It is with great pleasure that I bring forth the third title in the Garden City series of adventure stories. Pleasure, because, unlike the first two novelettes, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, from start to finish. Tuttle knows his shit and doesn’t play with conventional plot demands. And nor shall I, in the telling of the story….
Today’s read comes straight from the 10 July 1922 pages of Short Stories magazine, and the cover art, by Edgar Franklin Wittmack, originally hails from the 25 Oct 1922 edition.
We are never given to understand just why Sontag bears the nickname of “Sad,” the one calamity of this great story. He rides with Harrigan, a great bear of a Swede. Somehow-or-other, Sontag learns that his uncle, a man whom he has never met, died and apparently left the TJ Ranch to his top man. Sontag feels cheated, seeing as he was the only living relative. That aside, the uncle could hardly have known that he himself had any living relations, since none went so far as to associate with him.
But, when Sontag and Harrigan decide to take a gander at the ranch that he lost out on, they stumble against someone murdering a cow and slashing the TJ brand from the hide. Come to think on it, this matter is not really expounded upon later in the story, either, but is a point of contention. They bring the man into town to a sheriff, whom while innocent of any wrong-doing, has apparently been sitting on his laurels so long as to not know when he ought to know best how to DO his job. Sontag and Harrigan harass the sheriff throughout the tale and he eventually pulls through to doing his job proper.
Events come about that Sontag feels something is fishy surrounding his uncle’s death to small-pox, the untimely demise of the town doctor AFTER visiting his uncle, and the murder of the town’s only Chinaman, known as Hong Kee. Now, here is where the story is most interesting. Most stories of the time brush of a “chinks” murder as filler space in as much as one does smile at the lynching of a “Nigger,” but, much to my extreme pleasure, I found myself reading none of this within this 1920s tale. No, Mr. Tuttle actually appears to write from the heart against such tragedies, with the foregoing paragraphs, after a townsman’s bluff retort:
“All this fuss over killin’ a Chink…Sundown’s better of without him.”
Sontag retorts: “It ain’t a case of color nor nationality…It’s a case of right and wrong. A human life is a human life, whether the skin is black or white, and it’s just as much of a murder to kill a Chinaman as it is a white man.”
Incidentally, I hear the echoes of this same statement even today, in the bland proclamations in print, on television, on the radio, everywhere the word can be spread, that “Black Lives Matter.” Is is possible that Tuttle was championing the rights to live for all humans of any color, back in the 1920s, in such an open and bold manner as in a fiction publication? Maybe not. But the mere fact that he set in print that black, yellow, and white are equal in his [or, Sontag’s] eyes, is remarkable.
Will W. C. Tuttle hold true to this expression of his own personal views? One hardly can say, however, I aim to find out soon enough, for the fourth title in this series is also a W. C. Tuttle title, sporting the title “Spawn of the Desert.”
It is worth noting that Sontag reappears in several more pulp issues over the years. I would love to read all his other assorted tales, and see how he develops since his first incarnation in 1922.