Pulp Fiction

   For as long as I remember, which is about as far back as when I first started collecting pulp magazines, the story “The Diamond Wager,” by Samuel Dashiell, which appeared in the October 19, 1929 issue of Detective Fiction Weekly, has been assumed to have been written by one (Samuel) Dashiell Hammett.

   This in spite of the fact that this was the only story that Hammett would have ever had published in DFW, and even though it read nothing like anything the creator of hard-boiled detective fiction ever wrote under his own name.

   It has taken a long time, but pulp historian Will Murray has discovered another huge flaw in the assumption that Hammett actually wrote the story; that is to say, that there was a fairly well known journalist at the same time the story appeared whose name was, guess what, Samuel Dashiell.

   You can read all about it in this post on the Blackgate blog. Will Murray’s account there seems definitive to me. All the collectors who have paid a steep premium for that particular issue of DFW must be well displeased.



RAOUL WHITFIELD – Laughing Death.‎ Steeger Books, softcover, July 2021; introduction by James Reasoner. Originally published serially in nine parts in Black Mask magazine from February to October 1929. Previously published in hardcover as Five, as by Temple Field (Farrar & Rinehart, 1931).

   DA Sanford Greer is trying to clean up Center City. Picture Atticus Finch. Precaution’s for the birds. Greer will take death when it comes. Courageously. Bring it on.

   His reward is murder by the mob. The mob has six factions. All six come together with a trigger man from each, a show of unity riddling Greer’s body with bullets from six different guns. The shooters shoot him down, cackling cacophonous laughter. Hence the Laughing Death.

   The body is missing bullets from a .38. One of the six was loyal to Greer and missed his shots. For that, he missed his shot. Snuffed. But not before spilling five names to the DA’s progeny and protege: Gary Greer.

   These five names form the original title for this novel of vengeance: Five. If Gary had it his way, there would only be more five chapters. Each one ending with death. But complications ensue, and it gets tougher and tougher to hunt his prey once his prey get hip to the game.

   Gary is a veteran fighter pilot of the war to end all wars. He runs an airfield near Center City. His plan is to fake his own death in a fiery plane crash, then return, incognito, a ghastly ghost, smirking a deathly grin as he guns these killers down.

   The first two kills are fairly smooth and easy. But then Gary’s cover gets blown, and the hunter becomes the hunted.

   Things are real tough because the head of the mob and the chief of police is the same guy. It’s not just the mob trying to rub out Gary. It’s the cops too. And there’s very little difference. No one’s honest, and besides Gary’s girl and his best buddy, there’s nobody he can trust.

   There’s a bunch of fancy air-flying action, machine guns a-blazing, bombs dropping on buildings, narrow escapes, and poisoned cocktails. Gary Greer, about half-way thru the story, reveals that he’s been deputized by the Feds and has a license to kill. And he does so with impunity. With immunity.

   What starts off as a fairly plausible hardboiled vengeance tale becomes more and more cartoonish, Gary Greer turning proto-James Bond as played by Errol Flynn, impossible escape after impossible escape, all by the skin of his teeth. Of course, when the bad guys have Gary in their sights, they can’t simply plug him. They’ve got to have sneaky surreptitious plans, each more complicated than the last. He must be killed with proper flourish and poetry. You can probably guess who gets the last laugh.

   It’s enjoyable as a B-Movie about a son, a heroic fighter pilot, a veteran of the War, avenging his father’s death and fading out with his beautiful black-haired woman in tow, in love, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Whitfield himself was a fighter-pilot and actor with a nice hardboiled chin and a well-groomed moustache. Perhaps he dreamed of starring in the movie version of Laughing Death / Five.

   If you read it for the B-Movie fighter-pilot revenge tale it is, in black and white, the bad guys in black, the good guys in white, it’s an enjoyable yarn. If you’ve already read Jo Gar and Green Ice and Death in the Bowl and you’re hankering for more Whitfield, it’s a nice light desert. Whipped cream with a cherry on top.

   Also reviewed here.

by Walker Martin


   Several long time collectors have been renting a van and driving out from New Jersey to Chicago for at least a dozen years. Ed Hulse has always been the driver, but this year he retired as our chauffeur and decided to fly to the convention. It may be true that we behaved in such an exasperating manner that we drove him to give up his position. It didn’t help that behind his back I often referred to him as “Jim”, which was based on the character in the Major series of pulp stories by Greene. In the series The Major had an assistant named Jim who drove and performed various duties and we also had a Major in the van (E.P. Digges La Touche).

   Anyway, thanks for your years of service, Ed. The new drivers are now Scott Hartshorn and Nick Certo, both of whom have been my friends for close to 50 years. We will see how long they last before giving up this well-paying position.

   Doug Ellis sent me an email saying that this year’s convention set a new all time record of over 600 attendees. The dealers’  room seemed to be always crowded and quite busy/ and the 180 tables were crammed with pulps, books, vintage paperbacks, DVDs, and original artwork. Prices on the vintage paperbacks were not only quite reasonable but insanely low, as I saw thousands cheaply priced at fire sale levels. I saw one table that had a sign stating “Free digests.” Other tables had boxes of vintage paperbacks priced at a buck or two or even less than a dollar each if you bought 15 for 10 dollars, etc.

   On the other hand the auction, which was held Friday and Saturday nights, starting at 8:15 PM, realized some insane prices. The big sellers were issues of Weird Tales. I estimate that close to 150 issues were listed in the estate auction from my old pal Bob Weinberg’s collection. Most of these issues were from the 1920’s and 1930’s and many realized prices of not only a few hundred dollars but some a few thousand and I’m not talking about the large size, hard-to-get bedsheet copies either.

   The infamous “batgirl” Weird Tales went for $13,000. In the last 50 years I’ve had a half dozen copies, and I never considered it that rare. In fact my present copy is bound, and I’m thinking of ripping it out of the binding and shrieking “Hey, here is a batgirl Weird Tales and I’ll take only a few thousand for it, not no $13,000!”

   Another issue in the early 1930’s went for $14,000 and what surprised me was that the winning bidder was a well known dealer whose first name is David and last name Smith. We are in trouble as collectors when pulp dealers start paying these prices. Not just comic dealers buying for investment, but pulp collectors! Dealers quite often pay half or less of a book’s value and a $14,000 figure means the dealer may be thinking of selling for at least double and probably more if he thinks prices are heading into comic book territory.

   Speaking of “comic book territory,” Rusty Hevelin, organizer of the old Pulpcon, used to preach that we had to try and keep the comic book dealers out of pulps, because once they got in, then we could forget about reading the issues and selling to each other for reasonable prices. Because the comic dealers are into it as an investment, and the prices would sky rocket. Guess Rusty was right and he used to ban comic books from Pulpcon. But those days are over.

   I walked through the dealer’s room for four days but didn’t find much to buy. This is not because there was not anything for sale, but simply because I’ve been collecting like forever and I either have it or once did have it and got rid of it. In fact I’ve rebuilt sets of some of my favorites that I disposed of many years ago. I never did have much interest in sport, romance, or aviation pulps but everything else I’ve been interested in.

   Windy City had the usual film program put on by Ed Hulse and two discussions about the hero pulps. There also was the excellent art exhibit, which I always find of interest since I’ve been collecting original art now for over 50 years.

   The Windy City Pulp Stories #22 was full of interesting articles. Tom Roberts of Black Dog Books edited it. An excellent 150 page collection. Blood n Thunder 2023 Special Edition made its debut. Edited by Ed Hulse and over 300 pages. The highlight of the issue is Ed’s 40 page article about the British magazine, The Thriller. It’s an excellent essay covering the authors and history of the magazine, and we still can look forward to a second part in the future.

   Steeger Books also had some new books at the convention. One is a large collection of the complete  “Scientific Sprague” stories, and a second one breaks new ground by reprinting the extremely interesting letter column from Adventure, 1918-1920. It’s titled The Campfire, 1918-1920. It’s full of great accounts from old timers who lived during the great years of the west, 1850-1900. I’ve often thought that the letters would make a great collection, but I never thought I’d see the day. Here’s hoping we see more volumes from the 1920’s. Thank you Matt Moring!

   But this show will go down in my memory for three other reasons. While stopping over in Newton Falls, Ohio, I had the misfortune to eat one of the worst dinners I’ve ever had. It was Sunday night driving back to New Jersey and we were late stopping for dinner. Nothing appeared to be open, and I had to exist on a small bag of salted peanuts and a warm bottle of beer. The next day when the hotel had breakfast starting at 6:30 am, I was first in line.

   But this hotel must have been cursed, because I also slept in what had to be the worst bed I’ve ever encountered. I’m always complaining about my back problems and my leg cramps ,and I met a worthy foe in Newton Falls, room 223, Holiday Inn Express. The desk clerk said he would give me a king size bed at no extra cost. I always ask for two Queen size beds because they are smaller and don’t hurt my back as much. But this time I just wanted to eat my peanuts and guzzle my warm beer. Big mistake. I sat down on the bed and swung my legs up and immediately slid down the slope of the king size mattress until I hit the middle of the hole in the mattress. Some how I managed to claw my way back up the slope in the morning and get out of bed.

   The third event that I’ll never forget happened after turning in the rental van in Trenton, NJ. We hopped into Digges’ car and proceeded to immediately make a left into oncoming traffic, heading the wrong way down a one way street. Fortunately everyone got out of our way and we turned the car around and headed in the right direction, instead of against the traffic.

   Thanks to Paul Herman for the use of several of the photos included in this report. Next up, Pulpfest in August! It’s been 51 years that I’ve been driving to Pulpcon and Pulpfest. Matt Moring will be driving us on this adventure. Will I make it? Stay tuned!

STREET & SMITH’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE. May 1942. Overall rating: *

NORMAN DANIELS “Murder Nightmare.” Novella. After having dreamed of a friend’s death, Winton turns to his detective friend Taggart, only to become a murder suspect when the dream comes true. But it is only part of a complicated plot in the world of art that Taggart takes upon himself to solve. Stretches the imagination too far. (1)

W. T. BALLARD “A Toast to Crime.” [Red Drake] An investigation for the State Racing Commission becomes entangled with a mysterious bomber and antagonizes the local police. Too much running around with no purpose. (0)

WALLACE BROOKER “The Flashing Scimitar.” A ghost in a hunting lodge wields a bloody sword, but Lieutenant believes there must be a better explanation. Meanwhile, many men die with their throats cut. Wild, with a certain appeal. (2)

GARY BARTON “Will of the Devil Gods.” A Caribbean cruise, a a foreign agent, and a story of a sacred cloth. (1)

MARK HARPER “A Dead Hand Will Strike You.” Nard Jason takes on a case which has everyone shooting at him, including a dead man. Absolutely unreadable! (0)

JACK STORM “Ghost Fingers.” An inventor is murdered but his luminous paint helps capture his killer. (1)

– March 1968

MAXWELL GRANT – The Wealth Seeker. Jove, paperback, 1978. First published in The Shadow Magazine, 15 January 1934.

   A wealthy philanthropist’s home is raided twice by criminals, and each time the gangsters are defeated, their leader being killed before being questioned. Since the man’s donations have always been anonymous, who has revealed his identity to the underworld?

   There are only three suspects, and of course the obvious one is far too obvious. Walter Gibson, who wrote almost all of The Shadow stories, was terrible as a writer, but he was a dandy magician. He fooled me again, even though I was watching.

– Reprinted from Mystery.File.6, June 1980.

JOHN D. MacDONALD “Ring Around the Redhead.” First published in Startling Stories, November 1948. First reprinted in Science-Fiction Adventures in Dimension, edited by Groff Conklin (Vanguard Press, hardcover, 1953). First collected in Other Times, Other Worlds (Fawcett Gold Medal, paperback original, October 1978).

   I don’t imagine that any young SF reader coming across this story in the (at the time) most recent issue of Startling Stories had any idea that the author would become rich and famous a few years later as the John D. MacDonald you and I know today as, for example, the author of the series of mystery novels for which he is most remembered, thous about “salvage expert” Travis McGee.

   Nor did, I suppose, those fans of the Travis McGee books happen to know that he started out writing SF stories — as well as mysteries — for the pulp magazines of the late 1940s. I don’t know if all of his early SF work were later collected in Other Times, Other Worlds (1978), but there are sixteen of them, and ones MacDonald much have felt worth reprinting at the time.

   â€œRing Around the Redhead” is, well, one of them, and it begins with a defendant in court having been accused of murdering his next door neighbor, and in a most vicious fashion: the dead man had been decapitated as if by a mammoth pair of tin snips. When the defendant, an amateur tinkerer, gets to tell his story to the jury, it really is quite a story. Having strangely discovered a mysterious ring in his workshop in the basement, he learns by trial and error that by reaching through it, he can bring back, among other items, valuable jewels, for example. (This is why he is seen arguing with the neighbor, who has discovered this.)

   One day, then, he brings a beautiful girl back through the ring, a redhead, who is wearing next to nothing but strangely still something.

   Hence the title of the story, which has no other objective than to be fun and amusing. No deep scientific principles are discussed in this tale. What this tale reminded me of, more than anything else, are the SF stories very common back in the early 30s, based on speculation but not a whole lot of down-to-earth physics – but, in this case, a tale that’s a whole lot better written.

   Nonetheless, without a solid background in science, JDM must have decided that science fiction was not a field where he had much of a future. Considering how things worked out for him, this was a wise choice.



RAOUL WHITFIELD – Green Ice. Knopf, hardcover, 1930. Also published as The Green Ice Murders. Avon Murder Mystery Monthly #46, paperback, 1947. Avon Classic Crime, paperback, 1971. Gregg Press, hardcover, 1980. Quill, paperback, 1986. Comprised of the following oulp magazine short stories:

         Outside, Black Mask December 1929
         Red Smoke, Black Mask January 1930
         Green Ice, Black Mask February 1930
         Oval Face, Black Mask March 1930
         Killer’s Show, Black Mask April 1930

   Mal (short for Malcolm) Ourney just got out of Sing Sing in Ossining. Like literally just walked out.

   He’d served two years on a vehicular manslaughter rap he took for his lush girlfriend, Dot Ellis. He’s a gallant kind of fellah and figured since Dot got drunk on his liquor, and was driving his car with him in it, it was kinda his own fault anyway. So he plucked her out of the driver’s seat, and sat in there himself.

   While in stir, Mal and Dot go their separate ways. Dot’s the road to perdition.

   Dot’s always gonna glom onto some guy, and trade her wares for bed, board and booze. That was really no surprise to Mal and he wasn’t too heartbroken over it.

   Dot hooks up with a rising hood who hoodwinks a Colombian playboy out of five emeralds, cut like coffins, worth 50 grand a piece. The hood lets Dot hold onto them, for now. And forever, since when the big fish find out the small one is getting ideas and planning to cut out the bosses, they teach him a lesson he won’t forget. With a bullet.

   Meantime Mal spends his time in ‘Sing Song’ getting sick of the broken record. The big bastards using the small time hoods to do their all their dirty work, then framing them and sending them up the river (literally up the Hudson River), or giving them a dose of lead poisoning.

   Mal decides when he gets out he’s gonna get some revenge on the big bastards that are puppeteering all the little hoods like marionettes. The cops are worthless as they’re bought and paid for by the big guys.

   So he figures it’s up to him to start using the little guys to go after the big guys. To get them to wake up to the fact that they’re being played. Because though the lumpen-proles do all the dirty work they get stuck with the shitty end of the stick with all the coin rolling uphill while the shit rolls down.

   But guess who’s at the gates to meet Mal when he gets out? It’s his long lost gal: Dot. And Dot has some green ice she’s ready to share. She needs a bit of protection now that her man is under ground.

   But Mal isn’t having any. He won’t even let Dot get a word in. He doesn’t wanna hear it. It’s not that he’s mad at her or anything. It’d be like getting mad at a piranha for being a piranha. He’s just onto his life’s work. The work of a freelance reformer, kicking against pricks. And Dot’s not exactly good company. Pricks never being something she’d kick at.

   So Mal goes his way and Dot goes hers. But her long ride’s cut short. By more bullets.

   But somewhere along the way the emeralds have been lost. Maybe not lost, but passed around like whatever the opposite of hot potatoes are. Cold green potatoes. Everybody wants ’em. But nobody can keep them for long and keep breathing.

   Since Dot had ’em and went up to see Mal, everybody figures Mal’s got ’em. Mal knows he hasn’t got ’em. And all he wants is to clean up graft.

   He tells everyone that will listen that all he wants to do is to clean up graft. But nobody will listen. Everybody just figures he’s joking or using it as a cover for nefarious, green, and sparkling ends.

   Mal doesn’t carry a gun. And, if I’m counting right, he accounts for zero deaths in the entire novel. He’s no pacifist and is a decent puncher. But he’s got no use for gats. Or emeralds. He just wants justice.

   Yet everywhere Mal goes and everyone Mal sees ends up shot dead or trying to kill him. Or both.

   All for emeralds. That turn out to be as fake as a Maltese falcon.

   And though Mal’s quixotic quest for justice was damned from the start, at the end he turns Pollyanna. He figures all the dead bodies of all the dead hoods killed at least a few that might be classified as kind of ‘big’. So, hey! Like Dubya said about the middle east: Mission Accomplished!

   Like Bogie ad libbed from old Billy Shakespeare: It’s the stuff that dreams are made of. Hardboiled dreams of small fry crooks and reformers. All fun house horizons and shattered glass.

   It’s tightly written with tight staccato prose. Words like bullets from a tommy gun.

   It’s good. It’s not Red Harvest , but it’s on the same planet, with similar characters and similar taut precision. Written by a guy that’s maybe not Hammett but no small shakes in his own right.

   There are eight million stories in the naked city. This is one of them.

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)


   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)


   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)

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