Pulp Fiction

Pulp AdventureCon, November 7, 2015
by Walker Martin

   This one day pulp and paperback convention has been an annual event for over a dozen years and has been held at the Ramada on Route 206 near the NJ Turnpike exit in Bordentown, NJ. Frankly, I don’t think Rich Harvey has received enough credit for his dedication in putting on this convention each year. He has even started to do a one day show in Florida during the winter.


   In addition to pulps and paperbacks, the 47 tables also held pulp reprints, slick magazines, dime novels, DVDs of old movies, and original artwork. There were over a hundred attendees and the room always looked crowded and busy during the day. In addition to Rich Harvey, author Audrey Parente also was helping out and things were run very smoothly with many dealers coming from as far away as Boston, Connecticut, Maryland, NY, and even Florida. Restaurants and hotels were within easy reach.

   Though this is a one day convention, for the past several years it has been a four day event for me and some fellow collector friends. For instance Matt Moring, who runs Altus Press and owns much of the old Munsey and Popular Publications, comes down for a visit starting the Wednesday before the convention and spends several days meeting with us doing research.

   Digges La Touche, otherwise known as The Reading Machine and The Major, is a great pulp resource and along with me, we discuss with Matt all sorts of ideas involving the pulps and even the slicks. This time we drove Matt to distraction talking about H. Bedford Jones best series which most collectors do not even known about, the Pinky Jenkins novellas that were published in Ace High in the 1920’s.

   We also talked about some of the great slick magazine series like the Glencannon stories by Guy Gilpatric and the Scipio series by Clarence Buddington Kelland. These literary discussions took place not only at my house and up at Digges’ brother’s place but also at the various local restaurants.

   I’ve also gotten into the habit of hosting a pulp luncheon for collectors who arrive early on Friday and stay overnight at the Ramada for the Saturday show. These luncheons are attended only by serious, and I mean really serious, readers and collectors. This year in addition to myself, the discussions held the rapt attention of Matt Moring, The Reading Machine, Ed Hulse, and dealers Nick Certo, Scott Hartshorn, and Paul Herman.

   Legendary collector and dealer Jack Irwin also attended and the day before had provided several of us some much needed reading matter when we visited his storage facility which non-collectors call a house. I’ve known Jack since the 1960’s and he has been collecting pulps for over 70 years.

   Digges picked me up at 7:30 am on the day of the convention and by 8:15 we were in the dealers room of the Ramada looking through piles of pulps, digests, paperbacks, and slicks. Though the official opening time is 10:00 am, many tables set up quite early and fellow dealers visit each other. We would have been there earlier but the city of Trenton was shut down by what looked like the entire police force as they blockaded many of the streets. Some type of marathon. You know, the usual non-collector waste of time. I never will understand non-readers and non-collectors.

   I had a table and proceeded to dump several boxes of books and pulps. I must have brought a couple hundred hardcover detective and mystery novels that I had read and no longer wanted. Also over 50 banged up pulps. Since I wanted to sell everything, I priced everything at one dollar each. That’s right, everything was a buck! Evidently no one believed me because I sold only 18 hardcovers and made $18.00.

   At the end of the show, since I was threatening to throw the contents of the entire table into the dumpster, I gave away all the hardcovers to fellow readers. Every collector has a non-collector who is in charge of harassing them about their collection of books, and I had told my non-collecting spouse that these books were making a one way trip and would not be returning to our house.

   But don’t feel sorry about my lack of money-making skills. First of all, I found a pulp cover painting for a reasonable price. The photo shows me holding it and it is the cover from a 1934 Western Story. The artist is Frank Spradling, and it is quite unusual, as it shows a nighttime scene that must have happened a million times out west. A cowboy hears a noise at his campfire and reaches for his gun.

   Several books made their debut at this convention. The latest of Ed Hulse’s Murania Press volumes was available. It’s a reprint of a Dime Mystery novel from 1933 by William Corcoran called The Purple Eye. Altus Press had several new collections from their Dime Detective Library, including one of the best and most unusual series, the Jeffery Wren series by G.T. Fleming-Roberts. It stars the best of the magician detectives and includes an introduction by Fleming-Roberts’ son.

   But the most noteworthy debut was the stunning blockbuster collection from Altus Press titled Them That Lives by Their Guns. It’s volume one of the collected hard-boiled stories of Race Williams by Carroll John Daly, creator of the hard-boiled detective story. This large book has 654 pages and is only $29.95. All of the stories, except one, are from Black Mask, 1923-1927. There is a long introduction discussing the pros and cons of Daly’s work. This is a must buy volume of historical significance and though Race Williams is a murdering SOB, every pulp reader and collector should have this collection. I’m sure we will be seeing some interesting reviews from both lovers and haters of Daly’s work.


   I’ve saved the best for last. You may wonder about the photos showing horror and fantasy writer Chet Williamson and me holding up four old issues of All Story. Chet bought these 1913-1914 issues 37 years ago and decided to sell them to me, thus completing my 444 issue set of All Story. It’s been a quest that I’ve been involved in for many decades and I now have probably the only complete set in existence.

   Many collectors complain about the trials and tribulations of collecting the weekly pulps. I’m talking about not only All Story, 1905-1920, but also Western Story, 1919-1949, Detective Story,, 1915-1949, Detective Fiction Weekly, Argosy, etc. I collect and read all these magazines and have managed to compile extensive runs.

   Instead of finding it a terrible and expensive job, I have enjoyed myself tremendously and I don’t regret the money that I’ve spent on these magazines. It’s been a load of fun and I’ve tried to get that enjoyment across in my series of articles called “Collecting Pulps: A Memoir”.

   I stress *read* because there actually is quality fiction in these old magazines. Don’t believe ignorant literary critics that lump all the pulps together as sub-literary. There actually is such a thing as a good pulp magazine, and that’s why I’ve been collecting them for most of my life. There are bad titles also, but that’s another story.

   So ended several days of meeting with old friends, talking about books, pulps, and old movies. There is no better way to spend our time. Collecting books is a lifelong activity and you may retire from a job or a profession but you never retire from collecting. I urge all readers and collectors to support the Windy City Pulp Convention and Pulpfest. They are great fun!

Editorial Note:   Thanks to Sai Shankar for the use of the photos.


by Richard Moore

   I thoroughly enjoyed this year’s PulpFest. Part of the pleasure is seeing old friends such as the Albert brothers, Walter and Jim. Their table in the dealer’s room is always my home base. Walter and I were both members of a mystery oriented Amateur Press Association (DAPA-Em) for many years. A highlight this year was meeting Steve Lewis of Mystery*File fame in person after sharing the apa with him for three decades and communicating often through the years. Also around was another DAPA-Em veteran Dan Stumpf, retired cop and now novelist. I’m reading his novel for Hard Case Crime Easy Death (by Daniel Boyd) right now.

   Of the programs I attended, I think my favorite was Leo Margulies, Little Giant of the Pulps. Leo was the editorial director of the more than 45 pulp magazines of the Thrilling Group, aka Standard Magazines. After that he was publisher of several digest magazines including Fantastic Universe, Saint Detective, Mike Shayne, Satellite SF, Man From Uncle and even one of the revivals of Weird Tales.

   The center piece of the panel was Leo’s nephew Philip Sherman, who is working on a biography of his uncle. Sherman is the son of Margulies sister Ann and grew up in Brooklyn. As Leo’s mother lived with them, Leo and his wife would come out to visit every two or three Sundays. Leo enjoyed playing with his nephew Phil and his sister and was especially good at hide and seek. Given Leo’s reputation of a quick temper with his editors, this was another side of the man.

   Phil also recalled as a young man Leo employing him as a proofreader paying two cents a word. As Leo only paid most of his writers one cent a word, this caused a bit of a humorous crowd response. It was likely that this represented Leo finding a way to channel money to his nephew than his regular pay for proofreaders.

   Joining Sherman on the panel was Ed Hulse and Will Murray, and they both said Leo had a great reputation with writers because he made quick decisions on submission with quick payment on acceptance. Leo was also generous with writers needing an advance because of bills or a family illness. Phil said he had a large file of thank you letters from writers. Sometimes Leo would hear a writer was in the hospital and he would, unasked, send a check to his hospital room. Such things built loyalty among writers.

   I did not know that Leo took a leave from the company during WWII to serve as a war correspondent with the US Navy in the Pacific. I also did not know that a few years after the war, Leo and his wife Cylvia Kleinman moved to the south of France with the intention of editing from there and publishing from Europe a Saint Detective magazine in partnership with Leslie Charteris. The logistics proved to be too difficult and Leo and his wife returned to the U.S. and eventually Leo left Standard Magazines to form King-Size Publications which published the Saint Detective Magazine and Fantastic Universe.

   Cylvia Kleinman was a name seen regularly on the mastheads of Leo’s magazines and she was an active editor. On one of my early rejected stories to Mike Shayne I was excited to get my first note of encouragement from an editor signed CK. I later sold Shayne but it was to Sam Merwin, Jr.

   Phil Sherman told the crowd that he happened to be in London when Leo and Cylvia were there attending a writer’s meeting. Leo suffered a stroke and after a few days in the hospital, Cylvia asked Phil to fly with them back to New York. Leo died a few months later.

   Another highlight of the convention for me was the Guest of Honor presentation of Chet Williamson. GOHs were common back in the Pulpcon days when ex-pulp writers were hale and hearty and available for a trip to Ohio. Now the few remaining are in their 80s. Williamson, of course, never appeared in a pulp but he is a lifelong pulp collector as well as a fine writer horror, suspense, and various other stories and novels.

   Turns out Chet is also a sometimes actor and performer and his presentation had great wit, dash and entertainment. Based on this success, we’ll see more Guests of Honor at future PulpFests.

   For the second year in a row, there was a group dinner at a nearby Italian restaurant for anyone signing up to attend. It is a chance to mingle and talk and meet other pulp fans. My table included the aforementioned Chet Williamson and George Vanderburgh of Battered Silicon Dispatch Box fame. I had met and enjoyed several conversations with George back at the 2012 PulpFest but he had missed the last two cons. It was good to catch up with him and hear more of his great stories.

   Finally, I also enjoyed the presentation of Mike Hunchback on his (and Caleb Braaten’s) Pulp Macabre: The Art of Lee Brown Coye’s Final and Darkest Era, which has just been published. Mike is an enthusiastic fellow and loves his horror. Adopting the name of Hunchback is rather clear evidence of that.

   The book features many fine illustrations from Coye’s work with Carcosa Press, the magazine Whispers and others from final years. It is a gorgeous book, and Jim and Walter Albert joined me on Sunday morning in buying copies from Mike. Highly recommended!

   So that’s my PulpFest report. I tell you folks, if you love pulps, this is the place you need to be each summer. I resisted the many invitations to Pulpcon I had from friends, and now I regret waiting so long to join the fun.

by Walker Martin

   As usual I was among four collectors who rented a SUV to transport us to Columbus, Ohio, the site of the 2015 summer pulp magazine convention. The Great God Cthulhu was supposed to make an appearance but he evidently was busy at some other horrifying business. Lucky for us book collectors because so many stories show that nothing ever good happens when he visits.

   The other three collectors with me were Ed Hulse, our driver and editor of Blood n Thunder; Nick Certo, long time book dealer and art collector; and Digges La Touche, otherwise known as The Reading Machine. A normal car was not big enough for us because of the books, pulps and artwork that we expected to buy and bring back to New Jersey.

   Theme of this year’s PulpFest was the 125th birthday of horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, Weird Tales, and the Thrilling magazine group of pulp titles. The ID badge showed the cover of Weird Tales, November 1944 by Matt Fox, a very weird and bizarre portrait of Cthulhu. We arrived at 5:00 pm and quickly joined the other dealers who were setting up during the early bird hours on Thursday, August 13, 2015.

   There were 120 dealer tables and attendance was announced as 420, making this one of the better attended PulpFest. and Pulpcons. I always have a dealer’s table at these conventions, not only to sell my duplicates but also to have a sort of headquarters for me and my friends to meet and store our purchases. I was constantly tripping over stacks of books and pulps behind my table, mainly items bought by my pals Digges and Sai S, who runs the excellent pulp blog, Pulp Flakes. At one point, while looking at this mound of loot and evidence of bibliomania, I had no idea what was my stuff and what belonged to Digges and Sai.

   But somehow we sorted it all out by the end of the show and I bought quite a few items including original art by such Weird Tales artists as Hannes Bok, Lee Brown Coye, and Matt Fox, I also picked up some art by Emsh and Gahan Wilson. But the biggest purchases were a great Galaxy cover for the March 1952 issue. Titled “Year of the Jackpot”, it illustrates the lead novelet by Robert Heinlein. I also bought another Galaxy cover by Dember for the October 1966 issue. This was only $500 and a real bargain.

   I had to buy some weird art to honor Cthulhu, so I obtained the cover art from Nyctalops 15, January 1980 by Potter. It shows Lovecraft and Cthulhu. I was really impressed by the art I obtained that was done by Lee Brown Coye and Matt Fox. Many collectors don’t like Coye and Fox but I think they are two of the finest of the Weird Tales artists. Their work appeared in the 1940’s and really portrayed the bizarre and unusual elements in Weird Tales. As I mentioned above, an example of Matt Fox’s art was used on the ID badge.

   I also sold quite a few interesting items, including 12 bound volumes of Adventure from the 1920’s; several bizarre crime digests from the 1950’s like Off-Beat and Two-Fisted; and a couple of Smart Set‘s containing early stories by Dashiell Hammett, including his first appearance.

   I probably could have sold a lot more but I was often away from my table because I was buying so many books and artwork. I had a great time talking to old friends that I have known for decades including Don Hutchison and Steve Lewis, who runs this Mystery*File blog. Steve had missed the convention for a few years and it was good to see him again. Don I have known since the early days of Pulpcon.

   I didn’t see Gordon Huber this year and if he missed the convention, it will break the unbroken string of his appearances at every Pulpcon and PulpFest since 1972. Someone pointed out that if Gordon did indeed miss the show, then it makes me the next in line for having attended the most pulp conventions. As I recently pointed out in my article “Why Attend Pulpfest?”, I really think it is important to support and attend these conventions.

   It sometimes seems that my entire life has revolved around the Pulpcons and PulpFests, not to mention the Windy City Pulp Conventions! I really believe the collecting of books and pulps can be a life work and of great importance. What’s more important than a life spent reading and collecting such great artifacts? I wish we could continue doing this forever!

   I mentioned the great fiction magazine Adventure above and three of us decided to honor the memory of this excellent title by wearing T-shirts with the circled “71”, which stands for the Campfire letter column and the old Adventure stations that used to exist.

   These stations were manned by the magazine’s readers and provided a sort of way station for other readers to relax and talk about the magazine. On Friday, Ed Hulse, Tom Krabacher, and me wore the shirts and revived the Campfire station in Columbus, at least temporarily. It’s been decades since an Adventure station has been active.

   What was the most expensive item sold at PulpFest? I believe it was a copy of New Story magazine with an Edgar Rice Burroughs story. The magazine is a very rare and hard to get title. I heard it sold for around $4,000. Speaking of selling, the Saturday night auction saw over 80 lots sold, including a Philip Jose Farmer manuscript for $450, a Tales of Magic and Mystery for $275 and many stacks of pulps.

   This year PulpFest shared the hotel with a big convention of around 4,000 Japanese anime fanatics. Mainly teenage girls, these ladies were dressed in all sorts of bizarre and interesting costumes. A couple nights I woke up in my room to the sounds of screams and laughter as they raced up and down the corridors and through the hotel meeting rooms. For the first time I saw several Columbus police officers patrolling the hotel since many of the girls were minors and drugs may have been in use.

   I would like to give a special thanks to Bill Mann who turned his room over to several beer drinking pulp collectors. One night security visited the room and even told the collectors to keep the noise down. It’s possible we acted even more bizarre than the anime people! I’m sure non-collectors would think so…

   I had a strange room and at first I was not sure I liked it. The hotel has 19 or 20 floors and at one point the building ends in a sharp edge. My room was at the sharp edge and when I opened the door I at first though the twisting corridor leading to the bed was from the silent film, The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari. Then I noticed the walls were all windows, not just one or two and the bathroom as a big window overlooking the city of Columbus. This made me think of the film, Things to Come. Maybe I’ll ask for this room again!

   Chet Williamson was the Guest Of Honor and I had a table near his in the dealer’s room. In addition to being the author of around 20 books, he has written over 100 stories, many of them horror classics. He’s a book and pulp collector and I remember him from the old Pulpcons and the Tonikons that were held in Al Tonik’s home in the 1990’s.

   Steve Miller, a long time pulp collector, won the Munsey Award, mainly for his two great reference books: Mystery, Detective and Espionage Fiction with Michael Cook and Science Fiction, Fantasy and Weird Fiction Index with Bill Contento. He’s deserved this award for a long time.

   PulpFest is known for its panels, and there was a full slate of daytime and evening programming. During the evening there were several panels dealing with the Thrilling magazine group, Leo Margulies, Weird Tales, and the Cthulhu Mythos. I have never attended the daytime panels and discussions because of my collecting and dealing activities in the dealer’s room. When the room closes at 5:00 pm, then I eat and attend the evening programs. However this year there was a subject being discussed during the day that I had to attend.

   For the first time in over 40 years, I closed my table and walked out of the dealer’s room to attend the daytime discussion being given by Mike Hunchback, the author of Pulp Macabre: The Art of Lee Brown Coye. Recently three books have been published about this excellent and unusual artist and Pulp Macabre covers his last years when he was illustrating not only books but Whispers magazine and Fantastic. I highly recommend this book.

   One of the problems in recent years has centered around the lack of living men and women who wrote or drew for the pulps. This year they found a surviving member of the pulps in Jon Arfstrom. He is just about the only surviving artist of the great Weird Tales. David Saunders interviewed him and Mr. Arfstrom had a table where you could buy some of his original art. Unfortunately Weird Tales had a policy of not returning the art to the artist, and he had no examples to show or sell. David Saunders also gave an excellent talk on the pulp artist, Rudolph Belarski.

   Usually, if you want to see movies, you have to attend Windy City but this year PulpFest had such Lovecraft influenced films as Out of Mind, Pickman’s Model, The Call of Cthulhu, Cool Air, and The Whisperer in the Darkness.

   The big new issue of Blood n Thunder made its debut. You can order issue number 45, Summer 2015 from amazon.com or the Murania Press site. It has a very valuable and interesting long article on one of the greatest of the pulp magazines, twenty pages on Famous Fantastic Mysteries, and since it is part one, there will be a second part to read and enjoy.

   The Pulpster also was given to each attendee and it’s a big magazine edited by William Lampkin. Articles discuss Erle Stanley Gardner, Street & Smith, H.P. Lovecraft, the Thrilling group of magazines, Malcolm Wheeler Nicholson, and other subjects.

   Next year’s convention will be held again in Columbus, Ohio. Dates are July 21-24, 2016 at the Hyatt Regency hotel. Keep an eye on the pulpfest.com site for details. This is a must attend event if you read or collect the pulps. I’ve tried to give an idea of just how much fun this convention is and frankly I don’t see how you can miss it. I ought to know; I’ve been attending them almost every year since 1972 and I have a house full of pulps, books, and art to prove it!

   You too can be a slave to bibliomania by attending Pulpfest and Windy City. I’ll end my report on this great convention by thanking the members of the Pulpfest committee: Mike Chomko, Jack Cullers, Sally Cullers, Barry Traylor, and Chuck Welch. Thank you and the other volunteers for all your hard work and dedication. Believe me, it’s worth it…

   Dealers Room, Thursday 2 pm. Paul Herman and I arrived early the day before, so we were well rested and ready for the show to begin:

   Dealers Room, Friday 11 am. It was much busier the following morning:

   Walker Martin will tell us about the convention itself from his perspective tomorrow or Wednesday. When I’ll provide here are some photos of some friends of mine, many of who I had not seen in three or four years.

   Walter Albert:

   Dan Stumpf:

   Paul Herman at his dealer’s table:

   Walker Martin and I:

   Walter again:

   Richard Moore, whom I have known for a long time, but this was the first time we had met in person:

   Ed Hulse, publisher of BLOOD ’N’ THUNDER Magazine:

   We shared the hotel with an anime convention. They were 4000 all told, while we at PulpFest were a mere 400. I found their passion for whatever they were doing wonderful:

   Cake was served after Steve Miller was given this year’s Munsey Award:

   Waiting outside for Dan’s friend Claudia before dinner at a restaurant somewhere in the Columbus OH area. From left to right: Dan, Jim Albert, Walter and Paul. My thumb was also in this photo, but I trimmed it off.

COLLECTING PULPS: A Memoir, Part 17:
Why Attend PulpFest?
by Walker Martin

   The last couple days I’ve been thinking about PulpFest which will be held August 13 through 16, 2015, in Columbus Ohio. That’s this Thursday coming up! I’ve been deluged by logical and sane looking collectors and non-collectors all asking me the same question. Why bother attending PulpFest? They have shown up at my house; they have called me on the telephone; they have sent me emails.

   Enough is enough! Here’s a list of excuses for not attending that I hear all the time, and why none of them are good ones:

1–I have no money! Sorry but I’ve attended many a Pulpcon in the 1970’s, 1980’s, and 1990’s and I went with very little money. Are there no credit cards? Are there no credit unions? Are there no non-collecting spouses to borrow money from?

   Even when I had the money, I often blew it before the convention by visiting local bookstores like Bonnett’s and Dragon’s Lair in Dayton, Ohio. If not in the bookstores, then in the hotel rooms of friends who let me see what they were bringing to sell. I learned to go without much cash but I brought a few boxes of pulps to trade and sell at my table.

2–I’m in poor health and too sick to attend. Sorry again! I had a friend who had a terminal illness and came to Pulpcon anyway. Another friend actually collapsed at the convention and died soon after. I myself once threw my back out three days before the show and my doctor and chiropractor both told me to forget making the long drive to the convention.

   I felt like I was crippled for life but I managed to squeeze into the car and drive out even though I had to stop numerous times near hotels because I thought I was not going to make it. I could then rent a room and lay there for a couple weeks until I could stand. It took me 16 hours instead of the usual 9 hours but I made it. I spent the entire convention standing because sitting down caused back spasms.

3–I have no space or I live in a small apartment. Collectors always make space for the things they love! When I first met Bob Lesser in the 1970’s he had an apartment full of Disney toys. This was NYC and the apt was tiny. A path from the front door to the bed and another path to the bathroom. Otherwise, every inch was toys, robots, paintings.

   I once ran out of space and I hunted for over a year until I found a bigger house. I went to dozens of open houses and looked at hundreds of houses. I finally found a big house. Unfortunately I soon filled it up with books and now I need a bigger place! The old story…

4–My wife is a non-collector and forbids me to go. Tell me about it! I’ve been married over 40 years and I’ve heard it all. I still go and I still collect. Once Les Mayer told me in 1990 at Wayne, NJ that his wife thought he was a business meeting. If she knew he was at a Pulpcon she might burn his pulps.

   Collectors have to become masters of deception and great liars to defeat the non-collector. Many a time I’ve lied and many a time I’ve smuggled books into the house in the dead of night while “she who must be obeyed” slept the innocent sleep of the non-collector. Non-collectors exist to be ignored…

5–I can’t get off from work. Sorry but not a valid reason. My employers always knew I was a rabid book collector who always without exception took off a week during Pulpcon in the summer. I made sure that my vacation request was in as early as I knew the convention dates.

   Once they sorrowfully told me I couldn’t go because of some work bullshit. I went anyway and left it to them to ignore my absence without leave or put up with one pissed off book collector. I realize the employment situation is different nowadays but which is more important, your job or your collection, your marriage or your collection? Right, your collection.

6–Who cares about the convention. I can buy my pulps off ebay, etc. Once in the 1920’s and 1930’s the dime novel collectors existed. But they didn’t have a convention and died off. Now I know of only a few in existence and dime novels are just about worthless. If I had a table full of dime novels priced at a buck apiece, most collectors would scurry by in disgust.

   We have to support the two big pulp conventions: Windy City in Chicago and PulpFest in Columbus. If we don’t, then one day we will wake up and the pulps might be dead. These shows garner a lot of attention and people keep talking about the pulps because of the efforts of Mike Chomko, Jack Cullers, Barry Traylor, Doug Ellis, John Gunnison, and others.

7–And finally the best reason for attending! They are a hell of a lot of fun. Not only do you get to roam around a gigantic dealer’s room full of books and pulps but you get to meet and talk to some of the greatest collectors and dealers.

   These will lead to future deals and contacts. Plus you can eat and drink with these guys! Though I seem to be one of last of the drinkers. And the panels! All day and all night we will be discussing pulps and books. What’s cooler than that?

8–Walker, it’s too late! Like hell. There are hotels with rooms available nearby. What’s the most important thing in a serious collector’s life? His collection without a doubt.

   We work, we slave, we march on to the bitter end where we will eat dirt in the boneyard. We live lives of quiet desperation and worry about the afterlife. Go to PulpFest and collect some books and pulps! You only live once…

COLLECTING PULPS: A Memoir, Part 16:
A Field Trip
by Walker Martin

   Recently, Steve Lewis reviewed the issue of Argosy for June 9, 1934. My copy of this issue is now over 80 years old and still in great shape with the pages very supple and no browning or brittleness. Nice cover and full spine. It has a nice smell and no pulp shreds to clean up. I like the cover by Paul Stahr with the macabre scene of two skeletons showing that two poker players were struck dead while playing cards.

   Which reminds me of a field trip I once made to buy a couple original pulp cover paintings by Paul Stahr. It was in the mid-1970’s, and I was consumed by the desire to track down as many pulp paintings as I could find. This was 40 years ago (hard to believe that so much time has passed!), and I was busy doing the usual things that men in their thirties were always doing, like marriage, raising a family, job career, buying a house, and thinking about my next car.

   But my real interests, now that I think back on my life, was reading, collecting books, vintage paperbacks, pulps, and trying to find the cover paintings used on the paperbacks and pulps. The video revolution was still several years off, so I had not yet started to buy hundreds of video tapes of old movies and serials. Not to speak of the thousands of dvds that I now have cluttering up my house.

   Sure, all that other stuff is important in a life, but does anything really match the enjoyment and thrill of collecting books and art? This is the main subject of my two series: Collecting Pulps and Adventures in Collecting. Collectors are always paying lip service to their jobs and families, but I have often found them to be addicted to that greatest vice of all: book collecting. Otherwise known as bibliomania.

   And of course collecting pulps, paperbacks, and original art are all offshoots of book collecting. I remember many of my friends in college, the army, at work, were often involved in wasting time boozing, taking drugs, gambling, or that most dangerous sport of all, chasing women. I like to pretend that I was not addicted to these mundane vices. No sir, I was back then a Collector with a capital C and I still think there is no higher calling for a life’s work.

   I still wake up each day thinking about what I’m going to read or what books or pulps I can add to my collection. Not to mention what old movies I want to watch. And of course the collecting of original art, which is one of the most unique things to collect. A book or pulp for instance may have many copies in existence, but a piece of art is unique, a one of a kind thing connected to the collecting of books.

   I’ve always wondered why more book and pulp collectors are not interested in at least having a few examples of cover art to hang on their walls, in their libraries, between the bookcases or if the art is small enough, on the book shelves with the books. I can understand not being able to spend thousands of dollars on artwork, but I have many times picked up amazing art bargains for very little money. Even today, some artwork can be bought for a few hundred or less. I’ve had more than one friend that liked to buy new cars every couple years for many thousands of dollars but would turn pale in horror at the thought of spending a few hundred on a pulp cover painting.

   Which brings me around to the details of my field trip. In the 1970’s and even in the 1980’s, it was possible to buy non SF cover paintings for very little money. Very few collectors were interested in such genres as detective, western and adventure paintings. As a result of this lack of interest I routinely bought pulp and paperbacks paintings for prices as low as $50 and for many years I was paying only an average price of $200 to $400 each for artwork. Now prices are higher but you still can find bargains, especially at the two pulp conventions: Windy City and Pulpfest.

   In fact, it was at one of the early Pulpcons that a friend told me about an art store in Brooklyn NY that had pulp art for sale. I had no idea about how to navigate to and through Brooklyn but he agreed to meet me a the Penn Station train station and take me out to the store. It was the typical small store but it was crammed with paintings.

   I still remember the very large painting by Walter Baumhofer that the dealer showed me. It was enormous and showed a shootout in a bar between gangsters. It was used as an interior in a slick magazine, perhaps The Saturday Evening Post or Colliers. But he wanted a few hundred for it and I couldn’t buy everything, so I reluctantly passed on it. One of my collecting mistakes from 40 years ago that still haunts me. I still dream about these mistakes and often wake up in the middle of the night cursing myself. My wife wonders what the hell, but most collectors probably know what I’m talking about.

   The dealer showed me several other pieces, and I was shocked to see how he had the paintings stored. Most were unframed, and he was just pulling them out and scraping the paint off as he yanked them out. Finally he got to the paintings that I could afford at the $200 level. There were several Paul Stahr paintings, and I recognized them as Argosy covers. Stahr was very prolific and did many covers for the magazine in the 1920’s and 1930’s.

I decided I could spend $400, after quickly calculating how much I owed my wife, mortgage, car payment, and a couple pulp collectors who sold me sets of pulps on the installment plan. The paintings I bought were used for the covers on Argosy for December 3, 1932 and December 24, 1932. So we packed them up for the long trip back home and casting a final look of regret at the big Baumhofer masterpiece, I left the store. I never returned, and I’m sure it is long out of business.

   I had the paintings nicely framed, and both were hanging together for around 20 years. I still have the December 3, 1932 painting but the December 24 artwork suffered a tragic end. Steve Kennedy, a NYC art dealer who just died a few weeks ago specialized in pulp art. He thought he could get me a good deal in a trade but I would have to give up the December 24, 1932 piece. So he took the painting and mailed it off on approval to another collector. Later on, he told me the sad news that the Fed Ex or UPS truck had caught on fire and the painting was destroyed.

   All collectors have the time travel dream. You know the one where you go back in time and buy a stack of Hammett or Chandler first editions. Or maybe you buy several issues of the first Tarzan All-Story or the first Superman comic. One trip I would make would be back to the Brooklyn store of 40 years ago. Only this time I’d say to hell with the bills and mortgage payment and by god, I’d buy that beautiful Baumhofer gangster painting!

ARGOSY WEEKLY. 9 June 1934. The problem with collecting Argosy pulps, unless you want them only for some inborn collector’s urges and your life wouldn’t be the same without them, is that more than half of every issues is taken up with staggered installments of usually three different serials. You have to do a heap of collecting to put a string of consecutive issues together before you could read the complete story of all three.

   So why I did I read the first installment of “Pictured Rock,” by Frank Richardson Pierce, in this particular issue? Pure carelessness, that’s all. I wasn’t paying attention. It’s Part 1 of 5, and it never came out in book form, so there’s no chance I’ll ever get to finish it. I was closing in one page 22, where the next story started, before I began to think to myself, what’s going on? This story ends in two pages, and it’s barely begun.

   A fairly astute observation, that. But the story’s an interesting one, and I don’t regret reading the portion of it that I did. It’s about a young man raised by his uncle, a banker on the East Coast, who heads for the West when his father, thought to have been dead for 25 years, manages to send him a written request to come to see him before he dies. A story very much in the larger-than-life Max Brand western tradition.

   On page 22 begins a novelette by H. Bedford-Jones in his long-running series of adventures of one John Solomon, a London-based Cockney adventurer-agent of sorts who seems to have his fingers in all kinds of pies, including friends on the police force and perhaps even higher echelons. “John Solomon of Limehouse” is the first one of these tales that I’ve read, so anything anyone can say more about the character, please do.

   Solomon’s first recorded adventure dates back to 1914, plus or minus a year so, and the one in this issue of Argosy comes (I believe) toward the end of the run. It begins with a young chap named Carson newly arrived in London being taken for his great-uncle, a rather unlikable man of some wealth — ill-gotten, by all accounts — with many enemies. To get out of the scrape Carson finds himself in, he learns that he will need all of the assistance Solomon can give him.

   The story is well-told, with plenty of exotic and picturesque settings in the area of London along the docks, but it suffers from the fact that Solomon simply has too many resources for most bad guys to make a stand against him.

   The next novelette is by William Edward Hayes, who besides being the author of many stories for the pulps, also wrote three hardcover detective novels, one of which, Black Chronicle, was reviewed on this blog by Bill Deeck some three years ago.

   “The Dark Temple” is a story about the problems facing the men trying to build a railroad through the jungles of somewhere in Central of South America. There is a deadline, and an engineer named McAllister is called on by his good friend Captain Strickland to help. As soon as he arrives, though, McAllister knows he is in danger and worse, Cap has disappeared. Lots of action in this one, but what’s amusing is that every time McAllister finds himself in a situation with no way out, it is a girl who comes to his rescue.

   I’m not a big fan of French Foreign Legion stories, but a writer named Georges Surdez wrote a lot of them for Argosy and other pulp magazines, and well enough that they seem to be based on personal experience. The short story “Another Man’s Chevrons” is about a soldier who is not noted for his bravery, but when it counts, he does what he needs to do.

   Next comes another serial installment, this one called “The Terror,” by Eustace L. Adams, which is about an air pirate with dreams of dominating the world, if I read the blurb correctly. I’d like to read this one sometime if I could, but it was never published in book form. He did write a boys’ book called Pirates of the Air (Grosset and Dunlap, 1929), featuring, I am told, mid-Atlantic floating landing platforms. According to ISDb, these are not the same two stories.

   One short story comes before the next long serial installment, this one entitled “All Equal,” by Foster-Harris about a Wild West shoot-out taking place instead in an oil rig camp, one with a twist that makes it worth reading.

   To wind up this issue is Part 4 of 6 of a novel by F. V. W. Mason called “The Barbarian.” This is a historical novel taking place in ancient Carthage. Ordinarily I find such fiction dry as bones, but I think Mason, a prolific novelist and very well known in his day, was someone who could make stories in such settings readable in everyday language. I didn’t read any of this one, but you can check out his Wikipedia page here.

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