MAX BRAND “The Flaming Finish.” Short story. First published in Blue Book, August 1938. Not known if ever reprinted.

   Even though I’d have to say that Max Brand is my favorite western writer, I haven’t read anything by him in quite a while. That’s why when I was going through some old pulp magazines last week, it really caught my eye when I saw that he had the lead story in the August 1938 issue of Blue Book.

   It turns out that “The Flaming Finish” is of note because while Max Brand under his many pen names had already written hundreds of thousands of words for the pulp magazines, this was the first story he wrote for Blue Book. And while he was most noted for his western stories (see above), this is the first I’ve come across that’s been an aviation story.

   It takes place during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), but it’s really a nostalgic tribute to those air pilots who fought during World War I, when aviators (true or false) had a certain camaraderie, if not outright chivalry or a code of honor used as the basis for their battles in the air against each other. When one such pilot in this story crashes to the ground and is captured, his opposite partner in the air returns him to his home base instead of killing him on sight, as he had every reason to.

   I don’t know enough about the aviation pulps to know how long in time that stories celebrating this code of honor lasted, but I’d like to think this one was one of the final ones, and Brand made its length of only seven pages fly by. Pun intended.

PostScript: A blurb on the cover of the magazine announces this as the first of a “new series of air adventures” under the overall title of “Knights of the Sky.” I don’t know if the following all fall into that category, but here’s a list of the next few followup stories Max Brand did for the magazine:

      Last Flight, The Blue Book Magazine September 1938.
      The Return of the Man Who Was Killed,  The Blue Book Magazine October 1938.
      True Steel,  The Blue Book Magazine February 1939.
      Half a Partner, The Blue Book Magazine March 1939.