I'm going to take a break from writing memoir and go back and write a little bit about the pulps tonight.
The pulp Westerns peaked in popularity in the 1930s. During a twenty five year period from 1920 to 1945, over 160 different pulp Western magazines showed up on the newsstand at one time or another. At one point in 1940, there were at least 40 different Western magazines to choose from.
During the early days of the Great Depression, say 1930 through 1933, a lot of writers who wanted to break into the pulps and into Westerns in particular, packed their bags and moved to New York City, thinking that living in close proximity to the pulp publishers would give them a better chance of getting their stories published. A lot of these folks were novices when it came to knowing anything about the old West, the wild West, or anything that resembled that. Many of these people just went to the New York City Library and did their research there.
As a result, a lot of the stuff that got churned out during that time had a lot of historical errors and were of poor quality. John Dinan writes in his wonderful history "The Pulp Western," of the writer, who he recognizes as John Creasey, who put "wings on a coyote and legs on a buzzard" in one story. Dinan continues that the problem of factual errors in the Westerns reached almost epidemic proportions, to the point where the stories could only be read for "pure entertainment fiction."
Ironically, my grandfather, Paul Powers, writes in Pulp Writer, that the readers (at least of Wild West Weekly) were quite intolerable of historical inaccuracies in the stories of that magazine, and were not shy in letting the editors know. He writes in his introduction:
"The writer for the pulps needn't worry, anyhow, that his work won't be read. It will be thoroughly criticized too! The author must continually watch his step, and an error or even the semblance of an error will be immediately spotted by the clientele. The readers of pseudoscience and of sports are particularly keen witted, and the writer of a Western story who makes a mistake in the caliber, rotation motion, or trajectory of a Winchester rifle bullet will, before the storm if disapproval has subsided, feel like using one of the bullets on himself."
In all fairness, there were many writers who were the genuine deal. Walt Coburn immediately comes to mind, who grew up on a ranch in Montana and eventually would have his own magazines - two in fact: Walt Coburn Western and Walt Coburn Action Novels.
My grandfather was born and raised in Kansas. He dropped out of high school and spent many years hopping between Colorado and Kansas. Much of his time in Colorado was spent in the ghost towns around Denver and in towns like Blackhawk and Central City and the surrounding deserted mines. This photo of Blackhawk was taken in the early 1910s or 1920s. Once he started selling stories to Wild West Weekly, he decided that he wanted to live in the real West, not just write about it, and rightly thought that he would be a better writer if he had first-hand experience in the locale. So he moved to Tucson in 1929. then, during the next fifteen years, from 1929 to 1943, he moved himself and his young family fifteen times, all across the Southwest.
The Blacklin County Files
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