Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective No. 6

Because they're so easy to look at, here's another great Hollywood Detective cover. This issue, from 1943, contains 8 Dan Turner stories, plus teasers (just the first few pages) of stories from Speed Mystery and Speed Detective. It also includes one of my favorite interior illos...

To see our earlier Dan Turner post, click here.

The Story With No Name: Part 9 by Richard Prosch

Walt Arnside's bad day just got worse. Richard Prosch has swatted him with a whole new brand of trouble over at Meridian Bridge.  Fallen behind on this round-robin tale? No problem. Richard has provided links to the first 8 parts.

If you're not familiar with Meridian Bridge, now's the time to get acquainted. From his base camp in Jefferson City, MO, Richard regularly explores the Old West, and his discoveries are always fascinating.

The Wild Bunch Wednesday Story Challenge is the brainchild of Black Horse and Avalon author I.J. Parnham. He wrote the first 500-odd words and challenged others to carry on. Thus far, the roster of intrepid storytellers includes:
I.J. Parnham, Jack Giles, Chuck Tyrell, Evan Lewis, Jack Martin, James J. Griffin, Joseph A. West, Robert S. Napier, and now Richard Prosch.

And this just in... My fellow Owlhoot Paul Dellinger has volunteered to pen Part 10. Watch for it next week on a yet-to-be-determined blog. Want to write Part 11? Be ready to stake your claim next week.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Texas Rangers sing "Cheyenne"

Or more properly, The "Texas" Rangers sing Cheyenne. These Rangers, you see, hail from somewhere in Great Britain. This song appears on a British EP with three other TV Western themes. How do I know the group is actually British? The accents. They're barely noticeable on this track, I admit, but come through loud and clear on their version of "Wyatt Earp" (coming soon).

"Cheyenne" by The Texas Rangers

The Art of Nero Wolfe: Too Many Women

Another nice view of Wolfe (and a partial Archie) from Bantam 722, published in 1949. Bantam provides this info:

The door to the hall came open and Rosa Bendini was there among us. She stood just inside the door in the cherry-colored thing which, whatever its name might be, was certainly not intended for street wear. But she hadn't merely blundered in. She came forward, on past the others, clear to me...
Illustrated by Hy Rubin

The back cover is also nicely done, featuring a document from the story and a small peek at the first edition dust jacket. I failed to notice the back cover on our previous Art of Nero Wolfe feature, The Silent Speaker, and have now updated that post. You can find it here.

Monday, September 28, 2009

At the Bijou with Gobe: War Drums

Another trip to the movies, courtesy of Mr. Dale Goble...

WAR DRUMS (1957) Ben Johnson, Joan Taylor, Lex Barker.
Okay, somebody tell me why didn't Ben Johnson never become a leading western star? Damn. Here he loses the girl to a wild Injun, played by Tarzan. I guess he needed better scripts. The guy who wrote this also wrote the screenplay for THE BIG STEAL. This is not in that league. But it is interesting, in spite of my frustration about Ben Johnson.

Lex Barker is the Apache chief Mangas. He doesn't become Mangas Coloradas until late in the film, a clever plot device. He is the noble savage, and friends with Luke Fargo, a friendly trader who respects the Indians and their ways. (With screen names like Luke Fargo, no wonder Johnson never made it to the Bigs.) Enter trouble, in the guise of Riva, a Mexican maiden (?) played by Joan Taylor. She is rescued from captivity by evil Mexicanos into captivity by Mangas. Luke Fargo is smitten with her. He tries to buy her from Mangas, to make her his wife. She seems okay with the deal, but Mangas declines. Back in the Injun camp, Mangas declares that they will marry. Riva acquiesces only after Mangas agrees that she will be a fellow warrior and not a stay-at-home squaw. She learns to hunt and fight and wear a push-up bra. Everyone is happy but Luke Fargo, but he's too nice a guy to make a fuss.

Then some shit happens: Gold is discovered, the Civil War, nose-rubbing.  Mangas is captured by villainous bad guys, gets horse-whipped and gives up his peaceable ways. (Peaceable to everyone but the Mexicanos. It is always open season on Mexicanos for the Apache.) Mangas paints for war. (Did Apaches paint for war?) It's all a big misunderstanding, but people get killed, and so forth and so on. Luke Fargo, now a Captain of cavalry, rides out to do what he can. Big battle.

I wouldn't depend on this very heavily as a history lesson. It's not big on battle scenes either. The love story is semi-tragic but otherwise rather lame. Mangas wears his pants up to his armpits. Ben Johnson gets shafted again, but not by the Injuns. The scenery is good. Everyone wears clean, new clothes. It's in Technicolor. The horses are not named. The smoke signals are really badly done. No microphone booms or airplanes appear. Not awful.                                                                                -Gobe

Perry Mason's Crazy Cousin: The Man in the Silver Mask

Something happened to his brother. Exactly what happened is never made clear, but it was horrendous enough to make this guy pop a silver ice bucket on his head and roam the mean streets fighting crime. On the cover above we see him issuing instructions to his deaf and dumb servant Ah Wong.

In this story from July 13, 1935 (apparently the first in the series) a good-lookin’ society babe witnesses a diamond theft. Naturally, the villain kidnaps her to prevent her from testifying. Enter the Man in the Silver Mask. He kidnaps the bad guy’s henchman Dugan and promises torture if the society babe’s whereabouts are not revealed.

Ah Wong slipped into the room with a brass bowl, a cage containing a huge rat, and a brass brazier which he carried by a handle.
“In the Chinese method of torture,” The Man in the Silver Mask said affably, “a rat is placed upon the stomach of the victim. A bowl is put over the rat, and little bits of hot charcoal are put in the bowl. Gradually, the bowl commences to get hot. The heat is coming from the top. The rat tries to get out. He can’t get out so he starts to dig. . . . Many people weaken as soon as they feel the rat running around on their naked flesh, but I think you’re brave, Dugan. I think you’ll let the rat tunnel through the skin, perhaps into the stomach, but when he commences to run around inside of your stomach and gnaw down into your liver, I think you’ll probably tell me what I want to know.”

Every vestige of bravado left the gangster. Sweat glistened the skin of his forehead. He opened his mouth and uttered a scream of shrill terror.

Man! Perry and Paul Drake could have saved a lot of shoe leather with methods like that!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Wyatt Earp Swings!

Marty Gold put a new spin on the Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp theme with his outstanding 1960 LP Swingin' West. Every track on the album is great, and I never get tired of it. Neither does Wyatt. He's glad you can't see his feet, 'cause he's dancin'.

"Wyatt Earp" by Marty Gold and his Orchestra

The Art of The Big Sleep: Swedish Style

A Swedish film distributor gives Bogie the pop art treatment.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Gun Play: Marx Cavalry Pistol

This Marx Miniature Firearm (about 4 inches long) was marketed as both a Civil War Pistol and a Cavalry Pistol. It sometimes came strapped to a card, sometimes in a plastic box with caps, and sometimes on a bubble-wrap card with a Sharp's carbine (coming soon to your local Almanack). It was part of the same set as the Marx Six Shooter. This is one I really wish they'd made as a full-size cap gun.

Satan Hall 2 : Satan Sees Red

Here's the setup for this cover from June 25, 1932: Satan is out to get a murderer named Bowers. Bowers has a classy nightclub, political influence and cops in his pocket. To intimidate visitors to his office, Bowers sits them under a hot light across from his desk. Satan pays Bowers a visit, making it clear he's carrying a rod but has no intention of using it - and sits in the chair under the light. Later, after things have escalated, Satan returns. Bowers now has reason to fear him. Before allowing Satan into his office, he takes away Satan's gun and places it in the open drawer of his desk. Bower's bodyguard remains in the room, keeping a gun on Satan. Here's what happens next:

Satan's hands dug deep down at his sides. His fingers seemed to clutch spasmodically at the heavy upholstery of the chair. At least, it seemed that way to Bowers, who couldn't see that far down from his desk . . . 

"You misundertand me, Bowers. I'm not threatening to watch for an opportunity to kill you - hunt you down in some alley. When I say I'm going to kill you, I mean just that. On the open street - in the lobby of a hotel - at Forty-second Street and Broadway. In plain words, the first time I see you, no matter what the place. Even in this room here . . . That's why I came to see you. I wanted to let you know. It will be the first time I ever shot a man down in cold blood, but it's fact just the same. I'll give you time to talk - while I count ten."

Bowers draws Satan's gun from the desk and points it at his chest. Satan explains the gun is not loaded, then thrusts himself out of the chair. As Bowers claws at his armpit for his own rod, Satan shoots the bodyguard between the eyes and pistol whips Bowers across the face. Satan, you see, had stuffed a snub-nose revolver into the chair cushions on his earlier visit. And his real goal, rather than killing Bowers, was to make him burn in the electric chair.

This story was included in The Adventures of Satan Hall, published by Mysterious Press in 1988.

For the Almanack's lowdown on the first Satan Hall story, click here: Satan Hall 1: Satan's Lash.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Ed Ames, Johnny Carson & A Tomahawk

Since it seems to be Ed Ames week here on the Almanack, here's a TV appearance from 1965, when Daniel Boone was on the air. Showing off his Mingo skills, Ed gives Johnny a demonstration on how to throw a tomahawk.

Hammett Mapback: A Man Called Spade

I still remember the surprise, when I came across this paperback back in the 70s, that Hammett had written three Sam Spade short stories. And I still remember the disappointment that they were not absolutely fabulous. This time around, though, I had lower expectations, and was once again surprised. The stories were better than I remembered.

Two of the Spade tales, the title story and "They Can Only Hang You Once," were still just average. It was nice to see Spade again, and Effie Perine, and Homicide dicks Dundy and Polhaus, but there's nothing really setting them apart from other similar pulp characters. These stories could have been penned by other hardboiled writers of the time and gone unnoticed.  The only thing that really jumped out as vintage Hammett was this paragraph from "They Can Only Hang You Once":

"The butler - his name's Jarbo - was in here when he heard the scream and shot, so he says. Irene Kelly, the maid, was down on the ground floor, so she says. The cook, Margaret Finn, was in her room - third floor back - and didn't even hear anything, so she says. She's deaf as a post, so everybody else says. The back door and gate were unlocked, but are supposed to be kept locked, so everybody says. Nobody says they were in or around the kitchen or yard at the time." Spade spread his hands in a gesture of finality. "That's the crop."

But there was something different about the third story, "Too Many Have Lived." It started off with a little Hammett magic, and held up well right to the end. I had the feeling Hammett was enjoying himself with this story, while the other two seemed a chore.  Here's the opening paragraph:

The man's tie was as orange as a sunset. He was a large man, tall and meaty, without softness. The dark hair parted in the middle, flattened to his scalp, his firm, full cheeks, the clothes that fit him with noticeable snugness, even the small, pink ears flat against the sides of his head - each of these seemed but a differently colored part of one same, smooth surface. His age could have been thirty-five or forty-five.

Another major difference in this story is that Spade is on the move, seeing the case and the characters from different angles. The other two stories are basically talkfests, where Spade figures things out after the real stories are over. This is illustrated quite well on the map above. "A Man Called Spade," (the longest of the tales) takes place almost entirely in this apartment.

The Spade stories originally appeared in American Magazine and Colliers in 1932. This 1945 paperback was a reprint of the Mercury Mystery digest collection published a year earlier, but was a more attractive package. It also includes "The Assistant Murderer," a fine 1926 Black Mask story about a P.I. named Alexander Rush, and another Collier's story called "His Brother's Keeper."

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ed Ames sings "Mingo"

Yesterday we heard Ed Ames (Mingo) sing the "Daniel Boone" theme. In a perfect world, today we'd hear Fess Parker (Dan'l) sing "Mingo." No such luck. The best I can offer is Ed singing about himself - Mingo, The Man with the Bullwhip!

"Mingo" by Ed Ames

Cap'n Bob's Corner: Western Reading

Cap'n Bob Napier, who reads westerns faster than I eat potato chips, offers these remarks...

Montana Passage, by Allan Vaughan Elston (Berkley, 1967, pb). A stagecoach is robbed and the driver killed. The bandit’s horse and saddle are identified as belonging to Jared Keith, a cowboy passing through town. Helena, Montana, in this case. When his cellmate is lynched Jared decides to run for it and find who committed the crime for which he’s accused. A solid read.

The Law in Cottonwood, by Lewis B. Patten (1979). The titular town is in Kansas, the terminus of a trail drive from Texas. Sheriff Morgan Gaunt is determined to keep the drunken revelry of the cowboys under control. Tops on his list is a No Guns policy. His problems with the townspeople who want a wide open town don’t make his job any easier, nor his determination to do the job without help.

Brand of Empire, by Luke Short (Dell, 1977; orig. 1937, pb).  A Senator wants to own a large tract of Indian reservation land, and has hatched a scheme to get it. He uses front men to do his dirty work, Unfortunately for him, one of the people he tries to run rough-shod over is Peter Yard, a cowpoke who doesn’t run when trouble beckons. This is my first Luke Short book and I’ll read more as I run across them. His characters are real and he’s adept at putting a man in an impossible spot and getting him out again.   

The Art of The Big Sleep: French Style

The U.S. posters for the original release of this noir classic were surprisingly ugly, mostly big splashes of pink with black letters and poorly chosen photographs. But several other countries got it right. Here's an especially cool one from the French release.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ed Ames sings "Daniel Boone"

Ed Ames, of course, is a singer of some renown. A crooner. Famous for songs like "My Cup Runneth Over." Unless, of course, you happen to be a child of television, in which case he's Daniel Boone's Indian sidekick Mingo. This stirring rendition of the Boone theme appeared on the 1966 LP "It's A Man's World," with a selection of other manly tunes. Fire up Davy's jukebox and sing along... What a Boone what a doer, what a dream-come-a-truer was he!

"Daniel Boone" by Ed Ames

The Crockett Lifestyle: Table Lamp

A passel of nice table lamps came out of the Crockett Craze, but this Premco model from 1955 just might be the Cadillac of the bunch. Just right for relaxing in your Davy Crockett slippers to read Davy's autobiography (recommended), one his many biographies (some yes, some no), Davy Crockett comics, or past issues of the Almanack. Or, if you're of a more artistic bent, work on your Davy Crockett coloring book. Perfectly complements your b'ar skin rug and imitation log-cabin paneling. Davy suggests you Go Ahead! and spend the two or three hundred bucks necessary to snag one on eBay.

The Art of Nero Wolfe: The Silent Speaker

When I was looking through old paperbacks with Philip Marlowe covers the other day (and finding only two), I came across several nice renderings of Archie Goodwin and Nero Wolfe. This one's from Bantam Book 308, published in 1948. Inside, Bantam was kind enough to provide the following blurb...

Nero Wolfe was a man who like to get things done . . . preferably by somebody else. In this case, there is a little matter of murder involved, and the very beautiful blonde, Miss Phoebe Gunther, knows something she isn't telling. Wolfe and his man-of-all-dirty-work, Archie Goodwin, are trying to find out just what the little lady has on her mind.
Illustrated by Hy Rubin.

"But I have nothing to lie about!" Miss Gunther says.
"Pfui," says Wolfe. "Everybody has something to lie about."

And here's the back, with Wolfe in his trademark yellow pajamas and a black & white squint at the original dj.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Interview: Oscar William Case

Oscar Case's new western novel, The Stranger from the Valley is now available from Amazon (click here to order), so it seemed a good time to throw a few questions at him.  He's been posting excerpts on his blog, BLOGGINCURLY, for some time now, and making me mighty curious. The most recent excerpt was just the other day. There's also a cool short story on his blog, called "I Ran into Butch Cassidy." And as I noted yesterday, he has a still another story, "Working for the Pawnee Agency," on The Western Online. This is one busy cowboy.

Me: How did you come to write The Stranger in the Valley?
Oscar: I wrote the novel in about six months, more or less, about four years ago, then set it aside.  A couple of years ago, I took another look at it and made another attempt at revising. As parts of have a fictionalized autobiographical aspect, I came to the conclusion that it isn't a truly traditional type western, but it is a western, nevertheless. The town of Altaveel is fictional, but I think it accurately reflects the people and their attitudes and manners in a small Mormon town sometime after the Civil War.

Me: Tell us about your hero.
Oscar: Chappie Wesford is a typical Marshal, but he is assigned to carry out an untypical mission, and puts his badge aside to travel to Altaveel for the Army to present awards to two citizens of the town. He is an older man, fearless, quick on the draw,  good at fisticuffs, and has a well-trained horse. He is a widower, easygoing, and falls for Widow Bigknife, who is shunned by the local wives, who think she is a woman of little virtue. New to the town, he has to make friends and win over enemies to complete the mission.

Me: Who or what is the antagonist?
Oscar: The Henberrys are the principal antagonists, the wealthiest and most powerful family in town, who think Wesford is there to take over their business interests for himself or others. Milt Henberry, the oldest son, is the main enforcer. He has a relationship with the Widow Bigknife, and has it in for Chappie, who appears to Milt to be enamoured with the Widow. He and Oakley Henberry try to kill Wesford.

Me: Who are your favorite writers?
Oscar: I don't have any favorites, but here are some that I like maybe a little more than others: Larry McMurtry, James Michener, Thomas Pynchon, Bernard DeVoto, Zane Grey, Wallace Stegner, Mark Twain, James Jones, Norman Mailer, and others. There are just too many not to include as favorites.

Me: How about western writers?
Oscar: There again, too many to pick out favorites, but I will list Larry McMurtry, Luke Short (Frederick Glidden), Wallace Stegner, Louis L'Amour, Max Brand (F.S. Faust), Elmer Kelton, Zane Grey. know most of these writers have passed on, but I grew up with those.

Me: Which of those guys have had the greatest influence on your own writing?
Oscar: As far as going about writing something, it has to be Zane Grey. He was the first writer I'd heard of, since my mother used to read to us out of Riders of the Purple Sage. He is probably why I write Westerns in these later years, if anybody. I'm glad she didn't read Tolstoy or Socrates.

Me: Has your writing been influenced by western films? Any in particular?
Oscar: Short answer, no. Long answer, not overtly. I don't have a movie in mind as I write, and I don't think about movies as I put it on paper, but I guess psychologically there could be some of it seeping in. After I had a draft of The Bloody Gulch, my wife and I were talking about it and she said the sheriff reminds her of James Arness of Gunsmoke. The last western I saw was Open Range on TV and before that Lonesome Dove.  The last western movie I saw  in a theater was The Unforgiven with Clint Eastwood.

Me: What's your writing background (other than fiction)?
Oscar: I took journalism in high school and was the sports editor for the school paper. A few years ago when I began to put some family history and genealogy books together for the family and decided that I would try my hand at writing something else. The first attempt was a biography of my great-great-grandfather, but I had to make up large portions of it to fill in the blank parts. I later converted the fictional parts into two separate novels, Reluctant Deputy Tom Anderson and Trouble at the Sagrado Ranch.

Me: Do you belong to a critique group?
Oscar: No. I was in a small Yahoo group for awhile, but it wasn't active enough, and I was too busy to really participate. I am taking classes at the Writer's Round Table of the Bishop Literary Service and getting feedback on my lesson writing there. Until it was put on line, had been attending classes for two or three years.  

Me: What have you been doing to promote The Stranger from the Valley?
Oscar: Being new at this, probably not as much as I should be, and mostly because of my budget. I've been putting it on the blog, of course, I have a site on Facebook, and I talk about it whenever I get the chance to push it. I've asked two local libraries to put it on their shelves, and have sent out a couple of news releases. This past weekend I had a short interview over the phone with a reporter, Lacey McMurry, of the Uintah Basin Standard of Roosevelt, Utah, a news provider for the locale of the novel.

Me: You say on your blog you have other novels in the works.
Oscar: Yes, The Bloody Gulch is next in line at the moment to be submitted to a publisher. Bloody Upamona is about ready to go, but it's waiting on The Gold Claim Wrangle to see what happens there. The Long Time Posse I like, but I don't think it's quite ready. Up The Arkansas has been put aside for now. Others I’m working on are Reluctant Deputy Tom Anderson and Trouble at the Sagrado Ranch.

Me: Best of luck, Oscar, with The Stranger from the Valley and all the rest!

Me again: It would be cruel to make you folks scroll way back to the top to place that order with Amazon, so I won't. You can click right here.

Richard Sale's "Daffy Dill"

Richard Sale, you may have heard, was called the "Dumas of the Pulps" because he wrote so much and so widely. He's believed to have written over 500 pulp stories. I've sampled a lot of them, and while I've never read a bad Sale story, my favorites are the Daffy Dill adventures he did for Detective Fiction Weekly. One source says the Daffy Dill series began in 1934. I don't know, because I've been unable to find a good Richard Sale (or even Daffy Dill) bibliography. If anyone can point me toward one I'd be much obliged. The issue seen here is Feb. 27, 1937. That's Daffy with the flashlight and his pal, homicide Detective "Poppa" Hanley, with the gun.

Daffy is a reporter for the New York Chronicle. His first-person narration is just about the wackiest and breeziest this side of Dan Turner. But while Turner verges on parody, Daffy Dill is the real goods. Richard Sale was somehow able to deliver screwball slang and make it sound like literature. And he obviously had a lot fun doing it. "Dancing Rats" features several characters very likely named for folks he knew. The killer is George Harmon (Coxe). There's a detective named Babcock (Dwight) and another character named Kyne (Peter B.).

Sale also wrote a number of novels. Among them are three fine mysteries, Lazarus #7, Passing Strange and Benefit Performance. Much later, he wrote The White Buffalo, in which Wild Bill Hickock and Crazy Horse go hunting the same mystical critter. Thankfully, the book is much better than the cheesy movie.

The Daffy Dill series cries out to be reprinted. Unfortunately, the only readily available story I'm aware of is "Three Wise Men of Babylon" in The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps. Go back a ways and you'll find one in Hard-Boiled Dames (1986), and another in The Hardboiled Dicks (65-67).

Wild Bunch Wednesday Story Challenge Part 8

The round-robin western with no name takes another bold step forward with today's contribution by mystery novelist Robert S. Napier. You'll find Part 8 in all its glory on The Cap'n's Blog. Cap'n Bob, as he is known to mystery and western fandom, is the author of the Fivestar mystery Love, Death and the Toyman (now out of print but not yet out of reach) and the upcoming The Toyman Rides Again. When not writing or ramrodding the Old West amateur press association OWLHOOT, he relaxes by strumming gentle ballads on his trusty guitar.

Parts 1 thru 6 of the epic Story With No Name have been gathered for your convenience by Ian Parnham on The Culbin Trail. Part 7 appeared last week on THE TAINTED ARCHIVE.

The distinguished group of wordslingers to participate so far include:
I.J. Parnham, Jack Giles, Chuck Tyrell, Evan Lewis, Jack Martin, James J. Griffin, and Joseph A. West. Welcome to the ranks, Cap'n Bob.

Part 9 is now up for grabs. Who will write it? If you're ready to accept the challenge, make a comment on The Cap'n's Blog.

Monday, September 21, 2009

"Zorro" by the Chordettes

 Let's bop back to 1958 and flip on the old transistor radio to hear the Chordettes sing the theme song of The Fox so Cunning and Free. This record rode the top 100 for 11 weeks, peaking at number 17 on the charts. No, this wasn't the version you heard on TV, but it still ain't too shabby. See that little gray gizmo below? It's an mp3 player. Pretend it's your radio and hit Play.

"Zorro" by the Chordettes

Coming Attraction: The Stranger from the Valley

In celebration of Wild Bunch Wednesday, the Almanack will be pleased to present an exclusive interview with Oscar William Case, author of the new western novel The Stranger from the Valley. Look for it right here in just about 24 hours. While you're waiting, you might want to gallop over to The Western Online and read Oscar's short story, "Working for the Pawnee Agency."

After the Thin Man: A Study in Costars

I love this movie. Favorite bits include the cuckolded Asta, and Lum Kee - who likes his brother less than his brother's girl. But what intrigued me most this time around were the future careers of the costars.

Another great moment in this film is Jimmy Stewart's instant and over-the-top transformation from milksop to jibbering, snarling maniac. He was only a year or so into his film career, and just three years away from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Destry Rides Again.

George Stucco, the bug-eyed Dr. Kammer, was destined to become Professor Moriarty in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Alan Marshall appeared in the sames Holmes movie, plus many western and detective TV series in the late 5os.

Penny Singleton,
here playing a floozy, was two years away from beginning her long-running role as Blondie.

Joseph Calleia, the nightclub owner Dancer, would later play Juan Seguin with John Wayne in The Alamo.

And Paul Fix, who had hundreds of roles, appeared in dozens of western films and dozens of TV westerns, becoming best known to me as Micah in The Rifleman.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Super-Detective: Doc Savage Wannabe

Jim Anthony, Super-Detective, got into the pulp hero business in October 1940. This issue, which I think is the earliest I own, is number 3. The mag was a product of Trojan Publications, the same folks who brought us Spicy Detective and Hollywood Detective, which I why I bought it. Jim Anthony is said to be the creation of Victor Rousseau, a British subject who moved to the U.S.. Rousseau wrote forgotten fiction in several genres, and saw a few of his stories made into forgotten silent westerns. Rousseau is believed to have authored at least the first three issues.

Page 22 of the magazine has a little feature called “Introducing Jim Anthony.”
Those of you who have read previous issues of SUPER-DETECTIVE won’t need to be introduced to Jim Anthony now. For those of you didn’t we offer this little forward. Jim Anthony isn’t essentially much different from any ordinary red-blooded American citizen. It just happens that accident of birth brought to Jim Anthony rather an usual heritage. Of both Irish and American descent, he has inherited both immense wealth and extraordinary physical prowess. He can see in the dark like a cat, follow a trail like a hound, hear sounds inaudible to other ears . . . Perform almost superhuman feats of strength. Moreover, his phenomenal mentality has brought him to the forefront in scientific circles.

What they fail to mention is that he was also the grandson of a Comanche chief, giving him a sort of Spider-sense to danger. And the fact that he seldom wears more than a pair of swimming trunks, presumably to be prepared for any sort of action.
Jim was in full Doc Savage mode only for the first ten issues. After this (like Doc in later years) he was toned down to a somewhat normal detective, often with one helper instead of a gang.

Several Jim Anthony reprints are available from Adventure House (look for Pulp Review #s 2 & 13, High Adventure 104 and Super-Detective Flip Book), and a collection of newly written stories is offered on Lulu.

Gun Play: Actoy Lone Ranger

Somehow I just can't see Clayton Moore shootin' silver bullets out of this one. But it does have "Lone Ranger" stamped on the side, making it more desirable than the average cap gun. The standard bearer of the Actoy line was the "Pony Boy" model (which looked just like this except with a silver finish), hence the pony head logo on the grip. Click to enlarge, if you're so inclined.

Look out, Tex! That schoolmarm might have a Bowie!

Two more 3-inch residents of the Marx Roy Rogers Mineral City Playset. Things ain't always what they seem in Mineral City. No telling what that lady's hiding in her basket.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Art of The Big Sleep

In hauling my old mystery paperbacks out of storage and giving them the once-over, I was struck by how few Raymond Chandler covers actually pictured Philip Marlowe. Thinking a little deeper, I realized how rare Marlowe illustrations really are. Near as I can tell, Marlowe never officially appeared in the pulps. The Black Mask and Dime Detective stories Chandler used to create his novels had detectives with names like Mallory, Carmady and Dalmas, so there are no pulp illos at all. I was pleased to find these two covers of The Big Sleep, which feature at least limited views of Mr. Marlowe.

Pocket Book 696, from 1950, is the best Marlowe image I've found so far. It's based on the following passage: On a sort of low dais at one end of the room there was a high-backed teakwood chair in which Miss Carmen Sternwood was sitting on a fringed orange shawl. She was sitting very straight, with her hands on the arms of the chair, her knees close together, her body stiffly erect in the pose of an Egyptian goddess, her chin level, her small bright teeth shining between her parted lips. Her eyes were wide open. The dark slate color of the Iris had devoured the pupil. They were mad eyes. She seemed to be unconscious, but she didn’t have the pose of unconsciouness. She looked as if, in her mind, she was doing something very important and making a fine job of it. Out of her mouth came a tinny chuckling noise which didn’t change her expression or move her lips. She was wearing a pair of long jade earrings. They were nice earrings and had probably cost a couple of hundred dollars. She wasn’t wearing anything else.

Pocket Book 2696, 1958, presents the same two characters from another scene: The bed was down. Something in it giggled. A blond head was pressed into my pillow. Two bare arms curved up and the hands belonging to them were clasped on top of the blond head. Carmen Sternwood lay on her back in my bed, giggling at me. The tawny wave of her hair was spread out on the pillow as if by a careful and artificial hand. Her slaty eyes peered at me and had the effect, as usual, of peering from behind a barrel. She smiled. Her small sharp teeth glinted. “Cute, aren’t I?” she said.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Death at Bethesda Falls

The title of this Ross Morton western is apt, because death does come to Bethesda Falls, and the man who brings it our protagonist, Jim Thorp. The point is hammered home at the end: As Jim leaves town, the livery man is amending the town’s population on the welcome board from 111 down to 107, and that includes the birth of two babies.

Ross Morton, as you may recall from this older post, is actually Nik Morton, a man of many names. This was (I think) Nik’s first Black Horse Western, but hardly his first novel, and shows a writer in command of his subject and his story. Nik’s style is economical and exacting. Every scene has a purpose and does its job well. I was impressed Nik's ability to move easily between several points of view, often for only brief passages, and still keep the story moving quickly forward. As we near the climax, the shifts come even quicker, building suspense on several fronts at once. Needless to say, I’ll be on the lookout for more Ross Morton westerns.

Tim Curry sings "Davy Crockett"

Davy's record collection includes somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 different versions of "The Ballad of Davy Crockett," and there are a lot more he's still looking for. He's not too picky about them, being generally enthralled with anyone singing his name. Me, I like some better than others, and this version by Tim Curry is one of the coolest. Fire up the little mp3 player at the bottom of this post and sing along.

"The Ballad of Davy Crockett" by Tim Curry

Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective

If you've never met Dan Turner, you must do so immediately. For outrageous slang and headlong enthusiasm, there's no one like him. Click here for a story you can read online. Robert Leslie Bellem's Dan Turner stories appeared in every issue of the legendary Spicy Detective, which ran from 1934 to 1942. The stories were only mildly spicy (a little nudity, some semi-heavy petting, some fade-outs left to the imagination). As "Hollywood Detective" implies, Dan had the studio beat, and the amazing habit of discovering the corpses of scantily-clad starlets. In 1942, the Spicy line (including Spicy Mystery, Adventure & Western) changed their names from Spicy to Speed, lowered their prices from 25 cents to 15 and went from under-the-counter to the regular newsstands.

That's when Dan got his own magazine. Each of the first ten or so issues was billed as "A Bookful of Dan Turner Stories," and consisted of reprints from Spicy Detective. Eventually Dan's name was dropped from the masthead, and Hollywood Detective marched on with new stories until 1950, with Dan sharing space with other sleuths. In all, it's estimated Dan racked up more than 300 adventures.

In the years since, Dan Turner has developed a cult following, and I admit to being a card-carrying member. Numerous amateur and small-press reprint collections have appeared, some now collectible in themselves. There have been movies and comic books. Currently, at least two Lulu-type publishers have multi-volume projects going. Search Lulu or Amazon for Robert Leslie Bellem and you'll see. And come on back to the Almanack to see more great Hollywood Detective covers.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sheb Wooley sings "Rawhide"

Sheb Wooley, who played "Pete Nolan" on Rawhide, was also an actual recording artist, most famous for his "One-eyed, One-horned Flying Purple People Eater." He released LPs of mostly novelty songs under his own name and as "Ben Colder," and also wrote the stirring theme song for the comedy/variety show Hee Haw. Click on Davy's mp3 player (that little gray thing at the bottom of this post) to hear Sheb sing. He's no Frankie Laine, it's true, but he was a pal of Rowdy Yates, and that should count for something.

"Rawhide" by Sheb Wooley

Davy's Jukebox: 77 Sunset Strip Cha Cha

A great show with a great theme, and a fine soundtrack album. Click the mp3 player below to hear Warren Baker and his Orchestra perform the ultra-cool cha cha cha version from the show. As you may know, Roy Huggins based 77 Sunset Strip on his own hardboiled detective character Stu Bailey, who had appeared in the novel The Double Take and several short stories in the 40s. More on the stories later. For now, just listen and groove.

"77 Sunset Strip Cha Cha" by Warren Baxter and Orchestra

SATAN HALL in "Satan's Lash" (1931)

Carroll John Daly is acknowledged (often grudgingly and sometimes with embarrassment) as the author of the first hardboiled detective story. He beat Hammett to the punch by a few months, and many mystery historians wish he hadn’t. Sure, Hammett was a far better writer. He deserves his status as a hardboiled icon. But Daly didn’t just write that first story and fade in obscurity. He kept at it well into the 50s and was one of the most popular writers of his day. Daly’s most famous creation was Race Williams, a two-gun lead-slinging P.I. who pretty much formed the mold for the hardboiled detective.

But Daly created other heroes too, and the one I find the most intriguing is Satan Hall. The earliest Satan story I've seen (thanks to Mr. Steve Mertz) was "Black Turns White" in the August 16, 1930 issue of Detective Story. This adventures, from the August 8, 1931 issue of Detective Story appears to be his second. This is a couple of years after Sam Spade appeared in Black Mask, and after The Maltese Falcon was published as a novel. So I have to wonder: was Satan Hall Daly’s answer to Sam Spade?

Here are the opening lines of The Maltese Falcon:
Samuel Spade’s jaw was long and bony, his chin a jutting v under the more flexible v of his mouth. His nostrils curved back to make another, smaller v. His yellow-grey eyes were horizontal. The v motif was picked up again by thickish brows rising outward from twin creases above a hooked nose, and his pale brown hair grew down - from high flat temples - in a point on his forehead. He looked rather pleasantly like a blond satan.

And here’s our first look at Satan Hall:
The patrolman wet his lips, tried to speak and failed as he stared at the man before him. He knew him, of course. Everyone knew “Satan” Hall, the hardest, cruelest, and most sinister detective on the city’s force. The officer looked at the features again, studied them almost as if for the first time, although he knew them well: that peculiar head with its features all seeming to come to points, starting at the chin and making one great capital letter V, ending in the brim of his gray slouch hat. And though he couldn’t see it, the officer knew that the jet-black hair began in a single thin line down by his forehead, widening as the hair thickened, to make that same V again. Even the ears, just visible below the hat, were tapering at the ends; and the curve of the lips, in tune with the slanting eyebrows, gave a satanic expression to the entire face.

In Daly’s hands, the small v and small s satan motif became big capital Vs and Satan with a capital S. Unlike Spade, Satan Hall is a police detective, but in another parallel, this story is about Satan’s unrelenting crusade to avenge the death of his partner.

Satan made his next appearance in Detective Fiction Weekly, holding court for several years, and was the subject of many more great pulp covers. You’ll see them here as the Almanack rolls along, and I’ll do a lot more yapping about the life and times of Satan Hall.