Yes, it’s been a long time since this blog was updated. But at last we have some exciting news to report. Pulp fiction’s first super-villain is back after nearly 100 years in obscurity—and his criminous exploits are just as thrilling now as they were a century ago!
After a lengthy, unanticipated delay we’re finally releasing the first volume of our Johnston McCulley Collection, which brings back into print several long-forgotten characters whose adventures were chronicled by Zorro’s creator for Detective Story Magazine. McCulley’s most famous hero has long overshadowed the others, but this astoundingly prolific ex-journalist also wrote series with more than 20 recurring protagonists, good guys and bad guys alike, for that legendary Street & Smith pulp.
The first of these debuts in 1915, Detective Story‘s first year. He is named Black Star, after the star of jet emblazoned on the hood he wears to conceal his identity. His minions, also clad in black hoods and robes, use vapor guns to subdue their victims and adversaries. These non-lethal weapons emit a gas that instantly renders unconscious those who breathe it in close quarters. Black Star avoids the use of deadly force and always keeps his word. But that doesn’t make him any less terrifying.
An early 20th-century metropolis trembles in fear at the mention of his name. His meticulously-planned depredations leave victims quaking in their shoes and baffle the police, who seem helpless to stem the rising tide of panic that threatens to engulf the city. Amateur criminologist and millionaire clubman Roger Verbeck, aided by his loyal valet Muggs, sets out to apprehend Black Star and finally does. But the master criminal makes good his escape and, once again in command of his army of robed and hooded henchmen, plots a campaign of revenge that will find the mayor, police commissioner, and prominent citizens under his control and at his mercy—with even the brilliant Roger Verbeck powerless to stop it!
Johnston McCulley’s Black Star stories—the first few of which were published under his John Mack Stone pseudonym—were incredibly popular among early readers of Detective Story Magazine. These World War I-era yarns anticipate much of what would become common in crime and hero pulps during the Depression era. You’ll find them fascinating.
This evening I’m adding more than two dozen new items to the site’s Collectibles for Sale section, most of them first-edition hardcovers of Western, detective, and science-fiction titles, including a handful of rare fantasy/sf anthologies culled largely from the pulps. Among the latter are Donald Wollheim’s Flight Into Space, Phil Stong’s The Other Worlds, and the seldom-seen From Off This World, compiled by “Thrilling Group” editors Leo Margulies and Oscar Friend from the “Hall of Fame Classics” reprinted in Startling Stories. There’s also a like-new, unread copy of The Night Nemesis, a long-out-of-print collection of “Moon Man” mysteries by Frederick C. Davis.
Other goodies: two first-edition anthologies of Raymond Chandler’s Black Mask and Dime Detective stories, Red Wind and Spanish Blood; the scarce hardcover edition of Richard S. Shaver’s notorious I Remember Lemuria; a signed As New copy of William F. Nolan’s The Black Mask Murders; and jacketed first edition of S. Fowler Wright’s fantasy/sf classics The World Below and The Island of Captain Sparrow. And more!
My last batch of vintage hardcovers sold out within days, with many of the books going to dealers who will no doubt mark them up considerably. So if you’re tempted by any of these new offerings, don’t waste any time pulling the trigger!
As we go into Labor Day weekend I’ve just concluded my labors by adding two dozen new items to the Collectibles for Sale section. The previous update, you recall, was in July and featured several dozen vintage hardcovers. Well, practically every one of them sold, and in record time. So, with the site’s Collectible cupboard practically bare, I’ve restocked again.
This time around the new offerings are mostly high-grade pulps, among them choice examples of such popular titles as The Spider, G-Men, Planet Stories, and Wild West Weekly. You’ll also find a practically new copy of the scarce Red Star Adventures, a short-lived hero-pulp title from the Munsey organization. And those of you who commented favorably on Blood ‘n’ Thunder‘s recent survey of Famous Fantastic Mysteries should note the many copies of that classic pulp for sale.
Of course, I haven’t totally ignored vintage hardcovers. This update includes two books by Talbot Mundy, a Fu Manchu novel by Sax Rohmer, the 1984 Mysterious Press reprint volume of Shadow stories, and a sharp copy of Alan Green’s What a Body!, which won the 1949 Edgar Award for Best First Mystery. The copy I’m offering once belonged to famed crime writer Dorothy B. Hughes and is signed by her.
Some great deals here, folks. Check ‘em out!
The eighth annual PulpFest, held for the fourth year in downtown Columbus, Ohio’s Hyatt Regency Hotel, got off to a running start last Thursday, July 21st. Once again a fairly small but hearty group of pulp-fiction enthusiasts—more than 400, according to convention chairman Jack Cullers—from all across the country assembled to buy, sell and trade vintage books and magazines as well as audit pulp-themed solo presentations and panel discussions.
Actually, although most PulpFest attendees stayed at the Hyatt, the hotel meeting rooms we customarily occupy had been booked by a larger group that same weekend, so we were shunted rather unceremoniously into the adjoining Convention Center—an upgrade in that the massive room given over to our vendors was fronted by a wall of glass, allowing considerably more light than we’ve been used to in the Hyatt’s grand ballroom. A hundred or more dealers’ tables, along with a dozen or so round banquet tables at which attendees could sit and schmooze with fellow hobbyists, filled this space nicely while allowing wide aisles for easy passage.
Thursday evening saw hucksters and early-bird shoppers wheeling and dealing during the evening hours, and programming got underway at 9 p.m. with presentations on Street & Smith’s second-string hero pulps and the time-travel fiction of H. G. Wells. At 10 a.m. on Friday morning the dealers room was opened to all and the festivities began in earnest.
I missed the “opening bell” because a serious attack of heart palpitations the previous evening had persuaded me to visit the emergency room of Columbus’ Grant Medical Center. The palpitations ceased about an hour after I arrived, while the doctor was still awaiting test results, but the good folks at Grant insisted I remain under observation for a day. As you can imagine, this annoyed me no end because I could visualize my fellow collectors beating me to all the good stuff in the dealers room. Since every test indicated no damage had been done, the palpitations were written off as a manifestation of accumulated stress and excess adrenaline—no doubt the result of two sleepless nights before undertaking a 12-hour drive and then rushing around in blistering heat to unload our van before dashing through the dealers room to snap up those early-bird bargains. My ticker started thumping irregularly once I sat down to relax and have dinner with friends. I’d endured the palpitations for several hours before taking a cab to Grant’s emergency room.
Released from the hospital at 2 p.m. on Friday, I lost no time returning to the Hyatt and made a beeline for the convention center. It took only a few minutes to arrange my sales stock on the Murania Press table and open for business. Sales were brisk and I picked up some nice pulps to boot.
Still seriously sleep-deprived, I took a nap after dinner on Friday and missed presentations on Philip José Farmer (have I mentioned that Farmercon is held in conjunction with PulpFest every year?) and the artists who illustrated Argosy. By the time I got down to the programming room, shortly after 9 p.m., science-fiction fan Joe Coluccio had already started his talk on Amazing Stories, the first all-science-fiction pulp magazine, whose 90th anniversary PulpFest celebrated this year.
Joe was followed by my good friend Laurie Powers, whose power-point presentation on Love Story Magazine and its famous editor, Daisy Bacon, was one of the weekend’s highlights. Laurie has been researching Bacon for several years now, preparatory to writing a long-overdue biography of this highly influential pulp-fiction personage, and she presented wonderful information along with rare photos of Daisy.
Novelist and pulp scholar Will Murray was to have discussed Western Story Magazine after Laurie’s talk, but pressing family matters kept him from attending the con. My old pal and traveling companion Walker Martin, possibly the only collector to have a nearly complete file of Western Story (lacking less than a dozen issues of the 1285 published between 1919 and 1949), joined me in substituting for Will. I can’t honestly say it was one of my finest presentations, because I’d not had time to prepare and by this time had not slept in three nights (having gotten not a wink in the hospital). But Walker and I muddled through reasonably well under the circumstances.
Saturday was another fun day. I sold more Murania product and did a little more shopping. PulpFest’s daytime programming is largely given over to the “New Fictioneers” contingent of writers turning out books in the classic pulp style. PulpFest regulars Ron Fortier and Win Scott Eckert, joined by several comrades, held forth on “Writing Hero Pulp” and read from their works. I’m always scurrying around the dealers room during PulpFest afternoons but one of these years I’m going to sit in on the New Pulp events.
Saturday evening’s program began with the annual business meeting, during which it was revealed that the Hyatt was no longer interested in hosting our convention on the grounds that their spacious facility could be more profitably rented to larger groups that, presumably, would book more sleeping rooms and spend more money in the hotel lounge and restaurant. Chairman Jack Cullers vowed to begin immediately the search for a new venue, in Columbus if possible but perhaps elsewhere in Ohio or a neighboring state.
After the meeting, convention committee member Barry Traylor presented this year’s Munsey Award to the aforementioned Laurie Powers. The Munsey (named for the publisher of the first pulp periodical, The Argosy) is given to an individual whose efforts—in writing, research, and/or publishing—have helped keep the spirit of the pulps alive for generations not yet born when the last rough-paper magazines disappeared from newsstands. Laurie joined our community as a result of her deeply personal mission to revive interest in her grandfather, the legendarily prolific Paul S. Powers, whose yarns filled the pages of Street & Smith’s Wild West Weekly from 1928 to 1943. Her labors on his behalf, along with her research on Daisy Bacon, certainly entitled her to this year’s award, and everybody agreed that she was the perfect choice.
Doug Ellis, super-collector and chairman of the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention, did a terrific presentation celebrating Argosy‘s 120th birthday, showing dozens of covers from the magazine’s history. This was followed by the annual auction, conducted by Adventure House’s John Gunnison with his usual panache. Many great deals were to be had, but not by me: I bid on close to 20 lots but only won two.
As things wound down on Sunday morning, I made a few last-minute sales before closing up shop at the Murania table. I’d brought close to 70 pieces and was going home with just four. Not bad.
Unexpected hospital visit notwithstanding, I had a great time at this year’s PulpFest. Thanks go to chairman Jack Cullers and his family, committee members Mike Chomko, Barry Traylor, Chuck Welch, Bill Lampkin, and all the other volunteers who work so hard all year round to make this convention such an enjoyable event. Here’s hoping the search for a new venue bears fruit soon!
I’m adding another several dozen items — pulps, digests, and hardcover first editions — to our Collectibles section just in time for the Holiday Weekend sale that begins tonight (or, rather, tomorrow morning) at 12:01 a.m. For the next three days you can get a 20 percent discount on everything you purchase here.
The new batch of goodies includes many rare and desirable items, especially for lovers of science fiction. I’m adding several more signed first editions of Philip José Farmer’s “Riverworld” books, the 1951 issue of Galaxy with Ray Bradbury’s novella “The Fireman” (later expanded to become the novel Fahrenheit 451), and a dust-jacketed copy of Curt Siodmak’s 1933 F.P. 1 Does Not Reply, an extremely rare SF novel made into a movie that same year.
Those interested in mysteries and thrillers will find first editions of Dashiell Hammett’s Blood Money and Joel Townsley Rogers’ The Red Right Hand, both of which originally appeared in pulp magazines. Desirable items of later vintage include a high-grade first edition of Thomas Harris’ The Silence of the Lambs. And there’s lot of esoterica, as well.
Here’s another great way to celebrate the Fourth of July.
Beginning tonight — or, rather, Saturday morning at 12:01 a.m. Eastern time — everything for sale on this site will be discounted by 20 percent until Tuesday morning at 12:01 a.m. That includes not only all issues of Blood ‘n’ Thunder and other Murania Press books, but everything listed in our Collectibles for Sale section as well.
Rather than reprice every item on the site, however, I’m going to offer the discount another way. Simply make your purchases as usual with our Shopping Cart function, and on Tuesday morning after the sale’s conclusion I will rebate the 20 percent back to you via Paypal.
In addition to what’s already listed, I’m spending this afternoon and evening (Friday) adding another several dozen items to the Collectibles section — pulps, digests, and more hardcover first editions. There’ll be something for every taste!
It’s been a very long time since I’ve updated the Collectibles for Sale section, but I’ve just added some 30 hardcover books — vintage first editions of classic pulp stories such as Donovan’s Brain, Lest Darkness Fall, The Shadow Laughs, Darkness and Dawn, The Man of Bronze, and The Girl in the Golden Atom — along with a selection of highly desirable SF, mystery, and adventure novels. Some of these books are quite rare and all are priced to sell. Where possible I’ve matched them to other copies available on the net in comparable condition, and then significantly undercut those prices.
Unfortunately, several recent problems with international shipments have persuaded me to discontinue selling collectables to foreign buyers, which is regrettable but necessary. I will, of course, continue to sell Blood ‘n’ Thunder and Murania Press books internationally.
I’d also ask you to read carefully the item descriptions. From time to time I accept returns from buyers who let their haste get in the way of their judgment and bought books or magazines without the due diligence of learning exactly what it was they were buying. It’s always aggravating to issue refunds on this basis and I’d like to minimize such risks in the future.
Meanwhile, happy hunting!
This week I received a nice surprise in the mail: a bulky package containing . . . no, not a lamp shaped like a lady’s stockinged leg. It was this year’s Echoes Award, a handsome plaque bestowed annually upon a member of the pulp-fan community by Tom and Ginger Johnson. They included a certificate stating that publishing Blood ‘n’ Thunder, the Classic Pulp Reprints series, and The Blood ‘n’ Thunder Guide to Pulp Fiction entitled me to this year’s award, which I am greatly honored to accept. For many years the Johnsons published Echoes, a fanzine that featured articles and artwork by the leading lights of pulp fandom, including Robert Sampson, Will Murray, Nick Carr, and many others. It began in 1982 and ceased publication in 2004 after reaching a milestone of 100 issues. During those years Echoes gave voice to many fine writers and researchers and presented the work of a similar number of talented artists. It was, to many, the heart and soul of our little world of pulp-fiction enthusiasts.
Although Tom Johnson retired some years ago he has remained active in the pulp community and is aligned with Matt Moring’s Altus Press. Continuing to issue the Echoes Award is one way he acknowledges the folks who have made contributions to pulp-fiction history and appreciation. My thanks go to Tom and Ginger, and to all of you who have supported Murania Press. I hope my future efforts will continue to merit your esteem.
The 15th annual Pulp AdventureCon was staged on November 7th in its usual location, the Ramada Inn in Bordentown, New Jersey. Rich Harvey and Audrey Parente presided over a gathering of some 155 people (dealers and attendees) in a huckster’s room crowded with 47 tables sagging under the weight of thousands of pulps, books, other magazines, original artwork, bootleg DVDs, and even comic books.
I enjoy this get-together because it lacks the hectic nature that typifies the major pulp conventions with their bustling dealers rooms and non-stop programming. Pulp AdventureCon offers enthusiasts a chance to shop for collectibles while enjoying leisurely conversations; it’s nice not to be checking your watch every ten minutes, worrying whether or not you’re missing a panel or presentation.
This year’s show will make the history books if only for one transaction: New Jersey uber-collector Walker Martin purchased the last four issues he needed to complete his file of Munsey’s All-Story. Pulp AdventureCon’s 2015 special guest, horror/fantasy writer Chet Williamson, was offering a sizable group of All-Story and All-Story Cavalier Weekly, two magazines not seen in large quantities at pulp shows these days.
To the best of Walker’s knowledge (and mine), he now owns the sole existing set of what arguably is the most important pulp magazine of all. Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention chairman Doug Ellis has approximately 90 percent of the run, lacking about 40 of the 444 issues. San Diego-based collector Ray Skirsky, who attended the show and snapped up a stack of issues from Chet, has the majority of them but isn’t quite as far along as Doug. Walker’s set includes a few coverless copies (including the all-important October 1912, containing the first Tarzan novel) but is in generally nice shape. He purchased the bulk of the run from Oregon dealer/collector Dick Wald many, many years ago and has always hoped he would complete the file. So you can imagine how thrilled he was with this year’s Harveycon.
And Walker’s luck didn’t end with the All-Story buy; he also picked up a Western Story Magazine cover painting from an early-Twenties issue. I did pretty well myself. Adventure House’s John Gunnison brought a dozen or so long boxes from deep storage; among them were three boxes of Adventure. From these I culled some two dozen issues from 1918 to 1929, a few in exceptionally nice condition. The earlier ones were pricey, but I’m finding it increasingly difficult to locate 1918 and 1919 numbers in any condition, so I sucked it up and paid the freight.
Traditionally, after the show’s close a bunch of us retire to a local diner for supper and postmortem discussion. This year’s group included me, Walker, Digges La Touche, Scott Hartshorn, Nick Certo, Paul Herman, Matt Moring, and newcomer Sai Shankar, who flew in from Seattle to attend Pulp AdventureCon for the first time and make a pilgrimage to Walker’s house in nearby Trenton, where on Sunday he got to see a newly completed set of All-Story in addition to the tens of thousands of pulps and books in the famous Martin collection. For those of you who don’t know Sai, he’s the purveyor of Pulp Flakes, a welcome addition to the roster of pulp-related blogs. He’s also a dedicated and disciplined collector.
Pulp AdventureCon is always a bit melancholy for us because it’s the last pulpish event of the year. We used to have an antiquarian book fair in northern New Jersey every December, but that show’s organizers gave up the ghost several years ago. November ushers in the long cold winter that ends with Doug’s Windy City convention in late April. During winter, weather permitting, Digges, Walker and I get together every month or so for a leisurely Sunday lunch peppered with pulp talk, but that’s hardly as exciting as attending a convention. Well, at least I’ll have all these new issues of Adventure to read in front of the fireplace during the coming cold winter nights.
Thanks to Audrey Parente for taking these photos and letting me use them here.
- Murania’s First Release of 2017
- September 30: Collectibles for Sale Section Update
- Collectibles Section Updated
- PulpFest 2016 Report
- More Collectibles for Sale Being Listed for July 4th Weekend!
- February 2017
- September 2016
- August 2016
- July 2016
- June 2016
- November 2015
- October 2015
- September 2015
- August 2015
- July 2015
- June 2015
- May 2015
- April 2015
- March 2015
- February 2015
- January 2015
- August 2014
- July 2014
- June 2014
- May 2014
- April 2014
- January 2014
- December 2013
- September 2013
- August 2013
- July 2013
- June 2013
- May 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- October 2012
- September 2012
- August 2012
- July 2012
- June 2012
- May 2012
- Blood 'n' Thunder
- Classic Pulp Reprints
- Collectibles For Sale
- Dime Novels
- Murania Press
- Pulp People
- Reading Room
- Recently Read
- Special Sale
- The Johnston McCulley Collection
- Upcoming Books
- Western Movies
- Adventure House
- Age of Aces Books
- Altus Press
- Armchair Fiction
- Black Dog Books
- Black Mask Magazine
- 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
- Vintage Pulps
- Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention