The Whaler by Ben Ames Williams (1924)

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)

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

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)

Short Stories – October 1924 – Australian Edition

Recently, I purchased a bunch of miscellaneous pulps, booklets, and assorted magazines, purely for my reading pleasure, at $1.00 each.

When the box arrived, I paused and took a gander at the pulp Short Stories. Something about it struck me as funny; I immediately compared the contents against FictionMags. Well. The contents were identical to my copy, on the inside, which was a relief, since mine lacks a Table of Contents page.

Short Stories 1924 October front cover

However, much to my chagrin, I noticed that the cover was NOT the same as the American original published by Doubleday (Garden City Publishing) nor the UK Edition (The World’s Work). I traced my cover to the American July 25 1923 edition. Same cover art, different text layout. That is when I noticed that my copy stated October 1924.

Was there a date under that infernal Aussie 1/3d sticker on the cover? Placing it beside a high-powered lamp, I found that the only thing under the sticker was a 1/- cover price. No, this pulp, unlike the American and British Editions, was issued MONTHLY. One might ask: why did you not look at the spine for confirmation? I did. The upper spine is missing, leaving me only the last few letters of the month.

Short Stories 1924 October spine

So, I had a mystery on my hands that might appear to be cooler that reading the pulp. Okay, maybe not.

To recap: different cover (art recycled from an issue entirely different from the USA and UK edition), a monthly (instead of twice-a-month), and the Contents page missing.

Well, I sincerely doubted that this magazine was re-issued with a new cover, altogether. Here is what I suspect: the UK publishers, World’s Work, stripped off the covers and Table of Contents page(s) to all remainder stock, and recycled a different cover that they still had available and slapped on fresh text. The American publishers would hardly have troubled with this task (in my  opinion). I do not think that a new contents page was issued for foreign distribution. Furthermore, it is entirely possible that this edition was distributed to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and anywhere else World’s Work did business, abroad.

Currently, this is the only known example of a possible Australian edition, from this period. Three decades later, we know of a handful, but, are they related? Doubtful. This publication will intrinsically remain a mystery until another period-sample surfaces with further data “intact” for comparison.


Short Stories – October 1924 – Australian Edition

“Treasure Trail” by Robert Russell Strang

79-16 Treasure Trail

This is Book 79 (Spine # 16) in the New Western Series, published by Garden City Publishing, issued 1st May 1927.

It, to my knowledge, is also the very last title actually published in the series, despite 8 further titles having been announced. After over 20 years of hunting, I have never seen evidence to support that the series continued beyond this one…. If anyone can debunk my assertion, please do so!

The story, “Treasure Trail” by Robert Russell Strang, and the cover art, both originally appeared with the 10 December 1925 edition of Short Stories magazine.

In spite of the Western-themed cover, it is anything but; in fact, if you are a fan of James B. Hendryx wilderness and frozen north novels, this novella isn’t exactly up to Hendryx level of quality, but sure as hell will hold your interest throughout.

Phil is a loafer. He isn’t exactly a loser, however, he is sustained on the monthly allowance permitted him, as heir to a fortune, when he comes of age. However, approaching that age, he is fast to learn that the lawyer handling his affairs has absconded with all his inheritance, and the will has gone missing from courtroom document files.

Pretty-boy Phil, as I said, is no loafer. He learns of the gold rush up in Alaska, and decides to put his body to work. He hires out aboard a steamer, and quickly learns the first mate has a penance for kicking the shit out of newbies and beating up on them with his boots. Phil is no laggard in the fists department, and holds his own amply well.

Landing in Alaska, Phil hunts up a job and earns a one-night position as bartender in the most ruthless haunt in town. Noted for the death of many bartenders, Phil makes himself aware of the most dire threats, and when two bastards pull guns, he smashes bottles into them and takes them down. He also wins some thousands of dollars playing the wheel, which he turns over to a lady name of Kate, to keep, for saving his life.

Making his way further inland, he stakes out various land-plots and works the land but doesn’t make much good on becoming rich, until…the ill-fated captain of the steamer he took crosses his path. Phil is nonplussed to discover Capt. Brant blind, his eyes ruined by the first mate and one of the evil gunslingers from the days when he worked that first night tending bar. The slinger is out for Phil’s blood and joined forces with the first mate, in search of a lost gulch that hasn’t a claim on it yet.

Rumor mill earlier stated that the Captain’s brother had discovered millions in gold, but, when he came into town, he smartly had written a letter to his sea-voyaging brother, in case things went awry. And boy, did they! He was murdered! (gasp)

Obtaining the aid of Phil in securing the lost gold, he is soon competing down the mushing pathways of the frozen Alaskan wastes against two other vile, rival teams. The first includes the aforementioned first mate and gunslinger. The second includes the lawyer whom originally wronged him back in the United States!

The two groups eventually merge into one gang, with the sole purpose of slaying Phil and securing the land. However, Phil stakes his claims first, but, he is cornered in a cave, buffeted from all directions by a pepper of rifle fire. He eventually gives up when Kate and the love of his life appear on the scene, having been a third party chasing him, after they learned that the wretched varmints were on Phil’s trail. They end up catching the women and Phil throws down his gun.

They are all absurdly rescued by…well, to tell you would be to ruin the plot, wouldn’t it? Suffice to say, he gets the girl, they all become millionaires, and Kate, yeah, she gets her man, too….

“Treasure Trail” by Robert Russell Strang

“The Valley of Suspicion” by J. U. Giesy

78-15 The Valley Of Suspicion

Book 78 (Spine # 15) is “The Valley of Suspicion”
by J. U. Giesy. The spine and cover have the author’s name misspelled, but correct inside.

The 25 March 1926 edition of Short Stories carried this novelette, while the cover hails from the 10 September 1923 issue, was rendered by James Reynolds.

The plot is simple.

Someone is branding newborn cows with another rancher’s branding iron. Believing that that rancher is dishonest, all ranch owners turn to watching them. However, when the brands all begin to mix, all eyes are now watching one-another.

However, a deeper game is afoot. While all are distracted by this rat race of mixed brands, someone is rustling the bigger game out through the valley. Suspected an ex-Texan are two half-breed “greasers.” Confident of this, he boasts at a dance party of one’s guilty and complicity with the other. To worsen matters, one of the pair are caught kneeling over a recently branded cow.

The owners convene and the young man is kicked out the valley, but given secret instructions by another to prove his innocence and return only when he has evidence. He departs and is not heard from again….

Fast forward, and the daughter of the main rancher is captured by the actual rustlers,  kidnapped out of the valley, and brought to the headquarters of the rustlers. Unbeknownst to them, the “greaser” that was disavowed earlier in the novel had changed his name to an alias, claimed to be a bandit on the run, and had taken refuge there as a hired hand. He learns of the girl’s arrival and forks leather quickly through a secret pass in the valley, and returns with a handful of tough ranch-hands to rescue the girl.

This they succeed in doing. The two “greasers” are proved innocent, and, remarkably, this becomes one of the few westerns I’ve ever read where none of the half-breeds or Mexicans or other stereotyped ethnicities are slapped with a final burden of guilt !!! It was a real pleasure reading this novel that clearly denounced that those of ethnic or mixed origins must always be at fault.

“The Valley of Suspicion” by J. U. Giesy

“Six-Gun Quarantine” by E. E. Harriman

77-14 Six-Gun Quarantine

Book 77 (# 14 on the spine) is E. E. Harriman’s “Six-Gun Quarantine.” Originally published in the February 1926 edition of the pulp fiction magazine The Frontier, it features artwork that originates with the 25 April 1925 issue of Short Stories magazine.

This copy is unique.

It was inscribed by the author, E. E. Harriman, and dated April 1927 (the book was printed 1 March 1927). Within a month, Harriman signed the book and posted it off to one “Mr. McCracken.” The precise identity is unknown, but it may well be wilderness man Harold McCracken.

77 Inscribed

The novel’s story is simple and straightforward enough to be concisely reported here without much trouble.

Jim and his friends own small ranches and are troubled by a ruthless landowner whom is hoodwinked into buying tons of cattle. Among these are diseased cattle afflicted with “blackleg.” Jim and his friends try to convince our villain to quarantine them from infecting the other cattle and the land and water they trample through, but, the blackguard is used to running roughshod over his insignificant neighbors.

They soon learn that the cattle are to be led far north and sold to another unsuspecting party, thereby infecting a huge swath of land, which begins through their northern neighbor’s properties.

Enlisting the aid of large and small rancher’s assistance to the north, they trap the blackguard and his cattle in a pass and cull the infected out and permit the rest to pass.

Trouble brews, and Jim is left to fend off the ex-foreman in a ruthless and brutal battle of guns and fists. Naturally, no story is complete without the love interest. Jim gets the girl, or, rather, being a tough-gal, she gets HIM !!! It was well-worth the time spent leisurely reading this novel.

“Six-Gun Quarantine” by E. E. Harriman

“The Master Squatter” by J. E. Grinstead

76-13 The Master Squatter

Book 76 is “The Master Squatter” by J. E. Grinstead.
The story originates in the November 1925 edition of the pulp, Frontier.

Officially, this book is # 76, however, the publishers, Garden City Publishing (Doubleday & Co.), decided to alter the spine numbering to # 13, reflecting the fact that the prior dozen were part of “The New Western Series” (as advertising on the back cover). This book was released 1st February 1927.

(NOTE: All of the books in this “New Western Series” were released monthly)


The first in this proposed series was E. E. Harriman’s “Texas Men and Texas Cattle” which I blogged about, weeks ago.

The tale opens with the Mitchell family moving out to Texas, for the health of Lon’s mother, during the years of the fence-cutting wars. Barbed wire is a fairly recent invention up to this point, and the Mitchell family find themselves walled in by miles of wire. One day, Lon’s father is slain by squatter Jim Sampson. The consumptive mother runs out of the cabin, spots her slain husband, froths at the mouth, and promptly dies. Lon, blond and blue-eyed, barely 15-years of age, cries his eyes out and on that fateful day, youthful innocence is shattered. On the outside, he becomes a shell; inside, he is seething with murderous, vengeful intent. He eventually makes his way to some neighbors, whom take him in and teach him the ways of the gun. It’s not long before he is proficient, with both eyes open, and capable with either hand. A sure dead-shot and damn quick on the draw.

Fast-forward 7 years. Murderer Jim Sampson is no longer in Texas. He has migrated up to the Chickasaw reservation some years back, and, with two outlaws, secured half a million acres of land over the years. All that was required, initially, was his two sidekicks to marry a squaw. Within a year, the women were mysteriously dead but they had lived long enough for the villains to be accepted on the territory.

Not content with his reach, Sampson, the master squatter, seeks to freely obtain [illegally] more land, by slapping down posts and fencing in the obtained property. However, his neighbor has other ideas. He is preparing to go to war with Sampson, to preserve his lands.

Enter Lon, seven years older. He is riding with a bunch of cowmen pushing 7000 head north through the Chickasaw trail, when they come to a stop outside of a town. Lon and a small crew go into town and unexpectedly find themselves in the middle of a proposed murder plot. Lon drops both assassins before they have a chance to slap leather, stunning all occupants.

Turns out the pair due to be slain are the aforementioned owners of the competing ranch. With their assistance, they move all 7000 cows safely through the reservation, as a debt for Lon’s slaying of the assassins.

With that mission complete, Lon breaks company with the crew and joins up with the rancher, since he now knows that Jim Sampson’s residence is here. Riding onto the ranch one day with a marshal, he and Lon await the arrival of Sampson from his ride into town.

Sampson curses vilely when he spots Lon, and goes for his iron, but, unfortunately (for him, of course), he was both neither quick enough nor smart enough to wait for a better opportunity. Dying in minutes, he curses the boy before the marshal, whom later asks Lon to explain how the two know each other.

Lon, for the first time in seven years, spills the beans, and expects to be arrested for murder. However, the marshal negates this, stating that Lon had been deputized, and Sampson had been reaching for his death-dealer. The slate is clean.

Lon rides away, with no mission left in life, back to the neighboring ranch, where there is a cute 18-year old innocent-looking girl, waiting for him…

At its heart, the novel is quite simple, forthright, and engagingly fun to read. However, like so many other authors, Grinstead inserts some of his own religious philosophies and propaganda into the novel, for literally SEVERAL pages. Personally, I detest this, as it detracts from the story, but I do understand that young men are reading this story (back then) and Grinstead (or the editors) may have wanted to make sure the readers understood that you are held accountable for your own actions, whether it be your belief in God, or, the judicial system, or vigilantism, etc.

“The Master Squatter” by J. E. Grinstead