Frontier Sheriff by John Theydon

CURTIS WARREN Frontier Sheriff
John Theydon is overall a solid, competent writer. I enjoy his westerns, but, like any writer, the quality varies. The last one I blogged about was fun, but this one felt a bit sluggish.  Frontier Sheriff was published by Curtis Warren in 1949 and features cover art by Nat Long.

Sheriff Tex Draper, rather young for his age, must deal with local cattle rustling and murders. Despite his age, he is a savvy fellow, but a bit thick when it comes to realizing that his deputy has been secretly in cahoots with the outlaws. An excellently drawn-out gun battle ensues in the closing chapters, and in typical style, Tex gets the girl. He also earns the respect of the girl’s father, whose animosity toward him is legend, but, has a wry sense of humor, remarking that his daughter will make Tex “a danged good deppity.”

Guess we know who the new sheriff in town is, heh?

Frontier Sheriff by John Theydon

The Lone Ranger by John Theydon (1948)

CURTIS WARREN The Lone Ranger
It’s been a long while since I read a western by English writer John Theydon. Given that I have fallen behind on tackling the stack of digest-paperback westerns, I picked this one off the top.

THE LONE RANGER was published 1948 by Curtis Warren Ltd., sports a cover illustration by Kingsley Sutton, and the text begins on page 3 and concludes on 64. Priced at 9d, this quick-read kept me plunging headlong throughout. Why did I ever abandon Theydon?

The novel concerns Dave Logan, lawman, assigned to secretly protect a train loaded with gold bullion. The banker is riding West with his gold to deliver to the banks and Dave’s boss wants this shipment seen through. The area is rife with bandits, and while his boss wants that shipment safe, Dave’s real assignment is to track down the bandits, and capture or kill them.

The banker, coming outside for a smoke, finds Dave Logan on the train’s platform, enjoying the air. The banker thinks he is just another cowhand, not aware of the deception. Striking up a conversation, this is cut short when the train comes to an inexplicable stop. Worried that the train is being robbed, Dave drops off to investigate. Yet, there are no shots fired. He is returning to his car when shots are fired and he receives the world crashing in atop his skull….

Waking up much later, he finds the security personnel slaughtered, the safe blown open, and he and his horse the sole survivors. Spotting hoof-prints in the sand, Dave tracks them into the distant mountains, only to be shot at. This he considers a reward, meaning he has partly located the villains. Only one person is holding him down at rifle-point, so he circles the area, and believing to have caught the sniper unawares, is nonplussed to find the shooter’s location abandoned!

He’s suddenly shot at from another direction, and realizing that the shooter knew of his movements, shoots it out in the dark recesses of a cave. The man dies from multiple gunshot wounds. Searching the man’s clothes, he finds a letter from the fellow’s brother, another hoodlum, known to be in lock-up in Santa Fe.

Assuming that person’s identity, he rides into the nearby disreputable town, leaving the dead man to be found, later, by his comrades. Once in town, he nabs a hotel room and on entering the bar, finds a woman has held-up a bunch of unscrupulous-looking scoundrels at a card-table. She’s gorgeous (aren’t they always?) and mean and sure as hell capable of holding her own with a gun. Demanding they fork over misappropriated funds from her father’s late gambling run at a crooked table, Dave watches as one of the gunhands triggers a hideaway into action. Dave draws and blows the gun away. Retrieving the funds, the girl makes her exit while Dave lingers.

Once she’s gone, he explains who he is (in his new guise) and explains away his defending the girl he doesn’t know, but just couldn’t stand aside and watch a girl get hers. Ergo, feigning as a tough who is a sucker for dames. Elaborating that he is looking for his brother, the bartender informs him that he just shot the leader of the local gang who was with his brother.

Realizing he’s in a gritty position, Dave brazenly strikes out, heads to their rooming quarters, and enters. They are stupefied by his entrance. Explaining who he is, they finally cautiously accept him, but to prove his worth, he must steal the funds he just assisted the girl in retrieving. Agreeing to those terms, he departs…

…and returns to his hotel room. The girl has a room there, and enlisting the aid of the clearly honest hotel-keeper, he actually divulges 100% to them who he really is, the crook’s plans, etc. Dave has a plan to infiltrate the band, learn the identity of the real leader, and catch all of them.

The pair agree to get six other honest men, and pooling their funds, match the amount the girl has on hand. Sending one honest messenger to the next nearest town with a bank to pay off her father’s ranch-mortgage (the crook’s, in typical cliche fiction fashion, wanted the mortgage note to expire and the land has oil on it, unbeknownst to the owners…of course). This transpires while Dave returns to the rooms of the crooks. He tosses them the money, they blindfold him, and ride out, far away, to their secret headquarters in the mountains.

Part of the plan involves one of the honest six to trail him, and then they are to ride back and enlist the next town’s sheriff and posse…

Meanwhile, he and the party he rides with finally arrive, hours later, at their destination. Blindfold removed, he sleeps for a while on a bunk until the boss arrives. Brought away sometime later, he is led to another room where the boss is. The door opening, he overhears one of the gang explain who he is, only to hear the boss exclaim that THAT PERSON is in jail in Santa Fe!!! His bluff is exposed! What’s more, he recognizes the voice as the banker from the heisted train! He’s stealing his own gold! No shit, right?

A blazing gun battle ensues and Dave must shoot his way out or be hemmed inside the building and either smoked-out or shot to death. He’s shot once and stumbling about, aware of certain death, when all of a sudden a rifle begins cracking, repeatedly, eliminating his competition. Tossing his body behind cover, he’s shocked to find the shooter is none other than the girl! Unlike other works of fiction, John Theydon has his lovely lady as a resourceful tough girl, and not merely a piece to be admired. Handy with a gun, she continues to reload to punch holes in the competition, and refuses to relinquish her rifle to the wounded Dave, who feels his manly pride in jeopardy. They are soon to be outflanked when the posse arrives.

Surviving members of the gang turn and run, hop on horses, and take off. Bloodied and weak, Dave manages somehow to climb his horse, and in once-more cliche fashion, he has the fastest horse. Determined to get the banker, he ignores other members as they split away. They are peons. Insignificant. One has balls and attempts to stop Dave, but Dave merely shoots at him and rides on by.

The banker is frightened to learn that Dave has eyes only for him, and smartly, riding out of sight, he waits until Dave comes around a corner and pushes a boulder (because in Hollywood, they are all really just styrofoam in reality, right?) from above down at him. His horse shies away and Dave falls from his saddle. Spying the banker escaping once more, Dave commits himself to the one thing he despises: shooting down a horse. Taking sight, he murders the banker’s horse, which collapses and pins the man’s legs. Injured, but not dead, Dave takes him in…

Arriving in town with his man in cuffs, he finally faints from blood loss, wakes up later in bed, and finds the girl in another bunk, bandaged about the head from a gunshot wound grazing her forehead, making eyes at him. Well, we all know how this will end.

Last thoughts: The title of the book should be changed to “Lucky Logan,” given that Dave Logan makes much of family lore and the luck of the Logans, throughout.

The Lone Ranger by John Theydon (1948)

Detective Thriller Library (no. 1) Gerald G. Swan

By now, everyone knows the history of publisher Gerald G. Swan. His savvy decision to purchase and hoard warehouses full of paper leading into World War Two is almost legendary. And when one of the warehouses was destroyed, it didn’t slow Swan down in the least.

Someone within the Swan organization in the late 1950s discovered files filled with unpublished manuscripts dating back to the 1940s. Who precisely unearthed the trove, is unknown (to me) but, the publishers immediately compiled the assorted miscellaneous shorts, and issued the following publications, circa 1960-1961:

Detective Thriller 1

  • Weird and Occult Library (3 issues)
    complete short stories and articles
  • Science Fiction Library (3 issues)
    complete short stories and articles
  • Detective Thriller Library (2 issues)
    complete short stories
  • Schoolgirls Library (not seen by me)
  • Schoolboys Library (2 issues)
    one novelette and one short story
  • Romances (not seen by me)

Initially, I collected the W&O and the SF series.
Then, I began to chase the third series on the list.
The Detective Thriller Library series eluded me for nearly twenty years, until finally, I got lucky. Naturally, one must read these 64-page booklets.

Murder in Jail by C. G. Wimhurst (see the cover) is the lead novelette. George Stephens is found dead suspended high up in the air, on a hook, on the prison wall. While the reader is keenly aware who precisely murdered Stephens, Wimhurst adroitly offers us various alternate opportunities, going so far as to suggest another prison guard, whom was having an affair with Stephens’ wife–Stephens’ much-much-much younger wife. In the end, the detective realizes that the prisoner held above the suspended dead man was a rope expert. Have lassoed Stephens, he wrenched him up and strangled the man to death. Having successfully murdered the man, he went to drop the body to earth. However, he was not aware of the oddly placed hook below his window (which the author fails to explain the presence of).

Water-Hyacinth by Keats Hill is a short story of greed and murder and cunning. When Durgham’s partner becomes entangled and drowns, he returns to the dead man’s hut to find a strangely alluring, beautiful young man already ahead of him, with a manservant. She claims to be the dead man’s wife. Durgham never knew of a wife, and she declares calmly that they were newly wed. Suspicious of her, he explains the circumstances for her husband’s death, and that he is there looking for business plans. She adroitly convinces him to drag her along, so that she can locate, too, the missing plans. She is actually not wed to the lately deceased, but a hired thug sent to retrieve those plans for another party.

Brown Dust by Frederick Purves involves a man trudging along and entering a pub, only to find a man there, dead, blood all about. Kneeling to inspect the body, a young lady enters the pub and naturally assumes he to be the murderer. He defends his position, and they agree that neither of them are the killer. They vacate quickly, in fear that the killer is still nearby or may return. Ironically, they return to the scene of the crime, and he enters without her. Shockingly, he finds body  gone, all traces of blood removed, and the bar open for business! He plays it cool and tricks the cold-blooded killer into revealing himself and it turns out the pub owner found the corpse first and hid the body, too, in the hopes of discerning who murdered the man.

Strange Things Happen by John Theydon introduces us to Mr. Herbert Josser, special agent to the Foreign Office. Sent on a mission of extreme importance, and at all costs not to reveal his own identity, he is nonplussed to find himself the pivotal focus of a murder aboard a train. Can Josser solve the mystery before finding himself imprisoned and failing in finishing his assignment? Despite being written during the 1940s, it very much has the feel of several 1910s pre-Great War tales of espionage that I have read….

The Missing Key by Iris Weigh is tiresomely painful to read, after all the disappointing tales before it. A murder is committed and the door is locked. The detectives learn that a second key exists, and, furthermore, that the murdered lady actually committed suicide and tossed the spare key out the window into the bushes, in the hopes of her suicide being labeled a murder and sending a man to his own death. An overly recycled plot device.

Murder in Mayfair by G. M. Byrne features Jackson Laramee, investigating and safeguarding the priceless pearl necklace of Mrs. Woodchurch. Her husband believes that the famous thief Four Fingered Harry is present to woo her, and then snatch the pearls. Laramee has brought in some friends to watch everyone, but his plans go awry, when she is found murdered, after Harry walked in, but never walked out. Who murdered Mrs. Woodchurch? Where is Harry? And what happened to the pearl necklace? Perhaps the best-written tale in this neat volume, for offering the reader multiple plot complications, and just enough of an edge to keep you guessing.

Music Lesson by Douglas Haig introduces us to Inspector Seal, whom is musically inclined to know that the murdered man, in dying, played notes on the piano to indicate his killer’s identity and location.

Detective Thriller Library (no. 1) Gerald G. Swan

“Siege in Cedar Valley” by John Theydon

MARTIN & REID Siege In Cedar Valley
Siege in Cedar Valley by John Theydon

Siege in Cedar Valley” is a 32-page pamphlet published by Martin & Reid under their Arrow Books western line was written by John Theydon.

I was absolutely looking forward to reading this author again. When was the first? We’d have dial time back to the mid-1990s, when I attended my first PulpCon, which was still being held at Bowling Green, Ohio.

I picked up a battered copy of Round-Up Magazine, and on returning to my room for the night, of all the purchases, this one arrested my eye. On opening the pages, I found that it was not a magazine, despite the cover’s assertion, but, a full-length novel written by John Theydon was featured. It was competently written and had a verifiable plot. As such, John Theydon is one of those authors that I would love to read time and time again. However, locating his vintage westerns isn’t altogether an easy task. That aside…

Siege in Cedar Valley” begins with Jeff Milner assaulting his ranch boss for manhandling a waitress in a bar. A man of strong ethics, he had to act, despite the rest of the crew doing nothing. Discharged from the ranch for assault and informed he’d go without his pay, Milner departs and rides (eventually) toward the ranch to collect his effects.

He overhears an angry conversation ahead, and dismounting, sneaks up, and finds that his erstwhile ex-boss in deep conversation with a slick-dressed man, whom ends up shooting (near-fatally) the ex-boss. Milner draws and shoots the assailant, but fails to nail him, instead shooting off a silver spur of unique design.

Milner checks on the shot man and finds him alive, but in dire straits, when he is inexplicably caught by another rancher and told to drop his hardware. This newcomer claims to the ex-boss that he saw everything, and that it was Milner that done the shooting.

Realizing that he’s been boxed in to take the fall, that the ex-boss was in cahoots with his assailant, and that with the law and judge in his pocket, his life will soon expire at the end of a rope, he lashes out, fights the two off, and escapes under a hail of flying lead.

Heading south, he stops at a border town known to be home to illicit activities and finds the man with the missing silver spur. Unfortunately, he is also recognized and the villains all attempt to take him.

Escaping by jumping into a river and flowing downstream, he clambers out under the cover of darkness and re-infiltrates the town, sodden. Spying the silver-spur man and others departing, he follows the group and learns of a secret cave. Sneaking in, Milner discovers that the slick dude controls a hidden oasis filled with stolen cattle. Overhearing their plans, he learns that they intend to lay siege to Cedar Valley and kill off their boss (Milner’s ex-ranch boss, whom is master of this whole setup). Milner couldn’t really care less about those on the ranch, since they are apparently all crooked, however, there is a girl there that he loves.

Returning to the ranch, he arrives scarcely minutes ahead of the gang. Peering in a window, he sees his ex-boss in bed cared for by a doctor and the crooked sheriff and others present. A gun is shoved into his backside and he’s told to reach. It’s the girl! She spotted him sneaking onto the ranch. Trying to explain his innocence, but she won’t have any of it, he grabs and throws her to the ground as a hail of bullets from the gang herald their arrival. Saving her life, he is rewarded by the sheriff and posse with a bump over the noggin.

Returning to the world of the living, he’s cuffed, and led off to jail. While en route, he learns that the girl was captured by the gang and is being held for $20,000 ransom. The ex-boss won’t pay, which means the gang will all have their way with her until her use(s) have come to an abrupt end.

Hearing from his cell that the town intends to lynch him, he feels small pebbles pelt him fro the cell window. Looking out, he’s nonplussed to spot the girl from the bar trying to save him! Tossing him a revolver and imploring he use it to escape, he does just that, holding up the jailer and escaping.

The entire town gives chase and he leads them directly to the gang’s lair.

The rest is obvious. The gang are busted up, some die reaching rather than hanging, and Milner frees the girl and she inherits the ranch…and needs a good strong man to help her run it. It’s a decent story but deeply restrained by the 32-pages.

The cover art, by illustrator “F. T.,” has zero to do with the content. No such scene ever occurs.

“Siege in Cedar Valley” by John Theydon