Last month I posted about the three stories from ROCKET'S RED GLARE that are going to be reprinted in THE YEAR'S BEST MILITARY AND ADVENTURE SF, VOLUME 4, published later this year by Baen Books. You can now read editor David Afsharirad's introduction to this anthology here. There are more stories from ROCKET'S RED GLARE in this book than from any other source, and I'm very proud of that fact. I'm also proud of all the other great stories in ROCKET'S RED GLARE, and it's still available in ebook and print editions from Rough Edges Press, of course.
When I was a kid, I was a fan of Tex Ritter’s movies and
watched many of them on TV. Unlike Roy, Gene, and Hoppy, though, ol’ Tex is one
of the B-Western stars whose work I haven’t revisited much as an adult. Based
on my recent viewing of his 1937 feature TROUBLE IN TEXAS, I think I probably
ought to remedy that.
This picture finds Tex playing Tex Masters, a drifting cowpoke and rodeo
competitor who’s actually on the trail of the gang responsible for his
brother’s death several years earlier. This gang travels around taking part in
various rodeos, and one of them, Squint Palmer (Yakima Canutt), always takes
the top prize money because the gang murders anybody who could beat him. This
is what happened to Tex Masters’ brother.
Unknown to Tex, who’s accompanied by his boastful sidekick Lucky (Horace
Murphy), the law is also after the rodeo gang and has an undercover agent
working the case: a beautiful young woman named Carmen (Rita Cansino, who,
after this movie, would be billed under another name—Rita Hayworth). Tex falls
for her, of course, but he believes that she’s really a member of the gang,
which causes some complications. After a lot of rodeo action, Tex gets the
proof he needs to expose the gang as his brother’s killers, which leads to an
epic chase scene as several members of the gang flee on a wagon.
TROUBLE IN TEXAS is an unofficial remake of a 1934 John Wayne movie, THE MAN
FROM UTAH, and uses a lot of the same rodeo stock footage as the earlier
picture. Too much stock footage, in my opinion, because those scenes go on and
on. I would have tightened those up and maybe cut one or two of Tex’s songs,
even though I do like his singing. Other than those quibbles, though, this is a
pretty darned entertaining B-Western. Yakima Canutt really works overtime in
this one, with stunt after stunt including some great stuff in that final
chase. The other main villains are played by Earl Dwire and the always fun to
watch Charles King. Glenn Strange, who usually played a bad guy, is the local
sheriff in this one and looks great, although he doesn’t have much to do. And
Rita Hayworth is, well, Rita Hayworth. Yowza, in other words.
This movie was directed by Robert N. Bradbury, whose low-budget Westerns were
usually better than they had any right to be, always well-paced and with decent
scripts. Bradbury (who was Bob Steele’s father) also directed the earlier John
Wayne film THE MAN FROM UTAH, so he was certainly familiar with the material.
Other than the over-abundance of stock footage, TROUBLE IN TEXAS is a pleasure
I realize I haven’t said much about Tex himself. Round-faced and a little on
the beefy side, he’s not the prototypical B-Western cowboy star, but gosh darn
it, he’s a likable galoot, with screen presence, a good singing voice, and
enough athletic ability to look convincing in the fight scenes and on
horseback. I need to look through my collections of B-Westerns and see if I
have any more starring him, because I think I might like to watch another one
before too much longer.
While in Florida on vacation, Lt. Al Wheeler tangles with a redhead with green eyes who is "Nobody's girl but my own!"... Her club-owning gangster boyfriend, who is involved in some very shady business... and his gorilla henchman, who is seven feet of muscle and bone, just waiting for the chance to crush him to a pulp when Al becomes the decoy sent in to bring their racket down.
BOOTY FOR A BABE
When Lt. Al Wheeler tries to solve a murder at a science fiction convention he discovers a professor who wants to stop time by tricking the elusive Delfs... meets an intellectual gangster who wants to get his hands on the professor's latest invention... is frustrated by the generously proportioned convention organizer, who somehow manages to keep one step ahead of Al's wolfish designs.
EVE, IT'S EXTORTION
Which finds Lt. Al Wheeler trying to solve a hit-and-run murder involving the victim's wife, who is all too glad to have lost her lush of a husband... the beautiful skip-tracer who tracked down the victim right before he met his untimely end... and her dubious boyfriend who may not be as innocent as he professes, but is certainly up to no good.
Another great cover by Norman Saunders on this issue of LONE WOLF DETECTIVE MAGAZINE, and his is probably the only real name associated with this issue. I say this because the stories inside are by Ralph Powers, Cliff Howe, Ronald Flagg, Paul Adams, Grant Mason (all house-names, and the stories are probably all retitled reprints), and Francis J. McTeague, whose story in this issue is his only credit in the Fictionmags Index, leading me to think that may be a house-name, too. Anyway, Francis J. McTeague just sounds like a pseudonym to me. Francis, if you or any of your relatives are out there reading this, my apologies for doubting you, and please let me know.
This issue of WESTERN TRAILS features novelettes by two of the most dependable Western pulpsters, L.P. Holmes and Lee Bond, along with stories by Orlando Rigoni, an author whose books I've seen around forever without reading any of them (something I plan to change in the relatively near future), Clint Douglas (a house-name), and several other authors I haven't heard of before. I'd read this issue just for Holmes and Bond, though, and any other good stories would be a bonus.
WHITE SAVAGE may be my favorite of the Ki-Gor novels so far.
Originally published in the Fall 1941 issue of JUNGLE STORIES, this yarn finds
Ki-Gor and his beautiful redheaded American wife Helene affected by the spread
of World War II into Africa, as they encounter some sinister Italians before
running afoul of an even more dangerous lost race. It’s difficult to explain
too much about the plot of this one without venturing too far into spoiler
territory, so I’ll just say that this is easily the creepiest Ki-Gor novel yet.
It’s pretty well written, too, by an unknown author with a smooth, fast-paced,
evocative style. The way it’s structured is a bit of a problem, because it
comes across like one novelette crammed into the middle of another novelette to
make a full-length novel, but the author handles this deftly enough that it
Ki-Gor’s sidekick Tembu George, who has become one of my favorite pulp
characters, makes a brief but important appearance, as does good old Marmo the
elephant. Best of all, Helene, while not quite the badass of the early books,
is much tougher and competent in this story and actually has stuff to do,
instead of just standing around looking beautiful and getting kidnapped, as she
does in some of the other novels.
With this novel and the previous one, KI-GOR—AND THE TEMPLE OF THE MOON GOD, I
get the feeling that this series is starting to hit its stride. The next volume
in the reprint series from Altus Press is on its way to me, and I’m looking
forward to it. In the meantime, I’d recommend WHITE SAVAGE to anyone looking
for an exciting jungle pulp yarn.
Although there were a few directed by other hands, Roy Rogers movies generally fall into two distinct groups: those directed by Joseph Kane and those directed by William Witney. Kane came first, as he helmed most of Roy's pictures for the first decade of his career. Generally speaking again, the Kane-directed movies are more musically oriented, with half a dozen songs in each one and even some elaborate production numbers, while the Witney-directed movies have more complex plots and concentrate on hardboiled action. As I've said many times before, I prefer Witney, but there's a lot to like about many of the Kane movies, too. THE YELLOW ROSE OF TEXAS was directed by Kane, and at least it has a plausible plot reason for all the song-and-dance stuff: much of it takes place on a showboat where Roy (playing Roy Rogers) and Dale (playing a character named Betty Weston) work as entertainers. As the movie opens, the boat, which is named the Yellow Rose of Texas, is pulling into Prairie City, which holds some bad memories for Betty. She used to live there, until her father was accused of stealing a payroll and sent to prison. Now she finds out that he has escaped recently, and the law believes he'll try to get in touch with her, so they're keeping an eye on her. I don't think anybody reading this is going to believe that Dale Evans' father would ever steal a payroll, and you're not going to be surprised that Roy winds up trying to catch the real crooks so he can clear the old guy's name. The script by Jack Townley actually has one nice twist to it, but it tips its hand 'way too early, as far as I'm concerned. A revelation about one character should have come much later in the film. Roy doesn't really have a sidekick in this one, either, unless you count character actor William Haade, who plays an old friend of his named Buster. Haade is okay, but he's no Gabby Hayes or Andy Devine or Smiley Burnette. Heck, Gordon Jones as Splinters McGonigle is a better sidekick. But I digress . . . I like riverboat stuff, so I enjoyed THE YELLOW ROSE OF TEXAS even though the boat is docked for most of the movie. The plot is fairly interesting, Bob Nolan and the Sons of the Pioneers are on hand and good as usual, and although the movie could have used more action, what there is of it is handled well. This is a minor entry, probably more for Roy Rogers completists than casual fans, but I enjoyed it.
Bob Randisi’s Rat Pack books are some of the most
entertaining mystery novels currently being published. The latest one, I ONLY
HAVE LIES FOR YOU, is out from Pro Se Productions, and it continues the
excellence of this very strong series.
The narrator/protagonist of these books is Eddie Gianelli, better known as
Eddie G., a former pit boss at the Sands casino in Las Vegas who has evolved
into kind of a fixer and troubleshooter for the celebrities and high rollers
who frequent the casino. In this novel, Eddie travels to Miami Beach with Frank
Sinatra to meet Jackie Gleason. At first this seems like an innocent trip,
little more than a vacation, but then June Taylor (of the June Taylor Dancers,
featured on Gleason’s TV show) asks Eddie to look into the problem of someone
who’s stalking her sister Marilyn, also a dancer on the show and maybe not so
coincidentally, Jackie Gleason’s long-time mistress.
Eddie has barely gotten started on this favor when a dead body shows up, and
there’ll be more murders later on, including that of a police detective, as the
action bounces back and forth between Las Vegas, Miami Beach, and other
locations in Florida. Eddie gets help from Jerry Epstein, a very likable
character despite his connections to the Mob, and Vegas PI Danny Bardini.
Randisi confronts them with plot twist after plot twist, but in the end the
complicated affair all makes sense . . . but not until Eddie has risked his
life to expose a killer.
As always with a Randisi book, I ONLY HAVE LIES FOR YOU is fast-paced and
driven by fine dialogue. An added element in the Rat Pack series is his
excellent depiction of the era, which I also remember quite well. (Bob and I
are about the same age.) I recall watching and enjoying Jackie Gleason’s
variety show on Saturday night. My dad always enjoyed the bits featuring
Gleason as Joe the Bartender and Frank Fontaine as Crazy Guggenheim, and I did,
too. In a period mystery, getting the details right is a tricky business, and
so is not overdoing such details. Randisi nails both of those things in this
series. I really enjoyed I ONLY HAVE LIES FOR YOU. If you’ve never read any of
the Rat Pack books, it would work fine as an introduction, and if you have,
you’ll definitely want to read this one, too.
This issue of DETECTIVE NOVELS sports about as busy a pulp cover as you'll see. The lead story is a Candid Camera Kid novel by Norman A. Daniels writing as John L. Benton. I've read several of the Candid Camera Kid stories, featuring diminutive but two-fisted newspaper photographer Jerry Wade, and I found them very enjoyable. If somebody wanted to reprint that series, I wouldn't mind at all and certainly would buy such volumes. Also in this issue is a story by my old mentor, Sam Merwin Jr., and yarns by a couple of writers I'm not familiar with, Victor Hailey and Louis Owens. But for me, this issue would be worth reading just for the Daniels and Merwin stories.
Two novellas take up most of the pages in this issue of COMPLETE WESTERN BOOK MAGAZINE, and fortunately they're by two top-notch pulpsters, Will Ermine (who was really Harry Sinclair Drago) and James P. Olsen (who was really James P. Olsen but was also very prolific under the name James A. Lawson). There are also short stories by the distinctively named Carmony Gove, who wrote a lot for various Western and detective pulps, and Bob Marsh, not a distinctive name at all and also not very prolific with only three stories in the Fictionmags Index. I've enjoyed everything I've read by Drago and Olsen, though, under their real names or whatever pseudonyms they were using, so I suspect this is a pretty good issue. I like the title of Olsen's story, "Mad Dash for Hell".