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Monday, October 7, 2019

MOUNTIES IN THE PULPS—NORTH WEST ROMANCES

MOUNTIES IN THE PULPS
NORTH WEST ROMANCES
I'm currently having a canoe full of fun immersing myself in the Northwestern genre, which for no discernible reason I have never explored beyond a couple of Jack London novels.

Northwestern yarns most often feature courageous, scarlet-coated, Canadian Mounties pursing desperate claim jumpers, double dealing gold prospectors, fur pirates, beautiful  independent women—both seductive Jezabels and innocent ingénues—wild sled dogs and wilder wolves across the savage Yukon.

At its heart, a Northwestern is a traditional Western transplanted from the prairie to the frozen tundra of the Canadian frontier or the big empty of Alaska. 

The trappings of a Northwestern (snow, sled dogs, scarlet tunics, etc.) may be somewhat different, but the tropes are virtually identical to those of the Western genre.

The pulp magazine North-West Stories first appeared on the newsstands in May, 1925. Its action filled, brightly colored covers, dominated by the scarlet tunics of the Canadian mounties, offered a new and intriguing concept to jade pulp readers. An instant hit, North-West Stories became one of the most popular and longest running of all the pulp magazines.

In 1937, Fiction House, the publisher of North-West Stories, recognize the magazine had established a loyal female readership, which surprisingly had grown to almost half of their audience. 

Seeing an opportunity, Fiction House changed the magazine’s title to North-West Romances, began adding more female writers, and introducing strong female characters into the storylines.

Sales grew exponentially, leading Fiction House to break the tradition of covers showing a  beautiful woman in jeopardy being rescued by the square-jawed hero.

Instead, Fiction House house began publishing covers in which the beautiful girl was bravely and determinedly fighting side by side with the squared-jawed hero.

As if this wasn't bold enough, North-West Romances dared to publish covers in which the square-jawed hero is in desperate jeopardy and the beautiful, once helpless, but now confident and competent female is racing to the rescue—often on horseback or driving a team of huskies—gun, knife, or bludgeon in hand.

In my next post I'll look closer at some of the other pulps attempting to capitalize on the popularity of the Northwestern, but North-West Romances was unquestionably the genre's vanguard.











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