I'm not really an art guy, but I like the composition on this cover. I have no idea who did the art. Inside are some good authors, including Gordon D. Shirreffs, Ray Townsend, and Ross Rocklynne. I think of Rocklynne as a science fiction writer and didn't know he had done any Westerns. Turns out he wrote a few over the years.
“Lair of the Beast”, from the Spring 1941 issue of JUNGLE
STORIES, may be the best Ki-Gor novel I’ve read so far. It seems to be the work
of yet another author who’s new to the series, although the style does remind
me a bit of “Ki-Gor—and the Paradise That Time Forgot”. [Minor spoilers ahead.]
In this one, Helene is taken captive by a gang of slavers who operate out of an
ancient Moorish castle in the middle of the jungle. Ki-Gor, badly wounded in a
battle with a vicious baboon, willingly becomes a prisoner because that’s the
only way he can get to Helene. Then he has to recuperate, find a way for both
of them to escape, and come up with a plan to destroy the evil slavers.
It won’t come as a surprise to anybody that he does so, but along the way the
author comes up with some nice twists and dangers and a good supporting
character in a somewhat shady Indian doctor who has thrown in with the slavers
but isn’t as evil as they are. And he does redeem himself to a certain extent.
Whoever the author behind the John Peter Drummond house-name is for this story,
he puts words together well and keeps this yarn moving along at a satisfying
pace. The bloody, harrowing battle at the end is well-done, but again, it might
not be exactly what the reader expects. A few things keep “Lair of the Beast”
from being the top-notch pulp adventure tale it might have been. There’s no
sign, not even a mention, of Ki-Gor’s sidekicks Tembu George and N’Geeso, and
I’ve grown fond of both of them. The plot is a little thin, and the story tends
to be bland in places, especially in the first half. A little more blood and
thunder might have helped, although to be fair, there’s plenty of that later
on. At one point, Ki-Gor does something really dumb. But he’s very clever later
on. This sort of inconsistency is another reason I think this may have been a
new author just getting his feet wet in the series.
All that said, I enjoyed “Lair of the Beast” quite a bit. It lacks the
over-the-top goofiness of the earliest Ki-Gor novels but is a considerable
improvement over the few right before it. I expect to continue enjoying this
series for a good long time.
52 WEEKS • 52 WESTERN NOVELS is the first in a new series
edited by my friends Scott Harris and Paul Bishop spotlighting some of the best
in Western entertainment, starting with books both old and new and followed by
volumes on Western movies and TV shows. It’s a great beginning to a very
Written by a variety of Western authors and readers, including me, the entries
in this book range from H.A. DeRosso’s bleak Western noir .44 to Will Murray’s
classic history of the Western pulps, WORDSLINGERS. Each essay discusses a
particular book and its author, along personal connections, behind-the-scenes
facts, and movie adaptations for the books that were turned into films. It’s a
fascinating approach that traces the traditional Western from its beginnings
with THE VIRGINIAN and RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE to THE LEGEND OF CALEB YORK by
Max Allan Collins and Mickey Spillane, published in 2015. Anyone who hasn’t
read Westerns before could read one a week, using this volume as a guide, and
get a good sense of just what a wide range the genre really has. Plus there are
plenty of really nice cover illustrations.
For what it’s worth, I’ve read 30 of the 52 books covered here, and I don’t
doubt that I’ll read many of the others in the future. Quite a few of them are
already on my shelves, just waiting for me to find the time. Whether you’re a
Western fan or not, 52 WEEKS • 52 WESTERN NOVELS get the highest recommendation
What a great cover on this issue of SMASHING DETECTIVE STORIES. A mummy-bandaged guy with a Luger and a sexy nurse . . . I'd be buying that as fast as I could slap down a quarter on the newsstand counter, assuming I had a quarter, of course. Inside are stories by a couple of guys better known for their Westerns, Roe Richmond and T.W. Ford, plus Robert Turner, E. Hoffmann Price, and Thomas Thursday.
SIX-GUN WESTERN was one of the Speed pulps, the slightly toned-down successor to the Spicy pulps. This is the first issue, and along with that nice cover, it has stories by Thomas Thompson, William Heuman, Joseph Chadwick, and old-time pulpster Victor Rousseau writing as Lew Merrill. That's a pretty good line-up of authors.
THE GUNS OF MacCAMERON starts off as a vengeance quest book.
Former Confederate cavalry officer Tyler MacCameron has been roaming the West
for eight years, hunting down and killing the men responsible for burning his
plantation and murdering his wife and infant son after the war. He’s caught up
and dealt with all but two members of the gang when he rides into the small
Wyoming settlement where both of his targets have started new, apparently
From that point, however, the book doesn’t play out as you might expect, as it
becomes a range war yarn instead, involving cattlemen and sheepherders. In this
case, however, the two sides aren’t enemies. The big cattle and sheep ranchers
team up to try to eliminate all the smaller outfits, and I’m sure you can guess
which side MacCameron winds up on.
William Hopson started out in the Western pulps and went on to a long and
successful career writing Western novels for hardback and paperback publishers.
He wrote a few mysteries, as well, but I’ve never read any of them. I’ve read
quite a few of his Westerns, though, and found his work to be inconsistent but
mostly good, bordering on excellent, although he was capable of turning out a
stinker now and then, especially in his later years.
THE GUNS OF MacCAMERON, published in hardback by Avalon in 1969 and reprinted
in paperback by Macfadden-Bartell in 1971 (the edition I read) is one of
Hopson’s good novels. The hero and the main villain are pretty one-dimensional,
but all the other characters are a nice blend of good and bad qualities, and
some of them turn out different than you might think they would. Hopson had an
odd, even awkward style in places, but he was very good at action scenes and
there are plenty in this book. There’s a great battle between a man and a
grizzly bear that’s not as one-sided as it sounds. All in all, the book moves
along nicely and comes to a satisfying conclusion.
THE GUNS OF MacCAMERON isn’t a great Western novel, by any means, but it is a
good solid piece of entertainment for fans of the genre. If you like Westerns
and come across a copy, it’s well worth reading. That’s true of most of William
I ask you, even if you were a robot, wouldn't you be mad if a guy was shooting you in the chest with a ray gun? This cover is by Robert Fuqua, and I can't help but like it. Inside this issue of AMAZING STORIES are three yarns by William P. McGivern, the cover story under his own name plus one each as by P.F. Costello and Gerald Vance. Other authors include Ross Rocklynne, Ed Earl Repp, and Berkley Livingston. This sort of stuff may not be held in high regard these days, but I like it.
There's the stalwart cowboy in the red shirt and the gun-totin' redhead, but where's the old geezer? Maybe they're on their way to rescue him, provided, of course, they get away from the rannies shooting at them. Even though it wasn't officially part of the title, you can tell from the "Western Stories" emblazoned on the cover that by this time ACE-HIGH MAGAZINE was completely a Western pulp, despite having begun life as a general adventure fiction magazine. And an excellent Western pulp it is, too, with this issue featuring stories by Harry F. Olmsted, Cliff Farrell, Thomas Mount writing as Stone Cody, Art Lawson, and Kenneth A. Fowler. One of the lesser known authors--in fact, his story in this issue is the only one in the Fictionmags Index (the source of this scan)--is Dade Bartell. Now, I know absolutely nothing about Dade Bartell. Could be a pseudonym, could be a house-name, could be a real guy. But the name sounds like the main gunslinging henchman for the criminal mastermind behind all the rustling and land-grabbing. I may have to borrow that one of these days.
I was in the mood to read a Shadow novel, so I picked
up a reprint I have of “Bells of Doom”, the 74th entry in the
long-running series, which was originally published in the March 15, 1935 issue
of THE SHADOW. That’s a great pulpish title and promises lots of sinister
This one starts on an ocean liner bound for New York from England. One of the
passengers is Lamont Cranston. Who, as we all know, is really The Shadow . . .
only The Shadow isn’t actually Cranston . . . No, that’s too complicated a
story. Those of you who already know it, fine. Those who don’t, it’s not really
important in the context of this novel. Let’s just say that Cranston sits in on
a poker game with three other travelers, one of whom is a rich guy who’s gotten
hold of a rajah’s valuable jewels and is afraid that crooks are after them.
Well, of course they are, and when everybody is back in New York, the other two
players in the poker game, young wastrel Milton Claverly and smooth crook Hatch
Rosling, conspire to steal the jewels.
Wait a minute, you say. This is a jewel theft book? What about the bells? We’re
getting to them, because after The Shadow foils the robbery, Milton Claverly
(who has covered up his part in it) travels to the small town of Torburg, where
he inherits his father’s estate, which includes a mansion, a creepy crypt, an
equally creepy bell tower (there are the bells!), and four enemies who swindled
Milton’s dad out of a fortune. Before you know it, those four swindlers are
being knocked off one by one, and every time one of them is killed, bells peal
out from the tower, which is locked up tight and no one can get in to ring
them. So this novel is sort of a locked bell tower mystery.
The Shadow is around, and so is his agent Harry Vincent, and everybody seems to
have a hidden agenda, and the murders continue, and honestly, the whole thing
is a little on the bland side until a dizzying bunch of double-crosses and
hidden identities and plotlines that appeared to be long since abandoned, and
while I figured out some of it and had a hunch who the hidden mastermind was,
author Walter B. Gibson had me fooled on some things. It all wraps up with a
nice shoot-out in that crypt.
Gibson’s Shadow novels are notorious for their padding, and that seems a bit
more obvious than usual in this one. But hey, the guy was writing two mystery
novels a month, so I’m willing to cut him some slack on that. “Bells of Doom”
also could have used a little more action (some of The Shadow’s epic gun
battles with hordes of mobsters in other stories are great). This isn’t in the top rank of
Shadow novels . . . but you know what, I got a lot of enjoyment out of it
anyway. I’ve been reading The Shadow for more than 40 years, ever since Bantam
started reprinting them in the Sixties, and then when I was in college I was a
big fan of the Jove reprints with covers by Jim Steranko. So the series has quite
a bit of nostalgic appeal for me, and there are some nice creepy scenes in this
yarn. Probably not the one to start with if you’ve never read a Shadow novel,
but I liked it.
This cover by Hannes Bok seems appropriate for a few days before Halloween. I like the 1940s issues of WEIRD TALES. Great lineup of authors in this one: Edmond Hamilton, Manly Wade Wellman, Henry Kuttner, August Derleth, Frank Gruber, Clifford Ball, Robert H. Leitfred . . . These guys wrote some fine weird fiction.