Sunday 12 May 2024


British Edition, Vol. XV, No. 8.
Atlas Publishing, December 1961

This collection of nine tales contains work by eight authors I’d never read before, the exception being Barry Cord, so I was looking forward to trying some new writers to me. Yes, I recognized the names of a few of them but had no idea of what to expect from them when I picked up this issue of Western Story Magazine.

The contents page says none of the stories had been published in Great Britain before, but like all British Editions of western pulps the tales were all previously published in American Pulps. Seven of the stories originally appeared in the December 1940 issue of New Western Magazine, Vol. 2, No. 3. No Law for Die-Hard Cowmen! was taken from Vol. 1, No. 1 of New Western Magazine, March 1940, and Samaritan of Hell’s Half-Acre came from the October 1940 issue of .44 Western Magazine, Vol. 5, No. 4. You can see the covers of these magazines throughout the review.

No Law for Die-Hard Cowmen! by Ed. Earl Repp is the lead story. From what I can gather Repp got other authors to ghost a lot of the work that was published under his own name, and not having read anything by him before means I can’t pick up on any writing styles to help me identify whether it was him or not that wrote this tale. The story follows Clay Anson, who’d turned in his Texas Ranger badge for the chance to deal justice beyond the law and claim his bloody heritage. It was never explained how Anson knew so much about the wrongs he came to set right, and who was behind them. This gave me a few ‘huh?’ moments as I wondered how he knew about certain revelations and made the story somewhat unbelievable. Anson is also a super confident man who never doubts his abilities to take down the badmen. This was probably my least liked story in this magazine.

The second yarn, Barnyard Billy’s Conscript Army by Jim Kjelgaard, was not what I was expecting. This is a tale told from a goat’s point of view and doesn’t contain any humans. Slow starvation awaited the billy goat as he was trapped on top of a barren rock. Below was certain bloody death at the fangs of a huge, snarling dog. Could a second goat help save the day? I was quite surprised at how much I enjoyed this tale, even though I find it hard to accept that animals think like humans. It was well written and the author soon had me wondering if the goat could escape the dog. I’m now curious to find out if Kjelgaard wrote other stories that featured only animals. 

The Broken-M Adopts Trouble by Cliff M. Bisbee uses the age-old plot of the failing ranch that the bank is about to claim if the owners don’t pay off their debt. The Mexican partner decides to steal what they need but he doesn’t pick his victim well, and robs the sheriff. There’s a neat side plot of a missing baby that turns up at the ranch making the owners wonder how it got there. It couldn’t have crawled twenty miles, could it? On the strength of this short story, I’d certainly read more by Bisbee.

Hector Gavin Grey’s There’s Gold in Boothill is next. With a title like that it’ll come as no surprise to discover this is a gold mine tale. An old-timer partners up with a young fast gun who may or may not be who he says he is. They take on a job to get back a mine for a man who has a bad reputation. There’s a couple of plot twists as the characters set to double-cross each other and everything pretty much plays out as expected. Entertaining enough to ensure I’d read another story by this author if I find one, although I wouldn’t go looking specifically.

An Outlaw Town Hires a Badge Toter by H. Charles McDermott. Frontier marshal Bob Fury arrives in town to solves a mysterious series of murders and pilfered caches on the request of Laughing Jake Tilby. This is an action-packed tale involving a gold mine that sees Fury taking on the man who hired him. It has a neat ending which involves an unloaded gun. One of my favourite tales in the magazine making McDermott an author I’ll definitely be keeping an eye-out for more of his stories.

The author of Powdersmoke Quarantine, C. William Harrison, wrote under a few pseudonyms too. This story is about Jim Callert who has the difficult task on making Jan Edwards believe he hadn’t killed her brother whilst upholding a quarantine law that will plunge her ranch into poverty. Callert and Jan were an item at one time, but the death of her brother had changed that. If Callert could prove he was innocent, would they become lovers once again? The was an ok read that had an easy to work out plot and of course involved a cattle stampede. This story didn’t make me want to go and search for more of the author’s work.

Barry Cord is a pseudonym used by Peter B. Germano and he has long been a favourite author of mine and his story in this magazine, The Things Men Die For, was another excellent read by him. It’s about a broken old whiskey-bum to whom a small gold medal meant only another bottle … until the sight of a youngster going out to die fanned to living flame a forgotten spark of manhood. Like in his full-length novels, Cord includes intrigue and a great twist ending to this dark toned tale. Definitely the best story in this publication.

Samaritan of Hell’s Half-Acre by Le Roy Boyd features a plot often found in westerns, that of a lawman and outlaw having to team up to fight off greater odds. Stranded by a waterhole without horses, desperado Lafferty and sheriff Parsons find themselves under attack by a gang of Mexicans. This is packed with action and has a terrific twist ending. This story is my second favourite and I’ll certainly be looking for more work by this author.

The final story is I. L. Thompson’s Doom Waits for Barbwire Rebels. Jeff Mainess, a gunless prison outcast won’t line up with either side in a range war so he becomes fair bullet-bait for both. This is your typical cattleman wants all the range and starts driving out the farmers. Soon people die, and Mainess takes on the job of lawman to try and stop the killings. There’s plenty of action, including a siege and assault on the jail. Mainess is pretty much indestructible, taking a number of bullet wounds but is able to shrug them off and carry on as if nothing has happened. There’s also a delicate girl who will show her strengths by the end of the tale and is the love interest for Mainess. This was a readable story but not very memorable.

Don’t be put off by the incredibly dull cover this magazine has as the stories it contains are all worth a read. I never considered giving up on any of them and found a couple of new authors to me that I’d like to read more of. Overall, this is a fun collection of short stories that kept me entertained for a few hours. 

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