Thursday, December 31, 2009

Hollywood Detective Reprint Pioneer

There are a lot of Hollywood Detective reprints around these days, and the cult of Dan Turner continues to grow. But the real pioneer in the field was John Wooley, who edited this fine volume in 1983 for Bowling Green State University Popular Press.

Wooley wasn't the first to reprint Dan Turner. That honor, as far as I know, goes to Tony Goodstone, in his 1970 extravaganza The Pulps (a book that belongs in every library). Another story appeared in a 1977 Barnes and Noble special called Pulp Fictions.

But Wooley's book was (I think) the first Hollywood Detective collection, and is still one of the best. The hardcover edition (complete with dj) is a very handsome volume, featuring seven stories scanned directly from Spicy Detective, Hollywood Detective, Speed Detective and Private Detective Stories - including all the illustrations. This is the way Dan's adventures were meant to be read.

For those keeping score, the tales contained are: Homicide Highball; Off-Stage Murder; Dark Star of Death; Homicide Spike; Drunk, Disorderly and Dead; Hair of the Dog; and Dump the Jackpot.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Story With No Name Part 22 by James J. Griffin

A new chapter = a new surprise. But I ain't telling what it is. You'll have to visit Ian Parnham's The Culbin Trail for Part 22 of this round-robin epic, penned by western author James J. Griffin. Ian has also gathered Parts 1-16 and 17-21 for easy catch-up reading.

Jim Griffin's latest book, The Faith and the Rangers, collects ten Texas Ranger stories, including the first meeting of his two series characters, Jim Blawcyzk and Cody Havlicek. Now available from Amazon.

Several other Story With No Name authors are among the 21 writers featured in the new Express Westerns anthology A Fistful of Legends (which you may possibly have noticed on the masthead). There are now a mere 14 days left in the special offer to get an advance copy of Fistful delivered to you PDQ with free shipping. Click A Fistful of Legends Special Offer for all the details.

Part 23 of The Story, by Paul Dellinger, will be featured on Mark Engebretson's My Side.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Wyatt Earp - plus - Chilly Billy the Real Cool Kid??

Here's a tune worthy of The Dr. Demento Show. The reason for this 1957 Golden Record's existence is the popular theme from The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp. But they had to do something with the flip side - and what they did was this amazing thing called "The Saga of Billy the Kid". So sit back, crank up the Almanack's mp3 player, and let (Sing Along with) Mitch Miller and the Sandpipers entertain you. It's interesting that Mitch and the gang did "Wyatt Earp" acappella, as it was done by the Ken Darby Singers for the TV show.

"Wyatt Earp" by Mitch Miller & the Sandpipers

"The Saga of Billy the Kid" by Mitch Miller & the Sandpipers

Monday, December 28, 2009

Satan Hall 6: Death by Appointment

In this tale from 1933, pointy-eared Detective Frank "Satan" Hall slaps down a mob gunny named Chet Barloff, putting "the mark of Satan" on him. Now Barloff must try to kill him, or bear that mark of shame.

Satan allows himself to be lured into a trap in the back room of a nightclub, where he enjoys a glass of (no kidding!) sarsaparilla. A few excerpts from the scene:

A voice spoke. A voice directly behind Satan; a voice that he recognized.

“Don’t so much as move a muscle,” said the voice. “My gun’s less than six feet from your head; just the right distance to blow the top of it off.” And the voice was the voice of Chet Barloff.

Looking up into the mirror on the wall in front of him, Satan saw those sneering lips; those gloating eyes. A panel in the wall had slipped noiselessly back - a panel wide enough to admit the head and shoulders of the killer; a necessary device of pre-Volstead days for a Sunday can of beer.

Satan didn’t move and he didn’t speak. He cursed softly beneath his breath. If his right hand was only free? But it wasn’t free. He couldn’t get the glass onto the table without attracting Barloff’s attention.

Remarkably, though Satan can see Barloff in the mirror, Barloff is so focused on the back of Satan’s head that he pays no attention to the mirror. So he fails to notice as Satan’s left hand snakes a gun from under his right armpit and up toward his right shoulder. Satan’s best hope is to get one desperate shot off before he dies.

Then Barloff finally looks in the mirror.

For a split second Barloff’s eyes were fastened on Satan’s left hand - on the gun that left hand held. The right hand was forgotten.

Satan let his right hand fly back as he pitched himself forward onto the table. He heard the roar of Chet Barloff’s gun, the curse too that preceded it. For a split moment in the mirror Satan saw the glass strike the wall above Barloff’s head - saw the bits of glass scatter and the dull brown liquid run over Barloff’s face.

There was the smell of burnt powder in Satan’s nostrils, and a cold stab along the side of his face as if a piece of ice had been dragged across his cheek.

Satan hits the floor, twisting his body. And his left hand if finally free. He looks Barloff straight in the eyes.

Satan didn’t see the lust to kill in those eyes now. He saw fear - even terror.

Satan’s green eyes narrowed; his thin lips were a straight line. His finger closed once upon that trigger.

They fired together. Barloff with a hand that shook - with a finger that closed frantically - desperately.

A chip of wood from the table tore across Satan’s cheek. He nodded grimly and his lips parted. Clearly he saw the round hole almost in the center of Chet Barloff’s forehead; a small round hole that was growing larger and turning red.

“Just as I always thought,” Satan thought, half aloud. “No nerve. When he faced the gun in my hand he turned yellow.”

Sarsaparilla saves the day!

Satan's earlier adventures are chronicled HERE.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Art of Sherlock Holmes: Sherlock Holmes Faces Death

No more chasing Nazi spies! That's the good news in this sixth film in the Rathbone-Bruce series, from 1943. This one, very loosely based on "The Musgrave Ritual", finds Holmes and Watson in a spooky old convalescent home, facing such weird elements as a human chessboard and clock striking 13.

The posters show an interesting progression. The title card (above) features the original photographs of the main players. For the 1-sheet (below) those same photos were enhances with paint. And on the much larger 3-sheet (bottom), even more painterly effects are employed.


Enter the Rathbone-Bruce Poster Gallery HERE.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Sam Spade: Sam and the Psyche

Fellows, if a girl can spend half an hour under a hot dryer in a beauty parlor to look her best for you, certainly you can spend half a minute sprucing up with Wildroot Cream-Oil Hair Tonic to look your best for her.
Just one of the many life lessons to be gleaned from this week's mind-bending episode, from August 2, 1946.

Sam and the Psyche Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

More adventures await you:
The Fairly-Bright Caper
The Rushlight Diamond Caper
The Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail Caper
The Stopped Watch Caper
The Apple of Eve Caper
The Prodigal Daughter Caper
The Battles of Belvedere Caper
The Vaphio Cup Caper
The Betrayal in Bumpass Hell Caper
The Bow Window Caper
The Adam Figg Caper
The Calcutta Trunk Caper 

(click to enlarge)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

"Christmas Dragnet" by Stan Freberg & Daws Butler

This record, released in 1953, was a follow-up to the team's earlier Dragnet parody, "St. George and the Dragon-net". Freberg is Joe Wednesday, while Butler plays Frank Jones, Grudge and the brownie. Freberg, of course, made a career of comedy records and comedy advertising. Daws Butler is better known for his work in cartoons. Among the many characters he voiced were Quick Draw McGraw, Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, Elroy Jetson, and Snagglepuss.

"Christmas Dragnet" by Stan Freberg with Daws Butler

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Xmas Greetings from Arizona

My sister and her husband sent the usual picture card of them and their dogs, crowing about the weather in the sunny Southwest. Ho hum. Some things never change.

Western Roundup: SWNN 21 by Jack Martin, New Haxan, Fistful, More!

Jack Martin (aka Gary Dobbs), author of Black Horse Westerns The Tarnished Star (now available) and Arkansas Smith (coming soon), turns in more blazing western action in this week's installment of our round-robin epic over at THE TAINTED ARCHIVE.

This new anthology is available for immediate shipment - with free shipping - but only until January 11. After that, you'll have to wait, like everyone else on the planet, until January 31, and pay postage. Details here.

Kenneth Mark Hoover delivers another fine tale of that not-quite-natural western town Haxan at Beneath Ceaseless Skies. "High Moon" is the fifth in the series. You'll find the first story HERE, and the second, third and fourth stories on The Western Online.

This new online mag is now in its third issue. The latest tales are from Greg Camp and Terry Alexander.

Western writer Lance Howard (aka Howard Hopkins) speaks eloquently on the subject at Dark Bits.

After a brief hiatus, we're pleased to note that Chris is back in action at The Louis L'Amour Project.

Richard Prosch recently delivered a multi-part review of all ten stories (plus the cover) of a single issue of this pulp mag. Not to be missed, at Meridian Bridge.

It ain't exactly a cowboy story, but it is an event. A never-before-published Christmas story by Wild West Weekly great Paul S. Powers has just appeared on Laurie's Wild West.

Recently here on the Almanack: A review, complete with TV theme songs, of the Whitman kids' books Maverick, Zorro and Have Gun Will Travel. And reviews of Kid Wolf of Texas and Pulp Writer, both by the aforementioned Paul S. Powers.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Garage Rock Christmas

When it comes to Christmas music, I'm a Scrooge. But there is one song I haul out every year - sometimes even in July - to give a listen: "Santa Claus" by The Sonics.

Maybe it's due to brain damage, but The Sonics have been my favorite band since I was 14 years old. So here's my Christmas present to you...

You'll recognize "Santa Claus" as owing a debt to the garage-rock classic "Farmer John" by the Premiers. But it's better. "Louie, Louie" is a prime example of The Sonics' BOOM. "Psycho" was one of the band's big Northwest hits back in 1965, and a fitting anthem for my teenage state of mind. And "Keep A Knockin'", one of the most ferocious of all Sonics songs, is a tribute to the true King of Rock and Roll, Little Richard. 'Nuff said. Just listen.

"Santa Claus" by The Sonics

"Louie, Louie" by The Sonics

"Psycho" by The Sonics

"Keep A Knockin'" by The Sonics

Monday, December 21, 2009

Buy Your Own Christmas Presents - $3 EACH!

I'm a big fan of John Gunnison's High Adventure series, one of the many fine publications from Adventure House. The latest issue is number 109 (the first 23 appeared under the title Pulp Review), and the series is still going strong. Cover price on the most recent issues is $8.95 - and that's a bargain.

But right now, John is offering 35 different issues (including all those shown here) for only $3 each. For fans of pulp adventure, there's no better deal anywhere.

My favorite ish, of course, is Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective, reprinting seven rollicking Dan Turner stories from the January 1943 issue of Dan's mag. Another reprints the entire first issue of G-Men, introducing special Agent Dan Fowler. Also for mystery fans, there's a great collection of four "Suicide Squad" tales from Ace G-Man, by Emile Tepperman (who did many intense Spider and Operator 5 novels).

On the mystery edge of the Hero Pulps, you'll find an issue of Secret Agent X, and three of Phantom Detective. Costumed pulp heroes are represented by the Green Lama from Double Detective (4 issues) and The Black Bat from Black Book Detective (2). Then there are the Doc Savage wannabes, Captain Hazzard, Captain Zero (2), and Jim
Anthony, Super-Detective. And five great issues of the legendary "Purple Invasion" series from Operator 5.

Roaming farther afield, there's Jungle Stories star Ki-Gor, the next best thing to Tarzan, in three issues (featuring two novels each). And if you like air war, check out the first two issues of Dusty Ayres and his Battle Birds, or Frederick C. Painton's novel-length series, The Conquest of America". Also on sale (at $4 each) are several issues of another Adventure House series, G-8 and his Battle Aces.

Ready to click that mouse? Here's the link: Adventure House Price Specials. And while you're on the site, check out the many other amazing books.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Art of Sherlock Holmes: Sherlock Holmes in Washington

Unless you're intrigued by the notion of a toy plane crashing into Basil Rathbone's right eye, this 1943 poster offers little of interest. But the film is actually pretty good. Unlike the previous four, this one is not based on any Conan Doyle story. Holmes, Watson and the bad guys, played by George Zucco and Henry Daniell, are all chasing after a secret war document on a piece of microfilm. Zucco, you may recall, played Professor Moriarty earlier in the series, and Daniell would portray him later.

The Archive's Sherlock Holmes Poster Gallery, featuring some far better artwork, is now open for further viewing.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Forgotten Books: Kid Wolf of Texas by Paul S. Powers

Don't recognize the name Ward M. Stevens? You would if you'd been reading Wild West Weekly anytime between 1930 and 1943, and just seeing his name on the cover would have lit a fire in your veins.

These days, you're more likely to know him as Paul S. Powers, grandpappy of author and blogger Laurie Powers. And there's no reason he can't still light that fire, because his almost-a-novel, Kid Wolf of Texas, is finally back in print.

The first edition was published in 1930 by Chelsea House. We're indebted  to Laurie for the scan (above) of the glorious dust jacket. The reprint, with the four-legged wolf on the cover, was issued in 2006 by Center Point, in Large Print only. Amazon now offers a Kindle version as well.

Under the pen name Ward M. Stevens and others, Powers sold over 400 stories to Wild West Weekly, many of them featuring Kid Wolf. Here's what Powers himself said about Kid Wolf of Texas, in his memoir Pulp Writer:

An author's first book, no matter how poor it may be, is a milestone in his life, and before leaving California I had the somewhat awe-inspiring experience of appearing in cloth covers -- of course, I mean my writings; I hadn't gone naked, exactly, all this time. The book was Kid Wolf of Texas by Ward M. Stevens, neatly bound up in gold-lettered red cloth and bearing the Chelsea House imprint. This was a subsidiary of Street & Smith, which had bought the book rights of five Kid Wolf novelettes and slapped them together to form something which, in length anyhow, was a novel. 

As the stories had no connection with each other, the effect was not very good, except to dyed-in-the-wool Kid Wolf fans. There were no royalties paid, but it seemed to be a start, and I was thrilled when a dozen or so of the volumes were shipped to me.

While it's true the stories have no connection to one another, Powers (or someone) added a connecting sentence or two between each tale, to give the illusion of a continuous narrative - a common practice at the time.
Kid Wolf was sort of the Doc Savage of the Old West – a wealthy rancher who chose to ride around righting wrongs and punishing evildoers. And like Doc, he had no trouble finding plenty of both. I’ll be telling you a bit on my own, but in large part I’d like let you experience Kid Wolf for yourself. No amount of second-hand yapping can truly describe Power’s style.

Here’s our first glimpse of Kid Wolf and Blizzard: Together, man and mount made a striking picture; yet it would been hard to say which was the more picturesque—the rider or the horse. The latter was a splendid beast, and its spotless hide of snowy white glowed in the rays of the afternoon sun. With bit chains jingling, it gracefully leaped a gully, landing with all the agility of a mountain lion, in spite of its enormous size.

The rider, still whistling his Texas tune, swung in the concha-decorated California stock saddle as if he were a part of his horse. He was a lithe young figure, dressed in fringed buckskin, touched here and there with the gay colors of the Southwest and of Mexico.

Two six-guns, wooden-handled, were suspended from a cartridge belt of carved leather, and hung low on each hip. His even teeth showed white against the deep sunburn of his face.

In the first tale, Kid encounters a man staked stretched out on his back, face up to the sun, with his eyelids removed and ants crawling over him. – He's still alive, but only long enough to warn Kid of a villainous gang leader known as The Masked Terror. The Terror’s plan, it develops, is to waylay a wagon train, and despite resistance from the man leading the train, Kid is determined to stop him.

Kid rides into Santa Fe, all the way to the palace of the Governor. Spotting a Spanish officer mistreating a peon, Kid cannot resist humiliating him. In a shooting match worthy of Wild Bill Hickock, the officer has a sombrero tossed into the air and shoots a hole in it. When the hat is tossed again, Kid Wolf fires off six shots, and all appear to miss. But, of course, it’s discovered all six shots went through the same hole. Needless to say, Kid Wolf foils the Terror’s plans and unmasks him. This is Kid at his absolute pulpiest.

In the second story, Kid is riding along when he sees a half-breed ambush and murder an innocent rider. Kid drags the killer into the nearest town, and is soon in the middle of another wild shoot out.

Kid Wolf is so appealing because he’s absolutely fearless and supremely confident in his ability with his weapons. In addition to his twin .45s, he has his Ace in the Hole, a big Bowie knife in a sheath sown into the back of his buckskin shirt. In times of need, he just reaches behind his neck, plucks out the Bowie and flings it unerringly into the heart of the villain of the week. Very cool.

In the third tale, Kid befriends a widow whose husband has been shot, her ranch hands paid to desert, and her cattle run off. Naturally, there’s a slippery gent in town eager to buy her ranch for bottom dollar. Next, he’s off to Skull, New Mexico, where he encounters such charming folk as rustler and bullwhip artist Blacksnake McCoy and his comparatively respectable boss, Gentleman John the cattle king.

The Kid’s roundup adventure involves a stagecoach rattling along the Arizona-New Mexico line when they’re pinned down by Apaches. A brave young soul rides to the nearest town, Lost Springs, and staggers into the saloon for help. He’s met with nothing but indifference, and when he calls the men cowards, their leader sends him sprawling to the floor. Enter Kid Wolf, sweeping the room with cool, calm eyes. “Isn’t it rathah wahm foh such violent exercise, gentlemen?” “Are yuh tryin’ to mind my business?” asks the bad guy. “When I mind somebody’s else’s business,” Kid Wolf drawls, “that somebody else isn’t usually in business any moah.” The young man from the stagecoach tells Kid his story, ending with “Won’t you help me?”

“Sho’,” Kid Wolf says. “I’ll throw in with you. And these othah men are goin’ to throw in with yo’, too!”

The men in the saloon stood aghast, open-mouthed. But they didn’t hesitate long. When the stranger spoke again, his words came like the crack of a whip:

“Get yo’ hosses!”

Garvey’s heavy-jawed face went purple with fury. That this young unknown dared to try such high-handed methods so boldly in Lost Springs—which he ruled—maddened him! His big hand slid down toward his hip with the rapidity of a lighting bolt.

There was resounding crash—a burst of red flame. Garvey’s hand never closed over his gun butt. The stranger had drawn and fired so quickly that nobody saw his arm move. And the reason that the amazed Garvey did not touch the handle of his .44 was because there was no handle there! The young newcomer’s bullet had struck the butt of the holstered gun and smashed it to bits.

Garvey stared at the handleless gun as if stupefied. Then his amazed glance fell upon the stranger, who was smiling easily through the flickering powder fumes.

“Who—who are yuh?” he stammered.
The stranger smiled.

“Kid Wolf,” he drawled, “from Texas, sah. My friends simply say ‘Kid,’ but to my enemies I’m ‘The Wolf’!”

It's easy to see why Wild West Weekly readers couldn't get enough of this guy.

The perfect companion volume to Kid Wolf of Texas is Powers' memoir Pulp Writer: Twenty Years in the American Grub Street, edited and with biographical essays by granddaughter Laurie. You'll find more info on the book's official website, here. And, of course, new tidbits about Powers and his creations are liable to pop up at any moment on Laurie's Wild West.

But... since Davy's Crockett's Almanack strives to be a full-service blog, I'm also reprinting my review of that book right here . . .


Way back whenever, I read the chapter on Wild West Weekly in John A. Dinan’s Borgo Press book The Pulp Western, and wanted to see what all the fuss was about. But even then, WWWs were hard to come by, and I let the feeling slide.

Then Laurie Powers popped up on the Black Horse Westerns Yahoo group, mentioning her grandfather’s memoir, Pulp Writer: Twenty Years in the American Grub Street by Paul S. Powers, to which she’d written an introduction/conclusion, and the two collections of stories currently in print, Desert Justice (featuring Sonny Tabor) and Kid Wolf of Texas.

So I read all three books. And wasn’t sorry.

By way of intro, Paul S. Powers was one of WWW’s most prolific writers. Under the pen name Ward M. Stevens, he created Kid Wolf and Sonny Tabor, who remained two of the magazine’s most popular characters for nearly fifteen years. Under a variety of other names, he had series featuring Johnny Forty-Five, King Kolt, Freckles Malone, Poet Pete, and others, in addition to non-series stories. By 1949 he estimated he’d written over 10 million words.

Pulp Writer is two books in one. About a third of it is sort of a combination detective tale and coming-of-age story about how Laurie came to discover who her grandfather was and what he’d written. In the beginning, all she knew was that he’d written for obscure western magazines and had authored two books: Doc Dillahay (reprinted by Bantam as Six-Gun Doctor) and a “Little Big Book” (a Big Little Book wannabe) called Spook Riders of the Overland. As Laurie begins to investigate, meeting lost relatives and others, she visits the Street & Smith archives and is astounded to discover he wrote as many as 80 stories for WWW. Imagine her shock as she eventually learns the number was at least 440, with sales to other mags as well.

Laurie’s intro is a good story, well told. It’s quite personal, and after reading it I almost feel I know her. An illusion, no doubt, but a pleasant one. Laurie now gives lectures on pulp westerns and has a great blog called, quite appropriately, Laurie’s Wild West.

Still another of Laurie’s surprising discoveries was the manuscript for her grandfather’s unpublished memoir, which forms the rest of the book.

The memoir is a change of pace, diving immediately into the wise-guy style of a pulp pro. Powers broke into magazines by writing jokes, and it shows. His style is breezy and fun. All the trials of an aspiring writer are there, and his tales of pulp writing are fascinating. To those of us who view the great Pulp Era as a magical time, this is like getting a peek behind the legend. On reaching the end, I couldn’t wait to sample his fiction. So I didn’t.

I read Desert Justice and Kid Wolf of Texas pronto, and loved them both.

For links to more of this week's Forgotten Books, visit pattinase!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Art of Nero Wolfe: MEET NERO WOLFE

I've had this 1-sheet poster for about 25 years, and that's just how long it took to get it framed. It was my wife's idea, of course (thanks, babe!). I'm much better at collecting stuff than displaying it properly.

Anyway, it's a truly gorgeous poster. Sadly, I've never seen the film. It was playing at a Bouchercon in San Francisco eons ago, but there were a passel of other events scheduled at the same time, and I must have deemed one of them more important.

Reviews of the film, made in 1936, have not been kind. It seems notable mainly for an early, minor appearance by Rita Hayworth, here billed as Rita Cansino. She would not adopt the Hayworth name for another year.

Next to this in our living room hangs the companion poster, The League of Frightened Men (1937), in which Walter Connolly replaced Edward Arnold as Wolfe. Lionel Stander played Archie in both films. That's him at lower left in the hat.

Next week, if I can get the camera working again, I'll bring you a pic of The League poster. I think it's even more gorgeous than this one.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Story With No Name Part 20 by... Me


Our gal Lola takes center stage this week, learning some of the secrets behind the ship in the desert. But she's up against the mysterious Esteban Escobar Bourbon and a handful of his Apache pals. Will she live to tell the tale? Part 20 awaits you now at Laurie's Wild West.

See Parts 1-16 on The Culbin Trail.
Part 17 on Open Range.
Part 18 on The Cap'n's Blog.
Part 19 on Meridian Bridge.
Watch for Part 21 from Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin on THE TAINTED ARCHIVE.

And hey - several of The Story With No Name authors, I.J. Parnam, Jack Giles, Chuck Tyrell, Jack Martin, Peter Averillo and myself, have stories in the new Express Westerns anthology A Fistful of Legends.

You can snag a copy now, long before it's available to the general public, with free shipping, by clicking right here. A limited time offer!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Airport Flash Fiction Challenge: Skyler Hobbs and the Man Who Couldn't Fly


“Watson, look!” Skyler Hobbs pointed over my shoulder, his eyes distended. “That woman is a man!”

“The name’s Wilder,” I reminded him. “Jason Wilder.” Careful not to look, I turned him around and aimed him toward the airport security checkpoint. “This is Portland, Hobbs. We take pride in our diversity.”

“But, Doctor—”

“Computer Doctor. Now put your shoes in that plastic tub. You’re next.”

With a deep sigh, he complied. I sighed too. It would be a miracle if I got him past security, let alone onto an airplane. My friend Skyler Hobbs, you see, has never flown. You could hardly expect less from a man convinced he’s the reincarnation of Sherlock Holmes.

His shoes removed, Hobbs stood facing a fat man in Transportation Security Officer’s uniform.

The TSO looked at Hobbs’ feet. “Where’s your other sock?”

“Pinned to my fireplace, of course. Holding my shag tobacco."

The officer wrinkled his nose. “You’ll have to remove that leprechaun hat. And the horse blanket. Both go in the tubs.”

I steeled myself for trouble. Hobbs was quite proud of his deerstalker cap and Inverness cape.

“This is not mere raiment,” Hobbs said, “but part of my persona.”

“In the tubs,” the fat man said, “or you don’t fly.”

Hobbs glared back at me, his meaning clear. This was my fault. I was the one who’d sold the story of our first adventure to Ellery Queen, and no sooner had it appeared than a wacked-out dowager in Omaha had wired us first-class tickets, insisting we fly out to find her lost Chihuahua. Hobbs had balked, of course, but I’d reminded him that both our bank accounts were on death’s door.

Hobbs was unbuttoning his cape when he went stiff as a pointer, aimed a finger and said, “Look!”

As the security officer turned, Hobbs darted through the metal detector and slipped past him. The fat man scrambled after, shouting for assistance.

In an instant, three other TSOs joined the chase. But Hobbs stopped short, thrust his hand into the pocket of a traveler tying his shoes, and plucked out a plastic flask. “Inflammable liquid!” he crowed. “You’ve been derelict in your duty.”

The officers all scowled. One snatched the flask and sniffed it. "Bourbon." 

As the offender was hauled off for a cavity search, the fat TSO jabbed a finger at Hobbs. “One more stunt, and you’re on the No-Fly list.”

Hobbs stared back at him, refusing to be cowed. In the time I had known him, he had never betrayed a hint of fear.

“Back to the metal detector.” The man grabbed Hobbs by the arm. “We’re trying this again.”

Hobbs took one step. Then his head swiveled toward a busty blonde in a tight red sweater. “Wait!” Before the officer could react, Hobbs broke free and galloped toward the woman, arms outstretched.

And time seemed to stop. TSOs and travelers alike froze in astonishment as Hobbs’ hands closed upon the blonde’s ample bosom.

The woman shrieked, and time kicked into high speed. Security officers pounced on Hobbs from all directions, but he clung tenaciously to the woman’s breasts, and the whole crowd went down in a squirming heap.

A TSO yanked a Taser from his belt. I found my wits and dashed forward, yelling, “Stop!”

This got everyone’s attention just long enough for Hobbs to shout, “Look, Watson! She’s a man!”

“Wilder,” I said. But so she was. The blond wig had popped loose in the struggle, exposing a buzz cut. One breast perched on a shoulder, while the other dangled from an armpit.

The officers all stared, bewildered.

“Hobbs,” I said, “I told you this is Portland, and we—”

“Your diversity is all well and good,” Hobbs said. “But this fellow’s brassiere is stuffed with high grade cocaine.”


The guards who’d escorted us to the parking lot waited with hands on their holsters.

I fired up the PT Cruiser. “How did you know?”

“She had an Adam’s apple.”

“Not that. About the coke.”

“His nostrils.” Hobbs tapped his nose. “Caked with white crystals.”

“But you couldn’t have seen that until you’d grabbed him.”

“Let’s be underway, shall we?” Hobbs was smiling now, looking contented for the first time since we’d received the tickets. “I am quite famished after all that exercise.”

I stared at him. “You—you didn’t know…” I might have said more, but he was gazing out the car window, ignoring me.

And it suddenly came together. He hadn’t known about the coke. He’d thrown that wingding on purpose, because he wanted to be put on the No-Fly list. He was not quite as fearless as he seemed. Skyler Hobbs was afraid to fly!

I got the car moving. “What do we tell your client in Omaha?”

“Tell her she reads too many detective stories. And to look for her lost Chihuahua at the nearest Taco Bell.” He extracted the unused boarding pass from his pocket and waved it under my nose. “Tell me, Doctor. Are these tickets redeemable for cash?”


© 2009 by Evan Lewis

Note: The tale that so inspired the Omaha dowager appears in the Feb. 2010 issue of EQMM. Hobbs and Wilder's second adventure, Skyler Hobbs and the Rollback Bandit, appeared right here on the Almanack.

For links to other stories in the Steve Weddle Memorial Airport Flash Fiction Challenge, visit Dan O'Shea's Going Ballistic.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Fistful of Legends - Special Pre-Pub Offer!


Express Westerns' second anthology, A Fistful of Legends, will be available from online retailers on January 31, for $15.95 plus postage.

But here's a special, limited-time offer: You can get the book NOW, at cover price, with FREE SHIPPING, and be among the first in the world to read these 20 great stories (plus one by me). This offer will be available only through January 11.

There's some great writing here - not just for western readers, but for everyone who's ever enjoyed a Clint Eastwood or John Wayne movie. We're sure you're going to like this book. We want to get the word out, worldwide, to as many people as possible.

Here's the deal: $15.95 U.S. or £10.50 UK. PayPal is preferred (and faster), but we can make other arrangements. We can't offer free shipping to other countries, but you'll still get a discount. Japan, for example, would be $18, and $20 for most of mainland Europe. Write for more info.

PLUS, to celebrate the publication of A Fistful of Legends, we're offering a special package deal - also available only through January 11. You can get both this book and the acclaimed first volume of Express Westerns stories, Where Legends Ride, for $29.90 U.S. or £19.50. That means you get FREE SHIPPING on both books. A total of 35 action-packed tales of the Old West.

For details on how to order, email me here:, or contact Ian Parnham through his blog, The Culbin Trail.

Here's the lineup for A Fistful of Legends:
INTRODUCTION by James Reasoner
DEAD MAN TALKING by Derek Rutherford
BILLY by Lance Howard
HALF A PIG by Matthew P Mayo
BLOODHOUND by C. Courtney Joyner
BIG ENOUGH by Chuck Tyrell
ON THE RUN by Alfred Wallon
THE GIMP by Jack Martin
VISITORS by Ross Morton
THE NIGHTHAWK by Michael D George
DARKE JUSTICE by Peter Avarillo
CRIB GIRLS by Kit Churchill
MAN OF IRON by Chuck Tyrell

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Art of Sherlock Holmes: Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon Part 2

It's been awhile since we visited the Rathbone & Bruce Art Gallery. Sorry. Here's the Australian version of "Secret Weapon", fourth in the franchise.

To view posters from the earlier films, click here:
The Art of Sherlock Holmes

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Sam Spade: The Rushlight Diamond Caper

The makers of Wildroot Cream-Oil are back to make your hair stand on end with the adventures of the greatest detective of them all (or so they say). This one sounds a bit strange at the start, because Sandra Gould sits in for Lurene Tuttle as Effie. From July 4, 1948.

The Rushlight Diamond Caper Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

More shows in the Almanack archives:
The Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail Caper
The Stopped Watch Caper
The Apple of Eve Caper
The Prodigal Daughter Caper
The Battles of Belvedere Caper
The Vaphio Cup Caper
The Betrayal in Bumpass Hell Caper
The Bow Window Caper
The Adam Figg Caper
The Calcutta Trunk Caper 

(click to enlarge)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Forgotten Kids' Books: Have Gun Will Travel, Maverick, Zorro

When I was 13 I discovered the paperback series of Doc Savage, Tarzan and James Bond, and my reading habits changed forever.

Before that, I read a lot of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, along with other classics of literature like Frankenstein, Dracula and Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. And I remember devouring all the books the school library had by Lester Del Ray (sci-fi) and William Campbell Gault (sports).

But the only books I still have from those days are the Whitman Authorized TV Editions, like those featured here. There are lots of others . . . Bat Masterson, The Rifleman, The Rebel, Wagon Train, The Restless Gun, Cheyenne, but I chose these three because they were among my favorite shows. And of course, they all had first-rate theme songs.

In nice shape, these are truly beautiful books. (Be sure to right click on each image to open in a new tab and see these wrap-around covers in all their glory.) They were printed on real pulp paper, with pulp-like illustrations, and cardboard covers coated with some kind of celluloid. As a result, they were easily damaged, and most copies around today have dinged corners, broken hinges and gaping wounds where the celluloid is peeling. In bad shape, they are truly hideous.

Anyway, I loved these books back then. But how do they stand up today? Let’s see.

HAVE GUN, WILL TRAVEL by Barlow Meyers (1959)

“Barlow Meyers” sounded like a pen name created specifically for writing westerns. So I looked him up, and was shocked to learn that most of his books were aimed at girls. Stuff like Annette and the Mystery of Moonstone Bay, and Janet Lennon at Camp Calamity.

This book is OK. Meyers makes use of all of Paladin’s trademarks - the business card, the chess knight holster, the taste for fancy ladies. The problem is that Meyers' prose is merely adequate. Nothing shines, and Richard Boone’s grim wit surfaces only about four times in 282 pages.

The story is a long, less than thrilling chase. An outlaw has snatched a four-year-old girl and taken off. Paladin follows. And follows. And follows. Bottom line: watch the show on DVD instead.

MAVERICK by Charles I. Coombs (1959)

I did some digging on Charles I. Coombs, and was surprised to learn he wrote very little fiction. Most of his books (and there are a lot of them) are kids’ non-fiction on various subjects.

That surprised me because this is pretty good fiction. The story is familiar: When a prosperous rancher dies, his cattle are rustled and his heirs can’t pay the mortgage. Enter Bret Maverick, an old friend of the family, to save the ranch. To complicate things, he’s implicated in a stage robbery, and must battle both the robbers and a behind-the-scenes villain to clear himself.

The only problem is - Coombs didn’t know much about Maverick. The Bret of this book is sometimes lighthearted, but has nowhere near the wise guy personality he should. Not once does he tell anyone, “My old Pappy used to say…”  There’s no mention of him being a gambler. And despite the image on the cover, he wears Levi’s for the entire book. The only tie-in with the Maverick I know is that he has a brother Bart back in Texas.

My guess is that Coombs was shown the first episode of the series - the only one I can think of where Maverick wore Levi’s (at least for awhile). This would have been just enough to give him a hint of James Garner’s character and speech patterns, but not enough to know what he was doing.

If Coombs had been a real western novelist, I’d suspect he’d written this novel about some other cowboy and simply changed him to Maverick.

Walt Disney's ZORRO by Steve Frazee (1958)

Now here’s a guy who did write a lot of westerns, and it shows. But he didn’t have a lot of freedom with this one. This book is a novelization of the first thirteen episodes of the Disney series. The show, you may recall, began like a cliffhanger serial, with a sequence in which a friend of Don Diego’s father has been arrested for treason by the evil Commandante. Don Diego returns from school in Spain just in time to don the Zorro duds and save the day.

The story is nicely told, but I’m curious how much control Disney had over the book. If I could lay my hands on my VHS tapes of these episodes, I’d check to see if Frazee used Disney dialogue or wrote his own.

The Disney series was based, of course, on the pulp novel The Curse of Capistrano by Johnston McCulley. With the release of the silent film version starring Douglas Fairbanks, the book became forever known as The Mark of Zorro, which I recommend highly. The tragedy is that McCulley’s several other Zorro novels and bushel of short stories are dang near impossible to find. Those that have been reprinted are rare and expensive, and many have never been reprinted at all.

Check out Patti's Forgotten Kids' Books links here.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Peter Gunn meets Thunderball; Thunderball meets Johnny Cash

What would James Bond think of this?

First up is a rendition of the Thunderball theme by the Jazz All-Stars, with an opening riff inspired by the theme from Peter Gunn.

Then it gets even stranger, as we present a tune The Man in Black recorded for the film, but was never used.

"Thunderball" by The Jazz All-Stars

"Thunderball" by Johnny Cash

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Story With No Name, Part 19 by Richard Prosch

Yep, that blond rattlesnake known as Vic Sawtell returns to the round-robin epic Story With No Name. But Walt Arnside gets another step closer to learning the secret of the treasure ship in the desert. And sweet but deadly Lola - what's that she sees in the swirling sands ahead?

All this and more in this week's thrilling installment, brought to you by Richard Prosch at Meridian Bridge.

See Parts 1-16 on The Culbin Trail.
Part 17 on Open Range.
Part 18 on The Cap'n's Blog.
And next week, Paul Dellinger will present Part 20 on Laurie's Wild West.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Spawn of NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo is over, but . . . it's spawned more imitators than American Idol.

You may have heard of GePoWriMo (Gerald So's Poetry Writing Month), but hold onto your hats, wordslingers, that's only the beginning. Check out this list of links from the NaNoWriMo web site. Descriptions and comments are those of the NaNo staff: - National Novel Finishing Month (December). Goal: 30,000 words.

FAWM - February Album Writing Month (February). Goal: Write 14 original songs in a month.

NaNoEdMo - National Novel Editing Month (March). Goal: Commit to 50 hours of novel editing.

Script Frenzy - NaNoWriMo's sister challenge (April). Goal: Write a 100-page screenplay or stage play in April.

RePoWriMo - Refrigerator Poetry Writing Month (April). Goal: Write poetry using only refrigerator poetry magnets.

NEPMo - National Epic Poetry Month (May). Goal: Write 5,000 lines epic poem in May.

SoCNoC - Southern Cross Novel Challenge (June). Goal: Write 50,000 words of fiction.

WriDaNoJu - Write a Damn Novel in June (June). Goal: Write 50K in the 30 days of June. It's perfectly situated six months from November so you have optimum time to prepare for WriDaNoJu and NaNoWriMo.

SoFoBoMo - Solo Photo Book Month (Between May first and June 31). Goal: Create a solo photo book within 31 days.

JulNoWriMo - July Novel Writing Month (July). Goal: 50,000 words for a new or unfinished manuscript.

24 Hour Comics Day - (Changes annually, lasts 24 hours). Goal: Draw a 24-page comic in one 24-hour period.

48 Hour Film Project - (Varies; operates via tours around the USA, lasts 48 hours). Goal: Create a short film in 48 hours.

Book in a Week - (Begins on the Monday of the first full week of each month, lasts one week). Goal: Write a novel.

April Fool's - (April). Goal: Set a word-count goal for yourself and fulfill it by the end of the month.

AugNoWriMo - August Novel Writing Month (August). Goal: Write a novel in one month.

3-Day Novel Contest - (September). Goal: Write a novel in three days. They've been doing this since 1977. So cool!

SeptNoWriMo - September Novel Writing Month (September). Goal: Set a word-count goal and edit, write, or edit and write throughout the month of September!

NaPlWriMo - National Playwriting Month (November). Goal: Write a play in one month.

NaBloPoMo - National Blog Posting Month (Year-Round). Goal: Post every day for a month.

WriYe - (Year-Round). Goal: Set a word-count goal for the year and work towards it between January 1 and December 31.

JanNoWriMo - Goal: Write either 50k or your own word-count goal in January.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Satan Hall 5: Satan's Creed

It's Dec. 17, 1932, and Detective Frank "Satan" Hall makes his fifth appearance, his fourth in the pages of Detective Fiction Weekly. Gangster August Saprillo has a gun to forehead of a little girl. Saprillo's finger tightens on the trigger, but . . .

A low voice spoke from the open door.

"I wouldn't do that Augie," the voice said.

The gangster raised his black eyes and looked straight into the green ones of Detective Satan Hall.

August Saprillo's first thought was that a gun covered him and that he was about to die. He'd take the kid with him. Then his eyes opened wide and his lips curled evilly. Satan Hall was standing there with both his hands at his sides, and both his hands empty.

August Saprillo didn't think any more. He just jerked his gun from that little curly head. Almost the moment he raised it he wished that he hadn't. While he held it against the child's head he had some chance to bargain with Satan. Now he knew the truth; knew it the very moment that right hand of Satan moved, for that hand which had been empty a split sceond before, now held a gun. Satan had been afraid that he would kill the kid. Satan had trapped him into raising his gun.

They fired together. Just a single deafening roar. Satan's right arm dropped to his side; his right hand opened and his gun pounded to the floor.

But his left hand shot between his right armpit, and stayed there.

Saprillo clicked his heels together, spun around and crashed forward on his face.

Yep, Satan allowed Augie a clear shot at him, seeing that as his only hope of saving the girl. Augie's shot took Satan in the right side of the chest, putting him in the hospital. But Satan's shot put Augie in the grave. Though we're not told where his bullet hit Augie, Satan always hits the mark, and he always aims right between the eyes.