Dust on the Moon was published in 1946 by Canadian publisher Crown Novel Publishing Company. It’s a pleasure to finally get around to presenting this scarce Crown publication.
eBay seller “sfconnection” located in Indianapolis listed a copy many years ago. That copy had two red splotches on the lower left cover, and is found on worthpoint.com. I was prompted to release this Crown entry when Canadian collector / researcher James Fitzpatrick (of the Fly-by-Night blog) recently purchased my spare copy of another Crown scarcity, Death on the Slow Draw by John Frederick and featured it July 2021 on his blog. I’m glad to have added to his collection. If you haven’t visited James’ page, drop in and enjoy. I do from time-to-time and enjoy his posts on obscure Canadian wartime era books, etc.
Written by Mary E. Horlbeck, she had scarcely any known ties to the pulps until a little over a decade ago, when someone moved into her home discovered an abandoned scrapbook filled with 138 rejection letters spanning 1933-1937. When precisely they found that scrapbook is unknown to me, but they eventually posted their discovery on the buckfifty.org blog. I highly recommend readers to visit that blog and read their investigations into Horlbeck’s past.
The blogger notes that during that 5-year span, there were 4 acceptance letters, but, fails to inform readers of their location, story title, date, etc. More amazing is that a family-member, a grandson, to be precise, actually stumbled across that blog and left a comment. I have left a comment on the blog in the hope that one day the grandson may continue their discussion with me, so we may have more complete information. (Update: A year transpired and nobody has ever reached out to me. I prepared my own blog early 2020 and waited all this time in the hopes of a reply).
Her known pulp appearances are noted below:
- Rain-Sprite (ss) Thrilling Love, 1937 October
- Jitterbug Jangle (ss) Street & Smith’s Love Story Magazine, 1939 July 29
- Star for a Night (ss) Street & Smith’s Love Story Magazine, 1943 September 21
- Love Happens that Way (ss) Exciting Love (Canada), 1944 Spring
Not simply satisfied with copying other people’s research (ever, in fact), I always perform my own research, based on what can be found online. Sources utilized include various birth and death indices, census data, draft registration cards, and graveyards. Any errors in my data below is purely from those sources.
Albin Horlbeck was first married to Inez (Ina) May TOMLIN (born 1892 Feb 7 and died 1925 Nov 2) prior to the 1930 census, and gave birth to 3 children. Six years later, Albin married Mary ADOLPHSON and she came into the family with one child of her own, Jacqueline. It’s unclear to me whether Mary’s surname is a maiden or married/widowed name.
According to the 1930 Census, the Horlbeck’s lived at 2552 Benton Street, Edgewater, Colorado.
- HORLBECK, Albin (age 41)
- Glen T. (age 15)
- Earl N. (age 12)
- Fern E. (age 6)
- ADOLPHSON, Mary E. (age 25)
- Jacqueline C. (age 6)
Albin Richard Horlbeck married Mary Elizabeth Adolphson in 1931.
According to the 1940 Census, the Horlbeck’s lived at 2552 Benton Street, Edgewater, Colorado:
- HORLBECK, Albin (husband, age 51) born in Illinois
— proprietor (vegetable juice extracting)
- Mary (wife, age 36) born in Wisconsin
— assistant (vegetable juice extracting)
- Glenn (son, age 25) born in Colorado
— sales engineer (mining machinery)
- Earl (son, age 22) born in Colorado
- Fern (daughter, age 16) born in Colorado
- FREDRICKSON, Jacqueline (daughter, age 16) born in Colorado
— librarian (high school librarian)
More specific births and deaths are noted below, where known:
- Albin R. Horlbeck (1899 Feb 28 — 1967 Feb 22)
- Mary E. Horlbeck (1905-1967)
- Glenn Tomlin Horlbeck (1914 Nov 1 — 1993 Feb 7)
- Earl Neil Horlbeck (1917 Jun 20 — 2005 May 13)
- Fern (unknown)
- Jacqueline (unknown)
The frontis notes that the novel is “Complete and Unexpurgated.” If Dust on the Moon had an earlier appearance, it may well have been in a newspaper supplement, such as the Toronto Star Weekly Complete Novel or the Toronto Star Weekly Magazine sections, or in America, via the big-city papers, or maybe even the various “slick” magazines, many for which have never been fully indexed. From her rejection letters, we know that she not only submitted to the pulpwood magazines, but, also the slicks.
The tale opens with U.S. Marshall Ken Farnum riding home to his father’s family ranch, having recently finished an exploit against some outlaws known as the “Jaggers”. They are mentioned a couple times in passing, which made me wonder if Farnum had appeared in another hitherto unknown western (or not). He comes upon the ranch to discover his father shot dead and his brother shot and left for dead. The horses have all been stolen. Reviving his delirious brother, he relays to Ken that he saw the leader of the bandits shoot another outlaw for foolishly opening his mouth during the silent raid and uttering the words: “We’ll kick dust on the moon tonight, I reckon.” Realizing the phrase might have importance, Ken’s wounded brother (Jack) filed it away.
Jack reverts to unconsciousness. Grimly, Ken buries his father, then, decides to bury the outlaw too, in the family plot. Having finished their burial, a horse gallops up carrying Chick, an ancient family cowhand loyal to their father. Learning of the murder and thievery, he’s determined to ride with Ken to hell and back to avenge the family and reclaim their lost horses.
Ken agrees since he can’t stop Chick anyhow, and they bring the wounded Jack to a neighboring ranch, leaving Jack in the care of Ann Haverill, a girl Jack is sweet on. Slapping leather, the pair depart and hit the trail. Chick relays an odd tale he picked up a ways back, while drinking in town, regarding some young punk in love with the Haverill girl as Jack’s rival for her affections. Another rival was also present, that punk’s brother. In order to impress her, they were determined to ride Ebony, a horse of immense power and speed. Ken is tired of the seemingly pointless tale, but Chick points out that the punk’s brother was thrown from Ebony and pounded dead. The brother seemed unfazed, laughed even at the death, but then swore to avenge his brother’s death and hold the Farnum ranch and family responsible.
Ken now sees the conflict of interest. The punk may have bled information to a bandit about an undefended ranch with tons of prime horseflesh. With this in mind, he and Chick ride to the remote reaches (Arizona? or New Mexico?) where outlaws reign supreme. Entering the local saloon, Ken watches the crowd and is certain that here he will find his man, when a young lady inexplicably asks him to dance with her. He doesn’t want to but she seems to know who he is! She recollects him from his earlier adventures battling the Jaggers gang. While there, Ken is forced to shoot the gun-hand of a man that waddles into the saloon aiming to shoot a large “gentleman.” The lady he is dancing with is angered by his interference and departs. The local sheriff arrests the shot man. Ken is invited to talk with the “gentleman” but acts tough and says if he wants to talk, the big boy can come over to Ken.
Remarkably, big-boy (name of Parlanz) does just that and is impressed by the speed of Ken’s drawn guns, two six-shooters. It’s not long before he’s invited by Parlanz out to his ranch and offered the unscrupulous job of joining the gang on a future raid. He’s even given the secret passphrase of “dust on the moon.” Ken is now 100% convinced he’s found the man that killed his father, etc., but must secure his own family horses legally. Amusingly, Parlanz wants to ride Ebony and Ken must pretend not to recognize the horse. When Parlanz attempts the ride, he viciously hits her with his spurs and Ebony goes berserk, and tosses Parlanz. Ebony’s eyes show blood-lust for Parlanz, but Ken steps in before anyone can shoot the horse.
Long story short, Ken is betrayed, someone ransacks his room, he’s worried a member of the Parlanz gang found his hidden law-badge, he’s eventually hit over the head and tossed in jail, Parlanz keeps his six-shooters, the girl helps him to escape, he sneaks into Parlanz’s room at night and snags his guns and silently departs (he won’t plug the man while asleep), and informs Chick to ride and obtain as many deputized souls as possible to ride against the upcoming raid planned by Parlanz.
Chick succeeds and even brings back Ken’s brother, Jack. Waiting in various hiding places, they wait for Parlanz and his raiding party to arrive. They do. A wild shootout occurs, and everyone is instructed to not shoot Parlanz. Ken wants him but discovers his brother riding to get the man. Jack is brought down and taken out of the fight. Parlanz rides away with Ken in pursuit but Ken is knocked out. Parlanz escapes…back to his ranch.
Ken is brought back to consciousness and his body repairs in days. Ready to ride again, he realizes he must ride to Parlanz’s fortified ranch. Boarding the fiery Ebony, Ken reaches the ranch and catches up with Parlanz. Fighting it out, Ken is determined to avenge his father but is robbed by someone with a greater grudge against the man than his own. Ebony shrieks her rage and riding in, attacks Parlanz and stomps him to a lifeless pulp.
We eventually learn the dance-hall girl was married to the murdered outlaw on Ken’s father’s ranch, and the boy just fell in with the wrong crowd. She was out to avenge his death, but she now has fallen in love with Ken…and he asks her to marry him.