Pulp Fiction

LOUIS L’AMOUR “Unguarded Moment.” First appeared in Popular Detective, March 1952. Collected in The Hills of Homicide (Bantam, paperback, 1983).

   The first paragraph caught my attention:

   Arthur Fordyce had never done a criminal thing in his life, nor had the idea of doing anything unlawful ever seriously occurred to him.

   The second really had me sitting up and taking notice:

   The wallet that lay beside his chair was not only full; it was literally stuffed. It lay on the floor near his feet where it had fallen.

   And the third had me hooked all the way:

   His action was as purely automatic as an action can be. He let his Racing Form slip from his lap and cover the billfold. Then he sat very still, his heart pounding. The fat man who had dropped the wallet was talking to a friend on the far side of the box. As far as Fordyce could see, his own action had gone unobserved.

   But of course he was seen, and therein lies the story. It continues with some petty blackmail, an accidental death, the dead man’s girl friend who wants to …

   This is Cornell Woolrich territory, maybe with clearer and simpler language, but pure noir from beginning to end.


H. BEDFORD-JONES writing as ALLAN HAWKWOOD – The Gate of Farewell. Originally serialized in Argosy January-February 1914, as by H. Bedford-Jones. Hardcover edition: Hurst and Blackett Ltd., UK, 1928.

   Out east of Suez, in mysterious and sinister locales like Port Said and points East, West, North, and South, that’s where you will find the offices of John Solomon, Ships Stores, the canny deceptively gentle looking Cockney ship’s chandler who, with his greasy little red accounts book and stubby pencil, is a one man private secret service: “… if the Intelligence Department knew half as much about this part of the world as he does, the Foreign Office’d go crazy.”

   John Solomon is a mover and shaker, friend to native and kings, manipulator, schemer, adventurer, and the most dangerous man in dangerous waters, “… he has a finger in every pie from Jaffa to Zanzibar.” Underestimate the “… little plump man who wore a tarboosh jauntily cocked over one ear … and puffed a short clay pipe,” whose calm blue eyes “… spoke large of hidden secrets and unwritten lore …” at your own risk.

   The Gates of Farewell is the first novel in the John Solomon series, which would include eleven novels serialized in the pulps for the most part and many short stories and extend into the 1930‘s, all penned in book form as by Allan Hawkwood from the prolific ‘King of the Pulps’ Canadian writer H. Bedford-Jones, whose output includes 50 novels and over 1400 novels, stories, serials, and articles published in virtually every major and some minor pulps, including Blue Book, Argosy, Adventure, Weird Tales … and across all boundaries of pulp fiction; adventure, sea stories (The Second Mate), historical (The Wilderness Trail, Nuala O’Malley, Firehair Skald of the Haradee …), lost worlds (The Temple of Ten with W. S. Robertson), swashbuckler (tales of d’Artagnan, Cyrano, Denis Burke, and various others), mystery (The Mardi Gras Mystery), Holmes pastiche (one of his was so good that for years it was considered a lost Conan Doyle story until Bedford-Jones ‘fessed up), horror, gentleman crook (the excellent Riley Dillon series), Western (Arizona Argonauts, The Mesa Trail, The Sheriff of Pecos, Bowie’s Gold etc.), and more. Bedford-Jones listed Alexandre Dumas as his chief influence and it shows in his wide output and rich knowledge of so many different eras and places.

   This one sets the model for the later books and stories about John Solomon, where a good dependable professional man is drawn into mysteries involving Solomon in various ports of call and used by Solomon as a stalking horse until Solomon closes in at the end of the book on the problem at hand. You don’t write 1400 novels and stories without a respect for formula.

   The Gates of Farewell opens in pre-WWI Liverpool where Allan Tredgar, a young American importer (or “grocer” as he calls himself), is in a dive with his friend Lt. Krogness R.N., to hire a none to reputable, but honest tough little fighting cock of a Scots captain, one Hugh Cairn, to command his yacht the Spendthrift and sail to Port Said in search of his brother Bob, who disappeared and supposedly died five years earlier in Aden. Recently a ring of Bob’s showed up and Tredgar, believes his brother might still be alive.

   Complicating matters are the renegade American Colonel Lionel Parrish and his thug bodyguard Jerry Sloog who also want to hire Cairn to command their ship, and when Cairn turns them down Parrish threatens both Cairn and Tredgar by note to stay out of that part of the world. Cairn warns of Parrish, but Tredgar thinks it is all melodrama never having seen the man.

   Further complicating matters they rescue pretty Mary Grey, daughter of a missionary trying to reach her father in Berbera, when her ship goes down at sea East of Malta. She and Allan are attracted to each other and against Cairn’s wishes she decides to stay on at least to Port Said.

   It’s in Port Said that Tredgar is led by Cairn to the little store (“Solomon’s temple”) in the Arab quarter where Solomon keeps to himself “ Old friend of mine … gun runner and all that, but the best man to go to for what you want.”

   Solomon takes an instant liking to the young American and gives him an engraved silver ring to wear as a sort of passport should he need it (and it saves his life and plays a role . He also, aside from confirming Bob might be alive, confirms the fantastic stories Cairn has been telling of Parrish, a renegade soldier turned radical Moslem who is Mokkhadem of prefect of the Bab al Wida’s or El Woda, the gate of farewell of the title, named for one of the gates leading out of Mecca, a “.. strip of coast inside the Twelve Apostles across from Eritrea — so desolate not even a Bedouin lives there.”

   That is where he will find news of Bob, but it is also where the Senusiyeh, a radical secret society of Moslem extremist who are working to throw the Sultan of Turkey, the Padishah, and his rule out of Africa and Arabia, are building a fortress it is rumored, under the command of Parrish. Ironically the British are fighting to help the ‘Sick Man of Europe” the Turkish Sultan to hold on to Arabia, where from August of 1914 (this was serialized in January of that year) they would be desperate to drive the Turks out with the help of Allenby, Lawrence, and what is now the Saudi Royal family. It’s an irony Solomon himself would enjoy.

   After a great storm nearly wrecks the Spendrift (beautifully described by Bedford-Jones at his best), Tredgar and the rest end up captured by Hadji Abu Talib, a cruel and arrogant sort and member of the Senusiyeh, and taken to El Woda where they find hundred of slaves building a massive heavily armed fortress under the direction of Talib, none other than Parrish. There Tredgard also learns what role he and his brother play as he finds out Bob had learned from a dying Englishman in the states of the lost Abyssinian treasure of the Queen of Sheba, Solomon’s fabulous gift to her, which Parrish covets for the Senusiyeh to finance the campaign to throw the Padishah off the Arabian continent. Captured, forced into slavery, tortured along with his brother for the location of the treasure, watching as Parrish plans to take Mary Grey as his own, it all seems hopeless.

   But of course, that kindly spider John Solomon has been weaving his web, and the Tredgar brothers, Parrish, the brutish Sloog, and everyone else are only flies ensnared and waiting for the right time to strike, which this being adventure fiction is at the very moment when all is at its most desperate.

   This is an old-fashioned adventure story, though you can see the plot elements would not be too out of place in the latest Clive Cussler or James Rollins thriller with a bit of updating. It is somehow reassuring that the same secret societies and mad fanatics were at work then as now — in fact and fiction. There are flaws of course. There is absolutely no real reason for Mary Grey in much of the book, and she is barely characterized, though her ‘consent’ to the marriage to Parrish is key to the big finale and Solomon’s plans, and the scenes with Tredgar are well enough written and not overly mushy.

   And, there is some politically incorrect language, though not as much as you might expect. At worst it is the way people of the time actually spoke and thought, however disturbing to modern readers eyes and ears. Actually most of the Moslem characters, even some of the Senuisyeh, are portrayed as honorable and faithful, far from some of the extremes in popular fiction today, and Solomon is nowhere near as ruthless as most of today’s adventure heroes.

   The pulp origins show some in structure and story, but in a positive light it is much more stylishly and straightforwardly written for all that. The book is very cinematic as well, in a positive sense and it isn’t hard to cast the main characters in your minds eye, Gary Cooper and Olivia de Haviland for Tredgar and Mary; Tully Marshall or J. Farrell MacDonald for the tough little Cairn; Henry Daniell or C. Henry Gordon for the renegade Parrish; Lon Chaney Jr. or Mike Mazurki as Sloog; and a Cockney accented Edmond Gwynne, Charles Winniger, or Cecil Kellaway for Solomon.

   Considering, too, Bedford-Jones penchant for reproducing Solomon’s accent it is just as well he isn’t on stage for long in most of the books: “Paradise is werry nice no doubt; but I says as ’ow earth ’as its good points likewise.” A little of that goes a long way, but it is a small complaint about a splendid adventure series worthy to stand with Rider Haggard and Talbot Mundy, and dare I say it, John Buchan.


REX DOLPHIN “Off the Map.” First published in Weird Tales, July 1954. Reprinted in 100 Wild Little Weird Tales, edited by Stefan R. Dziemianowicz, Robert Weinberg, & Martin H. Greenberg (Barnes & Noble, 1994).

   Rex Dolphin (1915-1990) was the pen name of one Reginald Charles Dolphin, a British accountant who also wrote under the pseudonyms Peter Saxon and Desmond Reid. His sole contribution to Weird Tales, a story entitled “Off the Map” appeared in the pulp magazine’s July 1954 issue.

   The product of a vivid imagination and a mind steeped in fantasy literature, “Off the Map” is a minor, albeit imperfect, gem of a tale. The story is based on a premise that readers of historical fantasy and weird fiction have surely encountered in myriad forms over the years: what if there’s a city that’s marked on an older map, but that doesn’t appear on any contemporary ones:

   “See this? Yes, it’s an old map — seventeenth century to be exact — and I found it in a musty old shop in part of the country I’d better not mention. No, this has nothing to do with buried treasure, though to be truthful it does concern some golden guineas; guineas that no one will touch. Give you the chance? Maybe, but there’s something you should know first…”

   The town in question is Wychburne, an English city that no longer appears in modern cartography. In “Off the Map,” the story’s unnamed protagonist-narrator sets out to discover what happened to this village. Does it still exist? And if so, what happens there?

   The story unfolds in a rather predictable manner, with one local who learns of the narrator’s quest showing his absolute displeasure with the notion. As it turns out, the village — or some phantasmagoric facsimile of it, does still exist. But the small burg’s historical trajectory has been scarred by the experience of a great plague, making this town off the map a burial ground for the ages.

   It must be said that, while “Off the Map” has a more interesting premise than a conclusion, the work does demonstrate that the writer was certainly well versed in both the style and substance of early twentieth-century high fantasy literature.


PAUL CAIN – Seven Slayers. Saint Enterprises, paperback original, 1946. Avon #268, paperback, 1950. Vintage/Black Lizard, paperback, 1987, 1994.

   And Pulp is a many-splendored thing as witness the stories by Paul Cain (aka screenwriter Peter Ruric) first collected in paperback in 1946 as Seven Slayers. The prose is never more than functional, the characters no deeper than the thickness of a page, but these things move faster than a speeding bullet, impelled by a ruthless logic that goes from Problem to Solution with fast action and not much fuss about what it all means.

   Where Chandler’s five murderers seem driven by ethics, sentiment or an innate decency, Cain’s seven slayers are motivated mostly by greed, and sustained by nothing more than their own expertise. The result lacks the satisfying depth of Chandler’s prose, but it sure makes for satisfying stories.


Black. Black Mask, May 1932
Murder in Blue. Black Mask, June 1933, as “Murder Done in Blue”
One, Two, Three. Black Mask, May 1933
Parlor Trick. Black Mask, July 1932
Pigeon Blood. Black Mask, November 1933
Pineapple. Black Mask, March 1936
Red 71. Black Mask, December 1932


RAYMOND CHANDLER – Five Murderers. Avon Murder Mystery Monthly #19, digest-sized paperback, 1944; New Avon Library #63, paperback, 1944.

   A brightly packaged confection of early stories by Raymond Chandler, including his first, “Blackmailers Don’t Shoot” (1933) and his first first-person narration, “Goldfish” (1936).

   Well, they read just like early efforts of a major mystery stylist: the prose is highly-patterned and a bit gaudy, the action scenes plentiful and effective, and the characters sometimes try to behave like something other than figures on a pulp cover.

   The only consistent problem is with the stories themselves, which are mostly over-plotted. Chandler sets up a case (usually missing jewels) then side characters come on and make cryptic comments, bodies turn up, heads are sapped, new actors walk on and off, secrets get shared, lies lied, and (in Chandler’s own words) two men come through the door with guns in their hands.

   This is a lot of to-do for a sixty-page story, and after about 55 pages of it, everything gets sorted out with a wild shoot-’em-up that leaves the bad guys conveniently dead and the good guys still up and about to close the case.

   Pretty awful stuff, really. The wonder is that Chandler’s gifts for sharp characterization and telling prose make it all so pleasant to swallow — and I mean, these are almost compellingly readable. Now and again he slips up — in “Blackmailers” a young starlet opines “They look as if they only existed alter dark, like ghouls. The people are dissipated without grace, sinful without irony.” and it’s all too dearly the author talking, not the character — but in the main these pulp tales are catchy little gems and well worth looking at.

Bibliographic Notes:   None of the five stories feature Philip Marlowe; all first appeared in Black Mask magazine. The other three stories are “Guns at Cyrano’s” (1936), “Nevada Gas” (1935) and “Spanish Blood” (1935).


GASTON LEROUX “The Woman with the Velvet Collar.” First published in English in Weird Tales, October 1929. Reprinted in Startling Mystery Stories, Spring 1969, and in several anthologies of weird fiction since. Originally published in French as “La femme au collier de velours” in 1924.

   Although it took me a while to become fully immersed in Gaston Leroux’s “The Woman With the Velvet Collar,” by the story’s end I was left with the indelible impression that I had just read a well-crafted horror tale. First appearing in English translation in Weird Tales, Leroux’s conte cruel transports the reader to Corsica, a land known for its vendettas and its cultural and physical separateness from mainland France.

   “The Woman With the Velvet Collar” unfolds with a discussion between two sailors, a sea captain named Gobert and his friend, Michel. The two men are discussing Corsican vendetta stories, with Gobert assuring Michel that he has a story that is far more horrifying than any run of the mill vendetta. The tale further unfolds as Gobert begins to tell a story within a story, about his experiences in Corsica in which he encountered a ghost like woman dressed all in black and with a black velvet ribbon around her neck.

   As it turns out, the woman was named Angeluccia and she was married to a local Corsican official. But she kept a secret from her husband! She was secretly romantically involved with her cousin, one of her husband’s employees. Without giving too much of the plot away, let’s just say that the guillotine makes a bloody appearance in this fiendishly clever tale about what happens when a costume party in which Angeluccia dresses up as Marie Antoinette turns into the beginning of a dark foray into the supernatural.

Bibliographic Note:   Captain Michel also appeared in three additional stories:

       Le noël du petit Vincent-Vincent (1924); The Crime on Christmas Night (1930).
       Not’ Olympe (1924); The Mystery of the Four Husbands (1929).
       L’auberge épouvantable (1925); The Inn of Terror (1929).


ROBERT A. HEINLEIN “The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag.” First published in Unknown Worlds, October 1942, as by John Riverside. Reprinted many times, most notably in the Gnome Press collection having the same title (1959).

   The impact of the hard-boiled school of writing can be seen today in many literary voices, but not surprisingly, it first made itself felt in genre fiction, and not just in the mystery genre. In the 1930’s the voice began to appear in the Western, in Hollywood films, and in science fiction, particularly in that branch of science fiction known as Campbellian after editor and writer John W. Campbell Jr. It was only natural then that as the lines blurred the genres would blend together somewhat, and by the 1940’s, it was well established in most genre fiction.

   Unknown (later Unknown Worlds) the companion to Campbell’s science fiction pulp Astounding Science Fiction, published a great deal of fantasy and horror, but all along the Campbellian ideal of well worked out logical fiction, many of the works appearing there the best of the writers’ careers and among the best and most loved stories of its age.

   Most of the major writers from Astounding contributed to Unknown as well, L. Sprague de Camp, L. Ron Hubbard, Isaac Asimov, A. E. Van Vogt, and some earlier writers like Jack Williamson and Henry Kuttner. Humor, horror, adventure, and high fantasy went hand in hand. De Camp and Pratt’s “Incomplete Enchanter,” Hubbard’s “Fear,” “Death’s Deputy,” and “Typewriter in the Sky,” Williamson’s “Darker than You Think,” Eric Frank Russell’s “Sinister Barrier,” and many other classics first saw light there. Among those who wrote for the new market was Robert A. Heinlein, dean of the Campbellian science fiction movement, who wrote this little novelette under the name John Riverside.

   In it Teddy Randall and his wife Cynthia (Cyn) are private investigators approached by Mr. Jonathan Hoag, a prim and somehow unsettling individual they both take an instant dislike to, but his money is good and the case seems simple enough if a bit whacky. Mr. Hoag, it seems, has a memory problem.

   No, not amnesia, at least not exactly. Mr. Hoag doesn’t know what he does during his days. They are a complete blank, so when he finds what he fears is blood under his fastidious finger nails he hires the Randalls to follow him. Whacky, as I said, but the the Randalls aren’t the scrupulous type, and money is money. They take the case. So what if their client doesn’t appear to have any fingerprints.

   The Randalls work together, a well oiled and capable little investigative team, and part of the enjoyment is watching the duo think and work. They are a sort of sexy slightly larcenous Nick and Nora or Pam and Jerry North, an attractive addition to the subgenre of married sophisticated sleuths that delighted mystery fans in the years following the debut of Hammett’s Nick and Nora.

   And follow Mr. Hoag they do, until Randall discovers the address and the office in the Acme Building he followed Hoag to on the first day doesn’t exist and even the floor of the building he was on isn’t there. At first they suspect he was drugged by Hoag, or that worse, he was hypnotized when Hoag stopped and spoke to him, but Hoag genuinely doesn’t appear to remember the encounter or anything else Randall saw that day.

   Things get even more weird when Randall meets a threatening Mr. Stoles:

   “You are, shall we say, a minor item. We do not like your activity, Mr. Randall. You really must cease it.”

   Before Randall could answer, Stoles shoved a palm in his direction. “Don’t be hasty, Mr. Randall. Let me explain. Not all of your activities. We do not care how many blondes you plant in hotel rooms to act as complacent corespondents in divorce cases, nor how many wires you tap, nor letters you open. There is only one activity of yours we are concerned with. I refer to Mr. Hoag.” He spat out the last word. watched and waited.

   Randall could feel a stir of uneasiness run through the room.

   “What about Mr. Hoag?” he demanded.

   There was the stir again. Stoles’ face no longer even pretended to smile.

   “Let us refer to him hereafter,” he said, “as ‘your client:’ It comes to this, Mr. Randall. We have other plans for Mr. … for your client, You must leave him alone. You must forget him, you must never see him again.”

   Randall stared back, uncowed. “I’ve never welshed on a client yet. I’ll see you in hell first.”

   “That,” admitted Stoles, shoving out his lips, “is a distinct possibility, I grant you, but one that neither you nor I would care to contemplate, save as a bombastic metaphor.”

   Stoles than recounts a simply horrifying and ridiculous story, something about the Sons of the Bird, and Randall wakes up in his bed from the nightmare. He tries to shake it off, but things are getting weirder by the minute what with Hoag now telling them that he is being watched — from inside the mirror. Hoag even seems to attack Cyn the next time she follows him, and she can’t even defend herself despite having a gun. Then there’s the note neither of them wrote:

   What she saw was one of their letterheads, rolled into the typewriter; on it was a single line of typing:


   She said nothing at all and tried to control the quivering at the pit of her stomach.

   Randall asked, “Cyn, did you write that?”



   “Yes.” She reached out to take it out of the machine; he checked her.

   “Don’t touch it. Fingerprints.”

   “All right. But I have a notion,” she said, “that you won’t find any fingerprints on that.”

   When they go to Hoag’s doctor things get even stranger.

   “…you have no conception of the depths of beastliness, possible in this world. In that you are lucky. It is much, much better never to know.”

   Randall hesitated, aware that the debate was going against him. Then he said, “Supposing you are right, doctor — how is it, if he is so vicious, you have not turned Hoag over to the police?”

   “How do you know I haven’t? But I will answer that one, sir. No, I have not turned him over to the police, for the simple reason that it would do no good. The authorities have not had the wit nor the imagination to conceive of the possibility of the peculiar evil involved. No law can touch him—not in this day and age.”

   And things are about to get stranger yet, when the Randalls discover a new full length mirror has been installed in their bedroom.

   Perhaps the best thing about “The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag” is that it doesn’t let the reader down. Heinlein pays off in a finale that is both disturbing and a bit funny, but also profoundly disturbing. Don’t blame me if after you read it you remove the mirror from your bedroom and handcuff yourself to your loved one every night at bedtime like the Randalls.

   Blame Heinlein, and Jonathan Hoag. While it isn’t horror, and you could even call it a satirical masterpiece, the story will leave you with more than a frisson in its profoundly disturbing implications. Like Fritz Leiber’s “Conjure Wife” and Jack Williamson’s “Darker Than You Think” from the same magazine the frights here lie in the implication more than the instrumentation.

   It rivals Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in that, as was written of that book, it is the rare mystery where the solution to the crime is more terrifying than the crime itself.


H. P. LOVECRAFT “The Terrible Old Man.” Written January 28, 1920, and first published in the Tryout, an amateur press publication, July 1921. Appeared in Weird Tales, August 1926. Reprinted many times.

   Although there really isn’t that much literary value in the story, H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Terrible Old Man” could certainly be built upon and skillfully adapted into a truly captivating Gothic horror film. Originally published in the amateur journal Tryout (1921) and subsequently reprinted many times, including Pirate Ghosts of the American Coast (1988), the very brief story is notable for its New England coastline setting, one that Lovecraft would return to time and again in his more sophisticated writings.

   The plot is simple, but loaded with noticeable xenophobic undertones that make this little known story even less valuable than it otherwise would have been in light of Lovecraft’s far more historically significant later works. While the titular character, the Terrible Old Man, is never given an identifying name, the men who plot to steal from the old mysterious pirate are most explicitly marked by their “ethnic” sounding names: Angelo Ricci, Joe Czanek, and Manuel Silva.

   Not only am I guessing Italian, Polish, and Portuguese, but that these three aforementioned nationalities were among Lovecraft’s least favorite immigrant groups in his home town of Providence, Rhode Island. For it is this gang of three men – three “foreigners” in Protestant New England – who seek to rob the story’s old man – a former sea captain – of his treasure.

   Yet, it is the sea captain who has the last laugh. For he is terrible indeed! Although the supernatural elements in the story are relatively attenuated, at least for an H.P. Lovecraft story, the reader learns that the three would be robbers are found murdered. The old man, clearly the responsible party, is said to have yellow eyes. Is he a ghost or a zombie? We never learn, which allows our imaginations to run wild.

   As I said at the outset, this is hardly a commendable work of literary fiction; in many ways, it is amateurish in the extreme. But there’s something there, some genuine imaginary terror lurking behind the terrible old man’s eyes. It’s a chilling little tale, one that I thought I’d soon forget after reading it, but oddly enough one that has stuck in my mind for a while.


GORDON YOUNG “Born to Be Hanged, But…” Adventure, 03 December 1919.

   I was born to be hanged.

   So speaks young Don Everhard, the hero of Gordon Young’s tough novelette that headlined the December 3, 1919, edition of the great pulp Adventure. It was a pretty good issue too, Harold Lamb’s “Said Afzel’s Elephant”, and stories by J. Allan Dunn, and Arthur O. Friel, but it’s the Young novelette and Don Everhard the character that are of interest here.

   The story is pretty straight forward. Young Don Everhard, actually Don Richmond of a respectable San Francisco family, is a professional gambler with a fast and deadly gun in contemporary San Francisco. During an election year he comes upon an incriminating letter that would embarrass reform candidate Congressman Bryan and beautiful Helen Curwen and favor James H. Thorpe, a lumberman and Bryan’s opponent for the governor’s race. Everhard has a history with Thorpe and roundly hates him. (“If he was a Republican I would vote Democrat, and if he was a Democrat I would vote Republican”).

   In knightly style Everhard returns the letter unread to Mrs. Curwen, but when word gets out he had the letter he is approached by two men to buy it; one the mysterious Ellis, and the other an agent of Thorpe. Everhard isn’t having any of it, but when Thorpe tries to set him up in a poker game with a professional gunman, he kills the man and has to go to ground, which he does hiding out as a crew member on a ship, until the truth comes out.

   When he is cleared Mrs. Curwen approaches him. She is meeting with Thorpe to try and beard the lion over the letter, but when the meeting ends in a blaze of gunfire … well, as Everhard opens the story:

   I had been arrested on the eve of a state election, revolver in hand, a chamber empty, by the body of James H. Thorpe … tried, convicted, and sentenced to death, which in California means to be hanged.

   Of course he gets out of it and retains his honor and the ladies, but the really interesting part of this story is in the telling, because years before Carroll John Daly or Dashiell Hammett, the only thing distinguishing Don Everhard from the hard boiled private eye of a thousand pulp stories is that he’s a gambler and not a detective. The language is the same, all-American unsentimental (but actually very sentimental) voice of Twain and London, out of Bret Harte and the Dime Novel. Young is a better writer than Daly, but if Daly didn’t read these and Race Williams and wasn’t influenced by the diamond-hard fast-shooting gambler I would be greatly surprised.

   … there are not, and never were, honest gamblers who win by luck alone.

   As honest a man as ever palmed a card.

   My ears are keen, my hands are quick, and I seldom miss.

   The man called Smith lay face down in a witch’s mirror of blood.

   A “witch’s mirror of blood.” If that isn’t the hardboiled voice of Black Mask, I never heard it.

   Robert Sampson wrote more about Gordon Young and Don Everhard in Yesterday’s Faces, his massive work on the early pulps. Today Young is best remembered for his South Seas adventure tales about Hurricane Williams, with only one expensive edition of Everhard stories reprinted, but if Young and Don Everhard are not quite the hardboiled private eye that soon followed they are so close that the difference is difficult to measure.

   Like his private eye pulp descendants Everhard is a tough, no nonsense, cynical, fast-thinking, fast-shooting hardboiled egg with a soft center, an errant knight on the edge between respectable society and the underworld, a man with his own code and his own rules navigating a twisting course between the innocent and not so innocent and the truly guilty, brutal, corrupt, and dangerous.

   The voice and the idea may not be quite there yet, but like the last half of Conan Doyle’s Valley of Fear, we are so close to the hardboiled private eye we can feel his breath on the back of our neck. I would argue that with this story alone Young was already ahead of Daly’s “Knights of the Open Palm” or Three Gun Terry Mack by a mile.

by Walker Martin

   Here it is about a week later after the convention, and I’m still limping around with back and leg pains. How did I survive another voyage? I’ve been asked by friends and relatives why do I sign up each year for another 14 hour drive to Chicago? I guess you have to be a collector to understand. Flying would be more convenient but then I would be limited in what I could buy and carry back. The rental van is quite large and roomy enough for all of us, dealers and collectors alike.

   My life has revolved around my book and pulp collection now for 60 years. I cannot imagine not attending Windy City and Pulpfest. One of these days I physically will not be able to make the trip, but hopefully that time is still off in the future somewhere. Attending these conventions is important not only because of the books and artwork available, but also because of the friendships that I value. These friendship lead to more books and art!

   This trip I did find some books I needed but not a single pulp magazine. I’ve been to so many conventions that there is not much I need, just a few scattered issues. But I did talk to two friends about possible deals involving large numbers of pulps. If these plans work out I’ll be able to continue one of my favorite occupations, the comparing of two issues of the same pulp, same date.

   However I did find eight pieces of original art from the pulps, paperbacks and digest SF magazines. The biggest find was a beautiful 1929 cover painting used for Western Story. The art is by George Wert and titled “Come Out With Your Hands Up.” It shows three hardboiled bank robbers caught in the act. These guys look tough as hell.

   Arriving home I immediately took down a Rafael Desoto painting and hung the Western Story in the family room. Unfortunately my wife did not appreciate it as much as I did, and when I went upstairs to read a book, she actually had the nerve to move The Three Tough Guys to a less conspicuous spot. Since she replaced it with a Walter Baumhofer painting, I managed to control myself. At least she did not replace it with a Walmart decoration, which has been known to happen.

   Actually when I first entered the dealer’s room I found an Earle Bergey painting within one minute. True it’s not from Startling or Thrilling Wonder, but it’s an early cover from a 1929 Popular Biography. Later on a found a weird drawing by one of my favorites, Lee Brown Coye. Then two drawings from Galaxy by Emsh.

   Another big art find was my discovery of not one, but three cover paintings for Raymond Chandler paperbacks. You can’t go wrong with anything connected with Chandler, and they were not expensive. The artist is Richard Waldrep.

   Speaking of art, Windy City is known for it emphasis on original art. There must of been a dozen dealers with art for sale, and as usual there was the large room devoted to an art exhibit. Mostly SF cover paintings, but also on display was the art of Jon Arfstrom. I met and talked to this fine artist at last year’s Pulpfest, but since then he unfortunately passed away. He was the last of the Weird Tales artists.

   The dealers’ room was amazing. Over 100 tables with at least 465 attendees in a large room. On sale were books, pulps, digests, vintage paperbacks, slicks, reprints, new pulp fiction, DVDs, and many pieces of original art. The hospitality room had plenty of beer and snacks.

   Ed Hulse put on his usual excellent film program, this time the theme was SF from the pulps. There also were three panels: paperback art collector Robert Wiener discussed The Art of Jeff Jones; artist David Saunders discussed The Art of Frank R. Paul; and I participated in a panel about Argosy‘s 120th Pulp Anniversary. Also on this panel were Ed Hulse, publisher of Blood n Thunder magazine, and Tom Roberts and Gene Christie from Black Dog Books. Somehow, in 45 minutes we managed to talk about a magazine that lasted over 2,000 issues and almost a hundred years. Several people told me they enjoyed the discussion, which is great because there is nothing I enjoy more than talking about the old back issues of the pulps!

   Tom Roberts must be congratulated for once again editing Windy City Pulp Stories. In 182 pages there are several excellent articles including Bob Weinberg talking about his 1979 tribute to Astounding project. I remember Bob telling me about this back then, and part of it actually did see the light of day. Mike Ashley’s index to Astounding was published but the book of essays never came out. Now finally after all these years we get to see two interviews with A.E. Van Vogt and Poul Anderson plus some other material.

   I also found two other articles to be of interest: The Story of the Argosy and The Making and Marketing of Munsey’s Magazine by Frank Munsey. This book is available from Black Dog Books.

   The auction is always a highlight of the convention and was held on Friday and Saturday nights. For many years I have listened to John Gunnison as the auctioneer, and I have to say he is excellent and keeps things moving with a sense of humor. This year will be the last year of the items from the Jerry Weist Estate Auction, and there was a nice booklet listing the auction items. There were hundreds of lots ranging from SF digests to Weird Tales. There plenty of SF pulps, Argosy‘s, and men’s adventure magazines. I’ve never seen so many Nazis menacing damsels in distress… After WW II the returning vets loved these covers. I still can’t read the “articles,” however, but I’m trying!

   Several books made their debut at the show including Ed Hulse’s second volume on the silent serials, Handsome Heroes and Vicious Vilains. If you love the old movies this book and Distressed Damsels and Masked Marauders are must buys. This new volume is 400 pages large size crammed with rare movie stills. and photos. You can get copies from amazon or Ed’s website, Murania Press.

   Also new at this show were the latest books from the big pulp reprint firms: Altus Press and Black Dog Books. Matt Moring and Tom Roberts are doing excellent work and I wouldn’t say this if it wasn’t true.

   Finally, I would like to thank Doug Ellis and Debbie and John Gunnison and Maureen for another great convention, the 16th! What’s next? We have to rent another van! Here comes Pulpfest in Columbus, Ohio July 21 through 24. Collectors and Readers, I’ll see you there!

Editorial Thanks:   Both Walker and I would like to thank Sai Shanker for allowing the use of all of the photos above taken at the convention. A fine job, indeed!

Next Page »