Blog: Writing about all things pulplish

‘The Shadow’: Blue Coal goes to war

Posted by at 10:00 am Friday, March 24, 2017 in Old Time Radio (OTR), The Shadow
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

‘The Shadow’: Blue Coal goes to war
Blue Coal ink blotter

Blue Coal ink blotter

When war was declared by the U.S. Congress after the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the entire nation was quick to rally to support the cause, including The Shadow radio broadcasts. During the war years, The Shadow‘s adventures included skirmishes with Axis spies and saboteurs, mixed in with the usual blood-and-thunder fare.

But it wasn’t just the plots of the stories that reflected the war. No, the sponsor, Blue Coal, did its part as well. Below are pages of some scripts that illustrate how Blue Coal supported the war effort on the Shadow radio program.

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The Spider #20: ‘Reign of the Death Fiddler’

Posted by at 10:00 am Friday, March 17, 2017 in Pulp, The Spider
Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

The Spider #20: ‘Reign of the Death Fiddler’
Pulp magazine cover.

Pulp magazine cover.

“Reign of the Death Fiddler” was originally published in the May 1935 issue of The Spider Magazine. The Death Fiddler — master of the grotesque, he held an entire city in the strangle-hold of a helpless terror; even the forces of the Law stood in shuddery, superstitious fear of this new destroyer. The Spider, too, was baffled; not all Richard Wentworth’s efforts seemed enough to destroy this new, this ugliest of all Hydra heads rearing out of the noxious slime of the Underworld…

Here’s a pretty much routine Spider story. Not the best; not the worst. Not over-the-top crazy; but certainly not boring. The ending winds up nicely, and doesn’t have the rushed feeling that some stories have. There is no weird menace, here… Okay, maybe just a touch… but basically it’s a crime story about an underworld boss who threatens the safety of the city. This time around, there’s no threat that encompasses the entire nation. It’s restricted to New York City. There are a few loose ends that are never tied up, but it’s not too blatant this time around. So, here we have a fun Spider story with plenty of shooting and falling bodies. There’s the usual non-stop action, and it makes for a very enjoyable, if somewhat standard, story.

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Perry Mason: novels #31 and #32

Posted by at 10:00 am Friday, March 10, 2017 in Old TV Shows, Perry Mason, Pulp
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Perry Mason: novels #31 and #32
Erle Stanley Gardner at the typewriter.

Erle Stanley Gardner at the typewriter.

Perry Mason. Della Street. Paul Drake. Hamilton Burger. Lt. Tragg. And the author of those immortal characters, Erle Stanley Gardner. Gardner was a pulp author who went on to write probably the most famous fictional lawyer ever created. Hey, Gardner was a lawyer himself, which couldn’t hurt. He passed the bar in 1911 and started writing for the pulp magazines in 1923.

Black Mask, Argosy, Clues, Dime Detective and Double Detective… those were but a few of the magazines for which he wrote. It was in 1933 that he wrote his first Perry Mason courtroom drama. Not for the pulps. It was published in hardback. And the Perry Mason novels just kept coming. When Gardner died in 1970, he had 86 Perry Mason books under his belt. The pulp magazines produced some notable authors, and Erle Stanley Gardner was one of the brightest among the stars.

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‘Mysterious Doctor Satan’: a serial in 15 chapters

Posted by at 10:00 am Friday, March 3, 2017 in Movies, Serials
Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

‘Mysterious Doctor Satan’: a serial in 15 chapters
 Movie poster for Mysterious Doctor Satan.

Movie poster for Mysterious Doctor Satan.

There was a period of time when I watched a lot of serials. Sadly, many of them were second-rate efforts. So I decided to treat myself and watch one of the top-rated serials of all time, Mysterious Doctor Satan. And, yes, the quality shows right off the bat. You get a full 15 chapters, here. And no economy chapter!

Originally planned as a Superman serial, Republic couldn’t secure the rights, so they rewrote the script and our hero became The Copperhead! No need to throw out a perfectly good script, after all.

So often, serials open with various scenes of mass destruction followed by whirling headlines that proclaim “Unknown power sabotages industries.” Not so, here. This opening is more like a real movie than a serial. Our story opens as a man is shot and killed outside an office building in Capital City. Shot at the order of Doctor Satan to prevent his meeting with the governor.

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‘Satan’s Signature’: a lost Shadow novel

Posted by at 10:00 am Friday, February 24, 2017 in Pulp, The Shadow
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

The following review of a “lost” story of The Shadow is taken from my book The Shadow in Review: The Ultimate Guide to the Pulp Magazine Series.

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Pulp magazine cover for Clues November 1941.

Pulp magazine cover for Clues (November 1941)

“Satan’s Signature” was originally published in the November 1941 issue of Clues magazine, after being rejected by The Shadow Magazine… and rewritten. Wealthy Andrew Thorpe was dead when Detective Walt Kenny arrived in answer to his phone call. Heart attack. And then Walt Kenny found that the dead man’s will had bequeathed a million dollars to an unknown heir — with Death the executor! And Kenny was on the trail of a phantom killer.

This is the Shadow mystery that Shadow readers never got to see. It was submitted in September 1939 under the title “The Phantom Killer.” But, it was banned by the editors of Street & Smith for being too extreme… a taboo breaker. Never one to waste a pulp story, Street & Smith had author Ted Tinsley did a quick rewrite and printed it in the November 1941 issue of Clues, under the title “Satan’s Signature.”

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The Spider #19: ‘Slaves of the Crime Master’

Posted by at 10:00 am Friday, February 17, 2017 in Mail-away premiums, Pulp, The Spider
Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

The Spider #19: ‘Slaves of the Crime Master’
Pulp cover for Slaves of the Crime Master.

Pulp cover for “Slaves of the Crime Master.”

“Slaves of the Crime Master “was originally published in the April 1935 issue of The Spider Magazine. A magically persuasive radio voice lures thousands of young people to crime; a scientific madman deals germicidal death over the nation’s children. Can even The Spider find a way to free humanity from the grip of wholesale destruction being planned for it by the greatest of all Crime Masters?

Here’s a Spider story that really let me down. A great build-up that leads to a confusing and disappointing conclusion. There’s much left unanswered. I’m not talking about minor details, here… I’m talking about major plot points. And the grand finale is so muddled that I’m still not sure who died or who the bad guy was. Yes, I read it a second time. Actually, I think I read it five times, trying to make sense of it. Did author Norvell Page accidentally use the wrong character’s name? If so, I couldn’t figure out who, and in what place. Didn’t the editors even read this thing? Any semi-competent person who reads it will realize the ending makes no sense. And the sad thing is that the previous 95 percent of the story was very good. That made me feel all the more cheated.

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Perry Mason: novels #29 and #30

Posted by at 10:00 am Friday, February 10, 2017 in Perry Mason, Pulp
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

 Erle Stanley Gardner - man of the west

Erle Stanley Gardner – man of the west

Perry Mason was the brain child of author Erle Stanley Gardner. Gardner got his start in the pulps, where he was regularly published in Black Mask among many others. But after 12 years, he produced the first Perry Mason mystery and the rest, as they say, is history. He continued writing for the pulps and eventually the slicks, and he created other series such as the Cool and Lam books and the Doug Selby series. But when I hear the name Erle Stanley Gardner, the first thing that pops into my mind is Perry Mason.

Every month or so, I jot down my thoughts on two of the Perry Mason books. Going in order of publication, we are now up to numbers 29 and 30. We start off with The Case of the Fan Dancer’s Horse from 1947.

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