Ray Hogan – Outlaw Marshal (1959)


Vintage Western
Wild Wild West Reading Challenge #15
TBR #97
Date Finished: September 15, 2018

A failed prospector is heading back to Texas, but is identified as an escaped outlaw by a U.S. marshal who has lost his own prisoner and is looking to save face. Running into a young woman who is also leaving mining country after losing her father and brother, she too tries to escape one of the posse who has designs on her. They end up running together across the desert country, learning to trust each other, and attempting to avoid capture.

The story is well told and exciting, with enough internal character conflict to make them interesting. The title seems to refer to the U.S. marshal pursuing them, who isn’t a marshal at all but some small-town officer. This is hardly dwelt on, but seems intended to allow him to have a bad character and meet a just end. It seems unnecessary, but I suppose the readers of the time couldn’t be allowed to celebrate the defeat and death of a real U.S. marshal, so he had to be a fake one.


William Johnston – Get Smart Once Again! (1966)


Vintage Television Tie-In
Cloak and Dagger Challenge #122
TBR #96
Date Finished: September 13, 2018

Maxwell Smart is teamed with a female codebreaker, Peaches Twelvetrees, and sent with a stolen, coded KAOS Dooms Day plan away from headquarters for some mystifying reason, causing them to attempt to flee from Washington to New York while being pursued by a KAOS agent, Noman, who is a master of disguise.

The third in the series of Get Smart tie-in novels works okay as long as you read it slow enough in the voices of the TV characters, and also forget about the terrible jokes and the pointless plot. Rather tough to get through and disappointing when you do. Agent 99 is largely absent, allowing the other female character to take much of the action and goofiness.

After sitting on the shelf for 35 years, I end up reading two books from S&S Books of Sioux Falls almost back-to-back.

S&S Books Sioux Falls

Star Detective v02n04, July 1938


Vintage Pulp Magazine
Cloak and Dagger Challenge #121
Deal Me In Challenge: 4
Date Finished: September 11, 2018

This Red Circle detective pulp from 1938 features ten stories, leading off with the Deal-Me-In Challenge story “Beware the Devil’s Spy Ring!” by Frederick C. Painton. A seemingly meek former newspaper librarian and now columnist, Mr. Quaile has a photographic memory for facts and an ability to find the connections between various stories. Teaming up with a tougher reporter, they break up a spy ring with Mr. Quale’s smarts and Bill Gates’ muscle. I identify with the know-it-all librarian and very much enjoyed his unusual character. The latter chapters focus more on Gates’ muscle and are less interesting with his standard tough guy actions.

In “Public Servant’s Payoff” by J.A. Chambliss, a cop on his last day before retirement breaks all the rules to solve a case and get famous before he is put out to pasture.

In “Side Show to Hell” by Vance C. Criss, an undercover agent breaks up a dope ring by posing as a farm hand and catching the delivery truck. In “Murder’s Not Funny” by Dale Clark a police detective tries to solve a locked room murder at the state capitol when his only credible suspect was his friend’s daughter. “Gun Trap for a Money-Killer” by Roger Torrey also gets a cover blurb, as cops investigate a street corner killing with a brother-in-law as the too obvious killer. “Hot Cars” by Norman A. Daniels has another tough guy cop investigating a stole car ring with the cars hidden underground by a car elevator. “Bullet Bait” by H.C. Brokmeyer has another cop detective after the Phantom. “Something Shock” by Omar Gwinn tells of a murderer who failed to avoid his own just desserts. “Horror in the Ravine” by Brent North is supposedly a true crime story, fairly well done, telling of a rapist and murderer in Toronto. Finally, “A Cop Breaks the Law” by John Douglass Stolp tells of a beat cop who plots to get a killer on his own after the killer had escaped prosecution, only for justice to work out without him needing to break the law.

Of all of these, the Painton story is the best. The others all suffer from having the same prototypical generic tough cop as the protagonist. Most are short, but few try anything new. These Red Circle pulps would not have been the top of the line and did not attract the best stories or talent, though Painton’s, Torrey’s, and Daniels’ names are familiar. The Red Circle line was run by Martin Goodman, who eventually would develop Marvel Comics the following year. Among the company titles listed here are Complete Western Book, Complete Sports, Best Western, Best Sports, Star Detective, Star Sports, Real Confessions, Real Sports, as well as Western Novel and Short Stories, Western Short Stories, Western Fiction, Two-Gun Western, Six-Gun Western, and Quick Trigger Western Novels. Marvel would continue to do this with their early comics, running out multiple similar titles every other month to flood the newsstands with their product.

Kenneth Robeson – The Flaming Falcons (1939)


Vintage Pulp Reprint
Cloak and Dagger Challenge #120
Official 2018 TBR Pile Challenge #8
TBR #95
Date Finished: September 10, 2018

In the Arizona desert, an unusual tramp, Hobo Jones, meets a beautiful young woman, Fiesta Robertson, who is seeking information on her missing brother. The clues lead them to a number of thugs who employ strange birds that destroy by bursting into flame. This has something to do with strange inedible melons with the consistency of glue that originate in Southeast Asia, as does the curse of the flaming falcons, or as Fiesta calls them, “the witch’s chicken.” Fiesta calls in Doc Savage, who leads them to Southeast Asia in order to save the brother and find the secret to the fruit, the bird, and the plot.

This isn’t a bad Doc Savage story, with quirky enough characters in Hobo Jones and Fiesta Robertson to make the mystery strange enough. Unfortunately, as usually happens, the secret behind the flaming birds turns out to be relatively mundane, and the bad guys are fairly easily dispatched.

I’ve had this one for quite a while, probably from around 1983-1984, during a visit to Sioux Falls. I only remember visiting S&S Books once, but it looks like they are still operating there, originally opening in 1980.S&S Books Sioux Falls

April Kane and the Dragon Lady (1942)

AprilKaneandtheDragonLadyVintage Golden Age Juvenile
Date Finished: September 8, 2018

A Terry and the Pirates adventure adapted from the comic strip and featuring Terry, Pat Ryan, April Kane, Deeth Crispin III, Connie, Big Stoop, Barn De Plexus, Klang, and of course, the Dragon Lady. The story is adapted by an unnamed writer from Milton Caniff’s 1939 comic strip continuity. Terry is unable to dance, so is unable to escort April Kane to the governor’s reception in Hong Kong. Saving the Dragon Lady’s life, all he asks in return is for her to teach him how to dance. Hiding these lessons from Pat and April, he successfully attends the ball, but the ball ends with Terry, April, and Deeth as hostages in the Dragon Lady’s escape from invader forces into China. Pat follows and the crew gallantly fights the invaders to free China.

In the comic strip, this storyline seems to have run roughly from May to October 1939, and the plotting stays pretty close to the source material. The writing is not terrible for a juvenile adventure and, though there are some slow spots, the ending makes up for it with an exciting, well-paced conclusion. The artwork is based on Caniff’s work, but simplified, losing much of its uniqueness.


Fletcher Flora – Leave Her to Hell (1958)


Vintage Golden Age Mystery
Cloak and Dagger Challenge #119
Monthly Key Word: Leave
Date Finished: September 3, 2018

A private eye, Percy Hand, is hired by a beautiful woman to investigate the disappearance of her fiance’s last wife. It has been assumed that the wife ran away with the brother of a mobster, but the disappearance was out of character for both parties. When Hand starts getting pressure to drop the case, he stubbornly digs deeper.

A short, quick, moderately violent private eye novel that is not bad. Not great, but not bad. Most of these late 1950s private eye characters are largely interchangeable, and Hand is no different, being ethical, but poor. I don’t know that Flora ever used him again, but it seems strange to recreate this type of character every time.

2018 Monthly Key Words 2018-09-03

Ernest Haycox – A Rider of the High Mesa (1927)


Vintage Western
Wild Wild West Reading Challenge #14
TBR #93
Date Finished: September 3, 2018

A young rancher, Lin Ballou, seemingly does no ranching and spends his time supposedly prospecting in the High Mesa area. His suspicious activities soon cause him to be suspected of all the rustling that is plaguing the other ranchers. The actual rustlers are also actively trying to frame him. Meanwhile, a water diversion scheme is being promoted, but is really a plan to bankrupt the area farms and ranches so that one man can control it all. Can Lin foil this plot, prove his innocence, and win the girl?


Another exciting, fast moving western, which is the point, I guess. Not much character depth or deviation from the expected norms, but it sure is fun. Originally, this story appeared in the September 25, 1927 issue of Short Stories Magazine. Haycox was a regular contributor, as were many other western writers, such as W.C. Tuttle and William MacLeod Raine. Starting in 1890 and published twice a month for many years, it was one of the premiere fiction magazines in the pulp world and demonstrates the dominance of the western genre.