Pulp Fiction

ERLE STANLEY GARDNER “Cheating the Chair.” Sidney Zoom #14. Detective Fiction Weekly, 17 September 1932. [Added later:] Reprinted in The Casebook of Sidney Zoom, edited by Bill Pronzini. (Crippen & Landru, 2006).

   Alphabetically the last of the series detectives in the online Crime Fiction Index, I do not know if it is precisely correct to call Sidney Zoom a private eye. In this story, the only one of his adventures that I’ve read, he does not have a paying client, which would, I think, be one of the several criteria that must be satisfied to qualify.

   Zoom thinks of himself as a fighter for the underdog, and reads newspapers to find cases in which he believes justice is not being served. He appears to be independently wealthy. He has a devoted secretary named Vera Thurmond, and lives on a yacht with a captain on board to take him up and down the coast to wherever he needs to go.

   What attracts him to this current case, in which a disgruntled ex-convict is accused of killing the county attorney who sent him up, is that Zoom is convinced that the prosecutor’s version of what happened does not match the facts.

   In this regard, the detective work is fine, but the story gets muddled more than I’ve come to expect from Gardner. Zoom has to depend on bluffing the miscreants involved to secure the release of the accused man.

   As you can see from the list below, there were quite a few Sidney Zoom stories, but based on this one, while certainly readable, they may not be at the same level, quality-wise, as some of Gardner’s other series pulp heroes. I’ll have to investigate further.

       The Sidney Zoom stories —

The Higher Court (ss) Detective Fiction Weekly Mar 8 1930
(*) Willie the Weeper (ss) Detective Fiction Weekly Mar 29 1930
(*) My Name Is Zoom! (ss) Detective Fiction Weekly Apr 12 1930
The Purple Plume (ss) Detective Fiction Weekly May 24 1930
Time in for Tucker (ss) Detective Fiction Weekly Sep 13 1930
Strangler’s Silk (nv) Detective Fiction Weekly Jan 3 1931
The Death Penalty (nv) Detective Fiction Weekly Jan 17 1931
(*) Borrowed Bullets (nv) Detective Fiction Weekly Mar 21 1931
The Vanishing Corpse (nv) Detective Fiction Weekly Aug 15 1931
(*) Higher Up (nv) Detective Fiction Weekly Sep 19 1931
(*) The First Stone (nv) Detective Fiction Weekly Oct 24 1931
It Takes a Crook (nv) Detective Fiction Weekly Feb 6 1932
(*) The Green Door (nv) Detective Fiction Weekly Aug 20 1932
(*) Cheating the Chair (nv) Detective Fiction Weekly Sep 17 1932
(*) Inside Job (ss) Detective Fiction Weekly Jan 7 1933
(*) Lifted Bait (nv) Detective Fiction Weekly Oct 21 1933
(*) Stolen Thunder (nv) Detective Fiction Weekly May 19 1934

       (*) Included in The Casebook of Sidney Zoom.

A. E. APPLE “The Diamond Pirate.” Rafferty #2. Long novelette. First published in Detective Story Magazine, 22 October 1927. Reprinted in The Compleat Adventures of Mr. Chang and Mr. Rafferty, Battered Silicon Dispatch Box Press, hardcover, four volume set, 2010.

   I do not know whether the latter collection was ever published. “The Diamond Pirate” was the lead story of the October 22, 1927 issue of Detective Story Magazine, which is where I read it. It was preceded chronologically by “Rafferty, Master Rogue,” which appeared in the same magazine three weeks earlier.

   In that earlier story a master criminal named Rafferty outwitted a high-powered private eye by the name of Bradley and pulled off a bank robbery that netted him some twenty million dollars, a tidy sum, even today. In this second caper, Rafferty ups his game somewhat, intending to rob the diamond district en masse on a scale never seen before.

   The story opens in a mausoleum in a cemetery on a vicious rainswept night, as Rafferty’s closest lieutenants in crime meet in ear darkness to obtain the next step of instructions. In Act II, Rafferty obtains the services of a anarchic German scientist named Herr Heinie (…) but not before a long drawn-out confrontational scene between the two men takes place.

   Next, one of Rafferty’s assistants tries to defect to Bradley’s side, but the former gets wise, negates the loss and continues his plans. There is quite a bit of suspense that builds along way, but what may take the modern day reader by surprise — it did me — is that [PLOT ALERT!!] everything goes off smoothly. Rafferty and his gang make off with millions of dollars worth of diamonds, the last stage of their getaway accomplished by submarine. Bradley is a complete non-factor.

   There were over twenty tales told of Mr. Rafferty, at least two of them in conjunction with Mr. Chang, A. E. Apple’s equally long running version of a Chinese mastermind villain. I have no idea if Rafferty had the same amount of success in all of his ventures, but if all his schemes came off as easily as this one does, I have to wonder why the stories stayed as popular for as long as they did. A steady diet of tales such as this one would go nowhere quickly, as far as I am concerned.


BARRY PEROWNE “Raffles and the Death Rocket.” Popular Detective, March 1936. First published in The Thriller, UK, #249, 11 November 1933.

   Barry Perowne, nephew of Bertram Atkey, the creator of gentleman adventurer Smiler Bunn, began penning a series of short stories about E. W. Hornung’s famed amateur cracksman Raffles in the early 1930s. These stories appeared first in the British pulp Thriller, and later in hardcover and American pulps like this March 1936 issue of Popular Detective. In these tales Bunny Manders and A. J. Raffles pursued crime and justice much in the same manner as the Saint or Norman Conquest.

   As this one opens Bunny and Raffles have been summoned to a strange house in Mayfair where they are to observe an “experiment in the conquest of space” on of all nights November the 5th, Guy Fawkes night:

   Piccadilly Circus, with its roar and rumble of traffic, its glaring, winking, pulsating sky-signs, though a bare ten minutes away, seemed strangely remote from this singular house in this gloomy, aristocratic street.

   Muffled detonations came from the back streets, vivid flashes in the sky. November the fifth — night of fire works. Night of masks and shooting stars, but a night for the grotesque, the mysterious, the dramatic. A night through which ran a cruel, bright, eager motif — Flame!

   With a sense of adventure my friend, A. J. Raffles, cricketer, gentleman, and crook, and I, Bunny Manders, his partner in crime, passed beneath the arch and into the shadowy courtyard.

   Never let it be said Perowne hadn’t inherited a fine eye and ear for mystery and atmosphere. He was the author of many fine tales of suspense and adventure of his own aside from briefly continuing the adventures of cracksman Smiler Bunn and more extensively those of Raffles. Here we are in the popular gentleman adventurer mode of the between-the-Wars years, and Perowne handles the style with aplomb.

   Professor Louis Mendawe is to make the great experiment with a carefully chosen array of guests, but as Raffles and Bunny arrive at the costume ball to accompany the experiment they find only their hostess, the strikingly beautiful Lady Carla Mendawe and the other guests, including Grant Cardinal KC, who Bunny opines is much too familiar with the police in the form of their nemesis Inspector Duke Roth of the Yard, and a distinguished group of guests and the small fortune in jewels accompanying them, making Bunny more than a little nervous, especially when Raffles follows his restless nose to prowl around and they spy a silver haired girl in a crimson mask and follow her to a roof top observatory when …

   And that second, with a queer, muttering catch of his breath, Raffles hurled himself forward. I heard her low cry as they struggled. Then, sharp and clear through the humming of the machinery, the crack of an automatic, a crimson spurt of flame, brought me lunging to my feet!

   And we’re off, the suicidal young lady Lady Menshawe’s social secretary, Lesley Lorne, engaged to Lord Menshawe’s assistant Piers Armour, who was guarding the lab and saw the struggle. He claims to be as puzzled as Raffles, but reveals his employer has been nervous about this strange night.

   Then in short order Raffles and Bunny intercept a mysterious threatening phone message for Lady Menshawe , who insisted the experiment coincide with Guy Fawkes Night, and a prowler with a silenced weapon shoots at them while the rest of the guest are watching fireworks in the garden.

   What follows, all in the course of one incredible night involves a rival jewel thief, known as The Marquis, a crime of passion, one madman, the most incredible plot for disposing of a body I have ever encountered, a rocket launched to the moon (from the middle of Mayfair at that), and of course a victory, and profit, for Raffles sparing the lovers, young and older, embarrassing Inspector Roth, and some damn imaginative if hardly fair play detective work on Raffles’ part.

   No, it isn’t great literature, but is is great fun, this one as much in the American and the British thriller tradition, and it makes me wish I had read more of the earlier round of Perowne Raffles stories. This one is beautifully crafted and moves at a rapid pace, managing, just mind you, to cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s before the highly satisfying final image.

   “Remember I dropped my cigarette case when we were interviewing the Marquis? His wall-safe, Bunny, was wide open and close at hand.”

   I sat up abruptly. His lighter clicked. In the small flame I saw resting on his palm something that flashed and flickered with the cold light of diamonds.

   The Khaipore pendant!

   “A penny for the guy,” said Raffles as blithely as had the Guy Fawkes night urchins used the phrase in Piccadilly Circus. Dropping the pendant into the pocket of his white waistcoat, he tilted his silk hat over his eyes and composed himself for sleep.

   Salaam, Raffles!

   Salaam indeed.

HARRY LYNCH “The Ape.” John Jaffray #2. First published in Clues Detective Stories, May 1935.

   In spite of reading and collecting pulp magazines for about 40 years, there always seem to be new authors to come across that I’d never heard of before. And of course what that means as well is that I’ve never heard of the characters they wrote about, either. Harry Lynch is such an author, and his series character, private eye John J. Jaffrey, is brand new to me too.

   Jaffray is not in Lynch;s two dozen or so pulp stories; the list below of the ones he is known to be om comes from the online FictionMags Index, and may or may not be complete. (Identifying series characters in old and hard-to-find magazines such as Clues Detective Stories that are over 80 years old is not the easiest thing in the world to do.)

   And given its age, “The Ape,” which is tentatively numbered two in the series, is certainly a relic of its time, but I enjoyed it. If you ever happen to come across a copy, I think you may too, especially if you like mystery stories with murderous apes in them, just as this one does. (No surprise there.)

   It begins with Jaffrey on the trail of a wealthy businessman who has gone missing. Having been hired by the man’s partners, he has found someone to follow who may lead him to the man. But wouldn’t you just know it — the train they are on together derails and the man he is following is killed.

   Obviously what Jaffray does next — you guessed it — he changes clothes with the dead man and under these false pretenses he is picked up by members of the gang who have abducted the man he is searching for, and off they go to their hideout. Then begins the wildest series of events you can ever image. First a dead man om a bier attended to by a beautiful Asian woman. Then a mad man in shackles who wanders around shooting bent pins with a rubber band. Plus another beautiful woman who seems to have been a captive of the gang and who spends much of the story totally nude. Then at last the leader of the gang who is totally blind.

   And of course the ape, who fondly carries the head of a dead man around with him wherever he goes. What more could you want?

      The John Jaffray stories —

Rattlesnake! (nv) Clues Detective Stories Dec 1934
The Ape (na) Clues Detective Stories May 1935
One Hour to Live (nv) Clues Detective Stories Jun 1935
Prevue of Hell (nv) Clues Detective Stories Aug 1935
Fury (ss) Clues Detective Stories Dec 1935
The Hooded Men (nv) Clues Detective Stories Apr 1936
Blast (nv) Clues Detective Stories Jul 1936


FRED MacISAAC – The King Who Came Back. Altus Press, softcover, 2016. Originally serialized in six issues of Argosy between October 24th and November 28th, 1931.

   Hollywood and the pulps had something in common, and that was what I liked to think of as the “Kitchen-sink plot.” The “Kitchen-sink” plot was one where a wide mix of elements from diverse genres and sub genres were stirred into the pot for what was hopefully a healthy stew and not an unholy mess. Cowboys, gangsters, science fiction, lost worlds, lost races … at one time all those combinations saw print or made it to the silver screen. By that standard Fred MacIsaac’s The King Who Came Back is fairly tame fare, but there is still enough of a mix to make for a hearty meal.

   We open South of Ruritania and North of Graustark, just around the corner from Fredonia and the Grand Duchy of Fenwick in the small kingdom of Berania where the peasants are revolting (do your own jokes) and the army traitorous. Our hero, the King, is assured if he will lead the troops against his own people he can stop the revolt, but he does not have the heart to march on his own people (“I do not propose to lead an army from one end of the land to the other over the bodies of multitudes of my subjects. What you gentlemen tell me confirms my own observations. There is a nationwide demand for a republic. Let them have it. I will abdicate.”), which is why King Carlos Aronhof, finds his recent flying lessons come in handy when he has to skip town literally on the fly with his friend the American flyer and diplomatic courier, Will Jevis.

   Carlos finds himself an enemy of the people holed up in Paris with dwindling funds and a bounty on his head from the annoyed revolutionaries he escaped making it difficult for the French to embrace him or the English, both of whom don’t want to start a war with a new government so with Will Jervis help Carlos reinvent himself.

   Finding himself six months later in the United States as a chauffeur in Hollywood working for one Mrs. Mason Sweasy, one of those popular types fiction loves who built her fortune by taking in laundry on land that turned out to have oil under it and now is one of those tough smart plain spoken types usually played by Thelma Ritter, Marie Dressler, or Jessie Royce Landis, Carlos has a new name, face, and a new career.

   Actually, so far the story isn’t all that far fetched. More than a few princes, deposed, imaginary, and not showed up in Hollywood in that era as everything from the owners of famous restaurants to screenwriters. Carlos is now Carl Decker, and employed by the oil rich Mrs. Swasey, her beautiful twenty-five year old daughter Gladys, and son Junior (no good of course), crusty Tom Clancy who works for Mrs. Swasey (see any of a dozen character actors of Irish lineage) and for the first time in a while things are looking up. Carlos is even starting to get over his prejudices about Americans.

   Meanwhile the Americans are worried about having Carlos loose in America. Berania is backward and it would take next to nothing for Carlos to raise and army and return, plus the new Republic is corrupt and less than stable. Carlos presence could be an embarrassment, if they knew where he was. Then Will Jervis stumbles on someone pretending to be Carlos, complicating things farther especially when Count Grandez, the man behind the impersonator, tries to kill him because he knows the impersonator isn’t Carlos.

   Carlos contacts Jervis to apologize for the attack, surmising rightly it was because of him, but remains hidden although the Beranians know he is in California somewhere. Meantime Carlos new job is less pleasing that it seemed thanks to the nasty James Swasey Jr.

   The rescue of a young actress, Dalroa Dawning, from the unpleasant Junior and a chance meeting by Will Jervis on the train to California contribute to the next phase of the plot, the one where Carlos the chauffeur end up as chauffeur to the young actress starring in a movie being made about the King Carlos Aronhof that Will Jervis has just been hired as a technical director on having lost his diplomatic career for rescuing Carlos in the first place…

   Pretty soon Carlos is knee deep in assassins, revolutionaries, Secret Service, a plot to loot the crown jewels of Berania, gangsters, movie types, a romance with Dalroa, the now movie star whose chauffeur he becomes, is framed as a jewel thief, and faces myriad twists and turns before a final triumphal return to Berania to hopefully modernize his backward homeland so a real republic will eventually have a chance under the benevolent guidance of he and Queen Dalroa.

   No surprise Fred MacIsaac among other things had been a concert manager. for the opera since this book is operatic in the best sense. To be fair if you ever stop and think about it things tend to go off rail, but MacIsaac writes painless professional prose and never lets things drag. At each turn he introduces attractive new characters who may or may not be who they seem, and the result despite the serial-like nature of the plot the book is an entertaining and easy read, and an offbeat addition to the Ruritanian subgenre, adding gangsters and Hollywood to the mix created by Anthony Hope and George Barr McCutcheon.

   McIsaac was a staple of many of the better known pulps appearing regularly in Argosy, Detective Fiction Weekly, and others throughout the heyday of the pulps, a featured name on the cover of any issue he appeared in. His may not be a name to conjure with, but he never turned out less than competent prose, and here, at least, outdoes himself.

   The Altus Press edition is attractive and available as a paperback or ebook, a fast moving well written adventure tale you can easily imagine as a film from the era, although Hollywood would no doubt have added singing and dancing and maybe cowboys and rustlers. Even if it isn’t the full kitchen sink it’s enough of it for a delightful mix.

by Walker Martin

Dedicated to the memory of Rusty Hevelin.

   A TALE OF TWO CITIES by Charles Dickens is one of my favorite novels and starts off with the famous passage, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness”. It continues later, “…it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…” This just about sums up my feeling after Pulpfest 2018.

   So what happened? On the drive back home, what made me attack a vending machine which tried to keep my dollar bill? The thing was seven feet tall but somehow I was so energized and angry that I shook the small bag of pretzels loose. What made me walk away from arguing with a bunch of fellow collectors, muttering curses, and angry?

   People that have known me for a long time know that the love of my life is Pulpcon/Pulpfest. I’ve been attending them since the first one in 1972. My vacation plans are always scheduled around the convention, I’ve attended them with severe back problems, once against the advice of both my chiropractor and physician. I’ve even gone to the show when my employer said I could not go. Like my good pal Harry Noble, I’d probably attend even knowing I had a terminal illness.

   I see Pulpfest as a big event, a big party or picnic. I go to have a good time, not to argue with other collectors and finally walk away grumbling. I had heard rumors of a big announcement which was to be made at the business meeting. It still surprised me to hear the news that Pulpfest might go back to Columbus, Ohio next year and what’s more might be connected in some way with a comic book convention.

   The committee mentioned that assistance would be provided by an unnamed comic book dealer and convention organizer. As far as I know only very few collectors questioned this plan. I was one plus one committee member said he agreed with me and a couple other collectors were also doubtful.

   But most seemed to accept this news. You may notice I dedicated this report to Rusty Hevelin who was responsible for continuing Pulpcon for over 25 years. With Rusty I knew I could walk into the dealer’s room and not see piles of comic books, it would not be another science fiction convention, it would not be full of new pulp books written mainly by non-collectors and amateur writers. It would not be a nostalgia convention. By god, it would be a convention for pulp and book collectors even if only 100 to 200 showed up. They at least would be serious collectors often bringing boxes of pulps, books, vintage paperbacks, slicks, digest, and original art.

   Everybody seemed to be moaning about how the attendance was not growing but was stuck at about 375. Still, this was far more than the old Pulpcon ever achieved in 37 years. There may be a thousand or so pulp collectors in the US. But most of them won’t ever come to Pulpfest because of health problems, financial problems, or they can’t get away from their job or family responsibilities. 400 and something is about the maximum that we can expect, though the Windy City Convention has claimed to break the 500 mark. I really don’t see any big increase in attendance being possible unless we want to import a ton of comic collectors, new pulp people and walk ins that seldom buy anything.

   But I’m a pulp collector and I want to talk and deal with other pulp collectors. Many comic book collectors seem to like slabbing the books. I’m completely against this because I want to read the things. I don’t want them in a sealed plastic case. But comics are big money and pulps are not. I don’t see us co-existing at all. True, the committee has some personnel problems. Ed Hulse left a few years ago which I saw as a big blow. Bill Lampkin could not make it this year due to family responsibilities, Chuck Welch will soon be moving to Canada, Jack Cullers and Barry Traylor are my age which means they are getting older, to put it kindly.

   It’s time for me to talk about the convention and stop with my complaints, especially since I seem to have few supporters. Nothing has been decided yet by the committee and we will have to see what happens. I really like the Double Tree Hotel however and hope we return next year.

   First, the programming was outstanding as usual. I skipped the new pulp presentations because I don’t care about new pulp. They mainly strike me as non-collectors and as I have said many times, collectors are my favorite type of people. But Thursday the best thing on the program was Sai Shankar talking about the great WW I author, Leonard Nason. I’ve often wondered why people travel to Pulpfest and then miss the programming due to the fact they are stuffing their face.

   Well, I’ll be damned if I didn’t miss Sai Shankar, who is one of my friends, talking about one of my favorite ADVENTURE writers, Leonard Nason! His talk was scheduled for 8:40 and we sat down to eat in the hotel restaurant at 7:00 or perhaps even before 7:00. But the service was so slow that we were there forever and as a result we all missed Sai’s talk. Laurie Powers complained to the manager that due to the slow service we missed the program.

   Friday, there were three panels I enjoyed mainly because I have problems with the subjects. I love the art of the men’s adventure magazines and have collected it in the past. I mean what is there not to love about Nazis turning girls into gold ingots? No wonder they lost the war! Bob Deis and Wyatt Doyle talked about the art and the fiction. I often have problems with the fiction but I love the magazines anyway. I know the WW II vets loved them also! They had a table full of their latest books including POLLEN’S WOMEN: The Art of Samson Pollen. I hope they can publish a reference book listing and discussing the many men’s adventure titles. We need such a guide book.

   Then I liked the panel on the air war pulps hosted by Don Hutchison. Bill Mann, Chris Kalb and company are doing a great job reprinting many authors of the aviation magazines. I have problem reading these stories but I’m working on it and hope to someday be able to appreciate the fiction. Finally the son of John Fleming Gould talked about his father’s art.

   Saturday, started off with the dreaded business meeting which just about ruined my evening but the announcement that Bill Lampkin had been awarded the Munsey Award cheered me up. Bill edits the excellent PULPSTER magazine and is also on the committee. Then the guest of honor, Joe Lansdale, was interviewed. David Saunders gave an excellent talk on the Art of the War Pulps. David discusses art at each Pulpfest and I hope this tradition continues.

   For just about the first time the auction was scheduled for two evenings at Pulpfest. Usually the auction is only one night but there was so many lots, over 400 total! Both nights the auction lasted from 10 pm to past 1 am. Some collectors griped that there was nothing at the auction. I disagree. Friday night saw a run of ARGOSY from the thirties, almost 600 issues of WILD WEST WEEKLY from 1927 through 1943, a set of PLANET STORIES, and many miscellaneous lots. The highest priced item by far was the five boxes of Al Tonik’s research papers. It went for $2000.00.

   Saturday night saw many lots of WESTERN STORY, many sport titles, and the best conditioned set of SF digests that I have ever seen, and I’ve been collecting for over 60 years. The entire run of these magazines were in astonishing beautiful condition. Nice paper, new looking covers, that great scent of new magazines. I had them all but I was tempted to buy them all just for the beautiful condition. Seeing these lovely magazines reminded me once again about why I am a collector. They are beautiful. Sets of AMAZING, FANTASTIC, GALAXY, ASIMOV’S, ANALOG, F&SF, IF, NEW WORLDS, SCIENCE FANTASY, NEBULA, and IMAGINATION. The IMAGINATION set may be the prettiest thing I’ve seen in a long time. Though I had them all already, I bought the 5 lots making up the over 200 digest issues of AMAZING because the condition was just so much better than my own set.

   THE PULPSTER, number 27, was the usual excellent issue. 48 large size pages discussing Arthur Sullivant Hoffman’s ADVENTURE, the American Legion in ADVENTURE, artist George Evans and the aviation pulps, Philip Jose Farmer, and a great letter from a college student talking about her the summers she worked for Popular Publications.

   I was told that attendance was around the 375 mark which I think was great. The dealer’s room was always buzzing with a lot of activity. The hospitality room was well stocked with craft beer and one night about a dozen pizzas were delivered.

   Hopefully soon we will see two new magnificent books about pulp titles we seldom talk about. Laurie Powers book on the romance pulps and the life of Daisy Bacon, the excellent editor of LOVE STORY and DETECTIVE STORY. Michelle Nolan’s book on the sport pulp titles should also be a groundbreaking book on a seldom discussed topic. We desperately need books like these two because I’m tired of the same old hero pulp discussion. I know, I know, everyone loves the hero pulps but after all they were aimed at the teenage boy market and are not really adult fiction. Let’s talk about something new like love and sports!

   So, you may be wondering what did I buy? Actually this was one of the better Pulpfests for me finding unusual items. As I mention already above, I bought at the auction a lovely set of AMAZING, 1953-1980’s. Simply stunning condition. Here is a listing of what else I found of great interest:

1–Lot of 54 of the 71 isssues of AMRA. AMRA was a SF fanzine published between 1959 and 1982. Edited by George Scithers, it was famous mainly for the articles on Swords and Sorcery. The famous artists and authors that appeared in the magazine are too numerous to name but include Roy Krenkel, Poul Anderson, L. Sprague de Camp, Avram Davidson, Fritz Leiber, Michael Moorcock, and many more. AMRA won the Hugo for best fanzine in 1964 and 1968.

   I bought these from Chet Williamson who also sold an interesting Hammett item to someone else and some rare ALL STORY issues. I was a subscriber to AMRA but I sold my issues a long time ago and now I’m rebuilding the set, something I done so many times, with so many magazines.

2–THE AGE OF THE STORYTELLERS: British Popular Fiction Magazines, 1880-1950 by Mike Ashley. This book was published at a hundred dollars but at only $25 I had to get this second copy to add to my first copy. That’s right, the book is so great that you must buy two copies!

3–A framed, signed drawing by the great Edd Cartier. This was only $225 so I had to add it to my Cartier collection which now numbers over 15 drawings. You can never have too many Cartier drawings.

4–A framed painting by pulp collector Lester Belcher showing Sonny Tabor riding on a horse. I knew Lester and he was not an artist but he loved WILD WEST WEEKLY, so he attempted to paint one of the characters from the magazine. I consider it a great piece of “outsider” art done by one of my former friends that I miss. Price at the auction was only $10. Everyone thought it poorly done but to me, knowing Lester, it is priceless.

5–A Richard Powers painting for the Ballantine 1964 paperback, TARZAN AND THE CITY OF GOLD. Done in a different style than usual with Powers. After I bought it the art dealer told me two other collectors stopped by and were disappointed to learn that it had been sold.

6–Two Guest of Honor plaques from Pulpcon. I already have the one given to Walter Baumhofer but I couldn’t pass up these two. One was from 1994 and given to artist R. G. Harris in Tucson. It shows four cover paintings that he did for the pulps. The second is a real treasure since Elmer Kelton was one of the great western writers. It was given to him when he was the guest at the Pulpcon in 1998. It shows four covers from RANCH ROMANCES containing four of his early stories. I hunted for these plaques for decades, now I have three of them!

7–Now the most unusual story of them all. I now have three cover paintings of the paperback western BADLANDS BOSS by Bradford Scott. All by the same artist, Rudy Nappi. It’s possible that there is no other cover painting that was painted three times by the same artist. Back in the early 1980’s I bought the original cover painting at Pulpcon for $100.

   Then several years later I was at Al Tonik’s house for a Tonikcon and there was the same cover by Rudy Nappi also. Al explained that he was not aware the the original cover had survived and so he commissioned Rudy Nappi to paint an exact recreation of the cover. Price he paid was also $100. But the painting was damaged in the mail when the board was bent in order to stick in Al’s mailbox. So he contacted Nappi and told him the sad story and Nappi agreed to paint the painting again for no charge. So now Al had two paintings.

   He gave me the damaged one and kept the good one. Actually you can’t see the damage until you look closely and see the board has been bent. Then after Al Tonik’s death what comes up for auction? The third Rudy Nappi cover painting of the same paperback. Since I had two I had to buy the third one also and got it for only $30 at the auction. You can’t make up such an insane story.

   So ends my report. Despite my complaints, I truly appreciate the hard work of the committee. Thanks Mike Chomko, Jack Cullers, Sally Cullers, Bill Lampkin, Chuck Welch, and Barry Traylor. Plus the many helpers, and of course thanks to for Sai Shankar for the use of some of the photos he took during the convention. Stay tuned to pulpfest.com for news of next yea’s show.


BORDEN CHASE Diamonds of Death

  BORDEN CHASE – Diamonds of Death. Hart, paperback original, 1947. First serialized as “Blue-White and Perfect,” Argosy, 18 Sept-23 Oct, 1937. Filmed as Blue, White and Perfect, 1941.

   A while back, I read and reviewed Borden Chase’s novel Red River and found it surprisingly hammy from a writer known for his laconic screenplays. So I decided to give him another try and fished out Diamonds of Death, the first novel edition of Chase’s pulp novelette, “Blue-White and Perfect.”

   This is that rarity, a dumb mystery that doesn’t insult one’s intelligence. The “surprise” criminal may be obvious early on, but Chase speeds his story through so many curves one hasn’t time to carp, as hero Smooth Kyle (I guess some folks don’t care what they name their kids) chases diamond smugglers from Broadway to Havana and back again.

BORDEN CHASE Diamonds of Death

   Chase provides his hero with a wise-cracking girlfriend, buddies in the Customs Office, and enough bad guys to felonize a dozen books like this, ranging from cheap hoods to smooth operators, phony dowagers, fake cops… I could go on, but readers of this sort of thing have met them before, and those who haven’t probably couldn’t appreciate the pulpy splendor of the piece, as Chase fills his story with glittering diamonds, luxury liners, exploding airplanes and elegant mansions, all of which impart a feel of extravagance without actually costing anything to write about.

   I’ll just add that the original pulp novel was bought by Fox for their “Michael Shayne” series back in the 40s, movies notable for pace, casting, and for the fact that the producers used only one Mike Shayne novel in the whole series, apparently preferring to impose their hero into stories by other authors, including Clayton Rawson, Frederick Nebel and even Raymond Chandler!

   Anyway, Borden Chase’s story suits the character quite well, and reading this one can almost hear Lloyd Nolan’s snappy banter as he stalks through the studio back lot.

ERLE STANLEY GARDNER “Lord of the High Places.” Speed Dash #12. Top-Notch Magazine, February 1, 1928.

   When I started reading this story, I was under the distinct impression that it was the very first appearance of Richard “Speed” Dash, since Gardner spent so much space explaining who he was and what skills he had. Not so. I was wrong about that. With the resources available to anyone on the Internet in today’s world, it was not difficult to learn that it came along well after the middle of the series. Speed Dash’s first adventure into crime-solving appeared in the February 1, 1925, issue of Top-Notch Magazine. There were twenty in all, all for the same magazine.

   In his early days Speed Dash worked in side shows and circuses as an acrobat, or in particular a so-called “human fly,” with the strength and ability to climb nearly perpendicular surfaces, using, we are told, only the tips of his fingers. But after doing a regime of experimental exercises prescribed by a noted psychiatrist, he developed what is called in the vernacular a photographic memory, and he decided to turn his talent to crime-solving.

   In “Lord of the High Places” he his hired by a rich debutante who is looking for adventure. She has been shown a map of hidden treasure on an island somewhere in the South Seas, and wanting some excitement in her otherwise boring life, she has agreed to finance the venture, but only if she can convince Speed Dash to come along.

   The map is a phony, of course, and Dash is prepared for that, but what he does not plan on is that all of his backup contingencies will fail, and he and the two women are quickly caught between the gang they came in with, another rival gang of pirates, and the savage natives already on the island. See the cover for the means that Dash finds of making his escape. It is quite accurate.

   This is the first adventure of Speed Dash I have read, and it will probably be the last, as I have sold off all my copies of Top-Notch Magazine in which his adventures were recorded. I do not think I am missing anything, however. Action-adventure is not typical Erle Stanley Gardner fare, and he is no better than average at it. Many pulp writers knew their exotic locales a whole better than I think Gardner did.

   An interesting change-of-pace, in other words, but far from essential, even for Gardner fans.

  SCOTT CAMPBELL “The Case of the Vanished Bonds.” Felix Boyd #1. The Popular Magazine, February 1904. Collected in Below the Dead-Line (Street & Smith, paperback; 1906; G. W. Dilingham Co., hardcover, March 2006). Currently available in various Print on Demand editions. Silent Film: Edison, 1915, with Robert Conness as Felix Boyd.

   The foreword to the hardcover edition credits New York City police inspector Thomas Byrne for creating the phrase “below the deadline” referring to “the immediate arrest of every crook found day or night in that part of the metropolis lying south of Fulton Street.” This includes (I am told) Wall Street and the location of the fabulous diamond houses of that era.

   Felix Boyd is something of a mystery man. He is hired by a distraught banker whose shipment by single messenger of valuable bonds has gone missing en route to the sub-treasury where they were being sent. But when the case is solved, he refuses payment for succeeding, remarking that he is paid by the year, not the job, evidently by some third party not yet identified.

   The messenger, quite trusted, it seems went straight from the banker’s office to the sub-treasury, but when he arrived, the bonds were gone from his bag, but the gold inside still there.

   Some investigation on Boyd’s part, however, reveals that he did stop once, to talk to an acquaintance on a doorstep with the bag on the ground. The solution from there is easy enough, but it does require Boyd, described as an American Sherlock Holmes, to disguise himself as a Jewish gentleman to elicit information from the foreman of the work crew inside the building where the messenger had stopped.

    Ordinarily this statement may fall into the category of too much information, but since you nor anyone else is likely to read this story any time soon, it is not likely for me to lose any sleep over it.

   I have not yet read any of the other stories in the book, of which there are eleven more, but I enjoyed this one enough that I will, even though the detection is, shall we say, rather rudimentary. But besides a mystery boss for Mr. Boyd, there is a mystery mastermind behind the theft of the bonds, but he gets away, only to be behind the scenes again in upcoming adventures.

ERLE STANLEY GARDNER “At Arm’s Length.” Detective Fiction Weekly, December 9, 1938. Included in the collection The Case of the Crimson Kiss (Morrow, hardcover, 1970).

   The reason I’ve chosen “At Arm’s Length” to talk about is not because it’s one of his better ones, for it isn’t, but because… Well, here’s how the blurb for the story on the contents page puts it:

  “Lester Leith, Perry Mason, Jax Keene (sic), Senor Lobo! Look to your laurels! Jerry Marr, toughest dick in captivity, is on the scene.” (Raise your hand if you know who Jax Keen was.)

   Or in other words, “At Arm’s Length” serves as the introduction of a brand new character in Mr. Gardner’s long list of same — as well as his only appearance. It’s not that it’s a terrible story, for it isn’t, but in 1939 career writing for the pulp magazines was winding down. He was making good money with the Perry Mason books, and the first Donald Lam & Bertha Cool novel also came out in 1939.

   There are overtones of Lester Leith in this tale. Jerry Marr is the kind of guy who reads a pair of unconnected stories in a newspaper, put two and two together and get five — and cash in his pocket. The lead story of the day is that of a murdered society girl, but what catches Jerry Marr’s eye is a story on page four about a man seen sweeping up large tacks on a street nearby.

   Marr is also a semi-hardboiled kind of PI. What his does is, to put it bluntly, blackmail a possible suspect in the murder case into hiring him. Or at least he would be a suspect if Marr told the police what he knows.

   Marr has a girl friend named Lorrain Dell, and not only do you get the idea that he and she are closer than Perry and Della ever were, but he allows her to do some of his legwork for him. This doesn’t work out all that well when he discovers that Lorrain has pushed someone’s buttons too far, and she ends up a captive. Not only that, but Jerry Marr pulls a Mannix, well before Mannix came along, and is knocked on the head at one point in the story by some unknown malefactor into a short oblivion

   It all works out fine, though, almost making Marr’s client-under-duress happy. The key word is almost, because Marr’s primary motivation, as stated above, is cash in hand.

   Reading back the last few paragraphs to myself, I see that I may have made the story sound better than it is. It isn’t, but nor is it terrible, either.

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