Saturday, 25 June 2016

Rare interview with a pulp illustrator - Creig Flessel

I was recently looking through some issues of Unknown magazine and came across some illustrations by the artist Creig Flessel. I came across an interview with him, and I didn't see it linked in any of the usual places. Here it is:

Very interesting account of his entire career, including working for Street and Smith and then going on to comics.

Unknown 1940 April - He Shuttles by Theodore Sturgeon
Unknown 1940 April - Illustration for He Shuttles (author Theodore Sturgeon) by Creig Flessel

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Behind the scenes - how the editorial office worked at Adventure magazine

[This article from Arthur S. Hoffman originally appeared in the February 1, 1927 issue of Adventure magazine. I thought it was an interesting behind the scenes look at how the magazine worked.

If you worked on a magazine, let us know what you saw.]

IT MAY be that some of you think our asking so often for your suggestions on the making and shaping of our magazine is only an empty performance. Here is exactly what is done in the office:
First, there are your letters that come in because of no specific request made to you but merely as a result of the general reader interest in our magazine, of the friendly, active, we-are-part-of-Adventure feeling that has grown up through the years. Those letters are read word for word. One editor is especially assigned to the duty of keeping an exact card-index record of every single comment on any of our writers or any of their stories, even a mention of such, favorable or unfavorable. Every six months he makes out a carefully tabulated, detailed report, ranking our whole list of authors on the basis of our readers’ ‘Votes.” Every member of the staff pores over that report.
Allowance must be made for the number of times an author appears during the six months’ period covered, for serials or novelettes versus shorts, and so on. But the ranking of authors from that summary of readers’ votes becomes at once a guide in the buying of manuscripts during the next six months. Also it brings about a new assessment of our writers as to their relative values to this particular magazine and consequently as to the rate of payment each should have.
General comments on other phases and features of our magazine are not card-indexed. The multiplicity and variety of points commented upon, from typographical details to the general policy of the magazine, make this impracticable. But it is the duty of the editor in charge to note down any pronounced amount of comment on any one point and, if comment continues heavy, to begin tabulating “votes” on that point, meanwhile of course calling the attention of the rest of us to the point on trial.
Comments on any particular department—"Camp-Fire,” “Ask Adventure,’’ "Information services", “Travel,” “Straight Goods,” “Books,” “Old Songs,” “Lost Trails,” “Trail Ahead,” “Looking About” —are turned over to the editor in charge of that department, to be read, summarized, filed or used in his department.
Any reader’s letter claiming one of our authors has been inaccurate or incorrect in the use of any of the fact material in his fiction, or any of ourselves or our service editors in anything printed in the magazine, gets particular attention. If a final verdict on the claim, for or against, can not be authoritatively given in the office, the letter is mailed or turned over to the author or editor involved and it’s up to him either to confess error or to convince the reader the criticism was not soundly taken.
The results in this case are apparent. Adventure prides itself on an earned reputation for accuracy and reliability in the local color, setting and atmosphere of its stories, in all fact material, historical or otherwise, used in its fiction. It wasn’t the editors who earned that reputation for our magazine. It was the readers who earned it. And they did it by the method above. No set of editors in the world could be final authority on all the subjects and places covered, but, whatever the subject, there are always at least a few among our readers who are very competent authorities. Writers and editors have learned that it is not healthy to come before Adventure's audience with fact material that isn’t bullet-proof. None of us is infallible, but when we slip we acknowledge it frankly in type so that there can be no uncorrected misinformation laid before our readers.
Another result is interesting topics, investigations and discussions for Camp-Fire. Will older readers ever forget the argument royal that arose among Camp-Fire over Talbot Mundy’s interpretation of the character of Julius Caesar in the Tros stories? Had to stop it finally because it wasn’t leaving space for much else, but I think most of us learned more about Julius Caesar than we had ever known before. We’re still getting occasional requests to have the contributions to that argument issued in book form. Well, maybe we can some day.
Of such results as the above you will be finding plenty of proof in the magazine as you go along, but another result is not so obvious. Nearly all the comments and criticisms are in friendly spirit and the replies are in kind. Therefore in hundreds and hundreds of cases real personal friendships have grown up between readers and writers, or among readers, and the real fellowship of Camp-Fire is very appreciably promoted.
All the foregoing applies to general letters from readers. Your letters not read? All of them are read. At the top of some will be penciled three or four names— authors or editors—which means that the owner of each name must see that letter.
As to opinions on specific points, specifically asked for. Well, take the request for readers’ suggestions and advice on the new form of our magazine.
The response from readers in this case has been splendid. Our summary of your suggestions has now been put into final and complete form. Not only has every one of the active editorial staff studied it thoroughly but carbon copies have been passed on to each of the following for his equally careful study—the publisher, the assistant publisher, the heads of the Circulation and the Promotion Departments.
We’re going to give you an exact copy of that report in full. With one exception. Some of the information you have given us is much too valuable and important to broadcast for the benefit of other publishers. Accordingly in at least one place we’re going to scramble the report a little, but any such places, and the nature of the scrambling, will be indicated for your benefit. Other publishers of course get an occasional formal referendum from readers, get questions for specific answer. No other magazine gets from its readers anything like such a response of voluntary, independent opinions and suggestions as Adventure’s readers give to it. We do not see why we should hand over to other magazines all of the valuable information thus received, information meant for us, not for them.
I think we can give you the report in “Camp-Fire” of the issue following this one. If not, as soon as it can be done.
And to the very sincere thanks of my own department I am to add those of all the other departments cooperating in making Adventure a magazine that meets the desires of the majority of its readers as closely as is humanly possible to do.
Oh yes, we really want your suggestions and criticisms! And we really read and consider them when we get them. If you don’t like this or that in the magazine, tell us so. We can’t please everybody on every point, but we can please the majority and so far as it’s at all possible we naturally want to do just that.
Lots of people never write to any magazine about anything. But this is different. Adventure isn’t just a magazine. It’s Camp-Fire, readers, writers and editors working together to make for themselves the best magazine and clearing-house of ideas and information that they can, and to have as good and friendly a time as possible while they’re doing it. Do your part. Don’t just take from the rest of us without contributing your share in return. There’s always a bit of time now and then when a letter or post-card and a few marks with pen, pencil or typewriter can send in a criticism or suggestion that may bear good fruit for all who gather around the Fire. You’re not writing to a magazine—you’re writing to Adventure.—a. s. h.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Review of Adventure - January 1, 1928

[Inspired by a post on James Reasoner's blog]

Adventure, January 1, 1928 - Cover illustration by Remington Schuyler
Adventure, January 1, 1928 - Cover illustration by Remington Schuyler
An issue after Arthur S. Hoffman had left, but at least some of the stories must have been selected by him earlier. Cover by Remington Schuyler with interior illustrations by Ralph Nelson.

The Gorilla of No. 4 · J. D. Newsom · ss 3.5/5

A great story from Newsom about the French Foreign Legion. It starts with the commandant of a French outpost in Southern Morocco hosting a group of visiting dignitaries after “pacifying” the region with machine guns. The commandant has just turfed out a visiting holy man, and this sparks a holy war. The captain in charge of the Foreign Legion detachment is shot and killed by the rebels in the first attack, and the captain puts an outsider in charge of the Legion. The outsider rubs the Legionnaires the wrong way and they are sent on a punishment outing to scout the rebels. The resulting fight kills many Legionnaires. Their leader goes back to the commandant with a story of how the Legionnaires almost mutinied, and they are put under arrest. They are seething under this unjust punishment when a gorilla-like officer, clearly not a gentleman, shows up and takes charge…

Adventure, January 1, 1928 - Illustration by Ralph Nelson for The Gorilla of No. 4 by J. D. Newsom
Adventure, January 1, 1928 - Illustration by Ralph Nelson for The Gorilla of No. 4 by J. D. Newsom
THE MOONLIGHT gleamed on the couples dancing on the terrace of the officers’ mess at el Kelima to the slightly piercing strains of the “Valse d’Amour,” played by the band of the Moroccan Tirailleurs.
Against the balustrade leaned Colonel Jean St. Simon de Liancourt, swinging a monocle at the end of its thin black ribbon. He was a stout, small boned little man of about fifty-five, dressed in a snow white uniform trimmed with gold. Many medals glinted on his left breast. His thin, sharp featured face expressed the most complete self-satisfaction and self-confidence. He had limpid blue eyes, an aquiline nose and a small, tight lipped mouth.

“Yes,” he was saying to a slim, fair lady, “undoubtedly. This is a great moment! When I think that two years ago—two years ago tomorrow—I set eyes on el Kelima for the first time! On the very spot where we are now standing, dear lady, the blood of my brave men ran in streams!” He gave his monocle a little flip and sighed reminiscently. “The Ouled-Farik made their last stand on this hillock. We carried it at the bayonet point . . . Yes, and to think that today we inaugurated the el Kelima race track!”
“Progress!” smiled the lady, looking up at him between long black lashes. “How wonderful it is—all this! Such a beautiful place! I never dreamed there was anything like this in southern Morocco! I thought it was all desert and rebels, you know. At least that's what everybody says at Rabat."

“Oh, we have civilized the territory," laughed the colonel. “Pacified it completely. There were rebels aplenty, I assure you. It took me almost twelve months to make these people understand that we were here to stay. I flatter myself they have learned their lesson. I stood no nonsense of any kind." Here he put the monocle in his right eye and looked stern. “It pays," he added. “No doubt about it. And then, of course, as soon as I had the tribes well in hand I went to work— rebuilding."
“They say such nice things about you at Rabat," cooed Mme. Perigoud.

The colonel bowed gallantly. He felt that they could never say as many nice things about him at Rabat as he really deserved, which was one of the reasons why he had taken Mme. Perigoud aside for a little tete-a-tete. Not only was she very charming, but she was also the wife of a most influential man on the political side, and the colonel felt that he was ripe for a really important post—a governorship or Something equally fulsome.
“The moonlight—" began Mme. Perigoud, stifling a small yawn.

“Oh, yes! The moonlight! The desert moonlight." The colonel tried to register deep emotion.
“Two years ago it looked down upon a scene of barbarous savagery. Today that glistening orb sees the far flung vanguard of a great civilization going about its business in peace and safety!"

Mine. Perigoud glanced anxiously over her shoulder. The colonel was, admittedly, a great colonist, but he could also be a great bore. Like many another pretty woman, she wasn't interested in Peace and Progress; she was interested in herself. Still, the colonel had his good points. He had brought together at el Kelima some of the most entertaining young officers. Not one of them was an outsider: most of them had money; all of them were charming. They flirted so tactfully. They were so decorative.

Hell an’ High Water · Stephen Payne · ss 2/5

A cowboy tale of no particular distinction.

Adventure, January 1, 1928 - Illustration by Ralph Nelson for Hell an’ High Water by Stephen Payne
Adventure, January 1, 1928 - Illustration by Ralph Nelson for Hell an’ High Water by Stephen Payne
HELLO, Mr. Keys, come right in. Java’s boilin’ on the stove and we’ll have supper in jig time. Mighty glad to see you come prognosticatin’ out to your lonely range camp in the Ever Rollin’ Hills, where you should ought to build the Key Hole range rider somethin’ a mite better’n a dugout for a home.

How’s things? Oh, all jake, I guess. I has had company of a kind, recent and plentiful—yell, more’n plentiful—such as ’twas. Eh? You noticed the absence of one of my string of nine ponies from the pasture—the roan I called Tinhorn?

Eh? No, your eyes didn’t deceive you. He ain’t there, but I ain’t traded him off or sold him or give him away. Then where is he? Well, I couldn’t exactly say. The last I saw of that poor pony he was headed down Rawah river like he never intended to come back? and I don’t reckon he will.

Caribou Coming! · A. DeHerries Smith · ss 2/5

An unscrupulous trader schemes a way to fleece Native Americans for ammunition. A Mountie saves the day.

Adventure, January 1, 1928 - Illustration by Ralph Nelson for Caribou Coming! by A. De Herries Smith
Adventure, January 1, 1928 - Illustration by Ralph Nelson for Caribou Coming! by A. De Herries Smith
“DON’T like this trip. Too darned near the freeze up to suit me,” Sergeant Blair grumbled, narrowed eyes ranging out beyond the schooner’s deck to where the Great Slave Lake’s icy waters lapped red cliffs.

“Enh-enh,” Constable Corrigan grunted in reply. “Was there any cows shassayin’ around here a guy could make his fortune with ice cream; cost nothin’ to freeze the stuff. Ho-hum! This old barge’ll never win the America’s cup. She’s a moose cat at goin’ backwards.”

The sergeant nodded in mute agreement. His gaze went aloft to the flapping canvas, then back to the desolate shore line.

“Hanged if I can figure out why there should be any trouble with the Indians at the Killing Place,” he mumbled, half to himself. “All the Yellowknives have to do is to go out and shoot the caribou until they’re sick of it. Why, with the way the deer herds pour through the pass even the old men can lay up enough meat in a few days to keep their teepees going all winter. Can’t make out what the racket is.”

“Me neither.”

The constable sighed, throwing the wheel over to catch a puff of wind that momentarily stirred the lake’s glassy surface.

“These apes here seem to think some one is tryin’ to do ’em dirt though.” Corrigan waved a contemptuous moccasin at the deerskin clad figures huddled down in the patrol boat’s cockpit.

“Well, Mike, we’ve got to look into the thing, whatever it is,” the sergeant said, decision in his low voice. “Our job is to see that the tribes are fixed up with caribou meat for the winter and we’re going to do it. Guess I’ll go below and look over the engine. If the wind drops off any more we’ll have to use the old tin can.”

The Sun Chasers [Part 4 of 5] · Hugh Pendexter · sl

No review because this is not part 1 of the serial.

Adventure, January 1, 1928 - Illustration by Ralph Nelson for The Sun Chasers by Hugh Pendexter
Adventure, January 1, 1928 - Illustration by Ralph Nelson for The Sun Chasers by Hugh Pendexter
EARLY in the Fifties when Nebraska was opened to homesteaders the temporary towns along the Missouri River were filled with restless pioneers who had followed the setting sun, some to press onward to the more dangerous frontiers of the gold fields and some to linger by the grassy hills and fertile bottoms they had found. Of such are empires built—those who hunger for land and gold, but are willing to suffer and work for it.
Roscoe Strong brought his son and daughter from Maine and founded a farm on a quarter section near Plattsmouth. After a hard winter and a summer in which the grasshoppers devoured their crops, the Strongs moved on to the North Fork. There many old friends who had shared the Strong larder in the first hard days looked them up. Old Bird of Freedom, a genial wildcat banknote speculator, brought his grandniece to visit Sam and Ruth Strong. Old Freedom immediately bought a herd of cattle from Strong’s neighbors in the big soddy over the hill, paying for them with worthless paper. Nancy Freedom, not knowing that the neighbors were the notorious Toms gang of outlaws, rode over to pay them honest money.

Chechako Song · Noel H. Stearn · pm

Of Gallantry  · F. R. Buckley · ss 3.5/5

Luigi Caradosso, warrior for hire, tells a story of brotherly love from his past. Love and hate joined in vengeance. It’s hard to write about the story itself without revealing too much, except that I found it a great noirish tale.

Adventure, January 1, 1928 - Illustration by Ralph Nelson for Of Gallantry by F. R. Buckley
TO THE hands of the respectable Messer Ugo Valdifiore, treasurer to my good and gracious lord, my Lord Duke of Rometia; these:

I TELL thee, it is not well to bait me now; I have four weeping wounds, and my garden hath gone to ruin while I have been away. If any more accountings are demanded of me, I will come cut thine ears off, potbelly.
The number of horses killed under me was indeed four; I am not in the habit of writing IIII to signify one. And the armorer who spent VIII hours, which meaneth eight, taking the dents out of my armor was one Jacopo, who holdeth forth on the Ravenna road, near where we stopped the pursuit. I now remember that he repaired also five links of my chain mail, which addeth to the bill XI soldi (eleven).

I look for an early payment.

—l. caradosso, Captain.

To my most illustrious and excellent lord, His Highness Grace my Lord Duke of Rometia; from L. Caradosso, a farmer, these:

My lord:

IT WAS welcome, once more to see your Grace’s hand of write upon a missive, what though the matter conveyed was severe. This is my first communication from your Highness since the letter summoning me to return to the command of the army. I am aware that your Lordship has been much occupied; I hope the gracious Lady Allegra is well, and not too much distressed by the defeat of her brother’s forces. Even the desire to avenge a sister’s seduction should not have induced him to charge me with insufficient cavalry.

Leather Cannon · J. R. Johnston · ar

Half Pint · Frank J. Schindler · ss 1.5/5

Cowboy story with a weak plot and almost no characterization.

Adventure, January 1, 1928 - Illustration by Ralph Nelson for Half Pint by Frank J. Schindler
Adventure, January 1, 1928 - Illustration by Ralph Nelson for Half Pint by Frank J. Schindler
OLD MAN TRAVERS, owner of the Bar G ranch, read the big city papers and then passed the papers on to the waddies killing time around the bunkhouse in the evening. Whether Goodie Holmes got his crazy idea from reading the newspapers— they were full of stories about college students who were shuffling off this cock eyed world by way of the suicide route— it is hard to tell; but one night he developed a suicide complex, tried to get himself knocked off and finished up by killing six bank thieves. Moreover, the experience cured him.

I’ll tell you how it was. Goodie was a half pint cowpoke, about five feet four inches in height, although his slightly bowed legs made him look even shorter. By all the nomenclature of the range he should have been another Shorty, but his name was Goodwin and the bucka-roos dubbed him “Goodie.” In spite of his size he was a top hand with cows. One thing everybody knew; he had lots / of spunk and courage. He was afraid of no man. His motto was, “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.” He had proved that on several occasions.

Although the days were gone when a man had to carry a gun, he practised assiduously with two big frontier model Colts. In his own estimation he thought he was the greatest shot in the West. He was good, but not quite so good as he thought he was. He liked to brag about his shooting, which would bring a snort of derision from old Baldy Sours, a grizzled old cow hand who had been herding cows since Sitting Bull was laid to rest. Baldy could draw a gun fast and with a pair of six-guns make music that would put a symphony tympan drummer to shame.

Dorymates · George Allan England · ss 3.5/5

Two men in a fishing boat. One is a thrice married man. “Women’s women, have one, have all. I’m glad to be clear o’ married life, an’ every time ye wants to go on the booze, havin’ to fight with a wife about it. When a man’s hat covers all his family, ba God, he’s the best off. Take ’em quick an’ leave ’em in a hurry—that’s the best way!”

“ ’Specially havin’ young uns,” he mused. “That’s the worst of it, Peter, the young uns is. No young uns for me! Don’t ye waste no time or money gettin’ married. Have a good enjoyin’ time while ye go. ’Baccy an’ rum makes things hum, ye mind. I rather spend my money for such. What in hell’s the use bein’ poor, when ye can feel rich for a dollar’s worth o’ rum?”

The other is a man looking to get married for the first time, and saving money for that reason.

“I ain’t agreein’ with ye,” contested Peter a little grimly. “This here gal o’ mine, she’s worth givin’ up a lot for. She ain’t no jazz baby. She’s a settled down woman nigh me own age, an’ got a b’y ten year old. Her man was drowneded long ago, on the Banks. She’s had an awful hard time, workin’ on the fish flakes, takin’ in wash, an’ all, to get along an’ bring up that kid o’ hers. She knows how to take care o’ money an’ make a good home. I loves that gal, an’—”

“Huh! You, takin’ another man’s leavin’s!”

Peter shrugged his shoulders.

“I don’t see it that way, Ba’tiste. An’ he’s a fine young feller, that lad is. I’d love him like me own. A b’y to take hold an’ work with me—that’s better’n waitin’ years for one o’ me own to get half growed up! An’ the woman—”

A well-written atmospheric story of inner turmoil; the only weak element is that the plot hinges on a big coincidence.
Adventure, January 1, 1928 - Illustration by Ralph Nelson for Dorymates by George Allan England
Adventure, January 1, 1928 - Illustration by Ralph Nelson for Dorymates by George Allan England
RAW YELLOW flares from greasily smoking torches in the night flung huge grotesque shadows up the foresail and along the deckhouse—redolent of cod and haddock, silver spotted with scales—as dory No. 9 made ready to be dropped. Gigantic black arms and legs moved a-loom in silhouette on taut canvas that swayed against the northern stars.

“All right!” shouted skipper Ezra Nye from the wheel.

A vague, oilskinned figure, half heard through the chut-chut-chutter of the Diesel’s exhaust, he raised his arm in a signal stiff and wooden as a marionette’s.

Two men were crouching in the dory. Two had gone out or would go in every one put down by the schooner. For old Ezra, a highline fishkiller, driver and sail dragger, had decided to “work double dory” on that early morning’s slack tide.

At the stern of dory No. 9 as she hung outboard against the battered rail, Peter Kennedy hove his keg buoy. The blackball fast to it on a slender pole plunged in tumbling, foam-spun surges. It leaped up, dipping again as the keg bobbed aft, snatched swiftly away by the rush of the heavily rolling vessel under both sail and engine power. Into the awesome majesty of star flecked night and sea faded the crude “9” daubed on the black-ball. The carefully coiled line twitched away.

The Cootie Complex · Carl Elmo Freeman · ss 1/5

Another allegedly humorous cowboy story. Not worth reading.

Adventure, January 1, 1928 - Illustration by Ralph Nelson for The Cootie Complex by Carl Elmo Freeman
THE HATCHET wagon was camped at No. 9 windmill beside Duck Lake. As the lake now contained considerable surface water the windmill was not in operation. And Bolt Jones, the wind-miller, just back from a vacation, had seized the opportunity to install new babbitt bearings in the mill head.

The Hatchet wagon is noted for its hospitality. If you happen along about supper time, Pot Owens, the cook, will invariably insist that you hang on the feed bag. He will hand you a tin plate, a cup and the available dissecting instruments and suggest that you cleave the meat from the bone. If it is drizzling, you will be pressed to stay all night and go home in the morning when the mud has settled. And each of the crew will make you think he would consider it an honor to share his bed with you. That is, if you are white.

But there are limits to hospitality. If an Indian, out hunting some of his scrawny horses which have strayed off the reservation, happens along, things are different. Pot will feed Lo, the poor Indian, till he presents those perceptible curves characteristic of well being. And if they have just butchered a fat yearling Lo may have the intestines to take home if he wants them—thus robbing the dog of his just and rightful inheritance.

However, it can be raining pitchforks, croquet balls and wet cats, but not a waddy will consider it incumbent upon him to share his bed with his red brother.

Letting an Indian sleep in an absent waddie's bed is a classic joke in parts of New Mexico. And like all jokes that have stood the test of time, it always gets a laugh. Everybody laughs. That is, everybody but the waddy that owns the bed.

The Army Is a Small Place · Leonard H. Nason · ar

The Carnival Kid · Edward L. McKenna · ss 3/5

A small piece of social commentary about life and choices. Good observation of characters and life at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder.

Adventure, January 1, 1928 - Illustration by Ralph Nelson for The Carnival Kid by Edward L. McKenna
Adventure, January 1, 1928 - Illustration by Ralph Nelson for The Carnival Kid by Edward L. McKenna
NOBODY on the beach knew who he was, and he was glad no one did. There had been a little disturbance, one night in April, in the town his show was playing, and the next morning the kid wasn’t there to bally for his little game with the cute gimmick. No, indeed, he was not there—he was in Peoria, or Danville, or Cairo, or Chicago —wherever it was that the rattler had carried him. Nobody knows except the Kid.

How he got to the beach is not in the books either. It was a long hard road and it must have wound up hill, judging by the blisters on the Kid’s hands and by the condition of his clothes. Perhaps his appearance gave him more discomfort than anything else, for he was as clean as a cat naturally and he loved new clothes and bright neckties. When he came up to the Ideal Bathing Pavilion that Sunday morning he had no tie on at all, just the collar of his shirt turned in, but he had achieved a shave somewhere, and before the sun came up, he’d been in the ocean, from some deserted jetty, and with a wary eye for a prowling cop.

He asked old man Papologous for a job, and Pop looked at him, and then up at the sky, and back at him again and told him to come back at nine o’clock and they’d see how the weather was. Back again at nine o’clock he came, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and the Greek told him all right, he’d give him two dollars.

Cease Firing · Ben J. Petmecky · ss 1/5

Mates for life, except when a woman comes between the two.

Adventure, January 1, 1928 - Illustration by Ralph Nelson for Cease Firing by Ben J. Petmecky
Adventure, January 1, 1928 - Illustration by Ralph Nelson for Cease Firing by Ben J. Petmecky

High up on the poop deck of the rusty old tramp steamer a breech loading rifle recoiled, then slipped smoothly forward into position. Out toward the horizon, spurts of water leaped skyward as a projectile clipped the wave tops. A black speck rose and fell. Blue clad figures about the breech of the gun blurred into action. “Cease firing!” the order rose above the clash of the closing breech.
“False alarm!” snapped the chief boatswain’s mate, lowering his binoculars. It’s only a floating barrel and I’m darn glad of it. The way you two guys are handling that gun, we would have been out of luck it if had happened to be the real article. Better snap out of it unless you are anxious to swim to Liverpool.”

The short, bowlegged seaman raised his eyes from the telescope sight and faced the chief, bristling.
“The elevation was about right,” he announced. “I can’t help it if that long drink of water don’t hold her on the mark.”

“Sure,” acquiesced the tall sailor on the opposite side of the gun, “I was wrong. You never made a miss in your life. Always on the mark—that’s you. I know they made a mistake and enlisted you in the Navy when you tried to join the Boy Scouts, but what cock eyed idiot ever let you get in the armed guard is more than I can see.”

A King of Man Eaters · N. Tourneur · ar

Black Sheep · Murray Leinster · na

Adventure, January 1, 1928 - Illustration by Ralph Nelson for Black Sheep by Murray Leinster
WHEN Steve Galt struck a match in the darkness to light a cigaret, he kept one eye closed, range fashion, so that when he tossed away the match the one eye would be undazzled by the glow. The matchlight was amazingly bright. It lighted up Steve’s face, with some rather curious bitter lines about the lips, and the under side of his rather fine sombrero, and shimmered on the silk of his neckerchief. And stray gleams between his fingers disclosed the fine arched neck and alertly pricked up ears of his horse.

He puffed. The match flicked through the air, wavered where it fell and went out. Only the little red glow of the cigaret remained moving slowly through the utter blackness of the night.

“Kinda funny, Duke,” came Steve’s drawling voice, “me bein’ lost on th’ old Block H. It ain’t your fault. Y’uv never been heah before. But me, I was born heah an’ I lived heah until Uncle Peter kicked me out. Nice, gentle kinda feller Uncle Peter was—an’ is.”

There was pure irony in Steve’s meditative tones.

“My pa sure picked out a humdinger to raise me up . . . This heah’s a right nice range, Duke. You’ll like it. We’re cornin’ back heah to live some day if Uncle Peter ain’t persuaded the neighbors to be waitin’ as a lynchin’ party t’ welcome me . . . Kinda funny me bein’ lost though ...”

He rode on slowly as one rides who has lost touch with landmarks and is not particularly worried about where he may be. Duke, the horse, picked his way leisurely through the occasional clumps of sage and chaparral. Dark clouds blotted out every star and there were small and intermittent flashes of light around the horizon. The earth smelled hot and dry.

The Camp-Fire · [The Readers] · lc

Adventure, January 1, 1928 - The Camp-Fire
Adventure, January 1, 1928 - The Camp-Fire

Dam(e) Rumor

SEVERAL peculiar tales concerning Adventure’s reversion to old policies, have floated in of late. Except that some of our tried and true friends in the far places of the world have been distressed or angered, there would be no reason to do more than smile at these queer distortions of the truth. But let me say once and for all that the magazine is not disowning its old comrades; rather is it attempting to weld them more and more closely in pleasant bonds which only death may break. And new members of the Camp-Fire fellowship may feel assured of a handclasp and the warmest of welcomes!         

      Anthony M. Rud

Ask Adventure · Anon. · qa

The Trail Ahead · Anon. · cl

Adventure, January 1, 1928 - The Trail Ahead
Adventure, January 1, 1928 - The Trail Ahead

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Review of Adventure – March, 1940

Inspired by a post on James Reasoner’s Rough Edges blog. Cover by Wesley Neff, interior illustrations by multiple illustrators.

Adventure, March 1940 - cover illustration by Wesley Neff
Adventure, March 1940 - cover illustration by Wesley Neff

The Knight of Old · Georges Surdez · nv illustrated by Hamilton Greene 4/5
An excellent story from Surdez – not one of his Foreign Legion stories. It’s a story of the French army at the beginning of World War 2, confident in the ability of the Maginot line to defend their country, with the memory of the past war a pale shadow in the minds of the young men who joined the French army at the beginning.
Brunot, a veteran of World War 1, watches the young soldiers of France join up. He has honors from WW1, but he has chosen to serve as a mechanic. The fresh troops think he is an outmoded grandpa who doesn’t understand the present world, and make fun of him. He has a moment of glory as he crushes the hand of a corporal who insults him, but the moment of glory is brief as the troops gang up on him. He starts to hate  the French troops, but then the Germans attack…

An insightful character study from Surdez, and Brunot is a great character. Worth reading.

Illustration for Adventure, April 1940 - The Knight of Old by Georges Surdez
Illustration for Adventure, April 1940 - The Knight of Old by Georges Surdez
BRUNOT entered the back room of the country inn and felt that the world had turned back twenty years. The uniforms had changed somewhat, but the talk, the jokes, the odors of frying food and acrid wines through which drifted the stronger flavor of boiling coffee, overwhelmingly evoked memories so real as to be almost visual. Even the instructions screamed by the obese woman presiding over the stove to the serving girl were familiar.

“Germaine, Ger — maine! The sergeants are waiting for the gudgeon! It’s ready! Be sure to draw their wine!”

He found a free seat, in an angle near a window. Between the red cotton curtains, he could see the green hills, a stretch of road lined with plane trees. That was Germany, over there, and the quivering of the glass panes in the frames was caused by the discharges of distant artillery. When Brunot had seen this Moselle region last, he had been in uniform already.

But he had been as young as that slim corporal of Chasseurs, so trim and soldierly in his khaki capote, who was kidding with the girl, a beefy, reddish wench, with a broad, flat face, a moist smile and eyes round, lustrous as a heifer’s. The fat woman kept calling, but the war was too new for her to be organized on the right mental level; the attention of these young men pleased her immensely. Brunot shrugged. She would discover before very long that soldiers admire and desire when and where they may.

High Explosive · J. J. des Ormeaux · nv illustrated by Peter Kuhlhoff 2.5/5

The technical descriptions of oil exploration are great, but the story is driven by an improbable romance. The murder mechanism is over elaborate.
Illustration for Adventure, April 1940 - High Explosive by J.J. des Ormeaux
Illustration for Adventure, April 1940 - High Explosive by J.J. des Ormeaux

WE MUST have looked as though we were crazy. But that’s the way shooting crews always look. There were six of us, stripped to the waist, up to our knees in water and muck on the near shore of the bayou. Six of us, in two fans of three, like a backfield formation, with room enough between us for a truck to pass.

Across, on the far shore of the bayou, we could hear the truck, hurtling through the underbrush with a noise like a threshing-machine. I got a glimpse of the truck’s red cab, through the tangle of scrub and cypress, with the High Explosive signs on top of the cab swinging crazily.

That truck must have been doing fifty-five. It burst out of the trees, headed for the bayou. The bayou was about twenty-five feet wide and looked like a flower garden. This was because it was choked with water lilies and purple hyacinths, the curse of waterways in the deep South. There was a hogback in the middle of the bayou that stuck up like the black back of a whale. The half-ton truck hit the water like a hydroplane, seemed to skate across those hyacinths, and hit the hogback. Here it hesitated.

The German and the Pole · H. Bedford-Jones · ss illustrated by I.B. Hazleton 3.5/5
In September 1939, Germany invaded Poland. The invasion was completed in a month, the Russians and Germans divided Poland between themselves. With this fresh in his readers’ minds, Bedford-Jones reached back to the 1400s when Poland defeated Germany in the Battle of Grunwald.

This story could have appeared in Blue Book as part of the Arms and Men series. Bedford Jones contrasts the horror of modern warfare with the knightly behavior of the past, but still manages to build up the image of the cowardly lying German invader.
Illustration for Adventure, April 1940 - The German and the Pole by H. Bedford-Jones
“IT DOES not matter particularly I how a man lives,” said the man dying on the bed. “The important thing is how he dies.”

To Morton, the company surgeon, this was a novel point of view. He stared thoughtfully at the speaker, who had been frightfully cut up in an accident at the tannery. There was nothing to be done for the man, who had chosen to die here in his own shack rather than in the makeshift company hospital.

“I should think it’d be the other way around,” observed Morton. “Life’s the greatest thing to any of us, after all.” The man on the bed smiled and shook his head. His face was bright and hard under big sweeping mustaches. He was a Pole, like most of the tannery workers, who here in the north Michigan woods made hash of the hemlock bark. His name was Sobieski, a common Polish name.

“No, doctor,” said Sobieski. “All men die. When years come upon you, then you remember how your father, your mother, your friends, died. You reach back and recall how the great ones in history died. In time of war and terror, as in Germany and Poland and China today, the thought of death is close. Will you reach up and tap that drum for me?”

Morton’s sole duty now was to humor his patient until the inevitable end came. Also, he was interested in this tannery worker, who had ideas, who spoke good English, and who was all alone in the world. He looked up at the thing hanging on the wall, and rose to obey.

The shack was bare and ugly, with no comforts. On the wall hung a crucifix; except for the drum hanging there, no other ornament appeared.

Nor, thought Morton, was the drum particularly ornamental. It was queer. It was dirty. A big round drum of metal, like a basin, a drumstick with padded end hanging beside it. This, too, was so dirty that Morton shrank from touching it.

Quantrell’s Flag [Part 2 of 4] · Frank Gruber · sl illustrated by John Clymer

No review because this is not the first part of the serial.
Illustration for Adventure, April 1940 - Quantrell's Flag by Frank Gruber
Illustration for Adventure, April 1940 - Quantrell's Flag by Frank Gruber
THE war between the states, the conflict which had been inevitable for so many years, had broken out, and an over-confident Union, prepared for a quick conquest, had seen its armies hurled back to Washington by the defeat at Bull Run.

To Doniphan Fletcher, newly graduated from West Point and awaiting his commission, war was no stranger. They had been fighting in Missouri, his native state, for years—border ruffians, raiding Kansas, and Kansan Redlegs and Jaw-hawkers pillaging Missouri in bloody reprisal.

Now, Donny Fletcher had decided to go back to his home state and do his fighting where his home and family needed him.

“High and Outside!” · W. C. Tuttle · ss 2.5/5
Tuttle had recently become president of the Pacific Coast Baseball League and the story seems to be one of a pair based on Tuttle’s experiences of players becoming umpires.
Illustration for Adventure, April 1940 - "High and Outside!" by W.C. Tuttle
Illustration for Adventure, April 1940 - "High and Outside!" by W.C. Tuttle
Mr. Bill McColl   Fresno, Calif.

Umpire Majer Leeg          March 15.

New York City.

Dear Bill:

I will bet you will be supprised and laugh when you rede this letter. Remember the old days on the Coast when I used to fog my high hard one rite down the old aley and you used to duk and yell ball? I never could figger how you ever got into the Major Leeg unless they needed somebody to take the conseet out of pitchers.

I always figgered that if I ever become a umpire I would sure give pitchers a brake (especially left handed ones with my ability.) Well, I am, Bill. I finely got tired of having umpires call my strikes balls, so I quit and got a job on a truk in Fresno hauling things at twenty-five dolars a week. It ain’t big money, but I took the job when they told me that there ain’t no umpires working as hiway cops. See what I mean, Bill?

I remember you used to laugh at my smart remarks when you said that my three and two ball was six inches outside and the winning run walked in. It was more or less of a snear than a laugh. Well, like I said I was driving a truk when I heard about this new Sundown Leeg. I could a applied for a job pitching and burnt up the leeg in a week, as you know, Bill. But I got to thinking…

The Fence · Luke Short · ss illustrated by Peter Kuhlhoff 2.5/5

An average story from Luke Short, about an aspiring inn owner who wants to just do his job without taking sides among his clientele. It’s set in the early days of the west, when might is right, and Goliath kicks the ____ out of David more often than not.

Illustration for Adventure, April 1940 - The Fence by Luke Short
Illustration for Adventure, April 1940 - The Fence by Luke Short
THAT summer the railroad built a spur from Reese to Sevier Valley, and by fall they had lost two bridges trying to span the quicksands of the Roaring Fork. Charlie Kextel, whose tent saloon had followed the main line railroad camps to the coast and was now working the spurs, saw what was coming back in mid-summer, and he took a careful look at the country. The long grama grass flats suited him and the Silverbows to the east and Cecil Mountains to the west were pleasant enough, so he hired some men to cut and haul logs to the Roaring Fork.

When the railroad’s second bridge went out in the wide flood of the Roaring Fork and it was evident that they couldn’t reach Yellow Jacket before the snows, Charlie Kextel’s big log building by the river was finished up to the eaves and axemen were cutting away the overspreading cottonwood branches to make room for the roof.

And by the time word had been received to quit for the year and the railroad had thrown up a way station and some stockpens and put in their derail for the winter and pulled out, Charlie’s place was done.

It was a big building, set back a spell from the tracks; its lower story was a saloon and restaurant, its upper story a hotel. He sent word to his wife to come and bring a girl with her, and while he was waiting for them he built the warehouse by the tracks and the first rider came in for his first drink. He didn’t come the way Charlie expected he would come or wanted him to come, but he came, and afterwards Charlie knew he was in for something.

The Stretcher · Andrew A. Caffrey · ss illustrated by Peter Kuhlhoff 1.5/5

A railway story of hobos from A. A. Caffrey. Not my cup of tea.
Illustration for Adventure, April 1940 - The Stretcher by Andrew A. Caffrey
Illustration for Adventure, April 1940 - The Stretcher by Andrew A. Caffrey
A MILE-LONG freight was thundering past the main crossing in Julesburg. The awful summer heat of Eastern Colorado Was on the town. It was noon, and scores of idlers— town people and drifters—were on hand to watch the rambling train roll east. Many of the drifters wanted that train. They’d waited long, hot hours for its coming. And now that it had come, it was a “hot shot”, a “cannon ball”, a flash on the iron too hot for anybody to Candle.

There were two railroad bulls standing out there on the crossing. A couple of town coppers stood back near the gates. Of course, the railroad bulls were on hand to see that no free-riders hopped that freight, or even made the try. And the town cops had the same idea.

Julesburg, at the time, was sort of hostile to drifters, and if a hobo reached for a grab iron while the Law was in view, he’d best make sure of that grab, or else! Fact is, the Law was taking means to warn drifters against riding ’em. And they were doing the “warning” with boot, bat and outright, up-the-track brutality. So the game was pretty tough.

Well, you’d say that the Law need have no great worry about drifters making that freight. Also, you’d guess that no drifter would be silly enough to make the try. Not if the drifter in question knew anything about rolling stock when it’s really rolling.

Because this fast freight was really on the move, sucking and rolling so much dust, dirt, tumbleweed and right-of-way junk along with it, that everybody, including the railroad and town cops, was sort of standing back, away from the immediate dusty neighborhood of that through rail. That main crossing in Julesburg is pretty wide, and that eastbound train was going by on the far rail. This left a good-sized stage for operations between the onlookers and the roaring, humping, clanging string of U.P. freight cars. And out onto that wide, free-space stage, as though he owned the world, strolled a tall, thin feller.

The Camp-Fire · [The Readers] · lc

Illustration for Adventure, April 1940 - The Camp-Fire
Illustration for Adventure, April 1940 - The Camp-Fire

NEWCOMER, and most welcome, to our Writers’ Brigade, is J. J. des Ormeaux, with the novelette, “High Explosive.” His account of himself includes such matters as—does a cow like dynamite? of course it does—and the rest you may read for yourselves as follows:

My life was humdrum enough, college, a little travel, a little starving trying to sell fiction, until the depression came along and blew a cold blast on my budding literary career and booted me a large and healthy boot halfway across the country into seismograph work. The oil industry didn’t seem to be suffering any depression; at least they were putting down wells all over the Gulf Coast and seismograph crews were plunging through wildernesses and swimming through swamps trying to show them where to put more. “Doodle-bugging,” as this exploration work is called, I soon found to be one of the few happy-go-lucky, hell-and-high-water. adventurous occupations there still are in the country.

Everything happens on the job from being stalked and potted with a shotgun to having cows eat the dynamite for its salty taste. It’s excellent training either for guerrilla warfare or being a gypsy. You’re here today and gone tomorrow, maybe to a swamp that even the Army Engineering Corps has given up as a bad job after marking a few vague dots on the map, maybe to a boom town where ten crews are after the information you’re after, maybe to California, Venezuela, Rou-mania. It’s a job that has its dangers—a whole crew was blown up not long back; its diversions —the local girls, local dances, local beverages; its reward—discovery of a dome.

Any professional “doodlebugger” will recognize the simplification in the story, necessary so as not to bog down the narrative with technical details. For example, a dome is in reality a tremendous plug of salt, usually pure table salt, upthrust by tremendous pressure from the ancient sea-bottom, and the trapping of oil results from the cracking, fracturing and splitting of the rock layers in its path.

In the years I was on a crew, having been everything from a helper to crew boss, I don’t believe I ever had so much fun in my life. Certainly not since, in the adventures I’ve cooked up in fiction, have I had anything like what we used to have on the old crew.

Ask Adventure · Anon. · qa
The Trail Ahead · Anon. · cl