Pulp Fiction


WINDY CITY PULP CONVENTION 2018 REPORT
by Walker Martin


   The older I get, the longer this drive gets! Five of us drove from New Jersey to Chicago in the usual 15 seat white rental van. We take out the last two rows of seats to make the cargo area bigger. We need the space for all the books, pulps, and artwork that we will buy during the convention. During the long drive I pondered the age old question of which is worse: to forget your want list or to forget your medication. I know of two collectors who had to deal with these mistakes. I think forgetting your want list is worse. How can you collect without your lists?

   First stop was the Thursday pulp brunch at the house of Doug Ellis and Deb Fulton, otherwise known as the Windy City Pulp Art Museum. Doug had recently added an addition to the large house because he needed more wall space for the hundreds of cover paintings and illustrations. After three hours of eating, drinking, and gawking at the art, we drove to the Westin Hotel, home of the convention for the last several years.

   This year dealers were allowed to set up Thursday evening and I believe everyone was happy with this arrangement. Friday morning the convention officially began and there were approximately 150 dealer tables and somewhere around 400 to 500 attendees. This made for a busy three days of hunting for pulps, paperbacks, books, digests, slicks, DVDs, and artwork.



   But if you were not into collecting or short of money, then there were other things to do, such as the enormous art show showing scores of pulp and paperback paintings and the film festival which ran mainly during the day on Friday and Saturday. The evenings consisted mainly of John Locke discussing “The Secret Origins of Weird Tales” and GOH F. Paul Wilson being interviewed.

   Then of course there was the auction, which is one of the main attractions of the convention. It was held on Friday and Saturday evening and lasted about 4 hours each night. Friday night consisted of over 250 lots from the estate of Glenn Lord, who was the literary executor for the Robert Howard estate for many decades. Robert Howard collectors had the opportunity to bid on many magazines that contained Howard stories, such as WEIRD TALES, FIGHT STORIES, SPICY ADVENTURE, SPORT STORY, ACTION STORIES, GOLDEN FLEECE, ORIENTAL STORIES, MAGIC CARPET, STRANGE TALES, and ARGOSY.

   Many of these pulps went for hundreds of dollars and two of the highest amounts were for the rare fanzine, THE PHANTAGRAPH. $1400 and $1000 for two issues that I noted, but a friend bought down some beer from his room and I had several bottles which resulted it me not noting the prices for the rest of the issues.

   Saturday night I avoided the beer for awhile and noted some good prices for pulps from the Ron Killian estate. This auction also had material consigned by the attendees at the show. It’s good to see pulps come up for auction but sad to realize that they are from the estates of collectors that you will never see again. At the break I went up to hospitality room for a beer and somehow never did make it back down to the last of the auction. Is it possible that I’ve reached the stage in my collecting life that I would rather have a cold beer? Could be! I’ve been at this game for a long time now.

   I bought my usual amount of books but I don’t need many pulps according to my want lists. However I did manage to find some excellent and bizarre art. I bought as Emsh interior from IF in the fifties, a very large drawing by one of the decadent artists, Beresford Egan, and a stunning Lee Brown Coye interior from FANTASTIC, February 1963. It illustrates the Mythos story “The Titan in the Crypt”. Some of my friends don’t like Lee Brown Coye but I find his art to be perfect for bizarre horror stories. There are presently three books published about his art recently and this indicates that people are realizing his greatness.

   Another paperback cover I bought was one of the strange paintings that show two novels. In the early fifties there were a few fat paperbacks that had two novels and the cover shows two paintings, one upper and one lower. I remember buying PRIME SUCKER and THE HUSSY. Looks like the work of Walter Popp. I always wanted one of these strange paintings. Finally after decades of hunting!

   But the biggest sale of the show was a copy of ALL STORY for October 1912. That’s right the Tarzan issue! The Holy Grail of pulps! It went for $30,000 and sold right away soon after the doors opened. I’ve never seen a complete copy at a pulp convention. I once was high bidder on a copy at an early Pulpcon but it lacked the covers and the Tarzan novel was excerpted. That’s right, some crazy Breaker had cut out the Tarzan novel reducing a $30,000 to $50,000 magazine to a $400 curiosity piece.

   Another high priced item was a sexy cover painting from PRIVATE DETECTIVE by Parkhurst. It was priced at $18,000 but I believe sold for $16,000. One piece of art that did not sell was a Kelly Freas cover painting from ASTOUNDING, February 1955, showing a tough guy dressed as a woman. Price was $30,000 and I guess the owner did not want to sell it but just to exhibit it.

   Each year, I swear that I’m not going to buy any more art because I’ve run out of wall space. I have paintings stacked up against bookcases, etc. But being a collector is a hard job and someone has to do it…

   The program book, titled WINDY CITY PULP STORIES #18 is the usual excellent book edited by Tom Roberts. 136 pages mainly dealing with the air war pulps and Harold Hersey. I noticed three books making debuts at the show:

1–ART OF THE PULPS. This is a must buy and the title says it all. Several essays by well known collectors discuss all the genres including those often forgotten such as the love and sport pulps.

2–HALO FOR HIRE by Howard Browne. This is the complete Paul Pine mysteries and published by Haffner Press.

3–BLACK MASK, Spring 2018 is the fourth issue of the revived BLACK MASK. Published by Altus Press.

   Over the years, after writing one of these convention reports, I’ll hear from fellow collectors who regret not attending the show. Windy City may be over for another year but coming up is the next big pulp convention on July 26 through July 29. It’s in Pittsburgh and the details are at pulpfest.com. I highly recommend this show, and I ought to know what I’m talking about since I’ve been to almost all of them since 1972 when the first Pulpcon was held in St Louis. Almost all my pals who attended are gone now except for a handful such as Caz, Randy Cox, maybe Jack Irwin attended also, I forget. But of the hundred or so who eagerly went in 1972, we are getting down to the last man standing. Or the last Collector standing!

   Don’t miss out on Pulpfest. It’s a must for collectors. We have to support Windy City, Pulpfest, Pulpadventurecon and the other one day shows or one day we won’t have any conventions and then we will be like the dime novel collectors.

   I know one collector who says the two conventions are the same. No, they are not. Windy City is different and the emphasis is on art, films, and the auction. Pulpfest is also different with the emphasis on the dealer’s room and an evening full of panels and discussions.

   The hotel is great and I recommend that you stay there. Sure you can get a cheaper rate down the road somewhere but the convention hotel is where all the action is.

   I hope to see you there!

PS. Thanks to Sai Shankar once again for the use of his photos. All of the larger ones are ones he took. To see many more of the photos he took at Windy City, check out his Pulpflakes blog here.

JOHN ESTEVEN – Graveyard Watch. First appeared in Detective Story Magazine, October 1936. First published in book form by Modern Age as a digest-sized paperback (with dust jacket), 1938.

   I listed the pulp magazine edition first because that’s the one I read, only to discover that the story came out later in a rather hard to find PBO (paperback original) all the way back in 1938. In the magazine version it takes up 79 pages of two columns of small print. It reads as though it’s complete, but I don’t have a copy of the paperback, so I can’t tell for sure you whether that’s true or not.

    “Graveyard Watch” is the first case given to a young Irish cop named Patrick Connelly to handle on his own. He’s asked by his superior to work undercover in a rich man’s house as a phoney PI to ostensibly guard some jewelry, but in reality to intercept a shipment of cocaine that word on the street says will be coming through the manor, which is located somewhere along Chesapeake Bay.

   The house has its share of various people and household staff living there, and they all become suspects when its owner is found dead in the coffin in which his recently deceased brother was last seen occupying. Questions include: who killed him, what happened to the brother, where’s the cocaine (you will not be surprised how it was introduced into the house), and who’s after the jewels?

   John Esteven was the pen name of a academic named Samuel Shellabarger, who went on to become quite famous as a writer of historical fiction, at least two of which went on to be blockbuster movies. It will come as no surprise, therefore, when I tell you the writing is quite good — better than average — for one of these potboiler detective mysteries of the 1930s, of which this is a prime example. All the ingredients are there, but in an amateurish way, in the original sense of the word.

   There are lots of clues and skulking around by all of the possible suspects, but the ending, I thought, could have been written a lot more tightly. As is, while effective enough, it’s also a trifle muddled.

   All in all, while it has its moments and is perhaps as good as some of the other Golden Age of Detection mysteries by obscure authors today, Graveyard Watch is probably not worth your effort (or cash in hand) to track down. For completists only.

COLLECTING PULPS: A Memoir
Part 21: Pulp Art, Part Three
by Walker Martin


   This is the third and last column on one of my favorite subjects: Pulp Art. The two prior installments may be read on Mystery*File as Part 19 and Part 20.

   Often I’m asked where can a collector buy pulp or paperback art? eBay is certainly a source and I have often typed in an artist’s name and looked to see what is available. Or I’ve tried different combinations of words on eBay such as Original Pulp Art, Cover Paintings, Paperback Paintings, etc. Another source that I’ve used are the auction houses such as Heritage Auctions. Or you can visit another art collector. They often have pieces that they would be willing to trade or sell. For instance I’ve bought art from such well known collectors as Bob Lesser, Doug Ellis, and Bob Weinberg. At the recent pulp brunch at my house in November, I bought several Bjorklund drawings from WILD WEST WEEKLY from art collector and dealer, Paul Herman. As I mentioned earlier, Matt Moring and I completed a trade involving 4 pulp paintings at the brunch.

   But one of the best sources for original art are the pulp conventions: Windy City in Chicago, PulpFest in Pittsburgh, and Pulp Adventurecon in Bordentown, NJ. Of the three shows I consider Windy City to be the best source for original pulp and paperback art. The convention lasts three days each year and there are perhaps as many as a dozen dealers with art for sale. Next, comes Pulpfest with two main art dealers: Doug Ellis and Craig Poole. Sometimes other book dealers bring in art: Nick Certo, Scott Hartshorn, Mark Hickman, Ray Walsh, etc. Pulp Adventurecon is usually about the books and magazines but this year Craig Poole had several tables with excellent pulp, digest, paperback and slick art. Prices range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand.

   Frankly, I collect art because I love collecting but if you are thinking of possible investment value, you can’t go wrong with original art as an investment. Of course I’m assuming you pick nice pieces and not poor art. For instance I have a painting from DETECTIVE FICTION WEEKLY that is just a bloody hand. Another from the same magazine, is just the face of some ugly criminal. It’s possible these paintings will never be worth anything except for a few hundred dollars, but since I collect pulp magazines, I was happy to buy them as examples of the poor cover art occasionally used by the magazines.

   As you may have noticed I have no problem with buying unframed art, art in poor condition, even art with holes in the canvas. I used to frame everything, but now I say the hell with it and hang them up as is. If a piece is falling apart, I have restored it, however. There are art restorers that work on paintings, in fact Matt Moring and I met a restorer at the Bordentown convention and he has emailed us several photos of excellent pulp art that he has worked on.

   An important thing to remember is to be sure and collect original art that you like. If you like SF, there is plenty out there. Hero pulp art is very popular but quite expensive. Same thing with risque or spicy art such as pinup art. Detective and mystery art has increased in value during the past few years. I can remember when you couldn’t get much of anything for a detective pulp painting. Western art still remains fairly inexpensive except for the big names like Nick Eggenhofer or Gayle Hoskins.

   Many collectors make the mistake of ignoring western art which is a big mistake. The cover paintings are full of action, very colorful, and inexpensive compared to SF, hero and detective pulp paintings. So far there is practically no interest in love or sport cover paintings. Not many collectors are interested in the love or sport magazines either. As a result we don’t see many covers at all from these two genres. It’s possible they have mostly been lost or destroyed due to this lack of interest.

   Here are some great examples of inexpensive pulp art. Most collectors don’t seem that interested in preliminary art but they can be quite stunning as these pieces show. Often such prelim work is very sketchy or not that well done but these two pieces by Delano and Baumhofer are almost finished enough to appear as covers. The two magazines show how the finished cover paintings turned out and you can see there is not a lot of difference between the preliminary work and the finished canvas. The Baumhofer one showing the cowboy on the ground is especially impressive as a preliminary sketch.





   Now here is an example of a preliminary by De Soto that is very sketchy and unfinished. There is no way this Spider prelim could be used as a cover as is. But it does give the editor an idea of what the artist planned to do with the large painting on canvas. As far as I know this sketch was never made into a finished painting. By the way, I have two SPIDER preliminaries and they are quite rare. Only a couple of the cover paintings are known to exist.


   This is one of the earliest cover paintings that I have. It’s from 1914 and the artist is Howard Hastings. He painted a lot for OUTDOOR LIFE and that type of magazine so maybe it is from a slick. I bought this from art dealer Steve Kennedy in 1989 for $700. During this period I could spend about $700 each month on art and much later Steve told me that my $700 each month was a life saver for his business at the time. He had just started to deal in pulp cover paintings, and no one except for me was buying from him. Too bad I couldn’t spend more than $700 each month because I lost out on some nice art that Steve sold later to other collectors.


   I got this one from Pulpcon in the eighties for only a couple hundred. I wonder how it got that hole in it? It’s FIFTEEN WESTERN TALES.


   This is one of my very favorite illustrations. It’s a great Nick Eggenhofer interior, probably for a two page spread. It shows two stage coaches passing each other and one looks ready to tip over. By the way, I haven’t located where this is from in case anyone can help me out. It may be WESTERN STORY or one of the western titles published by Popular Publications like DIME WESTERN or STAR WESTERN.


   This is PEOPLES from the early 1920’s and the artist is Wittmack. This is another painting I got from Kennedy when he was selling me one painting a month back in 1989. I never bothered to get it framed. Frankly I find that framing sometimes detracts from the painting. Steve liked to frame his paintings in a gold frame which I did not like much. And of course Bob Lesser habit of framing the pulp magazine inside with the painting, I found to be sacrilege and very annoying! But despite my many complaints over the years Bob continues this practice. As far as I know there is no museum, art gallery or art restorer that would frame the magazine under glass with the painting. After a few decades you would have a pile of pulp chips and a stain on the canvas.


   I love when I get this type of painting. It’s by Norman Saunders and was used on a pulp AND a paperback years later. It was first used on WESTERN ACES magazine in the 1940’s and then reused on the Ace Double titled GUNSMOKE GOLD in the 1950’s. One funny story about me buying this art. When I first saw it the dealer wanted $200 for it as a paperback cover. I stupidly looked closely and muttered that it was signed by Saunders and bang, the price went up right away to $400. Later I discovered it was also a pulp and this makes it worth far more than the $400 I had to pay.


–   Whatever happened to art dealer Tony Dispoto? I bought this from him and it’s a great piece by one of the best of the pulp artists. It’s a Flanagan from BLUE BOOK in the mid-1930’s illustrating a great adventure serial by James Francis Dwyer.


   This is a rare example of Walter Baumhofer’s early work. It’s from ADVENTURE in the mid-twenties and I got it at Windy City for only a couple hundred dollars.


   FIGHT STORIES by Gross. A pulp collecting brain surgeon was once visiting me and was interested in this because boxers often require such surgery.


   I love showing this painting to visitors. It’s 10 STORY WESTERN by De Soto and has over 20 pinholes punched through the canvas. In other words someone used it as a dart board! I’ll never get it restored because it shows just how little respect these paintings used to command back in the day. I’ve heard so many horror stories of cover paintings thrown away, lost, burnt, etc. Back when they were painted they were just about considered worthless.


   Author Ryerson Johnson once told me that he was an editor for a couple years for Popular Publications back in the forties. When he resigned to return to full time writing, he was shown into a large room full of paintings and illustrations and told to take what he wanted because it was all going to be thrown away eventually. He took several paintings and a couple large stacks of interior illustrations. Decades later he sold this art to me and other collectors.


   When I first bought this ADVENTURE cover, it was on a board that was spongy and soft. You could take off pieces of the board with two fingers. I thought it was just about worthless and ready for the garbage. But art restorers can do magical things and this painting was saved. It was somehow transferred to another board without any damage.


   This is another strange story. Collector Al Tonik had the paperback to this cover and decided to commission artist Rudi Nappi to paint it again as a recreation of the original painting. The artist did the recreation which is almost an exact copy for $100. But then later on I discovered the original paperback cover painting. So Al sold me the recreation to go along with the original cover painting. I now have both paintings, the original which was done in the 1950’s and the recreation which was done in the 1990’s or thereabout. Sometimes we think these old paintings are lost but they show up anyway!


   This is from BATTLE STORIES and I bought it from Illustration House in NYC. Notice how the magazine reversed the image. They did this sometimes to make room for the magazine title or cover blurbs.


   This is by the great Frank Paul and is from FAMOUS FANTASTIC MYSTERIES, one of my favorite magazines.


   This is FIGHTING ACES by Blakeslee. I got it from Bob Weinberg back in the 1980’s. He was just released from the hospital and needed money to pay his medical bills. He had over a dozen of these aviation paintings which he sold but I only bought two of them. I guess I was broke again!


   I also collect advertising posters which are pulp related. This is a poster advertising Street & Smith’s DETECTIVE STORY MAGAZINE.


   I have several paperback racks which I spent decades searching for. This is the first one I found and I had to trade a Clark Ashton Smith first edition to get it back in the 1970’s. Most collectors don’t realize how rare these things are. Someday after we are gone they will be worth a lot of money.


   An unusual night scene which must have happened to many cowboys. They hear a sound and reach for their gun. I got this one a couple years ago at the Bordentown convention and it’s from WESTERN STORY in the thirties. I saw the art dealer come through the door and I immediately ran up and asked the price. It was inexpensive so I bought it. But I had driven in with my old pal Digges and when I went to put it into the car there was absolutely no room. He had filled the entire car up with boxes of pulps. Fortunately my friend, Sai Shanker was visiting me the next day and he delivered it to me at my house. But we were so busy talking that he almost drove off to the airport with it still in his car.


   Well, that’s it, all you need to know about pulp art in three easy installments. Thank you Steve Lewis for publishing this and thank you Sai Shanker for taking the great photos. And finally thank you to all my art collecting friends over the many years. Many of you may no longer be with us, but you are not forgotten. After all we are just the temporary caretakers of our collections. Eventually we leave but the collections continue on!

THORP McCLUSKY “The Crawling Horror.” First published in Weird Tales, November 1936. Reprinted in Avon Fantasy Reader #6, 1948, and The Macabre Reader, edited by Donald A. Wollheim (Ace D-353, 1959), among others.

   This strange story is told by a farmer to a local doctor who in turn tells it to us. The farmer has rats in his house and barn, but when they begin to disappear, he gives the credit to his several cats. Then the cats start to vanish. Can his dogs be next?

   He is sitting in front of his fireplace, reaches down to pet his dog and … I’ll quote:

   “It was a slimy sort of stuff, transparent-looking, without any shape to it. It looked as though if you picked it up it would drip right through your fingers. And it was alive — don’t know how I knew that, but I was sure of it even before I looked. It was alive, and a sort of shapeless arm of it lay across the dog’s back, and covered her head. She didn’t move.”

   What do you think? What would you do?

PS. Things get worse from here. This is only the beginning.

REVIEWED BY DAVID VINEYARD:


MAX BRAND “Werewolf.” Novella. Western Story Magazine, 18 December 1926. Included in Men Beyond the Law (Five Star, hardcover, 1997; Amazon Encore, softcover, 2013). [Thanks to Sai Shankar for coming up with the latter information.]

   ALL day the storm had been gathering behind Chimney Mountain and peering around the edges of that giant with a scowling brow, now and again; and all day there had been strainings of the wind and sounds of dim confusion in the upper air, but not until the evening did the storm break. A broad, yellow-cheeked moon was sailing up the eastern sky when ten thousand wild horses of darkness rushed out from behind Mount Chimney and covered the sky with darkness.

   You don’t get a much more evocative opening than that for a Western novella called “Werewolf,” and the story lives up to both its title and that opening in ways you won’t expect from Max Brand (who did write some fantastic fiction).

   I can honestly say this is the strangest story I have ever read by Brand, and as honestly say it is one of the most satisfying, mixing all those elements of mythology and classical literature with a rousing good adventure story set in the more or less modern West (modern enough for telephones anyway).

   On that bitter night Chris Royal (“There were no political parties in Royal County or in Royal Valley, for instance. There were only the Royal partisans and their opponents.”) walks into Yates Saloon to escape the storm where Cliff Main, gun happy brother of killer Harry Main, is looking for trouble over a girl both like.

   Words are exchanged, and there is the smell of cordite in the air.

   Cliff Main is dead and Chris Royal alive.

   At least until Harry Main comes to avenge his dead brother. Chris doesn’t much fancy his odds against Harry Main. His crossbred hound, Lurcher would have better odds, and Lurcher isn’t much to look at. Being convinced that he’s a coward, like the hound Lurcher, who isn’t much good but is loyal to Chris and loved by him, and that he has no chance against Main, Chris hightails it for the high country.

   Which is where this story turns decidedly weird.

   Because something is trailing Chris, and it isn’t Harry Main … “it was no animal of flesh and blood at all, but a phantom sent to cross his way with a foreboding of doom.”

   He’s not far off.

   An old Indian Chris meets fishing in the river sets the philosophical tone of the tale. He warns Chris that no man can escape his fate, and when they hear the wolf that had trailed Chris the night before he explains it is a werewolf:

   “There are two kinds of werewolves,” said the chief, holding up two fingers of his hand. “The first are the ones which have been men and become wolves. They are only terrible for a short time, and then they become stupid. Then there are others. They are the wolves that cannot become men until they have killed the warrior who has been marked out for them.”

   That old Indian is more than a convenient literary device, I warn you.

   Chris masters his fear after that and returns home to face Harry Main, his preternatural calm in the face of almost certain death almost unnerving the mankiller, but even with Main out of the picture there remains that second kind of werewolf, the one that cannot become a man again until it has killed the warrior marked for it, and in that game a worthless cowardly dog named Lurcher get a chance to redeem himself as his master has.

   It is an odd duck of a story by any measure, part Western revenge story, part tale of redemption of man and dog, part dog story, and part … well you decide, but I will reveal this much, werewolf in this story is both a metaphor and not a metaphor.

   If you ever wondered what Max Brand might have written for Weird Tales, this is the story.

CORNELL WOOLRICH “Vampire’s Honeymoon.” Lead story in the collection Vampire’s Honeymoon, Carroll & Graf, paperback original, 1985. First published in Horror Stories, August-September 1939.

   First of all, there’s a reason why this story wasn’t reprinted until the C&G paperback collection came along, almost 50 years after its first appearance in a what’s called a weird menace or “shudder pulp.” It really isn’t very good.

   The title tells it all, or nearly so. A man, a well-educated fellow, goes to a party engaged to one girl, and leaves with another — a beautiful woman who he meets on a fourth-floor terrace as she seems about to jump — or float? — off. No one knows who she is, nor did anyone see her enter.

   They are engaged the next day and are soon married. The husband, as it turns out, is not the brightest bulb in the box. He cannot figure out why is suddenly afflicted with anemia, with small bites in his neck. Large mosquitoes, he tells the doctor. We the reader know better.

   All of the standard tropes about vampires are part and parcel of this tale: his new wife cannot be seen in mirrors, she stays inside in bed all day, is immune to bullets, and I’m sure I’m not giving anything away by telling you that a wooden stake is part of how the story ends.

   The story isn’t totally simplistic — Woolrich was too good a writer for that to be true — but it only hints at creepiness and once read, I doubt that anyone will remember it more than a day later. The other stories in the collection, all fairly long, may be better, and you may find me talking about them on this blog as time goes on.

   For the record, though, in case I don’t, their titles are “Graves for the Living,” “I’m Dangerous Tonight,” and “The Street of Jungle Death.” I may be mistaken, but I don’t believe that any of these are vampire stories.

REVIEWED BY DAVID VINEYARD:


DONALD BARR CHIDSEY “Flight to Singapore.” Short novel. Argosy, 3 August 1940. Available online here.

   For wisdom is greater than rubies; and all things that may be desired are not compared to it.

   Pick up any issue of the major pulps like Adventure, Argosy, Blue Book, Popular, or the like and you could be guaranteed to find at least one stem winder of a story inside, that would at least have made a first rate B-film and maybe more.

   The names that graced those pages include the famous of course like Burroughs, Brand, Merritt, Woolrich, Mundy, Lamb, and such, but also half-forgotten names that once guaranteed a headlong tale well told and usually much more, names like Robert Carse, Georges Surdez, H. Bedford-Jones, George F. Worts, Gordon Young, and the prolific and popular Donald Barr Chidsey.

   Some, like Chidsey, Carse, and Surdez even had post-pulp careers in hardcover for a time, but it is their pulp work that resonates today.

   The story “Flight to Singapore” by Donald Barr Chidsey, is one of those tales, one in a series about Prince Mike of Kammorirri and his bodyguard/pal George Marlin, who finds himself a beat cop and insurance tec now Captain of the Guard, Chief of Police, and head of the Army of the small principality of Kammorirri in Southeast Asia, where Prince Mike’s father, the Sultan, fights to keep his little nation free of being “protected” by the Western powers by keeping almost all contact with the outside world at bay.

   Not an easy task when his heir and pride is Prince Mikuud, Phni Luangha, late of Princeton, a most modern young man who flies his own plane and fights his own fights with the help of his friend George Marlin, who struggles to call him Your Highness when they visit the outside world.

   It starts as George is escorting a rare wanted visitor out of the country and encounters an eager missionary, a type the Sultan especially loathes, but in the pulp world these things can move fast and soon the “Missionary” has drawn a gun and had it shot out of his hand by George and the jungle is hot with gunfire.

   Three men, Langford (the phony Missionary), Kelt (the pilot), and a brutal Australian named Claessens, have found rubies in Kammorirri, the last thing the Sultan needs as the palace drips of them and such treasure would inevitably be an invitation by some Western nation to protect the hell out of the small principality.

   How Prince Mike, with George Marlin’s fast gun and fists, outwits the bad guys, avoids the crisis in treasure by convincing the outside world the rubies are worthless, and cleans up the mess is the crux of a fast moving and entertainingly told tale that encompasses pitched jungle battles, fancy flying, lost temples, well meaning Europeans who have to be protected and held at bay, and just about everything but a romantic interest.

   I don’t know how many of these Chidsey wrote. I do know of at least one other, that being “Run, Tiger!” which appeared in the August 9, 1941 issue of Argosy, and there may be more. “Flight to Singapore” is an entertaining take on the Westernized modern Asian trope that had begun appearing alongside the Yellow Peril several decades earlier, where Number 1 Son and Mr. Moto are both the lead and the brains of the operation, and the plot and action move along at a pace and in high style.

   It’s a shame Prince Mike and George Marlin never got a full length novel adventure. One was well deserved.

RICHARD WORMSER – The Body Looks Familiar. Dell First Edition A156; paperback original; 1st printing, March 1958. A shorter version previously appeared in the September 1957 issue of Cosmopolitan magazine as “The Frame.” Also: Stark House Press, trade paperback, 2017, combined with The Late Mrs. Five, also by Wormser; introduction by Bill Crider.

   After reading I don’t know how many thousands of mystery novels in my lifetime, it seems strange to say this, but all of them have been different in some way from the others. Sometimes in very minor ways, sometimes more. Sometimes a lot more. Like this one.

   In fact, I’m inclined to say that the story line in this one is unique. Absolutely. You can tell me if I’m wrong or not by keeping on reading.

   The problem is, if I tell you what the story line is, it may tell you more than you want to know. For once, the blurbs inside the front cover and on the back cover are rather vague about it. On the other hand, the factor that makes it unique takes place in Chapter One, so if you were to start reading the book yourself, you’d find out soon enough anyway.

   But maybe you’d like to learn what it is that I’m talking about on your own. Hence the following

          SPOILER ALERT

   Reading any further will reveal essential plot elements that you may not wish to know about in advance.

   What happens in Chapter One? Well, now I’ll tell you. The assistant D.A. for an unnamed city kills the mistress girl friend of the city’s chief of police in the apartment he keeps for her and frames the murder on him. He shoots her right in front of him, taking the chief’s gun away from him by surprise and using it for the deed.

   What’s his motive? Revenge. James Latson, fast on his feet both in the political arena as well as in the bedroom, had taken Dave Corday’s wife away from him. She later committed suicide when she was dumped by Latson, and Corday could not bear the shame of taking her back.

   Whew! With an opening like that, you (the reader) have no way of knowing which way the story is going from there. Of course you’ve got to believe that Corday’s plan has any chance at all of working, and Richard Wormser as the author has his job cut out for him.

   For the most part he’s up to the task, but I have to admit that reading this particular work of crime fiction was like reading a science fiction novel, one for which the “willing suspension of disbelief” is a required element of what the reader has to bring along to the task.

   It’s not a classic, far from it, but it’s not as though reading this book really was a task. It only took a very enjoyable couple of hours, mostly spent in guessing which way the story was going to go next — and usually being wrong about it.

   Richard Wormser, by the way, was born in 1908 and wrote a couple of hardcover detective novels in the mid-1930s before switching to writing for the pulps and slick magazines through the 1940s. Westerns, adventure, mysteries, the whole gamut.

   Mostly he’s remembered, if at all, for the paperback originals, including movie tie-in’s, he did from the late 1950s on to early 1970s. He died in 1977.

[FOOTNOTE] Also shown are the covers for:

The Communist’s Corpse. Smith & Haas, hc, 1935. Series character: Sgt. Jocelyn “Joe” Dixon.

Argosy. April 6, 1940. Includes the story “Detour, Mr. Darwin,” by Richard Wormser. (His name should be discernible in the upper right corner.)

[UPDATE.]   This review was first posted on this blog on November 18, 2008. I’ve reposted it without any changes except for the information about the recent Stark House reprint. I started reading it today, and I said to myself, “This sounds familiar.” It was.

REVIEWED BY DAVID VINEYARD:


C. C. WADDELL & CARROLL JOHN DALY – Two-Gun Gerta. Chelsea House, hardcover, 1926. Serialized in four parts in People’s Magazine, October 1 through November 15, 1923. Available as a PDF download from Vintage Library, a possibly censored version.

    THERE isn’t much to say about Yavisa except that it is hot and dirty. But then all the towns in Mexico are hot and dirty; so I’ll put it that Yavisa is a shade hotter and dirtier than anything else along the border.

   That is the authentic voice of Roger Francis ‘Red’ Connors, ex-Hollywood stunt man and cowboy star (“You want to remember that I’d had two years’ experience dare-deviling for the films under Milt Leffingwell. As a matter of fact, I’d worked almost the same stunt in one of my ‘Reckless Rudolph’ pictures, as you’ll recall if you’ve ever saw ‘The Pit of Perdition.’), and all around tough guy come South for adventure and about to be up to his neck in it when he encounters the beautiful and fiery green eyed hellion, ranch owner Gerta O’Bierne: “She had a couple of heavy Colts strapped about her waist; and for all her sweet-sixteen look and her quiet manner, I figured that they weren’t just a bluff. Give her half a chance, and she’d use ’em.“

   He has hardly ridden into Yavisa when he spies beautiful Gerta pinned by local bandit and mustache twirler Colonel Manuel Esteban, old Crooked Mouth: “Half Mexican and half something else, I took him to be, but all murder. He looked like the bad man in the movies, only more real. A yellow, splotchy face under his broad-brimmed sombrero, with eyes as cold and deadly as a rattlesnake’s, and a cruel, crooked mouth that ran halfway up his cheek on one side as the result of an old knife scar.”

   In short order Red has saved Gerta and is hired as foreman on her ranch, but it is hardly smooth sailing from there, as soon Gerta is kidnapped, and even once he rescues her Red has to face her jealousy over saloon girl Rosita.

    But with the help of his horse, “El Flivver!…EL Hennery Ford! The devil caballo!” and his Colt .45 automatic, Red is a match for just about anything the Old West or Old Mexico can throw at him save perhaps Gerta.

    Cannon to right of me; cannon to left of me. I couldn’t go back, and I couldn’t go forward. Looked like I was ketched, eh, what?

   But it takes more than a squeeze of that sort to decompose Red Connors:

    “Hold fast!” I barked like a Amsterdam Avenue conductor to this pillowsham I was loaded with.

   Then I flings myself with her over the balcony railing, and hangs by one hand. Henry Ford is just underneath me, his back about two inches from my dangling toes.

    “Whoa, Henry!” I says, and he stands like a rock.

   Then I let go, and lands pretty as you please square in the saddle, with the lady jolted but unhurt still in the hollow of my arm. Another second, and we was streaking it for the archway and the great, open spaces.

    Bang! A red-hot stripe flicks along the side of my neck, and I hears another bullet go zipping past my ear.

   Red, of course, gets the girl and the horse, and at one point has a two way conversation with Henry Ford the likes of which you never encountered in Zane Grey, and it is all insane and mad fun written in the indomitable style of the much maligned Carroll John Daly, who for my money is one of the most sheerly entertaining bad writers to ever hunt and peck deathless prose onto the written page.

   Exactly what C. C. Waddell contributes is hard to guess, because Two-Gun Gerta reads like pure Daly, and Red Connors, like Three Gun Terry Mack, is just a rehearsal for the urban gunfighter/private eye Race Williams soon to emerge from Daly’s white hot imagination.

   It is pure pulp, and Red, Henry Ford, and Gerta are all well worth meeting: ”She’d been heaven and hell. But through it all, she’d been Gerta. And there wasn’t nobody like her.”

   There “wasn’t nobody” like Daly either, or this B Western of a two fisted adventure novel out of Tom Mix by way of Mickey Spillane.

Note: This book is important to the development of the hard-boiled genre for three reasons. Most obviously it is an early work of Carroll John Daly, who, whatever your feelings about his work, is the onlie beggetor (to borrow a Kiplingesque term from O. F. Snelling), of the modern hard-boiled private eye.

   Next, historically this book is further evidence of the ties between the Western and the hard-boiled school of writing where the former genre’s penchant for colorful language, fast action, and smart independent noble heroes with guns was transplanted to the Urban canyons of the Big City, while the quieter pleasures of the detective novel were supplanted by gangsters, floozies, femme fatales, gunmen, gamblers, crooked politicians, and corrupt cops.

   Hammett and Chandler both touch on distinctly Western settings at least once each in their work, and Gardner actually wrote mysteries with Western settings, while Black Mask as often as not included one Western in many issues..

   Finally, Red Connors is only a breath away from Daly’s first two private eyes, Three Gun Terry Mack and Race Williams. Hard going as this book may be for some readers, it is historically important to the genre.

COLLECTING PULPS: A Memoir
Part 20: Pulp Art, Part Two
by Walker Martin


   This is a continuation of the pulp art subject which commenced in my last column numbered Part 19. When I started this column in 2010, I never planned for it to last and continue for long. I thought I’d just discuss my collecting of The Big Three in the detective genre(BLACK MASK, DIME DETECTIVE, DETECTIVE FICTION WEEKLY). But I’ve received such great support for the series that it has continued now to Part 20 and beyond.

   And the Collecting Pulps subject led to me writing the series about ADVENTURES IN COLLECTING, and also book reviews and the pulp convention reports. I firmly believe we should be discussing these shows and collecting in general. I can remember the time when there was very little discussion of the importance and fun of collecting pulp magazines and original pulp art.

   We all know about how much fun it is to read and collect these old magazines, but it also is of great importance. It will be difficult for future generations to be aware that once there was a golden period of excellent fiction magazines and illustration art. It’s hard now to even find a newsstand, but once there were thousands of such outlets in drugstores, deli grocery stores, and on street corners. The newsstands groaned under the weight of scores of fiction magazines both pulp and slick. And they all used illustrations from talented artists that numbered in the hundreds.

   I collect this great art and the columns titled Part 19, Part 20, and Part 21 (upcoming) contain the story about how I managed to track down and find many unique cover paintings and interior illustrations. Every now and then the accusation is made that you have to be rich in order to collect paintings and sets of long running magazines. No, you don’t, and I’m living proof of how it can be done on a middle class income.

   True, you have to be a committed and enthusiastic collector, but I built up this collection while working on a salary and bringing up a family with the usual mortgages, car payments, and other bills. I often went through periods where I had very little money in the bank account, or I had to borrow money from the credit union at work. For many years I skipped lunch in order to save money to buy books. Sounds familiar right? I’m sure many collectors have scrimped and saved in order to feed their collections. And yet they still had all the usual things that we take for granted such as family, children, homes, cars, education.

   One of my favorite book conventions is Pulp Adventurecon, otherwise known as the Bordentown show, or Harveycon, after Rich Harvey the organizer of the show. He’s been putting it on for almost 20 years now, and it is an annual event held every November. Officially it’s a one day show, but for the last several years, I and some of my best friends have turned it into a four day convention lasting Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Not only do we discuss books, pulps, and art, but we eat and drink everything in sight. It’s like a gigantic bookish picnic and party.

   This photo shows several of us at my kitchen table: left to right is me in a SHORT STORIES T-shirt, Matt Moring, Digges La Touche, Scott Hartshorn, and Ed Hulse. Also present but not in the photo are Sai Shanker, who is responsible for these great photos, Nick Certo, Paul Herman, and Laurie Powers. These are all committed and serious collectors that I have known for many years.


   And fitting in with the collecting art theme, they all collect art except for Ed. Even Ed has a big interest in the art and though Digges and Laurie only have a piece or two, they represent what I think every book and pulp collector should strive for, and that is to have at least one representative piece of art to go with your collection of books. Anthony Powell once titled a novel, BOOKS DO FURNISH A ROOM, and so does original art.

   Two weeks prior to the show, Doug Ellis and Deb Fulton visited me and I finally managed to obtain an Edd Cartier illustration from one of my favorite magazines, UNKNOWN WORLDS. In a prior convention report I had bemoaned the fact that I had missed out on a previous Edd Cartier drawing from UNKNOWN. I think this 1941 drawing showing a scene from a Jane Rice story is even better that the one I missed out on.


   Before I move on to more art, I would like to mention that this year’s Pulp Adventurecon was one of the best yet. 50 tables and well over a hundred attendees. No guests, no panels, no movies. Just hard core pulp collecting and book buying! Two important items made their debut at the convention: ART OF THE PULPS, an excellent book on the pulps and the artwork, by Doug Ellis, Ed Hulse, and Bob Weinberg and the third issue of the new and revived BLACK MASK.

   Matt Moring and I shared a table, and many collectors were wearing the Altus Press pulp T-shirts. These look great, and Matt has over a dozen titles available. The selection can be seen on the Altus Press website and so can the hundreds of pulp reprints that Altus Press has published.

   Though this is only a one day show, there are many unusual and rare items for sale. A couple years ago I completed my set of ALL STORY at this convention, and you can’t get rarer that that. This year John Gunnison of Adventure House, had many bound volumes of FLYNN’S and DETECTIVE FICTION WEEKLY from the 1920’s and early 1930’s. Also available from Altus Press was a complete run of ASTOUNDING, 1937-1943 which are the great John Campbell years, otherwise known as The Golden Age of SF.

   I had a couple stacks of the rare British mystery digest magazine, LONDON MYSTERY MAGAZINE. So there were some rare and collectible items. Speaking of rare items, I also saw and spoke with Bob Lesser, another pulp art collector. He says he is 94 years old! That give us all hope for the future and a reason to keep collecting even when we get old.

   Matt Moring and I completed a pulp cover painting trade. Here Matt is holding a cover from SKY RIDERS, 1929, that he has just traded to me. Many pulp cover paintings and interior illustrations change hands through trades.


   Another painting Matt traded to me: PEOPLES from 1922 and the artist is Franklin Wittmack.


   This item is absolutely unique, and something I never thought I’d find. For decades, ever since Pulpcon started to give the Guests of Honor a plaque in honor of their work in the pulp field, I have wanted to find one of the plaques for my collection. It was the one thing that Pulpcon got absolutely right because these plaques are beautiful. I have seen many of the guests get emotional after receiving these great plaques. They always show four pulp covers and bear the guest’s name while praising them for their contributions to the pulps. This one I found out about when I read an article by David Saunders. Dan Zimmer, the publisher of ILLUSTRATION MAGAZINE, had it hanging in his office and I managed to buy it. It’s the one given to Walter Baumhofer during Pulpcon 8, 1979 in Dayton, Ohio.


   This is from ADVENTURE in the 1940’s. During a visit to Gerry De Ree’s house in 1989, I saw two beautiful paintings by Earle Bergey from STARTLING STORIES. Gerry had a terminal illness and was selling his collection, but the price was more than I could pay for the two Bergey paintings. He saw how disappointed I was and sold me this painting at a special bargain price. Gerry was a great collector and dealer and has never been replaced.


   This is a favorite of mine because of the unusual scene depicted. A sixgun preacher in a saloon forcing the boozers to listen to his sermon. I got it at an early Pulpcon for only a couple hundred dollars.


   1930’s DETECTIVE FICTION WEEKLY by Rudolph Belarski. Author Richard Sale had two popular series characters, Daffy Dill and Candid Jones. This cover illustrated the story where they meet. Artists often had to leave space for writing on the the cover. This square was for the blurb “Daffy Dill and Candid Jones, Together Again!” Many collectors would not buy this art because of the empty yellow square but I love it. Plus it made it affordable for me to buy it!


   The reason for this photo is sort of weird. If you look carefully you can see 6 small risque paintings by J. Brandt. They all are signed and were submitted in the paper envelope I’m holding to CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN magazine. But the publisher and editor, Calvin Beck, never used them as far as I know and never returned them to the artist.

   Now J. Brandt paints fine art and would be amazed to see his teenage paintings have survived. I consider these paintings to be sort of outsider art and of great interest as examples of unique and strange pieces of art. Most collectors would bypass these as just unpublished amateur work, but I think they are beautiful.


   DIME MYSTERY in the 1940’s. Many collectors have a fetish for guys or women in hoods! I love it!


   Lee Brown Coye, one of my favorite artists, but many collectors are blind to his great bizarre talent. There have been three recent books discussing his work. This lacks the Coye weird figures but has the bizarre house and the sticks that became his trademark in later life.


   Nick Eggenhofer is one of the greatest of the pulp artists and he did hundreds of illustrations for WESTERN STORY and the Popular Publication pulps. For many years I couldn’t find one of his illustrations that I could afford but finally in the 1980’s I found one and the floodgates have opened. I now have 9 or 10. One of the great books on the pulps is one titled EGGENHOFER: THE PULP YEARS.


   I have over 30 of these smaller preliminary paintings and drawings like the one below, all framed by art dealer Steve Kennedy in the same type of frame. The artists were often requested to submit a preliminary sketch or painting before receiving the ok to do the finished cover painting. Many of these prelims are well done and some are mere sketches, very rough indeed. I have them in all styles, some painted like these but some drawn in pencil or ink. Most collectors do not seem to want to bother with these preliminary sketches but I like them a lot.


   Here I am holding up the issue of ASTOUNDING which started the serial, SLAN by Van Vogt. I obtained the drawing back in the 1970’s at the Toronto world science fiction convention. I have a total of six Charles Schneenman drawings, all from ASTOUNDING in the 1940’s. I got them for the minimum bid at the big auction. No one else was interested in bidding! A puzzle that I cannot understand. One thing about collecting art is that you eventually run out of wall space. These six drawings are hung in the master bathroom. Not a good idea but I don’t want to add them to the ones I have stacked against the wall, unable to hang them for lack of space.


   This is a painting that I just traded to Matt Moring. Richard Lillis is the artist for this cowboy portrait from STAR WESTERN. The Lillis is the last one I bought from Steve Kennedy before his early and sudden death two years ago. He had met Lillis at an art class and they became friends even though Steve was in his 30’s and Lillis in his 80’s. They became friends and when Lillis died in his 90’s, Steve was the executor of the estate. Prior to meeting Lillis Steve was mainly a fine art dealer and knew nothing about the pulps. This friendship changed Steve’s life because he started to specialize in pulp art.


   De Soto didn’t sign many of his pulp paintings but this ADVENTURE cover is signed. Sometimes we forget that non-collectors just do not understand the collector. This is an example. I had this painting hanging in a good spot in the powder room but one year after returning from Pulpcon, my wife had moved it and replaced with a $20 Walmart decoration. I just don’t understand how non-collectors think.


   Charles Dye cover for ADVENTURE. Bargains are still out there. I got this from Heritage Auctions and didn’t have to pay much at all.


   This is an unfinished ADVENTURE cover and I guess we will never know the story behind it. It looks like it was painted in the teens which means it is a hundred years old. But why did the artist stop painting? Perhaps the editor did not like it? We will never know. And how on earth did it survive all these years. Even finished excellent paintings were often destroyed or lost.


   STAR WESTERN by DeSoto and I’ve owned it twice, which is not an uncommon occurrence with me. I first had it many years ago and the previous owner got it back in a trade. Then a couple years ago I got it back again. Unusual scene.


   This drawing by Lorence Bjorklund is representative of the ones I just bought from Paul Herman. One good side effort of the pulp brunches is that I often get art, pulps, books. These are quite interesting and were published as interiors in WILD WEST WEEKLY and WESTERN STORY.


   This is the room where I write these columns, surrounded by art and books.


   Close up of the three Lyman Anderson drawings from UNDERWORLD. These were among the first pieces of art that I bought back in the early 1970’s. Nils Hardin had a stack of them and I picked only three. Why only three? Maybe I was broke?


      TO BE CONTINUED IN PART 21

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