Thursday, December 31, 2009

Laurie's Wild West's Favorite Posts of the Year

Seeing some of the lists flying around on the blogosphere today was too much temptation for me, and so here are my favorite posts that I did this year.

1. Favorite historical post: Movies in the Santa Clarita Valley Series. Favorite installment: Melody Ranch

2. Favorite book reviewed: The Tarnished Star by Jack Martin

3. Favorite pulp fiction post: Life With a Pulp Icon: an Interview with David Saunders

4. Favorite Pulp Cover Day: Lust in the Dust: The Western Romance Pulps with my favorite title shown here:

5. Favorite memoir essay: My Personal Experience with Mark Twain and Other Tales of Torment

6. Favorite Paul Powers essay: A Box of Manuscripts and Lessons Learned

6. Favorite post (based on # of reader comments): A THREE WAY TIE:
Hamburger Heaven, Tortured Love and a Question at the End

My Personal Experience with Mark Twain and Other Tales of Torment

My Favorite 1960s TV show: That Girl

Happy New Year everyone!

A Dream Come True for Western Enthusiasts

There's a great post today at Steve Myall's Western Fiction Review. If you recall, just yesterday I put this blog on my blogs of the week list. Now Steve has listed all of the Westerns he read and reviewed in 2009, and it's a long list because he read 100 of them.It's a great reference if you want to check out a current Western, particularly Black Horse Westerns.

Sailing Into 2010 with Some Pulp Covers

Happy New Year everyone! I think it's pretty safe to say that most of us are going to be VERY happy to see 2009 go into the dumpster.

I'm planning on 2010 to be a fantastic year, starting out with a trip to England in the next couple of months. I may be buying my ticket today. And to celebrate, I'm posting some pulp covers of one of my favorite symbols of travel: ships. I don't know if all of you know this, but I used to scuba dive quite a bit - was a instructor for a while - but that's another post. So ships, boats, catamarans, cruisers, sailboats, even six-packs and Zodiacs all bring back fond memories.

Now let's push off the dock and sail into 2010.

All Story, December 1905

Adventure, April 18, 1918

Argosy All Story Weekly, May 6, 1922

Sea Stories, November 20, 1922

Sea Stories, September 1924

Argosy All Story Weekly, November 8, 1924

Adventure, August 23, 1926.

Sea Stories, November 1926

Sea Stories, June 1929

Science Wonder Stories, July 1929

Argosy, September 20, 1930

Blue Book, March 1933

Blue Book, April 1936

Famous Fantastic Mysteries, June 1945

Railroad, September 1945

Dime Detective, April 1950

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Book Review: Liberty and a Law Badge by Chap O'Keefe

Liberty and a Law Badge
Chap O'Keefe
A Black Horse Extra Book, 2010

Ostensibly Liberty and a Law Badge is centered around Joshua Dillard, a disgraced Pinkerton detective hired sight unseen by cattle baron Barnaby Lant to investigate rustling of cattle from Lant's Flying L Ranch. But when Dillard arrives in town, he witnesses the beating and dumping of an old man, Crazy Bob McGill. When he starts to investigate the assault, Dillard finds himself in the middle of a wasp's nest of crooked lawmen who are in cohoots with Lant.

Dillard finds out that McGill was beaten because he was witness to a horrifying scene, one that would not play well with law abiding people. While playing Peeping Tom at Devil's Lake, McGill had discovered Sheriff Vickers, also known as "Dirty Dan" forcing a young woman, Liberty, to have sex with him. What made it even more horrible is that Liberty is McGill's daughter, a sweet young woman who had been blackmailed to preserve her husband, spineless rancher Tom Tolliver who had been caught changing a cattle brand with a running-iron. The prolonged kidnap and rape of Liberty, not only by Vickers but by others who join him later, is at the centerpiece of this book.

Like many people, I've never been comfortable reading scenes where sexual violence is inflicted on women, and I've been known to walk out of theatres during rape scenes. This may partly be due to the fact that I have two close friends that have been raped by strangers. I do not take the portrayal of rape in books or movies lightly, especially when the scenes are gratuitous or voyeuristic. So you can imagine how uncomfortable I felt when as I continued to read Liberty and a Law Badge, I realized that this problem between Liberty and Sheriff Vickers wasn't going to go away anytime soon.

But what kept me going was O'Keefe's sensitive approach to the scenes and his interweaving of the oppressive lives that women had to lead in the 19th century into the book. It also helps that Dillard's focus shifts instantly from dealing with the job that he was hired to do -- to investigate cattle rustling -- to finding a way to rescue Liberty from her plight in the cabin at Devils Lake. Believe me, there would have been men in the real 19th century west that would have shrugged off Vickers' dehumanization of Liberty as just being the way of the world. Dillard's determination to help Liberty as his number one priority endeared me to him forever.

It's an action-driven novel and a page turner that will keep you going until the very end. And the end is worth all of the discomfort you feel when reading about Liberty's helplessness: the ending is chaotic, surprising and actually pretty funny. Or maybe that's just my take on it because I love it when women who have been victimized come back and get theirs. Revenge can be so sweet.

Liberty and a Law Badge is available from and from Amazon and all other usual retailers.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Hump Day Hamburger Heaven: Great Review Sites, Story With No Name and an Update on the Manuscripts

Like Chandler in Friends used to say: Could that title be any longer??

Reviews, reviews, and more reviews are the name of that game this week. Here's some blogs I recommend for reviews of all types, and some other stuff. These bloggers are on fire this week.

Before I get into them, a short note to remind you that The Story With No Name, Part 22 will be featured on Ian Parnham's blog on Wednesday. He's also got Parts 1-21 there as well, so it's one of those rare weeks when you won't have to navigate the world to read the entire story.

Film: Scott Parker's blog has the best review of the current Sherlock Holmes movie I've seen yet. Plus he wrote some really remarkable reviews a few weeks ago on some of the Sherlock Holmes stories.

Western: Western Fiction Review is Steve Myall's fantastic spot for regular reviews of Westerns. This week he's got a review of RYDER OF THE HILLS by Robert Horton, which has just been released by Leisure Books and originally ran in several issues of WESTERN STORY MAGAZINE, and he even posted copies of the covers of those issues.

Pulp: Ron Fortier's Pulp Fiction Reviews is a new one for me, but I have a feeling that a lot of you know about it already. So excuse me for my tardiness in learning about this great site. Ron reviews all types of pulp: classics and modern. This week he reviews Hard Case Crime's recent release of THE VALLEY OF FEAR by Arthur Conan Doyle.

Writing: Sandra Seaman's My Little Corner is a mind boggling resource for writers. Just check out her links for writer's markets on the left side of her blog. Thanks for the tip, Paul Brazill.

Girly girl: Mary Corbet's Needle N Thread blog is an invaluable source for those of us who are still all thumbs, complete with a link showing you how-to videos on stitches. I love how she summarizes her blog posts and then gives you a link to the complete post if you want to read it. Makes for easy navigation to the sites you really want to read.

All Things Not Related: Bill Crider's Pop Culture Magazine is like Mary Corbet's style as well in that he gives you headlines and you click on them if you so wish. Except Bill's has the funniest, most outlandish current event stories out there. Every week I'm posting a comment on his blog that pretty much asks, "Bill, where do you get these stories???"

And one final note, an update from me. So far I've read about 8 of my grandfather's unpublished manuscripts that I told you about a while back, and I am very encouraged. While a few were less than thrilling, out of those 8 I have found 3 or 4 that I feel are really good. It seems that he couldn't wait to stop writing the formula fiction for Wild West Weekly and start having some fun with his writing again - and it shows.

Monday, December 28, 2009

My Favorite Wild West Weekly Covers (So Far)

Procrastination is a terrible thing. Well, at least it is for me. Right now I'm feeling overwhelmed by an avalanche of work, so I've decided to avoid all of it by creating yet another post featuring WILD WEST WEEKLY covers. But on the other hand, all of you benefit from this. I feel much better knowing that.

Here are my favorite WILD WEST WEEKLY covers. Some are for sentimental reasons, others just because I like the covers. Some of these you've seen on Wild West before, but others you haven't.

March 10, 1928. Only because it's the earliest cover I have, and I love the purple. No artist is credited, but I'm almost certain it's a Remington Schuyler.

December 7, 1929. This cover ended up being the cover on the KID WOLF OF TEXAS: A WESTERN STORY book. Artist: Remington Schuyler

May 17, 1930. One of my favorite Remington Schuyler covers.

August 8, 1931. I just love the horses. Artist: J. Rozen.

January 23, 1932. This has got to be my favorite Kid Wolf cover. There's not a whole lot going on, but Blizzard is so majestic and this looks to me like the real Kid Wolf. When I give presentations, this is one of the first covers I show in the Power Point presentation, and it always takes your breath away. Artist: H.W. Scott.

June 9, 1934. Hands down my favorite Sonny Tabor cover. Artist: none other than Walter Baumhofer. No wonder I like it.

May 29, 1937. Because it has my grandfather's real name on the cover, not a pseudonym. It's an exciting cover, very pulpy and very well done. Artist: H.W. Scott

November 12, 1938. 1938 and 1939 were bumper crops of really good covers, thanks to the likes of Norman Saunders and H.W. Scott. This one by Saunders is a dandy, and as some of you know by now, the original painting is part of Meatloaf's collection. He's got good taste.

December 10, 1938. Another Norman Saunders masterpiece. This one gets more compliments than any other cover when I post it.

December 24, 1938. The Christmas cover from that year, I bet this issue was very hard to resist on the newsstand. Artist: H.W. Scott

March 18, 1939. This is the only WILD WEST WEEKLY cover in PULP CULTURE, Frank Robinson's and Lawrence Davidson's award-winning book that's a tribute to the great pulp covers. Artist: H. W. Scott

June 15, 1940. Artistically, I like this one because it portrays a realistic cowboy, someone who could have been in a 1950s or 1960s television show. Sentimentally, I like it because it has a story by Grandpa's pal Chuck Martin featured on the cover. Artist: Robert Stanley

December 7, 1940. A mature Sonny Tabor and a exciting portrayal of Paint, and I love the lettering. Wild West Weekly all grown up. Artist: Leslie Ross.

January 24 1942. From 1941 to 1943, the pickings get pretty slim when it comes to quality covers. Many covers were reprints from earlier years. On this one, I'll admit the art work is pretty terrible, but it features one of my grandfather's lesser-known heroes: The Fightin Three of the Rockin T. Artist: uncredited.

November 1943. This one is picked for bittersweet reasons. Two of my grandfathers stories are featured in this issue, but it's also the last issue. Artist is uncredited on the Table of Contents page, but the signature reads "H. Parkhurst."

All right, I guess I can't avoid the work anymore. But wait! There's this really important television special on tonight about Louisa May Alcott. Did you know that she was a pulp writer too? Required viewing, I think.

A LOVE STORY Sampler and Daisy's Thoughts on The Pulp Romance Story

As some of you know, I'm interested in the life of Daisy Bacon, the editor of Street & Smith's LOVE STORY magazine. I recently purchased the August 28, 1937 issue of this enormously successful magazine and had a chance to start looking through it over the weekend.

What makes a successful romance story? Why would an editor like Daisy pick one story over another? In LOVE STORY WRITER, her book on writing for the romance pulps, Daisy says:

"To most writers, the love story appears to be the easiest and simplest of all story types to write. It revolves around an emotion which is so universally known and felt that even language is no barrier to it. Furthermore, it is a subject about which most people have some personal knowledge through their own experience in love affairs. Failing this, they can still see people all around them being attracted to each other and watch the smoothly running or stormy course of these attachments. it certainly seems that anyone who is so inclined shouldn't find it too difficult to sit down and turn out a love story. that is, provided he or she follows the routine which a writer is supposed to observe.

Yet, as is often the case with things which at first appear to be so easy on the surface, there seems to be some catch to it....Love is not a part of living that can be shut off from the rest of the world. You can't split up your life and say, "This is my love life, this is my business life, this is my social life," and so on. They are all too thoroughly bound up together and depend so much on each other.

A romantic situation and a glamorous setting, some scenes connected loosely by sentimental dialogue and constant mention of love-making do not constitute a love story; yet this is the belief held by most writers who start out to write love stories. I know, because I have read thousands of them during my editing years. I also know from the letters accompanying the manuscripts that most of these people were quite intelligent - perhaps I should say otherwise intelligent. If they went to the theatre and the playwright simply kept setting the stage with different scenes - no matter how amusing or how well acted - they would be able to see at once that he had no central theme for a play. Yet they have the fond delusion that by putting on the trimmings or dressing-up touches they have turned out a love story. The closer they are to the professional writing status, the more naive they are apt to seem about it."

That's just in the first five pages of LOVE STORY WRITER, a 167-page book on how to write romance stories. Daisy tells us quite frankly, right from the first page, that writing the romance isn't as easy as it may seem, and what constitutes a romance isn't as cut and dried as you'd think either.

Daisy continues:

"...I have given the matter a good deal of thought and I believe that these writers are not being contrary but that this is their honest conception which they have formed and which for some reason persists about writing a love story. More than any other story type, the love story is looked upon as a freak, which can be turned out without much thought or preparation. It is felt that any set of stock characters will answer the purpose as long as they fall in love and the heroine gets her ideal man or the hero wins the woman of his heart and that no matter how dull the story form, moonlight, white shoulders, and soft music will take care of that. As a matter of fact, the love story is all that any other story is - and a love story, too. The author must build up a story and create and carry on a love interest at the same time. Although the story will be motivated by the love angle, the writer can not be obvious about it and nothing will be gained by the mere repetition of love scenes if they have not already played their part in advancing the story. Here extra care must be exercised because while repetition is boring in any story, repetition of love scenes may become silly or downright ridiculous. It is not so much a question of the words of love but to what use they are put and some perfectly good love stories are written without using the word "love" at all."

So I looked at the August 28, 1937 issue of LOVE STORY with much interest.

First of all, in this issue there are two "continued novels," which are installments of serialized novels, one called "Beauty, a Novel in Six Parts, and "The Pretty One," in Eight Parts. There were no novelettes that were complete stories.

There were, however, six short stories. I read two of these over the weekend.

The first one, "Marriage of Convenience," by "Marie Hoyt," is about Chereen Andrews, who is furious that Frederick James has accused her of being a gold digger. Chereen and Freddy did date at one point. Before Freddy came along, Chereen was dating Don Andrews, a nice boy from a rich family who was hopelessly in love with Chereen. Chereen, although liking Don, never was in love with him and kept declining his many marriage proposals. So when Freddy came along, Chereen was swept off her feet. Chereen started seeing Freddy more and Don less. Don's heart was breaking, but he said nothing to Chereen.

And then Don was seriously burned in his father's foundry. Lying close to death in the hospital, Don asks Chereen in his final hours to marry him to make him happy, if only for the last few hours of his life. Chereen consents, much to the consternation of Freddy who found out later. Chereen also didn't know that Don had an enormous amount of money in his own name, which she inherited as the surviving spouse.

All this is told as backstory to Chereen's best friend Beth as Chereen tries to find a way to seek revenge on Freddy, who had exploded with rage when seeing Chereen at a party.

But Freddy James did not walk directly across the room and out through the other door. He came over and stood beside Chereen.
"Well," he said, "I see you're still able to fool some of Don's friends."
Chereen turned slowly and faced him. She wanted to keep her temper, but he said such horrible things, that it was hard.
"Don's friends all like me and understand, except you," she said.
"You mean none of them understand except me," he retorted. "None of them see through you. None of them realize that you're a cheap gold digger. I don't know how you fool them, but you do. Not one of them realizes that you're low, hard, selfish, shallow and -- "
Chereen swung her open hand to the side of his face with all the strength which anger could bring her. She didn't think of consequences; she only knew an overwhelming desire to hurt him, just as his words were hurting her.

Chereen then plans an elaborate plot to get back at Freddy. She has Beth's sweetheart Charlie come to her apartment. There, Beth takes photos of Charlie and Chereen in romantic poses, and some poses in which it appears that Charlie has tried to 'take advantage' of Chereen. Then, under false pretenses, Chereen lures Freddy to her apartment. While Freddy starts another verbal tirade against Chereen and her gold-digging ways, Beth hides behind a closet door and take photos of Freddy. Chereen, who is a photography enthusiast, then takes the photos and 'merges' them, so that Freddy's head is transposed onto Charlie's body.

Still with me?

Chereen then presents the photos to Freddy, who explodes with anger, thinking that Chereen is going to blackmail him. She has had other ideas all along, however.

"So I was right about you," he stormed. "You'd do anything for money. You'd sink to blackmail!"
They were both on their feet then.
"What do you want?" he shouted. "How much have I got to pay?"
"Frederick James," Chereen said, and she faced him, slim, straight and proud, "you've said a lot of things about me. They were all lies. I did this to show you that they were lies."
She paused, her breath coming very fast. "And I did it for this, too."
Deliberately, she took the negatives from her inside pocket, tore them once across, then threw them in Freddy's face.
Then she turned on her heel and walked out of the office.

But Chereen doesn't feel triumphant; she is just miserable. She knows, at that point, that as much as she hates Freddy, she loves him more. Later, when Freddy comes back to confess his true feelings, Chereen explains.

"You see, I was shameless. You see, I was desperate. I had to prove that I wasn't what - what you thought. My only chance seemed to be to get you where I could make you pay me money, and then let you off."
"Then - then," Freddy began incredulously, "you-you must have had some reason for wanting me to believe in you. Chereen, you don't - you can't love me?"
Chereen could only nod and whisper, "Oh, Freddy, for so very long!"
"Chereen! Dearest!" Then she was in his arms, and the sweetness of his kisses completely erased the misery of the past.

Another story, "Let's Talk It Over," by Lewis Salsburg, is a much more straightforward story, taking place in the workplace, in which the heroine, Gail, is hired over her fiance, Steve, for a management position. The fiance storms out and the heroine is forced to deal not only with a broken engagement but also a subordinate, Phillipa, who is now seeing Steve. Steve tests Gail later with a questionable errand that tests her ethical boundaries.
\Both of these stories deal with one person being tested, or being asked to 'prove' their love in various and sometimes elaborate schemes. I haven't read enough romance stories to know whether or not this is a standard or required part of a romance story.

I do know, however, that I'm going to go back and re-read LOVE STORY WRITER. Daisy's mysterious life may be only available in bits and pieces, but this book shows she was one smart cookie, no matter how simple or outlandish the stories in LOVE STORY are.

Reading these is a wonderful step back in time. I felt as if I was watching an early Joan Crawford or Claudette Colbert movie. And before we dismiss the romantic pulp, we should remember that many successful romance movies have pretty much the same skeleton for a story as the tales in LOVE STORY. The only difference is that one was produced on celluloid and one on pulp paper.

In my next post on this issue, I'll talk about one other short story, the poetry, and the regular columns.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Year of Transitions

Now that I've recuperated from the 6-hour drive and Christmas is over, I’m starting to decompress and I’ve had a chance to think about this past year.

It's been a year of transitions, that's for sure.

I moved into the house I’m currently renting on January 1, 2009. Before that I was living in a house I owned, struggling for three years to keep it. I eventually sold the house in a short sale, a process that lasted nine months. I left that house feeling that I had gone through a war. I was exhausted and depressed. I hadn't written anything in months.

I had two weeks last December to find a house to rent that would take three animals. I got lucky – I found a house, but it was a dump and from the minute I moved in, I knew I wouldn’t stay long. But while I was there, I wanted to make it comfortable. The backyard was completely barren – nothing but dead grass and dog crap that had not been picked up in a year. The first day, my best friend and I got busy and picked up the dog crap. I eventually planted a couple of trees. I started a vegetable garden. I watered the yard and the grass came back lush and green.

In the backyard there is a fenced off enclosure that the previous occupants had used for an enclosure for their dogs, but left it full of junk. I cleared it out and found myself a project. I turned it into a flower garden. I planted roses, lamb’s ears, foxgloves, black-eyed susans, daisies, lavenders, gardenias, columbines, sage, yarrow, herbs and Queen Anne’s Lace that grew five feet high. Morning glories completely covered one fence. When things had been planted, I put my wicker chair in there. I sat in there all spring and summer, reading, dabbling in a little writing, and just reflecting on how I got to this place in my life.

Over this past year, I made some wonderful friendships, both here locally and on the Internet. Some friendships deepened. Sadly, one friend died very suddenly. She was my movie buddy for many years, had mentored me in my previous job, and was there when I bought my first house.

I went to Pulp Fest, not expecting to meet as many wonderful people as I did and make as many friends. I reunited with some people, after many years, on Facebook.

I started to write again, slowly. Most of the writing was on my blog, and I found a community of people here on the Internet that supported my efforts and wrote comments. That kept me going. I began to get interested in some topics and started to feel excited again about writing. A lot of that is because of the comments I receive on my blog.

I’m still working, although my company went through three rounds of layoffs this year - over 25% of the company. I’ve spent most of this year trying to keep my head down and worrying about whether I will be next. It’s hard to get excited about work and stay focused with that going on.

Guess what. About a month ago I found out that the house I’m renting is now in foreclosure, so I’ll have to move again eventually. So the transitional house has fulfilled its destiny.

Although 2009 was a difficult year, some good things happened too. I’m looking to 2010 feeling more excited about a new year than I have in a long time. I’ve been through the war, have learned some valuable lessons, and have once again been reminded that as long as I have friends, I will be able to handle anything.

So, once again, I’d like to hear from you. Now that 2009 is almost over, what has this year has meant to you? What do you look forward to in 2010?

And thanks again for being there.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Pre-Road Trip Hamburger Heaven and Some Blue Book Covers

My blog will be dark for the next couple of days, but who knows - maybe I'll do a post here and there. But in the meantime I have one last Christmas post for you - some Christmas covers from Blue Book. Does anyone know if in these later years Blue Book was primarily a fiction magazine?

I'll be on the road in a few hours for the 5-6 hour trip to northern California. It sounds ghastly, but I've been doing it for so many years now - 20 years plus, that I don't even think about it that much any more. And if you are wondering why I don't fly, it doesn't make sense to do it. None of my relatives live near an airport. So if I decided to fly, I'd have to get to the airport 2 hours ahead of time, take the flight, have someone pick me up or go rent a car, and drive to the east bay which would take an hour. It all adds up to five hours.

Besides, I rented from the library some books on CD. One of which are a collection of Sherlock Holmes' short stories. That'll be fun to listen to.

Anyway, here are the Blue Book covers. Merry Christmas everyone!









Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Wishes and a Few Helpful Tips to Survive the Holiday

All of us at Laurie's Wild West want to wish you a happy holiday and want to pass along some helpful holiday tips.

Be generous at family gatherings, especially at the dinner table.

Take lots of deep, uninterrupted naps.

But always keep an ear out for Santa.

If you fall asleep in the armchair, try not to fall out.

If you have to play Santa, do it with a smile.

Try to take a few quiet moments to yourself to reflect on things.

Catch up on your reading....

But the pulpier, the better.

May you have a wonderful holiday full of love, laughter, peace and friendship.

Love, from Laurie, Annie, Xena and Albee.