Today is the first day of Spring — although you’d never know it here in northern New Jersey, where we’re expecting three to five inches of snow—so it’s time for our Spring Cleaning Sale. Accordingly, prices on most items in our Collectibles for Sale section have been reduced by 20 to 25 percent, effective until March 31st. Items listed at $10.00 or less will remain available at those prices.
Although we’ve sold a fair amount of books and magazines listed during the last month or so, many desirable items are still available, and now at bargain prices. This includes a number of scarce and high-grade Arkham House books, as well as other vintage hardcovers, fanzines, dime novels, and monster magazines, along with choice issues of such highly collectable pulps as The Shadow, Doc Savage, Astounding Science Fiction, Blue Book, Famous Fantastic Mysteries, Startling Stories, and Thrilling Wonder Stories.
Just remember that the discounted prices include shipping within the U.S. only; international customers will pay extra for shipping.
Last week, as the result of an overstock situation, I offered two-volume sets of Murania Press books dealing with silent-era movie serials: Distressed Damsels and Masked Marauders, a history of the form, and The Perils of Pauline: Centennial Edition, our reprinting of the 1914 novelization of the classic chapter play that made Pearl White an international star. I priced the set at $40.00 (which included shipping to domestic buyers), a savings of 20 percent off the combined list price of those books.
To my surprise, all but two of the overstocked sets have sold, so if you were thinking about getting one, this is your last chance.
Although it’s been a long time between issues of Blood ‘n’ Thunder and volumes in our Classic Pulp Reprints series, that doesn’t mean we haven’t been planning and working on Murania’s 2015 slate of releases. The planned double issue of BnT has ballooned into another triple issue (but without a book-length novel this time) that will debut at next month’s Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention. I’ll have more to say about the issue in a future post. Today let’s concentrate on the upcoming Classic Pulp Reprints releases.
First up will be J. Allan Dunn’s The Island, his 1922 sequel to Barehanded Castaways, which was the second book in our reprint line. Island, like Castaways before it, originally appeared in Adventure magazine and—quite inexplicably—never saw publication between hard covers in America. It continued the saga of men with widely differing backgrounds coming together to survive on a small Pacific island after being shipwrecked. Barehanded Castaways ended with a handful of survivors attempting a return to civilization on a sturdy sea-raft while several of their comrades stayed behind. The Island picks up where the earlier tale left off and is every bit as engrossing as its predecessor. The Murania Press edition has a similar design to our Castaways, even to using the same N. C. Wyeth painting for the cover, so that buyers can instantly see that it’s a companion volume to the first story. Look for it next month.
Next in the series is what I believe to be one of the unsung great pulp yarns of the early Thirties, originally published in a 1933 issue of the Popular Publications magazine Dime Mystery Book. Written by William Corcoran and titled The Purple Eye, it’s a 60,000-word novel that could very well have been the template for later hero pulps from Harry Steeger’s Popular. Corcoran is largely forgotten today, but he was a successful fictioneer who wrote for most of the major detective pulps (Black Mask, Detective Story, and Detective Fiction Weekly among them), the top anthology pulps (including Argosy, Short Stories, and Adventure, which he briefly edited), and some of the best slicks (Liberty, Cosmopolitan, and The American Magazine).
The Purple Eye has as its protagonist one of those globe-trotting millionaire adventurers so common in the hero pulps. Wayne Saxon returns to New York City from a round-the-world trip to find his home town terrorized by a crime cult, The Brotherhood of Baktuun, headed by the brilliant but seldom-seen Purple Eye. The police prove unable to halt the Brotherhood’s depredations, and Saxon combats the Eye’s murderous followers with the aid of a vigilante band known as The Secret Hundred. The Purple Eye moves like a runaway train and crackles with action, and after reading it you’ll wonder why this glittering little gem isn’t better known by pulp aficionados.
Coming later this year is our Johnston McCulley Collection, three volumes of crime and mystery yarns written by the creator of Zorro and originally published in Street & Smith’s Detective Story Magazine. I’ve chosen novel-length compilations of novelettes featuring favorite McCulley series characters. These books are Alias The Thunderbolt, The Return of Black Star, and The Spider Spins His Web. Each volume will include a specially commissioned essay on the prolific author. Thunderbolt and Spider reprint the first three installments of their respective series, while Black Star contains novelettes from that series’ third year. I’ll share more information on this trio as their publication draws closer.
Finally, this year will see publication of the first “double” volume in the Classic Pulp Reprints line. Two by Sheehan (that’s just a tentative title; I hope to come up with something snappier) will offer a brace of exemplary short novels written by Perley Poore Sheehan for the Munsey pulps: 1913’s The Copper Princess and 1915’s The Abyss of Wonders. Neither story is easy to categorize, but together they offer enough fantasy, mystery, melodrama, science fiction, and lost-race adventure to satisfy any fan of pulp fiction. Unlike many pulpateers of the Teens, Sheehan wrote in a fresh, vibrant style that makes his novels eminently readable a hundred years after they first saw print. Two by Sheehan will also include a long essay covering not only Sheehan’s pulp career but also his long involvement with Hollywood. The books in our Classic Pulp Reprints line generally sell for $19.95 each, but this one will carry a retail price of $24.95.
We’ve bitten off a lot to chew on for 2015 but, like I said earlier, work on these books is already well underway. Keep checking back here for further information and release dates.
A popular and prolific purveyor of pulp fiction, George Frank Worts was born in Toledo, Ohio, on this day in 1892. There was little about his upbringing to suggest that he would eventually become a ubiquitous presence in such notable rough-paper magazines as Argosy, Blue Book, and Short Stories. The most adventurous thing he had ever done was “punch brass”—operate a wireless radio set—aboard ships that sailed up and down the Central American coast.
During one fateful voyage Worts made the acquaintance of a writer who, as he later said, “painted the joys of free-lancing so vividly that I could not resist the call.” Soon thereafter he abandoned seafaring life to attend Columbia University. He completed his freshman year and then dropped out to accept a job as motion picture editor for the New York Evening Mail. In 1916, at the age of 24, he served as associate editor of Motion Picture News, one of the film industry’s leading trade journals. It was while toiling for the News that he began writing fiction on the side.
Worts sold his first story to The Argosy in 1917. It was published under the name Loring Brent because he didn’t want News editor William A. Johnston to know he was moonlighting. (Johnston, Worts recalled years later, “thought I fell asleep at my desk because I was working so hard for him!”)
When the income from his fiction writing surpassed his salary from Motion Picture News, Worts quit his job and began freelancing full time. The Argosy remained his top market but he also cracked the top slicks: Collier’s, Red Book, and the Saturday Evening Post all carried yarns by Worts. Yet it was work for the pulps commanded most of his time and effort.
“Peter the Brazen,” a six-part series published in late 1918 issues of Argosy, introduced the intrepid protagonist who became Worts’ best-remembered series character. Peter Moore was a ship’s wireless operator of unusual skill. Rumor had it he could “read a message in the receivers when the ordinary operator could detect only an indistinct scratching sound.” Although he was said to have worked all over the Pacific Ocean and in South America, Peter habitually manned a wireless on board the steamship Latonia, which sailed from the west coast of the United States to Hong Kong and ports south.
Like most pulp heroes Peter Moore had a knack for attracting women and trouble in equal measure. His first major adversary was the Gray Dragon, one of numerous Fu Manchu imitators who slithered across pulp pages in those days. The Dragon was summarily dispatched and late in 1919 Peter the Brazen returned to Argosy in “The Golden Cat,” this time pitted against the malevolent Fong-Chi-Ah, who coveted an ancient and fabulously valuable necklace adorned with a cat-shaped charm of gold.
Worts suffused his tales with atmosphere, painting vivid word-pictures with brief but pointed descriptive passages. He transported readers to the Orient with adventures that stretched the bounds of credulity yet captured the imagination of thrill-seeking readers. No one would mistake him for a great literary talent, but like the best pulpateers Worts was a gifted storyteller with a knack for grinding out page-turners with admirable regularity.
Peter the Brazen went into hibernation for a decade after appearing in “The Golden Cat,” but his creator returned to the pages of Argosy and its successor, Argosy All-Story Weekly, throughout the Twenties with stories of every type and genre. One of the more memorable was 1927’s “The Return of George Washington,” in which a great scientist claims to have found a method of regenerating human tissue from long-buried remains. His process is supposedly used on the skeleton of our first president, whose reappearance shocks a jaded nation. It all turns out to be a hoax, with “Washington” unmasked as a dull-witted hillbilly bearing an amazing resemblance to the nation’s father.
Worts revived Peter the Brazen in early 1930 at the behest of Argosy editor A. H. Bittner, who dusted off several long-dormant series characters, such as John Solomon and Semi-Dual, in a bid to recapture the allegiance of readers who had deserted the magazine. Peter Moore’s Thirties exploits were, if anything, more fantastic—but they crackled with action and excitement. He battled another Chinese master villain, the Blue Scorpion, in a trio of rapid-fire stories published between 1931 and 1933, and enjoyed many other adventures until 1935.
During this period Worts also wrote of slick lawyer Gillian Hazeltine and two-fisted Singapore Sammy Shay; the latter first appeared in Short Stories but eventually made his way into Argosy. These characters warrant further examination but will have to wait for a future blog post.
George F. Worts slowed down in the late Thirties, perhaps having finally exhausted his voluminous store of story ideas. Having married and divorced twice, he took a third wife and moved to Hawaii, doing public relations work and becoming a Collier’s correspondent during World War II. Worts returned to the States after the war and for a time lived in Arizona, editing Tucson magazine during the early Fifties. Unlike many of his fellow pulpateers, Worts invested wisely; his real estate holdings were extensive and provided him with enough income to travel widely. He died in 1968, leaving behind a dozen books and hundreds of stories now remembered only by pulp-fiction aficionados.
Recently I printed some extra copies of Distressed Damsels and Masked Marauders and The Perils of Pauline: Centennial Edition for a Pearl White birthday commemoration organized by the Fort Lee Film Commission. Unfortunately, circumstances arising at the last minute prevented me from attending the event (which, I’m told, packed the venue), and as a result I’m in an overstock situation on these two books.
So for a limited time—a very limited time—I’m offering both books as a set for $40, shipping included, which represents a 20 percent discount. Distressed Damsels is the first book in my two-volume history of American movie serials of the silent-film era. The Perils of Pauline reprints the original 1914 novelization of the iconic chapter play, which made Pearl White an international star. The novel is preceded by my 5,000-word essay on the making of Pauline, a behind-the-scenes account every bit as interesting as the serial itself.
This offer is good only for as long as it takes to liquidate the sets I have on hand . . . and I don’t imagine that will be very long. You can order your own set here.
I’ve just added another batch of rare pulps and pulp-related books to the Collectibles For Sale section, including several bound volumes of the legendary Black Mask (previously owned by the magazine’s editor, Kenneth White), three collections of Johnston McCulley novelettes originally published in Detective Story Magazine, and a classic 1936 issue of The Shadow Magazine in high grade. And I’ve added a sharp copy of the first mass-market collection of Black Mask stories, The Hard-boiled Omnibus.
The Black Mask bound volumes include 18 consecutive issues from September 1943 through May 1946. The provenance alone should make these three books very desirable, but I realize that many collectors would be satisfied to own just one of them, so being in an experimental mood I’m also offering the third volume in the sequence by itself. If it sells before the lot of three, I’ll list the others singly as well.
Aside from being in exceptionally nice condition, the Black Mask books cover an historically important period in the magazine’s development. By this time Mask was no longer the hard-boiled, rat-a-tat-tat pulp edited by “Cap” Shaw; it had settled into a medium-boiled mode, with fairly orthodox murder puzzles solved predominantly by private eyes. Under Ken White the prose was no longer terse or chiseled, and the detectives often boasted amusing eccentricities. Leslie Charteris’ The Saint and Brett Halliday’s Michael Shayne are two of the well-known super sleuths found in these mid-Forties issues, many of which sport striking woman-in-distress covers painted by Rafael de Soto, a past master at this sort of thing.
The Johnston McCulley books, published by Street & Smith subsidiary Chelsea House, reprint the adventures of his popular series characters created for Detective Story Magazine: Black Star, The Spider, The Thunderbolt. These yarns, now difficult to find in their original pulp-magazine appearances, hardly match the quality of Black Mask fiction edited by Cap Shaw and Ken White, but they have many of the qualities of later hero pulps and therefore still have adherents today. The Chelsea House hardcovers are nearly as tough to find as Teens issues of Detective Story, and they’re almost impossible to get in jacket. The copies I’m selling, while well read, are perfectly sound, eminently collectable, and—in my opinion—fairly priced given their scarcity these days.
The April 1, 1936 issue of The Shadow Magazine carries one of the most memorable novels in the history of this long-running pulp. Reportedly, “The Salamanders” was commissioned by editor John Nanovic as a reaction to the action-packed adventures of the Spider, whose Popular Publications magazine was giving The Shadow some stiff competition. In my view, Walter Gibson was simply incapable of emulating Spider scribe Norvell Page, and while “Salamanders” was well received by faithful fans—ranking high in the first poll of reader favorites taken in 1937—it was by and large a one-off. Perhaps for that reason, and for the striking George Rozen cover, the April 1, 1936 number remains quite desirable. The copy I’m offering is a high-grade beauty marred only by a small chip in the front cover.
There’s still lots of good stuff available in the Collectibles section; check it out.
If you’re a film buff who spends a fair amount of time watching the Turner Classic Movies channel, you’re probably familiar with Flicker Alley. Originally a small boutique DVD label that offered rare and obscure silent films to hard-core collectors, they have broadened their activities to include full-scale restorations and marketing of archival gems sourced from around the world. Many of their efforts appear on TCM. Their latest project is an English-titled release of La Maison du Mystère (The House of Mystery), a 1923 French silent serial directed by Alexandre Volkoff and starring the distinguished Russian actor Ivan Mosjoukine. Like many chapter plays produced in France during the silent era, Maison du Mystère eschewed the American model of fast action and daredevil stuntwork, preferring instead to tell its melodramatic story — which unfolds over an 18-year period— at a more leisurely pace. It’s a remarkable film, perhaps not blood-n-thundery enough for some tastes but extremely fascinating in its own right.
Flicker Alley asked me to be their most recent guest blogger and I’ve just filed a piece on silent serials,which you can read here under the title “Careers, Cliffhangers, and Commerce: The Serial’s Place in Film History.” I’m looking forward to their upcoming DVD release of Mystère, which will be previewed later this year at the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention.
I’ve just added a slew of terrific pulp-related books to the Collectibles for Sale section, among them some avidly pursued Arkham House/Mycroft & Moran first editions. Hodgson’s The House on the Borderland, Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror and Others, Seabury Quinn’s The Phantom-Fighter, and Carl Jacobi’s Revelations in Black are just a few of these books, most of them in high grade and some like new.
I’ve also listed a pristine copy of Mysterious Press’ 1984 hardcover The Shadow and the Golden Master, which reprinted the first two Shiwan Khan novels in facsimile with the original Edd Cartier illustrations and a new introduction by Walter B. Gibson.
You’ll also find a gorgeous copy of the definitive Hugh B. Cave collection, Murgunstrumm and Others, which reprints Hugh’s very best stories from the horror pulps. This copy is one of a limited number containing a bookplate signed by Cave and illustrator Lee Brown Coye.
Additionally, I have several unopened Girasol facsimile reprints of Terror Tales priced at $20 each; these sell for $35 from the publisher. If you’ve been curious about these great issues from the magazine’s sex-n-sadism phase, you can get them now for little more than half what they normally sell for.
Of course, I still have quite a few nice pulps and related items left from previous updates, and if you look carefully I wouldn’t be surprised bu that you’ll find something you’ve just got to have. Happy hunting!
Exactly 100 years ago today, a fiction reader scanning the magazine rack at his local newsstand might very well have seen the February 1915 issue of Blue Book, one of the classic pulps. That particular issue was an important one, because it contained the debut story of a contributor whose name would become synonymous with the magazine’s title.
Today’s pulp-fiction devotees, born during the Baby Boom years (1946 to 1964), are too young to have bought rough-paper magazines on the newsstands and therefore gravitate primarily to those characters whose life spans were extended by Sixties paperback reprints and frequent appearances in other media: Conan, Tarzan, Doc Savage, The Shadow, and so on. Lester Dent, Walter B. Gibson, and Robert E. Howard are lionized in the fan press, and justifiably so. But they were not pioneers; they trod paths already well worn by the generation of pulpateers that preceded them. And of those, one loomed larger than most of his contemporaries.
Born in 1887, Henry James O’Brien Bedford-Jones spent his early months in Ontario, Canada, the family moving to Michigan when he was barely a year old. The future fictioneer showed an aptitude for writing as a public-school student, and he matriculated at Toronto’s Trinity College but dropped out after one year to pursue a career in journalism. As H. Bedford-Jones, he contributed to newspapers in Detroit and Chicago before turning his hand to fiction. His earliest short stories appeared in Frank A. Munsey’s pioneering pulp magazine, The Argosy, during 1909. He was not quite 22 years old when editor Matthew White purchased them. Published under the pseudonym “H. E. Twinells,” these initial efforts revealed him to be a born storyteller, if not a literary wunderkind.
Over the next few years Bedford-Jones threw himself headlong into full-time fiction writing, placing additional yarns with The Argosy and its sister pulp, The All-Story (later All-Story Weekly), as well as Street & Smith’s People’s Magazine, Top-Notch Magazine, and New Story Magazine. In a 1914 Argosy two-parter, “The Gate of Farewell,” he created what would become his most popular recurring character: John Solomon, the outwardly amiable, innocuous-looking Cockney who was actually a capable covert operative of the British government.
Of Bedford-Jones’ early output his biographer Peter Ruber had this to say: “His writing style during those years was remarkably fluid and polished; his imaginative storytelling ability far superior to many of his contemporaries, and a significant number of those stories are not as dated, nor the dialogue as stilted, as might be expected.”
Late in 1914 Bedford-Jones submitted a book-length novel to The Blue Book Magazine, an up-and-coming sheet published by Louis Eckstein’s Story-Press Corporation. Edited by Ray Long with the assistance of young Donald Kennicott, Blue Book was finally hitting its stride after several years of relative mediocrity. Long purchased the yarn from Bedford-Jones, beginning the author’s decades-long relationship with the magazine that would become his most reliable market. A rousing adventure set in early 19th-century America, The Wilderness Trail saw print in the February 1915 issue alongside tales by such popular fictioneers as H. Rider Haggard, E. Phillips Oppenheim, Ellis Parker Butler, and Albert Payson Terhune.
Over the next 34 years H. Bedford-Jones sold Blue Book an astounding 360 stories, including another five complete-in-one-issue novels and seven serialized novels. He was prolific in every genre but seemed to have a special affinity for historical adventures. Although he had no trouble selling to Long’s successor, Karl Harriman, it was Blue Book’s next editor, Donald Kennicott, who bought the most Bedford-Jones stories—some 280, of all lengths, between 1935 and 1949.
Having gone through a rough patch in the early years of the Depression (the inevitable consequence of failing magazines and reduced word rates), H. Bedford-Jones evolved the strategy of pitching editors not just individual yarns but entire series of stories with a central theme. In 1934 he simultaneously persuaded Kennicott and Short Stories head honcho Harry Maule to let him adopt this approach to the mass production of pulp fiction.
Blue Book’s February 1935 number offered the first installment of “Arms and Men,” a historical series that extended to 28 entries. Bedford-Jones followed this in 1937 with two more skeins, the self-explanatory “Ships and Men” and 17 Foreign Legion adventures collectively titled “Warriors in Exile.” In 1938 he launched what is arguably his best-remembered series for Blue Book. “Trumpets to Oblivion” combined fantasy, science fiction, and historical adventure. The premise involved a wealthy inventor’s perfection of a combination time machine and TV set—a device that reached back into the ether and retrieved images from past history. Each series installment opened with the inventor welcoming an audience to monitor the repeat “broadcast” of some famous event.
Bedford-Jones wrote 19 series for Blue Book, some of them overlapping, and until he died in 1949 each issue contained at least one and often two installments. They were published under his own name and also as by “Gordon Keyne” and “Captain Michael Gallister.” He occasionally turned out novel-lengthers for Kennicott as well, the most memorable of these being They Lived by the Sword, a fictional account of Hannibal’s army crossing the Alps. Remarkably, in addition to pounding out his Blue Book work, Bedford-Jones still found time to contribute regularly to other pulps, placing thematically linked series in Weird Tales and Short Stories as well.
An obituary published in the New York Herald-Tribune stated that H. Bedford-Jones earned more than a million dollars during his 40 years as a fiction writer. In King of the Pulps: The Life and Writings of H. Bedford-Jones (Ontario: The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2003), Peter Ruber estimated that the veteran pulpateer wrote a minimum of 25 million words. The true total may never be known, as Ruber allows that some yarns could have appeared under pseudonyms not yet attributed to the legendarily prolific author.
The Wilderness Trail is a seminal work in Bedford-Jones’ oeuvre. It not only kicked off his 34-year association with Blue Book but also was his first historical novel with an American setting. The author had a deep and abiding interest in the country’s post-Revolutionary War expansion and returned many times to the milieu he describes so well in this yarn. His employment of such real-life characters as Daniel Boone, Zachary Taylor, John J. Audubon, and the Indian chief Tecumseh is particularly skillful; we have no way of knowing if these historical figures ever interacted, but Bedford-Jones weaves the tale so cleverly that it’s easy to believe they did.
The novel is ambitious but never unwieldy. Its plot is straightforward, and seemingly random or divergent events are shown in the concluding chapters to have a critical bearing on the adventure’s climax. The story’s only failing—a minor one—is the awkwardness of romantic interludes featuring hero and heroine. The dialogue in these passages is stilted, which is surprising inasmuch as the exchanges between male characters have a natural ring.
Despite having been written relatively early in the author’s career, Wilderness Trail is a smooth, polished work with the unimpeded narrative drive that was a hallmark not only of H. Bedford-Jones, but of all popular and successful pulp fictioneers. Strangely, no American firm published it in book form, although the London-based firm of Hurst & Blackett Limited issued a British hardcover edition in 1925. Murania Press is both happy and honored to present to American readers this fine example of early pulp fiction, available in this country for the first time in nearly a hundred years. Why not take a chance on it? You can order it right here.
- Collectibles: Spring Cleaning Sale
- Silent Serials Book Set: Just Two Left!
- CLASSIC PULP REPRINTS 2015 Slate
- Birthday Boy: George F. Worts
- Overstock Sale for Serial Fans
- March 2015
- February 2015
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- Collectibles For Sale
- Murania Press
- Reading Room
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- Altus Press
- Armchair Fiction
- Black Dog Books
- Black Mask Magazine
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- Coming Attractions
- Field Guide to Wild American Pulp Artists
- Girasol Collectables
- Heartwood Auctions
- Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson
- Mike Chomko Books
- Raven's Head Press
- Vintage Library
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- Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention