Desert Intrigue by Earl Ellison (Hamilton & Co., 1949)

Desert IntriguePublished 1949 by Hamilton & Co., Desert Intrigue sports a charmingly romantic cover illustration by noted English artist Reginald Heade. The novel is penned by the pseudonymous Earl Ellison; that alias was, up until his untimely death, 100% written by N. Wesley Firth. Originally simply born as Norman Firth, he adopted the “Wesley” after his own father passed away. Firth was incredibly prolific and required the need to adopt numerous nom de plumes in order to have his fiction simultaneously published.

The publisher failed to paginate the novel. Assuming the frontis is Page 1, the story spans pages 3 through 94.

The next page begins a short story by Margaret Graham entitled One-Man Woman; this ends on Page 126. No clue who she is, though there was a fiction writer by that name operating at least between the 1890s-1910 era. This isn’t that woman. Pages 127-128 are ads.

Returning to Desert Intrigue, the blurb sets out the following:

Ever since Graham had been killed while flying in the R.A.F., Kathryn Morny had suffered an agony that nothing seemed to ease. But, sensibly, she realised that brooding would not help her face the empty years ahead, and when she learned that her new job was to take her journeying across the sun-drenched dunes of the Sahara, she felt that here was the opportunity she needed to escape from the bitterness that filled her heart. She felt drawn irresistibly towards the relentless desert, for her lover had been killed while flying over its far-flung wastes. Visiting the places, gazing at the scenes she knew he himself must have witnessed, somehow brought him very close to her…

Being an ardent fan and collector of Norman Firth, I originally thought, prior to viewing the blurb, that this book might just be another of his romance novels. A deeper hope held that due to the background image and suggestive novel title, it could be a French foreign legion novel! Dismayed by the latter, I was thrilled to discover the romantic novella actually contains mystery and action, and a bona fide plot.

Kathryn replies to a want-ad for a secretarial position to author and script-writer Steven Pendleton, who has been hired by the French government to write about the African desert, etc. Tagging along is his lovely wife, Fay. Naturally, one imagines that the distraught Kathryn will cause a catfight, attempt to become romantically involved with the author, but none of this is the case. They all get along perfectly.

Also involved with the adventure is a film crew consisting of an overweight French director, a camera and field man, and a cocky young Englishman (Ralph Cardingham) bent on conquering Kathryn. She is put off by his attitude, mannerisms, and speech.

While trekking across the desert wastes, Ralph sabotages the second truck (in which Kathryn, author, and wife travel) and his own group sets out early morning and creates a vast lead. They later are stuck in the shifting sands, and discover that truck #2 is nowhere in sight. Leaving his two pards behind to dig out the wheels, Ralph faux-heroically sets off on foot to rescue the missing truck, knowing full well it likely broke down at some point. However, Ralph runs afoul of a roving gang of bandits. They take him hostage and toss him in their fort. Shame they didn’t just behead him!

Meanwhile, back at truck #2, they have indeed broke down and realize that they must forge ahead on foot. Making their way across the desert, they spy the old abandoned WW2 remains of a known fort and make their way towards it, knowing that a well of water exists there. Entering, they are despondent to discover the place is inhabited…by many camels. Where are the owners?

Deciding to abandon the need for water, they make to quietly exit but find themselves rapidly surrounded by the murderous sheik-bandit and his gang of outlaws. They are tossed in the “jail” only to find the Englishman, Ralph, nonchalantly awaiting them. He bluffs his casual capture and the falsified facts of how he came to be there. The trio (Kathryn, Steven & Fay) believe maybe he isnt the scoundrel his reputation carries, after all. While yakking, the sheik enters and withdraws Kathryn to dine with; he is enamored by her beauty and intends to take her with him to his distant mountain stronghold.

In fact, they must leave soon, for a rival bandit-gang led by El Tigro is approaching. Little is known about the identity of El Tigro save that he is reportedly an Englishman who has adopted the ways of the Sahara and plunders and murders all in his path, but the more Kathryn learns about the violent El Tigro, the more she fancies he sounds like her lost love, Graham, who was shot down over the desert during the war years, crashed, and burned. His body was found nearby, charred.

Finding the fort soon under assault by El Tigro, who has zeroed on the sheik’s position, the villain again snatches Kathryn and sends her with his second-in-command to ride quickly to a remote mountain stronghold many miles distant. Remaining behind with his men, a blazing battle ensues. Realizing he is losing men and ground, the sheik abandons his ill-fated men to their demise and flees after his second and Kathryn…

El Tigro seizes control of the fort, learns people are locked inside, and brazenly busts in the door…to find himself face-to-face with an Englishman, a woman, and is stupefied to discover one of his WW2 flying mates (Steven Pendleton) in the cell. They recognize each other and it is revealed that El Tigro is indeed Kathryn’s dead lover, Graham! While much handshaking ensues, the cocky Englishman (Ralph) realizes he must rescue Kathryn first before El Tigro does, or he will have lost his sexual conquest. He leaps outside and steals El Tigro’s horse, and takes off in pursuit of the sheik and company.

El Tigro is infuriated by this act. That was his horse, and, the only horse remaining in the company. He must pursue via camel.

Fast-forward, the sheik’s second and Kathryn stopped for the night. The sheik eventually catches up and is enraged that the second didn’t continue onward through the night. He knifes the second to death. Not far on his heels, Ralph has gained ground via horseback and jumps the sheik! A dazzling fight ensues but ends with the sheik thrusting his knife into the young man. Leaving him for dead, the sheik grabs Kathryn, and departs for the stronghold…

Not much later, El Tigro arrives on the scene, discovers the young man mortally wounded, delirious, but still alive. Leaving Ralph behind, El Tigro continues his pursuit and eventually catches up with the sheik-bandit. The usual fight ensues, he wins, captures the bandit, and discloses his secret identity to Kathryn, however, no romance ensues. Graham believes that she married long ago and/or the young Englishman (Ralph) to be her lover. Plus, contracted to work for the French government under the guise of El Tigro, he is hardly free to pursue her. Keeping emotionally distant from her, they return to the wounded Ralph to find him tended by not only Steven and Fay, but, a French army company! How did they come to be there?

Well, El Tigro had sent communications back in advance of his raid on the fort, noting the sheik-bandit’s locale and requesting reinforcements. The bound bandit is turned over to French authorities and El Tigro is honorably discharged. Ralph informs all of his awful dreadful deeds but is forgiven by both Kathryn and the former El Tigro. Officially relinquished from active-duty, Graham is now free to pursue his former life…and Kathryn.

And the French film director? From all the aforementioned action, he now has a new motion picture idea, one that will not feature Ralph in the lead, but the late El Tigro, possibly, instead, who has suddenly found himself out-of-work, and he has the perfect romantic lead…

THE END … and then we tackle the bonus short story by Margaret Graham…who might well be an undiscovered alias for N. Wesley Firth…or not.

In short order, Denise is married to Robin Dane; her husband will soon pick her up and go on their honeymoon. Another woman appears on the scene; she claims to be married to the same man! Shows a marriage certificate. Our heroine is distraught, flees the abode, goes out for a drink; an old friend from her days of rural youth spots her and they chat. Denise does not disclose her marriage or woes. Her friend offers a farm-job with her and her brother. Accepting the job, the offer gives Denise the opportunity to escape her woeful predicament and not face the cad. While working on the farm, a young man attempts to convince the sister to marry him. She rebukes him. Our heroine learns why: she wants to be “loved,” and while the man does love her, he just isn’t “exciting.” Denise visits young man, explains what he needs to do to win her over. He takes this in stride and pursues the sister again: wins. With the sister soon out of the scene, Denise decides she can’t remain working on the farm, alone with an eligible bachelor. While short-cutting across the farm, Denise is nearly gored by a maddened bull. The farmer rescues her and clumsily professes his love for her. Denise isn’t the least bit interested. She still misses her own husband, Robin, but weeks have gone by…and remarkably, there he is! How did Robin find her? Well, she had written a letter to her landlady, no return address, but, postmarked the region she is in, which turns out to be a tiny area. Robin obtained the letter’s envelope, spotted the mark, traced it, and from there, asked around until he found her residence. He explains he also had a run-in with the “other wife” and that the woman was wrong. Her private detective had found the wrong man, that there are many other Robin Dane’s in England! When Robin confronted the other woman, she was equally dismayed she had wronged the young couple. All facts clarified, Denise and Robin continue their relationship, and…the farmer walks in to find them making out and he realizes he is now the odd-man-out. A sad ending for him, as he isn’t a bad fella.

Desert Intrigue by Earl Ellison (Hamilton & Co., 1949)

The Right Sort of Girl (x5 romances) by Isobel Townsend (x2) by Elizabeth Moss

MITRE PRESS The Right Sort Of GirlThe Right Sort of Girl is a collection of short stories by two authors: Isobel Townsend (x5) and Elizabeth Moss (x2). Measuring 4 ¾ x 7 inches, this 32-page side-stapled booklet was published by Fudge & Co., Ltd. (The Mitre Press) on March 1945. The two-color cover art (green and pink on white paper stock) was created by a person who annoying signed their works simply as “Doug” (also as “Douglas”).

While the title page, contents page, and initial story page spell Isobel with an “o,” the cover artist had other ideas, spelling the name with an “a.” Which spelling is correct?

As Isabel Townsend, she appears at least twice via the Mellifont Press Children’s Series, published in Dublin, Ireland. These were 32-pages and contain a multitude of short stories. She leads off one selection with her story The Magic Fairy Cycle and another with Inside the Piano. The British Library only appears to possess the latter booklet. It is conceivable that Townsend appears in other MPCS selections but not as the lead story.

Elizabeth Moss likewise surfaces at least once as the lead in the MPCS series too, with Red Cap. She also had two booklets published by the Mitre Press: Love is for Always and Bride to a Sailor, both in 1945.

Let’s return to what we do know…

3-9 ● The Right Sort of Girl ● Isobel Townsend ● ss
A young man returned from war meets with his deceased friend’s parents. In doing so, he must also perform the task of visiting the man’s girlfriend. He discovers the home, and that the girl, while quite beautiful, is quite dead inside. She has a seductively sexy sister and he falls for her. However, he feel duty-bound to invite the first girl along on their dates, etc. The lively sister uses all her wiles to ensnare the young man, and shockingly, the “dead” girl comes to love the soldier but for the other’s memory, refuses to fight to obtain his love. Lying about her availability, he dates the lovely girl only to find her repulsive and longing for the drab sister. Despondent of never seeing her again, as he is reassigned, he makes one last visit to the dead soldier’s parent’s house…only to find the girl there! Turns out she visits them regularly in memory of her lost love. Natural love takes its course and all are pleasantly happy. (Actually, a splendidly written story worthy of republication).

9-13 ● Return of a Hero ● Isobel Townsend ● ss
A soldier returns to town and dances with another man’s girlfriend. She hopes to make him jealous but instead, he shows no interest, going so far as to permit her to go out on the town with the soldier, to shows and dances and dine, etc. She does, but when his ration book proves to be out-of-date, he suggests the pair return to his pad. Reluctantly, she agrees, only to find herself trapped inside and the intended victim of a rapist! Screaming for help, the door is battered down and in rushes her boyfriend, along with a police force, to arrest the soldier. Turns out he is not a soldier, but illegally impersonating one!

13 ● Spice of Life ● Isobel Townsend ● ss
A young lady, part of a traveling act, becomes pregnant with her partner. While stuck at home, waiting to deliver the baby, her love is abandoned in favor of the young “thing” that replaces her. The showman running the act visits her upon returning to town and distressingly finds himself present as she begins to give birth right there! Running outside, he comically runs into two nurses, sends them up, and phones for a doctor. Waiting in the hall, they show him in, believing he to be the father! Realizing her lover is ensnared by the evil heart of his new partner, he schemes to connect the man to his estranged girlfriend…

19-23 ● The Fiancée Who Vanished ● Isobel Townsend ● ss
One of those odd stories often circulating over the decades of literature, essentially is an armchair story about an unscrupulous man, and another man’s actions to coerce him to forfeit his interests or he will be murdered. He leaves. Fast-forward some years in time, and some mysterious young man is courting a Major’s daughter, but nobody has ever seen the person. The tale is a bit broadly told and ends quite queerly, explaining that the reason nobody has ever seen the man because he is also a woman. To clarify, apparently the young man had been smuggling himself in the house in the guise of a woman, but when he saw the man who threatened his life years earlier at the mansion, he ran away, never to be seen again. Likewise, naturally, the woman also vanishes, as she was a fake entity.

24-27 ● The Punch and Judy ● Isobel Townsend ● ss
Our author’s last story with-a-twist involves a young lady and parents removed from the big city and social life to a remote part of England, the nearest tiny town 3 miles walk away, and an abandoned cottage nearby. But when the cottage finds a new resident in the form of an awkwardly shy government man on the scene doing private research, the young lady and man fall in love at first sight. While showing him about the countryside during a downpour, they reach a waterfall and a dilapidated wooden bridge across the roaring waters. Jumping up and down to show him the bridge is solid against his wishes, one of the planks gives way and she falls partly through. Rushing across, he extracts and rescues the girl from what was not certain death. She merely would have gotten soaked. They proclaim their love, choose not to inform her parents for some months as it would seem absurd, then when the time approaches for their marriage, she breaks it off. She is annoyed that he hasn’t shown any real manly affection for her the entire time! But, when another young man comes hiking up the trail, her eyes light up and she runs out to him, hugs and they kiss each other affectionately…only to have his face knocked in by her fiancée. He takes umbrage to his other man kissing his woman, and she explains that this other man is her brother, just returning from war!

28-30 ● When the Hour Came ● Elizabeth Moss ● vi
A young lady attending church hears the preacher state that everyone has their one moment in life and she wants to know when her one hour of life will come. Shy and unable to utter any real words or defend herself from an abusive father calling her daily a “slut” (twice, in fact) she is stuck inside the village hall when a desperate thief who pillaged the town’s rarities makes an appearance, demanding the keys to a fancy car outside from a wealthy woman. Inexplicably, she is enraged, grabs the gunman’s arm, and hurls him over her shoulder and his head smacks into the car’s fender. She faints, later recovers in a strange bed, hasn’t a clue what happened, hears in the outer chamber that someone heroically saved them from the gunman, and, saddened that the savior wasn’t her, makes her way home to her abusive father, demanding his meal and calling her a “lazy slut.” Good grief!

30-31 ● Love Among the Pigs ● Elizabeth Moss ● vi
A young man sworn off from marriage-life lays his eyes upon a lovely vixen pushing pigs into a pen. Learning the name of the family that moved into the area, he visits and courts the lovely girl. She yearns for city life and finer things but he tells his farming mate that he’s certain she is just saying those things to impress him. With their wedding day having finally arrived, the husband-to-be and best man finally meet the bridesmaid…a comely lovely vixen that is a dead-ringer for the lady that ushered the pigs into the marketplace so long ago! Turns out they are identical sisters and he not only courted the wrong girl under false pretenses, he is now stuck marrying that wrong girl.

It’s been a real pleasure reading these general-fiction romantic war tales, and a thrill to obtain this wartime publication after hunting it for nearly two decades! Perhaps one day someone will contact me with information to further identify either or both of these two authors.

The Right Sort of Girl (x5 romances) by Isobel Townsend (x2) by Elizabeth Moss

Possession by N. Wesley Firth

Possession 1

Possession was published by Grant Hughes Ltd., circa 1948.
The novel carries no byline on the covers, but the interior title page gives the author as Sheila A. Firth; she was the daughter of prolific author Norman Firth. Tragedy haunted the Firth family when Norman inexplicably died at the young age of 29, on 13-Dec-1949; cause of death given then was tuberculosis. He left behind Sheila (age 4) and a young wife (age 22).

Possession was actually issued twice, both with covers by noted English artist H. W. Perl.

The first edition was printed by The Fodhla Printing Co., of Dublin, Ireland. The inside front cover sports a typical Joan the Wad ad. Interior rear cover also features an ad, for Joan the Wad and Jack O’Lantern, etc. This true first edition (featuring likely Margaret Lockwood and Michael Wilding) failed to sell. Remainder stock was returned, covers stripped, and a new cover commissioned.

The second edition was printed and published by Grant Hughes, this time featuring one of Perl’s regular models. It’s unknown how well this edition sold. Both the inside front & rear cover is entirely white, no ads present.

Remarkably, neither edition is held by the British Library nor any other known major English library per COPAC, nor worldwide per WorldCat.

Possession 2

Contrary to the typical romantic plots, our heroine does NOT give up her Hollywood job in favor of love, but she is mixed up in the cliché “eternal triangle” plot…

Andrea Ellis was a nobody until discovered by producer Harry Grant. Pairing her with Steward Tracy for 5 years, the two have made Harry Grant a fortune and Andrea Ellis is now in demand to play the lead in the film version of the same play. Only thing is, she desires a break from acting.

Refusing to inform Harry Grant where she intends to vacation, she foolishly informs her private staff, and Steward Tracy, deeply in love with her, manages to extract the information. Learning she intends to abandon New York in favor of the beaches and playgrounds of Miami, he lets slip that he will vacation with her. Frustrated at the deception, she’s doubly-cross that Steward revealed her plans to Harry Grant.

Grant sees an angle and sends publicity agent Carl Cotton south to set the ball rolling, only that “ball” turns into a wrecking ball.

Arriving in Miami, Steward proposes marriage (he has been proposing numerous times and she has always turned him down). Now, upon the beach, she finally accepts, reluctantly, and he coerces a promise from her to not break the promise. Desiring to keep the engagement secret fails when a cub-reporter for a local paper arrives on the scene. Or was the reporter tipped off, further forcing the marriage?

To further worsen matters, Carl Cotton makes an appearance during the newsboy’s interview, and announces that Andrea Ellis is to be the “prize” date at the Krackly Krispy Krunchies Hour radio show; the winner is selected from a finalist of three men who are to provide the new winning tune for the show. She is not amused. The first two contestants aren’t noteworthy, but the third dazzles her the moment they each set eyes upon one another. It’s literally love at first sight.

With a love triangle forming, Andrea finds herself morally bound to a man she does not wholeheartedly love, and a man she does not know at all but feels inexplicably drawn!

The young man is Jay Niles, a “bum” who lives in the slums of Miami, in a converted railway car. Andrea, fascinated by the musician, convinces Jay to show her where he lives. Believing she is just some snob and wants to look down on the common poor person that can’t make good, they exchange words and she finally proves she is more than just an elitist. After all, she did not dress fancy, did not put on make-up, nor do her hair. She came to the date as a normal-looking girl.

The pair elude Carl Cotton’s appointed paparazzi and spend private hours alone. Andrea is intrigued to learn more about Jay and his musical interests; he seems to be quite talented. He plays an instrumental piece for her; she then asks to have it as a keepsake. Jay doesn’t care. It’s been offered everywhere. Nobody wants that type.

Never to see another again, she returns to her life and, when the producer offers her the next Broadway gig, she learns that the entire play is to be essentially silent, and without music! Discovering that Jay’s piece would fit the play perfectly, she presents it to Harry Grant only to be rebuffed without hearing the musical piece.

She then goes to the author of Harry’s production, and there has the music played. He loves it and tells Harry it is “in.”

Displeased with her move, Harry must accept the author’s decision, and further, realizes Andrea must be in love or infatuated with Jay. He is eager to destroy this relationship as he likes her and Steward Tracy together.

Jay becomes a success along with the play; his wallet grows from dust to greenbacks, etc. All the while, Jay refuses to see Andrea alone, as he does not wish to interfere with her engagement to Steward Tracy, who he personally feels is a swell guy.

But, when Steward accepts an acting job in Hollywood, and is gone for weeks or months, Andrea and Jay can no longer repress their desires and well…you can guess the rest! Still, they must keep their meetings secret lest the press discover the truth; their bosses too, and worse yet would be for Steward Tracy to learn second-hand that she has been unfaithful.

Jay insists she inform Steward in person of her decision to break off the engagement, but before she can, on his return flight to New York, the plane goes down in flames, killing nearly everyone onboard. Miraculously, Steward survives, only to have both legs fully amputated.

Jay convinces her that she must marry Steward as the truth would devastate him. Despite her desires not to, she is eventually guilted into marrying Steward. Jay removes himself entirely from the scene, and vanishes for an entire decade…

Ten years have passed, and Steward’s health has been in continual decline. His body was severely damaged from the plane crash and is succumbing to reality: death. He finally dies a happy man and she is free to pursue Jay. But will he even want her? Is he now married to someone else? Isn’t she visually too old, no longer youthfully desirable?

Well, Harry Grant and Carl Cotton drag her out from retirement and inform her that they have just the right position in a proposed play for her to fill. Arriving at Harry’s home, they meet out on the balcony and discuss the proposal. She is mystified as the role sounds like her real life drama. Harry concludes that they have found the perfect man for the role and in walks Jay, salt-peppered hair, older, but still very much in love with Andrea Ellis after all these years … THE END.

A very pleasant romance story, delightfully written by N. Wesley Firth. I confess that I was surprised he would attach his daughter’s name to such a work, given her young age at the time. Sadly, she passed away some years back, and never had the chance to read any of the works appearing under her name, nor under her mother’s name.

NOTES: Steward Tracy clearly is clearly supposed to resonate with readers as being Hollywood actor Spencer Tracy. Harry Grant came across to me as actor Cary Grant, as I couldn’t think of a producer with a similar name. Not sure who Andrea Ellis is supposed to portray. Nor certain who Carl Cotton or Jay Niles would be. Anyone have ideas?

Possession by N. Wesley Firth

Dust on the Moon by Mary E. Horlbeck (Crown Novel Publishing: 1946)

CROWN Dust On The Moon
DUST ON THE MOON

Dust on the Moon was published in 1946 by Canadian publisher Crown Novel Publishing Company. It’s a pleasure to finally get around to presenting this scarce Crown publication.

eBay seller “sfconnection” located in Indianapolis listed a copy many years ago. That copy had two red splotches on the lower left cover, and is found on worthpoint.com. I was prompted to release this Crown entry when Canadian collector / researcher James Fitzpatrick (of the Fly-by-Night blog) recently purchased my spare copy of another Crown scarcity, Death on the Slow Draw by John Frederick and featured it July 2021 on his blog. I’m glad to have added to his collection. If you haven’t visited James’ page, drop in and enjoy. I do from time-to-time and enjoy his posts on obscure Canadian wartime era books, etc.

Written by Mary E. Horlbeck, she had scarcely any known ties to the pulps until a little over a decade ago, when someone moved into her home discovered an abandoned scrapbook filled with 138 rejection letters spanning 1933-1937. When precisely they found that scrapbook is unknown to me, but they eventually posted their discovery on the buckfifty.org blog. I highly recommend readers to visit that blog and read their investigations into Horlbeck’s past.

The blogger notes that during that 5-year span, there were 4 acceptance letters, but, fails to inform readers of their location, story title, date, etc. More amazing is that a family-member, a grandson, to be precise, actually stumbled across that blog and left a comment. I have left a comment on the blog in the hope that one day the grandson may continue their discussion with me, so we may have more complete information. (Update: A year transpired and nobody has ever reached out to me. I prepared my own blog early 2020 and waited all this time in the hopes of a reply).

Her known pulp appearances are noted below:

  • Rain-Sprite (ss) Thrilling Love, 1937 October
  • Jitterbug Jangle (ss) Street & Smith’s Love Story Magazine, 1939 July 29
  • Star for a Night (ss) Street & Smith’s Love Story Magazine, 1943 September 21
  • Love Happens that Way (ss) Exciting Love (Canada), 1944 Spring

Not simply satisfied with copying other people’s research (ever, in fact), I always perform my own research, based on what can be found online. Sources utilized include various birth and death indices, census data, draft registration cards, and graveyards. Any errors in my data below is purely from those sources.

Albin Horlbeck was first married to Inez (Ina) May TOMLIN (born 1892 Feb 7 and died 1925 Nov 2) prior to the 1930 census, and gave birth to 3 children. Six years later, Albin married Mary ADOLPHSON and she came into the family with one child of her own, Jacqueline. It’s unclear to me whether Mary’s surname is a maiden or married/widowed name.

According to the 1930 Census, the Horlbeck’s lived at 2552 Benton Street, Edgewater, Colorado.

  • HORLBECK, Albin (age 41)
  • Glen T. (age 15)
  • Earl N. (age 12)
  • Fern E. (age 6)
  • ADOLPHSON, Mary E. (age 25)
  • Jacqueline C. (age 6)

Albin Richard Horlbeck married Mary Elizabeth Adolphson in 1931.

According to the 1940 Census, the Horlbeck’s lived at 2552 Benton Street, Edgewater, Colorado:

  • HORLBECK, Albin (husband, age 51) born in Illinois
    — proprietor (vegetable juice extracting)
  • Mary (wife, age 36) born in Wisconsin
    — assistant (vegetable juice extracting)
  • Glenn (son, age 25) born in Colorado
    — sales engineer (mining machinery)
  • Earl (son, age 22) born in Colorado
  • Fern (daughter, age 16) born in Colorado
  • FREDRICKSON, Jacqueline (daughter, age 16) born in Colorado
    — librarian (high school librarian)

More specific births and deaths are noted below, where known:

  • Albin R. Horlbeck (1899 Feb 28 — 1967 Feb 22)
  • Mary E. Horlbeck (1905-1967)
  • Glenn Tomlin Horlbeck (1914 Nov 1 — 1993 Feb 7)
  • Earl Neil Horlbeck (1917 Jun 20 — 2005 May 13)
  • Fern (unknown)
  • Jacqueline (unknown)

The frontis notes that the novel is “Complete and Unexpurgated.” If Dust on the Moon had an earlier appearance, it may well have been in a newspaper supplement, such as the Toronto Star Weekly Complete Novel or the Toronto Star Weekly Magazine sections, or in America, via the big-city papers, or maybe even the various “slick” magazines, many for which have never been fully indexed. From her rejection letters, we know that she not only submitted to the pulpwood magazines, but, also the slicks.

The tale opens with U.S. Marshall Ken Farnum riding home to his father’s family ranch, having recently finished an exploit against some outlaws known as the “Jaggers”. They are mentioned a couple times in passing, which made me wonder if Farnum had appeared in another hitherto unknown western (or not). He comes upon the ranch to discover his father shot dead and his brother shot and left for dead. The horses have all been stolen. Reviving his delirious brother, he relays to Ken that he saw the leader of the bandits shoot another outlaw for foolishly opening his mouth during the silent raid and uttering the words: “We’ll kick dust on the moon tonight, I reckon.” Realizing the phrase might have importance, Ken’s wounded brother (Jack) filed it away.

Jack reverts to unconsciousness. Grimly, Ken buries his father, then, decides to bury the outlaw too, in the family plot. Having finished their burial, a horse gallops up carrying Chick, an ancient family cowhand loyal to their father. Learning of the murder and thievery, he’s determined to ride with Ken to hell and back to avenge the family and reclaim their lost horses.

Ken agrees since he can’t stop Chick anyhow, and they bring the wounded Jack to a neighboring ranch, leaving Jack in the care of Ann Haverill, a girl Jack is sweet on. Slapping leather, the pair depart and hit the trail. Chick relays an odd tale he picked up a ways back, while drinking in town, regarding some young punk in love with the Haverill girl as Jack’s rival for her affections. Another rival was also present, that punk’s brother. In order to impress her, they were determined to ride Ebony, a horse of immense power and speed. Ken is tired of the seemingly pointless tale, but Chick points out that the punk’s brother was thrown from Ebony and pounded dead. The brother seemed unfazed, laughed even at the death, but then swore to avenge his brother’s death and hold the Farnum ranch and family responsible.

Ken now sees the conflict of interest. The punk may have bled information to a bandit about an undefended ranch with tons of prime horseflesh. With this in mind, he and Chick ride to the remote reaches (Arizona? or New Mexico?) where outlaws reign supreme. Entering the local saloon, Ken watches the crowd and is certain that here he will find his man, when a young lady inexplicably asks him to dance with her. He doesn’t want to but she seems to know who he is! She recollects him from his earlier adventures battling the Jaggers gang. While there, Ken is forced to shoot the gun-hand of a man that waddles into the saloon aiming to shoot a large “gentleman.” The lady he is dancing with is angered by his interference and departs. The local sheriff arrests the shot man. Ken is invited to talk with the “gentleman” but acts tough and says if he wants to talk, the big boy can come over to Ken.

Remarkably, big-boy (name of Parlanz) does just that and is impressed by the speed of Ken’s drawn guns, two six-shooters. It’s not long before he’s invited by Parlanz out to his ranch and offered the unscrupulous job of joining the gang on a future raid. He’s even given the secret passphrase of “dust on the moon.” Ken is now 100% convinced he’s found the man that killed his father, etc., but must secure his own family horses legally. Amusingly, Parlanz wants to ride Ebony and Ken must pretend not to recognize the horse. When Parlanz attempts the ride, he viciously hits her with his spurs and Ebony goes berserk, and tosses Parlanz. Ebony’s eyes show blood-lust for Parlanz, but Ken steps in before anyone can shoot the horse.

Long story short, Ken is betrayed, someone ransacks his room, he’s worried a member of the Parlanz gang found his hidden law-badge, he’s eventually hit over the head and tossed in jail, Parlanz keeps his six-shooters, the girl helps him to escape, he sneaks into Parlanz’s room at night and snags his guns and silently departs (he won’t plug the man while asleep), and informs Chick to ride and obtain as many deputized souls as possible to ride against the upcoming raid planned by Parlanz.

Chick succeeds and even brings back Ken’s brother, Jack. Waiting in various hiding places, they wait for Parlanz and his raiding party to arrive. They do. A wild shootout occurs, and everyone is instructed to not shoot Parlanz. Ken wants him but discovers his brother riding to get the man. Jack is brought down and taken out of the fight. Parlanz rides away with Ken in pursuit but Ken is knocked out. Parlanz escapes…back to his ranch.

Ken is brought back to consciousness and his body repairs in days. Ready to ride again, he realizes he must ride to Parlanz’s fortified ranch. Boarding the fiery Ebony, Ken reaches the ranch and catches up with Parlanz. Fighting it out, Ken is determined to avenge his father but is robbed by someone with a greater grudge against the man than his own. Ebony shrieks her rage and riding in, attacks Parlanz and stomps him to a lifeless pulp.

We eventually learn the dance-hall girl was married to the murdered outlaw on Ken’s father’s ranch, and the boy just fell in with the wrong crowd. She was out to avenge his death, but she now has fallen in love with Ken…and he asks her to marry him.

Dust on the Moon by Mary E. Horlbeck (Crown Novel Publishing: 1946)