August 2015

   Dealers Room, Thursday 2 pm. Paul Herman and I arrived early the day before, so we were well rested and ready for the show to begin:

   Dealers Room, Friday 11 am. It was much busier the following morning:

   Walker Martin will tell us about the convention itself from his perspective tomorrow or Wednesday. When I’ll provide here are some photos of some friends of mine, many of who I had not seen in three or four years.

   Walter Albert:

   Dan Stumpf:

   Paul Herman at his dealer’s table:

   Walker Martin and I:

   Walter again:

   Richard Moore, whom I have known for a long time, but this was the first time we had met in person:

   Ed Hulse, publisher of BLOOD ’N’ THUNDER Magazine:

   We shared the hotel with an anime convention. They were 4000 all told, while we at PulpFest were a mere 400. I found their passion for whatever they were doing wonderful:

   Cake was served after Steve Miller was given this year’s Munsey Award:

   Waiting outside for Dan’s friend Claudia before dinner at a restaurant somewhere in the Columbus OH area. From left to right: Dan, Jim Albert, Walter and Paul. My thumb was also in this photo, but I trimmed it off.

Reviewed by JONATHAN LEWIS:         

TWO FLAGS WEST. 20th Century Fox, 1950. Joseph Cotten, Linda Darnell, Jeff Chandler, Cornel Wilde, Dale Robertson, Jay C. Flippen, Noah Beery Jr., Harry von Zell, John Sands, Arthur Hunnicutt. Director: Robert Wise.

   I watch a lot of movies. A lot. So it takes quite a bit for a film, or a sequence in a film, to really and truly stand out in my mind. You know what I’m talking about — those indelible moments when you realize that an actor has been perfectly cast and his character does something in a manner that takes you by surprise.

   There’s a moment like that at the tail end of Two Flags West, a thematically and visually captivating Western directed by Robert Wise. The movie, which takes place in New Mexico during the Civil War, tells the story of a formerly imprisoned Confederate Calvary unit which joins up with the U.S. Army. Leading the men, the so-called ‘Galvanized Yankees’ from Dixie is Col. Clay Tucker (Joseph Cotton) who, after rueful consideration, decided to take up an offer from Union Captain Mark Bradford (Cornel Wilde): in exchange for their liberation from a Yankee prison camp, Tucker and his men will serve out West with the U.S. Army and fight the Indians.

   As you might imagine, things don’t go so smoothly. Not only does Tucker butt heads with the acerbic and borderline sadistic Major Henry Kenniston (Jeff Chandler), he ends up developing romantic feelings toward Kenniston’s now widowed sister-in-law, Elena (Linda Darnell), a Spanish girl from California. Problem is: both Kenniston and Captain Bradford (Wilde) also have romantic inclinations toward her.

   Fortunately, this soap opera aspect to the film doesn’t overpower its other major theme, namely the reconciliation between North and South. Indeed, much of the film is best understood as a character study of two men — the farsighted Tucker (Cotton), a landowner from Georgia and the bitter, vengeful Kenniston (Chandler), a shortsighted man prone to rage.

   It’s not until the film’s very end, when Kenniston finally redeems himself, that one realizes that Two Flags West is no ordinary Western. Filmed in crisp black and white under the skillful direction of Wise, it’s definitely a minor gem that fans of the genre should seek out.

JOHNNY ROCCO. Allied Artists, 1958. Richard Eyer, Stephen McNally, Coleen Gray, Russ Conway, Leslie Bradley, James Flavin. Screenplay: James O’Hanlon, based on a story by Richard Carlson. Director: Paul Landres.

   The answer to the first question you are probably asking is, No, it’s not the same Johnny Rocco. Far from it. Just about as far opposite as you can get. Richard Eyer, who was 13 when this movie was made, plays the title role, and he looks even younger.

   He plays the son of a small-time hoodlum in this film, a young boy who adores his single-parent father, and the affection is mutual, although the kid does get tough love in return. The reason Tony Rocco takes Johnny on his latest job for the mob is so he and his partner in crime can get back across the Mexican border with fewer questions asked.

   What they didn’t count on a motorcycle cop trying to pull them over for speeding, and what Tony the father really didn’t count on is that his fellow mobster would pull a stunt that gets the cop killed. With Johnny in the car, as a terrified witness.

   If this is a noir film, you might classify it under “inspirational noir.” Johnny’s teacher (Coleen Gray) knows something is wrong — he is withdrawn in class and can speak only by stuttering — and she is ready to help him if he will let her. And while on the run to sort things out, Johnny finds a brief sanctuary in a Catholic church, where the priest finds a place for him in the boys’ choir.

   Richard Eyer’s career as a child lasted less than ten more years, but in playing a young wholesome lad in trouble in this movie, he is outstanding. The terror he has after what happened, the fear in his eyes, his worry about his Dad, all 100% believable. Even his stuttering sounds natural. An actor three or four times his age could not have done it better.

Reviewed by JONATHAN LEWIS:         

THE HAUNTED PALACE. American International Pictures, 1963. Long title: Edgar Allan Poe’s The Haunted Palace. Vincent Price, Debra Paget, Lon Chaney, Frank Maxwell, Leo Gordon, Elisha Cook Jr. Screenplay: Charles Beaumont, based on the poem by Edgar Allan Poe and the story “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward” by H.P. Lovecraft. Director: Roger Corman.

   Except for the poem that Vincent Price reads off screen at the film’s end, there’s nothing Edgar Allan Poe about Roger Corman’s The Haunted Palace. With a straightforward, although at times disappointingly flaccid, screenplay by Charles Beaumont, this alternatingly captivating, creepy, and quixotic film is actually a cinematic adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s novella, “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.”

   Price is perfectly cast in a dual role as the fiendish warlock, Joseph Curwen and as Curwen’s descendent, the one and only Charles Dexter Ward. Nearly two hundred years prior, an angry mob of New England townsfolk burned Curwen to death as a means of stopping the strange diabolical man from practicing sorcery in a little town called Arkham.

   Young girls used to disappear in the middle of the night and end up in Curwen’s castle on the hill. The men of Arkham were going to have none of that. Not on their watch. There was even talk that Curwen was capturing them in order to breed their beautiful girls with a hideous monster, all in order to create a superhuman master race.

   Flash forward. Enter Charles Dexter Ward. A man from all appearances a kind and gentle, if somewhat naïve man. He’s got a lovely bride Anne (Debra Paget) and a claim on his ancestor’s forbidding estate. As you might imagine, it’s not too long before the evil forces of the past storm the present and the spirit of Curwen takes possession of Charles Dexter Ward’s body.

   What evil schemes does the resurrected spirit of Curwen have in mind? Does he even work for himself or for the old gods, those malevolent spirits of yesterday just waiting to reclaim their earthly inheritance?

   The Haunted Palace reminds us that horror need not be gruesome, that it can be done tongue in cheek, with a wink to the audience, all the while raising issues about the ethics of science and, in this case, eugenics. Unlike so many contemporary horror films, this one is steeped in history, atmosphere, and the New England Gothic literary tradition.

   Although at times it feels incomplete, with too many strands never fully sewn together, this outing by Price in a dual role as two men overtaken by forces they can’t fully comprehend is definitely worth a look.


MARVIN H. ALBERT – The Law and Jake Wade. Gold Medal #553, paperback original, 1956; Gold Medal #756, 2nd printing, movie tie-in edition, 1958.

THE LAW AND JAKE WADE. MGM, 1958. Robert Taylor, Richard Widmark, Patricia Owens, Robert Middleton, Henry Silva, DeForest Kelley. Screenplay by William Bowers, based on the novel by Marvin H. Albert. Director: John Sturges.

   I’ve never been a big fan of Marvin H. Albert, but this ain’t bad. Like all the best Gold Medal originals, it starts with a crackle of mysterious action as Marshal Jake Wade travels to a nearby town to break Ben Swift, a condemned killer, out of jail. The jailbreak is handled with the terse violence one expects in a Gold Medal, and we soon learn that Marshal Wade himself used to ride what they call The Outlaw Trail, and he’s repaying Swift back for saving his life back in those days. Been me, I’d a let him hang, but that wouldn’t have made much of a book, I guess.

   It seems Wade hates and fears Swift, who has been trying to find him for more than a year — the result of a misunderstanding over the loot from their last job together, which was last seen in Jake’s possession. Jake buried the loot in a fit of remorse, and has built himself a decent life, as they say in westerns, complete with a career as an upright lawman and a fetching fiancée named Lorna, but none of this makes a damn to Ben, and soon we’re off on a long, punishing ride to recover the loot, with Jake and his bride-to-be the unwilling captives of Ben and his henchmen.

   The ensuing action is pretty gripping, what with raiding Comanches, blizzards, rugged mountains, and the ever-present tension as Jake works to maneuver his captors to destruction. But the real emphasis is on the relationships between the characters, as it quickly becomes apparent that our hero won’t get away from these owlhoots until he understands them.

   And likewise, he won’t be able to rescue Lorna until she understands him. A nice touch this, and it lifts the story a bit out of the ordinary — as does the climax, when Jake realizes he can’t really escape at all, and calmly waits for his fate to overtake him.

   Albert evokes some fine tension by concentrating on the small stuff: the effects of having one’s wrists tied for days on end, the constant attention to keep Jake and Lorna secured and apart, and the careful cat-and-mouse maneuverings of Jake and his captors. But this is primarily a book about the characters, and he does an exemplary job of balancing thought, feeling and action…. plenty of action.

   When they filmed this in 1958, MGM and producer William Hawks did well by it: they got director John Sturges, back when he was lean & fast, Robert Surtees to photograph it, and William Bowers to fashion the script. Bowers specialized in comedy-westerns, including Alias Jesse James and The Sheepman, and he even injected some humor into Henry King’s fatalistic The Gunfighter. Here, he imparts a laconic lilt to the proceedings that makes the action scenes somehow more intense and brutal by way of contrast.

   The blizzard is omitted, probably for reasons for reasons of economy and expeditious film-making, but they don’t stint on the wide-open scenery and they even provide a highly cinematic ghost town for the Comanche fight, and the final showdown—possibly borrowed from Yellow Sky, but no less exciting for that. And the acting….

   The acting is what academics call top-notch, with the performers slipping easily into their parts. Robert Taylor plays the marshal Randolph-Scott-style: tight-lipped and square-jawed, the perfect foil for Richard Widmark’s talkative and brutal bad guy. Patricia Owens (who starred in The Fly that same year) has little to do as the fiancée, but she does it capably. And Widmark’s gang includes Henry Silva, Robert Middleton and DeForest Kelly, who had a nice line in smiling cowboy bad-guys in those pre-Star Trek days.

   The only thing that puzzles me is why they changed so many names: Ben Swift becomes “Clint Hollister;” Lorna becomes “Peggy” and Henry Silva’s character, named “Henry” in the book, is now “Rennie.” Most puzzling of all, a major character named “Otero” in Albert’s novel is listed as “Ortero” in the credits.

   I guess it’s just one of those unsolved mysteries of The Cinema. Don’t let it spoil the movie.

Editorial Comment:   It wasn’t planned; it’s only one of those great cosmic mysteries of the universe called a coincidence. But Jonathan reviewed this same film on this blog exactly one year ago today.

MAX ALLAN COLLINS – Deadly Beloved. Hard Case Crime #38, paperback original; 1st printing, December 2007. Cover art by Terry Beatty.

   I enjoyed this one. I’ve followed the adventures of female PI Michael Tree (Ms. Tree) rather haphazardly over the years, all in comic book or graphic novel form. This is her first appearance in true novel format, and it goes back and retells the story of her first big case, that of solving the murder of her husband, PI Mike Tree, on their wedding night a year earlier.

   It begins, however, with another case, one which as she puts the pieces together, she finds is intimately connected with the Chicago-based Muerta family, a longtime nemesis. As a PI in skirts, Ms. Tree is as hard-boiled as they come. In his afterword to the novel, Max Allan Collins says that she was based on Mickey Spillane’s assistant slash secretary Velda, which certainly made sense to me as soon as I read it.

   As a writer, Collins may not be the best word-stylist in the world, but he certainly puts the words together well enough that this book can be read straight through in two hours or less, about the same as a good PI movie from the 1950s. If you’re a private eye fan, see if you can’t find this one.

Note:   For more on Ms. Tree and her previous appearances, you might check out her Wikipedia page or Don Markham’s Toonopedia page.

JOHN RECTOR – The Cold Kiss. Forge, hardcover, July 2010; paperback, May 2011.

   This one reminded me in a good many ways of the Gold Medal paperbarks of the 1950s and early 60s, only brought up to date in (to me) a not entirely satisfactory fashion. It begins just fine, with Nate and Sara (not married) picking up a stranger while on the road from Minnesota to Reno.

   The stranger appears ill, or they wouldn’t have picked him up. What they didn’t expect was that he would die on them. Or that when they look in his suitcase they find two million dollars in cash. What do they do? What would you do?

   Especially when they’re stranded in a motel along the highway in a blizzard, with phone lines down, the electricity out (there is gas heat) and no way to contact the authorities, even if they wanted to.

   There are other refugees from the storm stranded there, totally isolated from the outside world. The owner of the motel seems strange but OK. The owner’s nephew seems only strange. As things develop, it turns out that Nate has a criminal record and Sara is pregnant. There is more, but why should I tell you everything?

   Reston has a smooth tight way of telling the story, and the first half is a doozy. There was one point around two in the morning when I simply had to shut the book down for the night, so intense it was.

   I was OK with the ending, but some of the reviewers on Amazon weren’t, a minority, to be sure, and yet I’m not so sure that they might not be right. But what makes this book not a keeper for me, though, is not the ending so much, but rather that — given this absolutely top notch and A-One firing-on-all-cylinders beginning — there is a point beyond which the tone of the book changes, giving what most neo-noir readers seem to want, if not relish, in their reading material today.

   You may wish me to say more, but I won’t, other than to add that I’m old-fashioned. I’m happier with the sort of on-the-edge-of-the-chair suspense that’s created by an author like Cornell Woolrich, say, a writer who fills your mind with images of your own making, rather than one who brings them to life in vivid reality, so to speak, even though Rector may be the better writer.

   Please don’t take this as a warning to not read the book. This book may be exactly what you’re looking for, and if you didn’t know about it before, then my job is done.

Reviewed by DAVID VINEYARD:          

DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER. BBC Radio 4, 25 July 2015. Toby Stephens as James Bond, John Standing as M, Lisa Dillon as Tiffany Case, and Martin Jarvis as Ian Fleming. Dramatized by Archie Scotney, based on the novel by Ian Fleming. Directed by Martin Jarvis. Available online for the next two weeks on BBC 4 Extra. Earlier adaptations of the Bond novels are available in full form on YouTube.

   So far the BBC have adapted Dr. No, You Only Live Twice (Michael Jayston as Bond), Goldfinger (with Ian McKellan as Goldfinger), From Russia with Love, and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (Alfred Molina as Blofield) in 90 minute adaptations of the novels. Of course much gets left out, but these are dead on and not too slavish. Diamonds opens by using a scene cutting technique letting us in on Bond’s assignment while at the same time using Fleming’s evocative opening chapter from the novel.

   Most of the adaptations open with Fleming telling the story and then become straight radio adaptation.

   Listening to this one the thing that stands out for me is that, dated as it is, Fleming manages to write as good a horse-racing thriller and Vegas novel as most I have read, with much more detail and background than most. His skill as both journalist and spy shows in these details that often have the authentic feel of well written intelligence reports (it is no accident many spies become writers, one of the skills is communication).

   That feeling of being in on something you shouldn’t be hearing is as important to the Bond novels as the sex, sadism, and snobbery, and the Saturday morning serial plots. The Fleming Effect, as it is known, works even on radio.

   If your favorite Bond novel got short changed by the film series in terms of things you wanted to see (Diamonds certainly did) this is the authentic Bond and Toby Stephens is excellent playing Bond as more a man and less an icon. It is a fine dramatic performance and not merely a reading with Stephens ably managing to let us know when we are hearing Bond’s thoughts and not spoken dialogue by a mere change of tone. Fleming’s voice intrudes only when absolutely needed.

   It may also remind you that the best of Fleming lay in his ability to write prose that kept readers turning pages. These adaptations show just how well Fleming could do that even without pounding music scores, over size sets and set pieces, beautiful scantily clad women, and iconic actors.

   I won’t get into the plot. I’ll just point out the full cast radio dramatization gets it right. If you enjoy radio drama these run just under ninety minutes and are fast paced and well done. They are an improvement over the many readings of the novels available in audiobook form.

COLLECTING PULPS: A Memoir, Part 17:
Why Attend PulpFest?
by Walker Martin

The last couple days I’ve been thinking about PulpFest which will be held August 13 through 16, 2015, in Columbus Ohio. That’s this Thursday coming up! I’ve been deluged by logical and sane looking collectors and non-collectors all asking me the same question. Why bother attending PulpFest? They have shown up at my house; they have called me on the telephone; they have sent me emails.

Enough is enough! Here’s a list of excuses for not attending that I hear all the time, and why none of them are good ones:

1–I have no money! Sorry but I’ve attended many a Pulpcon in the 1970’s, 1980’s, and 1990’s and I went with very little money. Are there no credit cards? Are there no credit unions? Are there no non-collecting spouses to borrow money from?

Even when I had the money, I often blew it before the convention by visiting local bookstores like Bonnett’s and Dragon’s Lair in Dayton, Ohio. If not in the bookstores, then in the hotel rooms of friends who let me see what they were bringing to sell. I learned to go without much cash but I brought a few boxes of pulps to trade and sell at my table.

2–I’m in poor health and too sick to attend. Sorry again! I had a friend who had a terminal illness and came to Pulpcon anyway. Another friend actually collapsed at the convention and died soon after. I myself once threw my back out three days before the show and my doctor and chiropractor both told me to forget making the long drive to the convention.

I felt like I was crippled for life but I managed to squeeze into the car and drive out even though I had to stop numerous times near hotels because I thought I was not going to make it. I could then rent a room and lay there for a couple weeks until I could stand. It took me 16 hours instead of the usual 9 hours but I made it. I spent the entire convention standing because sitting down caused back spasms.

3–I have no space or I live in a small apartment. Collectors always make space for the things they love! When I first crossed the threshold of Bob Lesser’s home in the 1970’s, I found myself immersed in a world where his collection and architectural home styles met. His NYC apartment, although compact, was ingeniously organized—a testament to maximizing small spaces in a city known for its diverse dwelling designs. A path led from the front door to the bed and another to the bathroom, with every other inch occupied by toys, robots, and paintings, all coexisting with the character of his unique urban habitat.

I once ran out of space and I hunted for over a year until I found a bigger house. I went to dozens of open houses and looked at hundreds of houses. I finally found a big house. Unfortunately I soon filled it up with books and now I need a bigger place! The old story…

4–My wife is a non-collector and forbids me to go. Tell me about it! I’ve been married over 40 years and I’ve heard it all. I still go and I still collect. Once Les Mayer told me in 1990 at Wayne, NJ that his wife thought he was a business meeting. If she knew he was at a Pulpcon she might burn his pulps.

Collectors have to become masters of deception and great liars to defeat the non-collector. Many a time I’ve lied and many a time I’ve smuggled books into the house in the dead of night while “she who must be obeyed” slept the innocent sleep of the non-collector. Non-collectors exist to be ignored…

5–I can’t get off from work. Sorry but not a valid reason. My employers always knew I was a rabid book collector who always without exception took off a week during Pulpcon in the summer. I made sure that my vacation request was in as early as I knew the convention dates.

Once they sorrowfully told me I couldn’t go because of some work bullshit. I went anyway and left it to them to ignore my absence without leave or put up with one pissed off book collector. I realize the employment situation is different nowadays but which is more important, your job or your collection, your marriage or your collection? Right, your collection.

6–Who cares about the convention. I can buy my pulps off ebay, etc. Once in the 1920’s and 1930’s the dime novel collectors existed. But they didn’t have a convention and died off. Now I know of only a few in existence and dime novels are just about worthless. If I had a table full of dime novels priced at a buck apiece, most collectors would scurry by in disgust.

We have to support the two big pulp conventions: Windy City in Chicago and PulpFest in Columbus. If we don’t, then one day we will wake up and the pulps might be dead. These shows garner a lot of attention and people keep talking about the pulps because of the efforts of Mike Chomko, Jack Cullers, Barry Traylor, Doug Ellis, John Gunnison, and others.

7–And finally the best reason for attending! They are a hell of a lot of fun. Not only do you get to roam around a gigantic dealer’s room full of books and pulps but you get to meet and talk to some of the greatest collectors and dealers.

These will lead to future deals and contacts. Plus you can eat and drink with these guys! Though I seem to be one of last of the drinkers. And the panels! All day and all night we will be discussing pulps and books. What’s cooler than that?

8–Walker, it’s too late! Like hell. There are hotels with rooms available nearby. What’s the most important thing in a serious collector’s life? His collection without a doubt.

We work, we slave, we march on to the bitter end where we will eat dirt in the boneyard. We live lives of quiet desperation and worry about the afterlife. Go to PulpFest and collect some books and pulps! You only live once…

“Galahad.” An episode of Front Page Detective, Dumont, 1951-53. Actual date of this episode unknown, perhaps the pilot for the series. Edmund Lowe, with (possibly) Emory Parnell, Frank Jenks, Helen Brown, John Phillips.

   The only member of the cast that I recognized, other than Edmund Lowe, was Frank Jenks. The credits were clipped on the DVD I watched this from, so I’m relying on IMDb until proven otherwise.

   I have no idea what persuaded Lowe to come out of a long hiatus from movie-making to star in this bare-bones budget of a TV series. Between 1945 and this series, he was in one movie in 1948 and nothing more. It is possible that the show I watched was trimmed here and there. Quite often the transitions between scenes seemed to skip over parts of the story.

   Which may have been a good one. It is hard to tell from what I saw of it. Lowe plays a newspaper reporter named David Chase in this series, and in this episode he gets mixed up with an heiress who wishes to marry the brother of her deceased husband, against the wishes of the rest of his family, and a former photographer for Chase’s paper who has blackmail on his mind.

   The rest is a muddle, and a mystery to me, though not the one they intended, I’m sure.

Note:   Mike Nevins had more to say about the series itself in his column for this blog back in September 2012.

« Previous PageNext Page »