I know what you’re saying. “A 1926 Adventure Pulp Fiction Magazine? That Bell guy's sure got his finger on the pulse of today’s youth," and then rolling your eyes sarcastically. But, you need to remember adventure is timeless, and Adventure Magazine was the "dean of the pulps" with the best writers and experts in their field contributing. Adventure Magazine realized adventure itself was fundamental to human nature, then told us historically accurate stories that spanned human history. Every time you read about a battle, with men, with the elements, with heavy armament or the tide of history itself, you’re reading an Adventure. Even Indiana Jones could learn a thing or two from these guys. Robert E. Howard of Conan fame did. So, did Science Fiction Master Edmund Hamilton. Because they don’t write ‘em like this anymore, these stories have become timeless. And, it’s free for Kindle here on the Pulp Archive—So, let’s go!
Unfortunately, there is no painted cover so we immediately lose five points. Bauhmhoffer, where art thou?
This issue opens with a W.C. Tuttle Hashknife Hartley mystery, Two Fares East. If you’re not familiar, Tuttle was not only the inventor of the Cattle Detective Mystery, but everything he ever wrote dripped with the sort of sarcastic cowboy behavior that makes me still seek his stories out. They remind me of stories my grandfather used to tell, and they’re usually good mysteries. This one is no exception. The first few chapters tell us the story of Joe Rich, a popular sheriff who makes the mistake of getting drunk and missing his wedding. Now the whole town’s mad at him. Embarassed, Joe decides to leave town. The bride’s father dies in what looks like an accident, and five-thousand dollars is stolen. Joe leaves town anyway. The law decides the accident was murder and wants to talk to Joe. Then the train is held up, by a man wearing leather cuffs that match Joe Rich’s. Hashknife and Sleepy just happen to be on the train, and when the “cowpunchers of disaster” take chase, Hashknife and Sleepy are drawn into a mystery that would give Agatha Christie a run for her money. Why these stories haven’t been collected into a treasury yet is beyond me.
The Place of Birds by Lewis J. Rendel is next. This is the worst story in the issue. While I can forgive the racism of the time—something Adventure Magazine usually excelled at avoiding—I can’t get past the stupid ending, and it’s based on a faulty premise. Kind of like reading those old stories where a ventriloquist can “throw” his voice, even though we know now that’s impossible.
Nassau Bound by Helen Van Kolnitz Hyer is a short-short-sea-story that accomplishes the same chuckle Rendel’s Place of Birds went for in half the space with twice the historical accuracy.
Sea Cure is a wonderful short-story of the sea by John Webb, in which a hillbilly who became a sailor to avoid the family feud finds out his new deckhand has trailed him here from the hill country and thinks he has a score to settle.
The Fighting Years by Hugh Pendexter is a serial, the bane of pulp collectors. I rarely read or review serials unless I’ve got the whole thing piled in front of me, but I will tell you Pendexter was a renowned researcher, and if you’re interested in any part of history he’s not a bad guy to look up.
Sydney Herschel Small’s Temple of the Snake is the all-out action winner in this issue. An American exporter in Japan stops to rest at a temple when he’s attacked by a mad cleric. Why, and how he’ll survive are the big questions here, and the hero will have to find the answer while he’s fighting for his life. Small knew Japan well enough to explain it from an American perspective, and that gives this story just enough color around the edges to avoid becoming the stereotypical action story of its time where “we” were civilized, but “they” were savage.
Riley Grannan’s Last Adventure by Sam C. Dunham is the real-life funeral eulogy of a gambler that could smile through both his wins and some pretty major losses. The article was reprinted at the request of Adventure’s readers who could no longer find copies of the original Adventure article.
Treasure by one of Adventure’s best, Gordon Young, is the end of a serial. Send me the first four parts, and I’ll be glad to review it.
Explorers of Nowhere is more a pastiche than a story and deals with author, William Ashley Anderson’s reminiscence of a WTF-moment while travelling to the Orient. That moment when you see what the locals are doing but have no idea why.
J.D. Newsome turns in a military WWI short with The Unconquerable Jennings. This tongue-in-cheek adventure involves an ambulance driver who wants to see the Western Front. He just can’t understand why the French Foreign Legion’s troops would hold that against him. Newsome remains one of my favorite Foreign Legion story writers. Check out “Wiped Out,” a collection of his other works in this vein.
In The Last Legion, by Arthur D. Howden Smith, we get a final novelette meant to be part of a larger work. Smith’s idea was to tell the story of an ancient sword, The Gray Maiden, as it travels from owner to owner, and battle to battle. But, unlike your usual serial, every story stands on its own. The Last Legion might be a little too detail heavy for a few, but it’s a great concept, and in this one we meet a Roman Centurion recently returned to Rome to beg for reinforcements, only to find the Roman Empire has fallen. So, this is an account of how Rome lost to the Angles, Saxons, Goths, and even a Frank or two, and the role played by The Gray Maiden.
Nice bit of reading there. Overall, I give this issue an A-. Of course, I’m a huge W.C. Tuttle fan, and that’s what kept it from being a B. If you’re short on time, Two Fares East, Sea Cure, and The Temple of Snakes are the best. I was kind of fascinated by The Last Legion, too, but I’m intrigued as much by real-life barbarians as I am the sword and sorcery types.