I'm a long-time fan of B Westerns. For me, the stand-outs from the 1930s - judged on personality and humor - were Ken Maynard and my father's favorite, Hoot Gibson. So I was pleased to receive a press release from author/artist Darryle Purcell, announcing this series of pulp-style adventures featuring the Hollywood Cowboy Detectives. That press release is jam-packed with information, so I'm going to let you read it yourself. Here goes:
Classic B-western stars ride again
Several almost-forgotten B-western stars of the past have found work in a new series of historical fiction westerns.
Ken Maynard, Hoot Gibson, Crash Corrigan, William S. Hart and other film-cowboy heroes from the 20s through the 50s have returned to battle Nazis, saboteurs and old-fashioned bad guys in the Hollywood Cowboy Detectives (HCD) series published by Page Turner’s Buckskin Editions in both Kindle and paperback versions.
Darryle Purcell, a long-time Mohave County, Ariz., resident known for his topical newspaper columns and political cartoons, has reset his editorial sights on historical western fiction.
“I grew up enjoying the B-western movies and serials made during the 1930s through the ’50s,” the former Mohave Valley Daily News managing editor said. “Many of those films were contemporary to the years they were produced. Western heroes such as Col. Tim McCoy would board a train in the metropolitan east of, say, 1936 and arrive in the old west (quite often Arizona) to battle evil doers. We all remember films where the Three Mesquiteers fought the Nazis in the early 1940s.”
Purcell is writing and illustrating the 1930s-contemporary western series, which embraces the adventurous world of pulp publishing while also saluting the great western movie serials of that era. The first publication, Mystery at Movie Ranch, is comprised of 12 cliffhanger chapters set in the San Fernando Valley area of southern California during the filming of the 1934 Mascot Pictures serial, Mystery Mountain, starring Ken Maynard.
“I do a lot of research on what was being filmed, where, by which studio within a specific time frame,” he said. “I then carve a window in the time period where certain people could have come together to deal with an adventure.”
Sean “Curly” Woods, former Los Angeles Examiner crime beat reporter and current studio flack, is Purcell’s main fictional character who appears in all HCD publications. In Movie Ranch, Woods’ assignment is to write fluff public relations articles about the serial and its stars and keep Maynard out of trouble while looking into the possible sabotage of the Mascot production.
“From a variety of sources, Ken Maynard was a temperamental alcoholic,” Purcell said. “Nobody’s perfect. He was still a skilled rodeo, circus and film cowboy idolized by youth from the 1920s through the ’50s.”
While helping Maynard battle his personal demons, Woods discovers real enemies are not only targeting the western production, but the American way of life. Joined by western movie star and World Champion Rodeo Cowboy Hoot Gibson, Maynard and Woods engage in a series of deadly encounters with an army of anti-American terrorists ruled by a sinister mastermind known only as the Viper. The Hollywood Cowboy Detectives deal with organized crime, a sniper attack, aerial combat against an experimental German flying machine, interrogation by a sadistic enemy scientist in an underground stronghold, an ungodly creature who is the product of evil experiments, and a variety of battles with those who would eliminate all who believe in freedom and justice.
The Kindle version of the Mystery at Movie Ranch can be purchased on Amazon for $1.99. But for those who still like books printed in ink on paper, a paperback version of Mystery at Movie Ranch can be purchased at Amazon.com for $8.99, which includes the bonus HCD short story, "Mystery of the Murdered Badman." In that short story, Woods works to save Maynard from being charged with the murder of a western-movie villain and abduction and possible murder of a former silent-screen vamp. All HCD publications have color covers and black and white internal illustrations in the style of pulps and adventure novels of the 1930s.
The illustrated Mystery of the Arizona Dragon is also currently available as a Kindle download from Amazon. In that adventure, Woods is sent to a dude ranch, not far from where California, Nevada and Arizona meet, to investigate problems while the cast and crew of Charlie Chan Goes West prepare for filming. Hoot Gibson, Warner Oland and Keye Luke join the HCD hero as he attempts to track down the source of a variety of deadly incidents. It is also available as a paperback with the bonus HCD short story, "Mystery of the Stuntman’s Ghost."
The recently published HCD adventure, Mystery of the Matinee Murders is also available in paperback and on Kindle. In Matinee Murders, Woods, Gibson and Crash Corrigan are joined by Orson Welles and a radio-theater group on a studio-funded road trip to entertain children in hospitals and at Saturday matinee presentations. A mysterious assassin hounds the entertainers, leaving a trail of victims killed with cobra venom. Following a full-scale military assault, the Hollywood Cowboy Detectives are captured and taken to an underground fortress where an enemy power keeps an army of the dead. Cowboy star Ken Maynard joins the action in a final showdown with a Nazi terrorist who is about to unleash death and worse upon a theater full of young Saturday matinee western fans. In the paperback, Matinee Murders is joined by a bonus pulp-style mystery about a radio detective known as "The Man of the Mist."
The newest HCD adventure, Mystery of the Alien Banshee is currently available in Kindle format. When it is published in paperback, it will be accompanied by the bonus short story, "Mystery of the Kidnapped Cowboy." All short stories are also available individually on Kindle.
“My publisher at Page Turner’s Buckskin Edition Westerns is a real fan of old-time western and science fiction pulp publications as well as the B-movies of the same era,” Purcell said. “Buckskin is a perfect fit for my writing and illustration efforts.”
Purcell, who was public information director for Mohave County, Ariz., from May 2005 until January 2013, had been managing editor of the Mohave Valley Daily News in Bullhead City, Ariz., for 12 years. The former editorial cartoonist spent a total of 23 years in daily newspapers as well as a few years illustrating and art directing educational comic books and young reader books, drawing gag cartoons for rock and roll and motorcycle enthusiast publications and working in layout and character design on some Saturday morning animated cartoons.
“I reached into my work experiences as well as my time in the military, having served in the First Cavalry in Vietnam and the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions stateside, to create the characters and attitudes that appear in the Hollywood Cowboy Detectives series,” Purcell said. “The HCD series embodies the lessons of the classic B-westerns: Life is hard but good will triumph over evil.”
Some may believe that philosophy is out of date. But, according to Purcell, many of the B-western stars of the 1920s and ’30s not only portrayed the just hero, they lived by the Code of the West. Most were Great War veterans. Some, like Tim McCoy served in both world wars. James Stewart, Clark Gable and many other western stars of later years left their film careers to serve in World War II.
“With this series, I hope to revive the lessons of the straight shooters while introducing a new generation to some of the great cowboy heroes of the past. Besides having served in the First World War, most of them had been working cowboys on ranches, rodeos and wild-west shows before joining the motion picture studio system. Often, their movie careers began as stuntmen for other, less-talented, film stars. The HCD series honors the hard work, amazing action talents and ethical lessons of the B-western film stars of the past,” Purcell said.
The illustrated book series can be found at Amazon.com by searching Books for Hollywood Cowboy Detectives.
That's it. End of press release. Yippi-Yi-Yo-Ki-Yay.