Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Frank Castle's Sowers of the Doom

Here's a book that has been somewhat puzzling to bibliographers, henceforth me. It's not known to have appeared in English at all, even though Castle was a paperback writer who published a lot of books in the fifties and sixties. The original title is given in the verso page: The Sowers of the Doom. Yet there's no book under this title.

Castle's book wouldn't be the first one. There are several examples of American paperbacks having been published only in Europe or even only in Scandinavia. When I was doing my Pulpografia, these books puzzled me as they'd puzzled Simo Sjöblom who'd done a massive bibliography of crime fiction in Finnish.

The books were a puzzle until I managed to make contact with Bruce Cassiday. He'd been writing pulps and paperbacks since the fourties and my letter found him near his 80th birthday. I contacted him because there's a Finnish paperback called Vain viisi tuntia (= Only Five Hours), with the original title given as The Heister. Yet, The Heister is not known to have been published in English. I wrote Cassiday asking about this and he wrote back saying that he and his agent couldn't sell the book that he'd written already in the early sixties in the US. They shopped it around in Europe. It ended up being published in Finland in 1968 and in Norway in 1971 as Blindgaten. Cassiday remembered it was first published in Sweden, but that appears not to have been the case. I sent him the Finnish copy of the book and he thanked me kindly sending me a chapbook collection of his old pulp crime stories (published by Gryphon Books).

After this I took a closer look into some books. Dean Owen's Hot Line, several WWII paperbacks by Robert Sidney Bowen, a spy novel by Joseph Chadwick, four P.I. novels by Grover Brinkman, another P.I. series by I.G. Edmonds... all turned out to be published only in Finland (some in Sweden, some in Norway). There are some that are certain (such as Brinkman and Edmonds), some that are not so certain (Dean Owen, Chadwick, Bowen).

For some reason or another, I didn't look into Frank Castle. Don't know why. I wrote about him later in my Kuudestilaukeavat/Six Guns that's about Western paperbacks published in Finnish and noticed he was hell of a writer. I highly recommend his Guns to Sonora (Berkley 1962), it's hardboiled and it's noir and also lots of violent action fun in which everyone tries to deceive each other. Also very good is Brand of Hate (Tower 1966). I have notes of Blood Moon (Fawcett 1960), but I don't remember reading it.

Not much is known about Castle. He started out in the late fourties writing for the pulps, mainly mags like Fighting Western and Leading Western. He also wrote for Ranch Romances. I don't know for sure, but I don't think these were grade A western pulps. He moved into paperbacks alongside tons of other authors when pulps died in the early fifties and penned also lots of crime novels, mainly for Fawcett Gold Medal. His Move Along, Stranger came out in 1954 and was his first Gold Medal offering. He also wrote westerns for the Ace Double line. Castle's known to have used Steve Thurman as his byline. Castle faded out in the late sixties. My notes say his latest novel is Lobo that came out in 1969 (from Belmont). I don't know what happened to him.

Sowers of the Doom must by from the same era or maybe from the mid-sixties. It came out in Finnish in 1971 and the copyright says "1970". Wouldn't bet on that. The book starts out pretty crisply (I'll try to translate back into English):

Cleve Haig sensed the death moving in the desert. He could smell it in his nostrils, he tasted it his mouth - and for the first time in his nice life he felt completely helpless: the woman behind him was pressing the gun barrel hard against on his back.
Cleve Haig is a millionaire's carefree son, who gets hijacked into the world of international intrigue and spying. There seem to be some terrorists on the loose in the American soil - and they have atom bombs. Cleve Haig joins the extra unit that fights the terrorists and falls in love with a woman who's also in the unit. Her husband has been reported killed in action, but there are also some doubts about her being a traitor.

Maybe it's the Finnish translation (they weren't always very good and many were abridged), but the book is a bit boring. It moves pretty fast, but the plot seems overtly complicated and the persons never come out alive and distinctive from each other. There are some nice action scenes throughout the book, but it's not very engaging in the whole. Maybe Castle wrote it in 16 hours - it certainly reads that way.

But nevertheless, I'd really like to know more about this and Frank Castle's fate. What came of him and what urged him to write his great noir westerns? And as I haven't read any of his crime novels, I'd like to hear about those. (And no, he didn't become The Punisher.)

12 comments:

Anders E said...

I've read four of Castle's crime fiction novels. It's been a while so don't remember any details, but I recall I really liked DEAD - AND KICKING.

HAWAIIAN EYE was a TV series tie-in. The novel is rather mediocre, as I recall, but you can read about the TV series here:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0052472/

Check out the full writer's credits and you'll find one Sam Ross, the very same guy who wrote the great HE RAN ALL THE WAY. Pardon my digression.

Juri said...

I certainly don't mind any form of digression.. interesting, thanks for this. It seems that HAWAIIAN EYE was Castle's last crime novel, at least under his own name. Um, wait... Indeed it is (he'd written MAD DOG COLL, another tie-in, for Dell in 1961). I gather he'd run into some problems with his writing and hence SOWERS OF THE DOOM didn't find a publisher.

We are only waiting for Steve Lewis of Mystery*File to see this and to come up with a thorough bibliography of Frank Castle! Steve, are you there?!

roberto said...

a funny bit of trivia here:
the cover of this finish Frank castle cover is the same of a Carter brown novel published in Mexico by Editorial Diana.
Check it out:

http://elefantes_rosas.blogia.com/2005/051201-mas-carter-brown-para-seguir-molestando-a-mis-lectores.php

strange, isn´t it?

Juri said...

It seems like it was a Spanish cover. It may have intended for a totally different book in the beginning. These covers, they travelled all over the world and usually they had nothing do to with the books they were on. As is the case here.

Juri said...

I forgot to mention that the signature of the artist is clearly visible and I've seen this particular one many times before. I'm not that well into Spanish illustrators that I'd recognize the name. Maybe someone does?

Steve Lewis said...

Juri

Not much seems to be known about Frank Castle. You and the other commenters seem to have covered almost everything he did, unless you count his role as The Punisher for Marvel Comics beginning sometime around 1974. But maybe that was a different Frank Castle. And like the comic book guy, maybe our Frank Castle wasn’t his real name either.

For his mystery fiction, here’s what appears in Al Hubin’s Crime Fiction IV:

FRANK CASTLE. Born in New Mexico; graduate of University of Oklahoma; magazine and book writer. Pseudonym: Steve Thurman.
Move Along, Stranger (n.) Gold Medal 1954
Dead-and Kicking (n.) Gold Medal 1956 [California]
The Violent Hours (n.) Gold Medal 1956 [Los Angeles, CA]
Lovely and Lethal (n.) Gold Medal 1957 [California]
Murder in Red (n.) Gold Medal 1957 [New Mexico]
Vengeance Under Law (n.) Gold Medal 1957 [New Mexico; Past]
Hawaiian Eye (n.) Dell 1962 [Hawaii]

STEVE THURMAN
Night After Night (n.) Monarch 1959 [Ship]
“Mad Dog” Coll (n.) Monarch 1961 [New York City, NY; 1932] Novelization of film: Columbia, 1961.

I haven’t put together a list of his westerns, but at a quick glance, he may have written more of those than he did crime novels.

I’ve read some of his Gold Medals, but since that was when they first came out, I couldn’t tell you anything about them. I do remember a few of the covers, though.

Best

Steve

keeline said...

Frank Pulliam Castle (8 May 1910-18 Sep 1994) also used the "Cole Fannin" pseudonym for 10 juvenile novels and authorized TV editions for Whitman (1954-1963).

1954 Gene Autry and the Golden Stallion
1955 Roy Rogers and the Brasada Bandits
1956 Roy Rogers, King of the Cowboys
1957 Roy Rogers and Dale Evans in River of Peril
1958 Sea Hunt
1959 The Rifleman
1959 Rin Tin Tin and the Ghost Wagon Train
1961 The Real McCoys: Danger at the Ranch
1962 Leave it to Beaver
1963 Lucy and the Madcap Mystery

James D. Keeline

Juri Nummelin said...

Thanks for your comment, James! Most interesting.

Juri Nummelin said...

Thanks also for the years for Frank Castle!

Unknown said...

Here under a bibliography as I've reconstructed it:
Crime Novels
Dead-and Kicking (n.) Gold Medal 1956 [California]
The Violent Hours (n.) Gold Medal 1956 [Los Angeles, CA]
Lovely and Lethal (n.) Gold Medal 1957 [California]
Murder in Red (n.) Gold Medal 1957 [New Mexico]
Nero (n.) Avon, 1961
Hawaiian Eye (n.) Dell 1962 (Novelization of TV Series]
Wild in the Night (n.) Pyramid, 1969

WESTERNS as Frank P. Castle
Move Along, Stranger (n.) Gold Medal, 1952
Border Buccaneers (n.) Ace, 1955
Vengeance Under Law (n.) Gold Medal 1957
Gun Talk at Yuma (n.) Gold Medal, 1957
Fort Desperation (n.) Gold Medal 1958
Dakota Boomtown (n.) Gold Medal, 1958
Blood Moon (n.) Gold Medal, 1960
Guns to Sonora (n.) Berkley, 1962
King of the Frontier (n.) Berkley, 1965
Escape from Yuma (n.) Belmont Tower, 1969
Lobo (n.) Belmont Tower, 1969

Taken from Goodreads
Tarzan and the Lost Safari
by Frank Castle
An authorized edition. Adapted from the Tarzan Motion Picture. Apparently written by Frank Castle, although the author is not credited.
Hardcover, 282 pages
Published by Whitman

STEVE THURMAN (Pseud.)
Night After Night (n.) Monarch 1959 [Ship]
“Mad Dog” Coll (n.) Monarch 1961 [New York City, NY; 1932] Novelization of film: Columbia, 1961.
Baby Face Nelson (n.) Monarch 1961
Sanitarium of Tears (n.) Gold Star Books, 1964

WESTERNS as Steve Thurman
Gun Lightning! (n.) Graphic, 1955
The Hungry Gun (n.) Paperback Library, 1966

VAL MUNROE (Pseud.)
Carnival of Passion (n.) Rainbow Books, 1962
Tender Hearted Harlot (n.) Rainbow Books, 1952
After Hours (n.) Beacon, 1961
Lisette (n.) Beacon, 1962
Sex Fever (n.) Beacon, 1965
Second-Year Intern (n.) Beacon, 1966
The Naked View (n.) Beacon, 1966
Doctors & Wives (Award Books, 1968)

Probably he wrote many other soft porno during his career, maybe with other pseudonyms.

Unknown said...

I'm sorry.
Nero is an historical novel about the Roman Age.

Juri Nummelin said...

Thanks, most interesting! I'll make at least a blog post on him.