Death on the Slow Draw by John Frederick (1946)

CROWN Death On The Slow DrawJust like the last John Frederick western I blogged about two years ago (Love Packs a Six-Gun) the title herewith was never a pulp story. The cover art depicts gamblers playing cards while a gunslinger walks up, gun drawn. There is no such scene anywhere in this story. Odds are, the cover (and title) was meant for some other western. Reading the first several pages clears up the mystery. How? Well, I had once-upon-a-time owned the original pulp it appeared in. Sadly, I auctioned it off in 2013 (the pulp depicted here was my sold copy).

Death on the Slow Draw was published by the Crown Novel Publishing Company (Canada, 1946). The artwork on the digest-paperback is unsigned. The tale originally debuted in Western Story Magazine, 21 June 1924 as “The Girl They Left Behind Them”.

Western Story Magazine 1924 06-21

Appearing via Frederick Schiller Faust’s alias John Frederick, the author achieved his greatest fame under the pseudonym of Max Brand.

The story involves a blonde giant called Jack Innis. He has traveled the lands and seas and built his bodily frame to steel and trained his hands to all manner of combat and can handle all weapons: from six-guns to rifles to knives. He is a proficient killing machine.

Innis makes his way to the town of Oakwood and falls in love, at first sight, with the beautiful face of Stella Cornish, daughter of the local sheriff. Stella feels no love for Innis; he is repulsive. The sheriff finds the brute appealing, for here at last is a real man. He tries though to explain (at various points) to Innis that he is wasting his time on his daughter…

Innis beats up her would-be dancing partner. Anyone gets in his way learns the error quickly, and painfully. It’s not long before Stella tires of his presence, and her inability to gaily attend dances and flirt with other young men. She learns of a man of famed fighting repute, and writes to his last known residence. That worthy Innis adversary arrives in the beastly and ugly form of Miles Ogden. Stella pours her heart out to Miles, and promises to marry him if he removes Innis, permanently.

Innis is lazily swimming in a creek when a voice-ashore hails him. He takes in the massive monster and realizes that here may well be his match. After a brief battle of vocal wits, they toss knives into a tree. Then swap bullets at a target. A perfect match, each time. Perfect shots, and quick draws, each. Finally they decide to settle things with fists. The battle royal ensues and sadly ends with Miles Ogden losing consciousness when his head strikes a rock. Innis retrieves his hat and douses the man. Convinced he was struck down and defeated by Innis, that latter worthy can’t honorably accept the win, and confesses that a rock did Ogden in. Ogden now is bolstered to his former self.

Innis demands an explanation for the assault, and Ogden explains he is in love with a girl, and that she has a suitor that won’t go away. The light dawns and Innis explains the only thing the girl loves is herself. To prove it, he surrenders one of his prized six-guns and instructs Ogden to show the gun to Stella and explain he has defeated Innis and has given him the boot.

Introducing himself to the sheriff, the latter is amused by the entrance of another man to woo his daughter and tries to warn him otherwise. Receiving permission to go inside, Ogden delivers his tale to Stella; he witnesses the pure evil delight in her eyes and finds that she wants to keep the six-gun as a souvenir. What’s more, she wiggles out of her promise to marry him and states they should get to know one another first. Realizing Innis was correct, he confesses the man is still in the picture, snatches the gun, and stalks out…and into town and into Innis’ room. From then on, the pair are roommates and both continue to court the girl until one man shall win her.

Skipping a lot of relevant padding, a hunter comes to Oakwood and proclaims that he has spotted an elusive silver fox. Stella is unclear as to the excitement, so her father explains its rarity and value. Into her eyes creeps a clever plan, a means to rid herself of both suitors. Offering herself as final prize to the first man who brings in the rare silver fox, the pair make off into the frozen wilderness.

Ogden is better suited to trap and secure the wolf, having a background in hunting. Innis lacks any hunting experience, but is game, nevertheless.

While inspecting his own traps, Innis tires halfway through and returns to his makeshift tent to find someone fleeing the scene. Inspecting the tent, he finds his ammunition and food stores missing. Angered by the deceit, he pursues the fleeing bastard, dead certain that he is on the trail of Ogden, for who else but Ogden would…?

Fueled by anger, he easily overtakes the fleeing man and discovers his quarry is an older, bearded man. Threatening death but granting life for a full, honest confession, the man proclaims he is in the hire of Miles Ogden. The food was stored away not far from Innis’ camp, and is restored. Likewise the munitions, which is in a pack on the old man’s back. The old man informs Innis where Ogden’s camp is, and Innis packs up, and heads out to deal death to Ogden.

Rifle readied and both six-guns loaded, he rapidly makes his way towards Ogden’s camp but foolishly loses his footing and slides down a hill, destroying a leg in the process and knocking himself unconscious. Coming to rapidly, he is mortified by his split open leg and immediately tourniquets it, tightly, which only pains him more. Dragging himself under the side of a fallen tree for shelter, Innis fires off an S.O.S. salvo from his guns until he is left with one last round in the chamber. Saving that to end his own life rather than freeze to death, he drowses off until he becomes aware of an evil creature staring at him. The fright fully awakens him to realize that the silver fox is there and just as it turns to flee, Innis wastes his final bullet killing the fox.

A pair of voices in the near distance proclaim that they heard a shot fired and stumble across the dead silver fox they were chasing. Turns out, of course, that the pair is Miles Ogden, and the other is the thieving old bearded man! Elated at the score, the old man dives upon the fox and begins cutting it up…but Ogden only has eyes for Innis. Discovering he slew the fox, Ogden confesses his deceit, admitting his fear that Innis, despite his clear hunting inexperience, might luck into fox, and sent his helper to trick Innis.

Spotting that Innis is bodily injured, he drags the man out from under the tree, has his helper start a fire, and sets to mend Innis’ deadly wound. He also proclaims that he will see to it that Innis not only survives, but will make sure he gets Innis and the silver fox to Stella. Ogden realizes that his honor and the man’s friendship means more to him than Stella Cornish’s false love.

Months transpire, and eventually the pair make their way out of the frozen wilderness. Innis is limping, and Ogden is on his bad side, supporting him. The people of Oakwood seem shocked, maybe even appalled, to see both of the two brutes making their way back into their lives. Knocking at the Cornish home, the door opens and they are met by the sheriff. He’s happy to see them, and explains that Stella sent them on a wild goose chase, that the silver fox does not exist…but he is shocked to witness Innis slowly extract from his pack the silvery-black pelt of the fox!

All for nothing, for the sheriff explains that Stella merely wanted them out of the way and…is married! She married a man that he describes as one that Innis can not kill, for he is not a man at all worthy of physical battering. But the sheriff states that the final laugh falls upon his daughter, who will learn that married life is work, for she hasn’t exerted a day of labor in her entire life!

The scene switches to find both men on horseback out around the Rio Grande, and Innis suddenly takes to whistling gaily. Ogden is shocked by Innis’ suddenly merry tune, and the latter explains that Stella’s father sure knew her way better than they did…but he also had a longer head-start! Sheriff Cornish had tried to warn the two men.

An amusing story from start to finish, leaving me wanting to read more works by Mr. Faust. For any interested in this story, it was reprinted in the collection Red Rock’s Secret (Five Star, 2006, 1st hardcover … Leisure Books, 2008, 1st paperback … an audiobook also exists) and contains 2 other novellas. The blurb online is partially accurate. It states: The Girl They Left Behind Them is an extraordinary story about big Jack Innis, who finds himself attracted to Stella Cornish, daughter of the local sheriff. The problem for Jack is that Miles Ogden claims Stella as his girlfriend and has terrified or intimidated every other man who has ever dared show any interest in her. Um…Miles did not come before Innis, so whoever constructed the blurb is in error.

Either way, the reprints are readily available, cheap, via eBay, ABEbooks, or any other used book site, etc. The original pulp is scarce and the Canadian digest-paperback version that I utilized is extremely rare.

As a side note, I was surprised to learn that Faust and his assorted aliases have largely fallen into obscurity. As a user of Instagram (via PULPCOLLECTOR), the hashtag #MaxBrand largely is used for a line of clothing / apparel and accessories. As for #FrederickFaust … the few that appear come from my own posts! Has this legendary, prolific, and highly competent western writer totally vanished from the reading public?

In a word: Yes

It’s plausible that the fate of his legacy has slid into the mired past due to dying young from a shrapnel wound in 1944 while acting as a correspondent in Italy during WW2. Another fact is that he wrote under over a dozen pseudonyms, instead of purely establishing himself under one or at worst two aliases. With over 500 novels and 300 stories, it’s hard to fathom this fiction factory could vanish.

Now, by comparison…

Zane Grey died in 1939, five years earlier than Faust. His literary output was much, much less and yet he left behind a larger footprint, with over 4000 posts attributed to his hashtag! He also did not use pseudonyms.

The only other western pulp fictioneer worthy to compare would be Louis Lamour, but he was born later than both men and survived four decades longer, outlasting the demise of the pulps, something neither Zane Grey nor Frederick Faust achieved, except posthumously. Despite that fact, Lamour incredibly has only netted over 5000 hashtags on Instagram. The clear winner as thus would be Zane Grey, on an output vs hashtag percentage basis.

Death on the Slow Draw by John Frederick (1946)

Forgotten Trails by Frederick C. Davis

SHARMAN ELLIS 01 Forgotten Trails
Forgotten Trails by Garry Grant Sharman Ellis Ltd.

Taking a brief sojourn from reading crime and science fiction stories, I’ve briefly returned to reading Western stories. Not just any Western, either. These continue my further exploratory readings into author Frederick C. Davis. Having previously read some of his crime tales, as reprinted by the British publishers Sharman Ellis Ltd., I decided to extract another Western chosen by the same publisher.

Forgotten Trails carries Davis’ “Garry Grant” pseudonym and is the first in their Western Novel Library series, however, the tale did not originally appear under this alias. The novelette actually debuted under his own name in the 30 July 1927 issue of Argosy All-Story Weekly. Initially, this excited me, for the simple fact (to me) that ARGOSY ran either stories of decent quality or of arousing interest. And having recently just finished reading the author’s lost 1921 crime thriller The Copper Room, I was very much ready for a Western.

Reprinted here in a trim digest-paperback format, this Western fills out all 64 pages, and likely was reprinted around 1935-1936. The rear cover advertises their new mystery series, both also by Davis, indicating the mystery and western series each began about the same time.

The story opens with Arthur Post speeding along a dirt road in Arizona towards an old ranch, in search of the last known whereabouts of his nearly identical brother. Years earlier, his brother had written their father a letter from that location, and then vanished. Now, their father, on his death bed, has died and left the entire family fortune equally divided among his two sons. A gentleman rather than a greedy cretin, Arthur now drives West from the Big City out East, hunting his brother, to learn whether he is dead or alive.

Arriving at the ranch, he finds that the home is aflame, and lends a hand in putting out the fire. Seems the kitchen caught fire. Having finished, a young lady exclaims “Ben!” in shock. Seems she has mistaken Arthur for his brother. However, he is thrilled as this means his first lead has paid off. He has found a clue, and that clue did not turn out to be a dead end. After explaining his actual identity to the young lady (Reita Burnett) he asks for her assistance in providing further leads.

Sadly, she doesn’t know where his brother went to. He remained only a short while, determined to move along and make a man of himself. Prove himself worthy to his father, who rejected him years earlier, for being likewise rejected by the army during The Great War as unfit to serve. This failure to meet the needs of the nation was too great for their father and he was cast out and banished. On his death-bed, the father informs Arthur that the will was unchanged and that he loves his son, Ben.

And so began Arthur’s adventures in the far West, and Reita supplies him with the names of the local sheriff and neighbors, to perhaps supply further details. Jumping once more into his coupe, he tears off and not long after, is assaulted from behind by the stereotypical “yellow menace” that pulps thrilled to have thrown into the mix. The Oriental apparently smuggled himself aboard the coupe by holding onto the rear of the vehicle and pounced upon Arthur. Having stabbed Arthur, the latter manages to dislodge his assailant and brings his coupe back upon the roadway before pitching over the precipice to his death.

Wounded and bloodied from the stabbing, he returns to Reita’s ranch to be mended. Mortified by the assault, they clean his wounds and put him to bed in a room to be shared with another man visiting from out East, a college-aged youth who is studying the local rocks, etc., for a large enterprise. The next day, they hear a noise outside and find that same man dead, bitten by a snake. He has some of his samples about his body and on his horse. Investigating the findings, Reita is nonplussed, but her husband-to-be (the ranch boss) is certain that there is great wealth in the form of coal on the lands.

Arthur visits the ranch’s neighbors, who they know has an Oriental cook and housekeeper, and the dilapidated structure is bossed by a Mexican (racially referred to as a “greaser”). Here, he finds the very same Oriental that assaulted him, an aging Mexican, who is shocked or scared at the sight of seeing Arthur (thinking he is Ben) and that man’s fiery spiteful daughter, who wields a rifle and has her sights on introducing his innards to the outside world.

Making haste his departure in search for healthier grounds, Arthur visits the town sheriff and learns that Ben left for parts unknown with two other men, one of whom was later found dead, stabbed to death. The mystery and plot thickens, and then a young boy arrives while they are talking and he appears shocked to see Arthur, as well. This boy leaves and is later found to be trying to murder the old Mexican!

Rescuing the kid from near-death at the nefarious hands of the Chinaman, Arthur compels the boy to come with him and takes his gun from him. The boy confesses that he knows who Arthur is, and that he grew up in Ben’s care, after his own father was murdered by the Mexican, years earlier.

The reader, led to believe that there is a much deeper motive at work, eventually has the tables turned on them to learn that while Davis has adroitly woven a tale with racial slurs, informs us that our preconceived notions are all wrong, and that we should not judge a person by the color of their skin. While it is true that the Mexican did murder the boy’s father, it was out of revenge for what they did earlier to him.

While on the Mexican’s own death-bed, he confesses that many years earlier, his wife was dying, and he had sent the loyal Chinaman in search of a doctor. He was captured and detained, not knowing how to speak English. Following in his steps, the Mexican went in search of a doctor but did not have a horse to speed his travels. Seeing the young boy (then as a child with three men), he spots that they have horses and steals one. Not realizing that he has performed a grave injustice, because he can only think of his own world crashing down if his wife dies, he speeds off. The men quickly jump the remaining horses, and being better riders, capture the Mexican. They tie him up and beat him mercilessly, then leave him to die. He didn’t speak English, so couldn’t convey to them his need for their horse. Extricating himself from the ropes, he knifes one man to death and pursues the others. But they have made good their escape.

Ben had gone to California and took care of the boy. Going into the cannery business, his education and developed physique eventually moved him up in the business to the point of owning a controlling interest. Fairly wealthy by his own right and hard work, he has become the man his father was assured he never would be.

All are surprised when he eventually arrives on the scene, having left California in hot pursuit of the youth, fearing the boy would attempt to murder his father’s killer. He is equally nonplussed to see his own brother. The story ends on the natural path that the brothers shake, their father’s will is explained, and while he returns West to his business with the boy (and a lot richer), Arthur remains behind to win Reita’s heart.

What? Oh, I forgot to tell you…her fiancee turns out to be a double-crossing creep, who was playing up to the Mexican’s daughter, and is already married (falsely) to her. I say falsely, because she believes she IS married to him, but, he had a fake preacher marry them. Learning that he intends to marry Reita, and confused over the matter, she eventually learns of the deceit, captures him and the preacher that intends to marry he and Reita, and wielding her rifle, with Arthur as a legal witness, holds her own version of a shotgun wedding. Removing the creep from Reita’s path, Arthur’s path is now clear to date the young lady. Turns out in typical literary fashion that Reita actually had already fallen in love with Arthur, never really loved the creep, and they sell the ranch to the rock mining interest, who arrive on the scene to proclaim that they aren’t interested in the low-grade coal found on the lands, but the large deposits of asbestos (which I find amusing that something deemed illegal these last few decades was once-upon-a-time a hot commodity). Ranch sold, the youngish couple head back East together, married.

All-in-all, it’s actually a brilliant story, all the more because Davis throws the era’s racial biases in the reader’s face(s) and then explodes it all to smithereens. This story was well-worth the read!

Forgotten Trails by Frederick C. Davis

Love Packs a Six-Gun by John Frederick

CROWN Love Packs A Six-Gun

When a battered copy of Love Packs a Six-Gun by John Frederick slid across my field of vision, I didn’t wait a second to snatch it up. The author is one of many aliases used by Frederick Schiller Faust, better known under his most famous alias, Max Brand.

Interestingly enough (to me) I had never read (to my recollection) any works by Mr. Faust. And given the somewhat obscurity of this Canadian publication via the Crown Novel Publishing Company, now was my opportunity. Printed in 1946, and noted to be “complete and unexpurgated,” I dove right in.

The cover art depicts a blond gunslinger facing off against an unknown figure, his own hand resting casually by his own six-gun. Behind the blonde is a red-dressed lady. The lower portion of the cover is mangled, leaving me to guess whether an artist signed the book or not, but, I have seen one other copy, and no signature was in evidence on that copy, either. However, if I had to guess, I would choose my Canadian artist to be Harold Bennett, based on the style of the “fingers” on the foreground gunman.

The original publication of this story initially had me baffled. This novelette never appeared in the pulps under this title, under any of his aliases. Reading the story quickly cleared the air….

Love Packs a Six-Gun debuted in Western Story Magazine, 26 March 1923 as “The Abandoned Outlaw” under the John Frederick alias.

The story introduces readers to two young boys playing at a schoolyard. The first, Oliver Beam, is an intelligent jock-sized boy, the boy that nobody can beat. The second is Clancy Stewart, a year younger, and his family recently moved out West. His father assigns the young Clancy to pick out the school bully, essentially, and beat him up. Beam is bewildered that this young upstart should mess with him, especially since he is noticeably smaller in frame than himself. The duke it out and Beam is further dumbfounded to find the younger boy a fair match for his oversized brawn. Neither refuse to give up and only break when a young pretty girl, Sylvia West, runs over to stop them from killing each other. Both are bloodied and bruised beyond recognition.

Each boy goes home, and while at Beam’s home, a knock at the door reintroduces the battered Clancy, demanding Beam to continue the fight. Clancy’s father refuses to permit him to step indoors until the fight is settled, with Clancy as victor! So ends Chapter One.

The next chapter slings us into the future. The boys are grown, graduated, in one form or another, and Beam is in charge of his father’s estate, and the richest bachelor in the region. Clancy’s family has always been dirt-poor, inept farmers, and his family is dead and gone. The “estate” is deeply in debt, and creditors have all come upon his father’s recent death to call in their debt(s). Nearly penniless, Clancy laughs them away, but one returns to collect or kill, so being his reputation.

Clancy easily guns the man down, walks into his cabin, phones the sheriff, and confesses to the killing. However, with no witnesses, he’s leery of being arrested. The sheriff is certain of the man’s innocence, and fully aware of the dead man’s reputation.

However, a janitor in town despises Clancy, for he represents everything that he himself is not. A born coward, Clancy is brave in the face of any fear. So, overhearing the sheriff talking on the phone to Clancy, he devises a plan to race afoot out of town, run into the oncoming Clancy, and lying to him, inform that the sheriff intends to arrest Clancy for the murder and use him as a springboard toward the upcoming re-elections.

Convinced, Clancy turns and rides away. Meeting Sylvia West at her father’s ranch, she has yet to hear of the murder, but Clancy informs her and she finally extracts from him that he loves her. Taking a chance, she kisses him, and realizes now, fully, that she is in fact in love with Clancy and not Oliver Beam. That fact had always been left undecided. She cares not for Beam’s money or good-standing. She’s ready to throw her life away and marry an outlaw.

Departing town and region, Clancy flees to parts unknown, works an ore mine, strikes it relatively rich enough to be financially solvent, returns, and presenting his hard work to Sylvia, she finds him inside and out a new man. Clancy again leaves….

Oliver Beam is certain that the outlaw is in the region. In fact, he is certain. Sylvia West is, while always friendly toward him, affectionately cold and distant. On this basis, he spends time at her father’s ranch and one night spots her on horseback riding into the wilderness. Whilst on foot, he chases her, knowing he can keep up because she has to ride slowly at night.

Stealthily he follows and she eventually reaches a remote cabin and finds the two lovers. Listening in, he finally enters the cabin and…well, let’s just say it ends in a shootout. Clancy wins, despite Beam’s astoundingly fast draw. Shot down, but not dead, the mortally wounded Beam is taken in and Sylvia dresses his wound and sends Clancy out for help. He returns with a clergyman, and instructs the man to convince her to marry Beam! She has no certain future with himself, and Clancy knows it, having been convinced by Beam. Bewildered by his assignment, the man rides down and attempts to convince the girl to marry Beam…

Clancy rides away, only to find a notice hammered on a cabin stating that Clancy is a free man, all charges dropped! Turns out that the janitor, on his death-bed, confessed his sin to the sheriff.

Overjoyed, Clancy rides back quick as hell to save Sylvia from marrying Beam. He eventually comes upon the clergyman, whom explains that Sylvia fought him tooth and nail, but in the end, he prevailed, and the two are married.

Clancy, dejected, rides away, only to reflect in astonishment that he wasn’t beat by the law, by Beam’s quick draw, but by a janitor, the town outcast.

The story has subsequently been collected in 1997 and 1998, first by publisher Thomas T. Beeler (Circle V Western, large print edition) and next year via Dorchester / Leisure Books mass market paperback edition. The tale also exists narrated on audio cassette.

Love Packs a Six-Gun by John Frederick

NICK CARTER returns in “Murder Unlimited”

Murder Unlimited
Murder Unlimited
 debuted as “Bid for a Railroad” in Nick Carter Magazine (January 1934). It was the second (of four) Nick Carter stories (originally written by Richard Wormser) to be bound and offered in digest-paperback format by the publishers Vital Publications in 1945.

Here, Nick is contracted to stop a competing railway line from putting a small-town line out of business. The owner is certain that they are using criminal means. Nick quickly learns that the railroad detectives assigned prior to the case, and still employed, are actually all corrupt and have criminal records of their own.

The son of the head villain (whom we never actually get to meet) goes so far as to deposit an extravagant amount of cash into the local bank (owned by the locals) and shortly thereafter, it is robbed at gunpoint.

Realizing that the bank doesn’t have enough funds to repay the villain’s son, nor the farmers and local homesteaders, if and when a run on the bank does develop (which turns out to be opening bell the next morning), Nick must chase the thieves, obtain the lost funds, return those funds in time to the bank before it opens, and coerce the largest depositors from extracting their funds, thereby tricking the locals to retain faith in the bank. It’s a nasty business but Nick is up to the transaction.

The head railroad detective is captured and after some trickery on Nick’s part, he agrees to turn evidence over against the villain’s son. Plus, the detective’s two assistants were murdered by the son, so he realizes his life is forfeit, otherwise. A local farmer-investor, duped into the dealings, confesses all, too. The local sheriff takes the son and the detective to jail….

NICK CARTER returns in “Murder Unlimited”

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”

Hardboiled (No. 2) – November 1936

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Hardboiled is a digest-sized pocket pulp magazine that began its life in 1936. The depicted edition is the second issue, for November 1936, with cover art by Ben Martin. Given the current election year, it only seemed fitting to read and comment on this copy, although the cover has zero to do with the short story content within. Further, if anyone has an ideas that the title infers gangsters, mobsters, guns and such, this magazine will disappoint. That was not the point of this publishing venture by Street & Smith.

I’m not altogether convinced as to WHY this publication came into being, but, I suspect part of the reason is that Street & Smith received too many “good” manuscripts to turn away, but, many of them simply had no proper home within their pulp markets, for various reasons. Many of the stories in this mag are good but just don’t quite hit the mark. Regardless of reason and rationale or my own opinions, fact is, the mag lasted only the 9 issues, and after the fifth edition, changed name, to become known as “The Popular.” Ultimately, this doomed experiment vanished less than a year after its creation, and today, is a scarce and collectible pulp publication.

The publication is loaded to the gills with vignettes, short stories, and poems. For my own self-serving purposes, I’m only concerned with the fiction stories….

First up is Marguerite Lindsey’s “Both in the Same Spot.” Now, don’t laugh at me just yet, but this is indeed a crime story. A crime syndicate decides to play hardball with a Senator, and he takes a heavy fall for a dame name of Trix. Thinking to entrap the Senator and blackmail him for countless funds, the Senator is caught in a hotel room and the crooks capture the moment with the bang and flash of a camera bulb. Soon thereafter, he is visited by Trix herself, to obtain the bribery funds. With the aid of his butler, it is fixed to look like the girl drank too much and fell off the balcony, to her grisly death, far below. When her crime lover later comes calling, he informs the Senator that he isn’t a sap and kept copies of the photograph. Rather than be “owned” by the mob, he calmly steps off the balcony and splats in the same spot as Trix.

Thrilled to read one by Captain S. P. Meek, a real pulp fiction contributor here! “When Kali Walked” involves an Englishman assigned to run a road through, yet, the local priest has the people convinced that Kali has appeared in the form of a man-eating tiger, to slay all those that assist the English in their assignment. Creighton, the English-man, with the aid of Durgan Dass, the local part servant and bodyguard, assists him to toppling the priests faux-reign of terror, and kills the tiger. In killing the tiger, he again regains control of the locals and proclaims the man a false priest. It’s a typical yarn of this time from start to finish, but Meek is a damned capable writer and makes even the standard stand out sharply.

Pick-Up” by Fergus M. Henderson appears to be the typical hoodwink game. Girl in a hotel lobby tries to get some nice soul to help her, give her money and food, etc, but in the end makes off with the guy’s wad. Months later, he comes across her again, in the same hotel lobby. She claims to have been coming there regularly, and repays his “loan.” Turns out she was dishonestly honest about her whole approach. She was destitute, after her husband had been run down by a truck and left her stranded with a toddler. With the stolen funds, she got on her feet again, and she and the baby were doing fine, but she needed to repay the stolen “loan” to everything right again.

Geoffrey Harwood supplies “Broadway Etching,” which is an unusual tale, given that the author had pulp leanings toward air stories. Famous Mann is the name our of protagonist, and his job is to get some fluff off the arm of a man that another dame is in love with. However, the first dame is no lady. She either wants the man’s arm, or, her Hollywood contract. Preferably the latter. Mann convinces the agent to take her back on again, thereby freeing the man to pursue the latter girl, and straightening out matters.

Another pulpster joins the rank in the form of Anthony Rud, with “Claws of the Catspaw.” This a tropical sea story involving murder and deceit. The rose of the sea is a murderous bitch but fucking hot with curves and lips and all in the right place. But, when she attempts to two-time Bunch Gurney, the ugliest man on the earth with a hump back and all working against him, she learns a painful lesson. Just because a guy’s face value ain’t worth looking at, doesn’t mean he isn’t “sharp” upstairs! Convincing him to murder her current lover over some rare pearls, she attempts to deceive him by making off with the goods while leaving him to face the music. However, Bunch Gurney is on to her plot. He gets the pearls AND then kidnaps the girl, taking her away out to sea to rape and pillage!

Next up is “The Black Widow” by Hazlett Kessler, an author best known for westerns. “Big Tom” Flint arrives in a remote town to pursue the love interests of local black widow beauty, Rose le Coigne. Rumor has it that this insatiable beauty has had more lovers walk into her loving embrace than walk out of her isolated cabin alive. Seeking to conquer her, he beats her when necessary and ties her up at night to keep her from killing him. She eventually breaks down his intelligence by coyly playing up sexually to him, over time. One day, she eventually runs him through with a long knife, makes off with his money and flees town, because, unlike prior occasions of murder, this time murder can not be concealed. For all its simplicity, it is a good story.

Red Ribbons” by Denslow M. Dade is a sea-horror story, of sorts, but simply doesn’t quite grip you. A fellow leaves a bunch of evil sailors to face death in the hold of a ship that catches fire. Rather than let them out and save their lives, he leaves the hold barred, in order to save a young girl that the kidnapped upon shore. Having saved the girl, the ship burns to a cinder but the man goes through life always hearing those screams, until, one day, he is found dead, frozen to death in a meat locker.

George Lowestoft presents us with a short tale involving a restauranteur siccing one of his useless staff upon an eccentrically wealthy woman. She is a raving lunatic and the owner likes to keep a proper, quiet atmosphere. She refuses to calm or leave, so he baits her with his staff member, a young, very handsome foreigner. They vanish, and the owner later receives a phone call stating that the fellow quits and the woman, well, “She Married the Bait.”

Special Pressure” is a one-page vignette by John Cogswell. Guy is hanging up coat in men’s closet at a party. Woman wants him to get her compact from her husband’s coat pocket. They look for it together and then they have an illicit affair right there. The husband walks in but only laments that his top-hat is squashed. Um, okay….

Jon Swan brings us “Hot-Water Baggers.” His wife drives his bonkers with hot water bottle requests. Eventually he divorces her for a hot young thing whom years later cheats on him as he did on his first wife and she puts him off repeatedly by lamenting the usual wife story to all us poor slobs of husbands, my back hurts, I’m tired, get me a hot water bottle, etc. So, the story repeats itself, until, she puts some detectives on him and catches him in a precarious position. Now he pays her a monthly alimony and continues her love affairs but is smarter than he was: she doesn’t marry!

Any pulpster knows the name Wyatt Blassingame, right? Maybe not, but he supplies “No New Answers” to no new questions. It’s the old story of a decent, innocent girl coming into a police station being evicted due to inability to pay rent and can’t get a job, but the landlord won’t let her back into her rooms to obtain her clothes, etc. The cops refuse to help her, since the landlord is within their rights! She leaves, disheartened. Many months pass, she is brought in, arrested, and no looks the part of a hardened hooker. On her heels, comes another young, decent, innocent girl, with the same origin story…we all know how THAT will end.

Bill Gray’s “The People’s Choice” is a clear bell-ringer for this mag’s cover art. A political story involving a man running for office finally realizes that he is dead broke and NOT going to win despite his backers lying to his face and assuring him that he will. Finally, he cracks and they send him to a hotel to rest up, before pushing his butt out the door to finish his bid for office. Waking up, he finds himself on the wrong end of a gun, and the dame is confused why HE is in THAT hotel room. Turns out the Senator (the backer) usually sleeps there on his hideaways, and the woman was one of his affairs! Wanting to plug him for ditching her, she got a job at the hotel. Leaving him at the hotel, she seeks out the Senator, and lo, what should happen? The Senator is a smooth talker, convinces her to take up with him again, and he’s in such a good mood, relinquishes his seat to allow the guy in the hotel run now for Senate!

Killed” is a simple yet ironic tale by Kenneth Andrews. While making out and proposing, Bill confesses to robbery and murder in a prior life but has mended his ways and that he is no good for her. She forgives him and informs that he is not the same man he was before and she loves him forever. But, when he flips the story and says it was all a lie, a “test” to see how much she really loves him, she drops him like a hot potato, stating that he has killed her love for him after that, swifter than a murderer could.

Thomas Edgelow supplies one of those smart-set sort of human interest stories with “Earth and Earthly,” in which a country girl in the city learns that just because a man claims to love you, and put you up in a house, doesn’t mean he really does love you or will ever marry you, especially if he already is.

Gerald Jenks rips the gut-buster with “One on His In-Law.” Horace is sent upstairs to stop his new neighbor, whom has a dog, from peeing on the balcony, which is slatted, and ruining his wife’s clothes. Upon knocking, the door is opened by the most startlingly young and beautiful girl ever. Truly, this ruins the story, as she is far from the focus of the plot. She could have been an ugly hag for all that she matters. He meets the dog, Bingo, whom goes out onto the balcony that moment, and sprays a fine gusher …. down on top of his mother-in-law’s head !!! He is now best friends with Bingo.

Fledging” by Eustace L. Adams, is slightly a weird ghostly tale. A young lady is in love with an aviator pilot that is old enough to be her father. She fears for his life, since he is a risk-taker and daredevil. Famous for his deeds, many rise for his autograph, etc. But, when she and he approach the civilian airport to pick up his son, whom is returning from school, she sees a younger version of her heart-throb and becomes emotionally confused. The father is upset because his son has a fear of flying, and prefers to be an architect. While his father is a way on the California coast, he secretly decides to prove his father wrong, by taking up flying lessons. The girl watches him from the ground. Deciding to take things to the extreme, and commits the plane through dangerous maneuvers and then decides to die a quick death by dashing the plane to bits on the ground, but in the end pulls her out of the uncontrollable spin and dashes up to safety, but only after his ghostly father shows him how to pull out of the death dive and right his plane. Believing that his ethereal father was with him in spirit, he finally lands, happy, knowing that he has conquered his fear of flying and that his father will be proud, even if he still intends to become an architect. But, his glee is dashed when the girl approaches with news that his father died in a plane crash and would never see the son fly, to which, he proclaims, “He–he did see it!”

Hollywood Friendship” by Lawrence Bowen insinuates that you can’t trust anyone in Hollywood. When Sigmund divests himself of New York interests to pursue a directing career in Hollywood, he learns that New York play conquests mean nothing in the home of the silver screen, and friendships are hollow.

Walter Brooks supplies the time-worn beaten-to-death classic “The Worm Returns.” In this tale, Petheridge is under the ruling tyrannical thumb of his wife, whom, despite all things, he truly loves. He caves in to her every desire in his interest toward keeping her happy. But, when she tosses his newly acquired affection for a certain musical instrument out the window, he becomes enraged and leaves her. Leaving a note of abandonment behind, she informs the local society that he went big game hunting, rather than face the fact that she has been dumped. Years pass, Petheridge went to Europe to become properly trained in the instrument. Returning to the United States a changed man, both inside and physically in appearance (sporting a messy beard, etc), he purchases a home behind hers and watches through binoculars as suitor after suitor make plays on her. However, this once quiet man of society knows all these rich men, and knows intimately their digressions. He writes each one letters of warning, threats, etc and each one vanishes to parts unknown. Eventually, he comes across his estranged wife at a function, and they “date,” sort of, then he informs her that she will marry him, whom, by the way, lives under the name of Protheroe. He takes things too far when he commits the ultimate mistake: he takes out the musical instrument and plays “Onward Christian Soldiers,” a song that only HE would play. She immediately discerns his true identity, laughs in his face, and tells him to cough up the instrument, with the intention, clearly, of tossing it out the window. He nearly caves, then, pockets the piece, bends her over his knees and spanks her repeatedly. Initially she laughs but when he ceases to relent and continues, it is she who begins to break down, begging Mr. Petheridge to stop. Mister WHO? he says!!! Protheroe, she corrects. Yup, he beats into her that Petheridge is no more and that he is now Protheroe. Weapingly, she begs forgiveness and prays that if he still loves her, play something nice for her. So, he tortures her, by playing the same song, again, and again, and again, and again…..

The mag wraps up with “Hey! Hey! Hotcha!” by C. Douglas Welch is a vignette filler that should never have been included, let alone, hardly as the last piece to this mag when the prior tale by Brooks was sensational enough, even if redundant in nature. This tale is a short narrative of a guy trying to convince a woman to dance the rhumba with him then decides she is better suited for something safer, like a waltz.

 

Hardboiled (No. 2) – November 1936

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

“Texas Men and Texas Cattle” by E. E. Harriman

With Book 64, the publishers, Garden City Publishing, focused entirely on westerns, a clear indication that this genre outsold all other genres in the original series.

The rear covers on second-state editions announced forthcoming titles along with dates of publication, each on a monthly basis, beginning with this title, “Texas Men and Texas Cattle,” by E. E. Harriman, published 1st February 1926.

This edition also marks the first shift from 124-page to 188+ page volumes. The thicker volumes allowed the publishers a ready option to bind remainder stock later as hardcovers (which they did, on many of the future titles).

This long novelette hails from the July 1925 edition of Frontier. The cover art, by Nick Eggenhofer, originates with the 10 July 1924 edition of Short Stories.

The story is straight-forward from the onset, and heavily padded to the point of feeling quite dull at times. It’s neither a good book, nor a bad book, just the author’s choice of dialogue and dragging pulls down the value of this to me.

64 Texas Men And Texas Cattle

Will Stratton owns a ranch and is deep in debt. Loan sharks tricked him into a higher interest rate than verbally quoted, and years gone by, he is near bankruptcy. However, when a man from out West spends the night, traveling East, he learns that while cattle in Texas is worth pennies, folks in Arizona and California are in dire demand of beef, spending $25-40+ per head.

Breaking the law, he herds his cattle, along with two other neighborly ranchers, West, fighting their way past stampeding buffalo, Comanches, Apaches, rustlers, etc, before landing in Arizona and facing off against corruptly deputized men from Texas, serving a warrant. However, prior to this, the men had successfully sold the entire outfit and Stratton, by express, has posted due funds back to Texas, to his lawyer.

The three are intermittently jailed and post bond, await trial, and after two weeks go by, no word returns by express to set Stratton his fellow ranchers free. Thankfully, as luck would have it in the closing pages, an express man runs into the courtroom carrying a Texas-stamped envelope, with a letter from Stratton’s lawyer. The situation is deftly handled, and our men are free to roam….

“Texas Men and Texas Cattle” by E. E. Harriman

“Devil Marked” by Edwin L. Sabin

59 Devil Marked

Book 59 is “Devil Marked” by Edwin L. Sabin, returning to the series for the first time, since his inclusion with Book 2 in the original run.

The tale was originally printed in Argosy All-Story Weekly (1922 Sep: 9, 16, 23) in three installments, and also credited H. Bedford-Jones as a co-writer.

The date and era are never properly given to the reader, although we understand that it takes place some time during the mid-1800s. We are given real-life Governor Armijo, along with Bent’s Fort already being in existence.

The story opens with a backstabbing murder during a game of cards in New Orleans. A fourth player at the table steals away into the night and the remaining two take the money and likewise disappear.

Fast-forward a number of years, and we have two Cuban refugees (a boy and a girl) on a river boat. Of upper class, their parents are dead and they are seeking to locate their uncle in Santa Fe. While aboard, the boy is tricked into a game of cards and loses his family fortune. However, a brute of a man calls the bluff and announces the game to be “fixed.” Going by the name of Captain Badger, he takes he pair of Cubans under his assumed protective wing, while his true intentions are the gold doubloons.

Also aboard ship is the brother (Duprez) of the assassinated card-player. He has been hunting the killers his whole life, but is unaware that Badger is the backstabber.

After disembarking, Badger places the pair in a semi-reputable hotel (of sorts) and the girl stashes the gold among chimney ashes. The boy is lured away that night to play cards with Badger and company. Hours later, deeply drunk, he is duped by a note to hurry back to his sister. Likewise, the sister is informed that her brother is injured. She foolishly leaves hotel and gold behind, and is led away and confused in the by-streets and alleys, before the leading villain disappears without a trace. Lost and alone, she is shocked to find Duprez there and he brings her back to the hotel, only to find that ruffians are (falsely) assaulting the boy and Captain Badger.

Duprez vanishes too. In truth he snuck into the hotel, found the gold, and seized it for safekeeping, realizing the Captain to be a scoundrel.

However, one of the villains spotted Duprez depart the hotel and they convince the boy that he is a thief. The boy is entirely a (schmuck) throughout the entire novel, earnestly believing Badger and his claims.

Hiring a couple wagons to train down to Santa Fe, Badger insists on freely escorting the pair to the town. Meanwhile, he has abandoned the gold and wishes to avail himself of the girl.

Things go slightly awry, as the gold is recovered by the gang after they ambush Duprez in the desert and leaving him for dead. However, despite having been shot in the head (likely only grazed) he stalks the wagons and when a band of marauders attack the wagons, he rides in to save the day, only to ride out again when the girl is kidnapped.

Badger and the gang spot Duprez among the marauders and convince the boy that it was Duprez himself whom abducted the girl, and, has the gold, too! when in fact Badger has the bag of gold.

The whole story eventually shifts climatically to Santa Fe, where Duprez and Badger fight it out with large knives. You know the rest. Duprez slays Badger, gets the girl, and a ton of other details hanging in the wind prior as irrelevant suddenly manifest as important, but I rather not bog down this blog by ruining the background plot devices at work.

Unless “Loaded Dice,” this novelette here is far superior to that horrendous earlier piece, and while I dislike this genre, I do great dishonor to the tale itself were I not to recommend it for future reading among you fellow pulpsters!

“Devil Marked” by Edwin L. Sabin

“Tramps of the Range” by W. C. Tuttle

57 Tramps Of The Range.jpg

W. C. Tuttle brings us “Tramps of the Range,” being book 57 in the Garden City Publishing pulp digest-paperback series, and originates within the 28 February 1923 edition of Adventure.

Reading this tale was a surreal pleasure, as I have never read a Hashknife Hartley and Sleepy Stevens story. Given that Tuttle has written dozens range-detective tales featuring the duo, this caught me off guard.

The tale is competently told, not quite so fast-paced nor loaded with action, but brings enough to the plate to keep the reader turning page after page to learn what comes next. It was a hard book to put down. Generally, I’m satisfied to stop at the next chapter, and found myself pages into the next one without any forethought.

Hartley and Stevens are investigating a heist and the banking association has the penitentiary early-release their lead suspect from a 5-year term, four years early, in the hopes that he will go straight to the stolen-cached loot. With a Tuttle story, you can bet your ass it ain’t gonna be that simple.

The pair are shot at, their horses are murdered, there is a love-triangle apparent, a girl is in love with the apparent heist-man, the heist-man’s father is gunned down as being the elusive “Black Rider” whom has been robbing carriages and such, etc.

Suffice to say, if you haven’t read a Hashknife Hartley and Sleepy Stevens story, this one was a sure-fire romp. And the comradeship between the two, the open goofiness and facetious attitude between one another makes their serious antics aloof, right until they come to climax and must relinquish their tendencies and come to grips with solving the robberies, murders, and twisted love affairs.

Thankfully, a good many of Tuttle’s tales are available in vintage paperback form, and can be readily found online, or, if you are fortunate enough to live near a decent used bookshop (I live in hell, so I’m not so lucky) then pay them a visit!

“Tramps of the Range” by W. C. Tuttle