Friday, November 8, 2019

Forgotten Books: THE DEAD-LINE by W.C. Tuttle (1927)

If anybody knows exactly how many Hashknife Hartley and Sleepy Stevens books there are - and what they are - I'd sure like to know. 

The best source I've seen, Robert Sampson's fifth volume of Yesterday's Faces (called Dangerous Horizons), lists twenty-seven books, some with more than one title, but I've found at least a couple of those to be non-Hashknife novels, and Sampson himself admitted the list is incomplete. 

I'd also like to know where the various pieces of those novels made their first appearance in pulps, and whether they had all appeared in pulps, or if some - or pieces of some - first appeared in books. I'd be glad to compile all that myself, if I had a complete set of Tuttle's books, complete runs of Adventure and Short Stories pulps, and a few particular issues of Argosy. But I won't be holding my breath for that to happen. 

The Dead-Line, published in England in 1927 and the U.S. in 1941 (if not sooner), is likely one of the earliest Hashknife and Sleepy adventures published in book form. A novella by that title (yet to be examined by me) appeared in the Oct 20, 1924 issue of Adventure.

Unlike most of its breed, this digest appears to be unabridged.

Hashknife and Sleepy made their debut in that magazine in July 1920, and their first few appearances were standalone short stories. Over the next fifteen years, they appeared in close to forty issues, taking a few side-trails into Argosy. In 1939, they moved to Short Stories, where they had more thirty more adventures. 

Book publication of the series followed no rhyme or reason, with many appearing only in England, and some as late as 1967, in paperback only. Yep, it's a mare's nest.

While not the best of the bunch, The Dead-Line is still a fun read. Tuttle's work is full to the brim with eccentric characters and humorous dialogue, but what makes the series great are the personalities - and the relationship - of Hashknife and Sleepy.

Most Tuttle books are mystery stories set in the Old West, and this is no exception. In many stories, the two are undercover range detectives, hired by a cattleman's association to bust up trouble. But in other cases, as in The Dead-Line, they stumble upon the trouble themselves, and can't resist joining in. 

The "dead-line" of the title is an invisible line-in-the-sand drawn by cattle ranchers in an attempt to prevent a sheepherding magnate invading their territory. To spice things up, there's a sort of Romeo and Juliet marriage between a cattleboy and a sheepgal, whose ranch is smack dab in the middle of the action. And just as the fuse is about to be lit, fate tosses Hashknife and Sleepy into the mix. They are introduced thisaway:

In their years of ambling around the West, the boys have made a lot of friends and enemies, and seem to meet some of each wherever they go. It's always fun to see the the bad 'uns squirm and bolt for cover as they anticipate tangling with them again.

As the passage above foretells, our heroes find a way to heal old wounds and bring peace to the valley. But the fun is in how they do it, and who they do it to. So like all of their adventures, this one is highly recommended.


Jerry House said...

I can't help you with the number of Hashknife Hartley books, Rick, but I can tell you that the fictionmags index lists 78 Hashknife stories published in the pulps -- 28 of them listed as "novels" and a further 10 as serials. Six of the Hashknife stories listed include Sleepy Stevens (one novella, one serial, and four novels). Two of the 78 also bring in Tuttle's series character Cultus Collins.

Jerry House said...

Evan, not Rick. I don't know where my mind is nowadays.

Rick Robinson said...

Ya must have just been over on my blog, Jerry.

Evan Lewis said...

Rick is a noble name, and I'll answer to it anytime. Of course, all the Ricks out there may have other ideas on the subject.

Cap'n Bob said...

I finished my first Tuttle last week and enjoyed it plenty, but it wasn't an H & S.

George said...

I've read about a dozen Tuttles and enjoyed all of them. The Hashknife stories usually feature a mystery which makes for fun reading. ALTUS Press is reprinting some of Tuttle's stories, but I hope they start reprinting the novels, too.