Friday, January 14, 2011

Friday's Forgotten Book: Zane Grey Western Magazine, August 1970

When I was sick last week, I read a couple of stories from an old mag a friend of mine had sent me. It was an August, 1970 issue of Zane Grey Western Magazine, a magazine I'd never seen (mainly because these don't often travel to Finland) and I was curious about it. I thought maybe reading a Western short story or two might be manageable even on my sick bed.

The lead story of the issue was by "Romer Zane Grey", who was supposed to be Zane Grey's son, but was actually Tom Curry. At least according to the Fictionmags Index; I'd earlier thought that Bill Pronzini and Jeffrey Wallmann used the pseudonym, at least in the two or three paperbacks that came out of the pages of Zane Grey Western Magazine. The Romer Zane Grey story in the issue is called "Last Stand at Indigo Flats" and it's basically a standard Western yarn, full of six-gun action. The lead character is Zane Grey's Laramie Nelson, but he could be any Western hero, just give him a different name and you have a different story. On its own, "Last Stand" can stand comparison to any pulp story: it is full of action and full of tension, with quite many intersecting plots and twists going on at the same time. Whoever wrote this, Tom Curry, Bill Pronzini or Jeffrey Wallmann, he knew how to do his stuff. Not all of the plots are handled with equal depth - one of them is actually resolved pretty badly - but I can live with that.

The other story I read from the issue was a sequel to Bret Harte's classic story, "Luck of Roaring Camp". The new story, "Reunion at Roaring Camp" was said to have been written by "Robert Hart Davis", which was of course a house name. The sequel is said to start a new series, called "Bret Harte Country", i.e. stories about mining life. I don't know how many stories appeared in this series. "Reunion at Roaring Camp" is an amusing little tale, nothing more, but nothing less; I think this should be reprinted in some massive Western anthology, collecting various and ephemeral pieces of literary history.

The other writers in the issue are James Hines (a reprint from a 1955 Action-Packed Western), Gladwell Richardson, Glenn Shirley, Doris Curda (her only story according to the FM Index), William Heuman and R. Brennin Ward (his only story). Heuman is the only name I recognize.

More forgotten books at Patti Abbott's blog.


Todd Mason said...

RZG was essentially a house name, too...Leo Margulies ran his revival of ZG WESTERN pretty much along the lines of his MIKE SHAYNE MYSTERY MAGAZINE, with a number of writers ghosting the lead novelets/novellas, and attributed them to Grey Junior rather than to Davis Dresser's pseudonym (in MSMM). Curda and Ward, if those are their actual names, might've written other stories, but we haven't caught up with them yet for the know, as a Very young kid I saw the last issues of RANCH ROMANCES AND ADVENTURES on newsstands, but don't think I ever saw ZGWM, out at about the same time...

James Reasoner said...

Curry wrote some but not all of the Buck Duane stories that appeared in ZGWM. Edward Y. Breese wrote at least one of the Duanes. I think Pronzini and Wallmann wrote the Arizona Ames stories and Clayton Matthews wrote the Laramie Nelson stories. I'm not 100% certain, but that's the way I remember it.

Juri said...

Okay, that's an interesting to know. The Laramie Nelson story sure reads like it was written by someone of a newer generation than Tom Curry. And what I've read by Matthews, he could be pretty hardboiled.

Juri said...

Todd: there's a short editorial addressing the bad availability of the ZG magazine at newsstands. They ask people to order the magazine via mail.

James Reasoner said...

I remember seeing several issues of RANCH ROMANCES on the stands, when it was still in its larger size. Don't think I ever saw any after it added AND ADVENTURES and shrunk to a digest. Of course I never bought any of them, being a red-blooded adolescent male. The Margulies digest I never saw was CHARLIE CHAN MYSTERY MAGAZINE. SHELL SCOTT MYSTERY MAGAZINE showed up around here now and then, MIKE SHAYNE MYSTERY MAGAZINE more often, and I bought nearly all the issues of THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. MAGAZINE new off the stands.

Now that I think about it, I believe I've read some pulp stories by Gladwell Richardson, but they certainly weren't memorable.

Todd Mason said...

Presumably, then as now subscriptions were the moneymakers, and Margulies had no sustained success with any title other than MIKE SHAYNE throughout the Renown years...THE MAN FROM U*N*C*L*E MAGAZINE did OK (running only about as long as the series did), but GIRL FROM, CHARLIE CHAN MYSTERY MAGAZINE, his ZGWM, and his revival of WEIRD TALES were all short-term propostions.

Juri said...

Thanks for further comments, guys, nice to see some traffic around here. (Plus Jerry Page's e-mail directly to me.)

The layout of the magazine seems pretty bland to me and it's actually difficult to read, since the marginals are so small. I had to bend the magazine to be able to read what was written on the left page's right column. The interior illustrations were shoddy. There's no mention of the artist anywhere.

Juri said...

Here's Gerald Page's comment he sent to me directly via e-mail. With his permission I'll post it here as well:

In the 1940s and early 1950s, Dell published a magazine called Zane Grey's Western Magazine, with no relation of course to Margulies title of the 1960s. It was a 160 page digest, profusely illustrated, and featuring novel abridgements as the lead story, along with an assortment of new and reprinted stories. It also ran a variety of short features, illustrated features and verse (most of which seems to have been by S. Omar Barker who seems for about three decades to have had a corner on the western verse market).

Most of the early novels were abridgements of Zane Grey novels, but when that well dried up, after an experiment with shorter Grey reprints, they abridged novels by other writers as well. Being published by Dell, a company that at the same time was one of the leading paperback publishers, they had a wealth of material to draw from.

The magazine was edited by Don Ward. It featured writers such as Tom Blackburn, Walker Tompkins, Frank Bonham, John Kelly and Frank Richardson Pierce -- just a sampling that's by no means comprehensive. A lot of the features seemed to be written by W.H. Hutchinson.
I by no means have a comprehensive run of the magazine but the assorted issues I have suggest that it maintain a pretty high level of quality throughout it's publishing history. Ward was an exceptionally good editor.

I suspect, however, that these days he may be best known for the handful of western stories he wrote in collaboration with Theodore Sturgeon and collected in "Sturgeon's West."