Monday, February 16, 2015

Checking In

The blog's been quiet for the past two weeks, but I've had good reasons. Ever since I moved into this new house the first of October, I've been wanting to get various projects done on the house. Some things needed to be done urgently (like getting the roof repaired), and other things were more cosmetic but really important to me to get them done. I can't stand living in a dingy house. But it seemed that it didn't matter what I did, I couldn't get any contractors to come out and even give me estimates. I'd have to wait WEEKS to get estimates on the roof; I waited 3 weeks for not one but two roofers to give me their estimates. Then, once I decided on who would do the job, then it was a waiting game to see when they could actually do the work. Is it me, or is this the way it is with everyone when they're trying to get work done??

Then, all of a sudden, the floodgates opened in January and they all appeared almost all at once.

Since the first of January, I've had 1) a third of the roof redone (including massive amounts of dry rot underneath removed and replaced with new wood) 2) new gutters installed, 3) the living room ceiling tiles pulled down (by me) and replaced with drywall, 4) crown molding installed, and 5) the exterior of the house repainted. Now I get to paint the living room, hopefully in the next two weeks before company shows up.

All of this in the past 6 weeks. But at least the house is somewhat less dingy, is waterproof, and is spruced up on the outside.

Now I must get cracking on my presentation on Daisy Bacon for the Popular Cultural Association / American Cultural Association convention in New Orleans the first of April. Which is fine, because I've run out of construction money for the time being and couldn't do any more work even if I wanted to.

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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Happy 110th Birthday: The Milestone WILD WEST WEEKLY issues

Happy 110th Birthday to my grandfather, Paul S. Powers. To commemorate his birthday, I have listed some milestones of his career with WILD WEST WEEKLY.

The first WILD WEST WEEKLY story, "The Whispering Gunman," appeared in the October 6, 1928 issue.

The first Kid Wolf story, "The Gunman of Monterey," appeared in the November 3, 1928.

The first Sonny Tabor story, "The Eleventh Notch," appeared in the July 6, 1929 issue.

The first Johnny Forty-five story, "The Fightin' Poet," appeared in the July 20, 1929 issue.

The first Freckles Malone story, "Pony Mail," appeared in the August 24, 1929 issue.

In the early years, issues would very frequently include two Paul Powers stories, one under a pseudonym and one under his real name. Here is one example in the November 15, 1930 issue. The two stories were "Kid Wolf and the Black Shadows," and "The Boot Hill Hombre."

In the February 14, 1931 issue, three stories appeared. The stories were "Sheriff Brimstone," "Pardners in the Little Annie," and "Kid Wolf at Misery Ranch."

Paul wrote many stories that were somewhat unique for WILD WEST WEEKLY, stories in which two WWW heroes appeared in the same story. Here is one, "Circle J Trails Sonny Tabor," that appeared in the March 18, 1933 issue.

This time the roles were reversed. "Sonny Tabor fights for Circle J," appeared in the April 7, 1934 issue.

Famous artist Walter Baumhofer painted a portrait of Sonny Tabor for the June 6, 1934 issue.

A Kid Wolf and Sonny Tabor duet appeared in the September 7, 1935 issue.

Norman Saunders created this classic cover for the November 12, 1938 issue. This was a rare instance when Sonny Tabor was paired with another hero from a completely different magazine, Pete Rice.

By 1940, drastic changes had taken place on the magazine, including the firing of Ronald Oliphant and the hiring of Jon Burr as editor. They had also changed the format of the magazine, including the use of clean edges, rather than the ragged edges of the classic pulp magazine. This is the December 7, 1940 issue.

The last issue of WILD WEST WEEKLY, November 1943, featured two Paul Powers stories: a Johnny Forty Five story, "Hog Legs for Range Hogs," and "Death Blots the Brands."

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Happy 110th Birthday Paul Powers Week: The Magazines, 1925-1929

Paul Powers is known mainly for the 440 stories he wrote for WILD WEST WEEKLY from 1928 to 1943. But he also had a career before and after his WILD WEST WEEKLY days. Before he started writing for WWW, he sold stories to WEIRD TALES, and after WWW stopped, he sold many stories to other western magazines.

The years before he started writing for WILD WEST WEEKLY in 1928 were pretty lean. While he did sell stories to WEIRD TALES, the amount he was paid was pretty small, and payment from the WEIRD TALES offices was usually delayed. To help supplement his income, Paul was also writing jokes for "fillers" for newspapers, as well as jokes for a regular periodical that he called "Laugh Factory" in his memoir. (He couldn't remember the name of the periodical, or chose to change the name.) That periodical was the one that kept Paul and his young family in beans for the first few years that he was writing.

Here are the covers of the magazines to which Paul sold stories before he started writing for WILD WEST WEEKLY.

WEIRD TALES, JUNE 1925, Story: "Monsters of the Pit"

WEIRD TALES, JULY 1925 Story: "The Death Cure"

WEIRD TALES, MARCH 1926; Story: "The Jungle Monsters"

WEIRD TALES, JUNE 1926; Story: "The Life Serum"


TEN STORY BOOK, FEBRUARY 1928; Story: "Jones Tells of His Trip to Mexico." (One Page)

WRITER'S DIGEST, September 1925; Article: "Save Your Rejection Slips."

Paul makes mention of this last article in WRITER'S DIGEST in PULP WRITER, calling it a "rather naive" article. But one thing I've learned about my grandfather is that he was frequently his own worst critic.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Happy 110th Birthday Paul Powers Week: The Story Behind the Stories

Many of you who have been following my blog for the duration know the story of how I discovered my grandfather's lost career as a pulp fiction writer during the Great Depression. In fact, you're probably pretty sick of it. But we've had a great many new followers join up over the past few weeks and it's a safe bet that most of them don't know this history. So old-timers, please humor me and let me summarize the story here in this post.

It's also the perfect time to tell this story again, as this is the Happy 110th Birthday week for Paul Powers and, as part of the celebration, we're detailing the documents that are in the Paul Powers personal papers that were donated to Ohio State University last year. Uncovering most of these document was the beginning of an incredible journey that began with one little artifact: a Little Big Book, that has led us to the publication of his memoir, PULP WRITER, and all of the collections of his stories we have published over the years.

Until 1999, I knew very little about my grandfather. As I grew up in the 1960s, my grandfather had disappeared from my life after my father, his first born son, died in 1964. For various reasons which I was not privy to at the time, my mother did not want us to maintain a relationship with Grandpa. I knew Grandpa had been a writer who had one Western novel, DOC DILLAHAY, published in 1949. But I didn't know of any other books written. My sisters had mentioned at one point that he had written for some "western magazines," but what they were or when they were published were facts long lost. One little book, what was called a Little Big Book, was the only piece of writing I had in my possession that was credited to my grandfather. It was entitled SPOOK RIDERS ON THE OVERLAND, and the author was a Ward M. Stevens.

I asked my sister who was Ward Stevens, and she said that was my grandfather's pen name. Being the youngest of four girls and in a family that didn't like to talk about anything that could threaten to upset anyone's apple cart, I didn't ask anything else about it.

In 1998, I was a college student at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. In my second year, I had to decide on a book for an American Studies class paper. Sitting in class, I thought of using DOC DILLAHAY as my subject. Something inside me told me that it was now or never to find out the real history behind my grandfather's life. The problem was that I didn't even have a copy of the book to read.

It was when the Internet was just starting to take hold as a research tool, and librarians were starting to encourage students to use it. It would change my life. Looking for a copy of DOC DILLAHAY, I thought it might be a good idea to search his pen name, Ward Stevens.

Four books popped up in the results. Two were Little Big Books, and two were published by Chelsea: KID WOLF, A WESTERN STORY and WANTED - SONNY TABOR. The Sonny Tabor book would prove to be the most important discovery of all because of where it would lead me.

A librarian at school helped me continue with my research. At one point, I felt that I was a dead end. Ok, so there were four books, two of which were little kid's books. Big deal. But then the librarian showed me what she found when she ran an Internet search for the name Sonny Tabor, but as a series, not as a title. That little detail changed everything. For what she found was this:

There were 18 scripts for a Sonny Tabor radio show at Syracuse University. Further research unveiled that Syracuse University was the holder of the archives for Street and Smith, the biggest publisher of pulp fiction for the duration of that phenomenon known as the pulp fiction magazine during the 1920s through the 1940s. Home of THE SHADOW, DOC SAVAGE, and several other extremely popular magazines.

With my mind whirling around the idea of my grandfather being a pulp fiction writer, I called Syracuse. Did they have any records of my grandfather writing for any of their magazines? They certainly did, and sent me copies of receipts of when he had been paid. There were receipts for 80 stories.

Only that was just the tip of the iceberg. I traveled to Syracuse after the end of the school year in 1999, and during three days I poured over the bookkeeping records of Street and Smith, and also looked at volumes and volumes and volumes of one of their magazines, WILD WEST WEEKLY. There weren't 80 stories - there were so many stories written by both Paul Powers and Ward Stevens that I couldn't even begin to count them all.

If that wasn't enough, during that same period, I was able to find the locations of my aunt and my uncle, my grandfather's surviving children. They were living in southern California. My aunt was so pleased to receive my letter and was more than happy to meet with me that summer. (My uncle, Tom, was suffering from dementia at that point and died in 2005.) And oh, by the way, she had two big boxes of my grandfather's personal papers to go through...they had been in her attic since he died in 1971. And believe it or not, his half-brother George and half-brother Phyllis were still alive. I met with them that summer.

When I met with my aunt that summer of 1999, we opened those two boxes. They were packed to the brim with every single kind of correspondence, pieces of paper with poetry, scrapbooks, and letters, dozens and dozens, from the editors of Street and Smith's WILD WEST WEEKLY magazine. Also enclosed was an unpublished manuscript which was the manuscript for PULP WRITER, his memoir of being a pulp fiction writer during the Depression. It had been written in 1943 and as far as we could tell, Grandpa had only sent it out to one publisher to try to get it published. They turned it down; it was "too soon" and no one was interested at the time in the history of the pulp magazines.

There were also dozens of other manuscripts of short stories that had never been published. And THEN, several years later in 2008, I found MORE unpublished stories.

Since 1999:

PULP WRITER: TWENTY YEARS IN THE AMERICAN GRUB STREET was published by the University of Nebraska Press in 2007. I wrote the Prologue and Epilogue in the book.

We have compiled two other collections of short stories and published them. RIDING THE PULP TRAIL is a collection of both published and unpublished western stories that were written in the years between 1943 and 1949. HIDDEN GHOSTS is a collection of his stories published in WEIRD TALES during 1925-26 (before he broke into WILD WEST WEEKLY), as well as other non-Western stories he wrote over the years. It's a collection of horror, thriller, noir, animal and non-fiction stories and many are some of my favorites.

Other stories have also been part of two BEAT TO A PULP collections.

Between 1999 and 2013, my aunt Pat and her husband Ted (who tragically passed away the day after Christmas, 2014) collected almost every WILD WEST WEEKLY issue in which a Paul Powers story appeared. He wrote over 440 stories for them between 1928 and 1943. Many of the issues had 2 of his stories, and a few times 3 of his stories appeared in one issue. Hence the reason why there are "only" 388 issues in the collection.

So there you have it. I hope you've enjoyed this story. I'm sure I've forgotten many details that I could have mentioned, but it's late. Besides, if you buy PULP WRITER, you'll get the whole gory story that's more detailed. All of the books I discussed are available for sale - you can just click on the images in the right sidebar to purchase them. All of them are available as e-books, and RIDING THE PULP TRAIL is also available as an audiobook.

Tomorrow I'll go back to writing about the collection.

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Happy 110th Birthday Week for Paul Powers

This Saturday, January 31, will mark my grandfather's 110th birthday. To commemorate this occasion, I'll be posting this week on various Paul Powers topics.

I'd like to start with a list of the Paul Powers personal papers that were donated to Ohio State University last year. This collection wouldn't have been possible without my aunt Pat and uncle Ted's hard work in compiling all of the WILD WEST WEEKLY issues, along with donating all of his personal papers that had been sitting in my aunt's attic for almost 30 years. Unfortunately the stories behind where Ted obtained these pieces are not known. Ted passed away last December 26, and I'm not sure if Pat knows the stories herself. If she does, it may be a while before I can ask her for more detail, if she remembers any.

Here is the list of magazines and documents in the collection. I'm a little under the weather tonight, but over the next week I'll go over some of the pieces in more detail. If you have any questions on any of the pieces, please feel free to leave your question in the comments.


5 issues of WEIRD TALES containing Paul Powers stories (June 1925, July 1925, March 1926 and June 1926)
470 issues of WILD WEST WEEKLY. Out of those issues, 388 contain Paul Powers stories
14 issues of magazines such as WESTERN STORY, THRILLING RANCH STORIES, etc. containing Paul Powers stories published from 1944 through 1949.
5 Big Little Books containing Paul Powers stories originally published in WILD WEST WEEKLY.

Original newspapers with two stories published in early 1920s. Stories are "Say It With Queens" and "Sleepy Hollow Gold." The stories are not complete (pages are missing).

180 Letters from editors of WWW, Street & Smith, 1928-1945
Fan letters from WWW readers
Letters from other writers (mainly Chuck Martin.)
Letters from other publishers/agents, such as Leo Margulies
Letters from Sydney Saunders, agent
Binders noting payment for stories (including 1 scrapbook)
Letters from MacMillan RE: DOC DILLAHAY
Fan letters for DOC DILLAHAY
Manuscript for beginning of sequel to DOC DILLAHAY
Misc. correspondence
Family correspondence
Letters from Paul to Mary, 1950 – 1958
Copies of LP’s research materials from Street & Smith archives
Original PULP WRITER manuscript
Original journal, 1951-53
Original manuscript and proof for DOC DILLAHAY
Unsold Manuscripts
Manuscripts published later (RIDING THE PULP TRAIL, HIDDEN GHOSTS)
1 Screenplay from Sonny Tabor Radio Series (copy from microfilm)
1 Large LP record of Sonny Tabor Radio Show
50 issues of WILD WEST WEEKLY, British version, ~1938-1939 (Bedsheet)
Art work (sketches, watercolor)
Boo Gulch Historical Society
Correspondence from Braille society and title page of DOC DILLAHAY in Braille
Photo copy of LIFE column, 8/9/28
Ledger with notes on writing stories
Ledger: record of MSS sent out

1 copy of DOC DILLAHAY
1 copy of SIX GUN DOCTOR

1 copy of NOT AT NIGHT (containing "Monsters in the Pit" story from WEIRD TALES)
1 copy of BOOK OF MONSTERS (containing "Monsters in the Pit" story)


If you'd like to celebrate Paul's birthday in some special way, you can purchase any of the reprints we've done over the past several years. There's also an audio book available of RIDING THE PULP TRAIL. Click on any of the links on the right to purchase them.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

HOW THE WEST WAS WRITTEN, Volume 2 now available

Ron Scheer over at Buddies in the Saddle has been writing extensively about western fiction for the past several years. Today he announced that the second volume of his book HOW THE WEST WAS WRITTEN is now available for purchase. Anyone who loves western fiction should have these books in their library - they are indispensable to the Western reader.

Here are the links to Volume 1 and Volume 2 on amazon.

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Saturday, January 17, 2015


I was delighted to see that my grandfather's book SIX GUN DOCTOR was featured on the Books from the Crypt website.

SIX GUN DOCTOR is the paperback version of DOC DILLAHAY, which was published in 1949 by Macmillan. I guess when Bantam released the paperback version in 1950, they felt that it needed a new title. You have to admit that SIX GUN DOCTOR is kind of catchy.

If you haven't checked out Books from the Crypt, they have a substantial inventory of paperbacks and pulps for sale.

Hat tip to Barry Traylor for letting me know about this post on Books from the Crypt today.

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