Friday, August 13, 2010
Forgotten Books: ACTION STORIES by Dent, Nebel & others
I don't know who exactly was behind Odyssey Publications, or how many books they published, but I know they put out at least 11 "uniform editions" (Action Stories was number 11), along with Duende magazine and a couple of booklets about Doc Savage. And I know that Will Murray was a major player, writing articles for and introductions to the books. Each of the "uniform editions" I've seen is a perfect-bound trade paperback with bright white paper and crisp reproduction. The stories are in facsimile, so you get all the original titles and artwork. Very cool.
Action Stories is one of several volumes intended as a "best of" collection (others featured stories from Oriental Tales, Golden Fleece and Strange Tales. Action Stories (the magazine) was a Fiction House pulp published from 1923 to 1950 as sort of a wannabe Argosy. As such, their stories ran the gamut of adventure-related genres. You Robert E. Howard fans will no doubt recognize it as the newsstand home of Breckenridge Elkins, the pride of Bear Creek.
This collection is a good representation."Exiles of the Dawn World" by Nelson Bond (the cover story), is "The truly startling story of a Twentieth Century Adam and Eve hurtled back through the ages of Time to the noisome, steaming birth of the world." And that's just the beginning. There's a tale of pirates in the China seas, a story of the foreign legion, a western, a visit to a lost city in Africa and an adventure in the Afghan hills.
For me, the headline stories are those by Lester Dent and Frederick Nebel. "The Devil's Derelict," Will Murray tells us, was Dent's fourth published story, from 1930. Nebel's "The Coast of Hate" likely appeared a bit earlier, because by 1930 he was a regular in Black Mask, and most of his adventure writing was behind him. Predictably, both tales are crackling good yarns, and worth the price of admission on their own.
For those of you keeping score, the Action Stories not named above are:
"Captain Cut-Throat" by Albert Richard Wetjen
"Murder Sands" by John Starr (possibly Dan Cushman)
"The Lion Goddess" by John Wiggin
"Hermit House" by Theodore A. Tinsley
"Emperor of the Three" by Jack Smalley
Persons seeking this volume are advised to employ the Advanced Search function on Amazon or Abe. Along with the title, enter Odyssey Publications as the publisher, and up it comes. Though prices have gone up a bit since 1981, they're still about the same as comparable pulp reprints published today.
Visit pattinase for more of this week's Forgotten Books!