“Straight Shooting” by W. C. Tuttle

71 Straight Shooting

Book 71 is “Straight Shooting” by W. C. Tuttle.
The novella originally appears in the 10 August 1924 Short Stories magazine and the cover art debuted upon the 25 July 1925 edition, was created by Paul Strayer. The tale jumped to the Hollywood big screen as “The Border Sheriff” (25 April 1926) (though the screen version, naturally, differs from the novel).

NOTE: If you want to read another blog entry on
W. C. Tuttle, try this one:

http://buddiesinthesaddle.blogspot.com/2011/01/w-c-tuttle-thicker-than-water.html

 

Foremost, this novel sure fits among Tuttle’s better, earlier Western efforts, with a “fairly” concrete plot. Unlike most others, Tuttle opens this tale in Chinatown, San Francisco, with our hero dining in a Chinese restaurant, for unknown reasons. Remarkably, while present, he learns that two hoodlums, dining across the ways, are about to slay a man (accompanied by a pretty girl).

Our hero (swoon) is Cultus Collins, who makes what appears to be his third pulp appearance, and, for my money, I find him more desirable than Sad Sontag.

Realizing that the hoodlums are part of a plan to assassinate the incoming pair, Cultus leaps into action, gunning down one of the pair of assassins and, steals the innocent pair out the back door. There, they are accosted by a policeman and Cultus knocks him down. Cultus quickly hurls the duo into a passing taxi cab and then vanishes, himself.

The story then switches locale, and we find the girl (Joan) and the man (Uncle Henry Belden) back on the HB Ranch. We learn that the pair had been out West signing “options” on their ranch, but, in fact, as is often the case in westerns, the papers were switched out and they actually sold the ranch for pennies on the dollar to a crook, name of Carter Brace.

The plot thickens and becomes more convoluted when Tuttle introduces literally a dozen-plus other assorted characters, many of whom seem useless to the plot, until Collins wraps up the whole scenario for us in the closing pages.

We are introduced to the fact that Uncle Henry has a neighbor, one “Red” whom is a couple years older than Joan. He’s never been into being sociable, but one day rides onto the ranch with a wounded horse. He is awkward in their presence, and Tuttle leaves the reader with the impression of bad-blood between Red’s deceased father and Uncle Henry, whom at one time were partners….

Furthering that, cows have been vanishing from the HB Ranch and Joan one day stumbles across some of the missing brand being rustled by “Red” and his crew. She is repelled by “Red” and his actions, and to worsen matters, he seems to have developed a romantic disposition towards her and fancies matrimony! His apparent awkwardness around her is hilarious to degrees.

Meanwhile, in town, Carter Brace has hired an unscrupulous lawyer, name of Hewette, whom goes so far as to blackmail Brace into surrendering all the cattle on the HB Ranch to him! Hewette is curious why Brace would do so, since the roaming steaks amount to all the ranch’s invested value. Or does it? He soon discovers that Brace has a mining background….

Coincidentally, fate lands Cultus Collins in town and he tangles with some hardliners, showing he is ably capable with both fists or guns. Making quick friends afterward at the bar, he hires on with a local ranching interest and keeps his head low for a while, then decides to investigate the local claims of rustlers, led by the nefarious Dutch Oven gang.

Before riding out, Collins is spotted and recognized by Brace. He sends a wire to San Francisco, informing authorities that HERE is the man that shot up the patronage at the Chinatown eatery. The authorities wire a telegram to the local sheriff to arrest Collins.

Riding into the range, he and Tater-Bug (one of the hands) are spotted by a look-out. They eventually make their way back to their camp, only to discover their horses are missing. Much later in the novel, Collins goes solo at night and makes it through the pass, to discover nary a gang, but a lone shed with a crazy Indian, and the missing horses. He kills the Indian and begins to understand that the Dutch Oven gang are a blind.

The sheriff departs to hound Collins, but later is found shot dead. Everyone assumes that Collins murdered the sheriff. The deputy now finds himself promoted and shockingly yet, Collins sneaks into the office and declares his innocence. No need. The new sheriff believes him an honest man already, and to his surprise, Collins asks him to be deputized! After which, exit Collins (to investigate the Dutch Oven hideout, as aforementioned).

Everything finally comes to a head when the HB Ranch owner and Joan ride into town, doing final battle at the courthouse. Everyone is present, and the defense shocks the crowd when they call Cultus Collins in as a witness. Hewette declares that he can’t be a witness, as he is wanted for murder, and insists the sheriff arrest him. Cultus seats himself, and keeps a long barrel rifle with him, covering the guilty parties.

He slowly unmasks all the villains present, and naturally, some are moronic enough to do that on their own. He bluffs his way through Brace, stating he has a telegram from California demanding THAT man’s arrest for other crimes. Brace tries to draw but is gunned down. The telegram, incidentally, is blank. We then learn that the 8 Bar 8 ranch are the true rustlers, and lawyer Hewette owns a half stake in that ranch! Exit Hewette!

Joan realizes now that “Red” was not the leader of the gang, and he informs her that he was stealing the cows to sell on the side to save Uncle Henry’s interests. All is forgiven, naturally, and we know that the awkward “Red” will begin to court Joan.

My synopsis of the novel does not do Tuttle justice, not in the least. There are tons of other side plots going on, and humorous tidings, too. Tuttle has a refined knack for inserting humor at opportune moments that do little to distract from the pace of the novel.

My copy of this rare novel is in deplorable condition. The cover is detached, rear cover missing, and, the last dozens of pages are rat chewed, causing slight loss of text to some pages, but, the identity of the missing words is quite evident.

 

“Straight Shooting” by W. C. Tuttle

“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

“The Law of the Range” by W. C. Tuttle

24 The Law Of The Range

Book 24 wraps up the initial series of western, sea, wilderness and Frozen North tales brought to one and all back in 1923, by the Garden City Publications outfit.

Herewith, we have W. C. Tuttle’s “The Law of the Range.” The original copyright notices states 1922, via The Ridgway Company. This leads me to assume that this tale was originally printed as “The Spark of Skeeter Bill,” in Adventure (30 March 1922).

The tale opens with [cough cough] one Skeeter Bill riding into an ambush. His horse is shot out from under him and dies. Skeeter lays for the assailant, whom courteously makes himself present and open to Skeeter slicing lead through his legs. Tossing his rifle aside, Skeeter, rather than slay the man that slew his horse, demands to know why his was shot at.

The man is a sheepherder, out on the range with his wife. They moved to the range for his health, but the only work he could find was to herd sheep. Well, they are in cow country, and sheepherders ain’t welcomed too warmly. The herder has been harassed by others and assumed Skeeter was riding in to do the same.

Making as pards, the man brings Skeeter home and they have a wonderful sit-down. Now, Skeeter is a wee bit of a flippantly facetious cuss, and as a reader, you sort of chuckle along with his silliness, throughout. Skeeter takes up the task of riding into town for the couple to fulfill their shopping list, since he knows the town won’t allow the couple do buy anything.

Dressed more like a cowman and a gunner himself, Skeeter rides in on the old buckboard, and instantly finds himself the center of attention. Disregarding them, he saunters into the shop and is informed by the keeper they ain’t got nothing on his list. Skeeter makes mental note of what is present and walks the town.

Presently, the sheriff rides in, bleeding from a bullet wound. While the whole town is distracted, Skeeter ambles back into the store and wallops the man with a bag of flour, then, fulfilling the shopping list, leaves the correct amount of funds and departs, returning to the sheepherder’s ranch.

Upon arrival, he notices their shotgun discharged and abandoned on the porch. He doesn’t see the couple, but, finds a man shot down and dead. Heaving the body, he tries to hide the corpse but the sheriff and some others ride over from town, after the shopkeeper makes complaints.

Caught with the corpse, he is arrested and brought in. Refusing to admit his innocence, the judge slaps him with time in the penitentiary. This doesn’t go over well with the cattlemen, since the corpse was the boss of the Tin-Cup ranch! They are all for a lynching party.

The sheriff sneaks him out of the jail cell, days later, at night, during a dark rainstorm. They board a train and make their getaway. Unfortunately, another cattle group are planning to rob the train! To worsen matters, they run across another group with similar plans to stop the train…the Tin-Cup riders are set to stop the train, and lynch Skeeter!

Not knowing whom either group is up against, they shoot it out and one of the party purposely detonates a “torpedo” on the tracks signaling an emergency stop. Just in time, too, since one of the Tin-Cup apparently blew up the train trestle. The train comes to a screeching halt with the engine nearly dangling neatly over the precipice.

The Tin-Cup gang boards and the sheriff coolly wounds two attackers but suffers wounds of his own. Skeeter drags the sheriff along and jumps, making his getaway. Only, that jump never ends. He didn’t know that the train had stopped over the river!

They splash and Skeeter swims to the banks, dragging the unconscious sheriff with him. Out of the water, he finds the keys to the cuffs and makes to vamoose but then, because he IS A GOOD GUY, he goes back to save the sheriff.

Along the way, he picks up some others (I’d be entirely ruining the plot if I explained this part further, which only adds to the hilarious nature of Skeeter and his situation) and they all tromp to the sheepherder’s cabin, only to find yet another wounded person present that is NOT the couple. Skeeter nabs the buckboard and brings in three wounded people.

Meanwhile, in town, all believe he and the sheriff are dead, and the doctor is tending the two Tin-Cup gang that the sheriff shot on the train. They live. In walks Skeeter with all three…the sheriff, a hired gun man, and the fellow from the ranch (whom was there to kill the husband and take the purty wife, but I won’t ruin WHY this doesn’t occur), and the sheriff, after recovering, admits that he was the one that wielded the shotgun and killed the cattle boss, and to top that off, he is the secret owner of the sheep!!!

As usual, you can rely on veteran writer W. C. Tuttle for a competently written story, even if a wee bit unusual, but sure-as-hell entertaining!

“The Law of the Range” by W. C. Tuttle

2015 October 23 “The Devil’s Payday” by W. C. Tuttle

10 The Devil's Payday

“The Devil’s Payday” by W. C. Tuttle debuted in the 10 October 1922 edition of Short Stories, and the cover art hails from the 25 January 1923 issue. This was rendered by Remington Schulyer.

First and foremost, there are no stage’s held-up in this novel. (Nope. None.) No robberies, neither. No masked men. So, disregard the cover. (Wipe your mind clean. There you go !!! )

The tale takes place in a Western town called Wolf Point. It’s sheriff is “Paint” Harlan, and his deputy is “Whispering” Rombeau. (Why authors think that every fool in the West had nicknames, is beyond my ken. That aside…) The clear-cut painted villain is “Husky” Shane, a mountain of a man (because women never are mountains) and he is opening a new saloon, with gambling as corrupt they come. A rail-line is pushing in and through the town, so there is bound to be big business from them, and, the nearby miners.

Annoyed with facing competition, Shane has the competing saloon burned to the ground, and several perish in the flames, including a singing gal. Shane and his two evil companions remained behind in their saloon and talk about the crime, only to find that a drunken cowboy is still in their saloon. Turns out he ain’t all that drunk, and heard most of the conversation. Coincidentally, he was to be betrothed to the incinerated singing’ girl.

The cowboy calls out Shane, but is beaten badly, tossed out, and then vanishes. The sheriff, Harlan, goes to investigate, but Shane says he jumped horse and rode out of town. On a whim, the sheriff rides out and comes across a lady on a runaway horse, heading for the cliffs.

He saves her, only to find that she is a gal he saw ride in with “Zero” Dean (dumb ass nickname, sorry) whom is a gambler and gunman. Harlan notes several riders far out, and learns that they are after her and Dean, because they stumbled across the body of a dead man. Believing them to have killed the body, they hounded them. Dean appears on the scene and is unhappy that Harlan is present. Worse, he seems to know Harlan from a distant past, one that Harlan wishes to keep secret and buried….

The pair ride away and Harlan remains behind to await the posse of cowboys, and informs them it was impossible for Dean or the girl to have killed the man, since they were still in town. The dead man? Yeah. Fellow that was hooked on the singin’-gal. He blabbed, and Shane had him plugged.

Story dissolves into mayhem in Shane’s saloon, fight between he and Harlan breaks out, and the whole town turns into an insane brawling mess, as Shane orders it to be demolished.

Realizing the melee won’t end until he catches or kills Shane, Harlan pursues him and kills his man. Zero Dean dies of a broken and battered body, confessing that he does know Harlan, as Dean was Harlan’s brother’s partner, and killed the brother, and that Harlan’s name is clear, as they realize that they mistook him for his brother as the killer of Dean’s mother, whom actually was Shane. (I think…? The whole confession was rather convoluted) And to mix things up further, we are tossed that the girl with Zero Dean is actually Husky Shane’s daughter, but, she doesn’t know it, and in the end, she’s not informed.

Of the three Tuttle books I’ve now read, this one was extremely weak, leaving me very disappointed.

2015 October 23 “The Devil’s Payday” by W. C. Tuttle

2015 October 13 “Spawn of the Desert” by W. C. Tuttle

And onto the fourth book, Tuttle’s “Spawn of the Desert.” I did not find this book as pleasing to read as the prior title by Tuttle, however, like the former, his expression and realistic dealings with the humanistic viewpoint continues to enthrall me.

04 Spawn Of The Desert

The novelette originates within the 10 May 1922 pages of Short Stories magazine while the cover art (by Nick Eggenhofer) is represented hails from the 25 June 1922 edition. It was also released as a motion film on 10 January 1923.

Enter two desert riders; “Le Saint” and “Duke Steele.” The names are truly quite absurd but I think Tuttle was honestly being playful. Neither character is portrayed as a good person. Both are man killers. How and why they have killed is irrelevant to the story as a whole, but, they have blood on their hands and neither are what they seem.

Duke joined up with Le Saint years ago but knows nothing about his pardner, save for his outward appearance(s). He is described as thus:

“…a mighty, weatherbeaten man, with a long, white beard…Surely he could not be a sinner, with the eyes of a dreamer, the nose of a prophet and the beard of a saint…”

Duke Steele is younger, given to be about 30 years of age and “…a face seemingly hewed from stone, although handsome…hair was black and he wore it low between his cheek and ear…”

They arrive in the midst of a funeral for the recently deceased Preacher Bill, whom was neither good nor bad, but had the habit of gambling. He was shot dead. Those in attendance spot the arrival of our pair, and mistake the elder man for a preacher. He does not deny the profession, and after some consideration, accepts their invitation to issue forth the final rites over Bill. Naturally, he thinks Bill a good soul but is interrupted and given the truth so he alters his recital to suit the purposes.

Le Saint and Duke are invited to stay at Calico, since they are now in need of a new preacher. They ask for a play to call home for the moment and take over Bill’s former abode, and quickly find the town run by one Silver Sleed, whom owns and runs much of the rocky, isolated desert town. With him are the traditional gunning henchman and a decent lass, his daughter, nickname “Luck.”

Turns out she, Luck, was being taught to read, etc, by the late Bill. She now shyly approaches Le Saint and asks if he will continue her studies, and remarkably, he agrees! Duke is likewise surprised, given their calling: gambler and killer.

Cutting out a lot of meat, Le Saint sets up a gambling table outside the saloon, and boldly proclaims that his game can’t be beat. Naturally, all the fools place their bets one at a time (his rules) and none ever win. They can’t. The pea is not under either walnut shell, of course.

Finally, Sleed tires of this and naturally, he knows the pea is not present. While he sends his goons out to deal with Sleed and uncover the other shell, call him a cheat, and gun him down, Sleed is in dire straights himself, playing cards against Duke, whom is cleaning him out. By the time they are finished, Sleed writes Duke a $46,000 I.O.U., at Duke’s insistence, rather than collecting on any of it.

He goes outside to find Le Saint being confronted. The henchman calls the bluff and wrenches up the other shell, and a gunfight ensues. Luck watches in horror as Le Saint is shot and Duke jumps out and shoots down the first, and direly wounds the rest. They run for their lives, or rather, Duke has to drag Le Saint, whom seems out of sorts.

Turns out, Le Saint is mentally unhinged, his mind thrown back a couple decades in time. We now are introduced to another man altogether, a Herculean beast, married with a baby, working the trappings of the Frozen wastelands with a partner, whom his wife insists is no good. He guffaws but one day returns early to find the truth. His partner is kidnapping wife and baby. He tosses them into a canoe and makes his escape.

Meanwhile, while his past comes gurgling forth from his incoherent lips, Luck finds them first and informs them the people of Calico are coming to hang them. She assists in getting them hidden in her father’s (Sleed’s) home, but this backfires, as the town figures it out. They then flee to the silver mines that dot the rocky terrain, but are thus chased.

Duke then notes that Le Saint has vanished! He refuses to escape without his pardner, and with Luck, return to the crowd chasing them, only to find that Le Saint is calling out Luck’s father, naming him Sleed Martin, the man whom killed his wife and (likely) child (though it is clear now to Duke at this point that Luck his Le Saint’s daughter).

The two clash, and everyone is awestruck that Le Saint is stronger than the other. He clubs him down, then carries him up to a high precipice, only to duke it out again. Eventually, he lifts Sleed and hurls him off the cliff, then whirling about, loses his own step and his body chases Sleed’s down to his own death.

Duke mounts up and departs Calico. Luck inherits all, becomes rich, can earn her own education if she wishes. And Duke? He does not inform Luck whom her real father is. He leaves, shreds the $46,000 I.O.U., and wonders, while riding away, if he is nuts…

2015 October 13 “Spawn of the Desert” by W. C. Tuttle

2015 October 10 “Sontag of Sundown” by W. C. Tuttle

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….

03 Sontag Of Sundown

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 at least 30 more times. I would love to be able to read all his other assorted tales, and see how he grows over the ensuing 25 years since his first incarnation in 1922. He also comes to sport a first name: Henry. Just when this occurs is unknown to me. I’m a poor pulpster and may neverĀ  have the opportunity to read these other tales, but, maybe, just maybe, I’ll get in one more….

2015 October 10 “Sontag of Sundown” by W. C. Tuttle