Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tall in the Saddle by Chuck Martin

Chuck Martin, or "Boot Hill Chuck Martin" as he was called, was one of the more prolific Western writers who pounded out oaters on his typewriter for the pulps during the 1920s and 1930s. He was in the million word a year category and was making an unbelievable $1,500 a month in 1929.

It's an understatement to say that Martin was a character. He was bigger than life, definitely bigger than the characters he wrote about. He had first hand experience as a cowboy before his writing days, and claimed to have fought with Pancho Villa and knew Wyatt Earp and the Dalton gang.

During his time writing for Wild West Weekly, Chuck was often talked about in the letters to the editor, not just because of his stories, but because of how he honored them. When Chuck had to kill off his characters, he 'buried' them in his own little graveyard out back on his ranch in California.

I have a fondness for Chuck, not just for his eccentricities and his colorful life, but because he was a staunch supporter of my grandfather. In Grandpa's personal papers are several letters from Chuck, in which he alternates between giving Grandpa sage advice about how to make a living after the pulps were on the decline (the letters were written in the late 1940s), to raging against editors and agents and the like.

So I just started reading "Tall in the Saddle," published as an Avon Western in 1958. Chuck died in 1954. According to Bill Pronzini in his book "Six-Gun in Cheek," four of Martin's novels were published posthumously, so this must be one of the four. I'll let you know what I think when I finish. All of my projects are progressing very slowly right now; it's baseball season again and I find myself watching way too much television. Somebody stop me!

The Tainted Archive recently reviewed "Montana Dead-Shot," for those of you who want to know about another Chuck Martin book. According to the Archive, that book was published in 1958, so it must be another of the four posthumous books.

There's so much more to Martin, but I think I'll save it for another time.