TRASHY TUESDAY: WESTERN MONTHLY – THE GAY BANDIT OF THE BORDER
I recently acquired some copies of the Australian Western Monthly pulp, which reprinted American westerns in the 1940s and 50s.
Shakespeare Head Press was established in Australia in 1932 and initially focused on producing text books for Australian schools. After financial difficulties, Consolidated Press acquired a controlling interest in the company in 1946 and the focus shifted to Australian literature and reproducing popular books and comics from overseas. One of their series was Western Monthly, which ran from 1948 to 1961 (62 issues in total).
Western Monthly reprinted American western stories from popular authors, such as Nelson C Nye, Philip Ketchum and Paul Evan Lehman, on a monthly basis in a 128 page digest format. The books were richly illustrated with old style covers by Australian artists such as Wynne W. Davis and Victor Dove.
The above issue from April 1950 (#25) featured Tom Gill’s The Gay Bandit Of The Border, which was originally published in America in 1930 and made into the movie: The Gay Caballero. The cover was done by respected artist Wynne W. Davis who started out doing film posters in the 1920s. Davis seems to have done the bulk of the covers for Western Monthly, often drawing on his movie poster experience.
Davis’ cover for The Gay Bandit Of The Border has good bright colours and an eye catching action scene. The style is very much of the 1930s and 40s and seems a bit dated for 1950. Looking at it now, Davis seems to have anticipated modern day reactions to the title of Gay Bandit and has given the drawing a Village People feel, with the shaved, exposed chests of the two fighters, the black moustache on one of the fighters, the perfect white teeth, and the embroidery on the orange shirt.
Western Monthly frequently used books and stories by Amos Moore and for the October 1954 issue (No. 54) they used his Gun Smoke At Clarion, which was originally published in 1937.
Wynne W David again did the cover for this one and seems to have drawn heavily on his 1920s movie poster experience. There is a slight William S Hart resemblance to one of the men and the red handkerchief mask and bright cravat, also have a very 1920s/30s movie feel about them.
Issue No. 36 (April 1951) contained a novella by popular pulp author Frank Gruber, Gunsight, and three very brief short stories by Ward Raymond, Bill Chambers and A C Abbott.
The artist of the cover is uncredited, but is typical of the Western Monthly covers, in that it contains a bit of bloodless action and lots of rich colours. I like the exaggerated gesture of the man being shot, the white knuckle tension in the gun hand and the seemingly incidental action in the background. And the guy all dressed in bright green, including the hat! Did the artist have to use up the green paint, or something?
Issue No. 39 (July 1951) also contained a mixture of a novella and short stories. The longer story, Gun Tornado, was provided by prolific author Gladwell Richardson and originally appeared in the January 1950 edition of Western Action in America. Accompanying it are two short stories by Mike Bienstock and James A Hines.
The cover is by Sydney artist Victor Dove, who also worked for the Sydney Morning Herald as a press artist and occasional writer. Again it is a good, simple 1950s style western cover with a very neat and clean cowboy. Dirt and dust were not common features of the covers for Western Monthly!
Copies of Western Monthly are very hard to find nowadays, but they are worth looking out for, especially for their covers by Australian artists.