BLUE RIBBON WESTERN was a pulp issued by Blue Ribbon Magazines, an imprint of Columbia Publishing. There were only two issues in its first year, 1937, in July and October. This pattern of meager offerings continued until all the way until 1944, when the magazine abruptly picked up steam and started printing issues almost every other month. This continued until its last year, 1950, when only two issues were released.
BLUE RIBBON, in my mind, is mainly memorable for what was said about it in the pulp collector's Bible, THE BLOOD N THUNDER GUIDE TO COLLECTING PULPS. In there, Ed Hulse makes no bones about how he feels about this magazine and others released by Columbia:
We list these titles only to warn you off them. Columbia was the bottom of the pulp-industry barrel, a house that single-handedly proved the validity of Sturgeon's Law: ninety percent of everything is crap.
Looking at it a little more philosophically, you could look at BLUE RIBBON WESTERN as a good example of how publishers were willing to print anything to cash in on the pulp phenomenon. You could also acquire BLUE RIBBON if you're particularly interested in examples of stories written by some of the most prolific Western writers of the time, like Archie Joscelyn.
Archie Joscelyn wrote for what seems every single Western pulp that ever existed. Many of his stories appeared in WESTERN STORY, and may have had the longest career starting in 1926 and continuing until 1957. Not only was Joscelyn a prolific pulp writer (100+ stories), he also wrote 54 Phoenix Press Westerns, 49 novels under his own name, a hundred more under the pseudonyms, Lynn Westland, Al Code, and Tex Holt. He also wrote over 200 romance, mystery, and juvenile novels.
Bill Pronzini writes in SIX-GUN IN CHEEK, which is a wonderful poke at the horrors of the pulp Western and those who wrote them, about Joscelyn:
"A native Montanan, Joscelyn was once quoted as saying: "I chased cayuses from the back of others; smelt burning hair from the branding iron and rode all day behind half-tamed dogies with the barbed wire steadily encroaching. And then I tried to put some of it down on paper - to catch something of that lingering whisper out of the past, a bit of the remaining glory of a golden age.
To a certain extent, he succeeded in his aim."
BLUE RIBBON also printed many stories by Kenneth C. Wood, who wrote for many other, more respectable pulps like SHORT STORIES and ARGOSY in the 1930s. Indeed, Wood was a regular with SHORT STORIES until the 1940s, when it seems that he went exclusively Western.
You may not be familiar with the name Ben Gardner, but if you've picked up a Western pulp, you've probably seen the name Gunnison Steele, his pseudonym. Gardner was probably as prolific as Joscelyn when it came to pulp stories, if not more.
There also many examples written by Chuck Martin, a loyal friend of my grandfathers and a character in his own right, and T.W. Ford. In addition, BLUE RIBBON reprinted stories occasionally, such as Harry Sinclair Drago's "Wanted!" that originally appeared in MUNSEY'S December 1927 issue.
Indeed, BLUE RIBBON WESTERN is a prime example of the sunset years of the Western pulp magazine of the late 1940s, rather than the golden years of the 1920s and 30s. But, like some late WILD WEST WEEKLY issues, some of the stories may sound like they were written while the author was sleepwalking, and I bet that's not far from the truth for many of these writers who wrote 24/7 for years, even decades.
BLUE RIBBON has its place in pulp history just like WESTERN STORY, WILD WEST WEEKLY, and DIME WESTERN. I'm sure that amongst the manure, there are some stories that are like tarnished silver - they just need some appreciation and a positive outlook on the part of the reader to shine. Reading BLUE RIBBON can also be good for current Western writers to learn what not to do when writing a Western.
BLUE RIBBON may not be found all that easily, but then they probably won't cost much. Many times you can find pulps like this in a lot of pulp Westerns being sold on eBay.
But the best bet for finding obscure pulps like these is to come to one of the conventions, like PulpFest next month in Columbus. I can tell you from experience that there will be countless bins of pulp Westerns (along with romances and other genres) that can be bought quite cheaply, many times only for a buck or two each. So the conventions aren't just about the rare and expensive pulps like THE SPIDER, DOC SAVAGE, DIME DETECTIVE, and BLACK MASK. It's a place where any and all titles can be found, regardless of their place in the hierarchy of quality.
Here are some other BLUE RIBBON WESTERN covers.
Sources for this post:
THE BLOOD N THUNDER GUIDE TO COLLECTING PULPS (Ed Hulse, Murania Press, 2007)
THE ADVENTURE HOUSE GUIDE TO THE PULPS (Ellis, Locke, Gunnison; Adventure House, 2000)
SIX GUN IN CHEEK (Bill Pronzini, Crossover Press, 1997)
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