2015 November 29: “Mormon Valley” by H. Bedford-Jones

23 Mormon Valley

Book 23 is “Mormon Valley” by H. Bedford-Jones.
It was originally printed in People’s Favorite Magazine (25 August 1918) as “What Happened in Mormon Valley.”

Despite the cover art (by Charles Durant) this is NOT a Western.

John Marsh is given the task, with partner Abe Levy, a French-Jew, to depart New York City and travel far west, and oversee the engineering construction of a great and wonderful dam that will transform the desert landscape into a multi-million dollar project.

The pair arrive and immediately set to work while facing down bullies among the workforce. All is going well until Marsh’s boss (and daughter, Elsa) arrive, to inspect the progress. At this point, it is learned that the storekeeper, name of Dundas, knows the girl from back East. Marsh is unhappy upon this discovery, as it is clear that Dundas is in love with Elsa.

After the boss departs, he leaves his daughter (and a girl-friend of hers) behind, to remain at the camp for fresh air, etc., while he goes off to inspect another construction site far away.

Maintaining a clean, and liquor-free camp, Marsh is met by an older Georgia-man that wishes to sell liquor to the men. Marsh turns down the offer and bribe money, and the man (Newgate) opens up a town of ill-repute across the state-line, full of saloons, liquor, gambling, dance-hall girls, etc.

Marsh informs his crew any that come back drunk or trying to slip in with concealed liquor shall be immediately fired. This is enforced and many are fired. Much to his chagrin, his men continue to go across and spend their wages.

Desiring some form of truce, Marsh goes to the town and meets with Newgate to negotiate an understanding. He asks only of Newgate to restrict the amount of liquor sold daily to his men, and Newgate, remarkably, readily agrees. In turn, Newgate wishes Marsh to join him in a drink, but Marsh declines. He doesn’t drink. Ever. So, Newgate offers ginger ale instead and they drink to that….

The day and night wanes and Abe is worried sick about the missing Marsh, when, suddenly, Marsh appears stumbling (to all appearances: drunk) past the lady’s cabin, whom take in his appearance immediately, too. He is bolstered up on either side by Newgate and a slutty dance-hall girl.

Abe rushes out there and demands the meaning of Marsh’s situation and Newgate informs that he is drunk, but Abe knows Marsh intimately as a dead-sober man and calls Newgate out as a damn liar and goes to throttle him. Newgate draws a hideaway and shoots to kill. Abe drops. Newgate flees the scene.

Marsh awakens next day to the doctor tending him. The whole camp has already heard a variety of the details. Marsh insists he drank only ginger ale, and after that, remembers nothing. His drink was doped and his clothing soaked in booze so that he would reek of drink. The doctor is unsure of his allegiances in the matter, but concurs that the clothes were indeed soaked.

Marsh is informed that Abe was fatally shot and is being tended by the women, and that Newgate is on the run. Abe’s in good care, especially as it seems that Elsa’s friend is in love with him! Tarnished of good name and reputation, neither girl wants Marsh’s company.

Angry, Marsh sets out to camp, and tells his men the truth and any that don’t believe can go to hell. He focuses all his energies into the construction of the dam and when Abe becomes well again, the pair set off to the nearest railway station. Marsh sends Abe to the capital to have certain forms filed, etc.

While in the rail-stations postal office, he runs across Newgate, operating under an alias. Beating him up and having him placed under arrest for attempted murder (of Abe), he discovers the man has been receiving mail for quite a while. One letter is from Dundas, and clearly marks Dundas as the brains and money backing Newgate’s town!

With this letter and Newgate cuffed, he returns to the camp for a final showdown with Dundas, but Newgate offers fresh trickery when he moves the car’s clutch. Unfamiliar with circumstances, Marsh attempts to switch gears, blows the engine and is hurled through the window and over the hood. Newgate drops Marsh with a blow to the skull and getting the car active again, takes off, leaving Marsh to die in the desert.

Marsh awakens to find himself battered and bloody, and, the camp’s safe beside him, empty. Bewildered, he is further nonplussed to see a car coming his way, led by Dundas, the doctor, and others. Dundas delivers a fine speech, ultimately implicating that Marsh and others came at night, broke into the camp store, murdered the storekeeper (that had replaced Dundas), and made off with the safe and contents. Then, Marsh’s partners had walloped Marsh on the noggin’ and left him behind while they went on to escape. The thread is loose but all buy into the theory.

Marsh realizes that he needs that letter from Dundas to Newgate to prove his innocence. Remarkably, while under arrest at camp, some of his men approach (mind you, Abe is still away at the capital all this time) and insist they believe him innocent, and concoct a way for him to escape. He finally agrees to escape, but, only for two weeks. If he can’t locate the evidence in that time, he surrenders to the sheriff.

With the aid of an old desert rat named Piute Joe (seems there is a Piute something-or-other in many of these westerns, eh?) they track across a vast desert to track down the missing automobile. Locating it, they come across a burned and mangled Newgate. The vehicle is crashed, demolished, and worse yet, the letter that had been secreted in the glove box, along with the rest of the car, is a smoky ruin. Marsh’s hopes and dreams are dashed….

Days pass, and the camp learns that the sheriff is bringing Marsh in, after surrendering from heat stroke and dehydration.

Dundas meanwhile has brought Elsa an Arabian horse, and they ride below the dam. Abe watches in misery, them and overseeing the construction, while Dundas again proclaims his love for Elsa, and asks for her to marry him. She declines, and infuriates Dundas, whom brags that if she marries him, he can set Marsh free. She flips the table on him, stating the only reason she rode with him was to get such out of him, and now she realizes firmly that Marsh was an innocent man.

Coincidentally, higher up, a truck slips down a grade and falls down toward them. Elsa is thrown from her horse and in a mark of heroism, Dundas leaps from his and hurls Elsa to safety while being smashed up by the rolling truck.

Dundas is hauled up and the doctor says there is nothing to save the wreck of a man. Abe is distraught, and, in a final moment of evil, Dundas tells Abe that he refuses to confess to the sins and that Marsh can go to the same hell that Dundas is already going to….

Well, Dundas loses that one. Sheriff arrives with Marsh, but, he’s not under arrest! Turns out Marsh was dragged into town by Piute Joe, along with the body of Newgate, whom, shockingly, was not dead. Just mostly dead. Administered back to life in town, Newgate confesses to the whole scheme.

Story ends with Marsh and Elsa proclaiming love for each other and Abe joyously running into the arms of the other girl….

2015 November 29: “Mormon Valley” by H. Bedford-Jones

2015 November 3 “The Sheriff of Pecos” by H. Bedford-Jones

15 The Sheriff Of Pecos

And, onto the 15th pulp novel, by legendary pulpster, H. Bedford-Jones.

The origin of this story is disturbing, in that while the copyright is given as 1921, no such story by this author appears to have been printed under this title in the pulps, nor, in that year, Short Stories did not handle any novelettes by the author. So…where does that leave us? Naturally, it would appear that this is the first in the Garden City Publications series to NOT have originated within the pages of Short Stories magazine.

You guffaw? Don’t. Keep in mind that this is the 15th novel in the series at this point, and, the first time I stumble on tracing an origin story. The next novel in the run that definitely does not hail from SS is Number 20. That’s not too far along, and, thereafter, most of the books fail to hail from Short Stories. So then, where does this tale come? I am hoping that a fellow pulpster in the community can answer this question. Hell, maybe Tom Roberts can answer it !!!

My current guess is that this is “Rounded Up at Lazy S” from Western Story Magazine (5 February 1921) since we do have a Lazy S in here, and, further, the length of the story leans more toward a short novella or a very long novelette, which, the aforementioned is.

The cover art is rendered by W. M. Allison (source unknown) displaying a card game (which never occurs in the story).

The plot opens with nefarious characters in a bar openly discussing nefarious plans while a cowboy in the bar is apparently asleep. (It’s always poor plot direction to randomly include some sleeping cowboy. They never are. Clearly the bad guys don’t know this plot device) …. when in breezes another cowboy, whom they look to ambush. Quick on the draw, our sleeping cowboy slaps leather and fires of a shot, creasing the killer’s hand and saving the inbound cowboy, whom answers to the name of Miguel Cervantes.

Our savior goes by the name of Jack Robinson. He rides out with Miguel, whom says he was riding into town daily to look for a man. Robinson asks if he was looking for Sam Fisher, the sheriff of Pecos. Miguel stars in surprise, and Robinson states he was sent in Fisher’s place, claiming to have been deputized. (Now, much later, Robinson turns out to be Sam Fisher and tells all he never actually came out and SAID that he WAS “Jack Robinson,” but, our author fell down on this lie twice in the story, in my opinion).

Miguel rides off to his ranch, run by Stella. The alias Jack Robinson forks away toward the other nearby ranch, where he runs into two villains, Matt Brady and Knute (not the football legend).

The pair circle him and go to kill him, when “Jack” bores a hole into one while knowing full-well that he is dead by the other. Shockingly, the other drops from the saddle, dead. Moments later, he hears a rifle report from afar. Waving his hat high in the air by way of “Thank You” he rides off again toward the ranch.

Here, he is intercepted by a wounded cowboy name of Arnold. He was recently shot at by the dead pair, and riding hard to catch them, in order to return the favor. When he learns of their demise, he is surprised (naturally) and they shake. “Jack” learns that the rifleman was old man Jake, whom soon rides up and intercepts them, too.

The trio ride on to Jake’s ranch, which is helmed by nothing but old-time war veterans, and the one younger Arnold. “Jack” is depressed to see that the ranch sports no youthful fighters, but knows full well that they are all capable, ready-to-fight veterans.

Jack and Arnold ride toward Stella’s, and part company. Jack meets Miguel on fence repair duty, and they soon part too. Miguel keeps repairing the fence and Jack is long gone, by now near the ranch, when two rifle reports are heard. For Miguel, those reports are too late. He’s already dead.

Meanwhile, Jack enters the ranch and surprises Stella, whom knows our hero as Sam Fisher. This fact is thankfully kept mum, for, one of the villains rides up to make an offer on Stella’s delinquent mortgage. Unbeknownst to the villain, this has already been bought up by Sam Fisher, whom informs Stella of the fact shortly before he enters. The baddie is shocked to see Sam (Jack) there, but remains firm. Neither Stella nor Sam inform HIM that his play on the mortgage is baloney, and then two others ride up.

They are Buck and another henchman. Buck has been playing it cool with Stella, hoping to buy the ranch and take her along with it. Buck rides in and they immediately draw irons against “Jack,” stating that they saw him gun down Miguel. Unlimbered of his hardware, Buck has “Jack” trussed up and sends him with the other henchman back to town to be tried and hung by the corrupt sheriff

“Jack” plays on the man’s nerves, and mentions Buck’s flaw, that his revolver has never been fired. The baddie fires off two rounds and speedily rides in Arnold to the rescue.

“Jack” heads on into town, and collects some mail and gear he had forwarded from Pecos, under the name of Sam Fisher. Soon word gets around that this Jack Robinson collected Sam Fisher’s effects, and all hell begins to break loose. Now firmly known as Sam, he strolls into the corrupt sheriff’s office and shows a poster optioning the rewarding arrest of Murphy, the first henchman that rode into Stella’s home. He coerces the corrupt sheriff to take the $300 bounty, arrest his man, and depart town. Meanwhile, he is deputized to act as in the sheriff’s place locally.

The town is torn between local loyalties or the law, but when it is announced by another that Sam slaughtered Miguel Cervantes in cold blood, they bust him up and lock in the bar’s back room. Thankfully, Arnold appears coincidentally on the scene, busts in the back window, and frees Sam. They re-enter the bar and have a showdown, then ride out of town quickly, before a posse can string them up.

A posse is formed, and give chase, but Sam smooth talks them to returning home and forming a committee to hold a jury, etc. Sam rides on to take down Buck and arrest him, full intention of bringing him in alive. Without ruining the climax, Sam gets his man, but Sam and Arnold don’t walk away without their fair share of bodily injuries, when Buck and others shoot them down. It becomes an awesome scene of carnage, where the author does some justice to the fact that the good guys don’t always walk away undamaged.

2015 November 3 “The Sheriff of Pecos” by H. Bedford-Jones

2015 October 22 “The Second Mate” by H. Bedford-Jones

09 The Second Mate

Ripped from the 10 October 1922 issue of Short Stories, the cover adequately portrays the contents within, (though this particular scene itself never takes place, making the 25 July 1923 cover more appropriate, even though that magazine issue had yet to be printed). I’m not sure of the cover art origins, either. This very same pulp magazine also contributes the next novelette in the series….

Jim Barnes, the newly hired second mate aboard the Sulu Queen, is a rotten vessel and run by even worse aboard. The masters of the vessel are hung up on opium, drunk, etc. Those that are maneuvering the vessel are made up of Lascars, two China men, Macao men, Malaysians, a Dutchman, etc.

Their passengers consist of nine. Foremost, a family of Arabs, husband and wife and five young children. The remaining two passengers are white female missionaries bound for China. Bereft of adequate funds, they hire the disreputable vessel at half the rate than other ocean floaters.

Much later in the novelette, we learn that Jim Barnes took the position of second mate at the request of the consul, where the girls acquired the vessel. Jim had been sternly advised to make ship with the girls, needing an honest white man aboard to protect them. (Hold! Wait? Are white guys in fiction always to be hailed as honest and virtuous?) Thankfully, he is not alone…..

Coming off his shift, he’s approached by one of the China men and informed of mutiny. Jim casually updates the ladies, loads up handguns and puts them in a smaller craft. Then he has the engine room destroyed, ship turns to chaos and bloodshed. Jim goes to rescue the Arabs, only to find the husband knifed in the back, two children dead, and the wife dead too. He manages to rescue the three youngest and they board the small craft, and drop away with the two China men.

Eventually they get their whaler ship-shape, mast set, and head for Borneo. They are then assaulted by the crew of the Sulu Queen, each themselves having taken to boats, after likely sinking the destroyed mother ship, and stealing a load of cached opium. They must pursue Jim and kill all aboard, and perhaps, if lucky, capture the white women, use as sex slaves, then sell off.

Our crew escapes, only the next day to be hounded again, beach ashore, and Jim stays at the beach with one of the China men to hold off the army of scoundrels, while the two girls, one China man, and the children, paddle the ship upstream to a possible Dutch community.

Next day, the pair are rushed by numerous ships, and they shoot them down with their automatics and revolvers (which is absurd, since the enemy are armed with rifles). Jim and his partner end up winning the day, killing off most of the assault party and then are rescued by a Dutch patrol boat, armed with cannon and rifles.

The novelette is short and the narrative is fast. Jim Barnes is a plucky fellow, laughing in the face of death, joking about everything under the sun, until the very end, when he sends the girls up river to survive, knowing he is throwing his life, potentially, away.

He ends up proposing to the one girl whom is equally in love with him, and…. THE END !!!

2015 October 22 “The Second Mate” by H. Bedford-Jones

2015 October 15 “Arizona Argonauts” by H. Bedford-Jones

05 Arizona Argonauts

H. Bedford-Jones’ “Arizona Argonauts” was originally printed in the May 1920 edition of Short Stories magazine while the front cover, rendered beautifully by Nick Eggenhofer, appeared on the 10 April 1922 issue. Sadly, the cover, once again, has zero to do with the contents within. There are no wild horse scenes within.

That doesn’t mean that the novelette isn’t any good. In fact, far from it. Personally, I have not read much H. B.-J., however, what I have read amounts mostly to his Oriental output, and those stories have been humdingers, for sure! I’ve never been fond of sea stories by any author. But, I digress.

This tale is very convoluted. We have a corrupt businessman whom is on the lam from his worries, looking to start a new life. The last of his possessions include his automobile, anything tucked therein, and a $500 wad stuffed down his sock. Skirting along the back roads of Arizona, he spots two hitchhikers. Never one to shy away from giving a free lift, he makes them the offer, only to find himself at the wrong end of a cylinder chambered with death. The pair are robbing him, but he learns that they are only looking for eats, not really money. The situation becomes mock-ridiculous, absurd, what-have-you, when one of the hikers turns out to be a famous surgeon that once operated on the corrupt driver, name of Sandy.

Sandy is shocked to see the surgeon, Murray, in such a condition. Murray confesses that he was run out of his profession once it was learned that he was a morphine addict. He has been free of the addiction since, but, can’t find work, so it is the road for him. His companion is an ex-safecracker, name of Bill. Both confess that they can’t now rob Murray, since they are all essentially of the same ilk.

Sandy offers them the ride anyway, as the one thing he has never had in life, is friends. They agree to be friends, and join forces. Sandy confesses his $500 wad and the pair confess they have more than that, even. They drive on to the (fictitious) town Meteorite. Here, they learn of a mining town further on in the middle of nowhere called Two Palms (I’ll spare you the time looking that one up, too. It’s also fictitious). While in the prior town, they openly remark to one fellow their interest in potentially buying a mine. This proves somewhat to be their undoing.

This rank fellow quickly writes and posts a letter to an unscrupulous denizen in Two Palms, and that person, Piute, along with another, name of Deadoak, jointly trick Sandy, a first-rank professional miner, into buying the mine and properties.

Sandy knows the whole thing is a sham, and quickly sends Bill to Meteorite anyway, to secure the deed and mortgage, proper. Piute and Deadoak intend on the same task, but are beat.

To mix things up, our wonderful author throws in some Oriental mystery. Arriving before our trio in an automobile was an Oriental man and his daughter, Claire, whom for all intents and purposes, is extremely beautiful, but, mystifying, appears to be wholly white! The town are flabbergasted by the pair, whom go out into the desert and take photographs.

As Sandy and his team arrive, they comically crash and wreck their flivvers. Bill is thrown threw the abandoned shop of a newspaper printer, and decides Fate tossed him in. Asking permission of the mayor, he is given to take over the facilities. He accepts.

Then the girl comes driving back into town, asking for a doctor. Murray jumps in and off they race, out into the desert. Her father, Lee, broke his leg. We later learn that he is interested in the same property that Sandy bought, so that he can establish a sanitarium and free the Chinese peoples of San Francisco from their opium habit.

Claire confesses she was (unofficially) adopted by Lee during the famous San Francisco fires. Her parents were missing, nobody disputed the adoption, and there you have it. Now Murray has zero racial tension to keep him from courting the girl. (sigh, so sad that authors were forced to insert all this racism, whether they believed in it or not).

Sandy is framed later into fighting a contractor whom recalls his criminal activities, and Murray is nearly equally railroaded into the pen on a charge of morphine and opium possession and distribution. However, Bill is on the scene and whips out his hideaway, demands the sheriff drop his gun and take him, alias “Shifty” Bill, in, on the wanted charge. The sheriff takes him instead as bigger game.

However, the whole thing unravels in the sheriff’s face. Lee informs the contractor to either drop the charges or lose his contract in building the sanitarium. Further, Bill had already done served time for that three-year-old wanted-poster in the sheriff’s office. Bill thinks it funny that he tricked the sheriff. And Murray? Well, turns out Lee’s private doctor had the drugs. Lee confronts him, is shot but does not die, however, Lee’s doctor dies from a rattler bite.

2015 October 15 “Arizona Argonauts” by H. Bedford-Jones