Pulp Fiction


CON REPORT:
Pulp AdventureCon, November 5, 2022
by Walker Martin

   What a beautiful period to have a book and pulp convention! Temperature in the 70’s which is very unusual for November. Though the show is officially only one day. My friends and I celebrate the occasion from Wednesday through Saturday and some years even Sunday.

Ed Hulse.

   As usual Matt Moring arrives first on Wednesday and uses the extra time to research and scan pulp covers and contents. This work eventually ends up as the books published by Steeger Books (steegerbooks.com). 600 books, mostly pulp reprints and counting! An amazing achievement.

Walker Martin.

   Thursday and Friday, the other pulp collectors arrive and we proceed to have several meals at such restaurants near me as Metro Grill, Bell’s Tavern, Town and Country. Sadly Mastoris Diner, after almost a hundred years, was a victim of the Covid virus restrictions but we noticed that Town and Country looked very similar as to seating and menu.

Cowboy Tony.

   I try to keep the Friday brunch down to 10 collectors because that’s all I can handle and control. Yes, control, because these guys are all insane bibliomaniacs (is there such a word?) and to give you an idea here is a listing of the attendees with the years I’ve known them. They all have enormous book and pulp collections:

         Digges La Touche–50 years

         Scott Hartshorn–46 years

         Nick Certo–46 years

         Paul Herman–40 years

         Andy Jaysnovich–40 years

         Ed Hulse–25 years

         Richard Meli–25 years

         Matt Moring–10 or 12 years

   In addition we had a new guest, Peter Wolson, the son of Morton Wolson, who wrote under the name of Peter Paige for Dime Detective, Black Mask, and Detective Tales. Under his own name he also wrote for Manhunt and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. Peter collects only the pulps that his father appeared in so he is the only one of our group who has his collecting activities under control.

   Though there were many Peter Paige stories in the pulps, he had written only one novel, so when The Complete Cases of Cash Wale appeared from Steeger Books in 2021, his son Peter was surprised and happy to see that his father was still remembered by readers and collectors.

   This collection is the first volume reprinting the over 20 Cash Wale and Sailor Duffy stories. Cash was a hard boiled private eye and Sailor was his assistant and strongman. The first couple stories appeared in Detective Tales and Black Mask but the rest of them found a home in Dime Detective during the 40’s and early 50’s. The stories were long novelets and close to 20,000 words each. The author received high word rates since they were so popular. I’ve seen cancelled checks made out to Morton Wolson for $400 to $500 dollars. All the stories were hard boiled, wise cracking private eye yarns told with a sense of style and humor. I highly recommend them and they are available at steegerbooks.com or amazon.

John Gunnison.

   Attendance at the convention was between 80 and 100 with many dealers and 42 tables. There were two fairly large rooms and one small one. One big benefit was the free breakfast available at the hotel. I needed the egg sandwich, hash browns and coffee to get me through the day because I’m too excited to waste time taking a lunch break. Yes, “waste time,” because it’s all about the books and pulps!

   Unfortunately, I’ve been at the collecting game so long that I no longer need much and I didn’t find many of my wants. But Matt Moring and I shared a table and I sold some Shadow digests, Adventure, Black Mask, and Dime Detective pulps. I saw Matt running back and forth with many pulps that he needed and it made me wish I could relive the old days when I needed a lot and had a big want list.

   Speaking of Matt, keep an eye out for the Steeger Books Thanksgiving sale. He showed me over 20 new volumes that will be soon up for sale, including books in the Argosy and Dime Detective series.

Bruce Tinkle with Lucille & Gary Lovisi.

   The rooms were busy all day long, especially the tables manned by John Gunnison (five!), Cowboy Tony, Paul Herman, and Michael Brenner.

   I’d like to thank the organizers of this excellent show: Rich Harvey and Audrey Parente. Also thanks to Rich’s father who has been in charge of taking attendance since the first show over 20 years ago. The photos were taken by Paul Herman. Thanks Paul! And thanks to all my collector friends for making this another memorable occasion.

   Hope to see you at Windy City and Pulpfest!

         Back then in January 1968. I said:

WILLIAM R. COX “They’ll Kill Me!” Novelette. Tom Kincaid has a murderous competition in his attempt to make a movie about gambling. Low grade Hollywood all the way. (0)

         Now:

   My opinion hasn’t changed one iota, and I’m not sure why this one simply doesn’t work. It may been that there are too many characters – at least a dozen – that the reader has to recognize and assimilate in too short a time, and none of them are more than stock players in a standard let’s-make-a-Hollywood movie type of yarn (with gangsters thrown in as opposition).

   As a matter of fact, though, Tom Kincaid, the leading character, did turn up later in three novel length books written by Cox for Signet as paperback originals between 1958 and 1962. By profession Kincaid is a gambler, but in this story he’s trying his luck as a novice movie producer and director. (He was in fifteen pulp stories in all, all for Dime Mystery in the 1940s.)    (0)

         Back then in January 1968. I said:

TALMAGE POWELL “The Dark, Unfriendly Tide.” Published in Dime Mystery Magazine, May 1945. A man tries to dispose of a girl’s body in the bayou, but the elements betray him. Overly melodramatic. (3)

         Now:

   A man tries to dispose of an ex-girl friend’s body in a Louisiana bayou, but fate is against him, badly. Very atmospheric and readable, but there’s nothing here that couldn’t be foretold from the first paragraph on. (2)

         Back then: January 1968. I said:

BRUNO FISCHER “Deadlier Than the Male.” Novelette. Published in Dime Mystery Magazine, May 1945. A soldier’s buddy comes home from the war to check on his friend’s wife, who seems to have changed. Murder welcomes him at the door. Fairly obvious ending. (2)

         Now:

   While on furlough and with his buddy is still off fighting the war in Germany, Sgt. Peter Cole visits his friend’s wife, whose letters to him have become fewer and fewer, and what’s worse, less passionate. The woman who greets him is beautiful and outwardly caring, but Cole senses something is off.

   Hearing a small noise in the bedroom and his suspicions aroused, he forcibly decides to check it out. What he does not expect is to find is a dead man in a closet. Knocked unconscious almost immediately, the next thing he knows is being woken up by a cop in the alley behind his friend’s wife’s apartment. Both of them head back in, but of course the body is missing.

   It’s a good opening, and Fischer always had a good way with words, so this one starts out with a lot of promise. But sometimes the openings of stories by even good authors fail to fulfill early expectations, and such is the case here. What follows is a decent enough detective story, but it runs a little too complicated, and what Fischer failed to do is make it interesting as well. I wish I could say otherwise, but there were no sparks in this one for me.

Rating: 2 stars.

DIME MYSTERY MAGAZINE. May 1945. Cover by Gloria Stoll. Overall rating: *

BRUNO FISCHER “Deadlier Than the Male.” Novelette. A soldier’s buddy comes home from the war to check on his friend’s wife, who seems to have changed. Murder welcomes him at the door. Fairly obvious ending. (2)

TALMAGE POWELL “The Dark, Unfriendly Tide.” A man tries to dispose of a girl’s body in the bayou, but the elements betray him. Overly melodramatic. (3)

WILLIAM R. COX “They’ll Kill Me!” Novelette. Tom Kincaid has a murderous competition in his attempt to make a movie about gambling. Low grade Hollywood all the way. (0)

CYRIL PLUNKETT “Murder on the Wing.” A man obsessed with owls suspects his wife of poisoning him. (1)

FRANCIS K. ALLAN “The Man with the X-Ray Eyes.” Novel. Duke Danube saves a girl from involvement with murder in an opium den. Could have been put down at any time. (0)

JOHN PARKHILL [pseudonym of William R. Cox] “Slips That Pass in the Night.” An ex-Marine helps an explorer’s daughter regain two stolen rubies. (1)

JOE KENT [pseudonym of Francis K. Allan] “The Madman in the Moon.” Novelette. A soldier on furlough returns to his old neighborhood and is nearly framed for murder. A certain flavor of the wartime forties enhances this less-than-average story. (3)

DAY KEENE “A Corpse for Cinderella.” Novelette. Dancing skeletons, the kiss of death, and other “supernatural” happenings are exposed by a private detective. Had promise, but much too overdone. (1)

–January 1968

CORNELL WOOLRICH “Finger of Doom.” First published in Detective Fiction Weekly June 22, 1940. Included in Great American Detective Stories, edited by Anthony Boucher (Tower, hardcover, as “I Won’t Take a Minute.” Reprinted in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, January 1957, as “Wait for Me Downstairs.” Collected in The Ten Faces of Cornell Woolrich (Simon & Schuster, hardcover, 1965) as “I Won’t Take a Minute.” Radio plays: Suspense (CBS), December 6, 1945,    as” I Won’t Take A Minute” and Escape (CBS), March 19, 1949.

   It probably wasn’t the first novel or story to fit the theme, but it came early, and the movie made of it was a big hit at the time. I’m speaking of Ethel Lina White and her book The Wheel Spins (1936), and the Alfred Hitchcock movie The Lady Vanishes (1938) that was based on it.

   Nor do I believe that “Finger of Doom” was the only time that Cornell Woolrich used the story line to good – no, great – advantage. A young man picks up his girl as she leaves from work. They are in love and the wedding day is less than two weeks away. He has an evening of fun planned for them, but first she must do a small errand for her employer. There is a small package she has to drop off for someone living in an apartment building which is on their way.

   She rings the bell, she is allowed in, she goes up – and she doesn’t come down. He waits outside, shifts his feet, walks up and down a little, and waits some more. The young man’s thoughts go from a vague unease, to worry, and finally to near panic.

   Although he has doubts, a policeman comes to help, but no one in the building has seen her, the room she was to deliver the package to is empty, and the final blow comes when they return to her place of work, and another woman working there says her name is the same as the young man’s girl.

   Cornell Woolrich is the out-and-out master of this kind of “everyday gone wrong” type of story, and even so, this is one of his best. The smallest details fit perfectly, especially in describing the young man’s thoughts standing outside the apartment building where his girl has vanished into. I suspect that everyone reading this has gone through situations similar to this, although perhaps never so serious as this. It must explain why his panic as it grows and grows is so very very contagious.

Rating: 5 stars.

2022 50th Anniversary PulpFest Convention Report,
by Walker Martin.

(Dedicated to the memory of Ed Kessel, Rusty Hevelin,
and Nils Hardin.)

   50 Years! I attended the first Pulpcon in 1972 with my wife and we are among the very few survivors of this great, life changing convention. I say “life changing” because it seems that my entire life has revolved around pulp, book, and art collecting. Almost all my yearly vacations were scheduled to coincide with the convention dates and the show often overshadowed other major events in my life.

   Though I started collecting in 1956 when I bought my first SF digest off the newsstand(I still have that issue of Galaxy), my collecting interests really increased a lot due to my attendance at Pulpcon and Pulpfest. My fondest memories are involved with this show and I’m still enthusiastic about collecting pulps and books even though I’ve been at it for 67 years. I may not need many wants anymore but I love collecting and attending the shows and talking to the many friends I’ve made over the years. It’s true that many of them are no longer with us but the memories live on.

   When Eleanor and I took the two day trip to St Louis in 1972 we were newly married and I drove a Volkswagon Beetle with no trouble at all. 50 years later, I no longer can drive long distances, but I have some good friends that do the driving. I think the great white rental van days are over, and this time Matt Moring of Steeger Books drove us in his big pickup truck. The storage area was just large enough for all the pulps and books that we bought.

   I was on the Pulpfest 50th anniversary panel and talked about the first convention. How Ed Kessel, the organizer, kept nervously taking off his hair piece. During the convention half the time he had hair and half he was bald. When he realized that he lost $500 putting on the show, he said that he would not do another one. But Rusty Hevelin saved Pulpcon by seeing that the convention continued each year.

   This year there were almost 400 rabid collectors in attendance and around 100 tables. But 50 years ago there were less than 100 in attendance and around a dozen tables. What saved the convention in 1972 was Nils Hardin bringing in over a couple thousand pulps from the Fred Fitzgerald collection. Fitzgerald, who lived near St Louis in Festus, Missouri, died in the 1960’s and his widow advertised that his enormous collection was up for sale at her house. Price was cover price! Ed Kessel, Earl Kussman, and Nils Hardin drove out and while Ed and Earl cherry picked SF and Hero pulps, Nils bought extensive runs of Argosy, Bluebook, Short Stories, Adventure, Complete Stories, Top Notch. Not to mention all sorts of detective pulps.

   Many of these pulps I obtained often had Fred Fitzgerald’s name on the cover and words circled inside in blue and red ink. In fact when I was drafted into the army, I spent time at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri and I used to date a girl in Festus. She was divorced with two children and I met her at a dive called Whiskey-A-Go-Go. Little did I know that a mother load of pulps were in the small town. If I had known then I would gladly have dumped her and carried on a bookish romance with the pulps.

   (Ed Hulse and Walker Martin in photo to right.)

   We had some stellar guests at the first Pulpcon. How’s this for some names: Graves Gladney, the Shadow cover artist; Leigh Brackett, the SF writer, and Edmond Hamilton, her husband and also a SF writer. 50 years later in 2022 we had no guests, mainly because all the pulp writers and artists are long gone.

   On the 50 Years of Pulfest panel we had several other collectors, each one representing a different decade.

         1970’s–Walker Martin and Jack Cullers
         1980’s–Don Hutchison(I believe Don is our oldest attendee at 91)
         1990’s–Tony Davis
         2000’s–Bill Lampkin and maybe also William Patrick Maynard. I forget since I was so excited to be talking about Pulpcon #1.
         2010’s–Sara Light-Waller

   Prior to the panel we had Pizza at Pulpfest, sponsored by many of the dealers. I tried to control my beer drinking since I was on the panel right after the pizza party and I seem to remember talking about some risque events that occurred at the early Pulpcons. Sorry if I offended anyone.

   (Paul Herman with wife of artist Samson Pollen in photo to left.)

   Following the 50 Year panel, Dave Saunders gave another one of his excellent discussions on a pulp artist. This year it was about Nick Eggenhoffer, who was the main illustrator for the western pulps and in my opinion, the best. Then we had Ed Hulse and Garyn Roberts talking about Dime Mystery, followed by Morgan Holmes on Robert Howard and Fiction House. Then a FarmerCon panel followed by King of the Royal Mounted, a serial.

   Pulpfest is known for its great programming and in addition to the evening programs, there were also afternoon panels, all of which I missed since I can’t tear myself away from the dealer’s room. Once a collector, always a collector. Then Friday night we had Robert Deis and Wyatt Doyle talking about George Gross and his career as an artist for the men’s adventure magazines, followed by Ed Hulse and Will Murray talking about the hardboiled west. Also discussions of Fiction House comics, Planet Stories, and Meteor House.

   Saturday Rick Lai was awarded the Munsey Award for his books and essays on the pulp magazines. He’s been at it for decades. We then had the auction which mainly consisted of magazines from the Carl Joecks Estate. Over two hundred small lots. Not much I wanted to bid on until the end when Samson Pollen’s art came up for bid. Unfortunately I developed leg and knee pains and had to leave the auction early. As I limped out I cursed getting old but I guess that’s better than the alternative.

   Issue #31 of The Pulpster was the usual impressive job done by William Lampkin the editor and Mike Chomko, the Publisher. There were several articles on Fiction House at 100 and also articles on slabbing pulps, Dime Mystery, Church of Satan, William Lindsay Gresham, The Avenger, Zane Grey, and Rusty Hevelin. By the way, the slabbing of pulps in plastic is coming but I was glad to see no examples yet in the dealer’s room. I believe books and pulps should be read and cared for, not treated like the comic books as investments.

   I had my usual table and sold many cancelled checks made out to pulp authors. Also sold DVD’s and miscellaneous pulps. Several years ago, Matt Moring traded me a cover painting from People’s Story Magazine for February 10, 1922, which is a hundred years ago. I celebrated the event by finding the magazine at Doug Ellis’ table. Thanks for finding it Matt!

   I also bought 25 issues of Mammoth Detective, one of the crazier titles. I seem to remember having and reading these issues decades ago. Time to reread them! I also found six issues of Black Mask from the Joe Shaw era without covers. Time to reread them also. I almost bought several pieces of original art but I talked myself out of buying art since I don’t have any wall space left.

   Making their debut at Pulpfest were several books such as George Gross Covered by Bob Deis and Wyatt Doyle, Pulp Power, a big coffee table book full of Street & Smith pulp covers, and the usual big selection of Steeger Books new releases. Matt Moring of Steeger Books has passed the 600 book mark I believe and should be in Ripley’s Believe It or Not. The books are all in the Black Mask Library series:

         Jerry Frost by Horace McCoy
         Cellini Smith by Robert Reeves
         The Human Encyclopedia by Frank Gruber
         Jerry Tracy by Theodore Tinsley
         It Happened at the Lake by Joseph Shaw

   This was a great Pulpfest, one of the best and you are missing an excellent time out if you miss it in the future. The Pulpfest Committee does an outstanding job and I have to thank Jack and Sally Cullers, Mike Chomko, Barry Traylor, Bill Lampkin, William Patrick Maynard, and Sara Light-Waller. There were other volunteers also that deserve thanks, and to Paul Herman for providing the photos you see above. I hope to see some of you next year!

ERLE STANLEY GARDNER “The Bird in the Hand.” Lester Leith n#33. First published in Detective Fiction Weekly, April 5, 1932. Reprinted in The Hardboiled Dicks, edited by Ron Goulart (Sherbourne Press, 1965).

   Outwardly Lester Leith appears to be nothing more than a wealthy man of leisure, complete with a man servant he derisively calls Scuttle. Fully known to him is that Scuttle is in reality an undercover operative named Edward Beaver who works for the New York City Police Department.

   Why? Because while not a crook, exactly, Lester Leith takes great delight in reading about various crimes in the newspaper and finding exceedingly clever ways to relieve the real crooks of their ill-gotten gains.

   And always right under the watchful eyes of Beaver and his superior officer, the very irascible Sgt. Ackley. Boiling over, in fact, the latter is, at the end of every story, having been fooled again, and badly. He never learns, to the delight of the thousands of Gardner’s readers.

   In “Bird in the Hand,” the question is, what happened to a murdered man’s trunk, which has completely disappeared from his hotel room, along with five expensive pieces of stolen jewelry – the dead man known to have been a notorious fence and having had the gems in his possession.

   Among the items Leith gathers together to obtain the jewelry for himself is a skilled female pickpocket and a large cage containing a bird he describes as a “Peruvian bloodhound-canary.”

   The Lester Leith stories are wickedly clever, and this one is one of the better ones. One can only wonder how Gardner was able to come up with so many plots for them all – over 70 of them. I have read enough of them to think of them as formulaic, but the formula is a doozie of one.

Note: I first wrote a review of this story in 1967, and I posted it on this blog a few weeks ago. Follow the link and you can read it here.

LESTER DENT “Angelfish.” Oscar Sail #2. First published in Black Mask, December 1936. Reprinted in The Hardboiled Dicks, edited by Ron Goulart (Sherbourne Press, 1965).

   Miami-based PI Oscar Sail thinks his latest case is a screwy one, and it surely is. His client is a pretty girl named Nan Moberly who needs him to fake an attack on her, complete with gunfire, phony blood and a doctor who’s ready to swear she’s been shot. Sail complies, but stunts like this one seldom work out as planned.

   What follows is a complicated melange of stolen aerial photos, lots of bad guys after them, a cab driver with a wooden leg named John Silver, several deaths, Nan’s kidnapping, and a race by small boat through the wind-raged fringes of a hurricane to save her – one of the most detailed such voyages I’ve ever read.

   This is by far the most hardboiled story in all of Ron Goulart’s anthology. Dent always had a way with words, and he’s at his absolute best in this one. The ending in particular is as chilling a conclusion to a story you will read anywhere. It really is a shame hat he wrote only the two tales of Oscar Sail.

Note: I first wrote a review of this story in 1967, and I posted it on this blog a few weeks ago. Follow the link and you can read it here.

RICHARD SALE “A Nose for News.”  Daffy Dill #2. First published in Detective Fiction Weekly, December 1, 1934. Reprinted in The Hardboiled Dicks, edited by Ron Goulart (Sherbourne Press, 1965).

   In this early entry in Richard Sale’s long-running series about newspaper reporter Daffy Dill, he loses his job at the Chronicle because of a revival reporter’s malfeasance: he managed to change the word “cook” in one of Daffy’s by-lined stories to ‘crook,” and the cook in question is boiling mad. Daffy’s editor at the paper has to let him go, but with promise that if he comes up with a story big enough, he’ll hire him back.

   Top stories are hard to come by, of course, but after doing a favor for a young lady whose brother has gotten into trouble with gambling debts, she returns the favor by telling Daffy she’s going to falsely arrange a kidnapping story for herself in which Daffy will be required to be the go-between.

   And of course you as the reader will immediately know that she will somehow end up being kidnapped for real. I don’t imagine that any such scenario would ever happen in real life, but I also think that any reader who has gotten this far into the story will go along with the gag and continue on anyway, sitting back and see just how Richard Sale gets Daffy Dill out of this particular jam.

   Sale went on to wrote several dozen stories about Daffy Dill, mostly for Detective Fiction Weekly, but more than that he went on to become big name as a both a screenwriter and director. You can check out his Wikipedia page here.

Note: I first wrote a review of this story in 1967, and I posted it on this blog a few weeks ago. Follow the link and you can read it here.

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