Monday, April 27, 2015

The vigor of pulp prose: Allan Vaughan Elston

Allan Vaughan Elston was a writer for the pulps--remembered primarily today as a writer of westerns--who also wrote for TV. Apparently, according to the Wyoming Author's Wiki, he's claimed by Wyoming, although he was born July 28, 1887 in Kansas City, Missouri, and died  October 21, 1976 in Santa Ana, California. The Wyoming Author's Wiki page also includes a nice listing of Elston's books.

His papers are housed by the UCLA Special Collections at the Charles E. Young Research Library. You can find a tidy biographical summary at the Social Archive maintained by the University of Virginia. Elston lived a varied and interesting life.

At least a couple of Elston's westerns have been reprinted as Large Print books the past few years: Roundup on the Picketwire and Saddle Up for Steamboat.

Elston wrote extensively for the pulps. However, the passage from The Sheriff of San Miquel I quote below originally saw print in the Toronto Star Weekly, a newspaper supplement, of December 18, 1948. It was later published in book form by J.B. Lippincott Company in 1949. That's my source for this example of vigorous pulp prose. Elston demonstrates his mastery and his confidence by describing in a very elegant manner a character who could easily be described in a moment with clich├ęs:

. . . through the veins of each ran generations of an impulse called sporting blood. Alfredo was a Mexican of the ruling class, directly descended from the original Conquerors. He was only twenty-eight years old, with a face smooth, olive and gentle, a mustache thin and black, flashing dark eyes and mellow, courteous speech. In build he was slight, in feature delicate, in dress quietly elegant. Nothing visible to the eye gave evidence that he was sheriff of San Miguel County. Being a scion of los ricos and the owner of a great rancho, he had no need for the pay of a sheriff. But he liked hazard and excitement. That too was in his blood. His trimly fitting vest showed no badge. The badge was in his pocket, along with his cigarillos and watch. His slender waist showed no belt or gun. But a gun was on him somewhere, and upon certain occasion Alfred Baca had been known to produce it with eye-baffling celerity. His real weapons were dignity, self-confidence and a reputation for being utterly fearless. Once he'd walked into this very bar to arrest an outlaw. Showing no gun, he'd merely taken from his pocket a sheriff's badge and exposed it in the palm of his hand. "I am Alfredo Baca. You will follow me, senor." Whereupon, taking obedience for granted, he had turned his back on the outlaw and walked three blocks to the carcel. "After you, senor." And the wanted man, two guns and all, had marched sullenly in.