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

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Adventure - Review of May 15, 1933 issue

[Inspired by a post on True Pulp Fiction]

Adventure, May 15, 1933 - cover illustration

Cover illustration by Walter Whitehead (not for any particular story, the signpost says Gretna Green) and interior artwork by Neil O’Keeffe. This was an issue that had only 96 pages, a big drop from the 192 pages in the 1918-1927 peak of Adventure. But still worth reading with a couple of great stories from Richard Wetjen and Harold Lamb. 

In the Tradition · Albert Richard Wetjen · nv          4/5

An excellent story of wooden ships and iron men. Captain Barnes of the Albacore is from the old breed of sailors (when that word you had actually shipped on sailing vessels), and has contracted a last voyage before retiring from the sea. Disaster strikes, again and again, but Captain Barnes fights the sea…

Illustration for Adventure, May 15 1933 - In the Tradition by Albert Richard Wetjen
Illustration for Adventure, May 15 1933 - In the Tradition by Albert Richard Wetjen
THE three-masted bark Albacore was a wreck. The white squall, that rarest of all the winds, had come upon her out of a clear sky and with little warning. Her fore and main topmasts had gone by the board, later her jibboom. Two seamen had been washed overside; the cook had been killed and the galley washed clean. The main cabin skylights were smashed; the wheel had snapped like a twig; most of the bulwarks were gone and the hatches had caved in, some tons of water pouring below. The Albacore lay heeled to port, weary as a stricken whale, and the chaotic seas the white squall had left battered her unmercifully. Captain Harry Barnes surveyed his ruined decks and groaned.

“She’s not coming up, sir,” gasped the young second mate, wiping blood from his forehead and steadying himself against a backstay. “Cargo must have shifted.”

Captain Barnes brushed water from his clipped white beard and spat salt over the rail. He was an old man—a very old man—well in his eighties, though still erect and massively built. But the sudden disaster had staggered him.

“We’ll attend to the cargo later,” he croaked. “Get that wreckage secured for’ard.”

The second mate slid down the companion to the main deck.

“He wants to secure the wreckage,” he yelled at the mate whom he found nursing a bruised shin and swearing. The wind was piping thin and high and he had to yell. “What in hell’s he going to do with it?”

Captain Barnes showed them when he went forward. The tangle of top-hamper was still secured to the ship by its gear and was banging the hull at every other roll. They cut it free and let it drift away on the end of a stout wire so it served as a sea anchor of sorts to hold the Albacore steady. Then they got a rag of canvas on the mizzen, and the Albacore headed into the swell.

“We’ll have to get a tow-in somewhere and refit,” said the second mate. It was his first experience with a white squall and he was somewhat excited. “We can’t go on like this. She’s full of water and the cargo’s listing her. If we get another blow we’re gone.”

“That’s right,” agreed the mate, “we’ll have to get a tow.”

Captain Barnes said nothing, but he went slowly aft to get into dry clothes, leaving the watches at work. He felt a little dazed. They were only four days out of New York, with briquet coal for Iquique, Chile, and this was to be his last voyage. He had clung to the Albacore long after she had ceased to make profitable runs. He had been sentimental about the old ship, had dug into his savings to keep her going. But the competition of steam had been too much. For the past six months the Albacore had been tied up, seeking a cargo, and his savings were all gone. And he was an old man, a very old man. He felt it now.

All his friends and what relatives he had left had advised him to go into a sailors’ home. The Albacore was all but worthless; no one wanted a clipper any more. But he had persisted. He had found her a cargo at last; and in Iquique he would sell the old ship. They would buy her for a hulk, if nothing else, and he would get enough out of her to keep him until the end. He had always been independent.

So he had borrowed money to fit her for sea one last time; and after much searching he had gathered a crew of sorts. The voyage should not be long —three months perhaps—and then he could retire in peace. He had never expected disaster to strike him as it had, only four days out. He sank wearily to a chair when he had finished changing and thought for a long time, conning back through the years. The second mate disturbed him, coming down from the poop.

The Stamped Crime · Allan Vaughan Elston · ss 2/5

This detective story of a man murdered for his gambling winnings, by one of the people he gambled with, depends on a chain of unlikely events.

Illustration for Adventure, May 15 1933 - The Stamped Crime by Allan Vaughan Elston
Illustration for Adventure, May 15 1933 - The Stamped Crime by Allan Vaughan Elston

I FELT a premonition of impending evil before that poker session was half over. It was an impression, intangible yet persistent, that some sinister circumstance threatened our company.

Tangibly the only things oppressively apparent were Foy’s temper—that of a man who all his life had been a poor loser; and the gaiety of Rich, whose effort to make it appear that he was a good loser was extravagantly overdone. The stony face of Paul Seixas expressed no mood at all.

The Breaker of Brynas · Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson · ss 2/5

A Viking story in the vein of Swain’s Saga. But much weaker, and depends on a very unlikely event happening for the hero to survive.

Illustration for Adventure, May 15 1933 - The Breaker of Brynas by Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson
Illustration for Adventure, May 15 1933 - The Breaker of Brynas by
Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson
NOW Thorgrim of Orkadal had tarried three days at the hall of Bersi the Unsparing, who had a bad name in the Northland for being greedy of gold. And Astrid, the niece of Bersi, had looked with favor upon Thorgrim, which pleased not Bersi her uncle, nor Vikar the Squinting, his son. These two plotted how they might waylay Thorgrim and seize his ship and the two chests of gold it contained.

It was agreed between Bersi the Unsparing and his son Vikar that Vikar should sail ahead with twice fifty men and two ships and lie in wait for Thorgrim at the Island Hod.

Now Thorgrim, all unaware of this treachery, stood on the lypting and steered Stigandi—the Stepping One—an exceeding handsome ship painted scarlet with the shields along the gunwales alternating black and yellow, while its sail of black vadmal was embroidered with a golden dragon and the sun glittered from the thin gold plates on the dragon’s head at its prow.

Rifled Gold [Part 2 of 5; Hashknife Hartley] · W. C. Tuttle · sl

No review because this isn’t the first part of the serial.

Illustration for Adventure, May 15 1933 - Rifled Gold by W. C. Tuttle
Illustration for Adventure, May 15 1933 - Rifled Gold by W. C. Tuttle



COREY’S Diamond C brand was one of the landmarks in that part of the country. The ranch, located three miles east of Painted Wells, was a rather picturesque old huddle of adobe buildings under some spreading sycamores.

Milt Corey had never aspired to be a big cattle raiser; he had been content to live along, loving his family and home. Two or three droughts in succession and low prices for beef and hides had depleted his scanty capital, as it had that of many cattlemen in that country.

The banks would lend no more money on that sort of security. Milt Corey had secured the ten thousand dollar mortgage when the market was in good shape, but bad luck had prevented him from paying off any of the principal. Now not only was the mortgage due, but also the note held by Ed Ault for the same amount, due in less than six months. On the day following the funeral Ed Ault rode out to the Corey ranch. Ault was no philanthropist; he was a cold blooded gambler. He rode into the shady patio, watered his horse at the well and tied it to an iron ring in the patio wall.

Mrs. Corey came out on the rear veranda as Ault turned. She was a frail little woman, dressed in rusty black. He came up and leaned against the rail.

“Won’t you come up and sit down?” she asked.

“Thank you,” replied Ault gravely. “I wasn’t sure if I’d be welcome out here.”

“There has always been a welcome for anybody here, Mr. Ault.”

“I know it, Mrs. Corey. You folks have had hard luck—mighty hard—and I wanted to tell you not to worry about that note.”

Song in Mahratti · Perry Adams · ss 1.5/5

A story about a lieutenant who lost his courage from shell shock in World War 1, or so his troops believe. The story is not much, and the native character is a mouthpiece for colonialist views.

Illustration for Adventure, May 15 1933 - Song in Mahratti by Perry Adams

“ AH, SAHIB,” said the subahdar-major, as we tried to cool ourselves in the hot, sticky breeze, “the winds before the monsoon always make me a little sad.” He sighed. “Yes, they recall a curious period through which I once passed; I should not care for another like it!”
In the dim light of a single oil lamp at the other end of the long room, he was a blur beside me. We sat quite alone near the door of the regimental mess, gazing out into the velvety blackness which surrounded us—the intense, expectant darkness of an Indian night. Overhead light clouds raced across the stars, skirmishers and advance guards of the coming rains; and below, thirsty nature prepared for the onslaught in a busy hush which one felt rather than heard. The battalion had marched for the frontier these many days, to join the brigade at Dera Ismail Khan. As a very green junior subaltern I had been left behind in charge of the depot, wdiile the subahdar-major had not gone because of a foot infection.

Almost nightly I invited this fine old son of a fighting race to join me in the mess after dinner. The glory and pride of the Mahrattas was reflected in his high caste Hindu face, molded by generations whose courage was a byword when Christ walked the earth.

When the British came to India the untamed Mahratta spirit flamed out against them in three bloody, costly wars. “We have beaten the Mahratta army, but we have not conquered this people,” said the great Duke of Wellington, as his army paused to lick its wounds after the battle of Assaye. But in the end the Mahratta kingdom bowed to the inevitable and swung under the English banner.

Although he had never been out of India, the subahdar-major was a man of the world, with a broad, sympathetic understanding of Western ideas. Like so many of the better type Indian officer, he had absorbed the essence with the form in his hard climb up the ladder, without in the least losing the proud reserve of his Eastern individuality. Without resentment toward the British Raj, lie was able to reflect upon the conflicts of his people, the decline and the decay of Mahratta power, the prodigal waste…

Alias Blackbeard · James W. Bennett · ar

When a Man Belongs · Raymond S. Spears · ss 2/5

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and Raymond Spears gets a story out of it.

Illustration for Adventure, May 15 1933 - When a Man Belongs by Raymond S. Spears
Illustration for Adventure, May 15 1933 - When a Man Belongs by Raymond S. Spears
WAYNE GILBERT drew his final pay envelop from the cashier of the Wurden Manufactures, Inc. and turned down Slip Street toward the Ohio River. The shops were shut down indefinitely. Since boyhood:—even during school vacations—he had worked there, in office, yard, bench, shipping and sales. A prosaic and enthusiastic handy man, he had never even considered the contingency of the establishment’s drawing its fires and having all the machines covered with thick petrolatum against moisture and canvased against dust to await another period of profitable operations.

Yet in the back of his head Gilbert had always felt the allure of the Ohio River flowing by, a spiritual voice constantly calling to him. Heretofore he had thought of a vacation, a picnic, a cruise down the flood when he should have a motor yacht supported by a not improbable interest in the Wurden business, and an assistant to carry on in the shops for him while he lazed in the luxury of a Spring or Autumn afloat.

The Commodore Retires · A. L. Spellmeyer · ar     

The Golden Horde [Part 1 of 2; Nial O’Gordon] · Harold Lamb · na               4.5/5

Illustration for Adventure, May 15 1933 - The Golden Horde by Harold Lamb

Harold Lamb takes the son of a crusader uprooted from Palestine to the Far East, seeking his fortune in the court of the Great Khan. On the way he comes across a merchant who hires him as a body guard, a spy for the Khan, and a mysterious shaman who helps him or does he…? He agrees to steal a precious stone to settle a debt to the merchant when his lack of attention to the merchant’s baggage lets someone steal it.

But this is Harold Lamb, and nothing is what it seems, and sword play alone cannot win against an entire kingdom. Lamb’s heros always have to use their brains and their brawn, and Nial O’ Gordon is no exception

An excellent tale, and you can read it in the Bison Books collection, Swords from the West (disable your ad blocker to see the link):


Along with its sequel, Keeper of the Gate.

THE Winter’s blanket of snow lay deep on the land. It stretched from the frozen tundras down to the southern sea—down to the shallow, tideless gray water of the Sea Gate.

Here clear skies and a warm sun melted the snow. Reed bordered lakes overflowed into the alleys of the Gate itself. And lines of galleys jostled like feeding dogs along the embankment of the caravan road. Out of these galleys swarmed men of all kinds—warriors striding under their gear and slaves bent under hemp sacks—to the bank where sable-clad merchants argued in many tongues and riders in wolfskins spattered them with mud, unheeded. The jangling bells of mules echoed the grunting of lines of camels kneeling for their loads.

For this Sea Gate, as the newcomers called it, was the port of Tana. To the north and east of it stretched a new and limitless empire, an empire ruled by horsemen and filled with unknown treasures. The caravan road that began at Tana went by thousand-mile stages into the heart of Cathay.

To Cathay where, in this year of the Leopard in the second cycle of his reign, the great Khan Kublai ruled all the Hordes.

MARDI DOBRO sniffed the morning with relish and went down to the waterfront to begin his day’s work. Being a shaman, he lived by his wits. He knew the tricks of conjuring and telling omens; he was an old hand at making or unmaking spells and writing prayers for the sick to swallow.

In his soiled red robe, with a white bearskin pulled over his high shoulders, Mardi Dobro pushed through the tumult to a dry spot by a fire. His green eyes, framed in the tangle of his long black hair, seemed to take no notice of the men around him as he knelt and picked a glowing ember from the fire.

But the man who stood before the bakshi-the officer-was a strange figure. Half a head he rose above the crowd, with a brown camel's-hair cloak hanging from his wide shoulders. He wore neither hat nor turban, and his sun-lightened hair fell to his shoulders. He leaned quietly on the top of a kite-shaped shield, upon which was the battered semblance of a lion.

"He has no voice," cried the bakshi of the rolls. "He knows not Armenian or the speech of the U-luss."

And Mardi Dobro, who knew all the types of the caravan road, had never beheld one like this man without a voice. His darkened skin showed that he came from a hot country, yet his eyes were a clear blue. He bore himself like a man grown; but he was young, almost a boy.

"Yah rafik," asked the shaman at a venture-for the cloak was of Arab work-"O man of the roads, art thou of the Arabs?"

"Nay," the youth answered at once.

"Was there ever," demanded the bakshi, irritated because the voiceless one had responded to another, "an Arab with hair like ripe wheat and a lion upon his shield? What is his name?"

"What name bearest thou?" the shaman asked in Arabic.


"Ni-al." The secretary wrote it down. "From what place is he? What lord follows he? Whither goeth he? And why?"

"Patience," muttered Mardi Dobro as he put the questions to the stranger. "Eh, bakshi, he says that he is from beyond the sea. He has no master and he goes to no place."

"Cha!" The Chinese flourished his reed pen angrily. "How can I write that in the book?" He turned to the Tatar soldier, who was eyeing the lion on the shield with curiosity. "Take thou the weapons from this wanderer from nowhere who serves no one."

Stretching out his arm, the burly Tatar caught the hilt of the stranger's sword and half drew it. Instantly the man named Nial swung up his clenched fist, striking the warrior where the throat meets the jawbone. The guard whirled and fell, his long -skirted coat flapping about his boots. The crowd stared in amazement. Few had seen the blow, and fewer still dreamed that a man's hand without a weapon could knock another down. The Tatar lay without moving, although he breathed heavily.

Clang! The bakshi struck hard upon a bronze basin hanging beside him, and other soldiers appeared, hastening toward him. Death was the punishment for attacking a Tatar with a weapon. The crowd fell away from the man named Nial, who, feeling the menace in the air, raised the lion shield on his arm and drew his sword, a long straight blade of gray steel. But Mardi Dobro sprang in front of him.

"Move thou not," he commanded, "and say naught."

The Camp-Fire · [The Readers] · lc

Illustration for Adventure, May 15 1933 - Campfire
Illustration for Adventure, May 15 1933 - Campfire

ACCORDING to time honored custom, on the occasion of his first story in our pages, Perry Adams rises to make his bow to the members of the Camp-fire:

Malverne, Long Island

I was born somewhere between thirty and a hundred years ago in a place called North America. Early training prevents my being more specific, as I was brought up to shun publicity in all forms. Candor compels me to state that I have not had to exercise myself unduly because of it. I am told that I was a model youth—a model which all the mothers thereabouts warned their sons not to follow.

INSTEAD of going to Yale, for which I had prepared, I went into the coffee importing business in New York. I drank so much coffee that it kept me up nights, so after three years in the business I decided to go to Newcastle-on-Tyne, in England, to get more sleep. But I found that I had simply jumped from one extreme to the other, so I returned to New York and wrote a good many reams of what I termed fiction. As I was unable to induce any of the right people to believe that it was fiction, the undertaking did not prove financially profitable.

Through going abroad so much during my schooldays, and afterward, I had made a number of close friends in England. A good many of them were professional soldiers, who went to France in 1914. When the Lusitania went down, I decided to go and do something about it, because not only had a number of friends been killed in France, but the Lusitania carried down several more.

A FEW days before I sailed, a mutual friend introduced me to Oliver Madox Hueffer, a brother of the well-known Ford Madox Hueffer, or Ford Madox Ford, as he is now known. Oliver Hueffer was at that time a special correspondent of the New York Sun and had been in Mexico.

He was in the British Army Reserve of Officers and had just been recalled to the colors.

Because I spoke French quite decently and could get by in German, Hueffer suggested that I might be of immediate help as -an interpreter with the British forces. He kindly suggested that I sail on the same steamer and offered to pull strings at the British War Office, so that I might get an interpretership quickly; the job carried a commission with it.

SO Hueffer and I went to England, but when we got there we found that the interpreter business was out, since the War Office had passed a recent order that in future all interpreters should be drawn from the French forces. Since I could not hope to compete with the French at their own game, I was a little undecided as to my best course. W7hile I was thinking things over, Hueffer was ordered to his regiment and I have never seen nor heard of him since. I certainly wish him well and I hope he came through.

Some of my friends offered to recommend me for a commission in a line regiment, but the period of training was quite long at that time (1915) and I feared the war might be over before I could get properly introduced. At last I joined up in the ranks of a London regiment in which I had many friends. We moved to Cambridge and were intensively trained for France.

IT WAS probably for this reason that we were sent to India. The British War Office has always been noted for a rare sense of humor! I think ours was the last transport, or about the last, to go to India through the Suez, because the Austrian submarines were getting altogether too clubby for comfort. Between Malta and Port Said, an Austrian sub suddenly came to the surface on our port beam; it cruised along beside us, for some hours. No damage was done, because it had run out of torpedoes. Our transport and the sub took a few pot-shots at each other, just for fun, before the sub sank out of sight. Permit me to say that this was not my idea of a good time.

For the next two years I was a member of the famous First Peshawar Division, Indian Army. This is a wonderful corps, in every way. In it, and in the Fourth Quetta Division, are assembled the very cream of the British Army in India and the Indian Army. These two divisions guard India’s renowned Northwest Frontier, through which run the Khyber and Chaman Passes, and others, leading into Afghanistan. In this country one does not have to be especially gifted to be able to go out and be killed on any desired day of the week. Here life is checkered, but never dull.

FINALLY my regiment was kicked out of the First Division, because casualties and sickness had reduced our effective strength below the minimum demanded of a regiment in the First Division. Shortly thereafter I transferred to the Signal Service and almost at once was offered a commission in the Indian Army, which I accepted. My last two and a half years of service were as an officer in an Indian regiment.

In 1920 I got back to America, and since then have spent most of my time in the advertising business, writing copy. This seems to have been more successful than my early attempts at fiction, because with these very eyes I have frequently seen the copy in national magazines. This has lead me to a fuller understanding of that fine old Peruvian saying: “If you can’t get in the front door, try the back door!”     —perry adams


Ask Adventure · Anon. · qa

The Trail Ahead · Anon. · cl


Saturday, 30 April 2016

Tom Curry - Author, Engineer, Sportsman

[This article originally appeared in the Hour, a Norwalk, CT, newspaper on November 24, 1971]

Thomas A. Curry aka Tom Curry, Author
Thomas A. Curry aka Tom Curry, Author

Tom Curry, a long-time Norwalk resident, sold his first fiction story at 20 while studying chemical engineering at Columbia College in 1920, and within a year’s time the talented young student was writing for a half-dozen of the more popular "pulp” magazines—mainly Western fiction. And for over 50 years, bold, fearless heroes who virtually sprung to life in the thrilling pages of his stories— such as the Rio Kid and his horse, Saber, who rode the dangerous frontier trails in search of ruthless outlaws and evil doers; Walt Slade, whose iron fists and blazing six-shooter spread terror among the toughest badmen; courageous Texas Rangers, hard-riding, fast-shooting men, ever ready to face any outlaw’s vengeance in patrolling the  dangerous border area between Texas and Mexico; Ranger Riders, super-heroes of the early West, among them many of the toughest, roughest, most memorable characters who ever roamed the frontier, men who had to ride hard and shoot fast and straight in order to survive; and many others who gambled their lives in the winning of the West, back in the legendary era following the Civil War, when the Plains Indians, said to have been the world’s greatest horsemen, donned their war paint to hunt the white-skinned invader—have thrilled his many readers.

For a half-century the well-known local author has been steadily contributing to the "pulps, ” turning out between 500, 000 and 600, 000 words a year regularly. He has sold all types of stories—including detective, sports, adventure, fantasy, science—you name it, he has written it. He has also appeared in magazines such as Collier’s, American Home, The Elks, St. Nicholas, The American, McClure’s, and many others, literally hundreds of periodicals. Several hundred hardcover and paperback books have appeared under his byline and under several of his pen names (such as "Jackson Cole” and "Bradford Scott") for professional purposes. In his career Mr. Curry would often have three or four hardcover or paperback books, or a half-dozen or more full-length stories in pulp magazines, appearing in print under three or four different names, in the same month. But his real signature, Tom Curry, appears on the majority of his more than 175 novels and countless hundreds of magazine feature stories.

Born in Hartford on Nov. 4, 1900, Mr. Curry has resided in the Cranbury section of Norwalk for most of the past 50 years. He and his wife, the former Louise Moore of New York city, live in one of Norwalk’s oldest houses a big, attractive Colonial farmhouse with hand-hewn chestnut beams and a large, old-fashioned fireplace with a Dutch oven.

At Columbia, Mr. Curry was a member of the varsity water-polo team and he has never lost his love of swimming, spending almost every summer afternoon at the beach. For 20 years he played tennis during the summer months, and during those two decades was equally well-known on Norwalk and Westport tennis courts as a star competitor. In fact, back in the 1930s, he and Bob Carse, who was also a well-known local fiction writer, after winning practically every tournament in the county, climaxed the season by taking the men’s doubles championship in the Nassau Invitation Tennis Tournament. During the winter months, Mr. Curry performed on the badminton courts—also being of championship ranking at that sport. Now he is playing ping-pong, a game at which he also excels.

As a young boy, Mr. Curry was virtually surrounded by successful writers in his family. In 1914 his father sold what turned out to be a profitable ploy, "Just The Same As Now, " to David Belasco, the famed producer, Mr. Curry’s mother also was a noted playwright, and his sister was married to a noted author, F. R. Buckley.

Pride Counts

"My brother-in-law had never been west of Philadelphia in his life, but he wrote some of the best Western stories, some of the greatest action fiction I've ever read. One, 'Gold Mounted Guns’, won the 1922 O' Henry prize and is included in many anthologies and textbooks. For years he was a regular contributor to Western Story and other top pulp magazines.

"With all these shining examples to inspire me, I decided to try my own hand at fiction-writing, and was fortunate to have it accepted by A. L. Sessions, editor of People’s, one of the Street & Smith's numerous pulps. He sent me $25 and I was naturally puffed with pride. "
Mr. Curry studied chemical engineering at Columbia for three years. Then, at 23, he accepted a job as crime reporter-working from 6 P. M. to 3 A. M. —for the old New York American.

"I got to know a number of police detectives, often accompanying them when they went out to make investigations or arrests, " he reflected. "It was on a first name basis with practically every cop on the night- shift boats. It was heady stuff for a youth, constantly making the rounds of the various police precincts, but I soon quit. "

"I felt I was a free-lance writer at heart and wanted more. " "During the 1920s the fiction field was flourishing... vigorously thriving... with a steady, ever-flowing source of material that was being readily consumed by dozens of publishers, both hardcover, paperback and magazine. I wrote a number of detective stories, and Black Mask Magazine bought one. Soon I became one of Editor Joe Shaw’s regular contributors, and my name began appearing in distinguished company—Dashiell Hammett and Erle Stanley Gardner being among the many authors writing for Shaw at the time. "

During the period when Mr. Curry covered the night-beat as a police reporter on the old New York American, he saw firsthand the incessant flow of daily life that comprises a great metropolis such as New York city, and from his vast experience gained in accompanying detectives and policemen on their various nightly assignments, he acquired invaluable knowledge that gave him the background to successfully produce hundreds of detective fiction stories for numerous pulp magazines during the 1920s and 1930s. During that "Golden era” for fiction-writers, he also sold hundreds of action-packed Western stories, historical articles and short stories.

Travels In West

For several years after leaving the N. Y. American, Mr. Curry and his wife traveled extensively throughout the Western United States as well as in a number of foreign countries before settling for six months in Bermuda, "living in a coral cottage by the sea. ” Known by his many publishers as a talented, dependable, prolific author, his stories, compiling an amazing total of over 500, 000 words a year, were readily accepted.

"During that lucrative period... an era that is frequently called the 'Golden Age' of the magazine... when it seemed almost impossible not to sell a story... new magazines popped up almost every week and In a short time had a circulation of 250, 000 or above. It seemed fantastic, but there were so many pulps and smooth-paper periodicals you could scarcely keep track of them all. Incredible numbers of stories were required, and editors couldn’t be too picky. It was truly a writer's paradise! "

And Mr. Curry successfully wrote for a great number of publications. He branched out, with his byline appearing as often in the smooth-paper magazines as it did in the pulps—among them being Argosy, G-Men, Thrilling Adventure, Blue Book, Black Mask, Popular Western, Detective Fiction, as well as the Rio Kid Western, Thrilling Western, Range Riders, Texas Rangers and numerous others.

Many of these weekly or monthly Western publications confined their stories to the period following the American Civil War, during the time when real historical characters such as Wyatt Earp, Buffalo Bill, General Custer, Calamity Jane, Bat Masterson, Bill Hickock, Quanah Parker, the Comanche Chief, and many others roamed the treacherous trials of the great Western frontier throughout New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Montana, Colorado, Texas, etc in The Rio Kid Western, for many years a popular historical Western publication owned and published by Thrilling Publications, whose chief editor was the famed Leo Margulies (who was a frequent visitor in Norwalk, his uncle at one time having owned and operated a business on Washington street). Thrilling Publications published some 50 periodicals - Westerns, Detective, mystery, all combat, spy, sports etc.

The Rio Kid was the hero of an exciting adventure in every monthly issue of the magazine named for him. An ex-cavalry officer who had served under General Custer, he constantly—as the brave young hero confronting the ruthless villain—came into contact with those other well-known heroes along the Western trails, and were relived.

The Rio Kid Thriller

For years Mr. Curry wrote fast-action thrillers involving the Rio Kid as well as the Texas Rangers. "The general theme must be that the hero, being young, handsome, strong, personable, and endowed with great moral courage and character, as well as being an expert shot, fist-fighter, cowpuncher and rider, must, in willingly facing the most hazardous missions, track down, confront and defeat the villain in violent physical combat. The outlaw, whose ruthless designs threaten the very existence of the hero and those he loves, is not only a dangerous killer but is equally as skilled both in handling a six-shooter and riding a horse. And the nerveless villain, with many notches in his blazing guns, who invariably has joined forces with other equally infamous renegades and notorious bad-men, must get his just due. The fearsome bandits and robber gangs, stealing the gold, rustling the cattle, or holding up the stage coach, must not be successful in escaping justice after having carried out their devious plans. And, like all romantic adventure stories, these yarns must have a happy ending, as far as the hero is concerned, that is. ”

Maintaining his tremendous deadline schedule keeps Mr. Curry constantly busy figuring out fresh, new "plots, ” always thinking, pondering, planning the motivating phases of action which fit into the basic outline of the story he is writing. Saying that he has always found writing to be a most pleasurable occupation, he explained that for many years he was able to turn out the finished manuscript of a full-length book or magazine story in the short period of but two to four weeks, working at his typewriter for five or six hours a day, seven days a week, including holidays.

And which of your many fictional heroes is your favorite character?

“One of my all-time favorites has to be the Rio Kid, ” he said. "Of course I'm very fond of all of them. "

In considering your sudden change of plans in regards to your life’s profession while a student at Columbia College, have you ever regretted it?

"No, absolutely not, " he admitted. "I've had a great many years of pleasure being a somewhat successful fiction writer, " he continued, "and I can honestly say that I'm very proud of having my name associated with the truly distinguished company of Western chroniclers and historians. "
Many of the novels that Mr. Curry has written remain in print today. And as each succeeding generation continues to find adventure and reading excitement in his numerous stories, the majority of which are thrilling Western yarns of fast-riding men with blazing guns, of lost mines and hidden treasures, invariably set in a background of purple sagebrush, blinding desert heal and dust, the reader can almost feel himself squinting into the bright crimson sunset. Exciting epics of fiery action, of great American heroes who gambled their lives in the winning of the West.

But what happened to the magazine publishing business when the Great Depression hit?

"It was a very difficult time... beginning about the mid-’30s. There was great rivalry for the writing dollar, and the pulp market had virtually collapsed... why, within the space of a few months' time even the best-selling magazines hit a low slump. The bottom literally fell out of the market. "
Mr. Curry has traveled extensively in and intimately knows the old West about which he writes. A top literary critic reviewing one of his Western novels for a New York newspaper in 1951 said, "You'll find in any Tom Curry western story a true picture of the West that was and is no more.”

Mr. Curry says he is especially proud of his "Famous Figures Of The Old West". This contains 60 short biographies of heroes and villains of the Western Frontier. The book is beautifully illustrated by Wood Cowan, a long time resident of Weston, who, as a member of Newspaper Enterprises of America (NEA), drew popular syndicated features for many years, one being the widely- distributed cartoon known as "Major Hoople. " "The Buffalo Hunters, " one of Mr. Curry’s best-known novels is being published as a paperback, and there are several new stories that will soon appear on the racks, some by "Jackson Cole" (Mr. Curry’s pen-name used by the publishers on all Curry novels appearing in Texas Rangers Magazine). From 1936 to 1950, Mr. Curry wrote 85 of these lead stories.

Recently he sold a "Walt Slade" Western, which will be under the byline, "Bradford Scott. " Walt Slade was created by Leslie Scott, a well-known writer and long-time close friend of Mr. Curry who has turned out some 100 of these paperback Westerns, for Pyramid Books.

In 1951, after the magazine market had collapsed ("Television had delivered the knockout punch to the general fiction field"), Mr. Curry accepted a position with Dorr-Olivcr, Inc., an engineering firm in Westport, and stayed with them for 14 years. In 1964 he again turned to free-lance writing full-time—Western novels plus articles on a variety of subjects. He was soon turning out some 500,000 words a year, mainly in hardcover and paperbacks and a few pulp magazines still remaining on the stands, though the latter market had changed drastically, with little fiction being used and articles being basically in demand.

Beside a number of fiction stories of Zane Grey Western Magazine, Mr. Curry also has recently sold several true historical pieces, one titled ". Secret of the Little Big Horn, " concerning Custer’s famous last stand, and a short biography of the famous author, Zane Grey.

Now, after 50 years of turning out a constant flow of novels, short stories, historical features and science articles, Mr. Curry says it is time that he "slowed down a bit. " He and his wife, who recently retired after 20 years with the Famous Schools in Westport, plan to head south this winter to escape the snow and cold. Mr. Curry has been a prominent member of Western Writers of America for half a century, and this past June, he and his wife attended the WWA convention held in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with many other well-known authors.

His current novel, "Gunfighter’s Holiday" (Avalon Books, 1971), may be found on local library shelves, while a second novel, "Colorado River Gold. " is scheduled for publication in December.

Mr. and Mrs. Curry have a son. Dr. Stephen J. Curry, who graduated from Norwalk High School, Columbia University, and the University of Wisconsin. He is a professor of English in a college in upstate New York. Mr. and Mrs. Curry also have a grandson, Geoffrey S., age 10.