Edmund Collier – Great stories from West magazine

[I recently came across Great Stories of the West, edited by Edmund Collier. This is a selection from West magazine, which was edited by Collier, and it contains the following stories.
Story title
The Aska-Damn Dog
Raymond S. Spears
Jul 22 1931
Sheriff’s Son
James Clarke
Jun 1935
Pud Ackley, Cowboy
Walt Coburn
Jan 1933
A Lady Comes to Paradise
Edmund Ware
May 1933
Lin of Pistol Gap
May 14 1930
Minding Their Own Business
Raymond S. Spears
Jul 1935
A Corner in Horses
Stewart Edward White
Mar 1934
Finder Is Keeper
Jul 1933
One-Man Mule
Rollin Brown
Aug 1933
Champs at the Chuckabug
S. Omar Barker
Jan 1935
Drake Feeds the Buzzards
W.H.B. Kent
May 1935
Jun 11 1930
The Parson
Jan 1935
The Man with Nerve
Stewart Edward White
Sep 1933

Covers of issues of West magazine from which stories were included in Great Stories of the West ed. Edmund Collier
Covers of West issues from which stories were included in Great Stories of the West ed. Edmund Collier

I found the introduction interesting as it was a recollection by Collier of some memories of editing West. Sharing it with you.]
Perhaps the pulps are no great loss. Nevertheless they were the seed bed for many writers who went on to fame and fortune. And West was one of the best. It was started in 1926 at the request of the American News Company when Street and Smith left them to do their own distributing and American News wanted a Western to replace S. & S.’s Western Story.
Doubleday was a natural for the job. Some years before, they had taken over on a printing bill a slick-paper magazine called Short Stories. It had a wonderful list of authors of the literary kind, but few readers. Under the able editorship of Harry E. Maule, who turned it into a general adventure magazine, Short Stories hit the jackpot. With such writers as Kenneth Roberts, Harold Lamb, Talbot Mundy, Clarence E. Mulford, Erle Stanley Gardner with his early Perry Mason stories, and many others of like quality, Short Stories was a leader till pulp magazines were given their final death blow by television.
When West came along—also under Harry Maule’s direction—it was in a particularly good position because it could get the spin-off of Western writers from Short Stories as well as from Doubleday’s book department, which published many of the pulp-paper authors in hardcover books.
In those days, though the reader wanted plenty of action and a dramatic story, he didn’t demand as much blood, thunder and killing as later filled the pulps and perhaps contributed to their replacement by TV. He liked atmosphere as well as action, but what he valued most was a character he could follow from issue to issue. Hopalong Cassidy, Sad Sontag, Ben Pickering, Bat Jennison, Slivers Cassidy, Black John Smith, Wild River Ben and Pokeasy Jones were real and unforgettable characters to hundreds of thousands of readers who probably seldom noticed the names of their creators.
My own first contact with Western fiction was when, as an adolescent, I read Owen Wister’s The Virginian. When I came to the end I turned back to page one and read it all through again. That was well over fifty years ago. Since then the West has held for me a strong appeal.
Somehow I managed to see some of it first hand—cavalry on the border in Arizona, cow ranches in Montana and California, a wheat ranch in Oregon, construction camps, redwood and yellow-pine camps, Forest Service in the High Sierras—whatever I could do to see the West in the rough, satisfied my youth.
All this, no doubt, gave me a rather special point of view when, largely through chance, I found myself sitting at an editorial desk with the heady responsibility of choosing what stories should be bought and which should not … a heady responsibility indeed, that sometimes—literally—especially in the depression, meant life or death for an author; and certainly meant life or death for the magazine.
Till I went to work on pulp magazines, I had never really been conscious of the violence and gunfighting that one has to admit account for most of their popularity. I knew the feel of a horse between my legs and an axe in my hands. I knew the glory of sunset over the desert, the excitement of getting cattle across a flooded creek, the taste of cold mountain water after a long day in the dust of a trail herd—but it happened that where I worked I had heard no talk of guns and gunfighting, in which there appeared to be no interest. Interest lay more in how to avoid running a pound of meat off a valuable steer.
In West, at least while I was editing it, there was always this tension—the need to satisfy the demand for action and gunfighting and the desire to portray Western atmosphere and character and the pioneer spirit.
The present collection, I think, represents this tension. Though editors and writers knew they couldn’t give up the “rough stuff’ without losing their audience, they were always reaching for the stars, and sometimes caught one. Stories of such technical excellence as Sheriff’s Son by James Clarke or A Lady Comes to Paradise by Edmund Ware could hold their own in any company.
Raymond S. Spears, author of The Aska-Damn Dog, was Conservation Director of the American Trappers Association and a learned ecologist. He had traveled the length and breadth of the land with a knapsack on his back and had more authentic detail at his fingertips than any man I have ever known. He was a natural storyteller, and in view of his other activities, incredibly prolific. His Minding Their Own Business is one of a series featuring in thin disguise Butch Cassidy and “The Wild Bunch” whom he knew personally.
Ernest Haycox, whose Lin of Pistol Gap is one of his most exciting productions, became the top Western writer for Collier’s and The Saturday Evening Post. Doubleday and others published his novels in book form. His early death unfortunately deprived us of the opportunity to read the great Western literature that it was his ambition to write.
B. M. Bower and Chip of the Flying U need no introduction. With Hopalong Cassidy and the Virginian, Chip was one of the three most famous characters in Western fiction.
Walt Coburn was a cowboy and rancher set afoot by a World War I wound. His love of ranch life and ranch people was immeasurable, and he spent the rest of his life trying to show them as they really were. That he succeeded is evidenced in Pud Ackley, Cowboy.
James B. Hendryx, whose rollicking Black John Smith stories are always a delight, outdid himself in The Parson. Though his stories are pure fun, they benefit from the feeling of authenticity that comes from firsthand experience. Hendryx took part in the Klondike gold rush and soaked up enough material for a lifetime of fiction writing.
Bennett Foster is another genuine Westerner whose skilled writing gains body from his background. S. Omar Barker, also steeped in Western tradition, is another who went on to the “slicks.” His humor never fails and his inventiveness is amazing. His expert craftsmanship is there but never intrudes—a professional from “who lit the chunk.”
Though Drake Feeds the Buzzards by W. H. B. Kent may suffer slightly from being one of a trilogy, it is complete in itself, and shows well the author’s individual style and extraordinary power of dramatic intensity.
Stewart Edward White’s The Man with Nerve is without doubt one of the best Western short stories ever written.
These few gleanings we hope will remind old pulp fans of days of good reading and convince newcomers that there was “gold in those hills.”
As Stephen Vincent Benet expressed it in Western Star 
There is a wilderness we walk alone
However well-companioned, and a place
Where the dry wind blows over the dry bone
And sunlight is a devil in the face,
The sandstorm and the empty water-hole
And the dead body, driven by its soul…
But, where the ragged acres still resist
And nothing but the stoneboat gets a crop,
Where the black butte stands up like a clenched fist
Against the evening, and the signboards stop,
Something remains, obscure to understand,
But living, and a genius of the land.
You can buy the book @ Amazonor AbeBooks. EBay didn’t have a copy for sale at the time this article was written.

1 comment

  1. I'm glad to see this piece on WEST which may be the best western pulp magazine, at least during the Doubleday years of 1926-1935. I have an almost complete run spanning over 20 years and I agree with Collier that WEST was a quality magazine during the late twenties and early thirties. That's the period covered in this collection.

    Unlike many western titles, WEST did not emphasize shoot 'em ups all the time. Ed Hulse did a long article on the magazine in BLOOD n THUNDER magazine.

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