Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Western Pulp: Ranch Romances

At a flea market, I recently picked up several old EQMMs, AHMMs, and a lone copy of a western pulp, Ranch Romances. Not knowing much about the series, I decided to buy the old May 1966 issue.

Some of the longest running pulp fiction magazines were dedicated to the western story, and Ranch certainly fits into the longevity category. This western-romance hybrid was the first of its kind created by Harold Hersey in 1924 and survived into the early 1970s after converting to entirely reprint in 1967. It’s been described by some as the "last of the pulps."

This issue features six stories with the most recognizable name being Giles Lutz with his novelette No Second Chance. Will McCann's Ex-Gunman stands out as a typical example from the compilation in a Shane-esque tale of a family man who straps on his guns one last time to cleanup a corrupt town. I expected the stories to feature Harlequin style romance, but interestingly, none of these did. They were straight forward action pieces.

--No Second Chance, Giles A. Lutz
--Big Man From Montana, W.J. Reynolds
--The Sunday-Horse Rider, Gordon Redmond
--Ex-Gunman, Will McCann
--One Of The Wild Bunch, Lester W. Merha
--Wild Kid's Sister, Sally T. Smith


James Reasoner said...

When RANCH ROMANCES started in the Twenties, the rest of the Western pulps concentrated on stories with little or no romance at all. Some stories didn't even have any female characters. So it was a little different from the other Western pulps when it started. By the mid-Thirties, though, it was common to see stories with some love interest in any of the Western pulps. The overall quality of the stories in Western pulps goes up in the mid-Thirties, anyway. There were some fine stories published in RANCH ROMANCES. Elmer Kelton, voted the best Western writer of all time by the Western Writers of America, was a regular in its pages.

David Cranmer said...

Thanks for filling in the gaps. I wasn't able to find much information online about Ranch Romances. The issue I have is entertaining but I would love to get an older issue from its heyday. It would be nice if someone repackaged some of these old pulps in a Best of Ranch Romances, Western Story Magazine, etc., like they did with Big Book of Pulps. Such a wealth of material out there that's going unread.

James Reasoner said...

Check the library for the anthologies SHADOW OF THE LARIAT, STAR WESTERN, and THE BIG BOOK OF ACTION WESTERN STORIES, all edited by Jon Tuska, for some good collections of stories mostly from the Western pulps. There are other Tuska collections as well, and numerous single-author collections out in paperback from Leisure, reprinting pulp stories by favorites of mine like T.T. Flynn, Peter Dawson, and Walt Coburn. I think Flynn is especially good. He wrote a lot of hardboiled mystery fiction for the pulps as well. Several friends of mine have recommended the work of Eugene Cunningham to me (one called him "the Dashiell Hammett of the Western"), so I'm going to be reading some of his stuff before much longer.

David Cranmer said...

The anthologies and someone considered 'the Dashiell Hammett of the Western' sound right up my alley. A quick search on amazon turned up Cunningham's Hell-For-Leather Omnibus with Buckaroo and Diamond River Man (1934) as well as a couple of others. Thanks for the tips. I'm going to go ahead and order a couple.


I've got an old copy of one of these in my archives somewhere. Interesting about Elmer Kelton - did he use his own name?

James Reasoner said...

As far as I know, all of Elmer Kelton's work is under his own name (including his Ranch Romances stories) except for the early novel SHOTGUN SETTLEMENT, originally published under the house-name Alex Hawk but recently reprinted under Kelton's name, and the first three books in the Sons of Texas series, which he wrote as Tom Early. These have also been reprinted recently under his real name. The other three books in the Sons of Texas series were written by various hands under the Tom Early name. I wrote the sixth and final one.