Saturday, 25 January 2014

Profile of Arthur S. Hoffman, Adventure magazine editor, from 1920

We now recognize Arthur S. Hoffman’s work in making Adventure one of the foremost pulp magazines. What did contemporaries think of him? To find out, read this article that originally appeared in Advertising and Selling magazine, April 3, 1920.


Saturday, 18 January 2014

Collection of Frank Gruber's Black Mask short stories about Oliver Quade, Encyclopedia salesman just released

MysteriousPress just released the complete short stories of Oliver Quade, encyclopedia salesman. These stories originally appeared in the Thrilling Detective and Black Mask magazines.

Kevin Burton Smith has an excellent summary of the Oliver Quade series over at the excellent Thrilling Detective website.

I have the earlier collection Brass Knuckles, and when this released, I bought it in ebook format immediately to read the four stories that were not collected in that book. The stories are light, fun reads. If you read one or two at a time, they're good. Otherwise you might overdose on Gruber's pulp formula.

Links to the books in Ebook and paperback formats:

Ebook Paperback

Pulp art - original paintings and cover photos from the Robert Lesser collection - slideshow

Close to 500 pictures in this slideshow:

Courtesy the New Britain Museum of American Art

Some really beautiful cover paintings there, covering all genres: Adventure, Hero, Fantasy, Weird, Science Fiction, Crime and Detective etc.

A background article about the collection.

You can get closer to some of this art in this book (highly recommended)

A video interview with Robert Lesser about pulps

Friday, 17 January 2014

Friday’s Forgotten Books: The Best of Adventure, vol. 1, 1910-1912

This book collects the best stories from the first three years of publication of Adventure magazine, a pulp magazine that was considered one of the best pulp magazines. In this review, I’ll focus only on the highlights, which are reason enough to buy the book in my opinion.

The Soul of a Regiment – This story by Talbot Mundy might be offensive to modern sensibilities; it is a story of colonial spirit and the white man’s burden. It can also be read as a story of a man striving to meet his ideals. Sergeant Billy Grogram takes a bunch of ragtag recruits, gives them a sense of pride and creates the idea of the honor of a regiment in their minds.

Brethren of the Beach – This novelette by H.D. Couzens is the highlight of the collection for me. A gang of assorted rejects from society plan to plunder an untouched oyster reef before the owner comes to mine it. They find a treasure in pearls but their greed and lack of trust in each other lead to betrayal.

His present life filled him with disgust. …

What lay hidden in the corruption of the pearl-shell was at present problematical. Divided among six, with a share for the Kanakas, it might mean much or be a mere trifle. At least his share would be a nest-egg to be put to some use. His companions, he knew, would use theirs in carousals at the first port they drifted to, but he was done for good with this side of life.

Many thousand similar resolutions have been breathed to the stars of the tropic night or the crooning surf by men on island beaches writhing in an anguish of self-pity or remorse, to be forgotten with the first fair wind of tomorrow.

Another reviewer has compared this story to the Treasure of the Sierra Madre, but I think the noir heist movies of the 1940s and 50s (Rififi, The Killing) are closer to this story in spirit. I felt somewhat let down by the unexpectedly happy ending for the hero.

A Pair of Mules – Nevil G. Henshaw wrote stories of the Louisiana bayous and the Cajuns living along it – his stories have plenty of local color, but what stands out for me is the strong characterizations of the people. I have read some of his other stories in Outing Magazine, and wish someone would put out a collection of them.

A social outcast dreams of owning a farm, and his mules are key to farming the land. When an outbreak of infectious disease causes the villagers to destroy his mules, he sees his dreams shattered and decides to avenge himself on the village. But before he completes his revenge, he sees something …

Juban shook his head. He was a huge, hairy-looking wild man, brown and strong from his life in the open, and bearing himself with the quiet alertness of one who has made his living from his gun. In his face alone was none of the keen watchfulness of the hunter. Here there was only a dazed look of misery

The Mate’s Log – Arthur Somers Roche sets a story of doom in the Sargasso sea. In the real world, the Sargasso sea is a place with some seaweed and little wind. The Sargasso sea in the story is a morass of weed that sucks in ships and, in this case, lures a crew of greedy men hunting for treasure to their doom.

The other stories I enjoyed include "The Plot of Signor Salvi" by Marion Polk Angellotti and "The White Queen of Sandakan" by James Francis Dwyer.

Now for some criticism: The detective story "31 New Inn" by R. Austin Freeman felt out of place in this collection of adventure stories and could perhaps have been left out to make room for some other stories. For each story, the illustration should have been included.

These are minor quibbles, however, and with 7 sea stories, 4 westerns, 6 non-genre and 2 Middle East stories, there is something for every lover of adventure fiction in this book. This is an excellent collection of short fiction, and I wished it wouldn’t end.

For reference, the contents are given below:




“The Outriders”


H. Bedford Jones

"The Soul of a Regiment"


Talbot Mundy

"The Luck of the Annie Crosby"

Sea Stories

Frederick William Wallace

"A Soft Answer From the Kid"


Willett Stockard

"Brethren of the Beach"

Sea Stories

H.D. Couzens

"The Pretender"


Rafael Sabatini

"A Pair of Mules"


Nevil G. Henshaw

"The Mate's Log"

Sea Stories

Arthur Somers Roche

"The Pied Piper, Junior"


Damon Runyon

"From the Book of Fate"

Middle East

George E. Holt

"The Preacher and the Gun-Man"


Hapsburg Liebe

"The Master"

Sea Stories

George Buchanan Fife

"The Plot of Signor Salvi"


Marion Polk Angellotti

"The Hate of Ismail Bey"

Middle East

Bertram Atkey

"The White Queen of Sandakan"


James F. Dwyer

"McQuinn, Sheriff"


William Tillinghast Eldridge

"The Albatross"

Sea Stories

William Hope Hodgson

"The Rug of Imam"

Middle East

Adele M. Donovan

"31 New Inn"


R. Austin Freeman

"Two On Trinity"

Sea Stories

Frank Lillie Pollock

"That Prodigious Postscript"


John Lewis

"The Bravery of Bertie McDodd"


George B. Seitz

"Captain Curlew's Atonement"


C. Langton Clarke

"The Final Average"

Sea Stories

Frank L. Packard

"The End"


Stephen Allen Reynolds



H. Bedford Jones

Saturday, 11 January 2014

T.T. Flynn - Sailor, Railroadman, Author

Pulp Magazine Covers with stories from T.T. Flynn
Theodore Thomas Flynn (better known as T.T. Flynn, western and detective fiction author) is nowadays remembered for his book, The Man from Laramie, which was made into a successful movie. He also wrote a series of stories about Mr. Maddox, a bookie detective, in Dime Detective; another series about a P.I. couple – Trixie and Mike in Detective Fiction Weekly; and wrote western stories for Adventure, Short Stories, Star Western, and Argosy.

I first came across T.T. Flynn when i read the novella, Satan's Deputy, the first story in the Star Western collection edited by Jon Tuska. Flynn kept the trouble piling up on the hero. In the first three pages, the hero comes out of prison after a two year sentence for a crime he didn't commit and rides off into a stagecoach holdup that goes wrong; the posse that comes to the rescue arrests him as a suspect. In the final shootout, the bad guys set the house in which the hero is hiding on fire. Good triumphs, but not before sailing through a sea of troubles.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Stars of Adventure

Like most magazines, Adventure had a core group of authors who wrote an amazing amount of fiction for the magazine. The top 20 appeared at least 50 times each in the contents page with a serial, novella, novel or short story.
These writers wrote more than a quarter of the fiction appearing in 753 pulp issues of Adventure. They appeared over 2100 times on the contents page (I counted each serial instalment once).

Hugh Pendexter
W.C. Tuttle
Gordon Ray Young

Talbot Mundy
Georges Surdez
Arthur O. Friel

Talbot Mundy (153)

Arthur D. Howden Smith
Harold Lamb

F. St. Mars (86)

Gordon MacCreagh
H. Bedford-Jones

H. Bedford-Jones (77)

Thomson Burtis (76)
J. Allan Dunn
Raymond S. Spears

Raymond S. Spears (73)

Hapsburg Liebe

W. Townend (64)

George E. Holt

George E. Holt (51)

Ared White (51)

Some stories have not aged well. The spy stories of Ared White focus on cipher systems that today’s technology has made obsolete. Likewise Thomson Burtis’ aviation stories no longer have the power to excite us – flying is routine.

The rest more than make up for that.  Many of the top authors wrote historical fiction – Pendexter (American frontier), Mundy (Tros of Samothrace), Howden Smith (The sword Grey Maiden, Swain the Viking), Bedford-Jones (History and Battle anywhere, anytime), Buckley (Medieval Italy) and Harold Lamb (Khlit the Cossack).
Others chose exotic locales – Young (South Seas), Surdez (Foreign Legion), Friel (Amazon Jungle), MacCreagh (Africa, East Asia, South America), Allan Dunn (South Seas), Holt (Morocco). Tuttle, Young and Liebe wrote westerns. They are historicals for us now.

I’m looking forward to reading a lot more stories by these masters of pulp adventure over the coming year. I’ll be posting more reviews (including some older issues of Adventure, Blue Book etc.) and stories and less author backgrounds – it’s becoming more difficult to find out information about long-dead authors who wrote only a few stories. Where possible, I’ll scan and post the author information I find in the Campfire column.

Let me know what you think of the changes in the comments.