Pulp magazines had a real good run and it’s amazing how many people don’t have a clue about these wonderful gems of popular fiction. They pulp heyday lasted from about 1900 until about 1950 although these dates are arguable to some. During this 50 year period the newsstands and dime stores were filled with fiction magazines of all possible genres–westerns, detective, gangster, romance, science fiction, horror, aviation, and pulp heroes such as John Carter, Tarzan, the Black Bat, Zorro, and Fu Manchu. After World War II however, things began to change as soldiers returning to civilian life got back to work and started raising families. Television, comics, radio and paperbacks were the new rage and pulp circulations tumbled. Tastes changed as well and the surviving pulp magazines started to take on more edgy and often lurid subjects. Enter the Men’s Adventure magazines–the last gasp of the pulps and the progenitors of girlie magazines (Adam, Stag, Cavalier, etc.)
This month’s pulp (non-fiction) story comes from the August 1949 Argosy whose byline by then was “The Complete Man’s Magazine”. Price was $.25 cents. Features in these magazines were often a mix of non-fiction articles with very short fiction filling the covers. This issue had seven fiction stories but also five nonfiction articles, four photo features, nine recurring departments and several other fillers. Author’s were still top notch and included fiction by Les Savage Jr. and true crime by Erle Stanley Gardner.
This Foreign Legion story was written by Walter G. Leathe, a navy veteran who decides to see Paris before he gets a full time job, gets married and settles down. Somewhat fantastically he finds himself marching behind a gaggle of new recruits at “Fort Saint-Nicolas” in Marseilles. Perhaps they were on their way to Fort Saint Jean but in any case Mt. Leathe is mistaken as an bleu and expeditiously put into the regimen that would try to bust him down and then build him up into a Legionnaire. However, Mr. Leathe was going to have nothing to do with the Legion. Too bad, he seemed tough enough, was offered promotion, and would probably have had more interesting things to write about after five years.