Friday, 3 June 2011

Lust of the Lawless

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.

Meat Hunter
Killer’s Brand
Powdersmoke Passion
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.


Tom Roberts said...

Thank you Steve for the perceptive write-up.

It is always rewarding to know when others find a BDB title enjoyable.

Tom Roberts
Black Dog Books

Tony L said...

Nice review, Steve.

UK readers might like to know that the whole of the Black Dog Books catalogue has at last been made available ( within the past couple of weeks ) on Amazon UK. Not too much western stuff but lots of splendid adventure fare of the pulpy kind.

Steve M said...

Pleasure Tom, it really was a great read.

That's good to know Tony as it's been mentioned to only a couple of weeks ago how difficult BDB are to get in the UK. Excellent to see that has now changed.

maxine said...

Sounds fascinating. Good stories don't date.

Tom Roberts said...

Tony, I was not yet aware that all my BDB titles had propagated through the Amazon UK system. That is good to know. Thanks for sharing that information.

This has been in the works for some time, but is more involved and not as easy a process to initiate as one might think.

There are some other Western titles coming in the offing from BDB, but I have only announced one of them. Next out will be DEAD MAN'S BRAND by Norbert Davis, with an introduction by Spur Award Winner Bill Pronzini, and an afterword by Western film authority Ed Hulse discussing the one movie based upon a Norbert Davis Western.

The book assembles eight stories from Dime Western, Star Western, Action Stories and Western Aces. Well thought out and plotted, much akin to his mysteries, Davis' Westerns are a far cry from the "standard pulp Western fare shoot 'em ups" and should be an enjoyable read.

I am working to add Westerns into the regular list of BDB publications, hoping to issue a couple titles a year.

The demand (or interest) for Westerns is significantly lower with the regular pulp reprint reading crowd than it is for the adventure story material, and as such I must continue to cater the majority of BDB titles to the existing market.

Customer comments are always welcomed. If anyone has feedback to share please send them to me at

Tom Roberts
Black Dog Books