Thursday, June 30, 2011

Turner Classic Movies Honors the Singing Cowboys in July

Speaking of Singing Cowboys, Turner Classic Movies is highlighting singing cowboy music every Friday night in July. This is going to be a real tribute, with not just Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, but Tex Ritter, Jimmy Wakely, Dick Foran, Monte Hale, Herb Jeffries, Ken Maynard and Rex Allen, too.

The TCM website says:

In honor of Roy Rogers in the 100th anniversary year of his birth, and also to salute all those dozens of other movie heroes of the Old West who were comfortable with a six-shooter in one hand and a guitar in the other, every Friday this month we'll be honoring the entire fraternity. Throughout July, instead of putting our TCM spotlight on a single star, we'll be shining it on nine "singing cowboys," beginning July 1 with five movies starring Rogers (first up: 1944's Cowboy and the Senorita, Roy's first film with future wife Dale Evans), later focusing on Autry, Tex Ritter, Jimmy Wakely, Dick Foran, Monte Hale and Herb Jeffries, who in the 1950s became a top-selling recording star after having been the first African American "singing cowboy" in a series of so-called "race movies" specifically made in the 1930s and 1940s for black audiences in black neighborhoods in that segregated time.

We'll also have films with Ken Maynard, who in 1930 became the first Western actor to actually sing in a Western movie. Also Rex Allen, the man considered the last of the genre; he signed off on his big screen career in the mid 1950s. So every Friday this month, we invite you to take off them boots, sit back and enjoy a look to the past and a vanishing breed of movie and movie hero -- fellows with honor, integrity, saddle-sores, spurs and songs, and who, true to the code of the West, rarely ever kissed the leading lady. See you at the corral.

You can go to TCM to get the actual programming. From my guide, I can see that tomorrow, July 1, is featuring Roy Rogers & Co. The following are being shown:

COWBOY AND THE SENORITA (1944): 5 PM Pacific/8 PM Eastern
DON'T FENCE ME IN (1945): 6:30 PM Pacific / 9:30 PM Eastern
MY PAL TRIGGER: (1946): 7:45 pm Pacific / 10:45 PM Eastern
THE GOLDEN STALLION (1947): 9:15 PM Pacific / 12:45 AM Eastern
TRIGGER, JR. (1950): 10:30 PM Pacific / 1:30 AM Eastern

So set reminders or program your DVRs so you can watch them over the weekend. If you're like me, you're going to love watching these on Saturday morning, just like when we were kids.

Special thanks to Barry Traylor for brining this to my attention! I would've hated missing this.

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Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Pulp Resource Like None Other

Speaking of PulpFest, the Links page on the PulpFest web site has grown into being a phenomenal page of resources. Anyone wanting to know anything and everything about the history of pulp fiction and what's going on in the community today should bookmark this page.

As just one example, in the Connections section, there is this video interview with Walter Gibson, writer of THE SHADOW stories.

I think the PulpFest planning committee, and in particular Barry Traylor and Mike Chomko, deserve applause for putting this page together and maintaining it. I know from personal experience that these kind of pages can be a lot of work.

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Saturday, June 25, 2011

In Anticipation of PulpFest....

....I've cleaned out a shelf.

Although my budget will certainly be limited this year, I have made up a Wish List of pulps I hope to find at PulpFest. These would be LOVE STORY,




Oh, and of course BLACK MASK and DIME DETECTIVE, especially those with stories by D.L. Champion.

Some (or all) of you are probably shaking your heads at some of the choices my wish list. All I can say is: I have my reasons.

For information on PulpFest 2011, which is from July 29 through July 31 in Columbus, Ohio, go here.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Tarnished Pulp Western: BLUE RIBBON WESTERN

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 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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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Checking In.

I'm starting to feel better, so I think I'll be able to revive the blog by this weekend. In case anyone's wondering what the heck's been up, it's basically been my neck. Hey, that rhymes,...kind of...

But seriously, I've been suffering from head and neck pain for several months. It was getting so bad that I could not find a comfortable way to work on the computer for more than 5 minutes or so without suffering from headaches and/or neck pain. A lot of my issues are exacerbated because I'm on the computer for 8+ hours every day. And I write on my own time, too, you know.

But I have been going through intense physical therapy so I can get back to work and writing. But there's no magic bullet. And I guess like a lot of physical therapy, there's no steady improvement - there's ups and downs and backsliding and frustration. I'm also having to change almost everything about how I go about my day: and how I stand, how I sit, how I walk, how I read, how I think about things - because it all affects our bodies in one way or another. One by one, we are trying to tackle everything I have been doing wrong for the past 50+ years. Oh yeah, and I'm getting new glasses. I have to do so many exercises now that I told my physical therapist "stop - I can't remember all of these!"

But as she told me, at least we're tackling it. She said that if I didn't do something I would have to retire, and that scared the hell out of me. (Not that I don't like the idea of retiring, but it's a little too early for that!)

This is about all I can do for now. I'll do something over the weekend, promise. There's so much to write about, like PulpFest and so many other events and goings on. I'm also in the middle of proofing the new RIDING THE PULP TRAIL. In addition, this movie is coming out tomorrow:

Everyone have a good weekend!

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Thursday, June 9, 2011


I'm a little under the weather so please excuse my irregular posts right now. But please check back frequently, because I have all kinds of things planned coming up: not one but two new Western Pulp posts, information about PulpFest and the panels, book reviews, news about RIDING THE PULP TRAIL, and more. Plus more of the self-indulgent rants about my life that I know you all love.


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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

If I could only say one thing today, this would be it.

TRUE GRIT, the 2010 version, was released on DVD today. Get yer copy here on Amazon.

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Saturday, June 4, 2011

RIDING THE PULP TRAIL is on the horizon!

Received news from Matt Moring at Altus Press yesterday that he's sending me the new book RIDING THE PULP TRAIL in the mail so I can do a final proof on it.

So it's pretty safe to say that RTPT will be available for sale at PulpFest. I'll have a table there, so any of you who are planning on coming, stop by to get your autographed copy. (Autographed by me, not my grandfather, obviously!) I'll also have copies of PULP WRITER there so if you want a signed copy I'll be glad to accommodate that request as well.

This is really exciting!

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Friday, June 3, 2011

James Arness - What He Meant To All of Us

By now we all know of the passing of James Arness. But I don't think it's really sunk in as to how much of a loss this is. What did James Arness and GUNSMOKE all mean to you?

Rest In Peace, Marshall.

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Photo Finish Friday: Hay-on-Wye

In honor of the Hay Festival which is in its last days right now (it's running until Sunday, June 5), here's one of my favorite photos from my visit there in 2004. I was very happy to find that they are still listed on the official Hay-on-Wye web site.

This photo was originally taken with a God-forsaken point-and-shoot film camera and later scanned. The frustration over the lack of freedom I had with a point-and-shoot on this trip was the impetus for me getting a digital SLR the next year.

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Hidden Wetland

Yesterday I took Annie for a walk along a short bike path close by my house. It's really a short trail that kind of dead ends in the middle of nowhere. A row of apartment buildings border it on one side; on the other is a small arroyo with rows of trees that hide what's on the other side, which is probably a boulevard.

So it's pleasant, but certainly not "away from it all." Still, I like taking Annie there because it's very restful in the late afternoon and in the summer is the place to be if you like spectacular sunsets.

Another reason I like it is because hidden behind some non-descript bushes is a very small pond which I guess could qualify as a wetland. It's so small that I didn't even know it was there the first several times I walked the path.

These are a few photos I took yesterday. I could have taken a lot more, but it was getting late. Note the watchful eye of the bird in the last photo: he/she crossed my path on my way back to the car.

Wetlands are one of my favorite natural areas to visit, and I'm not quite sure why. Maybe it's because they don't seem like much on the surface, but if you just sit and pay attention, they can be full of surprises.

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