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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

WHAT’S IN A NAME ~ MCCURTIN, SLADE, GATLING, AND GARRITY

WHAT’S IN A NAME ~ MCCURTIN, SLADE, GATLING, AND GARRITY
 
In 1968, Peter McCurtin sold two books to iconic sleaze paperback imprint Midwood, which was run by publisher Harry Shorten. Shorten later hired McCurtin to edit books for his other low end paperback houses, Tower, Belmont, and Leisure Books. While there, McCurtin not only edited manuscripts, but wrote books under his own name and a number of publishing house owned pseudonyms. He also turned his own byline into a house pseudonym, hiring other wordslingers to produce books as Peter McCurtin—all of which has created much confusion for collectors and completists. 
 
Paperback scholar Lynn Munroe has done an excellent job of researching McCurtin’s history and output, all of which can be found on his website: CLICK HERE 
 
McCurtin first used the house name Jake Slade for the Lassiter series he created in 1969. He later used the Slade pseudonym for several entries in the Fargo and Sundance series—both created and originally written by revered western writer Ben Haas (under the pseudonym John Benteen) and edited by McCurtin. After Haas passed away, McCurtin took over the writing chores on the Sundance novels, publishing them under his own name. McCurtin wrote many of these books, but in some instances he provided plot ideas or half written novels to his crew of regular writers—the most prominent being George Harmon Smith—to complete.
 
While the pseudonym Jack Slade originally hid the identity many different writers, McCurtin resurrected the name for his Gatling series. These are books he wrote late in his career with the help of his second wife, Mary Carr—who had previously worked with him on several entries in the Buckskin series as Kit Dalton. 
 
After extensive research, paperback historian Lynn Munroe has established that when Leisure Books killed the Gatling series after six books, McCurtin had already written the manuscripts for books seven and eight. Per Munroe, after a suitable waiting period, McCurtin changed Gatlin’s name to Garrity, repurposed the stories by shifting the emphasis away from the weaponry to feature the protagonist as a traditional hired gun, and sold the manuscripts as a new series—the prose style and plotting, however, clearly marking the books as Gatling adventures.
 
Personally, I was drawn to the Gatling series by the amazing covers featuring Gatling with different cutting edge weaponry from the western period. These covers are exceptionally rendered and several cuts above the slapdash efforts produced for the men’s adventure and western series of the time. Unfortunately, there is no attribution given to the cover artist on the copyright page of the books or elsewhere. The illustrator has signed the cover paintings with the stylized initials CP, but this does little to help establish identity at this late date.
 
The covers used for the Garrity books (the repurposed Gatling manuscripts), however, are a completely different story. Research, again by Lynn Munroe, shows the cover art was for the two Garrity tales was copied, borrowed, or stolen from two Outlaw Josey Wales novels.
While the Gatling books are straight adventure novels in the tradition of the Fargo series, McCurtin indulges in some tongue-in-cheekness to explain how a man named Gatling works for the Maxim Gun Company—Maxim’s Col. Pritchett tells Gatling the only reason the Gatling Gun Company originally employed Gatlin was because they were afraid he might be the illegitimate offspring of their founder.
 
In his first adventure, Zuni Gold, Gatlin is sent to New Mexico—along with a Maxim light machinegun—to help the Zuni people, who are being slaughtered by Jicarilla Apaches working for the evil Copper Trust. An orphan, Gatling was raised by the Zuni and has an obvious motivation for accepting the challenge. 
 
In Outlaw Empire, Gatlin takes on Wilson Murrill who, after 30 years in a Louisiana prison, is out to organize crime in the Western U.S. by enlisting the the Sydney Ducks (an Australian gang based in San Francisco), the Italian Black Hand in New Orleans, and every Irish thug and Mexican bandit in California. 
 
Next up, Gatling heads into a Border War delivering weapons to the metis people in their revolt against the Canadian government. Along te way Gatling meets the real-life figures Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont. McCurtin was fascinated by the hisoriy of the revolt. He does give Border War a new story, but basis it on the same historic events he covered in Sundance: Day Of The Halfbreeds and Lassiter: Gunfight At Ringo Junction
 
In Gatling’s fourth adventure, he is sent South Of The Border to Panama. Once there, he is forced to deal with rebel revolutionaries who intercept him while he escorts new automatic weapons to the American expedition building the Panama Canal.
 
In book five, rebels have hijacked a shipment of rifles and ammunition in Mexico. Taking along The War Wagon—a deadly motorized monstrosity created by Maxim—Gatling is sent to get them back.
 
In the final official Gatling book, Butte Bloodbath, Gatling ends up in the middle of a fight between Montana mine owners and Michael Patrick Kane, the fanatical Irish-born leader of the Western Labor League.
 
In 1993, Rapid Fire, the first of McCurtin’s repurposed Gatling manuscripts, has the rechristened Garrity reporting to Col. Pritchett of the Maxim Gun Company. In short order, Garrity is sent off to Brazil to retrieve weapons stolen by a hotheaded ex-Confederate General itching to go back to war.  
 
The final Gatling manuscript is repurposed as Texas Renegade, with Garrity in Texas to aid a Scottish cattle rancher being terrorized by the Ku Klux Klan and a group of labor thugs.
 
As mentioned, I was first drawn to the Gatling series by the intriguing covers, but happily read my way through them enjoying McCurtin’s hard-bitten, straight forward, writing style at its best. These are well worth tracking down—but be forewarned, Gatling #6 Butte Bloodbath is fairly rare and pricey, but with patience a reasonable copy at a reasonable price can be found.
 
 

GATLIN SERIES
 
Gatling #1: Zuni Gold (1989)
Gatling #2: Outlaw Empire (1989)
Gatling #3: Border War (1989)
Gatling #4: South Of The Border (1989)
Gatling #5: The War Wagon (1989)
Gatling #6: Butte Bloodbath (1990)
GARRITY (AKA: GATLIN) SERIES
Rapid Fire (1993)
Texas Renegade (1993)

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE VERY BAD ~ PART THREE

THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE VERY BAD ~ PART THREE
 
Two of my recent columns have focused on the western men’s action adventure series Fargo and Sundance. Both were created and written by revered western writer Ben Haas under his John Benteen pseudonym. With the success of both series, publisher Harry Shorten asked Haas to create a third Benteen series—Cutler
 
For various reasons, however, the lightning strikes of the Fargo and Sundance series never zapped Cutler in the same way—possibly because Cutler was not a very nice character to be around. Both Fargo and Sundance are hard, violent men, but there is something honorable about them, which didn’t rub off on Cutler despite his righteous quest. Despite this lack of traction, the concept of a hardened hunter taking on rogue animals with a bounty on them is unusual enough to warrant reading.  
 
Physically, Cutler is a traditional Benteen hero—A taciturn, leathery, hunter of men and animals in his early thirties, John Cutler stands better than six feet tall, with broad, sloping shoulders, and a barrel-chest tapering to lean waist and slim hips. Shaggy raven’s wing black hair—faintly threaded with gray—spills from beneath a dusty, flat-crowned sombrero. His brows are great black marks above deep-set eyes the color of gunmetal, the planes of his big-nosed face rough and angular, his skin burnt to the color of rawhide by a life in the sun. His wardrobe consists of a filthy blue work shirt, a calfskin vest, jeans, fringed shotgun chaps, and flat-heeled boots made for walking as much as for riding. A holstered .44 Colt with a strap to hold it in its scabbard for rough riding swings from a cartridge belt around his waist, and on his other hip is a Case sheath knife.
 
Cutler had been an experienced Federal Marshal in Indian Territory before retiring with his new bride to a ranch in Arizona. All was as he had imagined it until a rogue grizzly changes Cutler’s life forever. The bear—a huge monster with a silver blaze—had been killing cattle. Cutler sets traps to capture or kill the beast. When he returns to check them, however, he finds the rouge bear has escaped by chewing off the paw caught in the hunting traps vicious jaws. 
 
Cutler races home, but he is too late. Driven insane with pain, the giant animal has gone on a berserk rampage through Cutler’s ranch—where it savages Cutler’s pregnant wife. Cutler rides in just in time to catch her dying breath about the bear. Cutler immediately starts to hunt down the beast until a blizzard causes him to lose the trail. 
 
Five years pass. Cutler I now a nasty drunk who makes his living hunting and killing rogue animals with bounties on them—but the biggest rogue still eludes him. Unlike most bears, this monster stays on the move, killing anything in his path, with Cutler always a step behind…But Cutler will not give up. 
 

Haas/Benteen wrote the first two Cutler novels before dropping the series to concentrate on his far more popular Fargo and Sundance novels. The Cutler series was turned over to Vernon Hinkle—using the pseudonym H. V. Elkin—for four more titles before the series was shot down (possibly by rogue animal lovers or PETA)…
 
In a more positive vein, Haas had much more success with another western series, Rancho Bravo, written for Fawcett’s Gold Medal line under the name Thorne Douglas. Alternating points of view in each book, The Rancho Bravo series would have made a terrific ‘70s western TV series. The first four books in the series span a one year time frame after the end of the Civil War. Ex-Confederate rebel Lucius Calhoon, Texan trail boss Henry Gannon, Yankee officer Philip Killraine, and ex-slave Elias Whitton each tell their own story of coming together to build a Texas cattle empire. 
 
Calhoon is a bitter, one-handed, ex-plantation owner who has lost everything in the war. Gannon is a Texan trying to start a new ranch with wild cattle. Black cowboy, ex-slave, Elias Whitton is Gannon’s partner in the enterprise. When Killraine, quits his commission as a captain in the Northern Army to join them, Rancho Bravo is born.  
 
The Mustang Men, the fifth book in the series switches point of view again to tell the story of Shan Tyree, who comes to work at Rancho Bravo. Clearly, Haas had a vision of having visitors or employees of Rancho Bravo tell their own stories in each successive book. Unfortunately, Ben Haas died in 1977 (prior to book five being published) before he could expand Rancho Bravo stories further. While I’m still partial to the short, sharp, brutal Fargo tales, Ranch Bravo—in my opinion—is Haas’ crowning achievement. This series is not to be missed...  
 
THE RANCH BRAVO SERIES
Calhoon (1972)
The Big Drive (1973)
Killraine (1975)
Night Riders (1975)
The Mustang Men (1977)
 
FOR MORE ON RANCHO BRAVO CLICK HERE
 
RANCHO BRAVO E-BOOKS FROM PICCADILLY PUBLISHING CLICK HERE
 
THE CUTLER SERIES
The Wolf-Pack (Benteen—1972)
The Gunhawks (Benteen—1972)
Eagle Man (H. V. Elkin—1978)
Tiger’s Chance (H. V. Elkin—1980)
Mustang (H. V. Elkin—1980)
Yellowstone (H. V. Elkin—1980)
 
FOR MORE ON CUTLER CLICK HERE
 
CUTLER E-BOOKS FROM PICCADILLY PUBLISHING CLICK HERE

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE VERY BAD ~ PART TWO

THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE VERY BAD ~ PART TWO
 
They called him Sundance. A big man with the bronzed face of a Cheyenne and a mane of yellow hair. He had ranged from Canada to Mexico, from the Mississippi to the Shining Mountains and west to the Pacific. He could take any man apart with rifle, pistol, knife—or Indian-style with bow, arrows, lance and tomahawk. He was a professional fighting man and no job was too tough if the price was right. So when a rich banker met his price of $10,000 to rescue his daughter from the Cheyenne—Sundance bought it. He didn’t know that before it was over he would have to take on a gang of vicious renegades, part of Custer’s Seventh Cavalry and a hot-blooded eastern woman...
FROM SUNDANCE: OVERKILL
 
In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s under the pseudonym John Benteen, respected western author Ben Haas gunned out a series of paperback originals featuring the adventures of Fargo—a globetrotting soldier-of-fortune who is a dead ringer for Lee Marvin’s Faradan character in the 1966 movie The Professionals. The 23 Fargo novels remain below the radar of the wider readership, despite accolades from the gurus of the men’s action/adventure series genre. 
 
However, the Fargo series sold well enough for publisher HARRY SHORTEN (king of the low end mass market paperback houses in the ‘60s and ‘70s) to commission another western series from Haas under the John Benteen byline. Haas responded with the action filled adventures of the half-white, half-Cheyenne gun-for-hire known as Sundance.
 
Writer and men’s action adventure series buff JACK BADELAIRE summarized the Sundance series for the current e-book releases from PICCADILLY PUBLISHING
 
Jim Sundance, is a half-white, half-Cheyenne adventurer. In his 30's, he’s a man who has roamed and fought across the length and breadth of the U.S. moving between the worlds of the white man and the Indian. Sundance is a typical Benteen hero—Tall, broad-shouldered, with a slim waist and a lean, powerful build. He has the complexion and features of a Cheyenne Indian, but his hair is a bright golden blond, a gift from his English father. Sundance received his Indian name after participating in the Cheyenne Sun Dance ritual…
 
On top of his unusual heritage, Sundance carries an unusual arsenal. In typical Benteen fashion, his main character is very deliberately armed with an assortment of weapons from both cultures. Sundance carries a Navy Colt and a Henry repeating rifle, as well as a Bowie knife with a fourteen-inch blade and a hand guard for knife-fighting. In addition, he carries a steel-bladed tomahawk, as well as a Cheyenne dog soldier's war shield and a bow, along with a quiver of thirty flint-headed arrows. Benteen goes to great length to note Sundance prefers flint tips to steel, claiming they deliver a more grievous wound—Sundance can kill a man at four hundred yards with the bow, or put an arrow through a buffalo.
 
Over the course of the almost every novel, Sundance puts every weapon in his arsenal to use—another Benteen trait—and it is interesting to see how Sundance typically uses the white man's weapons for every day carry, but when he really means business, he tends to favor his more traditional arsenal. 
 
Sundance is a fascinating character, and the series is a mix of standard Western themes with Benteen's own unique style laid over. The action is fast and violent, the level of detail extraordinary...
 
The Fargo and Sundance series were both extremely popular. To keep up with demand, several Sundance novels were published under the house name Jack Slade—For #11 Norman Rubington, #12 and #13 Thomas Curry, and #24 and #25 Dudley Dean McGaughy were the writers behind the Jack Slade pseudonym.

When Haas passed away in 1977, Ballard wrote two more Sundance adventures in 1979, after which the series was taken over by long time editor Peter McCurtin for another eighteen novels. Haas/Benteen’s voice in the original Fargo and Sundance tales is golden. Entries from other wordslingers are hit and miss, so be aware your mileage may vary…
 
 
 

THE SUNDANCE SERIES 
Sundance #01: Overkill (John Benteen—1972)
Sundance #02: Dead Man's Canyon (John Benteen—1972)
Sundance #03: Dakota Territory (John Benteen—1972)
Sundance #04: Death in the Lava (John Benteen—1972)
Sundance #05: The Pistoleros (John Benteen—1972)
Sundance #06: Wild Stallions (John Benteen—1973)
Sundance #07: Taps at Little Big Horn (John Benteen—1973)
Sundance #08: The Ghost Dancers (John Benteen—1973)
Sundance #09: Bring Me His Scalp (John Benteen—1973)
Sundance #10: The Bronco Trail (John Benteen—1973)
Sundance #11: The Comancheros (Norman Rubington/Jack Slade—1973)
Sundance #12: Renegade (Thomas Curry/Jack Slade—1974)
Sundance #13: Honcho (Thomas Curry/Jack Slade—1974)
Sundance #14: War Party (John Benteen—1975)
Sundance #15: Bounty Killer (George H. Smith—1975)
Sundance #16: Run for Cover (John Benteen—1976)
Sundance #17: Manhunt (Peter McCurtin—1976)
Sundance #18: Blood On the Prairie (John Benteen—1976)
Sundance #19: War Trail (John 'Jay' Flynn—1976)
Sundance #20: Riding Shotgun (John Benteen—1977)
Sundance #21: Silent Enemy (John Benteen—1977)
Sundance #22: Ride the Man Down (John Benteen—1973)
Sundance #23: Gunbelt (John Benteen—1977)
Sundance #24: Canyon Kill (Dudley Dean McGaughy/Jack Slade—1979)
Sundance #25: Blood Knife (Dudley Dean McGaughy/Jack Slade—1979)
Sundance #26: Nightriders (Peter McCurtin—1979)
Sundance #27: Death Dance (Peter McCurtin—1979)
Sundance #28: The Savage (Peter McCurtin—1979)
Sundance #29: Day of the Halfbreeds (Peter McCurtin—1979)
Sundance #30: Los Olvidados (Peter McCurtin—1980)
Sundance #31: The Marauders (Peter McCurtin—1980)
Sundance #32: Scorpion (Peter McCurtin—1980)
Sundance #33: Hangman's Knot (Peter McCurtin—1980)
Sundance #34: Apache War (Peter McCurtin—1980)
Sundance #35: Gold Strike (Peter McCurtin—1980)
Sundance #36: Trail Drive (Peter McCurtin—1981)
Sundance #37: Iron Men (Peter McCurtin—1981) 
Sundance #38: Drumfire (Peter McCurtin—1981) 
Sundance #39: Buffalo War (Peter McCurtin—1981)
Sundance #40: The Hunters (Peter McCurtin—1981)
Sundance #41: The Cage (Peter McCurtin—1981)
Sundance #42: The Choctaw County War (Peter McCurtin—1982)
Sundance #43: Texas Empire (Peter McCurtin—1982)
*It should be noted book seller and fiction scholar Lynn Munroe is the excellent source for the list of Sundance titles and authors behind the Jack Slade pseudonym. For Munroe's extensive rundown of Sundance titles CLICK HERE
 
 
 



FOR MORE ON THE SUNDANCE E-BOOKS FROM PICCADILLY PUBLISHING CLICK HERE