And, onto the 15th pulp novel, by legendary pulpster, H. Bedford-Jones.
The origin of this story is disturbing, in that while the copyright is given as 1921, no such story by this author appears to have been printed under this title in the pulps, nor, in that year, Short Stories did not handle any novelettes by the author. So…where does that leave us? Naturally, it would appear that this is the first in the Garden City Publications series to NOT have originated within the pages of Short Stories magazine.
You guffaw? Don’t. Keep in mind that this is the 15th novel in the series at this point, and, the first time I stumble on tracing an origin story. The next novel in the run that definitely does not hail from SS is Number 20. That’s not too far along, and, thereafter, most of the books fail to hail from Short Stories. So then, where does this tale come? I am hoping that a fellow pulpster in the community can answer this question. Hell, maybe Tom Roberts can answer it !!!
My current guess is that this is “Rounded Up at Lazy S” from Western Story Magazine (5 February 1921) since we do have a Lazy S in here, and, further, the length of the story leans more toward a short novella or a very long novelette, which, the aforementioned is.
The cover art is rendered by W. M. Allison (source unknown) displaying a card game (which never occurs in the story).
The plot opens with nefarious characters in a bar openly discussing nefarious plans while a cowboy in the bar is apparently asleep. (It’s always poor plot direction to randomly include some sleeping cowboy. They never are. Clearly the bad guys don’t know this plot device) …. when in breezes another cowboy, whom they look to ambush. Quick on the draw, our sleeping cowboy slaps leather and fires of a shot, creasing the killer’s hand and saving the inbound cowboy, whom answers to the name of Miguel Cervantes.
Our savior goes by the name of Jack Robinson. He rides out with Miguel, whom says he was riding into town daily to look for a man. Robinson asks if he was looking for Sam Fisher, the sheriff of Pecos. Miguel stars in surprise, and Robinson states he was sent in Fisher’s place, claiming to have been deputized. (Now, much later, Robinson turns out to be Sam Fisher and tells all he never actually came out and SAID that he WAS “Jack Robinson,” but, our author fell down on this lie twice in the story, in my opinion).
Miguel rides off to his ranch, run by Stella. The alias Jack Robinson forks away toward the other nearby ranch, where he runs into two villains, Matt Brady and Knute (not the football legend).
The pair circle him and go to kill him, when “Jack” bores a hole into one while knowing full-well that he is dead by the other. Shockingly, the other drops from the saddle, dead. Moments later, he hears a rifle report from afar. Waving his hat high in the air by way of “Thank You” he rides off again toward the ranch.
Here, he is intercepted by a wounded cowboy name of Arnold. He was recently shot at by the dead pair, and riding hard to catch them, in order to return the favor. When he learns of their demise, he is surprised (naturally) and they shake. “Jack” learns that the rifleman was old man Jake, whom soon rides up and intercepts them, too.
The trio ride on to Jake’s ranch, which is helmed by nothing but old-time war veterans, and the one younger Arnold. “Jack” is depressed to see that the ranch sports no youthful fighters, but knows full well that they are all capable, ready-to-fight veterans.
Jack and Arnold ride toward Stella’s, and part company. Jack meets Miguel on fence repair duty, and they soon part too. Miguel keeps repairing the fence and Jack is long gone, by now near the ranch, when two rifle reports are heard. For Miguel, those reports are too late. He’s already dead.
Meanwhile, Jack enters the ranch and surprises Stella, whom knows our hero as Sam Fisher. This fact is thankfully kept mum, for, one of the villains rides up to make an offer on Stella’s delinquent mortgage. Unbeknownst to the villain, this has already been bought up by Sam Fisher, whom informs Stella of the fact shortly before he enters. The baddie is shocked to see Sam (Jack) there, but remains firm. Neither Stella nor Sam inform HIM that his play on the mortgage is baloney, and then two others ride up.
They are Buck and another henchman. Buck has been playing it cool with Stella, hoping to buy the ranch and take her along with it. Buck rides in and they immediately draw irons against “Jack,” stating that they saw him gun down Miguel. Unlimbered of his hardware, Buck has “Jack” trussed up and sends him with the other henchman back to town to be tried and hung by the corrupt sheriff
“Jack” plays on the man’s nerves, and mentions Buck’s flaw, that his revolver has never been fired. The baddie fires off two rounds and speedily rides in Arnold to the rescue.
“Jack” heads on into town, and collects some mail and gear he had forwarded from Pecos, under the name of Sam Fisher. Soon word gets around that this Jack Robinson collected Sam Fisher’s effects, and all hell begins to break loose. Now firmly known as Sam, he strolls into the corrupt sheriff’s office and shows a poster optioning the rewarding arrest of Murphy, the first henchman that rode into Stella’s home. He coerces the corrupt sheriff to take the $300 bounty, arrest his man, and depart town. Meanwhile, he is deputized to act as in the sheriff’s place locally.
The town is torn between local loyalties or the law, but when it is announced by another that Sam slaughtered Miguel Cervantes in cold blood, they bust him up and lock in the bar’s back room. Thankfully, Arnold appears coincidentally on the scene, busts in the back window, and frees Sam. They re-enter the bar and have a showdown, then ride out of town quickly, before a posse can string them up.
A posse is formed, and give chase, but Sam smooth talks them to returning home and forming a committee to hold a jury, etc. Sam rides on to take down Buck and arrest him, full intention of bringing him in alive. Without ruining the climax, Sam gets his man, but Sam and Arnold don’t walk away without their fair share of bodily injuries, when Buck and others shoot them down. It becomes an awesome scene of carnage, where the author does some justice to the fact that the good guys don’t always walk away undamaged.