Blood ‘n’ Thunder magazine is published more or less quarterly by Ed Hulse, and every issue seems to be better than the one before. This is a matter of perspective sometimes, and you may have to take into account that Ed’s coverage includes more than crime and mystery fiction, if that is all that is of interest to you. An overall statement found under the title on the first page reveals the magazine’s purpose a little more fully: Adventure. Mystery. Melodrama.

     Or maybe the title, Blood ‘n’ Thunder, says just about that as well, and wherever the above can be found, the pulps, the movies, chapter serials, old-time radio or the equivalent, Ed, his staff of several, and his crew of writers of many, will be there.

     But this issue is focused on the detective pulp magazines, and perhaps most on the best of them all, Black Mask.

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     First up is Monte Herridge, writing about one of the many, many series characters who appeared in the pages of Detective Fiction Weekly: Senor Lobo, soldier of fortune. The author? If you are not well versed in matters pulpish, the answer may surprise you: Erle Stanley Gardner, best known of course as the creator of Perry Mason. Before Perry became an overnight success in the world of hardcover mystery fiction, Gardner produced tons of magazine stories about the adventures of men like Sidney Zoom, the Patent Leather Kid, Lester Leith and a host of others.

     Monte’s suggestion is that Leslie Charteris’s “The Saint” was a model for Senor Lobo, and I’d have to have read more of the latter’s exploits myself before I could agree. But if Monte has read them, and he says it’s so, then neither would I disagree, not one inch.

     I’d like to have seen a checklist of the Senor Lobo stories, which appeared between 1930 and 1934, but other than that, Monte’s flair for describing them makes the article second best only to reading the tales themselves.

     Ed Hulse himself contributes the next piece, one on the series of girl reporter Torchy Blane comedy-mysteries that turned out by Warner Brothers in the late 30s and early 1940s. Starring in most of them was the inimitable Gloria Farrell, and coincidentally enough, over the last week or so I’ve been watching many of them on a video tape that I made a while ago from Turner Classic Movies. They turn up every so often there, and when they do again, don’t miss them.

     What most people don’t realize, unless they — like you and I — well, I know about me, but I can’t be so sure about you — actually read the credits, is that Torchy Blane was based on a character from the pulps, and that the character from the pulps that she was based on was a man, a fellow named Kennedy, whose tales were told in Black Mask by one Frederick Nebel.

     Only the first of the Torchy Blane movies was taken from an actual pulp story, and that was the first one, Smart Blonde. My own opinion is that was the best one, containing more as it did actual crime detecting than it did humor, although the latter definitely was present. And humor became even more present as the series of movies went on.

     A double-starred feature is next for this issue, an interview of Joseph T. Shaw, editor of Black Mask in its heyday, taken from the pages of Writer’s Digest, October 1929. Shaw’s statement of what the magazine was looking for, and the ingredients that in his opinion made the magazine successful then, makes for fascinating reading today.

     Perhaps the most knowledgeable pulp historian around today, Will Murray is next, with an article on Grace Culver, a female sleuth whose stories are hard to find today, appearing as they did in the now highly collectible Shadow magazines, beginning in 1934 and continuing through 1937. Her exploits appeared under the byline of Roswell Brown, but Will’s research shows that the stories were really written by pulp author Jean Francis Webb. Another checklist might have been in order, but I’m only quibbling. A little.

     Whew. I’m only halfway through this issue. Next Alfred Jan contributes a companion piece to one written by Josef Hoffmann which appeared on the original M*F website a short while back. The subject of each is the connection between pulp writer Norbert Davis and famed philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. Alfred’s piece is more on Davis’s novels about Doan and Carstairs — the former a hard-boiled detective, the latter his Great Dane companion — than it is the pulps, but that certainly does not make it any less worth reading.

     Up next is Gary Lovisi, long-time publisher of Paperback Parade, who salutes the British gangster digests of the late 1940s and the 1950s. Authors such as Hank Janson, Roland Vane, Stephen Frances, and Darcy Glinto are prevalent in this piece, illustrated profusely by the covers of their books, which are probably as much the reason for their collectibility today as their contents. Unfortunately these covers are only in black and white. If they were in color, they would really knock your eye out. [For more on Darcy Glinto, aka Harold Kelly, and his long involved story and subsequent bibliography, do not miss John Fraser’s mammoth website devoted to the gentleman.]

     Closing up this issue, and perhaps saving the best for last, is a long article by the late E. R. Hagemann (reprinted from Clues magazine) about Cap Shaw, the aforementioned editor of Black Mask, and the process under which the stories for The Hard-Boiled Omnibus (Simon & Schuster, 1946) were chosen. It wasn’t easy. If you are a fan of hard-boiled fiction — and its authors — this is absolutely must reading.

     And so is the entire issue. Following the link at the top should be the easiest way to get a copy. I suggest you act quickly, though, as Ed sometimes runs out.