Pulp Fiction

         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)


   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.

FRANK GRUBER “Death on Eagle’s Crag.” Oliver Quade #8. First published in Black Mask, December 1937. Reprinted in The Hardboiled Dicks, edited by Ron Goulart (Sherbourne Press, 1965).

   At the beginning of this fanciful, not to mention far-fetched tale, Oliver Quade, also known as The Human Encyclopedia, has somehow found his way to an isolated resort located at the top of a mountain, doing what he does best: trying to sell the owner a set of encyclopedias. She may be better at resisting, though, than he isat selling them when one of the guests is found dead along a walking path.

   Remains of a bashed-up rattlesnake are found beside him, with vicious bite marks on his leg, but Quade quickly deduces it was a well-planned murder. The resort’s handyman is about to head down to notify the authorities when a car full of gangsters, escapees from a local prison, comes driving up the hill. Coincidences pile up quickly. The dead man, as it turns out, was a thief,and once the gang of crooks realize he must have hidden eighty grand worth of stolen cash on the grounds, they decide to stick around and keep all of the real guests hostage while they look for it.

   Even while it incorporates a small token of goofiness, making the story is quite a bit of fun to read, it is amazing how Gruber manages to turn the story around on itself as he does, making it perhaps the most violent one in The Hardboiled Dicks, the anthology of stories from the detective pulps Ron Goulart put together in the mid-sixties. There’s nothing very deep to this one, but somehow I’ve managed to remember the basic plot, all these many years later.

   Oliver Quade, who manages to find the money while under a lot duress in this one, was in 15 stories in the pulps. He wasn’t quite as inventive as MacGyver was in using his head to get out of jams, but selling encyclopedias for a living obviously gave him a decided edge over a lot of tough bad guys in his day.

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.

by Walker Martin

   A few years ago, one of my best friends attended Pulpcon, despite knowing he had a terminal illness. Hardcore collectors will survive just about anything except death. My health problems lately have not involved a terminal illness, but I suffer from claustrophobia, and I had to undergo two cataract operations in April. Despite being disappointed in these procedures, I somehow managed to, go with four other collectors in our usual van.

   Fortunately, this convention managed to cheer me up and here are my comments on the Windy City Pulp Convention. There have been over 20 of these shows and this was the 15th year at the Westin Hotel in Lombard, Illinois, which is about a half hour outside Chicago. Doug Ellis stated that there were about 500 attendees and 180 dealer tables.

   No masks were required, but many collectors wore them just to be safe. As usual the dealer’s room was very busy and set up was allowed on Thursday evening from 8 pm to about 11 pm. There were thousands of books, pulps, vintage paperbacks, original art, new pulp novels, movies on DVDs and comics.

   Some excellent books made their debut at the show. Ed Hulse of Murania Press had what looked like his biggest magazine on the pulps, Blood n Thunder 2022 Special Edition:336 pages, over 100,000 words, and over 100 illustrations. There are 10 essays in the book with the most important being the 120 pages devoted to the Doubleday Crime Club Golden Age, 1928-1940. Ed also had a preview copy of his new book, an updated edition of Wild West in Fiction and Film.

   Matt Moring of Steeger Press had several new books for sale on Mike Chomko’s table: Unremembered Murder by Carroll John Daly, volume 7 of the Race Williams series, all from 1944-1955, The Major by L. Patrick Greene, volume 4, The Life of Pinky Jenkins by H. Bedford Jones, volume 3, and the best one of all, The Complete Exploits of the Notorious Sea Fox by James K. Waterman. This last collects several stories from Frontier in the 1920’s and deals with the infamous slave trade before the Civil War. Steeger Books has passed the 600 book mark I believe. Amazing and quite an accomplishment.

   Also available was the new edition of the Windy City Pulp Stories, #21. 130 pages, all devoted to Fiction House. The best article was Will Murray’s “The Rise and Fall of Fiction House”. Also of note are articles dealing with Arthur J. Burks, the pulp magazine, Black Aces, and other Fiction House items of interest.

   The art show had several original cover paintings and illustrations from Fiction House magazines and I was really impressed by the excellent display. Ed Hulse ran the usual film show which showed serials and B-movies during the day and after the evening auction.

   Speaking of the auction, John Gunnison did his usual fine job as auctioneer. Friday night had 200 lots from the Robert Weinberg Estate and Saturday night had almost 200 lots from the Glenn Lord Estate. An entire set of Planet Stories was auctioned in several lots, many Weird Tales, including the Anniversary large issue from 1924 ($8000), and all sorts of correspondence. The Gent From Bear Creek by Robert Howard sold for several thousand.

   There were the usual panels and I attended the Fiction House discussion given by Roger Hill. On Saturday night David Saunders did his usual excellent job discussing such Fiction House artists as George Gross, Allan Anderson, and Norman Saunders. I’m looking forward to his Pulpfest presentation on Nick Eggenhofer this August.

   I’ve been collecting now for over 65 years and I don’t need much anymore, but I always find something. This year I’m rebuilding some of my sets such as All Western and Dime Detective. I found several copies of each that I need plus an Ace High from 1926 that I’ve been looking for.

   One of the problems of collecting for a long time is that you start to run out of things to collect. Most of my wants are very odd and hard to find, such as the five Sea Stories I lack. There were 118 and I have 113, so it’s not too likely that I’ll find issues I need. Same thing with Western Story and Detective Story. I only need a few issues of each for complete sets, but I’ll probably never find them. But you never know. I never thought I’d find all 444 All Story either but I did.

   Pulpfest is up next in August 4-7, 2022, in Pittsburgh. The 50th Anniversary of Pulpcon/Pulpfest! I never thought I’d see such a long run of conventions when I attended the first one in 1972. But here we are. See you there!


                  Note: Part two of this three-part review can be found here.

FRANK GRUBER “Death on Eagle’s Crag.” Oliver Quade #8. First published in Black Mask, December 1937. There is a tremendous contrast between the mild-mannered encyclopedia salesman Oliver Quade, and the extreme amount of violence that occurs as escaped convicts take over a secluded resort. (4)


RICHARD SALE “A Nose for News.” Daffy Dill #2. First published in Detective Fiction Weekly, December 1, 1934. Unlikely circumstances cause Daffy Dill to be fired from his newspaper job, and he becomes involved in a kidnapping plot while hunting up a story to regain it. Did not seem too believable even while reading it. (2)


LESTER DENT “Angelfish.” Oscar Sail #2. First published in Black Mask, December 1936. Private eye Oscar Sail is hired to steal aerial photos of oil fields and risks his life in a hurricane to save a girl. Vivid picture of the storm’s violence at sea saves the story. (3)


ERLE STANLEY GARDNER “Bird in the Hand.” Lester Leith #33. First published in Detective Fiction Weekly, April 5, 1932. Lester Leith manages to steal stolen jewels under the watchful eyes of the police. Quite entertaining and amusing except for weak beginning. Gardner’s style is very noticeable; less emphasis on violence. (3)


–December 1967

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