During the 1950s and 1960s, Men’s Adventure Magazines like “Stag” and “For Men Only” told salacious stories - often masquerading as non-fiction journalism - of daring deeds and lusty ladies around the world. The magazines were illustrated with vivid action drawings by many of the same artists who created the cover art for the vintage action and crime paperbacks we adore.
Robert Deis and Wyatt Doyle have preserved many of the great stories and art from these magazines in a series of anthology books called Men's Adventure Library published by New Texture. These books are associated with the website MensPulpMags.com. One such compilation focuses on Walter Kaylin (1921-2017), a top writer in this interesting sub-genre. The book is called “He-Men, Bag Men and Nymphos,” and it’s a lovingly-curated Kaylin Greatest Hits collection with 15 of the writer’s stories from the men’s adventure magazines spanning from 1956 to 1978. There are also a few tribute pieces about Kaylin and his work.
Reviewing a short-story compilation is always a challenge, so I’ll just touch on three representative highlights:
“Snow-Job From a Redhead”
This story originally appeared in the June 1956 issue of “Men.” It’s a first-person narration by Fred who violently steals a small statue of a black bull from a fellow crook in an ambush doublecross. He’s part of a small smuggling crew meeting at a rooming house near Los Angeles operated by a sexy redhead who’s initially resistant to Fred’s advances.
What is it about the statue that makes it worth killing to possess? Can Fred withstand pressure from the local police? Will he get lucky with the redhead? Can he get away with his mini-caper, or will his lustful big mouth get in the way? All of these questions are answered in this gripping short story.
Kaylin writes in a dialog-heavy style without a lot of exposition, which allows the reader to catch up to the action in progress. The anthology editors were wise to start the compilation with a great doublecross story like “Snow-Job From a Redhead.” After finishing it, you’ll want to move onto other Kaylin stories.
“The Nymph Who Leads an African Death Army”
With a title like that, I needed to know more, which was often the idea behind the headlines and illustrations in these men’s magazines. This particular story originally appeared in the October 1960 edition of “Men.” The piece is presented as a piece of journalism - like a feature one might read in the National Geographic or The New Yorker - but every word came from the mind of Kaylin.
The story is about Max Bosch and his group of international solders-of-fortune known as the Butcher Boys who arrive in Camaroon and take over a peaceful village. The group of tough thugs is presented in contrast to Harry Tapp, a benevolent American living peacefully among the natives, establishing small businesses such as a general store and used car dealership. He’s a prince of a guy who teaches the Africans to play “Three Blind Mice” on the trumpet, a plot point that becomes brilliantly relevant as the tale moves to its violent climax.
Kaylin could write a helluva fight scene and this story has plenty to enjoy as Tapp turns to a full-breasted hill woman named Aunt Edna for assistance with his mercenary problem. She has a close relationship with a badass crew of African jungle dwellers, and she’s happy to supply them as muscle for Tapp’s crusade against Bosch’s Butcher Boys...for a price.
As alliances shift and the bloodbath becomes inevitable, “The Nymph Who Leads an African Death Army” becomes an exciting survival story and a high-point of this superb collection.
“Surf Pack Assassins”
Kaylin was such a prolific contributor to these
magazines that his stories often appeared under pen names to hide the fact that his imagination was saturating the market. This was the case for his piece in the August 1967 issue of “Male” magazine titled “Surf Pack Assassins” originally published under the pen name Roland Empey.
Kaylin has a lot of fun with this one trotting out the surf lingo in this story of an informal American surfing club riding the waves as part of an international hang ten tour. They’re a rowdy crowd who surfs all day and drinks themselves blind by the beach bonfire every night. Harmless fun, right?
As the story continues, it becomes clear that not all as it seems with the surf society. African democracy leaders are dying in cities corresponding with the surf crew’s travels. Yes, as the title promises, these aren’t ordinary surf-bums, they are a covert group of talented killers.
Meanwhile, a member of a U.S. intel agency is investigating the surfers to see if its even possible that a group of burnouts could possibly be assassins. The undercover infiltration story is exciting stuff and every bit as good as the best ‘Nick Carter: Killmaster’ paperback. The story went on a bit too long, but it was a thoroughly enjoyable read.
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“He-Men, Bag Men and Nymphos” is an important collection of delightful stories from a writer who deserves to be remembered. The guys at Men's Adventure Library should be commended for putting together such a lovely-packaged book packed with winning stories and illustrations from the original magazine stories.
Mostly, I’m glad Walter Kaylin is being remembered. He was a talented writer with an interesting niche market that could have easily been lost to the ages if it weren’t for this important volume. Kaylin wrote a single mystery novel for Fawcett Gold Medal called “Another Time, Another Woman” published in 1963 that I’d like to check out sometime. In the meantime, there are a smattering of Kaylin magazine stories in other anthologies covering this genre to read and enjoy. Highly recommended.
Buy a copy of this book HERE