Along with the conclusion of "Cancelled in Red," John Stromberg's "Wild River" takes a bleak turn as this installment portrays the hero's hopeless attempt to reconcile with an enemy, a man he accused of theft in the opening installment and who blames our hero for the death of his wife in childbirth. Stromberg writes a convincingly awkward scene as the hero tries to make up with his antagonist over drinks. The antagonist is at first wearily resigned ("Forget it kid. I just feel mean, I reckon."), but remembering only embitters him anew ("Get out of here before I kill you.") He'd tried to kill, or at least seriously hurt our hero earlier in this installment; the cruel irony is that he dies in an accident to climax the installment despite the hero's valiant effort to save him. Like I said, bleak stuff. It's too soon for responses to start appearing in "Argonotes," but I wonder whether readers' revulsion at its bleakness explains Stromberg's very short career in the pulps. Beginning this week is Howard Rigsby's "Voyage to Leandro," about two teenaged boys lighting out for the territory, so to speak, in a boat out of San Francisco Bay in the 1880s. Inspired by the exploits of a notorious mutineer, the boys seek adventure in the South Seas, but it's unclear after the first installment what sort of adventures they'll have. Readers are expected to identify with their adolescent rebelliousness, I suppose, and that isn't really too hard to do.
The other stand-alone stories this week include Crawford Sullivan's "S. S. Sesame," about a Capra-esque crew of allegedly-lovable eccentrics aboard the title ship; Jim Kjelgaard's "'I,' Said the Sparrow," in which a hillbilly poacher takes up bow-hunting so the local revenuer won't hear him, and helps a poor couple raise money trapping beavers; and Foster-Harris's "The Whiskerious Stranger," featuring his series character Mr. Weeble, a meek-looking man with (as you may have guessed from the title) a prominent mustache who sort of goes berserk when provoked. Philip Ketchum takes a break from his chronicle of Bretwalda the mystic axe with the western mystery "West of Water," but he'll get medieval again with next week's cover story.
TO BE CONTINUED