Tuesday, May 01, 2018


Usually, I would never review a book I’d read only 25% of, but I think you’ll understand why I’m doing it with this book by the time I finish.

As BTC readers know from my previous reviews of vintage comic books, I am that rare person who enjoys the two-page prose stories found in comic books prior to letters pages becoming standard. Evidently, to qualify for a second class periodical mailing permit with the US Postal Service, anything calling itself a periodical had to have at least two pages of “text” as opposed to just text-with-art. Publishers got around that initially by having a two-page filler story (or two shorter filler stories, or two pages worth of anecdotal mini-stories), which would qualify. Many readers did not care for those and probably did not read them. However, I usually enjoyed them and was glad to have them. Of course, some were awful….and some just sat there on the page. Many of them, though, were quite interesting and had the energy of a quickly-written piece—they were usually not complexly structured (how could they be in 2 pages!), but the people who wrote these were professionals, and if you were to challenge them to “write a two page crime story involving a fire, a baby carriage, a jazz musician, and a sandwich” (for example) and you gave them ten minutes, they could probably dictate it to you, and it would not require a second draft, and it would be both exciting and entertaining. They were professional writers, and paid-by-the-page professional writers, so the way an athlete always keeps in shape and is ready at any time for a sports competition, these writers were always “in shape” to whip out a two-page story for a few extra bucks. If you’ve ever read any of Ed Wood’s quickie adult-magazine fiction, you know that those pieces have a kind of white-hot, written-on-the-fly energy to them, and that flow kind of catches you up in it and pulls you along, like stepping into a river with a strong current. You even sense a similar pull in a very different kind of work, but one written quickly: Jack Kerouac’s THE SUBTERRANEANS.

Also, one thing that keeps me from reading more 30’s and 40’s pulp magazine fiction (though I do read a good bit of it) is that too many of the stories go on for too long. Life is short. However, here most everything is only two pages. It moves quickly, and if you don’t like it or like the way it’s resolved, it’s over and then there’s another one.

You can read one while waiting for something. You can read one before falling asleep at night, and you won’t have to stop in mid-story and lose the continuity. They are the perfect “bite-size” pulp magazine fiction.

What Gwandanaland has done here is to present the prose stories from the first 88 issues of the legendary JUMBO COMICS (those issues running from 1938-1946), plus a handful of other comic books, and present them one after another in simple scans of the text pages. It’s literally 210 pages in 8” x 11” format, ALL prose stories. The book is available in two formats—one that replicates the original pages in color, and a much cheaper one (only $9.99!) which has a color cover but B&W internal pages. Do you REALLY need color on these? You are just reading text, and the majority of pages have no illustrations, just text.

210 pages for under ten dollars? Why, that’s the best buy of the year, in my humble opinion. And you get a wide variety of genre fiction from the Golden Age of the late 30’s and early 40’s----westerns, crime, jungle, adventure in exotic locales, mystery, horror, war & military, espionage, sports, etc. You even get such known characters as SHEENA, QUEEN OF THE JUNGLE and The Saint!

I’ve been reading 2-3 stories a day for the last week or so, and I’m about 25% through (I’m NOT reading it in order, but sampling it, the way I would take shrimp or yeast rolls or fried okra off a Golden Corral buffet (if I’d ever eat at one, which I probably would not). I don’t need to have read the entire book to let you know what it’s like, and I definitely want any of you who would find this kind of reading worthwhile to get your order in NOW for this set. The black and white version is only $9.99 and is chock-full of fast-moving action and excitement. I hope Gwandanaland does more volumes of this sort of thing. It was a genius move on their part, and after only one installment, I must say that I’m hooked and will need another fix when I finish this volume.

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