Showing posts with label Steve Frazee. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Steve Frazee. Show all posts

Monday, October 3, 2022

Paperback Warrior Episode 101 - Steve Frazee

It's a new era as Paperback Warrior storms into the next 100 episodes. #101 features a look at western and action-adventure author Steve Frazee's life and career in the pulps and paperbacks. Tom explains to listeners his cash-grab scheme using his local library and Eric discusses his recent western paperback acquisitions. Additionally, horror author Ronald Malfi, crime-fiction author Lionel White, and sci-fi writer Robert Silverberg. Watch the show's video HERE, stream audio and video below, or download the audio directly HERE.

Listen to "Episode 101 - Steve Frazee" on Spreaker.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

The Death Hunter

Steve Frazee was a prolific western author that served as president of the Western Writers of America. Before authoring full-length paperbacks in the 1950s, Frazee was a heavy contributor to the western and adventure pulps of the 1940s. We've covered several of his books and stories here on Paperback Warrior, so I was happy to locate another of his short stories. "The Death Hunter" appeared in the July, 1952 issue of Adventure Magazine.

When the story begins, Buchanan (no relation to William Ard's character) is boarding a train toting a hunting rifle. But, he doesn't plan on hunting game. Instead, his target is a man named Roy Sargent. In the backstory, readers learn that Buchanan served in WW2 with a fellow named McKee. During a fierce shoreline battle, Buchanan became badly wounded. McKee saved Buchanan by hefting him over his shoulder and racing for the safety of a boat. Because of this, Buchanan feels he owes McKee his life.

Months ago, Sargent trespassed on McKee's farm, hunting birds. McKee kindly asked him to leave, but there was a disagreement. When McKee was found shot to death, clues pointed to Sargent as the murderer. After a police inquiry, there wasn't sufficient evidence to prosecute Sargent. When Buchanan finds that Sargent is headed upstate on a hunting trip, he decides he will bring about his own form of justice.

Frazee's dark tale is one of revenge, but it teaches an important lesson on trust and forgiveness. The story takes some unexpected turns with character development that quickly escalates as these two characters find themselves in the depths of the wilderness. I was pleasantly surprised by the story's finale and really loved what Frazee was able to accomplish over such a small word count. 

You can read a copy of this story, as well as the entire magazine, HERE.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Back Alley Jungle

Leo Margulies (1900-1975) is a familiar name in the world of pulps, MAMs and digests. Originally from New York, he started as a researcher for 20th Century Fox before becoming the editor of Ned Pines' Standard Magazines. Along with magazines like Mike Shayne, Popular Detective and Thrilling Detective, Margulies also compiled and edited a number of anthology collections including Back Alley Jungle. This 1960 collection of short stories was initially published by Fawcett Gold Medal under the Crest brand name. Here’s some highlights:

Ed McBain (written under the name of Richard Marsten) is the author of the 1952 story entitled “Carrera’s Woman”. In it, a man named Jeff has been working the oil fields in Mexico. After many hard years, Jeff amassed $10,000 in savings. Before returning to America to start a new life he was robbed by a co-worker named Carrera and his girlfriend Linda. When the story starts, Jeff takes Linda hostage behind big rocks. Carrera is across the dry gulch firing futilely into the rocks hoping to kill Jeff and reclaim Linda. During the night, the three parties are at each other's throats with both sides taking potshots across the gap. But the story changes fast as Linda starts to seduce Jeff. Is this an escape strategy or is she sincere in her sexual advances? This is the ultimate question McBain is asking, and it's such a tempting one. I really liked this story and it's a key part of the collection. 

In Steve Frazee's 1953 "Graveyard Shift" story, the close narration focuses on a busy police dispatcher on a late night shift. When a woman holding a gun enters the police station, this lone dispatcher is ordered to place all of the city's patrol cars in one section of the city. The woman's motive becomes clear when the dispatcher locates the pattern - she's purposefully maneuvering the police away from the local casino. Involved in this complex case, it is up to the dispatcher to use code words so that officers redirect efforts to the casino. This is a really unique story that presents a rare, but deserving hero - the police dispatcher.

The longest and most enjoyable story is Richard Deming's 1955 short "The War". This starts with a woman named Janice entering the Rotunda Club, a posh casino owned by Clancy Ross. After a talk and a call upstairs, Clancy greets Janice in his office. In short, Janice is the widow of Clancy's old Army buddy from the Korean War. She explains to Clancy that her husband witnessed a mob slaying and was later gunned down by killers working for a syndicate kingpin named Lawson. During the exchange, the Mob framed Janice so that she would appear as a frustrated wife who shot her husband during a heated argument. After the arrest, the Mob posted bail for her in an effort to then kill her in a way that would resemble suicide. With no friends or allies, Janice fled to Clancy hoping he will keep her safe. This violent and explosive story features Clancy at odds with Lawson over the woman's safety. But is there some secret about her? Deming was a great storyteller and “The War” is absolutely awesome. I can't say enough good things about it.

Other authors appearing in this compilation are Jonathan Craig (Frank E. Smith), Dan Sontup, Mann Rubin, Charles Boeckman, Robert Turner and Don Stanford. There's an additional Ed McBain story titled "Clean Break" that's listed under the pseudonym Hunt Collins.

At 150-pages and 10 solid short-stories, Back Alley Jungle is an absolute joy to read and a fairly affordable used paperback considering the era and publisher. Highly recommended.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Monday, February 1, 2021

Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 76

On Episode 76 of the Paperback Warrior Podcast, we take a deep dive into the life and work of legendary author Ralph Hayes. Also discussed: Donald Hamilton, Edward S. Aarons, Steve Frazee, Russ Meservey and more. Listen on your favorite podcast app or or download directly HERE 

Donate to our show using this LINK 

Listen to "Episode 76: Ralph Hayes" on Spreaker.

Friday, January 8, 2021

Many Rivers to Cross

Colorado native Steve Frazee (1908-1992) authored a number of crime-fiction, pulp and western novels before becoming president of the Western Writers of America. I read two of his novels over the last year, Running Target and High Hell. As a fan of early pioneer westerns, I was excited to find Frazee's Many Rivers to Cross. It was originally published by Fawcett Gold Medal in 1959 and was later adapted to cinema by MGM.

In the book's opening pages, Frazee states that the book's narrative is taking place in 1890. However, this was either a ploy by Fawcett to make this sound like a traditional western novel or simply an error on the author's part. I believe the year is actually 1790. Many of the book's characters discuss their fight against the British and most of America's midwest and western regions remain unsettled throughout the narrative. Further, the book's cover (always the best resource) clearly shows the main character, Bushrod Gentry, carrying a flintlock musket.

Gentry, a white man who was raised by the Shawnee, is a lone-wolf vagabond who has journeyed all over the east and mid-west sections of untamed America. With his musket, tomahawk and knife, Gentry tries to make peace when he can, but doesn’t hesitate to scrap with ruthless settlers and the savage Mingo tribe. When the book begins, Gentry is in the backwoods of Kentucky fighting three Mingo warriors. After being cut on the arm, Gentry finds himself aided by a young woman named Mary Stuart. And this is when his real trouble starts.

Gentry is taken back to Mary's hillbilly clan, which is really just a group of Irish drinkers that share a log cabin with an old Native American named Oykywha. At first, Gentry is happy to meet the group, share a meal and then bed down alone in the clan's shed. The next morning, Gentry is ready to hit the wooded trail again hoping to make it to “the Shining Mountains” one day. Gentry has no use for a woman and explains this to Mary. However, Mary can't shake her desire for Gentry, and she attempts numerous stalling techniques and eventually attempts to propose to him. Gentry, fearing for his very life, finds himself foolishly hogtied to the clan and dealing with a rambunctious, sexually-charged girl. With that plot, Frazee cleverly converts this pioneer western into a traditional femme fatale story. Think of Orrie Hitt meets Zane Grey.

Many Rivers to Cross had me chuckling throughout the 170-page book. Gentry is a hilarious character and I couldn't help but sympathize with his situation. After being thrust into a shotgun wedding, Gentry's life becomes complicated and highly-stressful. Marriage, obsessive impulse, sexual energy and a frenzied escape are just some of the ingredients that make Frazee's narrative so riveting and enjoyable. This one is a real classic and one of the funniest western novels I've read in a long time. Hunt a copy of this one down. It's worth the time and money.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Thursday, March 12, 2020

High Hell

Author Steve Frazee (1909-1992) began selling his stories to the western and adventure pulps in the late 1940s. After a successful run of frontier storytelling, Frazee would later serve as president of the prestigious Western Writers of America. Using his experience as a heavy construction and mine worker, Frazee would often include elements of the mining industry into his writing style. Novels like “Ghost Mine” and “Hidden Gold” exhibit those characteristics while offering high adventures in Northwestern America. However, one of his most successful mining-adventure works was the novel “High Cage”, originally published by MacMillan in 1957. The theatrical adaptation, titled “High Hell”, was released by Paramount in 1958. Crest Books, an imprint of Fawcett Gold Medal, reprinted the novel as “High Hell” to coincide with the film.

The book is presented in first-person by Craig Rhodes, an experienced miner and heavy machinery operator. Craig is hired by an investor to run a mining expedition in the frozen Canadian Rockies. To assist with the drilling, Craig hires four experienced miners – his brother Danny, Luke, Frank, and Charley. But much to Craig's surprise, he ends up with one unexpected guest. It's this character reveal that sets the tone for “High Hell”.

These five rugged men ascend the snowy slopes and begin setting up the mining operation that will run through the winter. I won't spoil it for you, but there's an ordeal that ends up placing a woman named Lenore in the mining camp as the sixth laborer. As the snow begins to fall, the men understand that there is no descent until the Spring thaw. It doesn't take a psychic to see where this is going.

As the five hard-working, frozen workers contend with drills and pick-axes in endless snowstorms, Lenore busies herself by making warm meals for the men. As the weeks roll on, the men begin to have cabin fever that's elevated with their sexual desires for Lenore. Danny is still in love with her, yet she's married to Frank. Craig finds himself fighting his brother as both of them are lustfully eyeing Lenore. It's this burning temptation that allows the author plenty of creative space to work his magic.

Set in the 1800s, “High Hell” works like a western adventure with burly men fighting (and dying) for a sultry woman. Craig is the iron-fist, no-nonsense leader that demands as much from himself as his men. Yet, his will is the first to break. From that point, it's a high-tension game with plenty of danger and intrigue to propel the pace. The author's brilliant placement of Lenore in the ranks of snowbound men was captivating. I read this enthralling paperback in one sitting.

“High Hell” should appeal to fans of snowbound action. While it can be a slow burn at times, the payoff was well worth the price of admission. Despite my failed attempt to embrace Steve Frazee's writing, “High Hell” was certainly a redeeming use of my time. Frazee is the real deal.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Friday, November 15, 2019

Running Target

Steve Frazee (1908-1992) was a Colorado native and major contributor to the pulp and paperback western genre. The author wrote a number of Disney tie-in novels like “Swiss Family Robinson” and “Zorro”. He even authored a series of adventures starring television canine “Lassie”. Frazee wrote very little crime-noir other than “Running Target”, his 1957 novel published by Fawcett Gold Medal. After hunting down a copy, it's really just a simple western in disguise.

Oddly, “Running Target” doesn't feature a chief protagonist. Instead, it's an ensemble cast featuring a group of man-hunters searching a dense mountain range for four escaped prisoners. Led by the noble Sheriff Rudd, the players are:

Newton – Deputy Sheriff; pacifist who refuses to kill

Pryor – Deputy Sheriff; proud Sheriff's son

Jaynes – Voluntary Deputy; local businessman and sociopath

Smitty – Volunteer; female business owner who was robbed by one of the prisoners

Frazee's narrative style is very elementary. It is 160-pages The book follows the group as they track the prisoners through the forests. Between waking up and making coffee to the hiking and camping, the author spends extraordinary amounts of time beating around the bush (pun intended) without any story development. One could argue that the constant complaining, bickering and insults could be the focus, but why?

There's an interesting side story of Smitty carrying a small, curiously wrapped package in her bag. The author hints there will be some big reveal, and honestly this literary gambit kept me hanging in there page after page, but he pisses the whole idea away with three sentences three-fourths into the novel. Spoiler – it amounts to absolutely nothing.

Like walking barefooted on a steamy gravel road, flipping these pages was a painful, agonizing effort. But it also left me questioning a number of things. First, the fact that the armed pursuers are on horseback in the mountains makes this a traditional western. However, it's obviously set in the 1950s with the car, plane and radio that are mentioned and shown. Why even add those factors? Just call it a western and eliminate the contemporary setting. Second, could this novel have been a short-story the author originally wrote? Perhaps someone convinced him to pad the hell out of it to compose a full-length paperback. Sadly, I'd say that was probably the case as the padding was plentiful. It was probably a western too. But, Fawcett used popular paperback artist Mitchell Hooks to hook both crime-noir readers and their hard-earned money.

While I won't dismiss Steve Frazee's work, because I'm sure he has plenty of great westerns to his credit, “Running Target” has run right into our Hall of Shame. This book is an absolute turd.

Buy a copy of this book HERE