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)

Water Rustlers by Hoyt Merion

THE ELY PRESS Water Rustlers

Featured is Water Rustlers by Hoyt Merion (sic), a side-stapled 64-page booklet, a western novel, published in England by The Ely Press.

When did The Ely Press operate?
What titles did they publish?
I know of only two fiction titles….

No major English libraries (according to COPAC and WorldCat) hold any books published by The Ely Press.

Nor is there a single record that anyone ever existed by the name of Hoyt Merion. However….

The mystery deepens when one realizes that the author also appeared with two “r”s in their surname by a more prominent publisher, Wells Gardner Darton (WGD) spanning 1947-1951.

The English Catalogue of Books from 1948-1951 lists several titles by Hoyt Merrion via WGD. And therein lies any possible clues…but I do not have direct access to those volumes!

The following titles appeared under the Hoyt Merrion name:

  • El Fuego’s Line (1947)
  • Unlucky Win (1947)
  • Valley of Lost Brands (1947)
  • When Chance Horns In (1947)
  • Rustlers of Yellow Dust Valley (1948)
  • Water Rustlers (1949)
  • “Cat” Tracy Keeps His Word (1950)
  • Ride-Along Rafferty Horns In (1951)
  • Ride-Along Rafferty Stops By (1951)

The novel I read via The Ely Press is Water Rustlers, and that title likewise appears above, in 1949. The artwork is signed, however, it is indecipherable, exquisitely tiny, appearing just to the left of the horse’s snout. The printer is listed as Westminster Printing Works, and they definitely operated from 1946-1947. This seems to indicate that The Ely Press may have issued Hoyt Merion (sic) titles prior to WGD, but this is inconclusive. BTW, the other title by Hoyt Merion (sic) via The Ely Press is Dumb Mahoney’s Music. This title apparently was never reprinted by WGD unless it appeared under a new title. I’ll touch upon that tale at a later date.

The plot involves the stereotypical jobless cowboy riding into a new town. Hitching his pinto, Stella, to the saloon post, he enters Clem Rafferty’s saloon (did you notice the saloon owner’s surname? The author’s last two novels feature that name, too) and bears witness to an attempted murder upon rancher Bud Ginty. Lending his guns to protect the rancher finds jobless Tim Raines hired on as a cowhand to a doomed ranch. Drought is upon the ranch, but their neighbor (Galt) has plenty of water from the underground spring. And, he refuses to share unless Bud’s beautiful daughter, Kitty, marries him. Then he will permit Ginty’s thousands of cows to drink. Or they will die.

While out on a ride, Raines hears distant booms and investigating further afield, sneaks onto the Galt ranch lands only to be knocked out. Captured, Raines is bound and tossed in an attic space. He will be murdered after Galt marries Kitty, who has eventually agreed to marriage to save her father’s ranch.

In typical fashion, our hero manages to escape, investigates the source of the explosions, and discovers a secret cave that leads under the earth, and a series of pipes pumping water out from under the Ginty lands! Returning to the ranch, he’s in time to assist Bud Ginty in stopping Kitty from going through with her marital vows. Gathering all the available men, they raid Galt’s ranch and a wonderful gun-battle ensues.

Raines is knocked out, unhorsed, and wakes up to discover a bullet nearly ended his life, but a metal plate on his hat saved his life. Raines announces his intentions to acquire the late Galt’s ranch, and requires a lover to assist in its operation. Naturally, Kitty obliges.

And I must confess that I enjoyed this novel enough to pursue reading the next one. Perhaps if I luck out twice, I may decide to chase the others.

Water Rustlers by Hoyt Merion

Frontier Sheriff by John Theydon

CURTIS WARREN Frontier Sheriff
John Theydon is overall a solid, competent writer. I enjoy his westerns, but, like any writer, the quality varies. The last one I blogged about was fun, but this one felt a bit sluggish.  Frontier Sheriff was published by Curtis Warren in 1949 and features cover art by Nat Long.

Sheriff Tex Draper, rather young for his age, must deal with local cattle rustling and murders. Despite his age, he is a savvy fellow, but a bit thick when it comes to realizing that his deputy has been secretly in cahoots with the outlaws. An excellently drawn-out gun battle ensues in the closing chapters, and in typical style, Tex gets the girl. He also earns the respect of the girl’s father, whose animosity toward him is legend, but, has a wry sense of humor, remarking that his daughter will make Tex “a danged good deppity.”

Guess we know who the new sheriff in town is, heh?

Frontier Sheriff by John Theydon

Death on the Slow Draw by John Frederick (1946)

CROWN Death On The Slow DrawJust like the last John Frederick western I blogged about two years ago (Love Packs a Six-Gun) the title herewith was never a pulp story. The cover art depicts gamblers playing cards while a gunslinger walks up, gun drawn. There is no such scene anywhere in this story. Odds are, the cover (and title) was meant for some other western. Reading the first several pages clears up the mystery. How? Well, I had once-upon-a-time owned the original pulp it appeared in. Sadly, I auctioned it off in 2013 (the pulp depicted here was my sold copy).

Death on the Slow Draw was published by the Crown Novel Publishing Company (Canada, 1946). The artwork on the digest-paperback is unsigned. The tale originally debuted in Western Story Magazine, 21 June 1924 as “The Girl They Left Behind Them”.

Western Story Magazine 1924 06-21

Appearing via Frederick Schiller Faust’s alias John Frederick, the author achieved his greatest fame under the pseudonym of Max Brand.

The story involves a blonde giant called Jack Innis. He has traveled the lands and seas and built his bodily frame to steel and trained his hands to all manner of combat and can handle all weapons: from six-guns to rifles to knives. He is a proficient killing machine.

Innis makes his way to the town of Oakwood and falls in love, at first sight, with the beautiful face of Stella Cornish, daughter of the local sheriff. Stella feels no love for Innis; he is repulsive. The sheriff finds the brute appealing, for here at last is a real man. He tries though to explain (at various points) to Innis that he is wasting his time on his daughter…

Innis beats up her would-be dancing partner. Anyone gets in his way learns the error quickly, and painfully. It’s not long before Stella tires of his presence, and her inability to gaily attend dances and flirt with other young men. She learns of a man of famed fighting repute, and writes to his last known residence. That worthy Innis adversary arrives in the beastly and ugly form of Miles Ogden. Stella pours her heart out to Miles, and promises to marry him if he removes Innis, permanently.

Innis is lazily swimming in a creek when a voice-ashore hails him. He takes in the massive monster and realizes that here may well be his match. After a brief battle of vocal wits, they toss knives into a tree. Then swap bullets at a target. A perfect match, each time. Perfect shots, and quick draws, each. Finally they decide to settle things with fists. The battle royal ensues and sadly ends with Miles Ogden losing consciousness when his head strikes a rock. Innis retrieves his hat and douses the man. Convinced he was struck down and defeated by Innis, that latter worthy can’t honorably accept the win, and confesses that a rock did Ogden in. Ogden now is bolstered to his former self.

Innis demands an explanation for the assault, and Ogden explains he is in love with a girl, and that she has a suitor that won’t go away. The light dawns and Innis explains the only thing the girl loves is herself. To prove it, he surrenders one of his prized six-guns and instructs Ogden to show the gun to Stella and explain he has defeated Innis and has given him the boot.

Introducing himself to the sheriff, the latter is amused by the entrance of another man to woo his daughter and tries to warn him otherwise. Receiving permission to go inside, Ogden delivers his tale to Stella; he witnesses the pure evil delight in her eyes and finds that she wants to keep the six-gun as a souvenir. What’s more, she wiggles out of her promise to marry him and states they should get to know one another first. Realizing Innis was correct, he confesses the man is still in the picture, snatches the gun, and stalks out…and into town and into Innis’ room. From then on, the pair are roommates and both continue to court the girl until one man shall win her.

Skipping a lot of relevant padding, a hunter comes to Oakwood and proclaims that he has spotted an elusive silver fox. Stella is unclear as to the excitement, so her father explains its rarity and value. Into her eyes creeps a clever plan, a means to rid herself of both suitors. Offering herself as final prize to the first man who brings in the rare silver fox, the pair make off into the frozen wilderness.

Ogden is better suited to trap and secure the wolf, having a background in hunting. Innis lacks any hunting experience, but is game, nevertheless.

While inspecting his own traps, Innis tires halfway through and returns to his makeshift tent to find someone fleeing the scene. Inspecting the tent, he finds his ammunition and food stores missing. Angered by the deceit, he pursues the fleeing bastard, dead certain that he is on the trail of Ogden, for who else but Ogden would…?

Fueled by anger, he easily overtakes the fleeing man and discovers his quarry is an older, bearded man. Threatening death but granting life for a full, honest confession, the man proclaims he is in the hire of Miles Ogden. The food was stored away not far from Innis’ camp, and is restored. Likewise the munitions, which is in a pack on the old man’s back. The old man informs Innis where Ogden’s camp is, and Innis packs up, and heads out to deal death to Ogden.

Rifle readied and both six-guns loaded, he rapidly makes his way towards Ogden’s camp but foolishly loses his footing and slides down a hill, destroying a leg in the process and knocking himself unconscious. Coming to rapidly, he is mortified by his split open leg and immediately tourniquets it, tightly, which only pains him more. Dragging himself under the side of a fallen tree for shelter, Innis fires off an S.O.S. salvo from his guns until he is left with one last round in the chamber. Saving that to end his own life rather than freeze to death, he drowses off until he becomes aware of an evil creature staring at him. The fright fully awakens him to realize that the silver fox is there and just as it turns to flee, Innis wastes his final bullet killing the fox.

A pair of voices in the near distance proclaim that they heard a shot fired and stumble across the dead silver fox they were chasing. Turns out, of course, that the pair is Miles Ogden, and the other is the thieving old bearded man! Elated at the score, the old man dives upon the fox and begins cutting it up…but Ogden only has eyes for Innis. Discovering he slew the fox, Ogden confesses his deceit, admitting his fear that Innis, despite his clear hunting inexperience, might luck into fox, and sent his helper to trick Innis.

Spotting that Innis is bodily injured, he drags the man out from under the tree, has his helper start a fire, and sets to mend Innis’ deadly wound. He also proclaims that he will see to it that Innis not only survives, but will make sure he gets Innis and the silver fox to Stella. Ogden realizes that his honor and the man’s friendship means more to him than Stella Cornish’s false love.

Months transpire, and eventually the pair make their way out of the frozen wilderness. Innis is limping, and Ogden is on his bad side, supporting him. The people of Oakwood seem shocked, maybe even appalled, to see both of the two brutes making their way back into their lives. Knocking at the Cornish home, the door opens and they are met by the sheriff. He’s happy to see them, and explains that Stella sent them on a wild goose chase, that the silver fox does not exist…but he is shocked to witness Innis slowly extract from his pack the silvery-black pelt of the fox!

All for nothing, for the sheriff explains that Stella merely wanted them out of the way and…is married! She married a man that he describes as one that Innis can not kill, for he is not a man at all worthy of physical battering. But the sheriff states that the final laugh falls upon his daughter, who will learn that married life is work, for she hasn’t exerted a day of labor in her entire life!

The scene switches to find both men on horseback out around the Rio Grande, and Innis suddenly takes to whistling gaily. Ogden is shocked by Innis’ suddenly merry tune, and the latter explains that Stella’s father sure knew her way better than they did…but he also had a longer head-start! Sheriff Cornish had tried to warn the two men.

An amusing story from start to finish, leaving me wanting to read more works by Mr. Faust. For any interested in this story, it was reprinted in the collection Red Rock’s Secret (Five Star, 2006, 1st hardcover … Leisure Books, 2008, 1st paperback … an audiobook also exists) and contains 2 other novellas. The blurb online is partially accurate. It states: The Girl They Left Behind Them is an extraordinary story about big Jack Innis, who finds himself attracted to Stella Cornish, daughter of the local sheriff. The problem for Jack is that Miles Ogden claims Stella as his girlfriend and has terrified or intimidated every other man who has ever dared show any interest in her. Um…Miles did not come before Innis, so whoever constructed the blurb is in error.

Either way, the reprints are readily available, cheap, via eBay, ABEbooks, or any other used book site, etc. The original pulp is scarce and the Canadian digest-paperback version that I utilized is extremely rare.

As a side note, I was surprised to learn that Faust and his assorted aliases have largely fallen into obscurity. As a user of Instagram (via PULPCOLLECTOR), the hashtag #MaxBrand largely is used for a line of clothing / apparel and accessories. As for #FrederickFaust … the few that appear come from my own posts! Has this legendary, prolific, and highly competent western writer totally vanished from the reading public?

In a word: Yes

It’s plausible that the fate of his legacy has slid into the mired past due to dying young from a shrapnel wound in 1944 while acting as a correspondent in Italy during WW2. Another fact is that he wrote under over a dozen pseudonyms, instead of purely establishing himself under one or at worst two aliases. With over 500 novels and 300 stories, it’s hard to fathom this fiction factory could vanish.

Now, by comparison…

Zane Grey died in 1939, five years earlier than Faust. His literary output was much, much less and yet he left behind a larger footprint, with over 4000 posts attributed to his hashtag! He also did not use pseudonyms.

The only other western pulp fictioneer worthy to compare would be Louis Lamour, but he was born later than both men and survived four decades longer, outlasting the demise of the pulps, something neither Zane Grey nor Frederick Faust achieved, except posthumously. Despite that fact, Lamour incredibly has only netted over 5000 hashtags on Instagram. The clear winner as thus would be Zane Grey, on an output vs hashtag percentage basis.

Death on the Slow Draw by John Frederick (1946)

Deadshot Riders! by Rex Hays

THOMAS P KELLEY Deadshot Riders

Deadshot Riders! by Rex Hays was published by World Distributors Incorporated, as part of their All Star Western series, likely around 1950. The artwork is unsigned. The novel runs from page 3 to 111, with 112 noting the name and address of the printer. The interior front and rear covers are blank, wasted space. The rear cover features an advertisement for another western in the series.

Rex Hays is the alias of Canadian ex-boxer Thomas P. Kelley, best remembered in the pulp fiction community for his contributions to the American magazine Weird Tales. He also authored fantasy novels such as:

The Face That Launched a Thousand Ships
(Adam Publishing Company, 1941)
I Found Cleopatra
(Export, 1946)
Tapestry Triangle
(Peveril, 1946)

Richard Stanley, aka “Dick”, returns home aboard his horse, Six-Bits, after having been away for a length of time. He finds his sister’s homestead a smoking ruin and the occupants (her husband and cowhands) very much dead. The only thing keeping him together mentally is his romantic-love on a neighboring farmstead, young Polly Marshall.

The mystery of who murdered them remains unsolved and about a year passes, when Dick proposes his marital interests for Polly to her father, only to be rebuffed. A heated argument ensues and ugly words are exchanged. Dick rides away infuriated, while the father rides into town for business reasons. Unaccountably delayed, Polly fears for her father’s rather late return while her mother figures the husband is delayed due to his assignment in town.

Polly inexplicably suffers through a “vision” featuring her father stumbling, bloody and dying, a piece of paper in his hand, then falling dead. Not long after, news arrives that her father is found dead, stabbed to death. Who is the murderer?

The sheriff and posse arrest Dick on suspicion upon learning of the argument, and, Polly’s mother rides up, wielding Dick’s bloodied knife! He claims it was lost, prior. To top it off, he refuses to confess to his actual whereabouts the night Polly’s father was murdered. So, into the jail cell he goes…for nearly a good chunk of the novel. The novel shifts focus to Polly, instead.

Polly arouses the interest of the Judge and he goes too far into investigating the murder, and, the mysterious “vision” Polly had regarding some form of paper. Knowing that her father had extended loans to various parties, he is surprised to discover the sheriff owed Polly’s dad a couple thousand dollars. Could the sheriff be guilty? The sheriff doesn’t take kindly to the investigation and locks him up, too.

A lot transpires. Dick is broke out of jail by a masked bandit, whose ears give him away to the jailers (they pick him up later) and Dick recognizes his identity immediately, as being a close friend. Dick gets into a scrape with a posse, meets up with Polly, who arrives after hearing gunshots; they break away into the badlands, loads of insane padding ensues, and Dick eventually returns to town with an injured Polly. Dick is arrested while at the doctor’s and thrown back in jail to await his trial.

He is found guilty…then an unknown man rushes in with unusual features. It’s revealed that this man is a wanted man that Dick, while Polly’s dad was dying, rescued, and nursed back to health. Not knowing he was a wanted man, Dick had helped and returned him to health, etc. Feeling a debt to Dick, he brazenly exposes his life to the court-room, going so far as to walk in sans any handguns! He calls the deputy out to confess where the knife came from, as they apparently know one another, and the cowardly deputy confesses the sheriff committed the murder. A shootout occurs, and, well, you can guess the rest…

Polly and Dick prepare to marry, Polly’s bitter Dick-hating mother must admit she was wrong about thinking Dick was the killer, and the Judge proposes to marry Polly’s widowed mother! Dick has a proposal of his own: how about a double-wedding!

Deadshot Riders! is not a brilliant piece of work, but, Kelley hammered out (at least) four westerns quickly for the UK market, circa 1947-48. It’s unclear WHY the title was chosen as it has nothing to do with the novel. Perhaps it was merely catchy. Whatever the case, the western was not horrible enough to warrant my writing off of Mr. Kelley. I intend to tackle further Kelley western novels in the future.

If you are interested in Thomas P. Kelley, then perhaps you should visit his agent’s official website. Kelley is actively represented by Darling Terrace Publishing. His agent has authorized 3 weird and fantastic works via the Pulp Fiction Bookstore and an additional 3 works via Amazon include:

I Stole $16,000,000
The Black Donellys
Vengeance of the Black Donnellys

 

Deadshot Riders! by Rex Hays

Forgotten Trails by Frederick C. Davis

SHARMAN ELLIS 01 Forgotten Trails
Forgotten Trails by Garry Grant Sharman Ellis Ltd.

Taking a brief sojourn from reading crime and science fiction stories, I’ve briefly returned to reading Western stories. Not just any Western, either. These continue my further exploratory readings into author Frederick C. Davis. Having previously read some of his crime tales, as reprinted by the British publishers Sharman Ellis Ltd., I decided to extract another Western chosen by the same publisher.

Forgotten Trails carries Davis’ “Garry Grant” pseudonym and is the first in their Western Novel Library series, however, the tale did not originally appear under this alias. The novelette actually debuted under his own name in the 30 July 1927 issue of Argosy All-Story Weekly. Initially, this excited me, for the simple fact (to me) that ARGOSY ran either stories of decent quality or of arousing interest. And having recently just finished reading the author’s lost 1921 crime thriller The Copper Room, I was very much ready for a Western.

Reprinted here in a trim digest-paperback format, this Western fills out all 64 pages, and likely was reprinted around 1935-1936. The rear cover advertises their new mystery series, both also by Davis, indicating the mystery and western series each began about the same time.

The story opens with Arthur Post speeding along a dirt road in Arizona towards an old ranch, in search of the last known whereabouts of his nearly identical brother. Years earlier, his brother had written their father a letter from that location, and then vanished. Now, their father, on his death bed, has died and left the entire family fortune equally divided among his two sons. A gentleman rather than a greedy cretin, Arthur now drives West from the Big City out East, hunting his brother, to learn whether he is dead or alive.

Arriving at the ranch, he finds that the home is aflame, and lends a hand in putting out the fire. Seems the kitchen caught fire. Having finished, a young lady exclaims “Ben!” in shock. Seems she has mistaken Arthur for his brother. However, he is thrilled as this means his first lead has paid off. He has found a clue, and that clue did not turn out to be a dead end. After explaining his actual identity to the young lady (Reita Burnett) he asks for her assistance in providing further leads.

Sadly, she doesn’t know where his brother went to. He remained only a short while, determined to move along and make a man of himself. Prove himself worthy to his father, who rejected him years earlier, for being likewise rejected by the army during The Great War as unfit to serve. This failure to meet the needs of the nation was too great for their father and he was cast out and banished. On his death-bed, the father informs Arthur that the will was unchanged and that he loves his son, Ben.

And so began Arthur’s adventures in the far West, and Reita supplies him with the names of the local sheriff and neighbors, to perhaps supply further details. Jumping once more into his coupe, he tears off and not long after, is assaulted from behind by the stereotypical “yellow menace” that pulps thrilled to have thrown into the mix. The Oriental apparently smuggled himself aboard the coupe by holding onto the rear of the vehicle and pounced upon Arthur. Having stabbed Arthur, the latter manages to dislodge his assailant and brings his coupe back upon the roadway before pitching over the precipice to his death.

Wounded and bloodied from the stabbing, he returns to Reita’s ranch to be mended. Mortified by the assault, they clean his wounds and put him to bed in a room to be shared with another man visiting from out East, a college-aged youth who is studying the local rocks, etc., for a large enterprise. The next day, they hear a noise outside and find that same man dead, bitten by a snake. He has some of his samples about his body and on his horse. Investigating the findings, Reita is nonplussed, but her husband-to-be (the ranch boss) is certain that there is great wealth in the form of coal on the lands.

Arthur visits the ranch’s neighbors, who they know has an Oriental cook and housekeeper, and the dilapidated structure is bossed by a Mexican (racially referred to as a “greaser”). Here, he finds the very same Oriental that assaulted him, an aging Mexican, who is shocked or scared at the sight of seeing Arthur (thinking he is Ben) and that man’s fiery spiteful daughter, who wields a rifle and has her sights on introducing his innards to the outside world.

Making haste his departure in search for healthier grounds, Arthur visits the town sheriff and learns that Ben left for parts unknown with two other men, one of whom was later found dead, stabbed to death. The mystery and plot thickens, and then a young boy arrives while they are talking and he appears shocked to see Arthur, as well. This boy leaves and is later found to be trying to murder the old Mexican!

Rescuing the kid from near-death at the nefarious hands of the Chinaman, Arthur compels the boy to come with him and takes his gun from him. The boy confesses that he knows who Arthur is, and that he grew up in Ben’s care, after his own father was murdered by the Mexican, years earlier.

The reader, led to believe that there is a much deeper motive at work, eventually has the tables turned on them to learn that while Davis has adroitly woven a tale with racial slurs, informs us that our preconceived notions are all wrong, and that we should not judge a person by the color of their skin. While it is true that the Mexican did murder the boy’s father, it was out of revenge for what they did earlier to him.

While on the Mexican’s own death-bed, he confesses that many years earlier, his wife was dying, and he had sent the loyal Chinaman in search of a doctor. He was captured and detained, not knowing how to speak English. Following in his steps, the Mexican went in search of a doctor but did not have a horse to speed his travels. Seeing the young boy (then as a child with three men), he spots that they have horses and steals one. Not realizing that he has performed a grave injustice, because he can only think of his own world crashing down if his wife dies, he speeds off. The men quickly jump the remaining horses, and being better riders, capture the Mexican. They tie him up and beat him mercilessly, then leave him to die. He didn’t speak English, so couldn’t convey to them his need for their horse. Extricating himself from the ropes, he knifes one man to death and pursues the others. But they have made good their escape.

Ben had gone to California and took care of the boy. Going into the cannery business, his education and developed physique eventually moved him up in the business to the point of owning a controlling interest. Fairly wealthy by his own right and hard work, he has become the man his father was assured he never would be.

All are surprised when he eventually arrives on the scene, having left California in hot pursuit of the youth, fearing the boy would attempt to murder his father’s killer. He is equally nonplussed to see his own brother. The story ends on the natural path that the brothers shake, their father’s will is explained, and while he returns West to his business with the boy (and a lot richer), Arthur remains behind to win Reita’s heart.

What? Oh, I forgot to tell you…her fiancee turns out to be a double-crossing creep, who was playing up to the Mexican’s daughter, and is already married (falsely) to her. I say falsely, because she believes she IS married to him, but, he had a fake preacher marry them. Learning that he intends to marry Reita, and confused over the matter, she eventually learns of the deceit, captures him and the preacher that intends to marry he and Reita, and wielding her rifle, with Arthur as a legal witness, holds her own version of a shotgun wedding. Removing the creep from Reita’s path, Arthur’s path is now clear to date the young lady. Turns out in typical literary fashion that Reita actually had already fallen in love with Arthur, never really loved the creep, and they sell the ranch to the rock mining interest, who arrive on the scene to proclaim that they aren’t interested in the low-grade coal found on the lands, but the large deposits of asbestos (which I find amusing that something deemed illegal these last few decades was once-upon-a-time a hot commodity). Ranch sold, the youngish couple head back East together, married.

All-in-all, it’s actually a brilliant story, all the more because Davis throws the era’s racial biases in the reader’s face(s) and then explodes it all to smithereens. This story was well-worth the read!

Forgotten Trails by Frederick C. Davis

The Lone Ranger by John Theydon (1948)

CURTIS WARREN The Lone Ranger
It’s been a long while since I read a western by English writer John Theydon. Given that I have fallen behind on tackling the stack of digest-paperback westerns, I picked this one off the top.

THE LONE RANGER was published 1948 by Curtis Warren Ltd., sports a cover illustration by Kingsley Sutton, and the text begins on page 3 and concludes on 64. Priced at 9d, this quick-read kept me plunging headlong throughout. Why did I ever abandon Theydon?

The novel concerns Dave Logan, lawman, assigned to secretly protect a train loaded with gold bullion. The banker is riding West with his gold to deliver to the banks and Dave’s boss wants this shipment seen through. The area is rife with bandits, and while his boss wants that shipment safe, Dave’s real assignment is to track down the bandits, and capture or kill them.

The banker, coming outside for a smoke, finds Dave Logan on the train’s platform, enjoying the air. The banker thinks he is just another cowhand, not aware of the deception. Striking up a conversation, this is cut short when the train comes to an inexplicable stop. Worried that the train is being robbed, Dave drops off to investigate. Yet, there are no shots fired. He is returning to his car when shots are fired and he receives the world crashing in atop his skull….

Waking up much later, he finds the security personnel slaughtered, the safe blown open, and he and his horse the sole survivors. Spotting hoof-prints in the sand, Dave tracks them into the distant mountains, only to be shot at. This he considers a reward, meaning he has partly located the villains. Only one person is holding him down at rifle-point, so he circles the area, and believing to have caught the sniper unawares, is nonplussed to find the shooter’s location abandoned!

He’s suddenly shot at from another direction, and realizing that the shooter knew of his movements, shoots it out in the dark recesses of a cave. The man dies from multiple gunshot wounds. Searching the man’s clothes, he finds a letter from the fellow’s brother, another hoodlum, known to be in lock-up in Santa Fe.

Assuming that person’s identity, he rides into the nearby disreputable town, leaving the dead man to be found, later, by his comrades. Once in town, he nabs a hotel room and on entering the bar, finds a woman has held-up a bunch of unscrupulous-looking scoundrels at a card-table. She’s gorgeous (aren’t they always?) and mean and sure as hell capable of holding her own with a gun. Demanding they fork over misappropriated funds from her father’s late gambling run at a crooked table, Dave watches as one of the gunhands triggers a hideaway into action. Dave draws and blows the gun away. Retrieving the funds, the girl makes her exit while Dave lingers.

Once she’s gone, he explains who he is (in his new guise) and explains away his defending the girl he doesn’t know, but just couldn’t stand aside and watch a girl get hers. Ergo, feigning as a tough who is a sucker for dames. Elaborating that he is looking for his brother, the bartender informs him that he just shot the leader of the local gang who was with his brother.

Realizing he’s in a gritty position, Dave brazenly strikes out, heads to their rooming quarters, and enters. They are stupefied by his entrance. Explaining who he is, they finally cautiously accept him, but to prove his worth, he must steal the funds he just assisted the girl in retrieving. Agreeing to those terms, he departs…

…and returns to his hotel room. The girl has a room there, and enlisting the aid of the clearly honest hotel-keeper, he actually divulges 100% to them who he really is, the crook’s plans, etc. Dave has a plan to infiltrate the band, learn the identity of the real leader, and catch all of them.

The pair agree to get six other honest men, and pooling their funds, match the amount the girl has on hand. Sending one honest messenger to the next nearest town with a bank to pay off her father’s ranch-mortgage (the crook’s, in typical cliche fiction fashion, wanted the mortgage note to expire and the land has oil on it, unbeknownst to the owners…of course). This transpires while Dave returns to the rooms of the crooks. He tosses them the money, they blindfold him, and ride out, far away, to their secret headquarters in the mountains.

Part of the plan involves one of the honest six to trail him, and then they are to ride back and enlist the next town’s sheriff and posse…

Meanwhile, he and the party he rides with finally arrive, hours later, at their destination. Blindfold removed, he sleeps for a while on a bunk until the boss arrives. Brought away sometime later, he is led to another room where the boss is. The door opening, he overhears one of the gang explain who he is, only to hear the boss exclaim that THAT PERSON is in jail in Santa Fe!!! His bluff is exposed! What’s more, he recognizes the voice as the banker from the heisted train! He’s stealing his own gold! No shit, right?

A blazing gun battle ensues and Dave must shoot his way out or be hemmed inside the building and either smoked-out or shot to death. He’s shot once and stumbling about, aware of certain death, when all of a sudden a rifle begins cracking, repeatedly, eliminating his competition. Tossing his body behind cover, he’s shocked to find the shooter is none other than the girl! Unlike other works of fiction, John Theydon has his lovely lady as a resourceful tough girl, and not merely a piece to be admired. Handy with a gun, she continues to reload to punch holes in the competition, and refuses to relinquish her rifle to the wounded Dave, who feels his manly pride in jeopardy. They are soon to be outflanked when the posse arrives.

Surviving members of the gang turn and run, hop on horses, and take off. Bloodied and weak, Dave manages somehow to climb his horse, and in once-more cliche fashion, he has the fastest horse. Determined to get the banker, he ignores other members as they split away. They are peons. Insignificant. One has balls and attempts to stop Dave, but Dave merely shoots at him and rides on by.

The banker is frightened to learn that Dave has eyes only for him, and smartly, riding out of sight, he waits until Dave comes around a corner and pushes a boulder (because in Hollywood, they are all really just styrofoam in reality, right?) from above down at him. His horse shies away and Dave falls from his saddle. Spying the banker escaping once more, Dave commits himself to the one thing he despises: shooting down a horse. Taking sight, he murders the banker’s horse, which collapses and pins the man’s legs. Injured, but not dead, Dave takes him in…

Arriving in town with his man in cuffs, he finally faints from blood loss, wakes up later in bed, and finds the girl in another bunk, bandaged about the head from a gunshot wound grazing her forehead, making eyes at him. Well, we all know how this will end.

Last thoughts: The title of the book should be changed to “Lucky Logan,” given that Dave Logan makes much of family lore and the luck of the Logans, throughout.

The Lone Ranger by John Theydon (1948)

Revenge Rides the Range by Will Frame

Some time ago, I read (and blogged) a western published by Muir-Watson, also published in 1949. This one is Revenge Rides the Range, by Will Frame; clearly, an alias, and clearly someone has a sense of humor. The actual identity is unknown to me, nor could I locate information online to unravel the mystery, however, I am certain of two things:

  1. the author of this book also authored the other Muir-Watson western.
  2. the cover artist is the same, too.

No copies are held by the British Library, the National Library of Scotland, nor anywhere on Worldcat or COPAC.

MUIR WATSON Revenge Rides The Range
Bud Jackson, ex-Sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps, formerly stationed at Honolulu and crack-shot, has been out riding the trails of the American West, hunting a man that framed his father back in Illinois. This man is known as Chicago Kelly, and, he made off with a ton of money from a forgery racket, leaving Bud’s dad to face the rap. His father subsequently died in prison, leaving Bud honor-bound to track down Chicago Kelly, and…

Bud awakens in the saddle under the blistering heat to the sound of gunshots. Galloping onward, he comes to a gorge. Down below, some men are shooting at a stagecoach. Realizing it must be a hold-up, Bud unlimbers his rifle, adjusts his sights, and knocks one of the assailants into the next life…if there is one.

Bud’s second shot knocked the hat off another of the fiends. Dismayed by his slightly  inaccurate shot, he pops one final shot at the rocks nearest the would-be robbers, and is rewarded to see that the remaining pair have decided to clear out.

Re-mounting, Bud heads into the gorge and is rewarded himself with gunfire in his direction. Realizing that those below believe he to be another bandit, he brandishes a white handkerchief, waving it high. The driver finally relents, permitting Bud to traverse the remaining distance in peace, after asserting he is friendly.

Turns out the coach carries precious cargo, bullion, and some passengers, too. Removing the bullion from the top of the coach, they lever the boxes into the coach, freeing rooftop space for the dead robber to be placed atop. Inside, space is now a premium, and the passengers are cramped. They become further constricted when one passenger, a young girl, asks Bud if he is from Chicago.

Nonplussed, he acknowledges that YES, he is, looks at her, and finds himself shockingly looking into the face of a fellow Chicagoan, who he knows. Mary Shaw invites him to join them in the carriage and continue their conversation, illuminating several disturbing factors locally, mostly, cattle rustling. Tying his four-legged friend alongside the carriage, he hops in and they head off toward town.

In town, the body is unloaded in the sheriff’s care, and while assisting in shifting the cases of bullion out to the bank, a burly brute ambles over and demands to know if Bud killed the bandit. Turns out it was his brother, and he requires payback. Seeing that the man is a dirty fighter, Bud takes matters into his own hands, and knocks the fellow down fast. Realizing he overplayed his part, the ruffian draws his six-shooter, only to have the nimble-fingered Bud quick-draw and blast it away.

Bud gives the barn-sized menace the option of “fists or pistols.” The monster accepts “fists,” and we are given to nearly two full pages of gratuitous street-fighting, which ends with Bud getting the idiot to fall back into a horse’s watering trough, much to the onlooking crowd’s amusement.

The sheriff and a well-dressed man, who he immediately decides is the local Judge, breaks in on the scene. The “judge” is actually Hiram Wheeler, president of the local bank, and grateful for Bud’s assistance in protecting the shipment of bullion. But Bud is looking beyond current circumstances. He’s seeing before him a sharp, well-dressed, clean-cut man, but behind him, in an old black-and-white newspaper cut-out, he’s seeing a different man, a man he personally wants for the death of his father.

Bud Jackson has found Chicago Kelly, now established seemingly as a reputable banker.

The book is 128-pages in length, and all this action transpires with yet another 100 pages to go! How will Bud insert himself in the local goings-on, convince the authorities that Wheeler is Kelly, discover the rustling plot, unmask a series of murders, and win the girl? Well hell, partner, you’ll just have to find and buy a copy of this book!

 

Revenge Rides the Range by Will Frame

Brothers of the Purple Plains by Steve Watts

Hold on there, pard! This western novel is pure dynamite! Now, whereas many British westerns are not worthy of note, however, boy was I impressed by this novel.

Brothers of the Purple Plains was written under the alias Steve Watts, and published by Muir-Watson (Scotland) by arrangement with the publisher Sydney Pemberton and distributed by World Distributors, Inc., 1949. The artwork is unsigned, and the artist is clearly the same as that of another Muir-Watson western in my possession, “Revenge Rides the Range,” which I will be reading and blogging in the near future.

The title recalls to mind Zane Grey’s classic “Riders of the Purple Sage.”
There are no plot similarities.

MUIR WATSON Brothers Of The Purple Plains
From the opening salvo of pages right to the end, I was hooked. It’s pretty damn good stuff, and I’d love to know true identity of the actual writer. Well-written and competent, the only weak point is the dialogue, which at times gets to be a bit cheesy with the heroes uttering “Gee” or exclaiming “Oh” or “Aw.” But hell, people do make such utterances in real life, so, why not here?

Three boys are orphaned after their wagon train is butchered by Indians and they are taken in by a preacher, who is often drunk and belligerent. Fast forward, the preacher is dead by the time the eldest boy is sixteen. They hit the trail and cover great extents of the West. Their current ages are not known.

The leader is Al Cummings. He’s described as “tall, well-built, fair-haired.”
His boyhood friends and lifetime mates include Mex Caliente, closest to Al in age, and “handsome in the dark fashion of his race, and the lightest hearted member of the trio.” Finally comes Jesse Hudson, “not as tall as the other two, but thick-set and strong as a stallion…quieter…than the others…a dour earnestness about him which seemed to come from his Scots ancestry.”

Having abandoned a prospective interest in a gold mine, they ride away from their fruitless earnings in search of work. In the horizon, Jesse, the more aloof member, spots what appears to be smoke rising in the distance. Riding closer, they find a house on fire.

Applying the horses to beat the trail north, they arrive in time to face a blazing inferno. Is anyone around? Inside? Alive? An accident, or…murder?

The trio hear something, and Al busts inside to rescue a woman and her baby. The latter is clearly dead, in the lady’s arms, a death-grip about it. Not bothering to remove the corpse from her arms, they find that the mother has been shot and left to die. And die, she does, but not before uttering the name BARTLETT.

Who is he? Her husband? A helper? A killer? All of the above?

Chapter two doesn’t drag things out either. Arriving eventually in an isolated town, the unimaginatively named Star City, the boys hit the local saloon, sidle up to the bar, and place their liquor orders. By the second page, we have another murder, a shooting out in the dark street, and the dying man staggers into the saloon, collapses, and utters BARTLETT before expiring.

The novel becomes mildly hectic when an awesome array of characters are introduced, including a saloon girl, whom Mex’s heart beats hard for (its beats hard for ANY girl, actually). While attempting to win her affections, she warns Mex to take his friends and leave town, quick, because they’re asking questions about Bartlett. Those questions aren’t healthy. Mex finds himself suddenly the focus and ire of her self-appointed boyfriend, who ambles in and decides to mix words and fists with Mex. The brute thinks he’s got Mex’s measure, but boy is he wrong. Fast with women he may be, but faster with fists and gun! After drenching his fist deep into the others gut, the brute makes for his hardware, only, Mex is pure lightning, wielding a pair of .38 revolvers.

While asking the brute his business, a gun is fired! Al and Jesse are behind the brute, facing Mex, Al with one of his guns smoking. One of the brute’s friends had tried to plug Mex from behind! Giving both men the boot, they ask the girl what the ruckus was all about, but she begs them to leave, flee for their own lives. But Mex is soft on the girl because he is soft in the head and assures her they aren’t going anywhere.

Rooming together in their hotel room, Al, the brains, is thinking over the death of the mother and baby, the murder at the saloon, the name BARTLETT, and the bruisers that caused a scene. Were they all connected? How? and, Why? Too many questions, no answers, he finally falls asleep…scarcely, only to hit the ground rolling, along with his friends, as a hail of bullets rip through the window. Taking turns, they maintain a guard on the room and window, all night, when a brick is hurtled through the window. A note is attached, with blocky words stating: GET OUT OF TOWN…QUICK, and signed “B.”

Talking with the sheriff the next morning, they are met by a local rancher, Vane Carson, who is frustrated by the sheriff’s inability to clean out the area of rustlers, led by Bartlett. Carson is the biggest rancher in the area, maintaining a huge spread, in the interests of the future owner, when she comes of age (not for about another year or so). Liking what he (Vane) sees, he asks the men to work for him, not as ranchers, but, as border-rangers, riding his borders, looking for clues as to the rustlers whereabouts, etc. Fresh faces that the rustlers won’t know.

The boys, short on cash, accept the generous offer. They ride out to the Bar Z ranch and meet Nance Greenley, future heir. All three boys take to mentally fawning and drooling over her beauty. Mex is the typical stud in asserting his affections. Jesse is perturbed to find himself attracted to her. Al, who previously shunned girls, is baffled by his own sudden interest in the young lady.

Brought to the bunk house, the trio are introduced to Carson’s foreman, Jeff Simpson. None of the boys like his looks. Desiring to make good fast work of their current occupations, Mex requests the locations of the other ranches and homesteads raided, but Carson refuses. He’s not interested in them, only his own ranch.

Splitting up, the boys cover ground fast and Mex wanders over to the corral, spotting Nance sitting on the posts, watching a ranch-hand trying to break in a horse, but he is constantly thrown. Mex laughs, and in an effort to impress Nance, saunters up to the dude and requests a try at the bucking monster. The horse is extremely intelligent and gives Mex the ride of his life, before eventually hauling off and hurtling him into space.

Out riding and inspecting the range the next day, the trio are taken by the wonderful country and beauty, only to return “home” and find the frowning foreman reprimanding them, and spit out that Carson is enraged. While they were off gallivanting, Bartlett’s crowd had stolen another fifty head that night.

All this action takes place in the first 35 pages, and the full book is 128 pages. I won’t ruin the rest of the plot, but I’ll spoil some of it now. One of the boys dies during a shootout at Bartlett’s secret lair, to be buried by the surviving member. We see a new side to this person, in mourning their friend’s death, and any past flaws are wiped out and replaced by the newly-molded character. The novel features a solid, credible plot with a mystery villain that any regular reader will see coming long before the conclusion, but how the whole fracas is wound up makes for damned good reading.

Brothers of the Purple Plains by Steve Watts

Love Packs a Six-Gun by John Frederick

CROWN Love Packs A Six-Gun

When a battered copy of Love Packs a Six-Gun by John Frederick slid across my field of vision, I didn’t wait a second to snatch it up. The author is one of many aliases used by Frederick Schiller Faust, better known under his most famous alias, Max Brand.

Interestingly enough (to me) I had never read (to my recollection) any works by Mr. Faust. And given the somewhat obscurity of this Canadian publication via the Crown Novel Publishing Company, now was my opportunity. Printed in 1946, and noted to be “complete and unexpurgated,” I dove right in.

The cover art depicts a blond gunslinger facing off against an unknown figure, his own hand resting casually by his own six-gun. Behind the blonde is a red-dressed lady. The lower portion of the cover is mangled, leaving me to guess whether an artist signed the book or not, but, I have seen one other copy, and no signature was in evidence on that copy, either. However, if I had to guess, I would choose my Canadian artist to be Harold Bennett, based on the style of the “fingers” on the foreground gunman.

The original publication of this story initially had me baffled. This novelette never appeared in the pulps under this title, under any of his aliases. Reading the story quickly cleared the air….

Love Packs a Six-Gun debuted in Western Story Magazine, 26 March 1923 as “The Abandoned Outlaw” under the John Frederick alias.

The story introduces readers to two young boys playing at a schoolyard. The first, Oliver Beam, is an intelligent jock-sized boy, the boy that nobody can beat. The second is Clancy Stewart, a year younger, and his family recently moved out West. His father assigns the young Clancy to pick out the school bully, essentially, and beat him up. Beam is bewildered that this young upstart should mess with him, especially since he is noticeably smaller in frame than himself. The duke it out and Beam is further dumbfounded to find the younger boy a fair match for his oversized brawn. Neither refuse to give up and only break when a young pretty girl, Sylvia West, runs over to stop them from killing each other. Both are bloodied and bruised beyond recognition.

Each boy goes home, and while at Beam’s home, a knock at the door reintroduces the battered Clancy, demanding Beam to continue the fight. Clancy’s father refuses to permit him to step indoors until the fight is settled, with Clancy as victor! So ends Chapter One.

The next chapter slings us into the future. The boys are grown, graduated, in one form or another, and Beam is in charge of his father’s estate, and the richest bachelor in the region. Clancy’s family has always been dirt-poor, inept farmers, and his family is dead and gone. The “estate” is deeply in debt, and creditors have all come upon his father’s recent death to call in their debt(s). Nearly penniless, Clancy laughs them away, but one returns to collect or kill, so being his reputation.

Clancy easily guns the man down, walks into his cabin, phones the sheriff, and confesses to the killing. However, with no witnesses, he’s leery of being arrested. The sheriff is certain of the man’s innocence, and fully aware of the dead man’s reputation.

However, a janitor in town despises Clancy, for he represents everything that he himself is not. A born coward, Clancy is brave in the face of any fear. So, overhearing the sheriff talking on the phone to Clancy, he devises a plan to race afoot out of town, run into the oncoming Clancy, and lying to him, inform that the sheriff intends to arrest Clancy for the murder and use him as a springboard toward the upcoming re-elections.

Convinced, Clancy turns and rides away. Meeting Sylvia West at her father’s ranch, she has yet to hear of the murder, but Clancy informs her and she finally extracts from him that he loves her. Taking a chance, she kisses him, and realizes now, fully, that she is in fact in love with Clancy and not Oliver Beam. That fact had always been left undecided. She cares not for Beam’s money or good-standing. She’s ready to throw her life away and marry an outlaw.

Departing town and region, Clancy flees to parts unknown, works an ore mine, strikes it relatively rich enough to be financially solvent, returns, and presenting his hard work to Sylvia, she finds him inside and out a new man. Clancy again leaves….

Oliver Beam is certain that the outlaw is in the region. In fact, he is certain. Sylvia West is, while always friendly toward him, affectionately cold and distant. On this basis, he spends time at her father’s ranch and one night spots her on horseback riding into the wilderness. Whilst on foot, he chases her, knowing he can keep up because she has to ride slowly at night.

Stealthily he follows and she eventually reaches a remote cabin and finds the two lovers. Listening in, he finally enters the cabin and…well, let’s just say it ends in a shootout. Clancy wins, despite Beam’s astoundingly fast draw. Shot down, but not dead, the mortally wounded Beam is taken in and Sylvia dresses his wound and sends Clancy out for help. He returns with a clergyman, and instructs the man to convince her to marry Beam! She has no certain future with himself, and Clancy knows it, having been convinced by Beam. Bewildered by his assignment, the man rides down and attempts to convince the girl to marry Beam…

Clancy rides away, only to find a notice hammered on a cabin stating that Clancy is a free man, all charges dropped! Turns out that the janitor, on his death-bed, confessed his sin to the sheriff.

Overjoyed, Clancy rides back quick as hell to save Sylvia from marrying Beam. He eventually comes upon the clergyman, whom explains that Sylvia fought him tooth and nail, but in the end, he prevailed, and the two are married.

Clancy, dejected, rides away, only to reflect in astonishment that he wasn’t beat by the law, by Beam’s quick draw, but by a janitor, the town outcast.

The story has subsequently been collected in 1997 and 1998, first by publisher Thomas T. Beeler (Circle V Western, large print edition) and next year via Dorchester / Leisure Books mass market paperback edition. The tale also exists narrated on audio cassette.

Love Packs a Six-Gun by John Frederick