Tuesday, April 24, 2018
The Marksman #1: “Vendetta” by Peter McCurtin. The story starts out with Philip Magellan on a vendetta to kill Mafioso boss, Dino Flavel. The story gives no reason, but the information on the back of the book states that the Mafia tried to hire Magellan to run their armory for them. You see, since he was a young boy he has known every weapon there is and how to handle them. Since he refuses, they kill his wife and son, so he’s after them now. There is no plot to this first story, just a lot of running around and killing. When he finally gets to Flavel, he leaves him alive so he’ll continue worrying what Magellan will do next; that is, if he doesn’t die in the hotel fire Magellan has started. Like a lot of men’s action novels there was no need for plot, just massive killing and sex. Strangely, there was no sex in this one, though.
Monday, April 23, 2018
REDISCOVERING NIBS HOLLOWAY’S CREATOR
In 1934, a young author named Edward P. Norris began appearing in pulp magazines. An interesting Norris character named Nibs Holloway became very popular with readers of ALL DEDECTIVE, especially in the second story when Nibs Holloway faced the evil Doctor Death for the first time.
There were only seven stories featuring Nibs Holloway that I know of, though one was never published; four Nibs Holloway stories featured his evil foe, Doctor Death. There is a lot of dime novel Nick Carter in Nibs Holloway; and I would guess that Edward P. Norris read a lot of the DIME NOVELS and pulp magazines in his younger days. I also had the feeling that Nibs Holloway was his favorite character, but the publisher (due to reader response, maybe) wanted more of the evil doctor.
Nibs Holloway appeared in one story prior to the first appearance of Doctor Death. Norris killed the evil doctor off at the end of his first story, and the third story just featured Nibs Holloway again. Norris, and the readers, must have thought Doctor Death was done. But that wasn’t the case. Suddenly, with the fourth story, Doctor Death was back.
The author’s writing style was also was also early teens and twenties, and reminded me a lot of Johnston McCulley’s early stories. Maybe that’s another reason why I liked Edward P. Norris and Nibs Holloway: His stories were well written, with plenty of action and good characterization.
I was always curious why Doctor Death was re-tooled and given to another writer when he landed his own magazine. I was never a fan of Harold Ward’s writing, and his Doctor Death just didn’t have the same appeal to me as Edward Norris’ short story series. And I thought Norris was a good writer, even if his writing was dated to the past decade.
For years I wanted to find evidence of Phantom Detective and Dan Fowler novels by Norris, as Nibs Holloway would have fit nicely in either series. A master of disguise, tough, fast on the draw, and fearless; he was perfect for the single-character pulp magazines.
Edward P. Norris made numerous appearances in other magazines: SECRET AGENT X, POPULAR DETECTIVE, etc. And then suddenly he disappeared in 1940. We never knew what happened to this interesting pulp scribe.
That is, until now.
I knew Norris’ stories had appeared erratically from 1934 to 1940, and then his name disappeared from the pulp magazines. My original thoughts concerned the war in Europe. Many pulp writers and artists suddenly dropped out of sight around 1942 when they were drafted; some did not return.
The oddity was that period in which he was writing. So few stories appeared under his byline, and I thought of several reasons for this. My first was that he was writing novels under a house name (Robert Wallace came to mind), or using a pseudonym. If not one of those, then he had a job that took precedence over his writing. Maybe he was working as an editor, it was possible, I figured.
And then one day a relative of Edward P. Norris contacted me. I had written the Forward to the ALTUS PRESS volume containing the Nibs Holloway and Doctor Death stories, and they thought I had published the book, and wanted to thank me.
I was surprised and excited. Now we were going to find out about an author I had admired all these years. I had all kinds of questions. Following are some of the answers we were searching for.
Edward P. Norris was born in London’s East End, an area known as Silverton, in 1903. He went to sea in his teens, traveling around the world several times and acquiring a cultural sophistication that later served him well in his writing. His daughter, Sheila Norris Stone, described her father as “a renaissance man,” and said he would tackle anything.
His parents emigrated from Lithuania in the late 1880s. He was one of 13 children. “Of all those children, I believe he is the only one who settled in the U.S., probably due to the wanderlust developed by his years at sea,” Sheila said.
In the late 1920s, his ship made port in Manhattan. Norris, while ashore, met his future wife, Agnes, in Long Beach, Long Island; a young girl who had emigrated from Scotland. After a few years of corresponding, he jumped ship on another stop in New York, and they were married in 1930.
“I remember my father as an artist with words, music, and photography. He was a little ahead of his time, and loved to write, and play the piano,” Sheila recalled. “He was self-taught and very smart and talented.”
“They raised four children, Peter, Sheila, James, and William,” said Carolyn Stone, Norris’ granddaughter. “Peter, the oldest, passed away about ten years ago.” (I don’t have the date – Tom)
Having lost his paycheck after leaving the ship, Norris looked for a new source of income. This was when his writing began, as well as a job in a printing business.
Times were hard back then, and there was little money, so he could not devote full time to writing,” Sheila told me. “I believe his writing slowed down in the mid-1930s because by 1934 he had two kids and, living only a few minutes from the water, his commute to Manhattan was an hour each way.”
He worked as a printer, as supporting a family took precedence over writing for the low paying pulp magazines. He worked in Brooklyn, but the family moved a lot. I was curious of the printing business where Norris worked. Something his grandson said in response to my post on ALTUS PRESS may have sparked my interest:
“I remember going into his library which was no bigger than a 15-by-20 room with books as high as my 6-year-old memory recalls now that I am 50,” James J. Norris said.
That made me think he may have worked in a pulp factory, printing pulp magazines. Money was in short supply back then, so he would have spent his money in support of his family, not buying books. But, maybe if he worked in a pulp factory, he was allowed to take samples home. But he didn’t work in a pulp factory, just a printing business, so I don’t know how he came by so many books.
“He taught himself to play piano by buying sheet music and studying it while listening to the latest tunes on the radio,” Sheila said. “Eventually, he became interested in photography, developed, printed, and enlarged his own film. He also bought a 16 mm projector and brought more movies home on the weekend, sharing them with the neighborhood.”
But why did his name disappear from the pulps after 1940? For years I was afraid that the war in Europe had taken the life of another pulp writer. But now I understand from Sheila and his granddaughter Catherine Stone Fountain that there was another problem. The Social Security Act of 1935 caused him to lose his job as a printer. Norris was a citizen of England, not the United States, and so did not have a Social Security number. The threat of war between England and Germany – plus, he had two minor children – kept the U.S. from deporting him. After 1935, his writing became more sporadic, until it ceased completely after 1940.
“I have fond memories of him, and had him around until my early 20s,” Catherine said. “He had enormous self-confidence and felt he could learn to do anything just by going to the library. One winter he ordered a do-It-yourself kit from SEARS and assembled it in our living room. It was a small rowboat. There were always one or two boats in our yard, next to the garden, which had every type of vegetable that would grow in Brooklyn. He loved to play pinochle nearly every Saturday night with neighbors. Also, he was a big Brooklyn Dodgers fan and taught me all about scoring.
“As far as I know he did not use pseudonyms. I always knew he was a writer, but could not find anything on the Internet until recently when we used the key word, pulp.”
Edward P. Norris passed away in the early 1980s. We still have much to learn about this exciting and talented pulp author. I enjoyed his writing, and was a huge fan of Nibs Holloway. PulpCon had been in existence for a decade by the time of Norris’ death, and pulp fandom was in full swing; ECHOES had started in 1982. I wish we had made contact before his passing. I think Norris would have enjoyed knowing that there were still fans of his writing. What discourages me most, however, is the lack of interest the PulpFest people who took over the PulpCon, have shown in the family of Edward P. Norris. PulpCon would have put forth an effort to at least try to get some of his family to the convention, but in my letters with the family I’m told no one has been in contact, but me. I know that has to make them feel bad. He may not have been a major pulp author, but he actually created a major character, Doctor Death, that would eventually find its own magazine, though the character was heavily changed. And NIBS HALLOWAY himself was a character to be reckoned with.
Later, I decided to take another look at In Step With Death, a Norris story that appeared in the SECRET AGENT X magazine shortly after his stint with ALL DETECTIVE. I had read this one several years before I read the Nibs Holloway stories by Norris, and thought nothing of it at the time.
A bit of background first: Nibs Holloway was the star field man, or top agent, for jewelry king, Joseph Calweiner, and operated as a lone wolf for the millionaire’s interest. The Nibs Holloway stories started in RAPID-FIRE DETECTIVE STORIES, and then switched over to ALL DETECTIVE when RAPID FIRE DETECTIVE STORIES folded. The last story of Nibs Holloway appeared in the January 1935 issue of ALL DETECTIVE, and then the publisher released three lead novels of DOCTOR DEATH – written by Harold Ward. Edward P. Norris and Nibs Holloway were out. We’d seen the last of Nibs.
Well, maybe, maybe not.
The very next story by Edward P. Norris was in the July 1935 SECRET AGENT X issue, titled In Step With Death, featuring Ben Cragg.
Ben Cragg is the star field man for millionaire theater magnate, Aaron Alsop. He is also a lone wolf operating in his boss’ interests. Hmm. You know, this sounds suspiciously like a plot originally featuring Nibs Holloway, but one Norris revamped when Harold Ward was given the job of writing the Doctor Death yarns.
If so, why did Norris drop Nibs Holloway and change the character’s name to Ben Cragg? It could be as simple as this: If Doctor Death was given to a new writer, Norris may have figured ALL DETECTIVE was including Nibs Holloway in the deal, too. After all, authors pretty well gave away their rights to the publishers back then. He may not have known the DOCTOR DEATH stories were being retooled, and felt he had lost Nibs in the deal.
That’s just my guess.
The Death Gambler (Nibs Holloway), May 1933 RAPID-FIRE DETECTIVE STORIES
Crimson Night (Nibs Holloway), teased for the next issue, but the magazine folded, and the story was never published that we know of.
Doctor Death (Nibs Holloway/Doctor Death), July 1934 ALL DETECTIVE
A Deal In Phonies (Nibs Holloway), August 1934 ALL DETECTIVE
Cargo of Death (Nibs Holloway/Doctor Death), September 1934 ALL DETECTIVE
Death’s I.O.U. (Nibs Holloway/Doctor Death), October 1934 ALL DETECTIVE
Thirteen Pearls (Nibs Holloway/Doctor Death), January 1935 ALL DETECTIVE
In Step With Death (Ben Cragg), July 1935 SECRET AGENT X
G-Man Ghost (Unknown), October 1935 TEN DETECTIVE ACES
High Seas Homicide (Unknown), December 1935 TEN DETECTIVE ACES
Red Devil (Unknown), February 1936 CLUES DETECTIVE
Murder Rides The Tandem (Unknown), January 1938 THRILLING DETECTIVE
Farm Kid (Unknown), April 1940 POPULAR DETECTIVE
Okay, so there are not a lot of stories to his credit, but he was published by four or five different publishing houses, and created a major character, even if he didn’t last very long.
I’ve only read five of the stories, sadly, the four with Doctor Death, and the Ben Cragg story in SECRET AGENT X. If anyone reading this has any of the other stories please check and see who the main characters are. I wonder if there are any more rewritten Nibs Holloway yarns out there?
Thursday, April 19, 2018
Colonel Tobin’s Private Army #7: “The Garonsky Missile” by Alan Caillou. Colonel Matt Tobin was killed in battle during the last private war, and what’s left of the private army has drifted away. Major Paul Tobin, the colonel’s son, is living in California when an airline stewardess comes to his farm with news that Clara Abbyad, an Israeli female agent he worked with once, is in Cambodia en route to meet up with General Quong Trek, a ruthless military leader that kills and tortures people he doesn’t trust, or who don’t please him. Paul, afraid for her life, calls in Pamela George to find some of his men for a rescue mission. Soon he leads a handful of men, including a couple new soldiers, into Cambodia to find and rescue the girl. The final plot is weak, and though the do rescue the girl and kill the general, there isn’t much else accomplished. Besides Clara and Pamela, Paul Tobin, Rick Meyers and Cass Fragonard are all that’s left of the old crew. Two new men are brought in, Seth Karem and a pilot named Bob Fellowes. It was time the series came to an end.
Wednesday, April 18, 2018
Dirty Harry #5: “Family Skeletons” by Dane Hartman (Rick Meyers). Harry’s cousin, Linda Donovan asks him to come to Boston to help the family. He takes a week’s leave to visit, though he doesn’t want to. In Boston he learns that a young girl that was raped and murdered was a close friend of Linda’s daughter, and they’re afraid she’s next. She’s involved in a religious cult that believes in sacrificing virgins, etc. A black detective is investigating the rape and murder, but he seems to be closer to the case than he should be, and knows a little too much that he isn’t telling. In fact, there are more suspects than you can shake a stick at. In fact, Linda Donovan and her husband may know more than what they are telling him, and they’re having marital problems to boot. Rick Meyers’ Dirty Harry stories are all excellent, and I think this is one of his best. There’s a great twist at the end of this one, too.