Saturday, September 4, 2010

SHORT STORIES: A Treasure-Trove of Good Westerns

For those who are just discovering the world of western short stories, it is tempting to overlook some of the pulp fiction magazines who published a mix of genres. Perhaps this is due to the overwhelming number of pulps that dominated the racks that were dedicated to printing strictly westerns, such as WESTERN STORY MAGAZINE, WILD WEST WEEKLY, DIME WESTERN, 44 WESTERN, THRILLING WESTERN, and on and on.

But ADVENTURE, THE POPULAR MAGAZINE, ARGOSY, ALL STORY all published some very fine westerns. And of all of the mixed-genre magazines, SHORT STORIES may be the one that could be nominated for publishing some of the finest western short stories of the 1920s and 1930s pulps.

SHORT STORIES started as a literary magazine in 1890 and many fine authors, such as Rudyard Kipling, Ivan Turgenev, Emile Zola and J.M. Barrie, graced its early pages. In 1910 the magazine was purchased by Doubleday and was turned into a pulp.

Clarence Mulford, J. Allan Dunn, William MacLeod Raine, W.C. Tuttle, Max Brand, H. Bedford Jones, B.M. Bower, Ernest Haycox, and Robert Ormond Case were some of the authors that wrote for SHORT STORIES. From 1926 on, SHORT STORIES was the official home of Hopalong Cassidy. During the 1920s, the magazine emphasized the Western more than any other genre, but as the 1930s progressed, adventure stories were seen more on the covers than the Westerns, but stories by Western authors could still be found in the issues.

During World War II, SHORT STORIES dedicated a lot of space to battle stories. It continued on until the late 1950s and eventually died off after several mutations including a digest size didn't improve circulation.

Those interested in finding good Western tales nowadays shouldn't overlook SHORT STORIES issues. I found my first two SHORT STORIES issues, the following two, in an antique store about ten years ago, for five bucks each.

Copies can still be found for very reasonable prices - I saw many of them at Pulp Fest, and I can pretty much guarantee that at the next convention you could walk out with an armful of SHORT STORIES for the same price that you'd pay for, say, a singular SPIDER issue or a DOC SAVAGE. Ask your favorite pulp dealer for copies (The Pulp.Net's Sources page is a good place to search for dealers) and look on eBay also.

Sources for this post: THE BLOOD 'N' THUNDER GUIDE TO COLLECTING PULPS. (Hulse, 2007).

Galactic Central web site and the Fiction Mags Index.

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Walker Martin said...

Laurie is absolutely right about SHORT STORIES which for almost three decades, 1921-1949, came out twice a month like clockwork, publishing the best in action, adventure, and western fiction. I've managed to find most issues and they are not expensive at all.

SHORT STORIES, during the Doubleday years, had two excellent companion magazines, both of which also published much quality western fiction. FRONTIER STORIES, 1924-1929 and WEST, 1926-1935, were published by Doubleday and the emphasis was on quality. Both titles continued into the 1940's but the new publishers paid lower word rates and thus did not publish the best writers.

Despite these magazines being very popular, they are just about forgotten nowadays but collectors in the know can still find inexpensive copies on ebay or at the pulp conventions, such as PulpFest or Windy City.

Deka Black said...

The Spider, jeje ;) But imust admit. the title hook me: "Short Stories2. I love short stories.Is like a glass of cold beer and a entire bottle. Both are good. But i like more the glass.

And i never grow tired of saying it: Short stories are one of the most importants forms of prose in modern literature, and in the case of the american one, one of the pillars of his prose.

Both in academic and, of course, more popular yarns.

Saind this, i think, digest-size is a good format for short stories.

Laurie Powers said...

Walker, I'm not sure about copies of WEST, but I'm thinking that copies of FRONTIER STORIES aren't as cheap?

Deka, I enjoy reading (and writing) short stories much more than novels.

Charles Gramlich said...

I wish reading and shorts were as popular now as they were then.

David Cranmer said...

I just love reading about this history.

Deka Black said...

Yeah Charles, you think same as me. never lose hope. Who knows?