 10) issue, running from pages 1 through 86, under his own name, J. Allan Dunn. Sadly, the lengthy novella did not cop the cover, so I won’t feature it in this article.

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The Crater of Kala” Joseph Montague (USA: Chelsea House, 1925)

Oddly enough, it was bound by Chelsea House in 1925 under the alias, Joseph Montague. Perhaps some enlightened biographer will have access to Dunn’s letters and fill in the reasoning.

The jacket illustration depicts a young man and woman frightened-out-of-their-wits while a dark-skinned fellow appears to fend off some unseen terror with a shield and spear. The man is wearing a hat and shirt and apparently a tie.

While the artwork has zero to do with this story, the illustration does originally appear on the cover of the pulp People’s (v41 #4, 1923 March 1st) for J. Allan Dun’s novella, “Drums of Doom.”

1934 F M MOWL The Crater of Kala
The Crater of Kala” Joseph Montague  London: F. M. Mowl, 1934

The Crater of Kala” was subsequently released in England twice, by the publishers F. M. Mowl. The first edition was released in 1934, priced at 9d net. Under the byline, the publisher notes: Never hitherto been published in this form.

The cover art depicts a hunched-over man, carrying a woman wearing (of all things) high-heels. Their clothes are ripped and torn. Plus, she appears to have fainted. In the background we have the suggestion of some exotic locale. The artwork is skillfully rendered by H. W. Perl, a relative newcomer (at the time) to illustrating covers. Sadly, the illustration hardly does the novel justice. At no time does this scene occur in the novel. Our heroine is a tough, no-nonsense woman, and certainly not given to wearing high-heels or a skimpily sexy suggestive outfit.

The next edition, a cheap edition priced at 3d, appeared either later 1934 or early 1935, and was also released by the publishers, F. M. Mowl. The artwork this time is classy or perhaps, respectably more serious in nature, depicting a man in white attire comforting a woman while a volcano is erupting in the background. I can’t quite make out who the illustrator is. The initials (bottom left) appear to be “N. C. W.” or “J. C. W.” with a long line striking down through the middle initial and splitting the date 1934 in half. It is this edition I possess and have read the following novel. The text runs from pages 1-125.

1934 MOWL The Crater Of Kala
The Crater of Kala” Joseph Montague  London: F. M. Mowl, 1934-35

The story opens with Jim Waring playing cards and cheated by two others: Chalmers and Fowler. Waring is certain that he lost his entire fortune to some sneaky play on their part, but can’t call their game, so departs nearly broke. Aboard ship we are introduced to a professor and his daughter, whom is entirely cold toward Waring, focused purely on her father’s exploration and researches. Waring, being a young man, is naturally inclined to notice her but realizes that she isn’t remotely interested in him.

Fate intervenes: the ship inexplicably strikes a derelict and the Southern Cross begins to sink. Everyone survives and makes for the lifeboats. Waring assists the professor (Gideon Lang) and daughter (Dorcas Lang) with their research bags and paraphernalia, into a lifeboat, abandoning all chances of saving any of his own possessions. A slight mutiny nearly occurs among the survivors on their vessel, after a storm separates the lifeboats and the mate is found dead, having suffered a cracked skull, during the sinking of the ship. Tossing him overboard, Waring finds himself cracking the proverbial whip as the professor takes charge and gets the crew shipshape and rowing toward salvation.

They eventually are rescued and land at Papeete (French Polynesia). Waring is penniless but treated fairly by one of the locals as a war hero, having served during The Great War alongside one of their own people, whom died. Worshiped and congratulated upon his bravery and success both at war and upon the sea, he languishes upon the island and refuses free board to ship back to America. He refuses to give up on his dreams, and is determined to somehow make good.

He later learns that the Langs have chartered a recently docked vessel. The captain is given to be an insane maniac, and the crew…not trustworthy. He is advised by his French-friend to apply for a job aboard. Cleaning up and shaving, he is presented with fresh clothes, all white (as depicted on my edition) and applies to the professor for a job aboard the Ahimanu.

The professor has not forgotten Waring’s fight aboard the lifeboat to preserve their lives, and for kindly saving all his gear. He immediately accepts Waring’s proposal, however, he must board the Ahimanu and discuss the matter with the captain.

Rowing out to the vessel, he overhears angry voices, and watches as two bodies are thrown overboard. They turn out to be cardsharps Chalmers and Fowler. The captain caught them at their game and, tossing them overboard, has kept all the money they possessed! That includes the monies stolen from Waring (not that he may lay claim to it from the captain). Presenting himself aboard in a position of supercargo on behalf of the professor, the captain, Johnson, is bemused, as he had already semi-promised the position to ‘Slop’ Beamish.

Rather than make a professional decision, he decides to let the pair battle it out, physically. The fight is long and drawn out, well-described blood and thunder stuff, no rules applied, save for those applied sparingly by the captain.

Waring eventually wins, and Beamish is demoted. Despite all that, Waring smells a rat and realizes that his position aboard is mere courtesy. He’s certain that Johnson intends to play foul by the Langs. Remarkably, the Langs are hardly novices to this sly game, realizing entirely that Johnson is leading them astray at sea. The professor, among other things, is quite a competent seafarer and able to read a compass. Upon challenging the captain, the entire scene turns chaotic as the entire ship’s nefarious crew turns out and tackles or restrains our trio.

In typical fashion, they are released and told to behave themselves and the captain will go easy on them. In real life, Waring has no value and would have been killed. Instead, Johnson relays that he intends to hold the professor hostage for $100,000. After landing, Waring is to go into town, and following instructions, have the money wired to the local bank, or some-such nonsense.

Meanwhile, before this all occurs, Johnson ships into a wayward island of Kalaiki, where he intends to hold the Langs hostage. It is an abandoned island, suffering from violent volcanic eruptions, and was once long ago inhabited by some unknown lost race. The Langs and Waring make for a cave and live there for a time while Johnson and his men party it up big-time on their schooner.

While in the cave, they discover an old relic by the lost tribe: a large stone statue. Professor Lang is confident that it has a secret opening leading into a passageway not visible to them, behind the statue, and that will enable them to escape from the villains. They eventually make a timely discovery of the access-point and pry it open. Unable to discern on the inside how to close the contraption, they rapidly flee down the passage while Johnson and his enraged crew stumble into a seemingly empty cave. The rage only boils over when they discover the opening in the statue. To further Johnson’s ire, the two crew-members he brought along are too superstitious to proceed further and scamper away. Johnson, in a fit of insane rage, pursues the trio down the passage.

During this entire confrontation between Johnson and his men, Waring and the Langs are halted at the edge of a deep pit. Looking down, they espy a dark syrupy liquid. A rotten wood beam is found to cross the expanse. Risking life and limb, Waring crosses and assists the professor across. Making her way over, the beam crumbles and disintegrates. Dorcas lunges forward and falls short of safety. Simultaneously, Waring tosses his life aside and dives out, too. He snatches the girl from certain death, only likely to join her in that dark expanse of hell far below. Thankfully, the professor lands on Waring’s legs and keeps him topside, permitting the girl to climb up Waring’s body.

All three safely across, the beam gone, Johnson stumbles in and is irate at discovering the trio missing. He can’t see them on the far side of the opening! Shockingly, a long tendril climbs out of the dark wet mass below and wraps itself around Johnson’s leg, and begins to haul on him. Frightened to death, and realizing his predicament, Johnson whips out a knife and begins hacking at the arms of the octopus. He eventually loses and is drawn down to peril, to become food. Waring snaps off a shot and Johnson and the octopus are devoured in the Stygian depths below. Johnson has met his fate.

Reconciled with being stranded on the wrong side of the pit, they eventually discover an exit and an Eden on the inside of the crater! Sadly, weeks later, they realize that there is no escape. The professor makes notes about his discovery and plans to leave them secreted on the island, to be discovered long after their death(s). However, in typical fictional fashion, Fate again intervenes. The volcano rocks the island with numerous tremors, the crater is ripped apart, and a chasm appears. The three immediately climb the walls and run through the chasm, realizing time is short before it may close upon them, crushing the trio to death. As if that was not enough, chasing them is a boiling cauldron of scalding liquid hell, pushing up from the depths of the island. They must escape the inferno or be disintegrated in that acid bath!

They escape through the chasm and the hot water cascades out after them. Realizing the island’s predicament, they escape to the beach and discover that the schooner is still anchored. The two superstitious killers took a smaller boat and departed in that, unable to manager the bigger vessel with their limited, unintelligent skill-set.

Remarkably, the three handle the ship, adroitly dodging sunken reefs and make for the open sea. Dorcas Lang and Jim Waring fall in love, after their harrowing ordeal escaping the island, and the professor is shocked to learn of their attachment, but pleased, all the same, leaving us, the reader, with a happy ending!

I heartily recommend “The Crater of Kala” to anyone fond of sea-adventure stories. It is cumbersome and well-padded in places, but, made for a damn fun read.

“The Crater of Kala” by J. Allan Dunn

Face Fifty Guns by Robert Moore Williams

ARCHER Face Fifty GunsAfter a bloodied, near-dead stage-coach driver arrives in town and reports an incident to the local law, Deputy Johnny Burke arrives on the scene of a horrific mess. A stage coach is reposing upon its side in a gully, and a man is lying dead on the arid dirt ridge.

Searching the dead man’s pockets, he learns the man was a marshal and finds his badge. Pocketing the badge, he rises only to be given the universal “Hands Up!” demand from a gorgeous (aren’t they all?) young lady, wielding a gun. When he fails to comply, she rips the air with a shot and he soon strips the inexperienced gun-handler of her smoking hardware.

When he learns that she is the lone survivor of the inbound wagon, he is baffled. Why hold-up an inbound coach? Only the outbound wagons were carrying funds from the nearby gold mining operations.

But when a trio of riders approach from town, and he ascertains that they are a marshal and deputies, he advises the girl to hide. Why?

On arriving he instructs the marshal to go blow, and hoists the girl’s long-barrel to enforce his talk, as the trio are out of their jurisdiction. Why are they out there, after all, five miles from the line that they control? Pretty peculiar stuff….

After departing, the girl, whom had been able to view from her tiny peep hole under the carriage one of the trio, positively identifies the big burly bear of a deputy as one of the hold-up men. Gaping, he realizes he’s got to draw a warrant, arrest the bear, and likely go toe-to-toe with a corrupt marshal whom, with his cronies, mysteriously blew into town shortly after gold was discovered.

Burke’s own co-deputy arrives on the scene, and informs him that the local bank confessed that the stage coach was actually secretly bringing in $25,000 cash to dispense to a client. He sends the gal down with him into town. But, on arrival himself, he finds his deputy missing, and so, strikes out alone to arrest the burly-bear. On entering the saloon, the bartender acknowledges the trio are in the back room.

He struts in ready to slap cuffs on and finds the girl in the room laughing it up with the men! She knows the marshal, and from all appearances, is quite intimately acquainted.

What’s going down? Who is the girl really? What’s more, where’s the bank money? Arresting burly-bear, he also slaps cuffs on the gal when he is unable to get her to confess to her charges against the deputy. Covering his departure with revolver upon the two others, he locks the deputy in a cell and tries to coax a confession from her. She clams up.

Then the deputy walks in, caked with road dust and sweat, and proclaims that while bringing in the lady, the marshal and two deputies, whom had been given the “go blow,” they showed up and took his horse and she road it into town, leaving him to rot. Further, while in town, he learns that she is really a dance-hall owner and married to Marshal Kerrigan!!!

The heat is turned up when the deputy is knifed, the pair escape their cells, and Burke has to face the trio and girl, along with a mob of 50 men armed with hardware, ready to kill a lone star deputy. How will he defeat the mob, arrest the trio, and recover the stolen loot?

Burke is one gun against fifty. Those are impossible odds. What he needs is….50 HONEST MEN !!!

A sure-fire, hard-hitting western. Face Fifty Guns by Robert Moore Williams originally was published by MAMMOTH WESTERN (Jan 1948) and here, is reprinted by the Archer Press, in a late 1948 edition. This British edition sports a wonderful action scene likely rendered by Nat Long.

Face Fifty Guns by Robert Moore Williams

Too Soon to Die by Don Wilcox

ARCHER Too Soon To DieAfter finishing an interview with a prospective rancher to sign on as a business partner, Doc Olin begs 24-hours reprieve before deciding. He wants to go into town and ascertain if there is bad blood between the partner and the daughter, whom left home. But when he meets her, a trio of “bad” men burst into the shop’s back door with a bloodied stump of a man.

Doc Olin tends the wounded man while a gigantic behemoth of a beast paws over the girl, calling her his sweetie pie, etc. A jealous rage burns inside the doctor as he realizes that she left the home of a decent man because she was allied with a vicious, murderous, railroad-robbing gang of cut-throats.

After saving the man’s life, he departs, informs the town doctor of his work inside the shop and advises the town doc to find the sheriff. He leaves, and signs his partnership papers.

Time passes. The partners are in a bar, as are the gang, whom taunts the rancher about his daughter being his sweetheart. Having heard enough, he knocks the brute a hard one, and this shuts him up. But, when the rancher accidentally breaks an object purportedly of the girl’s affection toward him, he guns down the rancher.

The gang flees, but not before making a scene that suggests the partner was involved. With the original owner dead and the girl not at home, it appears that he stands to take the ranch for his own. However, the father left his half legally to his daughter.

Distrust is fanned into flames betwixt the pair, and Doc finds that he must play the part of gunslinger for the first time in his life! He must go forth, capture the real killer, and beat a confession out of him.

But, how can a mere doctor compete against a dauntless gang of killers? Will he meet his end, or, is it…TOO SOON TO DIE…

This is one of four simultaneously published 32-page booklets issued in England by the Archer Press in 1948, the cover was illustrated by James E. McConnell. This short novelette originally appeared in the MAMMOTH WESTERN pulp magazine, for December 1947, and was written by Don Wilcox (full name: Cleo Eldon Wilcox)….

Too Soon to Die by Don Wilcox

Outlaw Guns by Robert Moore Williams

ARCHER Outlaw GunsA panic-stricken Ben Ames rides a rough trail into Carter County, in desperate search of a mythical town renown as a haven to outlaws looking to go straight. Wrongly accused of murder, Ben walks fearfully into the office of Sheriff Amos Rockwell, an oldster whom clearly, despite his age, can whip any gunslinger. Amos bids the outlaw to enter, sit, and spill his guts.

Ben does just that, slaps his circular on the desk, and describes his scenario. Sizing him up, the sheriff extracts a worn black book and shows Ben the contents. It is filled with pages of WANTED posters. Each page has annotations by the sheriff in the form of “when arrived,” “details of behavior,” and dates of death and why they died. For, Amos has one rule: walk the straight-and-narrow and if you don’t, he’s gonna shoot you dead. And he legally can hide behind the justification that you ARE, in fact, after all, a WANTED MAN !!!

Trusting in Ben’s wish to do go straight, he offers him a job, as a secret deputy. But then a young lady enters and is also deputized. Ben Ames wonders if Amos has lost his mind. In short minutes, he has done just that, as a Sharps rifle-blast rents the air and blows a hole through the sheriff.

Left in charge of keeping the county civil, he finds that the nearby mining town’s wagon train is robbed, within a day of the sheriff’s death. Realizing now the cause of his death, Ben Ames sets out to find the murderers and bring justice back to Carter County…in a fashion after the hard-hitting stylings of the ex-sheriff.

But when Ben is blackmailed by a cretin wielding the black book, who is also married to the deputized girl, Ben finds his back against the wall, for if he fails to adhere to the demands of this creep, he’ll call the United States Marshal to pick up: Ben Ames: Wanted…for Murder!

Ben is one man alone against a county of villains, or, is he? When ex-outlaws-turned-straight-honest men approach him in the sheriff’s office under the cover of darkness, he learns that these outlaws might be the secret strength needed to back his play to….well, you’ll just have to read the novelette yourself.

Honestly, this is an excellent western, screamingly scrunched into 33-pages using a font type smaller than what you are currently reading here on Facebook!!! Tightly packed and murder on the eyes (grab yourself a magnifying glass) you can count on Robert Moore Williams to supply a highly competent Western yarn in his usual first-rate story-tellin’ style!

Outlaw Guns was published by the Archer Press in 1948. It was originally printed in the USA pulp Mammoth Western (November 1947).

Outlaw Guns by Robert Moore Williams

Guns for the Valley by Russell Storm

ARCHER Guns For The Valley
On returning home to Maikop Valley, 22-year old Tom Crenshaw is back to reclaim his murdered father’s homestead. Five years earlier, Tom, then 17, witnessed Max Hoffman’s riders bullet-riddle his home, murdering his father and burning the home to cinders. With the realization that the Hoffman raiders believed that he was home, too, he lit out for parts unknown, to save his own life. Now, five years later, he sports a six-gun and rides with two tough gun-slinging friends with women of their own, looking for lush lands to settle and cultivate.

Tom only needs to settle a few things: his family land, a blood feud, and claim the hand of Lucy Larkin.

But when he learns that Hoffman has married Lucy and told her that Tom died five years earlier, he’s not the only one looking for answers. Lucy Larkin, fearing for her husband’s life after Tom ghostily re-appears into her life, chambers a six-cylinder into her clothes, slaps leather, and rides out to finish off Tom for keeps, despite the apparent lies that Max Hoffman has told her….

Will Lucy Larkin slay Tom, her ex-romantic childhood flame?
Will Tom and the homesteaders be fanned with hot lead?
Is Max Hoffman truly innocent?
Or, is there something else more sinister afoot?

Guns for the Valley carried Robert Moore Williams’ alias “Russell Storm” on this publication, which was originally printed in MAMMOTH WESTERN (August 1947). This British edition, printed by the Archer Press, appeared circa 1948, is a 33-page pamphlet.

Guns for the Valley by Russell Storm

The Whaler by Ben Ames Williams (1924)

61-the-whaler
Ben Ames Williams THE WHALER

Book 61 in the Garden City Publishing pulp digest-paperback series is The Whaler by Ben Ames Williams (1924).

The cover art was rendered by Anton Otto Fischer. However, I’m not sure where the artwork originates. All the illustrated covers in this series predominantly were recycled pulp covers or slicks. Anyone have an idea?

The novel was originally serialized in four installments as Once Aboard the Whaler in the All-Story Weekly (1918: Sep 7, 14, 21, 28).

Toppy Huggit is described as “a raw-boned, gangling youth of twenty…six feet tall, and scarcely more than six inches wide…” Having his parents die while he was young, Toppy resided on his uncle’s farm and was largely taken advantage. After Uncle Seth’s oxen won the stone dragging contest, he gave Toppy ten dollars. This he accepted and immediately he departed Rockingham and, boarding the train, arrived in Boston.

Here, he runs smack into a murder on the streets. Checking upon the dying/dead man, a portly figure runs out and begins searching the corpse’s pockets. Papers missing, he realizes that Toppy, innocent and naive young man and Johnny-on-the-spot, must have taken what he desires. Toppy, fearing the fat man, escapes from his clutches, runs into the first sailor’s restaurant upon the wharf, and seeks the company of fellow humans. The portly figure strides in and sits down near him, and begins to pester Toppy for the papers again. The waiter approaches and learns that Toppy is new to the area, and warns him against partnering up with the fat man, known as “Porp.” The waiter drags the youth behind the counter, out the back door, and introduces him to a man simply called “Cap,” and coerces him into signing a document.

That document lands him aboard the Cap’s ship, the Hartdown, as an unwilling crew-member. Worst yet, his fears are accentuated, learning that Porp is a mate aboard ship! The whole scene, signing the paper, etc, was entrapment! Stuck aboard the whaler, the ship pulls out with Toppy, a farm boy with zero sea-life experience, forced to learn the ways of the whaling vessel, or else.

Toppy suffers a variety of indignities aboard ship but quickly becomes infatuated with the captain’s daughter, Celia Mudge. Naturally no story is truly complete without the love interest, right? Right.

Toppy begins to grow stronger, learns the ship and terms, and soon takes charge of a whaling expedition when the person in charge dies. Giving orders comes naturally to Toppy, and he finds that even the numerous villains will obey, to a length.

All good things come to an end…eventually. The matter of the corpse’s missing papers are continuously introduced by Porp, pestering and threatening Toppy’s life. Turns out it is a crudely constructed treasure map. Several members of the current crew were part of another ship and wrecked upon an island. There, they found another derelict ship, and gold. Realizing the ship lost at sea for years, they decide to head for land and find a ship capable to haul the gold. However, given that none trust each other, they all stick together, fast.

Having joined the Hartdown, some of the villainous crew mutiny against themselves, when the innocent captain’s daughter boards the vessel. They intended to murder the original crew, but a girl is a different matter. Or is it? Half of the crew okay with murder have other plans for Celia, both sexual and material gain….

The crew convince the captain to drop anchor off an isolated island for supplies. While ashore, they attack the original crew and a battle takes place. Toppy escapes with Celia in one of the landing party boats, and while trying to board the parent vessel, finds that two villains left behind are wielding sharp objects. Another of the “good crew” escapes land and paddles out. The pair decide to split and take the ship from two sides. Unbeknownst to them, Celia took one of the boats and paddled quickly around the back side, boarded, and while Toppy is about to be murdered, she takes care of his would-be assailant!

They take the ship.

But if you think the plot remains a clear-case of rescue the rest on the island, etc, you would be wrong. Ben Ames Williams is no slouch on writing a thriller.

In negotiating the safe return of the crew, the villains under the cover of darkness send their best swimmers out to the ship, and wait in the water until Toppy and another paddle to a distant shoreline to rescue the surviving crew and Celia’s dad. They discover too late the attempt, but, manage to derail the plot. Taking the ship again, they have full control, learn the whereabouts of the gold, and return with a British warship (of sorts).

Arresting the survivors on land, the villains throw a wrench in the story by informing the Brits that they discovered gold, and that the Hartdown intends to steal it. The Brits end up confiscating the gold, eliminating one traditional happy ending!

Toppy DOES get Celia and they marry.

The Whaler by Ben Ames Williams (1924)

Manhunt Detective Story Monthly (April 1955)

Manhunt 1955 April The April 1955 issue of Manhunt Detective Story Monthly digest pulp magazine is a humdinger of fascinating fiction.

Quite personally, I am not an avid fan of Hal Ellson, and his short tale “Blood Brothers” does nothing to dispel that opinion. The story is typical of his juvenile delinquent writings. Bunch of outcasts in a neighborhood are ruled by the iron-fist cruelty of the local bully. When one of the nicer boys is beaten to a pulp by one of the bully’s buddies and his girl molested on a rooftop, his crippled friend comes to the rescue, offering up a solution. See, he has a cousin and he is simply crazy about wanting retribution against the bully, whom apparently owes him money. The three go down and butt heads with the bully, and the crazy cousin gives him the rough riot act and threatens more of the same unless he coughs up the dough. He gives him a deadline. Deadline comes up, they go for the loot, and the bully isn’t able to scrape it all together. Shit goes sideways, the crazy cousin ices the bully, the other two scatter to the four winds in fright. They later hook up. The cousin has been captured, sent to jail, but, he won’t talk. They get a bigger gang together of outcasts and reclaim their neighborhood, bit by bit. They even give the ex-girlfriend the treatment, whatever it may be, by the hands of the cripple. Rape? Who knows. Everything is coyly inferred. It’s annoying. By story’s end, the new gang is going to take on a rival neighboring gang that has flexed their might too far across the line….

Next story is the gruesome reality that you can do a lot of damage while drunk. In Bryce Walton’s “The Movers,” Susie’s husband awakens from a drunken stupor to find that his wife has finally left him, the bills are unpaid, and movers are coming to take away the possessions, barrels and trunks, and packed and ready to go. However, during a drunken rage, he apparently murdered his wife and stuffed her into a barrel, and the movers find her. All the while, he rages on and on that they can’t take their possessions, that his wife is coming back, clearly unaware that he was butchered his own wife….

The Day it Began Again” by Fletcher Flora proves that Flora doesn’t ONLY have to write cliche murder stories with someone drinking a cocktail or being rich, although, well, partially, in this case. Carlos is in prison as a serial killer and his best friend is trying to convince the lawyer to set him free, etc., that he didn’t commit the killings. Thing is, he did murder all those girls and, his friend knows this. See, he hid the evidence himself, and, as the lawyer noted, all the serial killings ceased once Carlos was put away. His friend realizes that they only way to add “doubt” to the court proceedings is for the murders to take up where they left off, in the exact same manner. So he digs out those hidden shoe laces….

The Meek Monster” by Edward D. Radin reads more like a true crime story than fiction. Oh, right, that’s because it is. Rather than my writing it up, read the Wiki stub instead, on serial killer John Reginald Halliday Christie.

Alphabet Hicks returns in yet another Rex Stout short, “His Own Hand.” Hicks is dead-tired, headed home, when he is met by an officer whom interrogates him as to his whereabouts with certain bodies potentially involved in a murder case. The officer asks him to elaborate and leave nothing out, even odd conversation bits, etc. In the process of rehashing the events, he begins to have a theory as to who the killer is, but does not inform the officer. Rather, later, he is phoned by the parties involved, to come over, and discuss matters. He comes, still sleepy, and proclaims that he can actually put the entire case to rest. He knows the murderer. They all scoff but it soon becomes no laughing matter once he latches onto one person in particular and forces a confession. Not a very interesting Hicks story, and certainly not Stout at his best, but, that’s a matter of opinion, right?

For my monetary investment, George Bagby’s “Mug Shot” was well-worth the spend. Once again following the adventures of Inspector Schmidt, author George Bagby tags along for the entire investigation. Schmidt, while pacing down a street waiting for Bagby, is mugged. His assailant escapes. Bagby snatches the license plate. Thus begins a wild and woolly crime adventure, lots of dick work, dead bodies cropping up, drugs, a love affair of sorts, a false front of money, and deceit. The 40+ page novelette is a scintillating reminder that not everything is as it seems.

Sam S. Taylor supplies “The General Slept Here.” No real brilliance to the story. Private Detective Neal Cotten is asked to investigate the disappearance of a young lady’s aunt. Only thing is, she’s a fraud. The niece, that is. The aunt has vanished, but tracking her down doesn’t prove too arduous a task. In the process, he receives the long-sleep treatment via a love-tap to the skull and awakens to find the man he was to meet, stone-cold-dead with an ice-pick in his spine. Unimaginative and overused murder devices aside, it’s obvious that the dear old lady’s bed has a false bottom and stolen loot is piled into this. A snoozer’s only redeemable value could have been enhanced if Cotten pushed the faux-niece down an open elevator shaft. Oh well….

The next-to-last tale is “Sylvia” by Ira Levin. Lewis Melton has cared and protected his irresponsibly naive daughter all his life, and broken up a divorce in which the young man was stealing her funds. However, unbeknownst to him, she’s still madly in love with this crook. He learns that she has planned a great escape, convincing her dad to go on a trip, and while gone, she sends the help away, and has wired her lover to meet her at the airport. He learns all this while digging through her drawer and also find a gun, loaded. He thinks the gun is to kill her ex-lover, but, in truth, she murders her father. Why? Insanity.

One more tale. “The Impostors” by Jonathan Craig is one of those creepier tales. Husband and wife, he’s an artist, and wakes up one day to realize his gorgeous wife has been replaced by an older woman and ugly. He can’t bare to look at her. He kills off this woman so that his young wife will return to him and then sees the same thing in the mirror. His younger self is gone and replaced by an older thing. They arrest him before he can kill this self, but he plans, while in prison, to kill that person and meet with his hot wife again. Clear case of insanity, again.

Manhunt Detective Story Monthly (April 1955)

“The Oxbow Wizard” by Theodore Goodridge Roberts (1924)

60-the-oxbow-wizard
The Oxbow Wizard” (Garden City Pub, 1924) Theodore Goodridge Roberts

The Oxbow Wizard,” a highly popular young adult frozen north wilderness adventure novella, was the 1st of 3 experimental forays by Garden City Publishing into the “A Book for Boys” series. These were part of the even larger never-properly-define broader series of soft cover digest-paperbacks (similar to dime novels in format) for which I have already earlier blogged. Numbered “60” on the spine for the overall series, the rear cover adverts up to 62 titles, overall, and sports an internal copyright notice of 1924, and 1920 for the original, via Open Road’s publishers, Torbell.

No records to my knowledge has ever indicated where the novella originally was published, however, I have located serial installments of the novella in Torbell’s The Open Road. This was a magazine designed to encourage young boys and men to get out-doors, rather than remain indoors and idle. The serial begins the in December 1919 issue, with the installment titled “Up the Oxbow.”

Additionally, parts of this serial MIGHT appear in The Trail Makers Boys’ Annual (Volume 1, 1920) but I have never obtained a copy for confirmation, nor have I been able to ascertain the full contents of said volume, which contains “stories and articles for Canadian boys” by Canadian men.

These three boys books lack the reproduced covers from SHORT STORIES magazines that made the series initially so enticing to collect. Unable to trace all of the Open Road mags, I can’t be certain whether this cover image originates with the magazine or hails from an entirely different source. Hopefully one of our blog readers may one day solve that mystery!

The story introduces young men to the coming-of-age young Dan Evans. While cleaning out a boarder’s room, he stumbles across an abandoned green bound volume, later revealed to be the collected adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Having read various tales, he begins to apply the logic into his real-life adventures and solves small home issues. His father, never kindly disposed to his son, thinks he is acting “smart” and dislikes his good intentions. However, when a young lady mysteriously vanishes, he applies his newly aroused detective skills and inadvertently bumps into his “odd” uncle, whom is more than he seems. Realizing the young man is smarter than he looks, the uncle demands he continue on to his cabin, where he will meet him later. However, on arriving at the cabin, young Dan Evans discovers the place is occupied by the missing lady, being harassed by a hooligan. Evans takes out the interloper, and it is learned that she married and eloped with the uncle, secretly because the uncle is very shy.

Some time later, as a reward for his skill and assistance, his uncle, removed far and away from the wild and seated at a desk in the city, offers Dan the opportunity to take over his cabin and partner up with an older man, and trap the wild animals for their fur, etc. Dan gives up his lumbering job for the hardworking winter job of trapping.

Mysteries abound when the cabin is found broken into, supposedly by a bear, per his partner. However, Dan sees signs that a bear would not have caused. Time passes and Dan comes upon a woman whom imposes upon his good will to help her feed her starving babies. Her husband is at home, laid up. Dan discovers the man is actually heavily intoxicated, and notices bear claws under the bunk and, an extremely large bear fur on the ground, the dimensions for which match the assumed size of the mythical bear that broke into their cabin!

Realizing the drunk broke into his cabin (despite the girl claiming it was herself, with the good intention of salvaging food for her children) Dan decides to work in the family’s favor to keep them fed.

But when his traps are worked over, he realizes the drunkard is stealing his furs. Proof surfaces when the man, terribly drunk, is found by the partner. Unable to drag him to safety, he remains outside in the frozen wastes. Dan, upon returning to the cabin, discovers his partner missing, and quickly hunts him down. Finally realizing the man’s whereabouts, he is introduced to the drunkard, and they learn that he sold the fur(s) and bought mostly illegal liquor, rather than stocking up with food for his family.

When more of his traps are found disturbed, Dan is irked. Determined to best the drunkard, he utilizes his skills to bait the shiftless cretin, and tracks down the person peddling the illegal booze. With the aid of a policeman, the whole incident is nearly neatly handled.

Not the best story I’ve ever read by Theodore Goodridge Roberts. His other three entries, previously blogged about, better stood the test of literary time than this young adult farce. Overall, of the four titles via this publisher, “The Lure of Piper’s Glen” is undoubtedly the most entertaining.

“The Oxbow Wizard” by Theodore Goodridge Roberts (1924)

“Time Trap” by Rog Phillips (Atlas Publications, 1956)

ATLAS Time Trap
Time Trap” by Rog Phillips in the Science Fiction Library series, # 8, as published by Atlas Publications, 1956 in Melbourne, Australia

The first edition of TIME TRAP by Rog Phillips was originally published 1949 in America and featured cover art by Malcolm Smith.

A year later, the book was reprinted in Canada by Export Publishing via their News Stand Library Pocket Edition series, with a bland cover.

Seven years later (after the original) Malcolm Smith’s illustration resurfaced on the Australian edition (featured here). Unlike the American edition, the Aussie version is quite scarce.

It is part of the Science Fiction Library, via Atlas Publications. The series ran only eight titles from 1955-1956, and reprinted from American or British sources. Rather than paperbacks, these are side-stapled digests.

The titles (and original sources) in the series are as follows:

1 – The Echoing Worlds by Jonathan Burke, 1955
Original publication (UK: Panther Books, 1953)
2 – World at Bay by E. C. Tubb, 1955
Original publication (UK: Panther Books, 1954)
3 – From What Far Star? by Bryan Berry, 1955
Original publication (UK: Panther Books, 1953)
4 – Worlds in Balance by F. L. Wallace, 1955
Original publication (USA: Science-Fiction Plus, May 1953 – pulp magazine)
5 – Another Space, Another Time by H. J. Campbell, 1956
Original publication (UK: Panther Books, 1953)
6 – The Stars Are Ours by H. K. Bulmer, 1956
Original publication (UK: Panther Books, 1953)
7 – And the Stars Remain by Bryan Berry, 1956
Original publication (UK: Panther Books, 1952)
8 – Time Trap by Rog Phillips, 1956
Original publication (USA: Century Book # 116, 1949)

Without further rambling, let’s turn to the story itself, shall we…?

The tale opens with two radio-engineers working on a scientific device that permits them to “dial” into the future. Our primary protagonist is Ray Bradley, and his partner and close friend is Joe Ashford. Ray dials a phone operator whom immediately recognizes him as someone that had once prior called. Ray then, as now, with Joe as witness, asks the operator what today’s date is. She proclaims the date to be 1961, but asks first if he is the same person that called two years ago (in 1959). Ray and Joe’s current date is 1950.

Intrigued by the device’s possibilities, Joe suggests Ray phone their own number, and sets it to dial 24-hours into the future. Oddly enough, they learn that the number has been disconnected!

Disconcerted, he sets the dial for approximately 50 years into the future, and instead of the sensually young female operator, receives a male voice. Ray asks him what the date is, to which he receives 1999, and then coyly adds the “time.” But, when the operator flips the question back on Ray, chuckling, he provides the precise date and time as well. At that exact moment, in his head, he hears a female voice screaming for him to vacate the premises immediately, that his life is in imminent danger.

Without a seconds’ forethought, he orders Joe out and they flee. Moments later, the entire building explodes and debris smites cars and pedestrians, causing immediate havoc and destruction.

Ray and Joe abandon the scene, hop into a street dive, play music on the nickelodeon, and discuss the matter. More importantly, Ray stresses a female in his head issued the strident warning. Joe is impressed by Ray’s attitude, regarding the faceless entity, and realizes that Ray, without ever meeting or seeing this girl, is somehow in love with a voice that he received via telepathy.

Later, at home, while trying to sleep, he again is in contact with the girl, whom gives her name to be Nelva. She asks him to explain his device to her, and, with her assistance, she explains how to expand upon his rudimentary knowledge and create an actual time machine. Informing him to act quick and maintain anonymity, he and Joe vanish and after some experiments, travel to 1999. Unfortunately, they arrive days later than planned, but that is unavoidable.

While walking the streets, they find that not much has changed, and, clothing styles of the 1950s are apparently once more fashionable, to the point that they practically blend in. They later learn that while the styles are identical, the clothing materials are vastly outdated. While entering a store, they are immediately entranced by a sinister, beautiful blonde vixen depicted on the wall with a third eye. Staring at it leads to their undoing. Everyone else knows better than to stare and they are immediately spotted as either outsiders or rebels. Fleeing from the store, Ray and Joe find themselves briefly and frighteningly alone, but this soon changes as the police force their way in. Remarkably, they are whisked away into a secret panel behind the telephone booth (good thing these still existed in 1999, eh?) and run down a secret passageway.

Winding their way with this unknown helper, they are led eventually to a hideout and interrogated. Nobody believes that they are time-travelers, so they are forced to swallow truth-serum pills. While under, they confess the same, again, and those about them believe. They are further staggered to learn that Ray is searching for Nelva, whom they claim has been missing for a long time. Believed to be captured by the Vargarians (the aliens in charge of the United States), Ray is all set to explore the city and set her free.

However, he begins to develop ideas that the resistance is a false-front, and that they are actually in cahoots with the Vargarians. (And because the author lacks any ability to surprise the reader, Ray is naturally quite right.) Furthermore, daily, he fails to find or get in contact with Nelva. On his own initiative, he convinces the gathering to loan him a car so that he and Joe can explore the countryside, claiming that Nelva had in fact telepathically got into communication with him, and said to meet with Joe, alone, far away.

The faux-rebels report this to the Vargarians, and they suspect it is a false lead, but decide to let matters play out, and wonder just what the pair are up to.

While driving aimlessly, Ray decides to pull into a road-stop and grab a bite. Joe is the driver, and while parking, another car rolls up and disgorges a half-dozen youths. Stumbling in after them, Ray purposefully staggers against Joe and steals the car keys. Believing the car to be “bugged,” Ray decides to prey upon the kids somehow and unload the car, to lead the bad guys on a false trail.

Ironically, the youths are the faux-rebels, too. Set to track the pair, they decide to snatch the car from Ray and Joe, but the plan goes off without a hitch, admirably, for both parties. When one of the party approaches Ray, he stammers that he’s bored with the group and wants to borrow his wheels for a joy ride with his girlfriend. Ray obliges and the swap is effected! Ray is elated and the guy is nonplussed by the ease of the transaction.

Pretending to look about at the other dining occupants, Ray decides to falsely feign interest in two girls dining in a booth, but, despite never having seen them before, realizes immediately one staring at him is Nelva!

Sitting down with them, Ray expresses gruffly that they need to leave, they are in immediate danger. Nelva’s firmly aware of this, touches them, and the four vanish just as the faux-rebels jump up and turn their stun-rods on the quartet.

The novel then shifts to Nelva and Ray discoursing on the theories of time travel, multi-dimensional shifts, and the history of the Vargarian race being actually from another time stream from millions of years in the past. Furthermore, she and her friend, Nancy, are sisters, and related to the Queen.

But, asks Ray, why do they lack the third eye?

Sorry, my readers, but, I won’t cough up ALL the details. Go out and read the book yourself. Some mysteries you’ll have to discover the answers to you, yourself. I will say that the girls eventually slide into other parallel streams and Ray and Joe are subjugated to two surgeons whom attach wires in their skulls to allow them full access to all realms. The story rapidly comes to an absurd climax with Ray threatening the Queen with removal of all Vargarian’s third eye, unless they remove themselves back into their own time stream.

Fearing his threat, since he made a fine example of one Vargarian, the Vargarians flee en mass and, taking flight, the armada of ships vanish from the site, traveling back in time to their own era and time-stream. Some whom have chosen to remain, even with the loss of the third eye, do choose to do so, as do Nelva and Nancy. Nelva suggests that the four travel and explore the entire time and space, but Ray suggests they marry, first….

A fun novel, from start to finish, bogged only down by the technical jargon involving the explanations of various time theorems, time travel, dimensions, etc. Plus, and this may be just my personal perspective, but, I was baffled by how “juvenile” the entire novel felt. In fact, not just juvenile, but, “dated.” If I had never known it was printed in 1949, I’d have guessed it was written during the 1910s or 1920s. The novel honestly feels like a much earlier, unpublished pulp project that languished for several decades until Rog had more firmly established himself as a competent writer.

I would love to hear from other members of fandom or collectors, as to their thoughts on Rog Phillips’ “Time Trap.”

“Time Trap” by Rog Phillips (Atlas Publications, 1956)