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!