The pulp fiction story for this month appeared in the August 1941 issue of Blue Book. A lot was happening back then. The Second World War was aflame in Europe and in a couple of short months the Japanese would bomb Pearl Harbor and America would join the fight. Nonetheless, in the calm before the storm, Americans had a wonderful selection of escapist fiction to choose from and one of the best on the shelves was the profusely illustrated, long running, Blue Book. You can see why here if you want to read the whole magazine.
Georges Surdez wrote this short piece about that rare bird known as the military spouse. The dutiful, committed, resourceful, strong, and stoic military wife–I’ve seen a few in my time and can attest to the respect they command from the soldiers. I also noted the restrictive “Rules of Engagement” that pops up in the plot is very similar to the initiative destroying, politically correct rules foisted on our fighting men during the latter years of the Global War on Terror. One can even draw comparisons to the “Ferguson Effect” which occurs when strong, proactive policing is subjugated by ill-thought out policing restrictions. Sorry to get political here but in either case the end results are more lives lost. Its amazing how prescient the non-military Surdez was when writing on military topics.
Madame Takes Over
Merry Christmas everyone. Wishing you all a wonderful Holiday (holy day) Season.
…and very sincere Merry Christmas wishes to the Legionnaires, Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, Sailors, Law Enforcement and Fire & Emergency response forces of all nations out there on the front lines keeping the world safe and secure.
Here’s an unusual tale of how American Jazz defeated a maddened hoard of fanatical Berber tribesmen as they were about to overrun a besieged French outpost. It’s not known whether they were enraged merely by the infidel’s music produced by an ad-hoc band of Legionnaires or directly from the effeminate caterwauling of the American vocalist. In any case it’s not a bad story and for the first time it casts the portly Corsican officer as a decent character instead of the sadistic buffoon. The Saxophone Salute appeared in the 1932 Christmas issue of Short Stories magazine. The author, Leighton H. Blood was a veteran U.S. Army officer of WWI and frequent writer for the pulps as well as several “regular” magazines.
The Saxophone Salute
When it comes to tall tales of the French Foreign Legion the United Kingdom has produced an oversized share particularly in their comic books and story papers. On this blog I’ve posted several stories featuring Grit Gregson “Fighter in the Foreign Legion” which appeared in several 1950’s issues of the comic book Lion. I’ve also noted “Luck of the Legion” which appeared in Eagle (1952-1961) and “Legionnaire Terry” which appeared in the story paper The Champion. Unlike the Grit textual stories, Luck and Terry were serialized graphic panels (that Americans are used to seeing in their comic books) but the frustrating thing is that it takes several issues to complete a story. In most U.K. comic books the readers only get two or three pages of each serial and not complete stories. So it is hard to assemble complete serials if you don’t have access to multiple comics. However, I’m always keeping my eyes out for fills and I’m working my way slowly through what is available online. I’m certainly aware of several other Foreign Legion stories that exist in UK comics but it might take some time to uncover these and post them here. One recently discovered is “Wings of the Legion” which appeared in Victory Book for Boys. It features Captain Mike Talbot of the Escadrille Cherifienne, a squadron of foreign volunteers fighting alongside the French Foreign Legion. Here is a good website for reference and where this three page story comes from.
The second story featuring Mike Talbot is from the Victor Book for Boys 1983 Annual.
Here is a .pdf file. Wings of the Legion
Not sure where the time goes nowadays. I turn my back for a second and its the 15th of the month again. So, here is the pulp fiction story for November, another classic tale by Georges Surdez. This one features the Foreign Legion in a supporting role as an erstwhile misunderstood villain. It appeared in the August 1938 issue of Adventure.
The setting is the war torn hills of Morocco as the French press their offensive against recalcitrant Chleuh tribesmen. Lieutenant Cauvain is an officer in a front-line battalion of Senegalese Tirailleurs who runs afoul of the Legion’s ingrained habit of committing petty theft. It begins with a missing mule, evolves into elaborate night forays of pilferage and eventually escalates into a bitter feud and inevitable violence between the 7th Company of the Legion and Cauvain’s Company of Africans. Chauvain is at a loss for how to redeem his own honor and restore the pride of his soldiers. The answer comes when a impetuous Lieutenant of the Foreign Legion loses his head. It’s a great story which runs for 26 pages.
A Head for the Game
NOTE: A Head for the Game was written in 1938, which was a very non-politically correct time for popular literature. If you read the story you will discover that Surdez does a good job, better than most writers of the time, in giving credit to the fighting abilities of French African troops. He clearly did some research on Western Africa. Still, there are some people out there who are bound (almost obliged in their minds) to take great offense over the illustrations and certain parts of the story and will call it “racist”. If so I can only shake my head at their utter lack of historical perspective and objectivity.
This month’s pulp story comes from the pages of the May 1934 issue of Thrilling Adventures. It was written by Charles Greenberg using the pseudonym Charles Green. Greenberg was a prolific pulp author who wrote stories in multiple genres from 1929 into the 1960’s.
The Devil’s Squad is a rollicking tale that takes place in the parched, rocky desert of Morocco/Algeria. It has the classic elements of a great Foreign Legion story:
- An elite squad led by the American, Sergeant Bennet, a cockney English grenadier (Henderson), a towering Slav who was a former White Russian officer (Saratof), an Armenian sharpshooter (Blitzky), the 6′ 5″ German (Hauser), the stiletto wielding Spaniard (Fernandez) and the lanky Swede (Larson) wielding the automatic rifle.
- A nasty villain in the form of the simpering, corpulent Lieutenant Colbert who purposely sacrifices the lives of his legionnaires for cash.
- Hundreds of vengeful Arabs who gamely pursue the Devil’s Squad through a maze of rocks and cliffs and die in wonderfully dramatic ways.
In many ways the Devil’s Squad is very similar to the Hell’s Angel’s Squad by Warren Hastings Miller that ran in Blue Book Magazine and to the other pick-up teams of legionnaires you might find in Luck of the Legion or the Grit Gregson: Fighter in the Foreign Legion series. I really liked the way the squad worked together using their personal strengths and choices of weapons. I’m not sure if Greenberg wrote any other stories with these same characters–I can’t tell from the titles of his stories but it’s possible. In any case it’s a really good read and a long one too at 35 pages.
The Devil’s Squad
NOTE: Sorry to make you wait on this story. I was away in Canada (just east of Toronto) for the last trip of a busy, busy summer. For those who are interested, Americans can now travel by car to Canada but must have the COVID vax, and a negative COVID test within 72hrs of crossing. Travelers also have to use the “Arrive-CAN” app once they get their test done which requires you to upload passport, vaccination data and estimated crossing time. The good news is the bridge at the Port Huron, MI – Sarnia, ON border crossing was completely deserted and looked like something from a zombie movie. It took all of 5 minutes to get past the teenage looking guard from the Canada Border Services Agency. Once you get into Canada expect to wear a mask inside any public building and store. At restaurants you need to provide contact tracing information (which is dumb but, whatever). Currency rate was .80 CAD to $1.00. Going back to the U.S. required only your passport and vax card. The U.S. Border will open for Canadians on 8 November (but only of course for those fully vaccinated). All in all it was a wonderful trip to a beautiful place with so many things to do and places to eat!
The Riff Salient is from the experienced pen of Warren Hastings Miller and appeared in the July, 1928 issue of Blue Book Magazine. It’s one of Miller’s Hell’s Angels Squad stories and features Legionnaires Anzac Bill, Ike Smith of Texas, and some other characters who make appearances in this series such as Little Hortet and Commandant Knechet. It is set in Morocco and concerns the French dealings with the rebellious Rif tribes of the day.
The Riff Salient
NOTE: Sorry for the delay on this month’s pulp story as I’m currently having some significant issues with my computer. Back in August I started experiencing random 100% spikes in my Hard Drive usage that, when it occurs, locks up any app I’m working in to include various picture editors, browsers, Windows file explorer, MS Office programs, etc. I get the (Not Responding) warning constantly and sometimes the screen locks and programs crash. Its now getting worse and is so frustratingly irritating. I try to do what I can between these random spikes but I’ve corrupted some programs (like Adobe products) in trying to shut down as much background services as I can. I have tried just about every trick and recommendation to fix the problem but with no success. I’m at a point where my choices are a clean Windows 10 install, a new hard drive, or just bite the bullet and get a replacement for my Dell XPS which I discovered is over 10 years old. …maybe it’s time to let old Betsy go to pasture?
Here is a short Georges Surdez story that appeared in the December 1938 issue of Adventure. It’s another of his great character developments–this time of an elderly officer, an elite snob extraordinarie, Captain Alexandre de Barrois, a landed Viscount of an old family. A former Colonel and regimental commander during the Great War he could not abide serving in a peacetime Army ruled by copy-clerks and he resigned his commission. He quickly become destitute and near bankruptcy and scandal when his money ran out faster than his taste for gambling, women, horses and luxuries. Given one last chance to become a soldier again Barrois jumps at the chance to command a company of the Foreign Legion in Morocco. However, this was between the wars, a time when our world was again turning and transforming and this time the old aristocracy and blue-bloods without the survival instinct to survive were compelled to fade away or were driven away from their historical roles in society. For Captain Barrois there would be no escaping the trail of debt and bounced checks he left on his way to his destiny.
A Lamp-Post for the Viscount
This month’s story is from the March, 1935 issue of Thrilling Adventures. The author is the esteemed Major George Fielding Eliot whose real life experiences might rival those found in pulp fiction. The story involves an American intelligence officer of the Foreign Legion (Captain Logan) who must match wits with a rebellious native chieftain and the chieftain’s more notorious and wily German henchman who calls himself Friedrich Barbarossa.
The Blue Sultan
This story, with a well used cliché of a title, comes from the pages of December 1933 issue of Thrilling Adventures. The author, Captain Kerry McRoberts, was a house pseudonym often used by the better known pulp master Norman A. Daniels. The story is set in the desert and involves an American Legionnaire, Jimmy Harker, who learns the hard way not to directly disobey a Foreign Legion officer while the officer learns the true mettle and dedication of his legionnaires.
A Soldier of the Legion
Here is the cover of this issue….
NOTE: Sorry about being an AWOL blogger. May and June are always busy for me as I usually have a “honey-do” list that I’ve put off all winter that needs to get done. I do have multiple articles I’m working on so keep checking here.