Leonard H. Nason — Soldier and Writer

May 7, 2018 by

At this year’s convention, PulpFest 2018 will honor the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended the First World War. Our programming will focus on the so-called “war pulps” of the early twentieth century and the depiction of war in popular culture. The first of these pulps — WAR STORIES — debuted with its November 1926 number. Featuring authors such as Larry Barretto, Robert Sidney Bowen, Harold F. Cruickshank, George Fielding Eliot, Steuart Emery, Arthur Guy Empey, Robert H. Leitfred, Ralph Oppenheim, Alexis Rossoff, and Raoul Whitfield, WAR STORIES demonstrated that tales about soldiers in battle could sell magazines.

The war pulps would become a substantial category in the rough-paper industry — particularly with stories about the air war. However, until Dell Publishing launched WAR STORIES, the so-called Great War was rarely explored in the pulps. As Tom Roberts writes in THE ART OF THE PULPS: “Following World War I, the reading public had grown weary from the news of battlefield atrocities. They wished to escape, to forget the realities of the recent conflict; fiction of the European front became taboo, as did war stories in general.”

One author who bucked this trend was Leonard H. Nason. After enlisting in the United States Army in 1917, he was sent to France, serving under General Pershing. He fought in the Meuse-Argonne offensive and was wounded in action. Following the war, Nason found work as an insurance claims adjuster. After marrying in 1920, he turned to writing to earn extra income:

“The only thing I knew well enough to write about was the war. True, millions had been to the war, but many more millions hadn’t, and those who had been in the big fight liked to talk about it, and to hear others talk about it. I had noticed that wherever two or three overseas men got together they invariably began yarning about the war. I had heard some good stories from some of these men, and I had told a few myself that seemed to go over pretty well.”

Nason sent his first tale, “The Patrol,” to ADVENTURE in early 1922. In THE LURE OF ADVENTURE, Robert Kenneth Jones writes, “All the editors in the office . . . enthusiastically embraced it — all, that is, but Arthur Sullivant Hoffmann (the magazine’s editor-in-chief) who questioned its point of view and method of telling.”

Thankfully, Hoffmann relented and accepted the story, sending its author a check for fifty dollars. Included with the payment was a note suggesting that ADVENTURE was not in the market for additional stories about The Great War. After unsuccessfully trying his hand at stories about “pirates and buried treasure and cowboys and Chicago gunmen,” Nason returned to the trenches of Europe.

ADVENTURE had said they wanted no more war stories. That was all right, but I had to write war stories, so I sat down and wrote an account of my first battle. . . . I decided to set it down just as it had happened, and then it sounded all right. In other words, it was sincere. The incidents fell naturally into place and the story rang true. . . . I had to write about the war as I knew it, or not at all. I couldn’t doctor my stories, color them, fix ’em up to read the way I might have wished they had happened. I had to write them just as they were, maybe adding a little here and taking out a little there, but leaving the essential truth and incidents just as they had come to me.”

It wasn’t long before Nason’s stories were being noticed by readers. One letter-writer to ADVENTURE remarked, “You have certainly made a find in young Nason, as his stories are so natural as to be classed almost as facts.” Even today, the author’s work rings true. According to pulp fan and historian, Walker Martin, “His work is just not about World War I, but about men and how they deal with the horrors of war.”

Join PulpFest 2018 on Thursday, July 26, at 8:40 PM as Sai Shankar looks at this substantial but largely forgotten author at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry. You can join PulpFest by clicking the Register for 2018 button on our home page. And don’t forget to book a room at the DoubleTree. They’re going fast!

(Sai Shankar is a resident of Washington state, where he works in the computer industry. He explores pulp magazines, authors and their stories on Pulp Flakes. You’ll also find photographs from the pulp conventions that he attends on the same site.

Between 1922 and 1928, Leonard H. Nason published over seventy articles and stories in ADVENTURE. Beginning in 1926, he found another steady market for his work in THE SATURDAY EVENING POST. His stories also appeared in THE AMERICAN LEGION MONTHLY, BLUE BOOK MAGAZINE, COLLIER’S, THE COUNTRY GENTLEMAN, FAWCETT’S BATTLE STORIES, LIBERTY, and other magazines. His novella, “Three Lights from a Match,” appeared in the February 20, 1924 issue of ADVENTURE. The issue featured front cover art by H. C. Murphy. It was one of very few ADVENTURE covers depicting The First World War.

For a look at our entire programming schedule, please click the Programming button below the PulpFest banner on our home page.)

Set Sail with Gordon Young

Jul 24, 2017 by

Here’s your chance to own a piece of pulp history! Over the past weekend, the granddaughter of pulp author Gordon Ray Young contacted the convention’s Facebook page. Years ago, Young’s granddaughter and her mother attended an Ohio Pulpcon. They had a wonderful experience at the convention, meeting the people who were keeping the pulps alive for posterity.

Young’s family still has the author’s travel trunk that he used while traveling to Europe with his family in 1927. The trunk is rather worn, but it still bears his name. His family would like to find a good home for this piece among the people who would appreciate it the most. Therefore, they have decided to donate the trunk to PulpFest for inclusion in this year’s Saturday Night Auction.

Gordon Ray Young was the author of some of the finest adventure fiction to grace the pages of the American pulp magazines during the first half of the twentieth century. His work appeared regularly in titles such as ADVENTUREARGOSYBLUE BOOKROMANCE, and SHORT STORIES, his fiction spanned genres as diverse as westerns, crime stories, South Seas adventure, international intrigue, historical fiction, and humor.

Young’s travel trunk has been added to our auction catalog as Auction Lot #88. Any proceeds from the sale will be donated to PulpFest. There is one stipulation: the trunk is currently in northern California. The winning bidder will be responsible for paying the costs to have the trunk shipped to its destination. These costs will be over and above the winning bid.

Below are a few photographs of the trunk. These will also be shown during the PulpFest Saturday Night Auction.

(As part of its celebration of the hardboiled dicks of the pulps, PulpFest 2017 has asked pulp scholar and historian Tom Krabacher and esteemed collector and hardboiled fiction authority Walker Martin to discuss Young’s character Don Everhard — AKA “The Most Dangerous Man in America.” They’ll examine the character’s relationship to the development and evolution of the hardboiled detective story. Young’s character was pictured twice on the cover of ADVENTURE magazine — including the May 1936 issue with cover art by Walter M. Baumhofer.)

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Hard-Boiled at 100: The Don Everhard Stories of Gordon Young

Jun 14, 2017 by

Tradition holds that the hardboiled school of detective fiction began with the publication of Carroll John Daly’s “Three Gun Terry” in the May 15, 1923 issue of THE BLACK MASK. Dashiell Hammett’s first Continental Op story followed a few months later. The magazine’s editor, Joseph T. Shaw, would later nurture the genre to maturity. BLACK MASK would become synonymous with the hard-boiled detective story.

Or so the story goes. Few if any literary genres come into being at a single time and place; rather, they draw their basic elements from earlier literary forms. The detective story is no exception. A key precursor to the hardboiled school can be found in the “Don Everhard” stories of Gordon Young. Now all but forgotten, the stories appeared in the pages of ADVENTURE and SHORT STORIESover the course of a quarter century. The first appeared in 1917, a full six years before Daley’s tale. It anticipated many of the basic elements of the hardboiled school, including character types, plot structure, narrative voice, the treatment of violence, and a skepticism toward traditional social institutions. All would become common in BLACK MASK in the decade that followed.

Over the course of his life, Gordon Ray Young was a cowboy, marine, sailor, marksman, reporter, occasional poet, sport fisherman, bibliophile, and literary critic. More importantly he was a storyteller, the author of some of the finest adventure fiction to grace the pages of the American pulp magazines during the first half of the twentieth century. Appearing regularly in titles such as ADVENTURE, BLUE BOOK, ARGOSY, ROMANCE, and SHORT STORIES, his fiction spanned genres as diverse as westerns, crime stories, South Seas adventure, international intrigue, historical fiction, and humor.  His tales also made the jump to the silver screen as Hollywood adapted five of his stories for the motion pictures. 

Young was born in rural Ray County, Missouri  on September 7, 1886 and inherited from his father a sense of independence and taste for wandering.  At the age of fifteen he was working as a cowboy in eastern Colorado and in 1908 — at the age of 22 — he enlisted in the United States Marines. He saw duty both in the Philippines and on shipboard. Upon mustering out of the Corps, Young took up a career in journalism, working on newspapers in both San Francisco and Stockton, California before taking up a position with the LOS ANGELES TIMES. He served as the paper’s literary editor for more than a decade.

His freelance writing career began with  the sale of a minor short story to THE CAVALIER in 1913.  His career as a writer took off in 1917 when he began selling to A. S. Hoffman’s ADVENTURE.  By 1920, Gordon Young was an established member of that select group of writers, which included the likes of Talbot Mundy, Hugh Pendexter, W. C. Tuttle, and Arthur Friel, who regularly filled the pages of ADVENTURE during the magazine’s glory years in the teens and twenties. His novels soon began to find their way into hardcover publication. His reputation as a writer was spreading beyond the pages of the pulp magazines and coming to the notice of book reviewers.

Young showed great diversity in his writing, producing a wide variety of story types.  South Seas stories, for example, were common in the teens and  twenties, while westerns came to dominate his later career.  His longest running character however, was the hard-boiled professional gambler, Don Everhard. Young’s creation appeared in his very first sale to ADVENTURE in 1917 — “A  Royal Flush of Hearts”  — and continued to appear in more than thirty short stories and novels over the course of his career.

Gordon Young died of heart failure in his home in Los Angeles, California in 1948 at the age of 62.

On Saturday, July 29, PulpFest 2017 continues its celebration of hardboiled dicks, dangerous dames, and a few psychos. Please join us at 8:20 as Tom Krabacher and John Wooley discuss “The Most Dangerous Man in America,” Gordon Young’s Don Everhard: “Hard-Boiled at 100.”

Tom Krabacher is a professor at California State University, Sacramento and a member of the Pulp Era Amateur Press Association. He has previously presented at PulpFest, serving on and moderating panels on WEIRD TALES, the Cthulhu Mythos, and John Campbell’s classic fantasy magazine, UNKNOWN. Tom has also published articles on the pulps and their history in BLOOD ‘N’ THUNDER, THE PULPSTER, and elsewhere.

John Wooley — who will also be presenting on Dan Turner and SPICY DETECTIVE at PulpFest 2017 — has written, co-written, or edited over three dozen books. He has also authored comic books, trading cards, and thousands of magazine and newspaper stories. Winner of the Lamont Award in 2006, Wooley is co-owner, with John McMahan, of the pulp-related Reverse Karma Press. In 2015, John was inducted into the Oklahoma Historians’ Hall of Fame.

(Pictured twice on the cover of ADVENTURE magazine — including the May 1936 issue with cover art by Walter M. Baumhofer — Don Everhard was — according to Jess Nevins — a “professional gambler and amateur justice-dealer . . . .he keeps getting involved in helping others or, more often, settling accounts . . . . He’s a cold man, always calm (even when under fire), always rational, invulnerable to the wiles of women, and extremely experienced in the ways of criminals and violence. He has a reputation for being very violent, ‘the most famous gunman in the country,’ and of having ‘killed more mean than any other fellow in America — and is proud of it.’ . . . He kills in self-defense or when the target is guilty and deserving of execution.”)

125 Years of the Major

Jan 8, 2015 by

Thrilling Adventures 32-10One of the youngest majors to serve in the United States Calvary, he saw action in Mexico and the Philippines. He also worked as an intelligence officer in the far reaches of Siberia. His experiences around the world would serve him well as he turned to adventure writing during the 1920s. He would create the first original comic book in 1934 and discover Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster and their character, Superman, the Man of Steel. The founder of the company that would become DC Comics, his family still calls him the “old man.”

Born 125 years ago on January 7, 1890 in eastern Tennessee, Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson was also one of the leading adventure fiction writers for the pulp industry. His fiction appeared for nearly twenty-five years in Adventure, Argosy, Battle Stories, Blue Book, Danger Trail, Far East Adventure Stories, The Popular Magazine, The Rio Kid Western, Short Stories, Soldiers of Fortune, Thrilling Adventures, Top-Notch, War Stories, and many other pulp magazines.

In August 2015, PulpFest will be paying tribute to Standard Magazines, also known as the “Thrilling” line of pulps, one of the “old man’s” leading markets. Launched by Ned Pines and Leo Margulies in late 1931, the Thrilling Group of magazines was one of the leaders of the pulp industry for many years. This was due in part to its writers; men such as Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, soon to be the subject of a new book entitled Lost Hero.

Join PulpFest 2015 in mid-August for its salute to Ned Pines’ “Thrilling” line. The convention will be held at the Hyatt Regency in beautiful downtown Columbus, Ohio, beginning on Thursday, August 13th and running through Sunday, August 16th. We’ll be announcing more about the convention as we flesh out the details in the months ahead.

The artwork above is the front cover to the October 1932 issue of Thrilling Adventures, published by Standard Magazines. The illustration, by Jerry George Janes, is for Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson’s “The Scourge of Islam. You can learn more about the Major by visiting the Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson website by clicking here.”