Friday, January 30, 2009

Celluloid Pulp: Max Brand's and Tom Mix's Alcatraz


I became interested in translations of Max Brand's stories to film after purchasing a VHS tape at a local flea market. I bought a tape that included two Tom Mix silent westerns: Just Tony and Sky High! I'd never seen a Tom Mix movie before, and I thought it was time to mend that gap in my pop culture knowledge. I liked the dynamic line art illustrating the package, and these two movies were the oldest the dealer had on hand (Just Tony: 1922; Sky High!: 1922).

While watching, I noticed that the credits for Just Tony attributed Max Brand's novel Alcatraze (sic) as the basis for the film. So I thought a comparison was in order.

Before continuing, please let me express my thanks to the Interlibrary Loan departments of the Louisville Free Public Library and of the Berea College Library. Through their efforts, I was able to get hold of some photocopies of covers and sample pages from the novel's magazine publication. Also, thanks to Mike Ashley, Brian Earl Brown, Mike Chomko, Tom Roberts, and Ray Skirsky for info on The Country Gentleman magazine.

I. The Serial
Frederick Faust's novel Alcatraz first appeared under his Max Brand pseudonym as a serial in The Country Gentleman magazine. At this time its frequency was weekly. According to Tom Roberts, it was considered a second-tier slick, comparable to Liberty, with lower circulation than magazines like Colliers or its sister slick, The Saturday Evening Post.

Seeing that TCG's subtitle was "For the American Farmer and His Family," I thought this weekly periodical might be similar to a magazine my family used to receive when I was a boy, Progressive Farmer. After seeing a few cover illustrations and learning that fiction was a regular part of this magazine, my thought changed. Apparently top writers and artists appeared there, among them Erle Stanley Gardner, Hugh Cave, Ben Ames Williams, Zane Grey, John Howitt and N.C. Wyeth.

And the magazine's subtitle might suggest that this magazine would not fall strictly within the parameters normally defining "pulp." But Brand has been called the King of the Pulps often enough that the appearance of his work anywhere deserves consideration by the pulp community. Besides, at least one other writer familiar to pulp readers appeared in TCG's pages during the run of Alcatraz: William MacLeod Raine's story Iron Heart began in the same issue that wrapped up Brand's serial.

Curtis Publishing owned TCG, and the editor at this time was John Pickett. The serial ran in five issues, from that dated June 17, 1922, to July 15, 1922. For its first installment, the novel was featured on the magazine's cover with a painting by Harvey Dunn. (I have only a photocopy of the illustration, but just from the looks of that poor reproduction, I'm sure the actual painting is quite striking.) The story was accompanied by three illustrations drawn by John S. Curry in each issue except for the first installment, which featured four illustrations.

The cover by Dunn shows that his work is clearly aligned with the American school of rugged illustration founded by Howard Pyle and carried on most famously by N.C. Wyeth and others who came out of the Brandywine Valley school. Dunn took classes there with Pyle. The other cover illustrations during the serial's run in TCG are more poster-graphics styled, capturing Americana tableaux -- two farm wives listening in to a party line telephone conversation; boys at play; a stand of hollyhocks. These latter scenes are executed by Harold Brett (June 24, 1922), Frederick Lowenheim (July 1), Herbert Brown (July 8), and E.M. Jackson (July 15). Don't get me wrong, these paintings show off the skills of the artists just as much as Dunn's work. But because of the differences in style and subject matter, Dunn's painting seems superior to the others' works. But that's definitely a subjective response and probably just my illustration snobbery speaking out.

Snobbery or not, Dunn captures perfectly the sense Brand imparts in his initial paragraphs -- with the eagles soaring behind the horse standing atop a mountain (Brand names the ever-present mountains in this story the Eagles), the artist expresses the royalty that the author invests in his equine creation.

A quick scan of the few magazine pages available to me shows evidence that the serialized novel differs from the book version. (I received only a few photocopied pages of the serial thanks to Interlibrary Loan. I compared these to the large print edition of the novel published by Thorndike Press in 1991. [The first book publication was in 1923 by G.P. Putnam's Sons.]) The magazine version appears to be shorter than the book version. Whether an editor at The Country Gentleman abridged Brand's novel or Brand added to the story for book publication is unclear from the limited comparison I can make with these materials. Jon Tuska's "A Frederick Faust Bibliography" doesn't note an abridgment for the book publication, and Faust rarely worked on a story after its completion, so the likely answer is that a TCG editor made the changes, or both a TCG editor and a Putnam's editor tinkered with the manuscript for their own publishing purposes.

An in-depth textual comparison between the magazine and book editions is not the purpose of this article. But a quick look at the story's first three paragraphs will provide a good notion of the differences that exist in the serial and novel forms.

Paragraph One: The phrase "Arab explanation" in the serial appears as "Arab belief" in the book. "Says the sheik:" appears at the end of Paragraph One in the serial.

Paragraph Two: "Says the sheik:" appears at the beginning of Paragraph Two in the book.

Paragraph Three: The third paragraph of the book starts out with this passage:

Marianne had known thoroughbreds since she was a child and after coming West she had become acquainted with mere "hoss-flesh," but today for the first time she felt that the horse is not meant by nature to be the servant of man but that its speed is meant to ensure it sacred freedom. A moment later

The third paragraph in the serial begins with the sentence starting "A moment later"

The differences within this paragraph continue between the second and third sentences that appear in the serial: "That glimpse of equine perfection had been an illusion built of spirit and attitude; when the head of the stallion fell she saw the daylight truth; this was either the wreck of a young horse or the sad ruin of a fine animal now grown old. It was once a rich red chestnut, no doubt;"

In the book, between the two sentences just quoted, this passage appears:

He was a ragged creature with dull eyes and pendulous lip. No comb had been among the tangles of mane and tail for an unknown period; no brush had smoothed his coat.


Further differences continue to appear in just this paragraph alone. But the examples I've listed should give you a good idea of the sort of changes made either before the original serial publication or between that appearance and the book publication.

The novel appeared in this fashion in The Country Gentleman (some pages are unnumbered, and I don't have complete installments):

June 17, 1922: pp. 9 - 11
June 24: pp. ?? - 16
July 1: pp. 8 - 14
July 8: pp. ?? - 14
July 15: pp. ?? - 26

II. The Novel

Brand begins this story, as he does many, with a mythic tone: Marianne Jordan is caught up by the sight of Alcatraz, a horse whose physical form manifests the concepts of freedom and speed. Alcatraz is the epitome of Horse: majestic, fast, untamed and untamable. But he is controlled by a petty and vicious owner, Manuel Cordova, who nearly starves the horse, beats and mistreats him, and races him for the money he wins from those betting against such a worn-looking beast.

Marianne Jordan has come to the Glosterville fair to purchase a string of thoroughbreds in the hope of reviving the bloodlines of her ranch stock. Marianne is running the ranch in place of her father, who -- following a debilitating injury -- has lost any will to take a leading hand at the ranch. When Marianne returned from the East to take over management, she earned the scorn and resentment of Lou Hervey, ranch foreman, who had been running the spread after Jordan's collapse. Marianne hopes to prove her mettle to Hervey by purchasing the string of blood horses. However, she knows she's pinning a lot on this action: The ranch's fortunes will be ruined if her gamble doesn't work.

Brand introduces his hero in the second chapter: "Red" Jim Perris. He displays typical Brand-hero traits -- he's free and easy, with a desire to roam, untied to any geographical or emotional anchors; he's fair to all men; he's not shy about battling an injustice or anything else he sees as being counter to fair play; like some manifestation of wild nature itself, Perris has an easy rapport with animals, and even those beasts that seem untamable will surrender to his strength, intelligence, and goodness; and by golly he can handle a gun like nobody's business.

Marianne sees Perris in action, and she is both taken and repelled by his cowboy brashness. A sure sign that these two are doomed to romance.

Marianne buys her horses; Alcatraz stomps Cordova seemingly to death and escapes into the wild; Perris displays his natural man/hero traits and continues on the trail of a man who, in a drunken rage, shot Perris during a card game and ran off. Unknown to both Perris and Marianne, the assailant was the girl's father. Old Jordan regrets his actions, but Hervey -- who was with Jordan at the time and who encouraged him to vamoose after the shooting -- manages to use this event to his advantage in retaking control of the ranch and its finances.

Alcatraz takes over leadership of a band of wild horses that have been plaguing the Jordan ranch. Hervey and his crew shoot down as many of the horses as possible, but Alcatraz escapes. The crew begins building a legend that Alcatraz is a devil immune to bullets.

Marianne hires Perris to kill the wild horse. This move further galls Hervey. Once Perris sees the majesty of Alcatraz in the wild, he vows not to kill the horse but to capture it.

Alcatraz seemingly meets his match when Perris traps him and manages to climb aboard. A myth-sized battle follows, and Alcatraz seems ready to submit when Perris is knocked unconscious from his mount by a tree limb.

Later Perris saves Alcatraz from drowning, and the horse saves the man when Hervey's crew tries to kill the two. In the end, Perris and Marianne acknowledge their love, the elder Jordan admits his wrongdoing and he and Perris reach a peaceable agreement; Hervey's mischief is discovered and he is banished from the ranch, and Alcatraz and Perris -- neither able to surrender to the other -- become partners.

III. The Movie
The William Fox Film Corp. released the silent film JUST TONY, directed by Lynn Reynolds, in 1922. This was just one of nine Tom Mix movies released that year, and one of five movies directed by Reynolds for that year -- all five starred Mix. Reynolds adapted the script from Max Brand's novel Alcatraz.

This 70-minute film was shot in the Alabama Hills near Lone Pine, California. The Alabama Hills have been a popular location for shooting movies and TV shows -- particularly westerns -- since the filming of The Roundup in 1920. It remains in use today. Part of the appeal is their Sierra Nevada backdrop, which includes Mt. Whitney, one of the highest points in the continental U.S. Movies shot here include Gunga Din, The Three Godfathers, Broken Arrow, The Four Feathers, Gladiator, Hi-Yo Silver, Hopalong Rides Again, and Joe Kidd.

While the secondary characters in the movie retain their names from Brand's novel, Tom Mix's character gets a slight name modification from Perris to Ferris.

Tom Mix was the top cowboy in moving pictures at this time. As a result, Tom's horse, Tony, was the top equine star in Hollywood. So marketing-wise, a movie named for Tony would surely pull in more viewers than a film titled Alcatraz. Thus Tony got the starring role AND the picture title.

Mix is perfect to play the part of Ferris, one of Brand's bigger-than-life cowboy heroes. Mix's background is not that of an actual working cowboy. Instead, he came from the world of the rodeo, wild west show, and circus-styled cowboy -- the sort who specialized in shooting tricks, riding stunts, and fancy-dress clothes (the type of wardrobe that we associate with William Boyd's Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry and Roy Rogers). Unlike William Hart, Mix's contemporary who supposedly worked to make his western films look authentic, Mix was a true Hollywood cowboy, whose behavior on and off screen was based on spectacle and entertainment.

The square-jawed and hawk-nosed Mix made sure his public image was larger than real life, the hero of movie-watching boys everywhere; he was well suited to portray a myth-sized character who could have stepped out of folklore as easily as he strode through a Brand-penned novel.

The film opens with a panorama shot of majestic mountains in Nevada, the Eagles. Next we see a wild horse herd. Jim Perris, a cowboy from Utah, admires these fine, free animals. They are led by a four-year-old colt, "a mimic of the desert whirlwinds," according to the title card. Jim marvels at the horse. It could be his dream horse.

But foremost in his thoughts is an account he wants to square: The movie flashes back to a saloon scene. Jim is playing a banjo; a drunk gets tired of hearing it and shoots Jim, then leaves.

The man who shot Jim, Oliver Jordan, later bought a ranch at the foot of the lofty Nevada mountains. Since then, Jordan has suffered an injury to his legs, and the ranch has fallen on hard times. His daughter, Marianne, comes home from the East to run the ranch. Hervey, the ranch boss, is unhappy about that. Since Jordan's injury, Hervey has replaced the older ranch hands with hard characters.

A bad winter kills much of Jordan and other ranchers' stock. A lot of wild horses are captured as they seek food. One of the captured horses is Tony. Manuel Cordova owns this one-time herd leader. He whips and mistreats the animal.

Marianne, at the local rodeo for stock, sees Manuel abuse Tony. Jim also sees, and he whips Manuel in a fight. Jim recognizes Tony as the horse he saw on the desert plains. He gives Tony "the first caress he has ever known."

At the rodeo, Marianne watches the race that features Tony and the eastern mares that she's come to buy. Only if Tony wins will the mares' price be low enough for Marianne to afford them. Jim learns that Manuel has bet heavily against Tony and plans to lose. Jim enters the race so "Tony will get a fair deal." Sure enough, Manuel holds Tony back, but Jim races up and cuts the reins. Tony wins the race!

Marianne offers Jim a foreman's job, for she doubts Hervey's motivations. But Jim explains he has two other jobs that take priority: finding the man who shot him, and somehow claiming Tony as his own.

When Manuel starts to beat Tony again, the horse breaks free, stomps Manuel, and escapes to the Eagle Mountains. He takes over another herd of horses, and lures domestic stock from the Jordan ranch, including the newly purchased mares.

Marianne sends for Jim, telling him he can have Tony if he can capture the horse.

Hervey warns Jordan away, telling the old man that Jim is gunning for him, and that Hervey will take care of everything. Meanwhile, Hervey and his crew raid Jordan's stock and blame the disappearances on Tony. But Jim figures out what's going on.

Jim captures Tony and manages to ride him until the saddle cinch breaks and Jim hits the ground, unconscious. Tony is tempted to stomp Jim just as he trampled Manuel, but he remembers that first caress. He sees Jim as a man to be trusted, "his new master!" He trails Jim to his line cabin after the man awakes.

There, Hervey ambushes the cowboy. Marianne overhears Hervey tell Jim that Jordan was the man who shot him. She gets the lowdown on the crooked ranch boss just as he's about to murder Jim. She runs him off, and Hervey leaves to clean out the stock from the Jordan ranch.

Jim and Marianne follow, and Tony follows them. But some of Hervey's men hang back to chase the hero and his gal. When they shoot Jim's horse out from under him, Tony arrives to carry him to safety. Then Jim and Marianne hurry to Jordan's hideaway, where Jim and Jordan bury the hatchet.

After affairs with Hervey are settled (off screen), Jim and Marianne lead Tony to the desert to release him. The horse wanders off, but returns to Jim. Marianne says, "He loves you more than -- freedom!' Fadeout.

IV. Sum Up
The film differs from the novel in some ways, but captures the heart of the story -- the untamed spirits of both Jim and Tony calling to one another. Most of Brand's novels contain more action or incident than would have fit into a movie of this sort; so some condensing for a film version works just fine. The romance between Jim and Marianne becomes a secondary issue, and young viewers were far more interested in knowing that Tom Mix would survive Hervey's crooked scheming and end up with such a swell horse, not whether he got to kiss the girl. The filmic Jim sees Alcatraz/Tony first instead of Marianne. Hervey is perhaps more despicable in the movie, although he's more of a secondary character there than in the book. In the novel, Jim is shot while playing cards; in the film, he's playing an apparently obnoxious tune on a banjo. (See the lobby card photo accompanying this article.)

What I find interesting is that the film viewer never sees justice catch up to the bad guy, Hervey. Jim and Jordan shake hands and agree to fight no more, but no mention is made of Hervey after Tony rescues Jim. Odd. But I suppose providing thrills and chills was uppermost in the minds of the people making these movies; providing complete closure to all plot lines before the final reel ended was a secondary consideration. On the whole, though, Just Tony does good by the main concepts and action in Brand's novel, Alcatraz.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The WWWA reads The Youngerman Guns by Lewis B. Patten

This is the second novel by Patten the The Woodstove Whittlers and Wrangling Association read.

(Once an Association member finds something he likes, he sticks with it. For example, Sam Strange, Jr., has a short, hanging shelf with fourteen Louis L'Amour books on it -- thirteen stand upright from one end of the shelf to the other, and the fourteenth lays on top of the others, because Sam didn't like the idea of having thirteen of anything in his bedroom because of the possibilities of bad luck might ensue. Anyway, whenever Sam finishes reading those fourteen L'Amour books, he starts over reading them again. Because he likes L'Amour and sees little reason to travel beyond what he knows he already likes. And even though Louis L'Amour wrote more than fourteen books, Sam has only fourteen because that's how many fit on his shelf. Well, really, only thirteen fit, but we've already coddled that bit of Sam's strangeness.)

Again, as the WWWA noted about The Cheyenne Pool, The Youngerman Guns is a good, solid western. This one is about Dan Youngerman (what’s with the name Dan? see the Association's notes on The Cheyenne Pool), a deputy in a small town for the past seven years, who (unknown to the townsfolk) is also related to the leader of the dreaded Youngerman gang. Patten clearly bases the Youngermans loosely on the actual James-Younger gang -- as reflected in the “Youngerman” name. Dan had split with his vicious brother Sam during the Civil War after the infamous raid in Lawrence, Kansas. Sam vowed to kill Dan after the war when Dan married Sam’s childhood sweetheart.

(The Association's discussion of Sam's desire for vengeance was rather muted, and more than one member cut a surreptitious glance around the woodstove at Waldo Grinter and Adolphus Husky, for Adolphus was known to be sparkin' Jeanette Curry before he went off to join the Army as a young man; Waldo took up with Jeanette and they were married before Adolphus returned home. More than once we'd heard Adolphus complain that he wouldn't be hearing comments from his wife, Renee, about his belt size if he were married to Jeanette. So things were on the cusp of being skittery while talking about Dan and Sam Youngerman, but neither Adolphus nor Waldo got twitchy, and discussions remained civil and calm. All the same, a couple of the boys remarked to me afterward they were glad the Association was done with this book.)

Back to Patten's novel. Dan learns that the gang plans to raid his small town and rob the bank -- and perhaps kill Dan in the process. The townspeople learn of Dan’s relationship to the gang, and their fear and indignation lead to some ugly scenes all the way to the big shootout at the book’s climax. [A note from the Top Hand: More than one of Patten's books have that High Noon scenario, with a lone man wronged or wrongly judged by a (usually self-righteous) crowd. Although the situation appears more than once in his work, Patten handles it nicely each time, and there's no sense of deja vu.]

This Patten novel offers a solid tale. I could imagine both it and The Cheyenne Pool as the basis for a couple of fine B-western films during the 1960s. (Surprisingly -- when you take into consideration how prolific Patten was -- the IMDB site lists him for only four entries.)

Overall, the Association readers were pleased with this novel, and likewise pleased that no real disruptions popped up during the course of the gab session. More than one member noted, however, that Adolphus and Waldo didn't line up for the snack table together, nor did they sit on the same side of the room. But before the meeting broke up, Waldo complimented Adolphus on his new belt buckle from the Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo, and Adolphus recommended a new brand of feed for Waldo's veal calves.

Sometimes life is funny; sometimes it's hard as a Montana blizzard. Mostly, life just is.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Pulp Panel at New York Comic Con

Ed Catto, one of the "Retropreneurs" behind the relaunch of Captain Action into pop culture, has recruited a panel of pulp fiction a-fiction-ados to discuss Pulp Fiction at the New York Comic Con.

The Con runs February 6 through 8 and features a ton of programming with many guests from the comic book industry. The Pulp Fiction Panel will run Friday afternoon. Ed will moderate the panel, and among its experts will be . . .

Anthony Tollin : Pulp Historian, Publisher - Nostalgia Ventures, reprinting The Shadow, Doc Savage, The Avenger and The Whisperer

Joe Gentile : Publisher- Moonstone Books and Author

F.J. DeSanto : Co-Producer - the new Shadow and Doc Savage feature films, comic/manga Writer

Ron Fortier : Publisher - Airship 27, and prolific comic/pulp Author

Charles Ardai : Editor and Founder - Hard Case Crime, Author and Entrepreneur

Mark Halegua : President- Gotham Pulp Collectors Club, Pulps1st

Stephen H. Segal : Editorial and Creative Director - Weird Tales

Will Murray : Author/Historian, and Writer of seven Doc Savage novels (under the Kenneth Robeson byline)

The New York Comic Con is held at the Javits Center in New York City February 6 – 8, 2009. The Pulp Panel will be held in room 1A21 on Friday, February 6th from 4:30- 5:30 PM. No pre-registration is required for this panel.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Longest Running Pulps

By Mike Ashley

[Editor’s note: Mike Ashley is an indefatigable bibliographer, anthologist, and historian of fiction magazines. He’s sort of a genre fiction bon vivant. If you’ve ever walked through the fiction aisles of a bookstore, you’ve probably seen at least one of his many Mammoth Book Of anthologies of stories. The only topic I can think of he hasn’t tackled is an anthology of stories about international covert plumbers. Ahem. I may be wrong. He has written The biography of ghost-story author Algernon Blackwood and a trio (at this count) of books narrating the history of science fiction magazines. A recent book written for the British Library, The Age of the Story Tellers: British Popular Fiction Magazines 1880-1950, is the definitive history of magazine fiction during its heyday. I must admit, I enjoy just about everything Mike puts his hand (or typewriter) to.

Mike wrote the following article for the Pulp Era Amateur Press Society (PEAPS), a collection of pulp fiction fans, collectors, and readers. Mike very graciously provided permission to publish it here, and I am very, very happy to do so.

I’ve noted elsewhere that Westerns probably accounted for more ink on pages than any other genre. Keep that in mind as you read the following essay. We’ll take up the topic again at the end.]

THE LONGEST RUNNING PULPS
By Mike Ashley


I'm an inveterate list maker and am always fascinated by statistics, such as which pulp magazine had the most issues. It becomes complicated by those magazines that survived beyond the pulp age, such as Argosy turning into a men's semi-slick magazine, or indeed Analog and Weird Tales, still around today though far removed from their pulp origins. Nevertheless, they survive, and I thought it might be interesting to put together a list of those magazines which saw the most issues. Hopefully I haven't missed any. I've drawn for data upon a variety of sources but most significantly what is known as “The Big List: maintained by Phil Stephensen-Payne from an earlier version which was cobbled together by David Pringle and myself. You can view The Big List at http://www.philsp.com/ .

For the following, therefore, I have taken the complete run of a magazine provided that it was in pulp form for at least a significant part of its existence. Analog has, of course, been non-pulp for more than sixty years, and was only ever a pulp -- as Astounding -- for thirteen years, but I don't think anyone could deny that those were thirteen significant years. It's more of a problem with a magazine like Railroad Stories, which came and went, and which continued as a non-fiction enthusiasts' magazine for years after its original pulp life. It's one I've therefore queried below.

I haven't included Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine or The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, since they were never pulps, but if you want comparative figures, as of December 2008 their totals are respectively 624, 781 and 673. It has become a habit to have double-month issues and number those as a double issue -- for subscription purposes. I have only counted these once, though, since they remain a single issue. So the numbers cited are physical issues you would count on your shelf.

One of the main problem areas are when pulps continued from original dime-novel series, such as Wild West Weekly or Detective Story Magazine. I've applied certain criteria depending on each publication and have noted accordingly below.

I've drawn the line at those publications exceeding 500 issues. I've included British pulps. The figures quoted for current magazines are as at December 2008.

1. Argosy, 2,578 issues from 9 December 1882 to Spring 2005.
This includes the original tabloid weekly as The Golden Argosy, the subsequent men's magazine "slick" issues, and the various incarnations since the original magazine folded in 1979. The pulp issues proper run from December 1896 to August 1943, a total of 1,532 issues.

2. Wild West Weekly, 2,118 issues from 24 October 1902 to November 1943.
This began in dime novel format and remained so until August 1927. Its first pulp issue was 13 August 1927, and it saw 824 issues in that format.

3. Western Story Magazine, 1,286 issues from 12 July 1919 to August/September 1949.
This also took over from a dime novel series, New Buffalo Bill Weekly, and as it kept the volume numbering, then strictly the dime novel issues ought to count -- especially as the name change happened before (12 July 1919) the first pulp issue (5 September 1919). The series had started as Buffalo Bill Stories in May 1901 and ran for 591 issues before changing to New Buffalo Bill Weekly for a further 356 issues. This would produce a total of 2,233 issues. What's more, the magazine was revived by Popular Publications in October 1952 and ran to June 1954, a further 11 issues. So the true total is 2,244.

4. Love Story Magazine, 1,158 issues from 1 August 1921 to February 1947.
This was also revived by Popular Publications and ran for a further 14 issues from June 1952 to September 1954, giving 1,172 in total.

5. Short Stories, 1,114 issues from June 1890 to August 1959.
A complicated magazine to monitor, which went through various incarnations. The pulp issues proper ran from March 1910 to June 1953, a total of 849. Phil Stephensen-Payne has pointed out that although the final issue bears the number 2014, there was a numbering error in December 1948, which added 900 to the running total and was never corrected.

6. Detective Story Magazine, 1,057 issues from 5 October 1915 to Summer 1949.
Here we have the same problem as with Western Story. Detective Story was a continuation of Nick Carter Stories -- itself a continuation of Nick Carter Weekly, which was a continuation of Street & Smith's very first dime novel series, Nick Carter Library, which began on 8 August 1891. Those three series had a total of 1,261 issues, making the full run 2,318 issues. In addition, Popular Publications revived Detective Story for six more issues from November 1952 to September 1953, giving 2,324 issues in total, of which 1,063 were pulp.

7. Astounding/Analog, 935 issues from January 1930 to date.
A valiant survivor from the pulp days, though its last true pulp issue was in October 1943, including a run of 16 issues in the larger flat format (erroneously called “bedsheet”). That means its total pulp run was only 155 issues.

8. Flynn's/Detective Fiction Weekly, 923 issues from 20 September 1924 to August 1944.
It was revived briefly from January to July 1951 for six more issues, giving an overall total of 929.

9. Adventure, 881 issues from November 1910 to April 1971.
The last true pulp issue was in May 1953, though it had toyed with both some slick issues and digest issues earlier. Nevertheless, the magazine's life was continuously evolving from a men's adventure magazine to a men's adventure magazine! The number of pulp issues total 756.

10. Ranch Romances, 863 issues from September 1924 to November 1971.
The last surviving continuous pulp.

11. Cassell's Magazine, 789 issues from April 1867 to December 1932.
This is the first British magazine. It started as a large standard Victorian magazine, upgrading to a slick in December 1896 to match the popularity of The Strand. However, in April 1912 it converted to an all-fiction pulp magazine and remained so for the next twenty years, with occasional attempts to improve the paper quality. This final incarnation saw 249 pulp issues.

12. Railroad Man's Magazine, 782 issues from October 1906 to January 1979.
This is another complicated one. Its first incarnation lasted until January 1919, when it merged with Argosy. It was revived in December 1929 and was taken over by Popular Publications in January 1942, remaining a pulp until December 1942. Its total pulp life, therefore, was 315 issues. It continued as a semi-slick until January 1979. It was revived as a railroad enthusiast's magazine in May 1979, with no fiction at all, and retitled Railfan and Railroad. I've no idea how many issues of that have appeared and perhaps we can treat that as another entity entirely.

13. Red Magazine, 620 issues from June 1908 to September 1939.
The second British magazine and the first that was a pulp throughout its lifetime, although its format varied slightly, and at times it ran better quality (and often thicker) book paper. Nevertheless, few would argue that it was a pulp.

14. Blue Book, 613 issues from May 1906 to May 1956.
I’ve called Blue Book a “slick in pulp clothing,” because for many of its issues it seldom felt like a pulp. Twice it shifted to the large flat format, and it switched to a men's service magazine in February 1952. The paper, though, didn't change. There were slight variations in quality, but it was essentially pulp to the end. The magazine was revived in October 1960 as Bluebook for Men, this time as a man's magazine. I've never been interested in this incarnation and am not sure how many issues appeared. The last I know of is January 1975, and if it was monthly all that time that would be an additional 172 issues.

15. Popular Magazine, 612 issues from September 1903 to October 1931
This began as a boy's magazine, more an outgrowth of the dime novels, but soon switched to true pulp format and lived up to its name as a popular pulp until it merged with Complete Stories in 1931. The short-lived magazine Hardboiled, also from Street & Smith, changed its name to The Popular in March 1937, but I believe that was a digest-size series full of reprints. I'm not sure how many issues appeared.

16. Amazing Stories, 609 issues from April 1926 to March 2005.
The final issue was published only as a webzine. Amazing went through various changes in its final years with some rather impressive slick issues. Its last pulp issue was in March 1953. Strictly speaking, its early Gernsback issues weren't pulp, as these were on special quality book paper -- but let's not get too technical. There were 284 pulp issues, including the early large flat-format ones.

17. Top-Notch, 602 issues from March 1910 to Sep/Oct 1937.
The first seven issues were in the dime novel format, but thereafter all are standard pulps.

18. The Argosy, 571 issues from June 1926 to February 1974.
This is the British Argosy, no relation to the US pulp. The British Argosy was mostly a reprint magazine, but it did run occasional new stories. It began on slightly good quality book paper but soon devolved to pulp. Its pulp run ended in January 1940 after 164 issues. After that, wartime restrictions caused the magazine to shrink, first to a large digest, and then to digest, and finally pocketbook format. Nevertheless it was a continuous-run story-magazine.

Those are all the ones with more than 500 issues. The 19th is All-Story with 444 issues, and the 20th is Young's Magazine with, I think, 441 issues, though I'm not entirely sure how many appeared.

Supposing, though, we just took pulp issues alone, and not those in any other format. What does the top 20 become? Well, it changes quite a bit. For this list I have excluded everything which is digest, slick, or dime novel, though have kept in “bedsheet” size issues because it's an argument I'd never win either way!

1. Argosy, 1532 issues
2. Western Story Magazine, 1289
3. Love Story Magazine, 1172
4. Detective Story Magazine, 1063
5. Flynn's/Detective Fiction Weekly, 929
6. Ranch Romances, 863
7. Short Stories, 849
8. Wild West Weekly, 824
9. Adventure, 756
10. Red Magazine [UK], 620
11. Blue Book, 613
12. Popular Magazine, 609
13. Top-Notch, 595
14. All-Story, 444
15. Sport Story Magazine, 429
16. Grand MagaZine [UK], 422
17. Novel Magazine [UK], 393
18. Breezy Stories, 370+ (I'm not sure of the final total)
19. The Story-teller [UK], 361
20. West, 361

So, in come some new titles, such as the British Grand Magazine, The Novel and The Story-teller, and other pulps, such as Sport Story Magazine, West and Breezy Stories. I'm not too sure just how many issues there were of Breezy Stories in its final few days, and its total could be as high as 422.

It's possible I've missed out something or miscalculated somewhere along the line, so I'd welcome any comments and corrections.

One final thought. The above list accounts for almost 14,500 issues, which would be an impressive collection in its own right. But I wonder what proportion that is of the total pulp issues ever published? Anyone want to take that on?!

©2008 Mike Ashley

[Editor’s note: Take a look again at Mike’s two lists. In List 1, the three western-only titles (Wild West Weekly, Western Story Magazine, and Ranch Romances, at positions 2, 3, and 10, respectively) capture a total of 4,267 issues. You can assume a lot of pages were also devoted to westerns in the general-interest magazines in that list: Argosy, Short Stories, Adventure, Railroad Man’s Magazine, Blue Book, Top-Notch, The Argosy (UK), and All-Story. Perhaps the western pages from these titles would end up totaling at least a few hundred issues of what we might call a Generic Western magazine.

If you look at list 2 -- the pulp-paper-only issues -- the number of western titles increases, but the number of issues falls by nearly a thousand to 3,337: Western Story Magazine, Ranch Romances, Wild West Weekly, and West. The general-interest pulps in this second list changes slightly -- Argosy, Short Stories, Adventure, Blue Book, Top-Notch, All-Story, and The Story-Teller. (I’m not sure if westerns appeared in this last title, but I bet at least one slipped into an issue sometime.) Again, you would still probably be able to assemble a few hundred issues of what we might call a Generic Western magazine just from the western pages of these titles. I'm not sure if this haphazard and non-scientific tallying I'm doing tells us westerns had the lion's share of pages, but it's fun to do, anyway.

Again, many thanks to Mike
for allowing me to share this essay. You’ll find a selection of his great books listed at the Spur & Lock's Spinner Rack under the Mike Ashley Anthology-a-Rama category.]

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Lewis B. Patten: Massacre at San Pablo


As I began reading this novel, I thought, “Wow, this has all the makings of a great spaghetti Western.” Remarkably, this Patten novel wasn’t written in the violent-western boom following the popularity of Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name films: it was first published in 1957 by Fawcett Publications as Gold Medal # 706. (Now it’s newly available as a Large Print book from Center Point Publishing.)

As you read the opening paragraphs, can’t you just see the cinematography Sergio Leone would apply to a film version?

“At the end of the day, the desert lay flat and shimmering behind them and they began the long climb toward the high-piled, rocky mountains ahead.

“The brilliant hues of the setting sun dyed the thin clouds gold and rose, yet of all the passengers in the stagecoach, only one noticed the radiant beauty in the sky.”

In Massacre at San Pablo, Patten tells the story of Mark Atkins, first seen as a twelve-year-old traveling west with his parents. He’s orphaned when Apaches attack the stage on which the family is traveling; and he’s taken in by Jaime and Rosa Maria Ortega, who happen across the attack site as they head home from taking on their nine-year-old nephew, Leon, whose mother had died just a month ago.

So the Ortegas raise both boys as their own in the village of San Pablo. But their home also is victimized by seasonal Apache attacks, prompting the Mexican government to establish a bounty for Indian scalps.

After brutal scalpers determine the government agents can’t tell the difference between Indian and Mexican scalps, they raid San Pablo. During the attack, Jaime and Rosa Maria are killed. And Mark Atkins, orphaned again, leaves the village to track down and kill the raiders.

Patten does a great job showing Mark as he grows up and learns to handle a gun, learns ranch work, encounters some of the band he seeks, finds love, and learns to live without vengeance. Once Mark finds love, Patten’s novel veers off the track of the typical spaghetti Western, but not everything is sweetness and light: the woman to whom Mark loses his heart has already given her word to marry a man Mark is hunting -- a man named Healy, the leader of the San Pablo raiders.

At that point, Mark adjusts his moral compass as he learns about justice, injustice, and denied desires. He matures, but his struggles don’t fade away -- they intensify as he learns Healy is a rustler, and Healy’s wife discovers her husband is just the brute Mark had warned her about.

Patten’s pacing, his characterizations, his way with settings and descriptions of ranch work are excellent. He doesn’t waste a word, and the storytelling is just dandy from start to finish.

Massacre at San Pablo
is available from Amazon, and it's one of the items on the Lewis B. Patten category of the Spur & Lock Spinner Rack.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Meet Max Brand


Max Brand, the most famous pseudonym of Frederick Faust, made his fictional Wild West an arena for the characters of myth and legend to live and battle again. While Owen Wister (in The Virginian) and Zane Grey (in Riders of the Purple Sage and many other novels) made the West an epic landscape for romantic heroes to ride across and populate, Brand released the mythic urge that dwells within the finest storytellers and placed demigods on a timeless western landscape of no particular place that he used again and again.

It began with his first western novel, The Untamed, which first appeared as a six-part serial in All-Story magazine, starting in its issue dated Dec. 7, 1918. The story's popularity ensured its publication in book form, and Tom Mix starred in the silent movie based upon the novel.

Here is the opening paragraph of The Untamed, which introduces the otherworldly setting that would serve as Faust's Wild West:

"Even to a high-flying bird this was a country to be passed over quickly. It was burned and brown, littered with fragments of rock, whether vast or small, as if the refuse were tossed here after the making of the world. A passing shower drenched the bald knobs of a range of granite hills and the slant morning sun set the wet rocks aflame with light. In a short time the hills lost their halo and resumed their brown. The moisture evaporated. The sun rose higher and looked sternly across the desert as if he searched for any remaining life which still struggled for existence under his burning curse."

Faust wrote hundreds of novels and stories set in this mythic western wonderland. Westerns weren't all that he wrote. He published mysteries, historical sagas, and basically invented the medical story when he created Dr. Kildare. His prodigious production of popular fiction marked him as larger than life, not so different from the characters he created on paper.

Like many of his larger-than-life characters, Faust was a man of contradictions. Greatly popular under many pen names for his fiction, Faust's greatest desire was to gain renown under his actual name for his classically styled poetry -- yet this work never found an audience. Prevented from serving in the Army because of his damaged heart, Faust poured his energies and desires for a life of adventure into the protagonists that peopled his stories.

Each year, new books appear in print based on Faust's pulp writings. His imagination continues to grip new readers generation after generation, like that of Louis L'Amour.

Max Brand is one of my favorite western writers. His works don't neatly fit into the category of traditional western, but they define and fill a niche all their own -- perhaps a subgenre of traditional westerns, if you will. I know from conversations with many other readers that Faust's westerns don't satisfy every reader, but their idiosyncratic characteristics make them classics of the field. I'm not even sure someone could find a publisher today for a new western of the type Faust wrote. Perhaps that's a good reason to be glad Five Star, Dorchester and other publisher are keeping Max Brand westerns in print today.

You can find a selection of Max Brand's westerns at The Spur & Lock Spinner Rack.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Norman Maurer in Wyatt Earp no. 3, March 1956, Atlas Comics


For a change of pace, let’s take a look at a comic book with one of my favorite Atlas Comics artists handling the cover: Joe Maneely. Maneely could create a sense of depth and texture with a few scratchy squibbles, and his dynamic poses set up dramatic scenes on nearly all the covers by him I’ve seen.

Maneely, a workhorse for Stan Lee in the 1950s, doesn’t provide any interior art for this issue. At least, he’s not credited in its pages, nor is he credited at the Grand Comics Database Project (GCD) page for this issue. So the main focus of this posting is on the credited artist for the four Wyatt Earp stories in this issue: Norman Maurer.

I wasn’t familiar with Maurer when I first saw this issue. There are elements in the inking that suggested to me that Maneely handled at least some of the inks: scratchy textures; the use of blacks for shadows, folds in clothing, and silhouetted figures in the background; and outlines with no shading or details in some backgrounds. But Maurer is credited with all the inks at the GCD, and it may be that he modeled some of his inking effects on stylistic touches used by Maneely, who was clearly a Stan Lee favorite during this period.

Maurer had an interesting career outside of comics: he was Moe Howard’s son-in-law (you know Moe Howard -- the black-headed “leader” of the Three Stooges with the bowl haircut) and helped bring the Stooges to comics and animated TV shows; helped develop 3-D comics with Joe Kubert; worked with Kubert on the first “learn how to draw comics” mail-order course (which likely influenced Kubert when he launched his comic artists’ school years later); wrote and directed movies for The Stooges; and worked at Hanna-Barbera on Scooby Doo and other properties. Oh, and he drew comics, such as Mighty Mouse, and westerns for Atlas.

In these Wyatt Earp stories, Maurer has a style that recalls some of Jack Davis’ work in westerns for EC at the time, in that the characters have realistic statures and positions, but there are slightly cartoonish exaggerations in their expressions or physical characteristics. It’s the sort of blending of realism and cartoonish exaggeration you see in Will Eisner’s work on The Spirit.

The stories are entertaining and successful mostly because of Maurer’s art. The plots are formulaic, B-western clichés, but the art is charming and engaging. For example, the splash page for the lead story, “The Man Who Came Back from Boot Hill,” is nicely dynamic in its establishing shots, introducing the menace of the tale, and the dramatic entrance of the title hero. Page 2 of this tale, the scan of which leads off this post, provides a good example of how Maurer ably controls the storytelling, even though he’s constrained by breaking his page into seven panels with a lot of text in word balloons. Note the silhouetted stagecoach in the background of panel 1, the relatively simple background in panel 3, the character captured in the faces of panel 4 (this panel makes me wonder if Jean Giraud (aka Mobius) looked at Maurer’s art when he was working on his French Blueberry western comics), the cinematic birds-eye view in panel 6, and the dynamic action depicted in panel 7. Great stuff! I'll be keeping my eye open for more western work by Maurer.