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“Flaming Skies” by Raoul Whitfield

Link - Posted by David on May 19, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we have another of Raoul Whitfield’s ‘Buck’ Kent stories from the pages of Air Trails magazine. Whitfield is primarily known for his hardboiled crime fiction published in the pages of Black Mask, but he was equally adept at lighter fair that might run in the pages of Breezy Stories. ‘Buck’ Kent, along with his pal Lou Parrish, is an adventurous pilot for hire. These stories, although more in the juvenile fiction vein, do feature some elements of his harder prose.

In the November 1928 issue of Air Trails, ‘Buck’ and his pal Lou have been called in to help rescue some errant Movie men lost in the woods as a raging wild fire bares down on them! Can Buck and Lou find them before the fire does? Find out in “Flaming Skies!”

A groundling’s life and an airman’s code—Fate held the whip and “Buck” Kent fought for both.

“The Sky Fool” by Frank Richardson Pierce

Link - Posted by David on February 17, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

Frank Richardson Pierce is probably best remembered for his prolific career in the Western Pulps. Writing under his own name as well as two pen names—Erle Stanly Pierce and Seth Ranger—Pierce’s career spanned fifty years and produced over 1,500 short stories, with over a thousand of these appearing in the pages of Argosy and the Saturday Evening Post.

Pierce was born in 1881 in Greenfield, Massachusetts but raised on the west coast. A graduate of the University of Washington, he served for a year and a half in the US Navy as a boatswain’s mate and worked for the city of Seattle as a clerk stenographer. He began writing travel articles about the northwest for various motorcycle trade journals and later progressed to short story writing.

Pierce draws upon his knowledge of the Pacific Northwest from his reported fourteen different motorcycle trips to and through the Alaska territory for his story of rival news-reels services covering the first woman to fly over the North Pole. The story features Rusty Wade, Pierce’s rough and tumble red-headed pilot for hire looking for his big financial break.

A story of daring pilots and news-reel men on the far sky trails of the Northland.

 

And as a bonus, here’s an article from Mr. Pierce’s former home town paper, The San Bernardino Daily Sun, about his successful career in the pulps!

 

Graduate of Redlands School 25 Years Ago Now Writes Scores of Stories Yearly for Magazines

Thousands of Readers Know Frank Richardson Pierce Under Two Names; Spends Week-End Visiting Foothill City Home
By MAURICE S. SULLIVAN
San Bernardino Daily Sun, San Bernardino, CA • 10 May 1932

When Frank Richardson Pierce graduated from Redlands’ old Kingsbury school, about 25 years ago, he didn’t know that some day he should have two names.

Thousands of readers of the so-called pulps—magazines printed on rough paper—know a writer named Seth Ranger, and eagerly follow his stories of the frontier days, the logging country, Alaska and the Orient. Some of them also know a writer named Frank Richardson Pierce, but the latter has his own distinct following, who watch for his stories Just as do the devotees of Seth Ranger.

Frank Richardson Pierce and Seth Ranger are the same writer. He lives now in Seattle, but he spent his boyhood in Redlands. Whenever—in one of his stories—he needs a small city setting, or a town just over the mountains from the desert, his mind goes back to the Redlands of his youth and under another name Redlands goes into the story.

He spent the last week-end here, at the home of his father, Martin F. Pierce, 24 East Fern avenue. He was taking a brief vacation after having completed “Timber War.”

Frank Pierce is one of those talented persons who turn out stories for the pulps In a seemingly endless stream, while at the same time producing an occasional yarn for the slicks—smooth paper magazines. Howard Marsh, a Redlands resident; Fred McIsaac and H. Redford Jones are others who have the faculty.

To those persons who spend months trying to fashion a readable story, revising and rewriting, the skill of Mr. Pierce and his co-workers is amazing. In one year this writer sold 121 stories, at the rate of about 10 each month: short stories, novelettes and serials of novel length.

Conversing with Mr. Pierce one learns that this extraordinary success, as in the case of most writers, has a basis of hard work and study. He had to learn his trade by practice and by examining the technique of those who were publishing their output.

“The first nine or 10 stories I wrote didn’t click,” said Mr. Pierce. “Then I received a lucky break.

“I had been in the naval reserve during the war, so that I know a good deal of naval procedure and the language of the navy. One day I picked up a magazine In which there was a sea story with the navy as a setting.

“As I read it, I said to myself that here was something right down my alley, and if that was the kind of thing the editors of that particular magazine wanted, I could write it. I turned out a story and sent It to New York.

“It happened that as the editor of the magazine was reading my manuscript a naval officer, a friend of his, came into the office. The editor tossed the script to this officer and asked him his opinion.

“Men in certain trades and professions are very critical of stories dealing with their crafts, and the writer who tries to draw on his imagination for facts and atmosphere is likely to bring down on his head a storm of derisive letters. But when the naval officer read this story of mine he was pleased.

“It might not have been a particularly good story, but he was reading it with an eye for flaws in detail. When he found the language of the characters was authentic navy talk, and the method of abandoning ship, which I had described, was accurately detailed, he thought It was a great yarn. He told the editor so. The story sold, and I was able to turn out a series of them along the same lines.”

Seattle is a very advantageous place in which to live, for one who writes. To that city come the ships of the Orient, men from far places in the North, returning to civilization. There is a cattle country and a mountain country nearby. Fisheries, canneries, logging camps and timber locales all are available. The city is the home of persons who have lived through the Klondike days of Alaska.

When the writer is balked by some perilous piece of detail or atmosphere, he knows where he can get assistance, if he had made friends with the old-timers.

Mr. Pierce wrote a story in which a character was found frozen stiff squatting on his haunches in front of a fireplace, with his hands extended as if warming them at a blaze.

This scene brought a flood of letters, starting with one from a man who sarcastically averred that a freezing man would relax and fall over; that it was sheer impossibility that he should be frozen in the squatting position.

A loyal fan of Seth Ranger came to his rescue with an even more sarcastic letter. He enclosed a photograph of a man frozen while standing upright, and suggested to the writer that he “show this to that so-and-so who thinks he knows so much.” A Seattle friend of Mr. Pierce settled the matter for him. Jake the Musher, veteran of many trails, not only vouched for the accuracy of the frozen man detail, but also related similar instances out of his vast fund of experiences in the North.

The stumbling writer who fashions a line, then pauses to improve it, would be amazed to see Mr. Pierce at work. He usually makes but one draft of a story, turning it out at high speed, and shooting it, without revision, at the magazine for which it was “slanted.” There was a time, during an illness, when he talked his stories into a dictating machine, and depended upon a typist to transcribe them. It was difficult and discouraging, but because he had to do it, he kept at it until he could dictate as well as he could write.

Writing for the pulps is Mr. Pierce’s livelihood, but he is not content only to do that. He studies meanwhile, constantly striving for improvement; not trying to write literature, because the boundaries of literature are very vague and nobody living can say certainly what of the present day writing shall be called literature 100 years from now; but so long as folk are entertained by what he writes, striving to give them the best in the field.

“Free Air is Right!” by Raoul Whitfield

Link - Posted by David on October 14, 2016 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we have another of Raoul Whitfield’s ‘Buck’ Kent stories from the pages of Air Trails magazine. Whitfield is primarily known for his hardboiled crime fiction published in the pages of Black Mask, but he was equally adept at lighter fair that might run in the pages of Breezy Stories. ‘Buck’ Kent, along with his pal Lou Parrish, is an adventurous pilot for hire. These stories, although more in the juvenile fiction vein, do feature some elements of his harder prose.

In the December 1928 issue of Air Trails, ‘Buck’ and his pal Lou find themselves in Mississippi down along the Gulf of Mexico low on fuel and looking for a place to land in their two-place plane. Before long they find themselves embroiled in local carnival politics and trying to rescue a girl doing a trapeze act from a hot air balloon that is about to be ripped apart by an approaching tornado!

A balloon broken loose—a Mississippi tornado! Buck Kent and Lou Parrish find perilous action.

“Sky Lines” by Raoul Whitfield

Link - Posted by David on July 24, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

Raoul Falconia Whitfield (1896-1945) is probably best remembered for his hardboiled crime fiction published in Black Mask such as the Jo Gar stories about a Filipino detective in an inter-war Manila. But Whitfield also wrote fiction for titles like Adventure, Blue Book, Breezy Stories, Everybody’s Magazine, as well as Battle Stories, War Stories, Boy’s Life and Air Trails. Frequently his stories in Air Trails featured “Buck” Kent, an adventurous pilot for hire. The stories, although more in the juvenile fiction vein, do feature some elements of his harder prose.

The July 1929 issue of Air Trails featured two pieces by Whitfield. There was the monthly dose of the adventures of “Buck” Kent and in the back of the issue was a cheifly autobiographical piece from his time as an aviator in the first World War. The autobiographical article is presented below; while the “Buck” Kent story, “Sky Lines” can be downloaded at the bottom of the post.

 

Sky Seconds That Count

by Raoul Whitfield • Air Trails • July 1929 (vol.2 no.4)

Mr. Whitfield, famous pilot-writer, author of the “Buck” Kent stories, tells about some of his own exciting moments in the air.

THIS fellow Whitfield has had some sky seconds, that have counted—even if he has to interview himself in order to admit it. We have to go back a few years to the days when army pilots didn’t pack ‘chutes; when stabilizers and inertia starters were things to talk about and say: “Well, maybe. Ten years from now—maybe.”

We have to go back to the days when a lot of good chaps were getting into tail-spins and not getting out of them. Back to war days.

There was the time a De Haviland’s Liberty conked out, over the Gironde River in France. That wasn’t so good, even though Lieutenant Whitfield did stretch the ship’s glide and reach a sandy strip along the stream’s edge. There was the time a Nieuport got her nose down and went into a tight spin five hundred feet off the ground, near Issoudoun, France.

That wasn’t so good, even though she whipped out of it a hundred feet above the earth. And there was still another time when a gray wall of fog swept northward across Colombey-la-Belle, and sent the lieutenant down for a nose-over on a soggy stretch too close to the front for comfort. And there were the seconds when a J.N. 4’s wings scraped those of another Jenny—at Kelly Field, Texas.

But the sky seconds that counted most slipped by at St. Jean de Monts, on the Bay of Biscay, France. This fellow Whitfield was flying a dep-control S.A.E. She was a terrible crate, and he was testing her out for target towing.

In the rear cockpit of this two-place ship was a noncom who had never tossed out a wrapped target sleeve before. The lieutenant was flying over the beach, headed into the wind.

He got the ship’s nose up and nodded his head. The noncom stood up and the prop wash battered him off balance. Instead of tossing the packed silk out, he held it momentarily.

Whitfield shoved the wheel forward and the nose dropped. A down current dropped it a bit more. The noncom recovered his balance—and let the packed target sleeve go.

The tail assembly slanted up—and the silk lodged between the rudder and elevator fins. The wind pressure jambed it there, tight—very tight. The plane was going down with power on, her dive angle around thirty degrees. And the more Lieutenant Whitfield tugged on that wheel—the worse the silk sleeve jamb became!

Seconds were counting, and counting big!

THE lieutenant swore at the noncom, howled at him to jerk the pack loose. The lieutenant cut the throttle speed, and stared down at the white beach. The ship had less than two thousand feet, and her dive angle was just right for a sweet crash.

A crash in this particular plane meant that the pilot would rate the engine in his lap, and plenty of fire to top off. Whitfield was pretty scared.

But he worked the wheel forward and backward, perhaps an inch. That would have meant something in a Nieuport or a Sop. But this crate didn’t notice the movement. And the target sleeve stuck like Bishop on a Boche’s tail.

The noncom was pulling at the rope coil—methods were crude in those days—but it was no go. Five hundred feet above the sand, Lieutenant Whitfield cut the ignition switch and thought of a girl back in the States. (He married the other one later).

He was still tugging at the wheel control, a hundred feet off the sand. But the dive angle was still thirty degrees or better. It looked like he’d eaten his last Bay of Biscay lobster and partaken of his last bottle of Mumms’ champagne. Then the wheel pulled back an inch—two inches—three inches! That helped.

There was still plenty of crash. The undergear went first, then a wing ripped along and buckled. The plane nosed over and the prop splintered. The pilot and the sergeant crawled out of the wreckage. The ship didn’t burn. She sizzled, but she didn’t fry.

The silk sleeve was still lodged between the rudder and elevator fins, partially opened. As the lieutenant writes, he yawns and looks at a splinter of that ship’s prop, hanging on the wall.

A lot of seconds pass by in eleven years. But he didn’t yawn then—and every second counted when he tugged at that diving crate’s wheel.

 

 

AND now down to New Orleans where “Buck” Kent has been earning his keep with a little sky writting, and some favors on the side in Raoul Whitfield’s “Sky Lines.”

“Buck” Kent matches his airman’s wits with the snarling bullets of bandit guns.

“Fly ‘Em Cowboy” by Robert J Hogan

Link - Posted by David on August 17, 2014 @ 2:44 pm in

With the publication of volume two of The Adventures of Smoke Wade, we thought now would be as good a time as any to release the last of the pre-Popular Smoke Wade stories. This is the second of the Street & Smith stories to appear in Air Trails, following Smoke debut in the previous issues’ “Wager Flight”.

In “Fly ‘Em Cowboy” we find Quinn has just been sent up from Insoudon—just another green replacement with visions of taking down the best German ace on the Western Front, and Smoke Wade concocts his wildest plan yet to help Quinn and win a bet in the process. (Quinn would later become leader of C flight at the 66th Pursuit Squadron)

With the wings of a plane, or the bullets of a six-gun, Smoke Wade could cut circles around his enemy.

“Aces in Dutch” by Robert J. Hogan

Link - Posted by Bill on February 27, 2009 @ 4:29 pm in

This is the third and last Smoke Wade story that appeared in Street and Smith’s “Air Trails”. Smoke Wade was a rough and tumble Arizona cowpoke, who left the range and became the skipper of the American 66th Pursuit Squadron in WWI France.
Flying a Pinto colored Spad he called Jake, after his favorite Pinto ranch horse, Smoke always wore a six-shooter strapped to his leg and made frequent use of it during his aerial battles. He would often get in trouble with his superiors because of his penchant for placing bets on just about anything that seemed like a long-shot. But Smoke would most always win these bets, and everyone from generals to mechanics would be left owing him money.

“Wager Flight” by Robert J. Hogan

Link - Posted by Bill on February 20, 2009 @ 4:33 pm in

In the August 1931 issue of Street and Smith’s “Air Trails”, Robert J. Hogan introduced us to a rough and tumble Arizona cowpoke named Smoke Wade, who left the range and became the skipper of the American 66th Pursuit Squadron in WWI France. Flying a Pinto colored Spad he called Jake, after his favorite Pinto ranch horse, Smoke always wore a six-shooter strapped to his leg and made frequent use of it during his aerial battles. He would often get in trouble with his superiors because of his penchant for placing bets on just about anything that seemed like a long-shot. But Smoke would most always win these bets, and everyone from generals to mechanics would be left owing him money.