Blog: Writing about all things pulplish

The Spider: two origin stories

Posted by at 10:00 am Friday, May 26, 2017 in Pulp, The Spider
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

The Spider: two origin stories
 The Spider - bloodthirstiest of the pulp heroes!

The Spider — bloodthirstiest of the pulp heroes!

The Spider was a pulp hero who rivaled The Shadow for popularity in the 1930s and 1940s. If any pulp character could be described as “blood and thunder” this would be the guy. Nearly every adventure was a frenzy of blood and death. And fans of the magazine series had every right to wonder, “how did it all start?” In the first adventure, way back in 1933, The Spider appeared fully formed for the most part, and although hints of his early years were dropped, much was left unspoken.

What was Richard Wentworth‘s first exploit as The Spider? How did he meet his faithful companion Ram Singh? These were probably the two biggest questions, and they were finally answered in 1942 in issues number 104 and 105. Rather than publish a full-length novel to answer these two questions, they appeared in two short stories published in the back of the magazine. Both were written by regular Spider author Norvell W. Page, and helped fill in the gap in The Spider’s back-story.

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Perry Mason novels: #37 and #38

Posted by at 10:00 am Friday, May 19, 2017 in Old TV Shows, Perry Mason, Pulp
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Erle Stanley Gardner was a bowhunter.

Erle Stanley Gardner was a bowhunter.

In my chronological reviews of the Perry Mason books, we’re in the 1950s now. Erle Stanley Gardner had two Mason books published that year, and they are both reviewed here. And he was still writing for the pulps and the slicks at this time. He had articles published in Argosy and Collier‘s in 1951… always faithful to his roots.

You’ll remember he got his start way back in 1921 with “The Police in the House” in Breezy Stories magazine. Before long he was being published in Black Mask, Life Magazine, Mystery Magazine, Top Notch, and the list goes on. His first Perry Mason book “The Case of the Velvet Claws,” wasn’t to come along until 1933. So now, we jump forward in time to 1951 and his 37th and 38th Perry Mason murder mysteries.

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TMM #5: Death in the Adirondacks

Posted by at 10:00 am Friday, May 12, 2017 in Pulp, The Shadow, Two-Minute Mystery
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

TMM #5: Death in the Adirondacks
A series of puzzlers starring a classic pulp figure

A series of puzzlers starring a classic pulp figure

This is the fifth in a rotating series of Shadow Two-Minute Mysteries. Pit your mind against that of The Shadow that appeared in the pulp magazine stories. Harry Vincent is an agent. Burbank is in charge of communications. And there’s no mention of “clouding men’s minds.”

This mini-mystery originally appeared on my old Shadow in Review website. But that was years ago, and I suspect even if you remember it, you may have forgotten the vital clue. For those of you with a memory sharper than mine, you may remember it.

The solution, not necessarily the only solution, but the one the author had in mind, will appear (below) next Friday. That gives you time to mull over the crime.

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The Spider #89: ‘The Spider and the Slave Doctor’

Posted by at 10:00 am Friday, May 5, 2017 in Pulp, The Spider
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

The Spider #89: ‘The Spider and the Slave Doctor’
 Pulp cover for The Spider and the Slave Doctor.

Pulp cover for “The Spider and the Slave Doctor.”

“The Spider and the Slave Doctor” was originally published in the February 1941 issue of The Spider Magazine. Young Doctor Gilmuir bravely faced execution for a ghastly murder he didn’t commit! And Richard Wentworth, the only man who could save him, must first crush the slaves of the Man in the Red Mask — the master-killer whose nation-wide terror plague was calculated to monopolize all life-giving drugs!

This story is a real stinker. It’s a prime example of an entry into the series that had passed its prime. There are some pretty good scenes, but there are also a lot of ragged and loose ends. There is evidence that the story was edited heavily before publication… very heavily and crudely. It’s almost as if the first chapter was simply hacked off. The story opens in the middle of the action, and references are made to things that happened before. This isn’t just a style of writing, where things are explained as you go along. No, there are just important pieces missing, and that’s all there is to it. If the missing scenes could be restored, this might be a fairly well-done story. But as it is, I can’t recommend it.

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Perry Mason: novels #35 and #36

Posted by at 10:00 am Friday, April 21, 2017 in Old TV Shows, Perry Mason, Pulp
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Perry Mason: novels #35 and #36
Erle Stanley Gardner seems in a good mood...

Erle Stanley Gardner in a good mood…

Perry Mason for the defense, your honor. Although Perry Mason never appeared in the pulps, he had close ties to the pulps. Author Erle Stanley Gardner was a pulp author for a dozen years before writing the first Perry Mason book. He was quite a prodigeous writer, too. He had over 400 stories published before he started with Perry Mason. So when people say that Erle Stanley Gardner got his training in the pulps, there is definitely a reason for it.

Yes, Perry Mason was on TV. We all remember Raymond Burr in his definiing performances as the lawyer who never lost a case. Well, almost never. But please remember that there were nearly 50 Perry Mason novels published before the TV series ever started. The novels came first. Still, Raymond Burr left such an indelible imprint upon the character, that you’ll be forgiven if you visualize the face of Perry Mason to be Raymond Burr when you read the books. I do.

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TMM #4: Death in the Easter Basket

Posted by at 10:00 am Friday, April 14, 2017 in Pulp, The Shadow, Two-Minute Mystery
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

TMM #4: Death in the Easter Basket
A series of puzzlers starring a classic pulp figure

A series of puzzlers starring a classic pulp figure

Here is another in my rotating series of Shadow Two-Minute Mysteries. Two minutes? Yeah, that’s about how much time you’ll invest in reading it. But can you solve the mystery along with The Shadow? That may take more than two minutes. Just look at the clews, and test your sleuthing skills.

This mini-mystery originally appeared on my “Shadow in Review” website. The one presented here today was one of those. Perhaps you’ll remember it, and remember the solution, as well. And perhaps not…

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The Spider #42: ‘Satan’s Workshop’

Posted by at 10:00 am Friday, April 7, 2017 in Pulp, The Spider
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

The Spider #42: ‘Satan’s Workshop’
Into the corpse grider with her!

Into the corpse grider with her!

“Satan’s Workshop” was originally published in the March 1937 issue of The Spider Magazine. There was no clue to the kidnapping of wealthy, powerful men and beautiful, talented women. The Man Who Dealt in Death — a devil-brain that was using science and surgery, death and torture and extortion, to enslave the city’s great. The Spider answered the challenge of the Laboratory of the Lost — gambling life and more against weird dangers that no man had ever faced before!

I found I really liked this story, but for reasons that had nothing to do with plot. Now, don’t get me wrong. It was a great plot. There’s some fantastic weird-science stuff in it: transplanting a person’s abilities by stealing their hormones, giving a person a ten-year case of leprosy in only three months… and then let’s not forget “the grinder” which is basically a gigantic meat grinder intended for living humans. (See the cover.) Oh, yeah, the plot’s great. But that’s not why I liked this story. I liked it because it was a bit slower paced, and as a result was better thought out. Very few loopholes in the plot. The action actually makes sense. And it’s all because this story was written by Emile C. Tepperman, instead of Norvell Page.

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