Pulp Fiction


REVIEWED BY DAVID VINEYARD:



CORNELL WOOLRICH
“I’m Dangerous Tonight.” All American Fiction, November 1937 (Volume 1, Number 1). Collected in (among others): The Fantastic Stories of Cornell Woolrich Southern Illinois University Press, hardcover, 1981; Vampire’s Honeymoon, Carroll & Graf, paperback, 1985. Available as a free download (various options) from www.archives.org.

    — “Señor Flatfoot.” Argosy Weekly, February 03, 1940. Collected as “One Night in Zacamoras” in Six Nights of Mystery, Popular Library #258, paperback 1950, as by William Irish. Readable online at www.unz.org.


   THE thing, whatever it was — and no one was ever sure afterwards whether it was a dream or a fit or what — happened at that peculiar hour before dawn when human vitality is at its lowest ebb. The Blue Hour they sometimes call it, l’heure bleue — the ribbon of darkness between the false dawn and the true, always blacker than all the rest of the night has been before it.

   “I’m Dangerous Tonight” is one of those stories that edge the fringe of the supernatural, hint, snap, and pull back from going too far, but only just. It’s almost a Janus Solution story (term coined by Frank McSherry) save the supernatural has a bit more weight than the natural.

   Like many of Woolrich’s plots, it doesn’t bear too much thinking about. The setting is Paris, where a disgraced FBI agent, Frank Fisher, is out to find Fed killer Belden, head of a dope-smuggling ring. Swirling around those events is a cursed dress that seems to make women go mad with evil, and acts as a catalyst to the events that end Fisher’s quest. Fate looms heavy, and every woman who wears the gown feels its siren’s call, “I’m dangerous tonight…”

   Fisher is bitter, guilt-ridden, and -driven. Belden is a back-shooting murderer and dope pusher, and the dress itself is simply evil. It is Gothic noir out of the Weird Menace pulps with just a hint of madness.

   There is always a rational explanation for everything in this world — whether it’s the true one or not. Maybe it is better so.

   If not in the front rank of the master’s work, this is nonetheless a fine example of the kind of power and control Woolrich could exert, grabbing the reader by the lapels and whispering of unkind and uncaring blind fate, here stalking from the fine shops of Paris to the smoky Apache haunted nightclubs, with doomed people briefly finding love and even bad men finding something worse than them moving just beyond the lights.

   No one ever wrote more convincingly of what lurked just beyond the light than Woolrich.

   I chose these two stories, not only because I read them recently, but because they could not be less alike, save the voice for both is distinctly that of Woolrich.

   Where “I’m Dangerous Tonight” suggests something ancient and evil, “Señor Flatfoot” is a straight forward action tale that was well suited to Argosy, and an example of something of the variety of Woolrich’s work, which encompassed, not only suspense and the weird, but also adventure, a hint of science fiction (“Jane Brown’s Body”),international intrigue (“Tokyo 1941”), and romance, as might be expected of anyone successful in a pulp career.

   O’ROURKE was enjoying a gin-and-lime under the arcade fronting the Plaza when the government changed on him. Or around him, whichever way you care to put it.

   “Flatfoot,” which incidentally was the cover story for that issue of the famous pulp, opens with the New York cop of the title in Latin America on a matter or extradition (waiting for his prisoner to get over typhoid in the local hospital), but before he can accomplish that job, he’ll find himself in the middle of a revolution amid beautiful dark eyed and passionate young women, ambitious generals with an eye for wristwatches, and up to his neck in murder.

   While fully in the Woolrich vein, the hero of “Flatfoot” could as easily have come out of Black Mask or one of those Warner Brothers movies about tough New York types in exotic locales. It’s hard not to wonder reading it if maybe you didn’t see Pat O’Brien in the film somewhere and have it stored in your memory palace as half a dozen other films.

   At times you can nearly hear O’Brien narrating.

   Things get more complicated when O’Rourke is recruited to display his skills as a detective to solve a murder that arises, not that you would think it would matter much with all the dead piling up around him.

   Of course O’Rourke ties it up all neatly:

   “I don’t want thanks,” remonstrated O’Rourke, wrinkling his forehead at her. “You don’t thank a duck for swimming or a bird for flying, do you? I just don’t know any different, that’s all. That’s my job; that’s why they call me flatfoot.”

   Neither story is a lost masterpiece by Woolrich (neither is reprinted much either, especially “Señor Flatfoot.”). Both are solid and entertaining pulp tales though, and each in its way shows just how much in control of the material he was as a professional. O’Rourke’s little coda could almost be Woolrich speaking. Writing was his job, and even in a lesser mode he did it well, and with an economy and skill that was admirable.

CHRISTOPHER B. BOOTH – Mr. Clackworthy. Chelsea House, hardcover, 1926.

   What I know about Booth is that he was a prolific writer for the pulp magazines in the 1920s and 30s, with just under three and a half pages of entries in Cook and Miller’s Mystery, Detective, and Espionage Fiction. These are only the detective stories. On Bill Contento’s FictionMags site, I also see a smattering of western stories for him, and these are only the tip of the iceberg, as relatively few of the western magazines have been indexed yet.

   According to Al Hubin’s Crime Fiction IV, Booth wrote ten novels under his own name, all from Chelsea House, and eight more as by John Jay Chichester, also all from Chelsea House. Also to his credit is one book on which he shared the writing duties, and that was with Isabel Ostrander, another long-time writer for the pulps.

   To point out that you can not always trust the Internet for factual information, some sites suggest that Christopher B. Booth was a pseudonym for Isabel Ostrander. Not so, even though Ostrander (who died in 1924) really was the lady behind ‘Robert Orr Chipperfield,’ ‘David Fox,’ and ‘Douglas Grant.’

   Chelsea House was the hardcover publishing arm of Street & Smith Publications, which also produced Detective Story Magazine, where most (all?) of the novels were serialized first.

   Or cobbled together out of short stories, as was the book at hand, Mr. Clackworthy. There are nine of them in this volume. Of the book which was the sequel to this one, Mr. Clackworthy, Con Man, I do not know if the same is true. Hubin in CFIV does not say yes, which may very well mean no. (I suspect the answer is yes, however.)

   Enough of the general background, I suppose. To get down to business, you should know first of all (or based on the second title, you may have already deduced) that Mr. Clackworthy was one of those protagonists so often on the wrong side of the law in the 1920s, a con man. I imagine someone could write a thesis if not a dissertation on such individuals in the world of crime fiction.

   Here is an off-the-wall question. What character in what novel(s) would qualify as the last in the line of such con men, preying mostly on the rich and unscrupulous, but not necessarily giving to the poor, of which Mr. Clackworthy does not make a general practice?

   I am not an expert, so nor will I even attempt to list any of the other characters who would fall into the category. If you can help, please do, otherwise we shall leave the matter to someone who needs a thesis if not a dissertation on their academic record. (Of course such a someone then would be also obliged to put into perspective WHY con men who preyed mostly on the rich and unscrupulous were so prevalent in the 1920s. One can guess, though.)

   As a start to such a project, it belatedly occurs to me, if you will allow such an interjection such as this, may be Yesterday’s Faces #3 : From the Dark Side, by Robert Sampson (Bowling Green Press, 1987), a rollicking account of all sorts of bad guys who inhabited the pages of the pulp magazines.

   And by the way, before it slips my mind and we head off into the review itself, I would like to point out that in the pages of Detective Story Magazine Mr. Clackworthy met another of that magazine’s regular characters, Johnston McCulley’s lisping pickpocket, Thubway Tham, on at least one occasion: “Mr. Clackworthy and Thubway Tham” (Detective Story Magazine, March 4, 1922). Even though Cook-Miller suggests that only Booth was the author, this may be the first team-up on record between two characters created first by two separate authors. (Does one count, however, Arsene Lupin Versus Holmlock Shears, by Maurice LeBlanc, Richards, 1909? One must posit some ground rules, one supposes.)

   Further investigation into the subject reveals another story of interest: “Thubway Tham and Mr. Clackworthy,” by Johnston McCulley (Detective Story Magazine, February 18, 1922, or two issues earlier). You can read this story in the recent edition of Tham thtories from Wildside Press, Tales of Thubway Tham, although in that edition the story is called “Thubway Tham Meets Mr. Clackworthy.”

   One source does suggest that the team-up was a three-part serial. This may be so, but if indeed it is, I have not yet uncovered a third tale in the triptych, and to this date, the matter rests, for now.

   Let’s get on with the review. The best way to do that, I decided the moment I started reading it, is to quote the opening paragraphs, right from the beginning:

   “The greed of the human heart!” Mr. Amos Clackworthy, confidence man deluxe, sighed as he laid down his newspaper, which was folded to the want ad pages. He had been for some time engrossed in an analytical perusal of the “Business Chances” column.

   James Early, whose record at police headquarters credited him with the alias of “The Early Bird,” was standing at the window of Mr. Clackworthy’s [Chicago] Sheridan Road apartment, gazing glumly at the stream of traffic that flowed past in its usual Sunday afternoon flood. The Early Bird was a lost soul during those times when there was none of Mr. Clackworthy’s nefarious schemes under way to occupy his mind and to keep his wits sharpened.>P>

   All con men naturally work on the concept of greed, as many a Nigerian knows full well today. Booth’s prose style is not all that dissimilar to that of his contemporary (at the time), Erle Stanley Gardner, whose Lester Leith stories for Detective Fiction Weekly started out in very much the same fashion.

   Most of Mr. Clackworthy’s victims well deserve it — greedy bankers, swindlers, unscrupulous investors, and so on – getting their comeuppance in a rough and tumble sort of justice, in a naive, twinkle-in-the-eye sort of way, but even innocent banks sometimes fell afoul of his various and sundry plots and plans. (But were banks truly innocent of wrongdoing in the 1920s? Perhaps Booth’s readers did not really think so.)

   In any case, these stories were written, read and enjoyed in a different time and place. If you’re read this far into the review and other commentary, however, I see no reason why you shouldn’t read and enjoy them, too, even if no one is writing them like this any more.

— November 2005


UPDATE #1: Thanks to the eagle-eyed Monte Herridge, one of the nine stories has been identified so far. It is “Mr. Clackworthy Tells the Truth,” from the October 19, 1920, issue of Detective Story Magazine, the cover of which is shown here to the right. If and when others are identified, you will read about it here first.

   This particular story, amazingly enough, can be read online. (Follow the link.) What is interesting is that some editing was done when the story appeared in book form. Small descriptive sentences and paragraphs were removed. If you want to read the complete text, in other words, you have to go back to the primary source.


UPDATE #2. Very early on this blog, some 10 years ago now, I posted the results of my continued research into the stories in the three collections of Clackworthy stories, identifying as many as possible of the stories contained in each. (The third collection was published by Wildside Press in 2006.) You can read the post here.

DASHIELL HAMMETT – The Big Book of the Continental Op. RICHARD LAYMAN & JULIE RIVETT, Editors. Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, softcover, 28 November 2017. 752 pages.

    “Now for the first time ever in one volume, all twenty-eight stories and two serialized novels starring the Continental Op — one of the greatest characters in storied history of detective fiction.”

    What else do you need to know? I’ve been waiting for this book for almost 60 years. And now here it is, at last, all but three stories appearing first in Black Mask magazine, and all reprinted as they first appeared.

                    

TICKET TO A CRIME. Beacon Productions, 1934. Ralph Graves (PI Clay Holt), Lola Lane, Lois Wilson, James Burke, Charles Ray, Edward Earle, Hy Hoover, John Elliott. Based on the story of the same title by Carroll John Daly (Dime Detective Magazine, Oct 1 1934). Director: Lewis D. Collins.

   According to IMDb, this is the only movie based on the work of one of the most popular pulp fiction writers of his day, Carroll John Daly. He was a pioneer in the rough and tough PI genre, but his crude writing style has relegated him to an all-but-unknown status except to fans of the field.

   Daly’s most famous character was probably a gun-slinging private eye named Race Williams. Equally violent was a hardboiled police cop by the name of Satan Hall, who in his many adventures racked up nearly as many bodies as Williams. PI Clay Holt, the featured protagonist of this movie as well as the story it was based on, had only six recorded cases, four of them for Dime Detective.

   I’ve not read any of his adventures, but I can tell you this. The movie is not very good. Not if you want anything resembling an actual detective or mystery story. The plot has something to do with some diamonds that are worth $50,000, but beyond that, I cannot tell you more.

   Most of the just over 60 minutes worth of running time are taken up by (1) Holt suddenly coming to realize that his secretary (Lola Lane), who he hasn’t paid in six weeks, is actually beautiful once she takes her glasses off and dresses up for a gala party he invites her to by default (all of the other entries in his little black book turn him down).

   And (2) the humorously antagonistic byplay between Holt and his former buddy on the police force, Detective Lt. John Aloysius McGinnis (James Burke). Without either (1) or (2), there’d be absolutely nothing to see here. Even so, the movie seems to be far far longer than its actual running time.

ROBERT BLOCH “The Cloak.” First published in Unknown, May 1939. First collected in The Opener of the Way (Arkham House, hardcover, 1945). Reprinted many times, including: Dracula’s Guest and Other Stories, edited by Victor Ghidalia (Xerox, paperback, 1972); Magic for Sale, edited by Avram Davidson (Ace, paperback, 1983); Vamps: An Anthology of Female Vampire Stories, edited by Martin H. Greenberg (Daw, paperback, 1987); American Fantastic Tales: Terror and the Uncanny from Poe to the Pulps, edited by Peter Straub (Library of America, hardcover, 2008). Film: Adapted as Part Four of The House That Dripped Blood (Amicus, 1971; reviewed here ).

   The list of places above where this small but obviously effective short story has appeared only scratches the surface, but what’s especially rewarding is seeing it progress from the pages of a 20 cent pulp magazine to a $35 hardcover from the prestigious Library of America.

   It’s one of those stories that begins, more or less, in one of those strange out-of-the-way shops that dot the side streets of the poorer sections of large cities, open for a while and perhaps only to pre-selected customers, only to disappear as mysteriously as they appeared, or to go up in flames, the owners vanished or even destroyed along with it.

   It is Halloween and a man named Henderson is looking for a costume. The shop owner in this case offers him the cloak — not a cloak, but the cloak — and once Henderson puts it one, he is a new man — or is he?

   What he definitely is is the center of attention at the party he attends that night. He is attracted to the neck of his fat host. Most positively attracted to him is a girl dressed as an angel — or is she?

   Told in Robert Bloch’s invariably easy to read writing style, the reader is always one step ahead of the main protagonist, until, that is, he meets the girl above, named Sheila, and once she is met, you are not exactly sure which way the rest of the tale is going to go. You think you do, but you’re not quite sure. Exactly where you should be at this stage of a story well told.

   I’ve asked Dick Etulain, the author of the following book to tell us more about it. He’s most graciously agreed:

RICHARD W. ETULAIN – Ernest Haycox and the Western. University of Oklahoma Press, hardcover, illustrated, 2017.

   This book attempts to resurrect writer Ernest Haycox as a major figure in the development of the fictional Western. It is not a biography; Haycox’s son, Ernest Haycox, Jr., does that in his smoothly written book On a Silver Desert: The Life of Ernest Haycox (2003). Nor is it primarily a work of literary criticism. That book is available in Stephen L. Tanner, Ernest Haycox (1996).

   Rather, my book is a work of literary history, tracing Haycox’s literary career from its origins in the early 1920s to his death in 1950.

   Born in 1899 and reared in Oregon, Haycox contributed to high school publications and then to college outlets at Reed College (1919-20) and the University of Oregon (1920-23). By graduation, Haycox had published several stories in pulp magazines. Hoping to establish strong links to fictional outlets in the East, Haycox traveled to New York City, where he met editors important to his career in the 1920s. Meeting Jill Marie Chord (also from Oregon) on the train east, they married in New York City but soon returned west to Portland, which would be the Haycox home for the remainder of his life.

   By the end of the 1920s, Haycox was a steady contributor to many pulp magazines, including such stalwarts as Adventure, Short Stories, and Western Story Magazine. In 1928, he published his first full-length serial, which appeared the next year as Free Grass, his first novel. In the opening 1930s, Haycox made his first appearance in Collier’s and remained a steady contributor for almost twenty years.

   Hoping to move to the top of writers of Westerns, Haycox experimented with several new wrinkles to chosen genre. He created reflective protagonists (“Hamlet heroes”) and dark and light heroines (passionate and reserved women).

   Even more important, he began to turn out historical Westerns, infusing his lively fiction with historical backgrounds such as building the transcontinental railroad, fighting Indians in the Southwest, and settling Oregon. His most notable historical Western was Bugles in the Afternoon (1944), a fictional recreation of Gen. George Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

   Immensely successful, Haycox was nonetheless dissatisfied with the restrictions of the Western and entered a period of revolt in the last half-dozen years (1944-50) of his career. Abandoning lucrative serial markets, he set out to write first-rate historical fiction. His best historical novel, The Earthbreakers (1952), appeared two years after his death.

   Talented, ambitious, and driven, Ernest Haycox became a major figure in popular fiction written about the American West. Haycox’s continuing growth, gradual but steady, amply demonstrates an author determined enough to defy popular demands and honest enough to write novels consistent with his changing literary beliefs.

LESLIE T. WHITE “Tough Guy.” Reprinted in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, September-October 2017. This issue’s Mystery Classic, selected and introduced by Jim Doherty. First published in Liberty, 21 June 1941. Reprinted in Liberty Quarterly: 19 Tales of Intrigue, Mystery & Adventure (Vol. 1, No. 1, ca. 1950).

    In his introduction to this story, Jim Doherty makes a solid case for Leslie White as one of the very first practitioners of the police procedural novel. Up for discussion in particular are Me, Detective (1936), a biographical account of White’s own career, Harness Bull (1937), and Homicide (1937).

    Most of White’s work was done for the pulp magazines, producing as he did well over 100 short stories for that market, beginning with “Phoney Evidence” in The Dragnet Magazine, January 1930. To substantiate his case, Doherty describes some of White’s career in police work, and how he used it to give all of his crime fiction a solid, believable setting.

    “Tough Guy” was written toward the end of his pulp fiction days, and that’s even a stretch, as Liberty magazine was not really a pulp. It’s the story of a tough cop named Gahagan who lives for nothing other than his job, a primary part of which is nailing a notorious killer and crime boss by the name of Danny Trumbull.

    Things go awry in his life when the trail leads him to Trumbull’s eight-year-old daughter Penny, who lives alone with her father but who has no idea how totally bad he is. This one starts out in full tilt pulp mode, but by the end, it’s become, as you might have expected, a long way from being a hard-boiled tale of a tough guy cop. Quite the opposite.

    Which does not make it a bad story, by any means. In fact, I enjoyed this one more than any of the other twelve stories in this latest issue of AHMM, many of them (to my mind) rather weak efforts and/or not interesting to me. It’s starting to get difficult to justify spending $7.99 an issue for a magazine that I can’t get excited about any more.

REVIEWED BY DAVID VINEYARD:


BLACKMAIL. Republic Pictures, 1947. William Marshall, Adele Mara, Ricardo Cortez, Grant Withers, Stephanie Bachelor, Richard Fraser, Roy Barcroft, George J. Lewis, Tristam Coffin, Eva Novak. Screenplay: Royal K. Cole & Albert deMond, based on the story “Stock Shot” by Robert Leslie Bellem in the July 1944 issue of Speed Detective. (Added later; see comments.) Director: Lesley Selander.

   So, the folks over at Republic, acquire this story by Robert Leslie Bellem about none other than our pal Dan Turner, the Hollywood Detective, he of the colorful patter and the dames falling at his feet and mostly out of what clothes they are barely wearing, inspiring some of the most outrageous euphemisms for the female anatomy in the history of the English language.

   Assuming it is the English language. With Dan Turner you can’t be sure.

   Anyway, here is our Dan (William Marshall) sporting the moniker Daniel J. Turner, a New York Eye imported to Hollywood to work for big time playboy Ziggy Cranston (Ricardo Cortez, and no relation to Lamont) who owns among other assets a radio network.

   Seems Ziggy has been playing with some rough types, and he is so scared he even pulls a gun on Dan. Lucky for Ziggy, Dan is playing nice and doesn’t slug him the way he did Ziggy’s chauffeur who tried to crease Dan’s pork pie with a wrench by way of greeting.

   Everybody is on edge but Dan, and you don’t want to get Dan on edge.

   Turns out Ziggy is a playboy first class, and somebody is blackmailing him claiming to have evidence he murdered a singer of the very female type. Ziggy swears the chanteuse wasn’t killed by him, but he wants the blackmailer off his back and can’t afford the bad publicity.

   Even though Dan has traveled across the country, he’s not so sure he wants to get involved. Too bad for him, the blackmailers already figure he is involved and would like to do something permanent about that.

   Like six feet under permanent.

   As you might expect, Dan is soon up to his eyebrows in wise cracks, fists, and dames like classy Sylvia Duane (Adele Mara) plus hoods with names like Spice Kellaway, Blue Chip Winslow, and Pinky (Roy Barcroft, George J. Lewis, and Tristam Coffin), a Pepe Le Peu named Antoine le Blanc (Richard Fraser) and a tough cop named Donaldson who would like Dan to quit shooting up the local hoodlums and go back to New York.

   Not our Dan though. Not when Ziggy is arrested for yet another murder, and only Dan has the grey matter needed to untwist the tangled web of who murdered whom and why, and drive Donaldson batty too.

   It’s a pretty fast paced affair you might enjoy if you take off your size twelves and sit back with a bourbon and chaser to ease you over the bumpy parts. The screenplay at least tries to capture something of Dan’s colorful badinage, and if the dames aren’t quite as pneumatic as those in Mr. Bellem’s stories, well, those models didn’t come along until a few years later with the likes of MM, Jayne, Diana D, and Mamie.

   The Marshall guy tries hard, and at times almost succeeds though he’s plenty vanilla for a guy as colorful as Dan Turner. And it is a Republic picture so the fights are first class. Nobody can fault a Republic stuntman when it comes to action.

   But I have to admit I sure wish the censor had shut his sensitive little ears and let Dan riff on some of his favorite anatomical assets. That Bellem music is unique like Krupa on the drums or Harry James on the horn, and this little cinema masterpiece could sure use it, hard as it tries.

COMMENTS BY BARRY GARDNER:


WILLIAM F. NOLAN – The Black Mask Murders. Black Mask Boys #1. St. Martin’s, hardcover, 1994. No softcover edition.

   There’s probably no one better suited to do a novel featuring Dashiel Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Erle Stanley Gardner as detectives than Nolan, a Hammett expert of the first order and [editor] of The Black Mask Boys (1985), a homage to the pulp. This, the first book in a projected series, is narrated by Hammett, and plans call for the narration to rotate among the three in future volumes.

   I’m not going into the plot any more than to tell you it involves gangsters and a maguffin, as I didn’t enjoy the book enough to finish it. Though obviously a labor of love on Nolan’s part, I couldn’t reward it with the same feeling.

   It isn’t badly done, I just don’t particularly care for the type, and using mystery writers for the characters didn’t change my feelings as I’d thought it might. Nolan’s a competent writer, and if you like Kaminsky’s Toby Peters books I think you’d like this too.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #13, June 1994.


             The Black Mask Boys series —

The Black Mask Murders (1994).
The Marble Orchard (1996).

Sharks Never Sleep (1998).

CONVENTION REPORT: PulpFest 2017
by Walker Martin

   Once again, five over the top book, art, and pulp collectors, squeezed themselves into a big van in order to attend PulpFest 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Luckily we rented the biggest van that they had because we needed all the space when we drove back to New Jersey. It was a 15 passenger van which we converted into larger cargo space by taking out some seats.

   In my opinion, after attending almost all the pulp conventions since 1972, this is the best hotel that we have ever had for our shows. Sure the hotel rooms cost $125 each night but they were worth it. Not only were we close to all the action taking place in the dealers room and program room, but we had a free buffet breakfast, the best I’ve ever seen at a pulp convention. It had to be worth $15 to $20. I devoured so much food at breakfast that I skipped lunch each day.

   Yes, there were cheaper hotels down the road, but staying at the host hotel helps the convention because if they reach a certain number of rooms then big discounts kick in. These discounts are necessary in order for us to have future PulpFests. I have always stayed at the host hotels because they are so convenient and help the conventions meet expenses.

   The past several years in Columbus, Ohio, we lacked a hospitality room because the hotel wanted us to buy their alcohol and use their bartenders. However at the Double Tree hotel we had our own room, and thanks to abebooks.com, the PulpFest committee was able to buy pizzas and craft beer. I would have to say that this was the best beer I’ve ever had at a pulp show. And instead of the usual snack items, the pizza was a real treat.

   Right outside the hospitality room was a nice restaurant that also served pizza and beer. They had live entertainment also. All the hotel employees were friendly and helpful. This is a big plus because I’ve stayed at hotels where the employees have attitude problems and don’t want to be bothered.

   Attendance was 350 and the dealer’s room seemed fairly busy each day. There were over 100 tables, most crammed with pulps, vintage paperbacks, digest magazines, DVDs, and original artwork. I always have a table at PulpFest and I sold pulps, DVDs, books, and cancelled checks from the Popular Publication and Munsey files.

   I bought quite a bit including artwork like an interior illustration by John Fleming Gould and a large wraparound cover painting for an early Lion Book. The painting covers the front and back of the book and was used on the Lion book titled The Naked Year (The Inheritors) by Philip Atlee.

   The blurb says “They groped for excitement in an age of boredom” and the image shows a big party with some two-fisted drinking and a bit of kissing with some good looking women. I’ve always had a weakness for these risque, sort of sleazy paperback novels.

   One funny thing however, I had just told several of my friends that I would not be buying any original art because I have run out of wall space and I have many pieces of art just leaning against bookcases or the wall. What a liar I am. Once a collector, always a collector! I then promptly go over and buy a large cover painting. One big blunder that I never would have made in my younger days, I failed to recognize an Edd Cartier drawing, illustrating a scene from The Wheels of If by L. Sprague de Camp, and from Unknown, one of my favorite magazines. One of my younger friends snapped it up (by younger, I mean 30 years younger). I spent the rest of the convention cursing my stupidity and bemoaning the onset of senility.

   A large batch of London Mystery Magazine was delivered to me and now I only need 16 issues out of 132. When I went to the bookstores in London and Hay On Wye, I couldn’t find a single issue. I also found three boxes of bound men’s adventure magazines. Completely unreadable of course, unless you love to read about Nazis partying with girls in their underwear, but the artwork is exceptional. I bought all of them of course, mainly bound volumes of Saga and Man’s World from the fifties and sixties. My descent into the depths of depravity continues but so what? The WW II vets loved these magazines and what’s good enough for those guys is good enough for me!

   Pulp T-shirts have become very popular especially since Altus Press started cranking out all sorts of pulp titles. For those readers who are into fashion I wore my lucky Fred Davis T-shirt, the one given to me by Davis’ granddaughter many years ago, and shirts showing the logos of Black Mask, Short Stories, and Adventure. All well dressed pulp collectors wear such T-shirts.

   Artist Gloria Stoll returned as Guest of Honor and she was fabulous. Though in her nineties, she was witty and very interesting concerning her seven years as a pulp artist in the forties. She then went on to have a career painting in a more abstract style. David Saunders did a nice job interviewing her and showing a slide show of her covers and career.

   The Munsey Award was won by Phil Stephensen-Payne, who is one of the main men behind The FictionMags Index and Galactic Central. These sites are excellent online sources for information about the writers and the cover art. I visit them just about every day. Phil lives in the UK and couldn’t attend the convention, but I had the pleasure of reading his acceptance speech for him. A remarkable pulp scholar indeed! Sometimes we complain about the validity of some awards but this is an example of an award that they got right. Congratulations, Phil!

   PulpFest is known for its great programming, and there was so much going on that I could fill pages talking about each night. I’ll just mention a few that I found to be excellent or of great interest. Author Chet Williamson read from Psycho Sanitarium; Garyn Roberts talked about 100 years of Robert Bloch; Jeffrey Marks covered the characters of Erle Stanley Gardner; Matt Moring discussed Dime Detective; Philip Jose Farmer was covered; and finally Tom Krabacher and I discussed “Hard-Boiled at 100: The Don Everhard Stories of Gordon Young.” My conclusion was that these stories were more about a gentleman adventurer who acted as a sort of Robin Hood, doing good and fighting criminals. I like Young’s Hurricane Williams south sea stories a lot more and the Don Everhard series is inferior to such novels as Days of ’49 and Huroc the Avenger.

   The auction was of interest and had many items worth bidding on. I managed to get some rare Western Story magazines. I have over 1250 issues, 1919-1949 and only need a few. I obtained two exceptionally rare 1919 issues in dime novel format and an issue from 1925. Other items of interest were a complete run of Amra, volume two, #1-71. I wanted this but lost out since I didn’t want to pay a very high price.

   Fred Cook’s rare copy of the Argosy Index went for $400. I’ve never seen a copy for sale. Some Shadow and Doc Savage premiums went for high prices. Tom Krabacher, who has written the definitive article on Gordon Young, wanted a large travel trunk once owned by Gordon Young but it went to someone else for $425. All in all there were almost 300 lots.

   Each year the convention publishes The Pulpster, which is a magazine full of interesting articles about the pulps. This issue was number 26 and edited by William Lampkin. There were articles on women in the pulps by Ron Goulart and Bill Pronzini; several pieces on Robert Bloch; an article about Mary Elizabeth Counselman by Tony Davis; Curt Phillips on preserving pulps; several other articles including one by me on collecting Detective Fiction Weekly. This is an excellent magazine and we should thank Bill Lampkin for editing and Mike Chomko for publishing it.

   One book I noticed made its debut at the show. Pride of the Pulps is a collection of magazine studies by Ed Hulse. The articles originally appeared in his Blood ‘n’ Thunder magazine, but they have been extensively revised and expanded. The magazines covered are Adventure, All-American Fiction, Famous Fantastic Mysteries, The Popular Magazine, Short Stories, and the 1920’s issues of West.

   A great convention for collectors of old fiction magazines is now part of history but I’m looking forward to the next year at this fine hotel. Thanks to Paul Herman for the use of his photos in this report. I’d also like to thank the Pulpfest committee for another job well done. Thank you: Jack and Sally Cullers, Mike Chomko, Barry Traylor, William Lampkin, and Chuck Welch. Your hard work is very much appreciated!

Next Page »