Besides posting book reviews, once in a while I will be posting articles on the subject of pulps. I hope we can generate more interest for the Blog. If you would like to share an article on the pulps, you can send me a message in the Comments of a post.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Death's Angel

Angel Eyes #2: “Death’s Angel” by W. B. Longley (Robert J. Randisi). Liz Archer is riding towards Paragon, Wyoming, when she sees two hardcase cowboys chasing a young girl on a horse. She intervenes and disarms the men then rides with the girl to her ranch to meet her father, where she learns the local banker is trying to squeeze them off their property. The cowboys that were after his daughter works for the banker. They had recognized her as Angel Eyes and were afraid to draw on her because of her reputation as a gunfighter. Now the banker wants her dead, knowing she will put backbone into the rancher and he won’t be able to get the property, so he sends for a gunfighter to take care of Angel Eyes. This was another well-written and fast paced story that would have been much better without all the sex, but it is an adult western, and the publisher wanted lots of sex, and that’s what we get, even if it is a distraction and has nothing to do with the plot.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Let's Take A Look At Doc Harker


Doctor Harker: Spent too much time in training as a recalcitrant child, and realized that failure was his only reward. He is small, pot-bellied, with silvery white hair and a luxurious mustache and goatee. Resembling a Kentucky colonel, he wears a Prince Albert coat, white piped vest, black string tie and soft, pleated white shirt. He often wears striped trousers, and has very small feet. Never appears in public in semi-dress. Carried a .50 caliber derringer pistol. His exercise consists of squeezing a rubber ball or sponge, or lifting a bourbon bottle. Financially well off, he is known world wide as a scientific criminologist. He also wears a money belt with pockets all around, and is an escape artist and pitchman par excellence. Smokes cigars, and is an inventor. Blue eyes, and sometimes wears glasses, he can spew profanity in seven languages, but around beautiful women his manners are perfect; he bows, clicks heels together and places his hat over his heart. Has habit of twirling the left bar of his mustache, and carries an enormous silver turnip of a watch in his pocket. When ready for bed, he wears long-sleeved gray lightweight underwear. Not sure of age, but it’s stated that he had been shaving for fifty years. Like a hound that first sucked an egg, now he can’t quit solving crimes. He’s famous for saying,  “Great Godfrey!”
Hercules Jones: A former wrestler, at six foot two inches, and ham like fists that drive nails into boards, Jones is long on muscle and short on gray matter. He was a heavyweight wrestler who fought under various names until recruited by Doc Harker; he has a cauliflower ear, a flattened nose and small eyes with wide brows. Most of the time he wears a leather jacket. With his enormous shoulders and rippling muscles, he usually performs for the crowds on a detachable platform, bending horseshoes, tying steel pipes into pretzels, and allows huge stones to be crushed on his chest with a sledgehammer. Some of his quotes are “I wish to Golly I knew!”; “But lookit, Doc---”
Brenda Sloan: She was exquisite perfection, tall and imperious, from her severely coiffered hair to the tip of silver slippers. Hair black as a raven’s wings, and as shiny. Her eyes were widely spaced, slightly slanting (slants her eyes as a disguise). The face was heart-shaped, her mouth a deep crimson. Slender waist, with oriental eyes, her beauty was intoxicating. Her father was Tom Sloan, no mother is mentioned. She usually does the undercover investigation for Doc Harker when not performing with the show. She has rosy cheeks, bright eyes, fair skin, and dark hair. Although she is the apple of Hercules’ eye, Brenda looks upon the strongman as protection, and nice to have around. 
His Card: Printed in red and black, one side read. “Doctor Thaddeus Clay Harker, God’s Gift To Sufferers.” And in red letters on the opposite section, “Chickasha Remedies. Good for Men and Beasts.” The inside of the card was filled with a partial list of the ailments to be cured by the Remedies. “Abscess, acariasis, acne, apepsia, beriberi, chilblain, dandruff, fibrositis, gastritis, halitosis, hangnail, heartburn, hypertension, lumbago, malaria, tapeworm, toothache, warts, wens.”
Doc Harker has state license to sell Chickasha Remedies throughout the state.
Car & trailer: The car was as gaudily painted as the trailer. It was a 12-cylinder roadster, fire-wagon red, gleaming with chromium; the glove compartment contains opera glasses for spying. All four sides of the red, box-like trailer was covered with enormous gold letters proclaiming that Dr. Thaddeus C. Harker was bearing his world famous Chickasha Remedies to those in pain, and a cure for practically every ailment known to man. This is pitched from the rear of the trailer. The trailer was also a laboratory on wheels, fully air conditioned, and had disguised slots in the steel walls where they could look outside. It was a fortress on wheels, with a communication between it and the car pulling it. It was fully contained with foldaway benches and cases that held test tubes, microscopes, cameras for microphotography, instruments used in ballistics, and a fine array of books ranging from anatomy through toxicology to watermarks; instruments worth $15-20,000.00.
Notes: What was the use to question a sphinx?; Howard Smith in Little Rock appears to be an agent of the FBI, Harker uses fake orders for Chickasha Remedies in coded messages when he needs information.
The creator was Texas author, Edwin Truett Long who wrote Jim Anthony and Phantom Detective, and who knows what else.
A fun series, though it only lasted for three issues. ALTUS PRESS has published a volume containing the three novels, and well worth buying.

Happy Reading.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Angel, For Hire

Angel Eyes #9: “Angel, For Hire” by W. B. Longley (Robert J. Randisi). The final novel in the Angel Eyes series has Liz Archer and Tate signing up with Chris Tanner and a few hired guns to protect a little Mexican village at the mercy of bandits. Yes, a very similar plot to The Magnificent 7, but this time there’s only six professional guns, not 7. Plus, the town is all women, so there is plenty of sex distraction instead of working the plot, which was a shame. Also, there is lots of beer for the gunfighters. However, this is an adult western, so we have to expect all the sex. Spoiler alert so read no further if you don’t want to know the ending. This is the final novel, and Angel Eyes and Tate meet their end standing up to a small Mexican army. I don’t know if the author got tired of the series, or the publisher just didn’t want any more. Over all, it was a good series. It would have been even better as an old fashioned western featuring a female gunfighter and the sex left out.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Rollicking Rogue


       The Wall Street Crash of 1929, as author Will Murray outlines in his article, “Why 1933?” precipitated several years of hard times, and the masses began looking to escape for a few hours from a life of struggle. By the early 1930s, the only ones driving big automobiles and expanding their waistlines appeared to be gangsters; what better reading could the hard-working masses find than some laughing rogue smart enough to take the swag away from crooks?
         Suddenly, they found them under a variety of names and costumes in the cheap pulp magazines: Robin Hoods and masked vigilantes who were setting things right with the world. The pulp hero wave had begun.
         Although there is no denying the substantial influx of hero pulps in 1933, the scene was being set as far back as the 1910s with Frank Packard’s The Gray Seal and Johnston McCulley’s Zorro, and a plethora of other masked and costumed heroes. The Masked Lady appeared a decade before Domino Lady; The Man In Purple, The Crimson Clown, and an onslaught of others soon followed. McCulley’s costumed heroes were usually gentleman thieves, following in the footsteps of The Gray Seal, who acted outside the law for an honorable purpose; he laughingly called them rogues, and the readers loved it.
         Author R. T. M. Scott was writing about Secret Service Agent, Aurelius Smith in the 1920s, and when he was asked to create The Spider in 1933 for POPULAR PUBLICATIONS, he simply moved Aurelius Smith and his aides over to the new series with new names: Bernice Asterley became Nita Van Sloan, Langa Doonh became Ram Singh, and Aurelius Smith became Richard Wentworth. The 1929 story, The Black Magician, would be a blueprint for the coming single character pulp heroes. Writers of the Secret Agent X and Green Ghost stories would even adopt some of the elements of The Black Magician into some of their work. I'm surprised one of the current reprint houses hasn't reprinted this one yet.
         Scott and McCulley themselves were really reaching back to the DIME NOVELS for inspiration. As far back as the late 1800s, the DIME NOVELS gave us Deadwood Dick and Nick Carter, among many others. So the ground rules had been set long before 1933, the new wave just started taking a real hold now when we needed heroes again. The Great Depression was the culprit and the pulp magazines were the ideal solution.

         Johnston McCulley’s Rollicking Rogue is a fascinating, costumed presage of the so-called pulp hero explosion of the 1930s. With several similarities to The Shadow, The Phantom Detective, The Spider, and other pulp heroes, the Rollicking Rogue’s first appearance seems to be The Rollicking Rogue in the November 1930 issue of ALL STAR DETECTIVE STORIES; the issue sports a great cover featuring the character, too.
         The Rollicking Rogue has a neat costume, unlike most of McCulley’s simple hood affairs. He wears a yellow robe and cape, with a red sash, and a red helmet with yellow horns, depicting a devil image. The Rollicking Rogue also has a weird laugh with which to taunt his victims, a la The Shadow, but predating Walter Gibson’s famous character by several months.
         Like many of McCulley’s characters, The Rollicking Rogue set the mold for another, later character. POPULAR PUBLICATIONS’ Captain Satan, which would debut in 1938, seems to have been inspired to some small extent by The Rollicking Rogue. This isn’t surprising, since we can find many other examples of McCulley-inspired characters popping up throughout the 1930s and ‘40s. Just compare McCulley’s 1934 Bat to a later Batman and Black Bat, for example.
         Captain Satan is not an exact replica of The Rollicking Rogue, but is too similar for the truth to be otherwise. Typical of McCulley’s many other characters, there is the Clark Kent/Superman dual identity at work. The hero, The Rollicking Rogue, is tough, fearless, and quite capable; but when not in costume, he is a mild mannered secretary and coward named James Peters – not really his true name we’re told.
         The plot is also a simple one well used in the pulps. Ten years earlier, a group of financiers and businessmen broke the back of smaller businesses, leaving families destitute. The Rollicking Rogue is the son of one of those families ruined. His sister and mother had not survived, and he’s out to get revenge on those crooked men, one man in each episode.
         In 1932, D. L. Champion would use a similar plot device in his serial for THRILLING DETECTIVE, Alias Mr. Death, in which nine crooked businessmen murder the hero’s father. Over the course of nine novelettes, Mr. Death eliminated those men, one at a time. In February 1933, Mr. Death morphed into The Phantom Detective, as the pulp hero explosion began in full force.
         I’m not sure if McCulley actually finished his series, as I’ve only found two stories in The Rollicking Rogue series: The Rollicking Rogue, and The Rollicking Rogue’s Second Deal. Both were published in ALL STAR DETECTIVE STORIES. I liked them, and the character. Matt Moring reprinted them in the back pages of his Johnston McCulley volume, The Swift Revenge of The Green Ghost.
         Don’t miss these fascinating pulp tales.
         Note: There appears to be a new wave of interest in the old style pulp hero even today in the 21st century when entertainment takes many forms that were unimaginable during the pulp era. However, it’s doubtful that we will ever see the likes of a Johnston McCulley again – someone who can truly anticipate an explosion in mass market literature and single-handedly write the blueprint that will be followed for the next hundred years.
         I don’t think 1933 will ever repeat again.