By Robert Leslie Bellem
Black Dog Books, 2010
Way back before I was born there was a pulp called Spicy Western Stories and this book brings together all of Robert Leslie Bellem’s output for them, the first, Powdersmoke Passion, being published in December 1936, and his final story Gold – and a Girl, appearing in December 1938.
Bait for a Mantrap
Brand of the Question-Mark
Lust of the Lawless
Coward Man’s Size
Gold – and a Girl
The above titles are sandwiched between an excellent introduction by James Reasoner, and a fascinating couple of pages about the author written by Tom Roberts, owner of Black Dog Books.
All these stories move forwards at tremendous pace, they are filled with action and terrific characters. Many of the women being nearly as tough as the male leads – and being as these stories appeared in a Spicy pulp, they all seem to loose their clothes at some point, often whilst seducing the hero so they can steal his pistol. In fact most of these stories do seem to follow a similar pattern so when one didn’t it came as a great surprise, this tale was written in the first person whereas the others are all in the third. A number of these stories also contain a twist or two but overall they have straightforward plots.
I was surprised by how little these stories come across as dated, true there is some dialogue of the times, particularly when Mexicans speak, and there are plenty of terms we don’t see that often in today’s westerns. Some of the violence is quite graphic in its description. All this, for me, adds to the charm of this great collection of short stories.
I’d originally planned to read these stories over a few days but found myself reading one then thinking ‘just one more’ and before I knew it I’d read the lot. For me, it really is a shame that Robert Leslie Bellem didn’t write more westerns, as I found all of these to be highly entertaining and I’d certainly recommend this book to all fans of the genre.
Check out Black Dog Books here.