Adventure Trails debuted in June with a publication date of July 1938 on the Table of Contents page. Published by Manvis Publications, Adventure Trails would join the growing list of Red Circle magazines issued by Martin Goodman.
Martin Goodman would go on to found Timely Publications the following year, with their first comic debuting with a cover date of October 1939. Timely became Marvel Comics two decades later. Some pulp artists also worked on Goodman’s comics.
The cover art features a bronzed white man with a six-shooter, rescued by a native girl, who is seen cutting his hands free from the death pole while a tribe of natives look on, preparing to kill them both. The artwork is signed H. W. Scott, lower right corner. Short for Howard Winfield Scott, an artist born 1897, he entered the pulp illustration market in the mid-1920s and prolifically contributed throughout the 1940s and tapering off quickly in the early 1950s. For a full bio, click on his full name.
Over the years, I have frequently alluded that Martin Goodman may have utilized his various house names to hide the acquisition of reprinted pulp stories. This was met with open derision by some in the pulp community.
So, I finally decided to read a Martin Goodman pulp from my collection. Upon reading the opening pages to the first tale, I laughed. I had indeed read this story before! Proving my theory without any sweat on the first story! Could I prove more? If not, at the least, I’ll provide a plot synopsis and hopefully other pulpsters will reply in kind to this blog and contribute.
Copping the cover is Rodney Blake’s Singapore Thunder, a novella that actually appeared during the early 1920s. An easy claim to establish as upon reading the opening lines, I realized I had not only read this tale, but also blogged it back in 2015. Rodney Blake is a house name for the Red Circle magazines. In this instance, it hides the identity of one of the pulps most prolific writers of all time, H. Bedford-Jones. The original published title is The Second Mate, as published in the pulp Short Stories, 1922 October 10. It was later bound as a softcover / paperback in 1923. Please click on The Second Mate to visit my original post and view the softcover editions artwork. Or, read on for the plot, below:
Jim Barnes, the newly hired second mate aboard the Sulu Queen. Jim took the position of second mate at the request of the consul because of fear of what would become of honest girls who foolishly sailed with this particular vessel. Not long into sailing Jim learns of a planned mutiny. Alerting the female of the impending danger, Jim acquires some guns and loads them into the attached smaller craft. Blood-and-thunder ensues after Jim sabotages the engine room and the men battle to the death. Jim fails to safeguard all the passengers aboard but rescues two girls and some children. Along for the ride is a Chinaman. The whaler is pursued by survivors of the Sulu Queen and the cached opium. Jim must be murdered and the rescued women captured if possible and sold into the sex slave racket. Jim and the girls make for the shores of Borneo. Secreting the group on land, Jim and the Chinaman face impossible odds and hold of the mutineers. They are eventually themselves rescued by a heavily armed Dutch patrol boat.
The next story inside is The Brass Peacock by John Cannon, yet another house name. This one conceals William Corcoran and originally was The Curse of the Brazen Peacock, from Mystery, 1933 January edition. This tale may perhaps be the first Mark Harrell taxicab detective story. It certainly was the first published in Mystery magazine, however, Corcoran had a history of writing taxicab / hack stories for the pulps, so I’m not confident Mark Harrell couldn’t have possibly appeared elsewhere. In fact, at the time of writing this piece, FictionMags did not have his other Mystery contributions noted properly as Mark Harrell stories. Four more were not noted, but I obtained access to two and found Harrell indeed to be present, leaving two more unconfirmed. A month prior to the debut of The Curse of the Brass Peacock found Corcoran in Street & Smith’s Detective Story Magazine with Cab Call in the 1932 December 10 issue. I’d love to know if Harrell makes his debut there or not. Regardless, the story opens with Mark Harrell driving his cab and picking up a swarthy client with a heavy box in an unscrupulous part of New York City, then driving him to a more affluent part of the city. Upon arriving, we are introduced to a young man and seductively beautiful woman, and the house-attendant. All three are waiting impatiently for the arrival of the swarthy man, known as Wahid. The young man is Fletcher, the woman is Vornoff. The attendant asks the newly arrived Wahid where Watterson is, as he is not answering their calls. Nobody saw him leave his upstairs apartment. Harrell is with them, having assisted in hauling in the cumbersome metal box. Wahid boards the elevator to check for himself; he returns and informs the company that he found Watterson dead. While they all go up to confirm, Harrell steps out, can’t find a local policeman, steps back in, phones the police. They arrive, then Inspector John Force of Homicide arrives and takes over the crime scene. Harrell is largely a background character witnessing the crime as a whole and through his eyes the story is laid bare. He was a former global adventurer and seafarer and married; divorced, he lost everything and invested what little he had left into a taxicab. Through this means we are introduced to Harrell’s life activities and why he is literally in on the case. John Force can’t immediately solve the case however, Harrell, a former globetrotter exposed to much of the Orient and Middle East, etc., is somehow vastly familiar with many countries and their assorted local “tribes” and clans and beliefs. This is hardly likely. He’d also have to be multilingual as well, among other unlikely traits. Harrell showcases his brains by adroitly shifting what is known from Force’s interrogation process into sequences that eventually prove everyone’s alibis are accurate save for Wahid’s whereabouts. I won’t ruin the plot but suffice to say, Wahid plays the cliché role of the deceased Watterson’s faithful Eastern assistant until the item within the metal box leads him to murder. Wahid sets the scene to lead the police to believe Miss Vornoff to be the killer, too. A fight ensues between Fletcher and Wahid, but Harrell steps in and displays some martial arts maneuver twisting Fletcher loose while retaining a firm hold upon Wahid. Exposed for what he is, Wahid makes to murder Fletcher with a kukri-like weapon, ripping the souvenir from the wall and hurling the blade at him. Harrell tackles Fletcher but the wooden haft slams into Miss Vornoff, knocking her down. Wahid makes his escape but meet the wrong end of a policeman’s revolver down the hall. Case closed.
Next is Dancer of the Rio Grande by Eugene A. Cunningham, a real author this time as opposed to a house name. Ergo, the story could be original or a retitled reprint. Only way to know is to read the story and put it down here for you to decide! All I know is Eugene Cunningham’s short story Dancer of the Rio Grande feels more like a spicy magazine tale than a pulpwood magazine sale. The plot takes place in Mexico, just across the border. Inside the Blue Moon cantina, a lovely young lady (Lois) has danced for six weeks. She attracted the eyes of an American fighter pilot, Joe Carr. He’s in love with Lois after “spending” one day with her. Rafael, owner of the joint, sees the young pilot’s interest. Threatening to kill Joe lest she pursue the infatuation, Rafael orders her to break off any intention to flee with the man. Informing Rafael she is only playing the pilot for his roll of money doesn’t assuage Rafael. Returning to the floor, she sits with the pilot, and he speeds up their flight, with plans to meet and depart for America that night. Later, in her room, she hears gunshots. Afraid Rafael has carried out his threat, she rapidly runs to the agreed upon meeting place, Morales’ restaurant. She runs into another man, a frequenter of the cantina, Pedro. He’s aware the pilot was ambushed and shot. Together they locate the downed man, who has been winged. Pedro carries him. The pair cross the Rio Grande River, avoiding the local bridge, knowing Rafael and his men will be watching. Joe Carr rouses and well, you can guess the rest of the plot. It’s not a brilliant piece of literature. Clearly the magazine ran this one just for the locale and suggestive sauciness.
In R. A. Emberg’s Hawaiian Escapade, two men and a young woman, each a stranger to one another, are stranded in a boat after a squall sank the ship they were on. Bound for Honolulu from Sydney, the trio aboard have neither oar nor sail, one canteen of water, scant food, and even less clothing. The men have on only pajama bottoms; the lady, a loose blouse. No distress call was made via wireless. None of the three are ship employees, nor trained in the ways of shipping. They are at the mercy of the Pacific Ocean. But when one of the men, a burly ass, decides he has had enough of the other man, he attempts murder. He’s desires to be closer to the female after having seen her fully nude. She had been in the water, to keep cool, rather than bake in the naked sun. But an approaching shark forced her to climb in, quickly, without any attempt at decency. Wanting proximity to the woman and a change in position on the slim boat, the two men clash. The assailant falls overboard, and a shark drags him under. A swifter if not more painful death than the pair of survivors expect, should they not be rescued. Remarkably, a ship is sighted, and they are rescued and brought aboard the Island Queen, a ship bound for Sydney. A rather simple tale with the feasible chance of future romance between the pair, even though she is engaged! She sent her suitor a wireless stating that due to nerves, she would be returning to Sydney for a few weeks. Showing the letter to her fellow boat mate, he’s bewildered. What does it mean? She lays it on the table: they’ll be alone in Sydney for a few weeks. Will they romance and see what comes of it? Or will she be open to a romantic affair and then return to her fiancé? It’s left to the reader’s own self-indulgent imagination. Well, if this story is yet another reprinted work, it might not be difficult to trace. Emberg under his own name didn’t author many stories prior to Hawaiian Escapade. Top-Notch magazine in April 1937 ran a short story entitled Loot of the Island Queen. Ah gee, wasn’t that the name of the ship that rescues the pair? Yes. If it’s not the same story, then Emberg’s use of the same ship name is remarkably unimaginative.
Flaming Range appears under the house name James Hall. Sam Young is minding his own business at the local train depot when a sweet young voice calls to him. Turning, he beholds a lovely young lady but thinks she’d be prettier without the makeup. Turns out she arrived on the westbound train and was to wait for her uncle. He is old and greedy Mr. Dent, a man who own mortgages on many lands or has loaned out monies to farmers at high interest rates. Sam gets a buckboard from Pitchfork and drives the young lady to her uncle’s derelict home. This might seem contradictory to the seemingly rich man lending money, but that’s just how he seemingly operates. Only recently, Dent has been calling all loans to be repaid within legal time frames or the reclaims each person’s property. Two gun-sharks in town have had enough, and liquored up, they and others equally dimwitted ride out to tar and feather Dent. Learning their plans, Sam rides from town and derails their plans. Days later, Sam learns the pair of gunners were thrown out of town after a hand of cards went awry. Extra cards were in the deck, and the player sitting in was the sheriff’s brother-in-law! Infuriated over the duplicity, the pair ride to Dent’s to illicit revenge. Sam learns of their ill-tidings and fearful of their typically vengeful intentions, rides hard to Dent’s ranch fearful for the niece. He discovers Dent dead. Stepping in, he pistol whips one gunner unconscious, steps in, and covers the deadlier of the two. The niece’s frightened visage makes him realize he’s overstepped his play. The other guy is behind him, on the ground, bloodied, gunhand extended. Caught in a crossfire, bullets sail to and fro. Sam kills the guy on the ground, the guy on the ground slings lead into his partner, and Sam catches one in the leg and one against a rib busting a lung and knocking him down and out. Next thing we know, two of Sam’s mates walk in and take in the scene. Assuring the girl that Sam is too tough to die, she faints. They phone the sheriff for help and a doctor, free the girl, and bring down a mattress to toss Sam onto. The girl revives and runs to Sam and nestles his head in her lap. When he comes to, it’s to find himself looking up into her eyes. Flaming Range is a tale of guns flaming and hearts aflame. It’s unclear whether this house name hides a reprinted story or a new story. The next month, Henry Kuttner had the tale Dictator of the Americas appear under the James Hall alias in Marvel Science Stories, and that was an original story.
Peril Island appears under the house name Ken Jason and I am certain I have read this story elsewhere. Sadly, I can’t place where or what the original story was. Hopefully a fellow pulpster will recognize this tale. Tori, son of a chief, made a young teen chief at 16 when a whaling captain murdered his father. Swore to kill all foreigners that come to their islands. This they did, for 3 years. At 19 met Sepeli, a young girl from a nearby island village. Love at first sight. While wedding and feasting, a ship with a hole in its side harbored at their island. Though sworn to kill foreigners, Sepeli begged Tori to not slay them on their special day. So they aided the men. Aboard was the Viking-like giant Olav Nystrom, world traveler and rich to boot. He is invited to the feast and brings along little bottles of alcohol. Liquored up, Tori and Sepeli are too drunk to resist Olav who shames the drunk Tori and carries away his woman. Sworn now to hunt down Olav and murder the man, Tori leaves his island and duties and enlists on various boats, traveling the shipping world and learning all its ways. Years pass. He eventually meets up with Olav and his wife, Sepeli. Neither recognize Tori, for so many years have passed and Tori no longer resembles his younger self. Olav has squandered his wealth. Tori, employed as Olav’s man-of-many-jobs, alludes to a distant reef with gold upon it. Truth is, it’s close to where he and Sepeli are from, which is Fitu Tuli, an island between the Fijis and New Zealand. Desperately in need of funds, Olav puts all his remaining funds into a boat and the trio sail for doom. Sabotaging the boat, it bursts into flames and explodes while the trio are ashore. Nobody suspects Tori, believing it to be an accident. They have no access to fresh water and the pair weaken as Tori by night swims out to an underwater freshwater stream, daily. Tori gleefully reveals his identity and tries to kill Olav, but he wards him off with his blade. Days pass. Tori returns and tries to convince Sepeli to return home with him. She extracts Olav’s secreted knife and plunges it into Tori then impales herself. Tori blacks out, later revives to see her hugged about her husband’s body. Both are dead. Weak from loss of blood, Tori makes for the water and is floating, near death, out to sea, when he is rescued by Tom Landgrebe and Alden, Tom’s supercargo. They had all met at the opening of the tale and coincidentally cross paths with Tori floating lifeless at sea. It’s here we learn of Tori’s life and movements. Tom and Alden listen to the entire story then Tom proclaims like Hell will Tori be turned over to the authorities for murder. Olav had it coming and Tom swears to turn their boat 100 miles off course and deposit Tori at his home island and informs Tori to remain there and keep his mouth shut.
Next is Gods of Fury by house name John Carlisle, and it reads like an Argosy magazine entry. Allan Brant is an American archaeologist born in South America. His father amassed a small fortune excavating gold. Upon his untimely demise, Allan inherited the wealth and with Wiley, his friend and airplane mechanic, the pair travel and explore the length of the southern continent. The pair survive their plane crashing in the jungles of Costa Rica only to discover a lost race. Captured, they witness the ancient tribal sacrifice of knifing open altar-victims and ripping out their hearts. A blood offering to Huitzilopochtli. And Allan and Wiley have stumbled into at least a second night of it. Will they be offered, too? Next day, guards bring frijoles and tortillas to feast upon. Allan is now convinced this is not wholly a lost race at all. Or one not unaware of the outside world. Having eaten, the pair are led to the king (Maxica) who speaks fluent Spanish. How? His own people are sent out to learn the ways of the outer world and their language. Maxica is descended from a long line of Anahuac, long believed to be extinct to the world. His people mingled with the Ixtlop. Also present is a young 20-something girl, Margo, the king’s daughter. The murderous priest (Guat) is an Aztec. Both the Anahuac and Aztec lines merged here after fleeing from the onslaught of the Spaniards. The king’s people retained royal rights while the Aztecs kept the annual sacrificial customs alive. How? By raiding the distant inhabitants of the Chiriqui Lagoon (in Panama) and kidnapping their people. Allan and Wiley are fortunate. The sacrifices concluded the final night they witnessed Guat rip out live-beating hearts. There is no escape, save up a narrow mountain pass that is heavily guarded. They may live in Ixtlop in peace, but only for a year. Then their mortal time will perish upon the Aztec altar. Escorted from the room, Allan takes in one parting look at Margo, and sees something in her eyes. Six months pass. Maxica and Allan enjoy intelligent discussions about Ixtlop history. Margo doesn’t speak Spanish but Allan has learned enough of the language to converse. It’s clear she is infatuated with him. Wiley doesn’t speak a lick of Spanish but his eyes see the truth. They clearly are in love. Asking King Maxica if in six months they are still to be executed, Maxica sorrowfully proclaims he is but the King, that Guat has all rights to priesthood duties. They will be slain. Margo cries that the pair must escape. Allan asks if she will come with him, and Maxica accepts their love as true and assures them that he will leave the path clear for their attempt to flee. Through spies, Guat learns of Maxica’s betrayal and calls forth the entire people of Ixtlop, as is his priestly right. Here, he lies and states that to appease Huitzilopochtli, the pair must be immediately sacrificed, else Irazú will erupt and take everyone’s lives. Countering this death blow, Allan, disguised, steps forth and proclaims that he is a messenger from Quetzalcoatl. If the Americans are not released, then Mount Blanco will erupt and burn all to death. (NOTE: although Irazú itself is real, Blanco is fake). Allan demands that as messengers of the gods, the pair must face off and fight with maquahuitls (sic, macuahuitl) which are ancient Aztec wooden clubs embedded with obsidian blades. The pair attempt to bludgeon each other. Allan’s weapons breaks and as Guat thunders in for the kill, Allan hurls the remains of the weapon into Guat’s face. Distracted, Allan hurls forward and knocks Guat down the stone steps to his death. Sneaking away, escape isn’t evident as Irazú suddenly erupts in Guat’s favor, despite Allan having beaten him. Ash and debris are raining down upon Ixtlop. It’s obvious the hidden city will be destroyed, buried in molten hell and ash. Rushing to the royal dais, Allan rescues Margo but finds her father dead. The trio manage to escape via the mountain trail and in uncustomary pulp fashion, Margo survives the escape with Allan. In most pulp adventures the girl either breaks free and returns to die in her homeland or hurls herself off the cliff to her death. Bizarrely, nobody else bothered to attempt to escape up the trail with them. Everyone died in the city. Even the guards of the pass vacated their posts and ran down to the city. Despite some historical mistakes or purposeful errors, such as the fake additional volcano, this was by far the most entertaining story and I’d love to be informed the original publication by a fellow knowledgeable pulpster.
East of Borneo is yet another story appearing under a house name, this time being Rex Evans. In truth, the story originally was Cork of Borneo by H. Bedford-Jones from Fawcett’s Triple-X Magazine, 1925 December, and this itself appeared first in the UK via Cassell’s Magazine, 1925 July. No doubt the American magazine sat on it too long, permitting the English magazine to get the story into circulation first. The novelette opens with a seemingly out-of-character young man walking in and answering a call for work from the local consulate. The man however dismisses the young man, but that latter man is persistent and demands to be assigned the required task. The official explains that he is waiting for a local legend, a man known as Cork of Borneo. Angered the man won’t leave, he official calls in a local man to throw him out. The man enters and in fright, begs off. He recognizes the man before him. The young, good-looking man who looks anything like a bronzed Doc Savage jungle man, explains that he is Walter Cork, and that is why the native man refused to cooperate. So: the mission? An archeologist and his daughter and assistant with natives are far in the jungle. Claims to have discovered a lost town with treasure. Unfortunately, the sinister Jan Mayerbeer and his two killers (Sterns and Ruyter) with hired natives are also in pursuit of the lost treasure. Cork immediately departs. Meanwhile, upriver in the jungle, John Lawton and Mary Maynter escaped the lost city, re-hiding the treasure. Mary’s father died from malaria, and John is dying. He dies, but informs Mary to run for her life, certain that man-tracker Sterns is likely the man on their trail. The natives won’t protect them. He dies. Sterns walks in and threatens her lest she not cough up the location of the goods. She refuses despite Sterns’ brutal aggression, and he only ceases when he is no longer her focus. Her eyes are behind him. Cork is there, nonchalantly. A blow-dart whistles through the air, nails Sterns, and he dies. Cork had kept a promise to a murdered tribe to kill Sterns in vengeance. Cork keeps his promises. The story goes on to become an excellent blood-and-thunder Far East story. They go upriver to face off with Mayerbeer and Ruyter. Leaving the girl and eight men at a longhouse, Cork and a handful of men proceed into the core and discover Ruyter and his men. Capturing and disarming them, Cork decides to walk them back to the river and dismiss them, but he trips over a ground root. Ruyter concusses Cork and uses him as a human shield while both groups of natives fight to the death. All dead, Ruyter heaves the unconscious Cork out into the river to be ripped asunder by the crocodiles. Ruyter walks to the longhouse and finds eight men dead upon the ground and Jan Mayerbeer calmly sitting there. He used sleight of hand and Houdini mischief and no doubt ventriloquism to scare the eight guards. Conquered, he makes a magic bowl of rice and entreated the eight to eat the rice and it would protect them from evil spirits. So, they did, suffered stomach aches, consumed opium and went to sleep. The pain in the stomachs? Arsenic added to the rice by Mayerbeer. Leading the captured Mary Maynter to the lost city, they force her to reveal the hidden chamber. Prying loose the boulder(s), they enter the dark chamber which is supported by a long piece of strong-wood. Sending the girl down alone, Mayerbeer forces her to hurl up to him the small stone Gods. These he blindly tosses backwards up to Ruyter. Mayerbeer becomes angered when only stone Gods reach his hands. Where is the gold! Gold is always buried with lost city Gods. When one of the stone Gods clangs against the ground he reaches back and wipes off the dust. Not stone at all, but gold Gods. Mary has passed out in the chamber from dust inhalation, and Mayerbeer intends to seal her in alive once the last of the Gods are retrieved. Exultant, he exits and is mortified to discover Ruyter dead, his face smashed by one of the Gods he blindly hurled back at Ruyter. He clearly struck the man a deathblow to the head. Matters worsen when Cork makes his own presence known. The crocs didn’t get him. Nor did Ruyter’s men get all of his natives. Mayerbeer is certain Cork is bluffing until he spies at least one recessed native with a blow dart at the ready. Momentarily defeated, he cooperates with Cork. Mary’s body is heaved out of the chamber and Cork informs Mayerbeer that he will not kill the man. In fact, he intends to permit Mayerbeer to keep the remaining Gods that are in the chamber but must retrieve them himself. Elated to discover Cork is weak-minded after all, he agrees to terms and enters the chamber. Cork draws his pistol and shoots, shattering the strong-wood holding the stone in place. It collapses, sealing Mayerbeer inside until the next intrepid explorer should one day discover his bones. The story ends in typical fashion with Cork nervously and shyly almost asking a question of Mary, who reads in his shyness his love for her. A superb man’s adventure story in which the hero is lean and not bronzed and muscular at all, but average height with charming looks but intelligent and respected by the locals. A damn shame our author seemingly wrote only the one Cork of Borneo tale. If he wrote more, they ought to be collected.
Lon Taylor’s Tiger-Face is the final story within Adventure Trails and brings us face-to-face with yet another house name! Pearl buyer Andrews is requested by the United States government to attend a pearl auction on a privately owned atoll. The aged owner is Chinaman Lee Suey Yung. The government wants to secure the island for air rights before any other agency does. Shipping out on the Glo’ster Maid with a Swede mate and native sailors, they sail through the atoll’s narrow and shallow entrance. One way in, one way out. Climbing into the whaler, Andrews rows ashore and is captured by what amounts to be pirates. The leader has what Andrews describes as a tiger’s face, and an Australian accent. Tiger Face is there purely for the rare pearls. He’s captured and secured the island. Andrews’ men are also captured and brought ashore, all tossed into a fenced compound and guarded by riflemen. In confinement Andrews meets a young man related to Yung and who has heard of Andrews during his brief work assignments in Honolulu. We learn old man Yung is being tortured. Later, Yung with blistered and burned feet is tossed into the compound. He coughed up the location of the pearls. Andrews via the younger Yung as translator gets the old man to sign air rights over and leaves ownership still in the Yung family. He then sneaks through the fence while the guards aren’t paying close attention. Swimming to his ship, he radios for help, digs up dynamite, frees the ship and sails her into the narrow pass. Here he dynamites a hole in the ship, and she partially sinks in the shallow pass. Come daylight, Tiger Face and his gunners row out to the Glo’ster Maid and find Andrews aboard, waiting. Informing them they can’t move or blow the ship in time to escape before an American warship arrives, he negotiates their free passage if they behave.