Western Story Annual  (Street & Smith Publications, Inc., 25¢, 228pp, large pulp)
|Western Story Annual 1948, a Street and Smith annual compilation
Not even a single story from 1948 or 1947 is included in this issue, a little misleading considering the title. It’s still a good selection of stories from Western Story and one story from Western Adventures. The highlights are the stories from Eli Colter, Bennett Foster, L.L. Foreman and Frank Richardson Pierce. There are six issues known of this magazine, and maybe more exist.
Six-Gun Sermon [Preacher Devlin] · L. L. Foreman 3.5/5
|Illustration for Six-gun Sermon by L.L. Foreman in Western Story Annual, 1948
Preacher Devlin was a popular series character in Western Story, called Preacher because his appearance in a long black coat reminded people of a preacher. He is one of Foreman’s morally ambiguous heroes, staying on the edge of the law, while trying to live by his code of ethics.
The story seems to be set in the Sonoran desert, an area that would have been familiar to Foreman, who lived in nearby New Mexico. Great description of the desert:
Westward in the far distance from the tree-belted Mogollons, the high ranges ceased and the land swept downward to the blasting, mirage-haunted Harina Desert. Mexicans had it figured out that the unholy basin had been given to Satan to play with, in an attempt to keep him out of mischief. In line with his taste for a particular kind of awful beauty, Old Nick had filled it full of sand, heat, black sawtoothed ridges, and jagged red pinnacles. But after he’d had his fun, he used it for his private reservoir of somber destruction, drawing from it whenever he ran short of material elsewhere.
“Preacher” Devlin is on the run, pursued by law enforcement and bounty hunters. A reward on his head, placed by the politically ambitious governor of the state has turned everyone against him. While crossing the desert, he is shot and left for dead. His horse is taken by the man who shot him, a gunman for hire in the gold rush town of Rainbow. The town is ruled by the gold mine owner, Stampede Solary who runs it for his benefit. Devlin is near death when he is rescued by a passing missionary and his daughter.
Devlin wishes nothing more than to get out of the town undetected after resting, but he gets dragged into the town’s problems when the saloon-men and gamblers in the town, backed by Solary’s men, breakup the missionary’s church meeting and try to run him out of town. Devlin gets into the preacher’s pulpit and quiets the crowd with a couple of well-placed shots. And now the fuse is well and truly lit…
Good story from Foreman, reprinted from Western Story, Sep 5 1942.
|Illustration for Deuces Wild by Frank Richardson Pierce in Western Story Annual, 1948
Western Story didn’t print cowboy stories exclusively; from time to time stories of the North-West appeared in it. Frank Richardson Pierce could supply both types of stories, and here he gives us the accordion playing Mountie Dan Jessup. Sherlock Holmes played the violin for relaxation, and Dan Jessup has been trained by a fiddle playing Mounty who believes that music helps men think.
Dan’s mission is to catch a man calling himself Tanned Hyde who is making a mockery of the law in his area. People in the area are losing respect for the law, and Dan has a chance to set things right before the rule of law breaks down completely.
If you’ve read the Sherlock Holmes story “Adventure of the empty house”, you won’t be surprised by the method Dan uses to catch the villain. An entertaining read from Pierce.
66 · Kilbourne Bros.—Wolf Wranglers · Walt Coburn · na 3/5
|Illustration for Kilbourn Bros. – Wolf Wranglers by Walt Coburn in Western Story Annual, 1948
The Kilbourne brothers are sons of the previous sheriff of Cottonwood, Montana. Their father was shot in the back, and four men used the time after his death to wolfishly seize power and money by getting the local small ranchers into debt and then calling on their notes when they could not pay.
They corrupted the government and managed to send the younger Kilbourn brother, Chet, to prison on false evidence. Lant, the elder brother, is trying to help the ranchers ship their cattle to Chicago on the train. Into this already rich mixture, Coburn drops an itinerant newspaper man, Waldo Leandro Smith, travelling with his printing press and looking for a new town to publish his newspaper.
The two brothers are very different characters. Lant, the elder one, likes to plan things out in advance before taking on the enemy. Chet, the younger one, is more hot-headed and likes to act without waiting to consider the consequences. Chet busts out of prison to help Lant take on the titular wolves.
The story is good, and Coburn clearly knew what he was talking about whenever he sets the scene. But the double-barelled romances (Lant and Chet and their girlfriends) drag the story on a little longer than it should.
|Illustration for The Piper of Bridlebit by Bennett Foster in Western Story Annual, 1948
A Scotsman, Hamish McDonald, brings a flock of Cheviot sheep
to Bridlebit, Wyoming. Celebrating the Fourth of July well, but not wisely, Hamish gets drunk enough to decide that piping down the main street is a good idea. The horses aren’t used to it, and neither are the people. The horses flee and the men go after them. Clearly, something has to be done, and the unappreciative town marshal and sheriff’s deputy call on Hamish to end whatever it is he’s doing.
Hamish does not take well to this cold reception of his piping, and almost stabs the lawmen with his dirk. He is not happy, to say the least. This unhappiness diminishes a little as the months go by, but he still feels Scotland is home. The feeling is not improved when three highwaymen forcefully take over his camp, kicking his dog, beating and tying him up before joining forces with a fourth highwayman for an attempted train robbery. The robbery goes sour and the bandits retreat to Hamish’s wagon, where he gets a warning of their arrival from the dog …
Well written humorous story from Bennett Foster.
123 · Muddy Water Gambling Man · Norman A. Fox · ss 3/5
|Illustration for Muddy Water Gambling Man by Norman A. Fox in Western Story Annual, 1948
Take these people: Cord Stanton, a riverboat gambler with a moral code; Ran Beauchamp, an unscrupulous gambler; Libby Hardwick, the daughter of a woman from Stanton’s past; Tom Hardwick, her husband and a man in possession of 10,000 dollars and a need for much more quick money to keep his business going. Put them on a steamboat heading for Fort Benton, Montana from St. Louis, Missouri and stir together well. Nothing wrong here, nothing stood out here too.
|Illustration for Cimarron by S. Omar Barker in Western Story Annual, 1948
|Illustration for Barbed Wire, Beef and Bullets by Tom Blackburn in Western Story Annual, 1948
Court Avis comes back to his ranch five years after his father turned him out for getting in a gunfight and killing a man, even though Court was only defending himself. He finds the entire valley down on its luck, cattle rustlers have turned the small ranchers suspicious of everyone else. The man Court shot, Morgan Benning, has survived and become broodingly vindictive. Court is unsure of what’s going on, but he decides to stick around and see what’s happening. He ends up allied with the small ranchers against the rustlers.
Nothing stood out, good or bad.
|Illustration for Brand of the Zero Kid by Eli Colter (May Eliza Frost) in Western Story Annual, 1948
The story begins with a brawl between the Zero kid and Shorty Hahn, both working on a ranch. Shorty, the elder of the two, is fighting calmly and letting the kid wear himself out with his rushing, while inflicting punishment on the kid. Both came to ranch a few years ago, and the foreman knows no reason why they should fight. He would like to fire the kid as he doesn’t want trouble in his crew, except Shorty won’t let him. Why this is so, no one at the ranch knows except Shorty and the Kid.
A shipment of horses is delivered to the ranch, among which is one gray stallion that the Kid wants to make his own. The horse throws him and he swears that he will master it.
A drifting cowhand, Jake, arrives at the ranch, claiming to be a top horse-breaker and gunman. He is cruel to the horse; Shorty beats him up and the foreman fires him. The Kid is even more enraged by this as Jake has been friendly to him, and come next payday, the Kid meets up with Jake at the local saloon. There he tells him his story – he is seeking revenge for the murder of his family, and believes Shorty is the brother of the man who did it. He is convinced of this because of the scar on the back of Shorty’s neck, which looks like the scar on the man he saw on the night his family was murdered.
Jake watches the Kid get drunk, and builds up the idea of shooting Shorty in the Kid’s head. He gives him his gun so that the Kid can shoot Shorty. The drifter gets into a conversation with another customer at the saloon where he reveals that he is also a member of the gang that murdered the Kid’s family. The Kid heads back towards the saloon where Shorty and the rest of the crew from the ranch are drinking, and tries to shoot Shorty. Shorty manages to disarm the Kid and knock him unconscious without hurting anyone else in the process. When returning home on the back of Shorty’s saddle, the Kid recovers and realizes that he will never get the better of Shorty as long as his temper rules him. He becomes calmer and fixed in his purpose. The first thing he does is to work on the gray stallion patiently till he is able to tame and ride the horse.
Meanwhile, Jake is gathering partners to steal horses from the local ranches, and also wants to get rid of Shorty as he is the only other member of the gang, and could turn him in anytime. Jake decides that he will use the Kid to get rid of Shorty, thus avoiding shedding blood with his own hands. He plans to do this by telling the Kid that Shorty has become a horse thief again, and is going to steal the gray stallion as well.
Well plotted story with a satisfying resolution from Eli Colter, who was actually May Eliza Frost of Portland, Oregon and wrote many western stories for Western Story, Triple-X, West, Action Stories, Wild West Weekly, Lariat Story Magazine, North-West Storiesand weird fantasy for Weird Tales and Strange Stories. Even though this relied heavily on coincidence, it was a well-told story and I’m going to be looking out for her stories when I come across them.
|Illustration for Bullets across the border by Hapsburg Liebe in Western Story Annual, 1948
A short (4½ page) story by Hapsburg Liebe about the McClellan Kid, who is riding to Mexico to deliver a message to a man named Medroso from a cattle rustler named Gudger Ott. He is pursued a mysterious stranger who seems to know all about him, and gets away from him twice after getting face to face with the stranger. He delivers the message, and … a happy ending.
Nothing special here, not sure why this was chosen for the annual, maybe they needed to fill the pages.
202 · The Navajo Blanket · Rod Patterson · nv 2.5/5
|Illustration for The Navajo Blanket by Rod Patterson in Western Story Annual, 1948
You can see the Navajo blanket featured in the story’s title in the drawing above; it’s on the table. The blanket, along with money and papers have been stolen from Sam Lockerbie of the Hat Ranch. Sam was murdered in the robbery, and Ray Trask is suspected of killing him due to an argument they recently had. Ray and the other “nesters”, having settled on land that Sam considers his, are being forced out of their farms by Sam, who has cut off the farmers’ credit at the local store. Add to this a bad season, and the nesters have no money to pay the mortgage on the land. Lud Rawson, Sam’s foreman, is accusing Ray of killing Sam.
Ray is just returning to town for supplies after delivering a load of basswood fence posts to John J. Tammany, Hat Ranch’s lawyer, and believes he can convince people of his innocence when Tammany testifies to this, thus giving Ray an alibi for the crime. To his surprise, Tammany says that nothing of the sort happened, and that Ray must have killed Sam.
Ollie Young, another nester, convinces Ray to take Ollie’s horse and get away before the angry townsfolk become a lynch mob. Ray takes his advice and heads out to a cabin in the hills, where Ollie meets him. While they are talking, someone outside takes a shot at Ray, nearly hitting him. Ray survives and the ambushers ride off, but Ray realizes that he cannot stay on the run and has to prove his innocence. He heads to Hat ranch in the hope of discovering the missing papers, money and the blanket. There, he is trapped and clubbed unconscious.
Will Ray survive and expose the real killer? Of course he will. This is the world of the pulps; good always wins, the guy gets his gal or vice versa. But how? That’s the question and you need to read the story to find out the answer. It was a mighty convenient ending, with all the bad guys shooting each other but it sure wasn’t convincing, at least to me. Rod Patterson is probably Rodney Lea Patterson (1899-1983), born in Massachusetts and resident of New York State (Yonkers, Purdys), about whom I couldn’t find much more.