Saturday, 5 March 2016

Adventure, March 1 1932 - A review

   [Inspired by a post on the True Pulp Fiction blog, I read this issue and posted a review. The 1/- sticker on my copy indicates that this issue went from the US to the UK at one time, and it found it's way back and finally reached me.]

A great cover from Gerard C. Delano, and interior headings by Harry Townsend

Chullunder Ghose the Guileless, from Adventure, March 1, 1932
Chullunder Ghose the Guileless, from Adventure, March 1, 1932
Chullunder Ghose the Guileless [Chullunder Ghose] · Talbot Mundy · ss   3/5

The "King's Regulations" are less elastic than a bronze tablet; there is the devil to pay for the least infraction of them. So when Sergeant Sam Trelawny killed in cold blood, with the butt end of a rifle, Captain Eustace Laidlaw, and they locked him in the regimental cells, he was provided within the hour with a postage stamp, pen, ink, envelop and paper. He had the right to summon an attorney or his next friend. No one doubted why he had killed Laidlaw, although no one saw him do it. Laidlaw was the kind of office whose insolences always lead to something ugly in the long run. He had a fixed idea that success depends on self-assertion and on snubbing one's inferiors. No one was sorry for Laidlaw.

Talbot Mundy’s story has great characterization. It’s let down by Chullunder Ghose speaking in a flowery English dialect throughout.

The Ring, from Adventure, March 1, 1932
The Ring, from Adventure, March 1, 1932
The Ring · Commander Edward Ellsberg · ss 3/5

Sergeant Gerrity, dozing over the top of his desk, sat suddenly bolt upright and started through the door of the station house. The sharp rap of a nightstick on the pavement rang through the early morning stillness, mingled with a gruff exclamation-

“Another pass at that guy an’ I’ll use this stick on you ‘stead o’ the sidewalk!”

The desk sergeant, instantly alert, motioned to a policeman on the bench at the back of the room.

“Quick, Mike. Give him a hand.” But before the sleepy Mike Dugan had come to enough to get on his feet, the fighting group outside lurched through the door and brought up against the desk.

Sergeant Gerrity’s jaw set grimly as his eyes traveled from the battered face and torn clothes of a man staggering through the door, obviously the victim of a brutal assault, to the struggling sailor whom Patrolman Martin with difficulty was holding up to the desk. Mike Dugan stepped heavily up and seized the prisoner’s left arm.

“Aizy now, sailor! Cut out the rough stuff ’r ye’ll git hurt bad.”

“It’ll take more’n a couple o’ bulls for that!”

The bluejacket, a heavy-set, bronzed boatswain’s mate, tore loose from Dugan’s grip, whirled round, looked over his shoulder.

“Don’t let that guy get outa here, or I’m goin’ after him!”

A slightly sentimental story of a hardboiled sailor and a local hoodlum. An unexpected ending, at least for me.

The Blow-Down, from Adventure, March 1, 1932
Blow-Down, from Adventure, March 1, 1932
Blow-Down · L. G. Blochman · nv               3/5

EVEN before the fruit steamer carrying Holloway across the Caribbean had deposited him at Puerto Justo, Travis decidedly disliked this youth he had never seen. He intimated as much when the district superintendent told him he was sending an American assistant to Winchona Farm.

“I don’t need no timekeeper to grow bananas on Winchona,” Travis had said. “Particularly the kind of timekeepers they send down these days. Still, what can a guy expect with banana growin’ gettin’ to be as excitin’ as growin’ pansies. I suppose you’ll give me a college boy with a gold baseball hangin’ on his watch chain and ten times more ideas than guts.”

Several weeks of brooding augmented Travis’s dislike to the point of a personal antagonism by the time the district superintendent’s gasoline car sputtered through the bananas on the fruit company railway, to stop in front of the overseer’s bungalow. As the superintendent and the new timekeeper hopped off, Travis remained sitting on the veranda, smoking a long black puro. It was nearly dark, but Travis could see that Holloway was of medium height…

A banana tree is so slight it bends over with the weight of its fruit. When a tropical storm hits a banana plantation, it lays all the trees its path flat. The blow down of the title refers to this event that is the backdrop for this story of a young college educated man coming to work on a banana plantation.

I found the setting interesting, but the story itself didn’t seem to be out of the ordinary. L. G. Blochman wrote this story after he had returned to the States. He had spent his twenties wandering across the world from one newspaper job to the next, including a stint at a newspaper in Calcutta, India.

He drew on these experiences for his stories in the pulps, and went on to become the president of the Mystery Writers of America.

The Sable Phalanx, from Adventure, March 1, 1932
The Sable Phalanx, from Adventure, March 1, 1932
The Sable Phalanx · Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson · ss 3.5/5

“All Ah says is that all the book learnin’ in de world ain’t goin’ to git you nowhere ef you can’t boss folks around-“ Corporal Samuel Lee settled dejectedly into his saddle.

“Oh, hush yo’ mumblin’ an’ yo’ grumblin’,” Sergeant Carter, riding beside him, retorted crossly, staring back at the long column of negro troopers toiling through the white dust of Chihuahua. “Neveh seen such a nigger fo’ moanin’ an’ wringin’ his hands as what you is, Sam Lee. Ne’mind if the majah ain’t so bossy; he’s a majah, ain’t he?”

“Take heah now Captain Bates,” persisted Corporal Lee. “When that baby sounds off you jest nacherly know that things is goin’ to start movin’. He’s got a voice like a Missouri jarhead.”

“Uh-huh—an’ jest about as much sense!” snorted Sergeant Carter.

Nicholson’s tale is set at the time of the Mexican Expedition. We are watching a newly commissioned major leading a troop of soldiers just after the Battle of Carrizal to a town where Pancho Villa is supposed to be hiding. The soldiers don’t have confidence in the major, the major doubts he will find any local support for his mission, has orders that tie his hands and feels his leadership over his troops slipping away. His second in command is the polar opposite of this major, a brash extrovert, who believes that he could lead the troops better. Into this general miasma of mistrust and doubt comes an army of Mexican troops that follow the Americans around but don’t engage in battle. On the way to the town, the American troops are cornered and ambushed. The major reaches into his memory of past battles, and pulls out a tactic used by Alexander the Great.

Treed Treasure, from Adventure, March 1, 1932
Treed Treasure, from Adventure, March 1, 1932
Treed Treasure · Allan Vaughan Elston · ss 2/5

A grin of sly satisfaction overspread the bearded face of Ace Sontner.

He was squatting in front of a rude log cabin and gazing upward at a treetop. A legion of trees, all aspens and as alike as sisters, encircled this retreat of his. High in the top of one of them, cached in a knothole, was a chamois bag containing sixteen matched diamonds. They were worth a hundred thousand dollars and the neck of Ace Sontner.

A Mounty detective follows a criminal and catches up with him. But the criminal shoots the Mounty dead and is about to get away when a pulpy providence intervenes. Goes to prove that Mounties always get their man.

Flencher’s Island, from Adventure, March 1, 1932
Flencher’s Island, from Adventure, March 1, 1932
Flencher’s Island [Part 2 of 4] · Captain Dingle · sl

I’d like to talk about this, but a serial instalment is hard to review without constantly referring to past and future instalments. So I’m only going to review serials completely in the issue they begin in. That way you’ll know if it’s worth starting or not.

Rumblin’ John, from Adventure, March 1, 1932
Rumblin’ John, from Adventure, March 1, 1932
Rumblin’ John · Howard Ellis Davis · ss     3/5

“MY OFFER still stands. I’ll give Pete a hundred dollars for that there bull, jest for the pleasure of turnin’ his carcass into beef an’ nailin’ his hide to my barn do’.” Having thus in no uncertain terms declared himself, old Hanse Rountree arose from his chair and threw another log into the four-foot fireplace. Flames leaped upward, roaring and crackling into the wide throat of the chimney. The ruddy light, the only illumination in the room, danced merrily over the log walls, chinked with mud.

One corner of the room was occupied by a double bed, covered with a crazy quilt of many bright colors; on the rough plank floor were rugs of goatskin; two pairs of boots and heavy yarn socks steamed in the heat of the fire. Against the rived board shingles of the roof the Winter rain drummed steadily.

Standing with his hands behind him, Hanse scowled down at his grandson, Tom, who sprawled in a chair, legs outstretched, toasting the soles of his feet. Tom grinned up at the old man.

“I don’t believe you’d do anything to Rumblin’ John if Pete sold him to you,” he said.

A humorous story of a cattle rancher’s feud with the big bull of the herd. Not bad, especially the climax.

The Tin Ship, from Adventure, March 1, 1932
The Tin Ship, from Adventure, March 1, 1932
The Tin Ship · Andrew A. Caffrey · ss 1/5

It was high noon at Web Field. The hot Florida sun was also high. And Flying Cadet Delano – he of the dashing Denver Delanos – was in very high spirits. He had a right to be. The wild cadet had just been restored to flying status. Yes, sir, fortune and the post adjutant, Captain High Pockets Merritt, had called Delano to come and stand on the adjutant’s carpet and be told. Then High Pockets, forcing one of those patronizing, cast iron smiles of his, informed Cadet Delano that the command office was about to give him another chance to prove that he – Delano – was worthy of trust and could be treated in a military manner, as befits a future officer and gentleman.

An exuberant fresh cadet shows everyone up. I didn’t find this very amusing or interesting.

 Lumberjacks · Helen von Kolnitz Hyer · pm

A small poem about Paul Bunyan.

The Swamp Outlaws, from Adventure, March 1, 1932
The Swamp Outlaws, from Adventure, March 1, 1932

The Swamp Outlaws · Boyden Sparkes · ss 3/5

You must include the swamp in your reckoning to understand how it required Robeson County, North Carolina, populated by a brave people, to rid itself of the outlaws.

The cool breath of the swamp touching your face as you ride behind the wheel of your automobile seems to come from a green corridor with a floor of black water. The corridor lies at right angles to the new road. A North Carolina highway sign supports the legend: Bear Swamp. If you were to leave your automobile at this point and plunge into that place of dark and sinister shadows, you might begin to understand how it sheltered the outlaws for so long a time.

The swamp has many names in different places, but essentially it is an entity, a green and black embroidery sewn to the plainer cloth of fields of corn, tobacco and cotton by threads of sluggish streams, runs, branches, creeks and rivers. An explorer, untroubled by any desire to prove that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points, might trace the pattern of this embroidery through hidden channels over many counties far to the north, even into Dismal Swamp, and rarely see one of the cultivated fields whence come the major part of the riches of North Carolina.

It is a great land reserve, incredibly fertile, supporting life in a host of forms. There are deer in the swamp; also wild turkeys, alligators, rattlesnakes, cotton-mouths, raccoons, otters; and swarms of insects, including wild bees whose honey feeds more bears than men.

The dimensions of the swamp are not to be measured, fairly, with the same…

A journalist writes the story of the Henry Berry Lowry gang.

A Man of Great Promise, from Adventure, March 1, 1932
A Man of Great Promise, from Adventure, March 1, 1932

A Man of Great Promise · J. D. Newsom · ss 4/5

Geographically, Menilmontant is as much a part of Paris as the Place de l’Opera. Socially, it is in another world—a black and bitter world of narrow streets flanked by dilapidated tenements, a world of outcasts and apaches and sordid vice.

But the denizens of Menilmontant, though they live in squalor, like to relax and forget their miseries just as the bourgeois do. Their places of amusement would not appeal to the fastidious minded, nor can they be recommended to tourists who would a-slumming go. The tourist who would a-slumming go in Menilmontant stands more than an even chance of waking up dead with three feet of strong twine wrapped around his neck. The district, according to its peculiar standards, is very exclusive.

Of all the establishments which cater to this select clientele, the Bal du Petrin is by far the most notorious. Only the cream of the cream can get by the bouncers who mount guard by the cashier’s desk. The dancehall is lighted by Chinese lanterns strung on wires across the ceiling. The effect is quite pretty, but the illumination, to say the least, is poor. It is so poor that, in the semiobscurity, one gentleman may run a knife into another gentleman’s vital organs without attracting much attention.

The music is provided by two piano-accordions and a violin. The machiche is not popular. The patrons prefer waltzes and tangos, with an occasional one-step thrown in for good measure.
It was close on eleven o’clock on a raw November night when Henri le Requin (the Shark) and Jules Etudiant (the Scholar) sauntered into the hall. They were typical young men of Menilmontant: twenty, pasty faced, sharp featured, with a wary look in their eyes half hidden by the brims of greasy cloth caps. They wore workmen’s coats of blue denim, pegtop corduroy trousers and canvas sandals with rope soles. They walked with a light, springy tread, as though at any second they anticipated trouble.

Just inside the doorway they paused and leaned against the wall.

The French Apaches were hardened criminals who thought nothing of committing robbery and murdering an elderly widow, killing a cabman and assaulting two police officers in broad daylight, or attacking firemen who dared try to extinguish the arson fires they lit.

Newsom’s story starts with two of these hard cases returning from prison to a bar where they hope to find the police informant whose evidence convicted them. They end up killing him and two policemen, and join the French Foreign Legion to avoid Msieu Deibler, the executioner. Newsom is no fan of imperialism, and although he admires the spirit of the Legion, he deplores what it is spent upon – keeping up a tottering French colony with no support from France.
There is a passage in this story to that effect:
THE great powers have never waged a colonial war, nor subjugated their backward brethren, nor annexed barbarous countries for the mere sake of loot. No, most certainly not! Perish the horrible thought!
Whenever they have been compelled to assume the white man’s burden, they have done so in the name of peace, of progress, of humanity, of civilization. Their corporate souls are lily white. Their aim is to uplift and educate. They are altruists, every one of them. They have done great things. They have wrought miracles. The industrial age has been wished upon ignorant, slothful peoples who were stupid enough to have few wants and who were content to live in ignorance of the beauties of compound engines, dynamos and sanitary plumbing.
These lazy savages have been made to appreciate the glory of toil in roaring factories and in mines where safety devices are considered effete. They have been taught the pure joy of conscripted gang labor, of starvation wages, of the overseer’s whip. And if they refuse to be modernized, if they declare that they want to be their own masters in their own homes, if they prefer to stagnate instead of joining in the forward march of progress, then they are called fanatics, and shot.

The two Apaches, once in the Legion, follow different paths. One sinks lower and lower, and the other, inspired by the military regimen, becomes a soldier, a leader of men. He goes on to become a lieutenant, an almost impossible feat for an enlisted man. But the authorities, not knowing his past, are not sure what he’d do under pressure. So they send him to an outpost in Morocco, on the borders of the great Sahara desert. The desert heat, the constant fear of rebel attacks and the dispirited company of men there drive the lieutenant to despair and drink, undermining his training, till he reverts to his earlier character, killing the son of a visiting Moroccan chief in a drunken rage.

The tribe attacks, and sends a message that their honor demands the blood of the man who dishonored the laws of hospitality by killing a guest. They will not hesitate to avenge this, though they may have to climb over a mountain of their dead to do it. The lieutenant plans to resist, but the tribe has control of the oasis that is the soldiers’ water supply. Surrender or die of thirst, that is their choice, and the lieutenant has to choose…

Walker Martin feels that the Blochman tale is the highlight of this issue, I believe the Newsom tale is the real star. A forgotten gem and proof that Adventure was still worth reading in the 1930s after Hoffman left.

Mister Emu · Wyman Sidney Smith · ar

Today’s Raw Bronc [Part 1 of 8] · Gil Strick & Alan LeMay · ar

A fact article about the cowboy’s horse – the bronco. It’s likely Gil Strick was a cowboy that told the facts to LeMay, who used his training as a journalist to work it up into this article.


  1. Thanks for this review of a good issue of ADVENTURE from the 1930's. It still was a good magazine even after the great Arthur Sullivant Hoffman left as editor. The Newsom was also outstanding and in my opinion came in close to the Blochman tale.

    The announced stories for the next issue of March 15 are impressive: WC Tuttle, Hugh Pendexter, J. Allan Dunn, L. Patrick Greene, LG Blochman, Talbot Mundy, George Holt, and Captain Dingle.

    One of the great fiction magazines of the twenties, thirties, and forties.

  2. A fascinating browse. Did Wheeler-Nicholson have a thing for black cavalry? I recently read his "Dark Regiment" from the October 1 1927 Adventure and thought it an unusual if not provocative subject for pulp. The story itself seemed progressive and patronizing at the same time. As for this issue, Newsom would be more of a selling point for me than Blochman, but both stories sound good.

    1. I think each author found their area of expertise easier to write about rather than enter into possible competition with other authors for stories with the same theme. In the case of military fiction, Wheeler-Nicholson would have been up against H. Bedford-Jones if he had ventured into history or the Far East. I think he made a smart choice.

      The big exception to this rule is of course, the Foreign Legion stories which J.D Newsom, Georges Surdez, Warren Hastings Miller, Robert Carse and H. Bedford-Jones were all turning out for Adventure, Argosy, Blue Book and Short Stories.

    2. Foreign Legion stories were extremely popular, perhaps only the westerns were the type of story more popular with readers. (Not counting the romance story which the teenage girls and young women devoured.)

      I've often wondered what would possess a man to sign up for a 5 year, hard labor hitch for pennies a day. Many of course were trying to hide out, etc. Why are marriages a life time hitch? Even the Foreign Legion only requires a 5 year sign up.