He kills completely without reservation.
Noel Clad was a promising writer who died in a plane crash when he was thirty-seven. His novel The Savage shows some of that promise. It's about a professional killer named John Tree who's been summoned from his Wyoming ranch by the Chicago syndicate to go to New York City and dispose of an S. Harris. Like many fictional killers Tree has a code: he doesn't kill women. When he arrives in New York he learns that S. Harris is Susan Harris, which dismays him. Then the person who's bought the contract and is calling the shots tells Tree to rape Susan before killing her. Next he finds out she's a single mother with a mute five year-old son. None of it sits well with Tree, but it doesn't cause him to flip sides. He just wants out. He asks to be replaced on the job and be done with the situation. Out of sight, out of mind. His employers agree and send two replacement hired guns to do the job. Tree meets with them and realizes they have no ethics—they will rape their target, and they'll murder her son too.
There are hundreds if not thousands of regular mob hitmen in literature and cinema, so why not do something different? It shouldn't be a controversial idea, but sadly, so many these days consider it to be an assault on territory they own somehow. But diversification isn't a new thing. Clever writers have been doing it all along. Clad does it in The Savage. The killer for hire, the anti-hero John Tree, is full name John Running Tree, member of the Shoshone tribe, Native American by both blood and culture. That simple change takes the book in a different direction than other hitman tales. Here we have a killer who hates to think about his impoverished youth on a reservation, who glorifies Native American tests of manhood, and who sees a stripper wearing a tribal headdress as a prop and is angered. You get interesting passages like this:
Being here made him think of religion and how little he knew and the things that had passed for it when he was little: the spirits and the half-reverent amulets and charms. He remembered as he had not for years the lupine tea they drank for Manhood, remembered the girls on the Station eating mushrooms to see if my true love lies, and his own watching of wood smoke that twisted north when the hunting would be good. Even Tall Kite had no longer really believed in the thousand tribal spirits of the upland and the plain, the grass, the insects, the deer and the hawk. And God, in the Bureau of Indian Affairs, was no more than the price of chocolate milk. But in this hall, he had a pleasant feeling, relaxed, as though he was on a mountain all by himself.
1958 this was written, with loads of identity angst, as if it were published yesterday. John Running Tree moves like a folkloric wraith through New York City and tries to prevent Susan's defilement and death. The transgressiveness of the rape angle surprised us, as did the plot point that Tree kills by wire garrotte (not rope, as shown on the cover), but those added to the stakes of a harrowing and austere tale. Are there negatives? A few. Clad loses his tight control over the narrative from the moment Susan realizes—as she must—that Tree isn't just a nice guy hanging about for fun. Clad later forces the usage of Shoshone pictograms into a scene where the child mutely communicates an important clue. It might have worked under the right conditions, but in this case defied credulity. Other authorial errors accrue. Even so, good book. We'd read Clad again.
Mwah! I love you left hook. You get it done every time.
1954's The Man from Laramie by T.T. Flynn is fronted by Stanley Borack art featuring a standing figure nursing sore knuckles, but we prefer to think of him as gratefully kissing his fist. You get a couple of archetypal western elements in this novel, most importantly the mysterious stranger from out of town, and the powerful rancher with no scruples. If the title sounds familiar, it's probably because the book was made into a hit 1955 movie with James Stewart. We may have a look at that later.
There are different ways to win and lose, cowpoke. You'll find that out if you keep me waiting one more hand.
The temptation to buy Archie Joselyn's 1951 Star Books western Wyoming Outlaw was strong, but we have so many books piled up it's stupid. Plus, the Pulp Intl. girlfriends say—well, actually just PI-1 says this—we have too many books and too many plants. First of all, there's no such thing as too many books. Second, is it our fault that plants grow like viruses in this climate? No. But they win this round. We do have a lot of new books because our Stateside visitors over the last several months were each laden with a set we arranged to be mailed to their homes, which they then muled across the pond for us. Big thanks to them for reducing our mailing expenditures considerably. True friends, they are, and those tend to be thin on the ground as time goes by. You'll see those books begin popping up soon.
And if you're not careful he's likely to Walker all over you.
National Enquirer hits pause on its usual cheesecake, and on this cover from today in 1960 opts for some hairy hunkery in the form of U.S. actor Clint Walker. Walker was one of the early cowboy stars on television, headlining the hit series Cheyenne—named not for the city in Wyoming but for the character Cheyenne Bodie. There was a double entendre there, because the character was raised by Cheyenne Indians. In any case Walker manages to strike a nice penile pose with a lumberjack's crosscut saw. But as studly as he may appear, within the ranks of phallic cowboys he doesn't even come close to first place.
It’s a wall world after all.
Above are three covers by realist illustrator James Bama, featuring figures leaning against walls. Bama also loves the crossed leg pose you see on two of these pieces and used it on his famous cover for Midnight Cowboy. Bama was born and raised in Manhattan, and you can see his keen eye for urban detail in these pieces, but interestingly, he moved to Wyoming and became a leading painter of western-themed art. In fact, he was inducted into the Illustrator’s Hall of Fame because of his western art. But we prefer the citified Bama. The realism and immediacy of his early paintings is unmatchable. These are three of the best examples.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1933—King Kong Opens
The first version of King Kong
, starring Bruce Cabot, Robert Armstrong and Fay Wray, and with the giant ape Kong brought to life with stop-action photography, opens at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The film goes on to play worldwide to good reviews and huge crowds, and spawns numerous sequels and reworkings over the next eighty years.
1949—James Gallagher Completes Round-the-World Flight
Captain James Gallagher and a crew of fourteen land their B-50 Superfortress named Lucky Lady II in Fort Worth, Texas, thus completing the first non-stop around-the-world airplane flight. The entire trip from takeoff to touchdown took ninety-four hours and one minute.
1953—Oscars Are Shown on Television
The 26th Academy Awards are broadcast on television by NBC, the first time the awards have been shown on television. Audiences watch live as From Here to Eternity wins for Best Picture, and William Holden and Audrey Hepburn earn statues in the best acting categories for Stalag 17 and Roman Holiday.
1912—First Parachute Jump Takes Place
Albert Berry jumps from a biplane traveling at 1,500 feet and lands by parachute at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. The 36 foot diameter chute was contained in a metal canister attached to the underside of the plane, and when Berry dropped from the plane his weight pulled the canopy from the canister. Rather than being secured into the chute by a harness, Berry was seated on a trapeze bar. It's possible he was only the second man to accomplish a parachute landing, as there are some accounts of someone accomplishing the feat in California several months earlier.
1932—Lindbergh Baby Is Kidnapped
The twenty-month-old son of aviator Charles Lindbergh, Charles Augustus Lindbergh III, is kidnapped from the family home in East Amwell, New Jersey. Over two months later the toddler's body is discovered in woods a short distance from the home. A medical examination determines that he had died of a massive skull fracture. A German carpenter named Bruno Hauptmann is arrested, tried, and convicted for the crime. He is sentenced to death and executed in April 1936.
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