Blog: Thoughts and comments on the world of the pulp magazines

The mystery of ‘Cowboy Thrill Magazine’

Posted by at 11:05 am Friday, April 12, 2013 in Movies/TV/Radio, Pulps
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

"Cowboy Thrill Magazine"I sit here holding the empty, faded covers of Cowboy Thrill Magazine, a pulp-size magazine that promises “Great stories of the Old West.”

That’s a scan of it at right. (Click it to get a larger view.)

For only 5 cents Cowboy Thrill Magazine gave you “Ten Action Stories,” or so the cover says.

I first stumbled upon this pulp while watching TV. What was going to be a short post about a pulp appearance on a TV show (like this one about Weird Stories), turned out to be a more interesting story.

I first glimpsed Cowboy Thrill Magazine while watching a half-hour episode of Gunsmoke from 1957. About midway through “Crack-Up,” the first episode of the third season, Marshal Dillon (James Arness) and Miss Kitty (Amanda Blake) walk into the marshal’s office and find Chester (Dennis Weaver) deeply engrossed in an issue of Cowboy Thrill Magazine.

Chester reads a pulp magazine on "Gunsmoke"

It certainly looks like a pulp magazine. But the whole thing is a bit of a prochronism. It’s never clear when Gunsmoke takes place — anywhere from the 1870s through the 1880s. The first pulp didn’t show up until 1896. (And, by the way, doesn’t the show take place in the “Old West”?)

"Cowboy Thrill Magazine" prop from "Gunsmoke"

Classic television, particularly in the 1950s, was anything but authentic historically. Had it been, Chester would have been reading a story paper or a dime novel.

Just to confirm that there was never a pulp with that title, I went to the bookshelves and pulled out “Bookery Fantasy’s Ultimate Guide to the Pulps,” “The Adventure House Guide to the Pulps” and John Dinan‘s “The Pulp Western.” No mention of it.

Then I turned to Google, searched on the title, and got two key hits. The first was a reference to James West (Robert Conrad) of The Wild Wild West reading “Cowboy Thrill Magazine with visible relish while waiting for a package” in the episode “The Night of the Turncoat.”

James West reads "Cowboy Thrill Magazine" on "The Wild, Wild West"

That episode aired in late 1967, 10 years after the Gunsmoke one. By then, the networks were broadcasting in color, so you get a better look at the cover.

Just as the pulp seemed out of time on Gunsmoke, the same applies on the pulp’s second appearance.

But this time you’ll notice that that besides Cowboy Thrill Magazine, there are also other magazines on the newsstand: Old West Stories (which features the same bucking bronco cover) and a magazine with “Hero” in its title.

That brings me to the key second link that Google turned up: a loose cover of Cowboy Thrill Magazine for sale on an auction site. Needless to say, I placed a bid, and after a few days, won it.

You can see a scan of both the front and back covers by clicking the cover image at the top. The inside is blank.

Tantalizing Tasties, a product of Beyers & Co.

Curiously, the back cover sports an advertisement for “Tantalizing Tasties, Product of Beyers & Co.” Naturally I searched to see if that was a real product and turned up a reference to Everybody’s Doing It, an RKO comedy from 1938 that revolves around an advertising artist promoting the “Tasties” with puzzles. The actual ad shows briefly about 20 minutes into the movie, as seen above.

Unfortunately the seller was unable to provide any details about the magazine cover. He said he probably purchased it at an estate sale. Since he lives in Malibu, Calif., it only makes sense that it once belonged to someone in the television industry.

Both of these TV programs were broadcast by CBS. So it’s easy to guess that Cowboy Thrill Magazine had been hanging around the prop room waiting for its next role when it turned up on The Wild, Wild West.

That makes me wonder: Did Cowboy Thrill Magazine have other screen appearances?