Thought I’d begin this year with a review of Blue Book, another of my favorite magazines. It’s easy to overlook it, most of the covers are not spectacular. However, in the 1930s Blue Book was definitely better illustrated than Adventure magazine, and generally had high quality fiction spanning many genres – science fiction and humor included.
This issue is representative of the quality of the issues in 1930s overall. In the 1940s, Blue Book changed to a bigger size, and I hope to have a review of one of those issues later this year.
|Blue Book - January 1936 - cover by Herbert Morton Stoops|
The Blue Book Magazine [v62 #3, January 1936] ed. Donald Kennicott (The McCall Company, 15¢, 144pp, pulp, cover by Herbert Morton Stoops)
5 · The Sailor’s Scrapbook: The Schooner · Coulton Waugh · cl (3.5/5), illustrated by Coulton Waugh
In the modern world, shipping accounts for about 90% of the movement of goods between countries, and yet we hardly hear anything about this in the news. Reality shows like the Deadliest Catch focus on a luxury product harvested at great risk. Where are the shows dealing with freight shipping?
Anyway, I digress. This article is an interesting little filler on the schooner and the risks taken by the sailors and the rescue service. The author, Coulton Waugh, was an artist, the son of a maritime artist and grandson of a portrait artist, who went on to write the first survey of the newspaper comic strips. If you’re interested in the freight shipping industry of today, get this book: http://amzn.to/2iUWkgG
|Illustration by Coulton Waugh for The Schooner - January, 1936 issue of Blue Book magazine|
The coasting schooner is now the only large sailing-ship found off our coasts in any numbers. These fine vessels have from two to six or even seven masts, as in the case of the Thomas W. Lawson, lost in 1907. Usually heavily loaded and without motors, coasting schooners frequently have difficulty weathering such places as Cape Cod and Cape Hatteras in heavy weather. Many cases of the heroism of simple men have been furnished by the famous wrecks of schooners along our shores.
On April 4, 1881, the schooner A. B. Goodman struck heavily on the inner shoal of Cape Hatteras. Soon her hull was under water, and huddled in her rigging the crew eagerly watched for help. The wind had backed completely around and was now howling savagely out to sea. Finally they were sighted by the lookout in a life-saving station. On shore a little group of surfmen gathered to make their wills before entering their boat, for because of the direction of the wind there was great danger that they would be swept out to sea in their attempt to return. The keeper afterward said in his testimony: “They knew it was their duty, and they did it.”
Austin Briggs does a great job of illustration, but I recommend skipping this unless you want to go to sleep. A scientific detection story with a FBI agent of the future investigating a crime with the help of X-Ray Vision, a scent detection machine, an ultra-microphone which can recover past sounds by their present echoes. Add in a villain with a platinum rib who can teleport himself and murder people without leaving a trace, and the mixture is very rich. It’s also very slow paced. I don’t recommend it even with the excellent illustrations by Austin Briggs.
|Illustration by Austin Briggs for The Man with the Platinum Rib - January, 1936 issue of Blue Book magazine|
|Illustration by Austin Briggs for The Man with the Platinum Rib - January, 1936 issue of Blue Book magazine|
The “Tiny” David series is one of the hidden gems of 1930s Blue Book. If I find one in an issue, I’ll usually read it before going on to the other stories. These light-hearted adventures of the New York State Patrol usually bring a smile to my face as I read about "Tiny” David and his partner in crime and grime James Crosby and their long suffering commanding officer, Captain Field.
In this one, “Tiny” tries to pull a prank on James Crosby, only to have it rebound on him, thanks to Captain Field who manages to throw a monkey wrench in the plan. Less than half the story is about the troopers fighting crime, the rest is all about the eventful relationships between the various troopers, Read the beginning below:
FATE, working with tongue in cheek, set the stage. . . . Mr. Wooden-face Clafty shared the openly expressed belief of the district attorney that the City of New York would be better without him, and departed, bound for Canada. It was a long journey, and it was not lightened by the fact that Mr. Clafty was without funds or means of transportation. So it came to pass that Mr. Clafty was an uninvited guest at the palatial Adirondack camp of Harlow Wilkinston.
Mr. Clafty, not bothering to have his arrival announced, tarried in the garage, which was deserted for the moment. There his envious glance fell upon the largest and newest limousine. The car represented both transportation and a cash profit in the Canadian hot-car market. Mr. Clafty drove away with joy in his heart. . . .
At about the same time Sergeant James Crosby, on a roving patrol, and with five large counties to do his rambling about, decided to use the highway on which Mr. Wilkinston’s camp was located. Sergeant Crosby needed miles on his speedometer. He also needed postmarks, which were given him by obliging postmasters in the towns through which he passed. The miles and the postmarks were designed to convince Captain Charles Field, commanding officer of the Black Horse Troop of the New York State Police, that a certain sergeant was at least covering a lot of ground. Of course, if the said sergeant could turn up some business while covering the miles, so much the better.
The limousine and the troop-car met about three miles north of the camp. Mr. Wooden-face Clafty looked like business to Sergeant Crosby. Sergeant Crosby looked like disaster to Mr. Clafty, who at once proceeded to put distance between the two cars.
That decided Sergeant Crosby; he gave chase. That annoyed Mr. Clafty; he showed his annoyance by taking a pot-shot at Sergeant Crosby. That was Mr. Clafty’s big mistake, for as Sergeant Crosby had often pointed out, nothing annoyed him more than being shot at.
When the chase ended abruptly, Sergeant Crosby eased his annoyance by engaging in fistic combat with Mr. Clafty. This did not last long. It ended with Sergeant Crosby in possession of two automobiles, undamaged, and one prisoner, the latter item badly in need of a complete overhauling, and in such a state that only an optimistic repair-man would have guaranteed to restore Wooden-face to his original shape.
That was the state of affairs when Lieutenant Edward David, otherwise known as Tiny, appeared on the scene in answer to a telephone-call. The officer draped his huge form on the running-board of the limousine and surveyed the scene calmly and judicially.
“Looks as if he had distemper,” was his verdict. “Better take him to a veterinary.”
Sergeant Crosby nodded.
“Right.” He jerked a thumb at the limousine. “That kiddie-car belongs to old man Wilkinston, the banker. His place is about six miles down the road. How about running it back to him? He might need it. I’ll drop this stray at the pound, and then report in at the barracks.”
By this time Mr. Clafty was beginning to take interest in the proceedings.
“What’s the charge?” he demanded.
“No charge,” Sergeant Crosby assured him. “This is a cash transaction. You had one payment. Want another?”
Wooden-face was silent. That silence continued as Lieutenant David after telling the trooper driving his car to follow him, slipped behind the wheel of the limousine and drove off.
|Illustration by Monte Crews for Monkey Business - January, 1936 issue of Blue Book magazine|
Not reviewed as it’s not the beginning of the serial. Excellent drawings from Stoops.
The Story Thus Far:
ONE day the old man who had charge of Don Pascual’s stables came and told him that one of the stableboys, a Navajo slave called Juan, had been secretly riding the wild black stallion.
“I think the boy should be whipped at the post,” he told the Don. “In the first place, the stallion might have been injured. In the second place, the slave could easily have been killed, and he’s a strong boy of nineteen, worth five hundred dollars of anybody’s money.”
The boy was not whipped—not then. For the Don, like the other aristocrats who lived in the northern Rio Grande valley when it was a part of the young republic of Mexico, was an ardent horseman; and he was eager to see the wild stallion ridden.
Juan rode the stallion that no other man had ever ridden, and even won an important race with him. Perhaps the captive creature felt in Juan a kindred soul. . . . For Juan also was of good blood, and untamed—the son of a white woman taken captive by the Navajos, and raised as a Navajo until at the age of ten he had been taken in a raid by the Mexicans, and sold as an Indian slave to Don Pascual.
Later, however, the youth was whipped —tied to a post and beaten within an inch of his life. For Adelita, the spirited young second wife of Don Pascual, had smiled upon him. Perhaps she too was untamed, and saw in Juan a kindred soul. the horse and fell asleep behind a boulder. ... He was awakened by a hand on his shoulder—the hand of the bandit Lopez.
(The story continues in detail:)
"I AM Adolfo Lopez,” he said quietly, “and you are my prisoner. Who are you, and where do you come from ?” Juan stood silent.
“Oh—you have no tongue perhaps! Well, I will make you talk later. . . . Vamos!” he added, addressing the others.
He turned to Juan and smiled, showing his teeth. “If you try to run away, I will have to shoot you,” he said pleasantly.
All of the men had good horses, large and fat. Juan mounted one of them, and they all rode up the canón.
|Illustration by H. M. Stoops for Proud Rider - January, 1936 issue of Blue Book magazine|
|Illustration by H. M. Stoops for Proud Rider - January, 1936 issue of Blue Book magazine|
56 · High Wind [Lt. Hurley, Coast Guard Air Patrol] · Leland Jamieson · ss; illus. L. R. Gustavson (4/5)
The typical aviation stories of the pulps are of fearless pilots defeating the enemy airforce almost singlehandedly or in some other way overcoming an entire army of opponents. This very atypical story from Leland Jamieson is about a man confronting his fears in a hurricane that is literally tearing the plane apart.
Man versus the elements is one of my favorite scenarios and here the author puts you in the head of a professional pilot who is a passenger on the plane, and you can see what must happen to a plane that has no instruments and is entirely dependent on the pilot’s feel for the plane and the weather while flying into a hurricane with winds that are ripping palm trees out of the ground.
|Illustration by Leland R. Gustavson for High Wind - January, 1936 issue of Blue Book magazine|
Outside, the sky and clouds seemed to engulf us now. The plane seemed buried in the rain and mist. The wind, jarring us with each repeated gust, sent tremors through the wings. Looking out my window, I could see ripples pass out through the all-metal surface of the right one, could see the tip leap up and down in irregular vibration, flexing the whole structure, taxing it. Fear crept into me, stippling my skin with hot and cold sensations. I thought of the structural safety-factor of this craft, wondering how long any plane could stand such treatment. As a violent bump came, the engines’ pounding roar was broken suddenly, and silence flooded awfully into the cockpit, to be dispelled at last. The carburetor floats had been slammed up inside their bowls, shutting off the needle valves for a second and a half—it was that rough! The belts were necessary now; we were tight against them half the time.
How Bob Hurley could locate fishing-camps and boats in such a smother—how the camps and boats existed, even—I don’t know. I’m sure he had only a vague idea of where they were, beforehand. I think probably it was partly luck and partly Providence. We bored endlessly through a curtain of white haze, and every few minutes there would be a boat anchored in a windswept cove, or a shack or two set beneath some thrashing palms; and then always he would yell:
“Give ’em a bottle! Dead ahead! ”
THIS, I thought ironically, was what he meant by “work.” I don’t think he entertained a moment’s consideration of the danger to himself. He sat at the controls as calmly as if we had been on a prosaic flight across a corner of the Caribbean to pick up an injured seaman from a freighter, methodically throwing his weight against the rudder pedals as the wind slapped the tail wildly from one side to the other.
But I, frankly, was having to fight myself to keep a numbing fear from filling me with nausea. Considering the odds, as I cupped my fingers to light a cigarette, my hands were trembling almost uncontrollably. If a motor developed any kind of trouble and we sank into that ragged sea below us, we’d last only long enough to drown. If Bob misjudged his gusts a little, and one slapped us to the ground when he swooped low to throw a bottle out, we’d crash. Such thoughts scrubbed my nerves raw, until I thought I couldn’t stand it any longer. Pilots don’t make good passengers anyhow; they know too much about what’s going on. I finally yelled :
“Let me fly this crock awhile! ”
“You heave the bottles,” Bob said curtly. “You don’t know the keys as well as I do.”
I started to protest, but my mouth only opened and no words came, as a down-draft sucked us to within a hundred feet of a group of trees. Taking pity on me suddenly, Bob gave me the controls a little after that.
Flying, I could realize better what was happening. It was amazing how the gusts blasted into us. The ailerons snatched at the wheel, almost tearing off my thumbs, before I took a firmer grip. The rudder pedals set up a tattoo on my shoe soles, flexing my knees against my straining muscles. Yet being more aware than ever of the awful force that wind possessed, I was not now so much afraid. The concentration on this physical activity took my mind away from what might happen later on.
We lurched across Barnes Sound. The highway and then the railroad viaducts flashed beneath, half buried in the spindrift that was whipped up by the wind.
A fantastic story, in more ways than one. The author of this story was an American who graduated from college just in time to enlist in World War 1 as a marine. HE came back to the States after the war and became a journalist, returning to Europe as a reporter for the Chicago Tribune and the New York Herald Tribune in Paris. He was also a boxer.
This story is told from the perspective of a reporter covering a fencing match between Italy and France, with a drunk eccentric visitor in tow. To say more than that would be to spoil the story. Excellent drawings by Austin Briggs.
The city room was a madhouse. The Old Man was running wild, which is a daily occurrence at the deadline. Tony Blash was slow with the baseball stuff, a matter of faking a column story out of three or four lines of radiogram. The Old Man yelled some unpleasant things about Tony’s ancestors. Edna Barnes had pulled a boner. She had gone to the boat-train to meet Mary McLaughlin, the American soprano, and she had written a story that credited Mary with the wrong prince as a prospective husband. The Old Man tore up her copy, jumped up and down, bleating at Edna and cursing her in two languages. Emmett Marsh had just come up from the composing-room. He was shy some shorts and cap heads, and about half of the lead story —with only fifteen minutes to go. The Old Man let out an unintelligible roar. He waved his arms about like a rather sweaty fat butterfly, and complimented Marsh in four-letter words. What the hell was the make-up dummy for, anyhow? Who in blazes ever told Marsh he was a city editor, hey? And the Old Man wheezed, perspired, yelled, pounded his desk, swore, and put on his usual daily act in the best of tradition. He had been Commodore Bennett’s right-hand man in the old days; that explains him.
It was just at this choice minute the lanky specimen walked in. He couldn’t have made a more unfortunate entrance if he had timed it on purpose. He rolled in with his hands in his pockets, his pipe dangling, his greasy hat on the back of his head. He shuffled up to the Old Man just as that explosive and apoplectic dignitary was in the last throes of hysterics, and tapped him on his heaving chest.
“Hi, Skipper! Say, when you get your breath, tell me which one of these lads is called Marsh, will you ?” he said.
Well, it was funny, but it was 'tragic too. We were afraid for the Old Man, he might have a stroke. He didn’t have one, though. He whirled on the stranger. His eyes opened to the size of inkwells. His jaw dropped and his mouth gaped helplessly. Then the veins stood out on his forehead, and he yelled—yelled for half a minute steady, waving his arms.
Was the seedy stranger disconcerted? He was not. He sat down coolly, grinned, and when the Old Man had run down, he said:
“That isn’t what I asked you, Skipper. I’m looking for a bird named Marsh.”
|Illustration by Austin Briggs for Cyrano to you, gentlemen! - January, 1936 issue of Blue Book magazine|
Just then Emmett Marsh came over and came to the rescue before the Old Man should commit mayhem.
“I’m Marsh,” he said. “What do you want? We’re busy.”
“Noticed that,” said the lanky one, rising disjointedly. “Go ahead; I can wait.”
Marsh looked at him, dryly. “All right,” he said, without much enthusiasm. “Sit down somewhere. See you when we get to press. But for God’s sake, don’t bother anybody.”
THE man grinned in that ironical way and sat on the corner of a desk. He lighted his pipe again and watched the scramble. He looked a little like a laughing skull—except for his nose. His nose was perhaps the most remarkable part of him. I’m almost prepared to say that it was four inches long, and it came to a flat point like a chisel. And for the rest of his face, it was fantastically ugly, so ugly that it was almost attractive. He had bright, puckery little eyes, and a huge full-lipped mouth, but his cheeks were emaciated and drawn like a mummy’s. His English was perfect and rather American, but there was something about him that was not American at all, in spite of his shiny frayed tweeds and his look of a derelict newspaper man.
I can’t sympathize with the way the protagonist of the story earns his money - elephant poaching and ivory smuggling, but I can empathize with the theme of a man fighting to defend his earnings from arbitrary confiscation. Nothing exceptional, but the writer clearly knew the area he was writing about.
James E. Baum had a similar background to Gordon MacCreagh, having led hunting and animal collection expeditions in Africa. He was an expert on Ethiopia, having published a book, Savage Abyssinia, on his travels.
Another entry from the reliable H. Bedford-Jones in the Arms and Men series, which covered the development of weaponry over the ages, using historical incidents as the backdrop for the stories. This one is about the development of field artillery by Jan Žižka and has some action packed illustrations from John Clymer.
An old workhorse is to be put to death by the ranch owner. Predictable plot, but good description of a blizzard in the badlands:
where a blizzard looks like this (30 seconds into the video):
And the aftermath looks like this:
The brilliance of the morning had promised a fair and warmer day. But while the sun shone brightly, the temperature had fallen. Hourly it grew colder, and Dailey was glad he had exchanged his broad felt hat for a less comfortable but more useful cap. He wished now he had worn his shoes and overshoes instead of boots.
IN taking a short-cut over a high divide, he caught a glimpse of the western sky, and his lips puckered in a soundless whistle. There, from north to south, from horizon to horizon, stretched a blue-gray curtain. One glance was enough. He knew that phenomenon of old. It meant wind sweeping in from Montana and Saskatchewan. With the prairies and bad-lands covered deep with loose snow, it meant a blizzard; and he held no delusions regarding a blizzard.
From the threat in the sky, he looked down at the chaotic land through which he must pass, and at the bluff far in the distance that marked the end of the badlands and the beginning of the prairie. He knew he was in a tight place.
Properly equipped, he might bury himself in the snow, but he had nothing more than his saddle-blanket. Warmly dressed, he might pit his strength against the duration of a blizzard, but his clothes were inadequate. There wasn’t a house nearer than his own. To reach home, he must first win his way out of the badlands, a feat which taxed the resources of the average man in clear weather. Then would come the battle with the wind where it swept unbroken over the open prairie.
He judged the temperature around zero now, and it would be much colder when the wind struck. Cursing himself for carelessness did no good. He knew there was little chance of winning through, and yet there was nothing to do but try. Urging the bay to a reckless lope, reckless because of snow and ice and precipitous slopes, he began the battle for his life.
Already there was a noticeable change in the light. Streamers of mist, like leaping color bands from the Northern Lights, reached up out of the west and raced across the sun. The yellow light of afternoon changed to a sickly green. Under its alternately increasing and waning brightness, shadows of hills and peaks lengthened and deepened and paled. Clumps of gnarled sage, mushrooms of clay and rock, petrified trees, advanced and retreated, grew and shrank, before his eyes. It was unreal, ghostly, unearthly. The bad-lands seemed to have sprung into some hellish form of life.
Unused to the bad-lands and sensing the approaching storm, the bay became confused. He weaved badly, changing his course so often that Dailey dared not loosen the reins to pound his chilled fingers against the pommel of the saddle.
|Illustration by Peter Kuhlhoff for The Ghost of Old Missouri - January, 1936 issue of Blue Book magazine|
100 · The Corpse in the Stocks [Isaac Heron] · William J. Makin · ss Gipsy in Evening Dress, Eldon Press 1935; illus. John Richard Flanagan 1.5/5
The illustrations by John R. Flanagan are excellent. The plot for the story itself is very thin, though the denouément leaves just enough wiggle room for us to suspect that the real criminal has escaped the clutches of the law.
108 · Tarzan and the Immortal Men [Part 4 of 6; Tarzan] · Edgar Rice Burroughs · n.; illus. Frank Hoban
No review as I didn’t feel like reading through 6 issues. Frank Hoban’s Tarzan looks like a wimp.
|Illustration by Frank Hoban for Tarzan and the immortal men - January, 1936 issue of Blue Book magazine|
That’s all the fiction in this issue; at least so the authors claimed. The editor, Don Kennicott, had always encouraged readers to submit their real life experiences as short articles, and started including longer non-fiction articles with this issue. In my opinion, this issue would have been better off with some fiction instead, none of the following really stood out.
130 · To the Pole with Peary · Burt M. McConnell (as told by Matthew A. Henson) · nf; illus. Miller 2.5/5
|Illustration by Miller for To the pole with Peary - January, 1936 issue of Blue Book magazine|
A short account of the first recorded expedition that claimed to have reached the North Pole, led by Commander Peary. The account is told by an expedition member, Matthew Henson, and has some interesting observations on the reasons for Peary’s success:
134 · The Revenge of Black Jack · Samuel E. Kiser · nf 2.5/5
An incident from the Pennsylvania Oil Rush- the first big oil discovery in the USA. The author was an interesting man about whom I could write an article later.
136 · Refugees · Ivan Bezizvestieff · nf 2/5
An incident from the troubles in post world war 1 Europe following the Russian Revolution and the breakup of the Turkish empire.
141 · Ethiopian Trails · Alfred M. Bailey · nf 1.5/5
|Illustration for Ethiopian Trails - January, 1936 issue of Blue Book magazine|
A few anecdotes about the character of Ethiopians from an American ornithologist who was a member of a museum expedition there.
143 · The Fatal Feast · Tom McGrath · nf 1/5
|Illustration for The fatal feast - January, 1936 issue of Blue Book magazine|
An armed robbery at an Irish bar.