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“Dangerous Business” by D. Campbell

Link - Posted by David on March 25, 2024 @ 6:00 am in

WE’RE back with a third of three stories featuring D. Campbell’s The Three Wasps—stories plagiarized right from The Three Mosquitoes! So instead of the young impetuous leader Kirby of the Mosquitoes, we have the young and impetuous Gary heading up the Wasps. Similarly, Campbell changed “Shorty” Carn to “Shorty” Keen complete with briar pipe and eldest and wisest Travis to Cooper. This time we have their first of five appearances in Harold Hersey’s Eagles of the Air, a short lived pulp that didn’t even run a year. From October 1929 to August 1930, Eagles of the Air had nine issues; The Wasps ran in five of them.

Oppenheim gave us a real nail-biter when he first wrote it—Campbell’s version is just as nail-biting. Important, time-sensitive information needed for an Allied offensive against the Boche has been hidden in the crotch of a forked tree down a dirt path in the woods on Field 23. Intelligence operatives have been unable to retrieve this information. As a last ditch effort, they figure a lone flyer may be able to land on the field, retrieve the information, and get out before the Germans in the area could stop them. Gary is this flyer. Landing in the midst of German troops and retrieving the info is the easy part, keeping his two pals—Cooper and Keen from tagging along is the hard part!

Death rumbled in the guns of the waiting German infantry—but death meant nothing to Gary. He swooped down on the scene and rode his quarry to the kill!

Editor’s Note: Although Campbell does try to make this one more his own by changing Field 21 to 23, he is already starting to get sloppy as he neglected to change “Mosquitoes” to “Wasps” in several instances. These have been highlighted in red when they occur.

And compare this to Oppenheim’s original version of the story with The Three Mosquitoes!

Stacked Cards

It was Intelligence stuff, and Kirby could not even tell his two buddies. He took off alone—for Germany—and how was he to know that the cards were stacked against him? Another of Oppenheim’s breathless thrillers.

“Reckless and Lucky” by D. Campbell

Link - Posted by David on March 22, 2024 @ 6:00 am in

WE’RE back with a second of three stories featuring D. Campbell’s The Three Wasps—stories plagiarized right from The Three Mosquitoes! So instead of the young impetuous leader Kirby of the Mosquitoes, we have the young and impetuous Gary heading up the Wasps. Similarly, Campbell changed “Shorty” Carn to “Shorty” Keen complete with briar pipe and eldest and wisest Travis to Cooper. This time we have their first of five appearances in Harold Hersey’s Eagles of the Air, a short lived pulp that didn’t even run a year. From October 1929 to August 1930, Eagles of the Air had nine issues; The Wasps ran in five of them.

This was classic when Oppenheim first wrote it—Gary takes on a lone enemy plane while returning from a mission, the two crash and Gary and the Boche flyer strike up an uneasy truce until they find out which side of the lines they are on and who is whose prisoner!

Lost in the trackless cloud wastes, Gary and the flying Baron settle to earth in strange territory. True to the code of the flying men a pact develops between them—but the German Baron tricks Gary. Then the real fight begins!

And compare this to Oppenheim’s original version of the story with The Three Mosquitoes!

Two Aces~and a Joker

Kirby, leader of the famous “Three Mosquitoes,” knew that he was too worn out to jump into another fight. He must get his plane back to the drome. But that lone Fokker that appeared suddenly below him looked too easy to miss—it was a cinch! He dived, with motor roaring, but it wasn’t such a cinch—

And check back on Monday for a third adventure featuring D. Campbell’s the Three Wasps!

The Three Wasps!

Link - Posted by David on March 20, 2024 @ 6:00 am in

WHILE recently looking through Harold Hersey’s short-run aviation titles, I came upon what I thought was a new series we could feature on the site, or maybe in a book if there were enough stories. Thumbing though the first issue of Hersey’s Eagles of the Air there was an ad for the next issue stating, “Another Story of The “WASPS”"

I looked in the next issue and there they were as well as running in three of the other seven issues of the run—five tales in all. I scanned the pages to read later and continued searching through the various titles.

Later, while reading the first one, I was thinking this all sounds so familiar. I was thinking this was a story I had just read—and it was, but then it was a story staring Ralph Oppenheim’s “Three Mosquitoes,” not D. Campbell’s “Three Wasps.” So I pulled up the Mosquitoes version of the story and Campbell’s story was a virtual word-for-word copy of of Oppenheim’s—all he did was change the names of the characters.

So Kirby, the young impetuous leader of the Three Mosquitoes becomes Gary, the young impetuous leader of the Three Wasps. “Shorty” Carn, the mild-eyed, corpulent little Mosquito becomes the mild-eyed, corpulent “Shorty” Keen, complete with briar pipe in Campbell’s Wasps. To complete the inseparable trio, Travis, the oldest and wisest of the Mosquitoes, has his name changed to Cooper.

The Text. A portion of the D. Campbell’s “Dangerous Business” (Eagles of the Air, Nov 1929) on the left and the similar passage from Ralph Oppenheim’s “Stacked Cards” (War Birds, Jul 1928) on the right.

I couldn’t believe it. So I checked out the Wasps story in the next issue and it was the same thing. And so on with the other three—sometimes even forgetting to change “Mosquitoes” to “Wasps”. All five stories were plagiarized from Oppenhiem’s stories. Instead of just stealing a random story like Robert A. Carter had done, D. Campbell was plagiarizing a whole series!

It seemed a bold move that nobody seemed to notice. Weirdly, I could find no mention of it in the newspapers of the time. The only hint of something being up was pointed out by a reader whose letter ran in the same issue as the final Wasps story.

So who was this D. Campbell? I thought at first it was just an alias for Oppenheim who was simply trying to repackage his Three Mosquitoes stories as The Three Wasps and get paid for them again—’cause nobody would be so bold, but D. Campbell it turns out, is an actual guy.

Donald Marr Campbell was born on September 2nd, 1904 in Cambellton, Texas and had his first story in the pulps, “King Ranch,” in the February 11th, 1928 issue of West. He’s credited with a couple dozen stories that run the gamut from aviation to detective to spy to westerns with his last appearing in the March 1932 issue of The Shadow

Campbell listed his occupation as Cafe Operator in the 1940 census and signed up for the war effort in 1942. Sadly, in the 1950 census he is listed as being unable to walk. He moved to Houston in 1956 where he lived until he passed away in 1974 at the age of 69 following an extended illness.

Looking at some of his other published stories, it turns out there was an earlier plagiarized Wasp story that appeared in the April 1929 Flying Aces. This would make it the first of the Wasp stories. The issue also include a letter of thanks for publishing from Campbell!

In all Campbell had six stories of the Wasps published. Each was a virtual word for word copy of a preexisting story of the Three Mosquitoes by Ralph Oppenhiem. They were:

  • Flying To Glory (Flying Aces, Apr 1929) is based on Oppenheim’s Down from the Clouds (War Stories, Aug 19, 1927)
  • Reckless and Lucky (Eagles of the Air, Oct 1929) is based on Oppenheim’s Two Aces~and A Joker (War Birds, Jun 1928)
  • Dangerous Business (Eagles of the Air, Nov 1929) is based on Oppenheim’s Stacked Cards (War Birds, Jul 1928)
  • Luck of the Wasps (Eagles of the Air, Jan 1930) is from Oppenheim’s An Ace In The Hole (War Stories Mar 29, 1928)
  • Three Flying Fools (Eagles of the Air Feb 1930) is from Oppenheim’s Get That Gun (War Stories Nov 8, 1928)
  • The Wasps (Eagles of the Air Mar 1930) is from Oppenheim’s Two Aces—In Dutch (War Stories, Dec 6, 1928)

But what better way than to see for yourself. So we’ll be posting couple of the Wasps’ adventures over the next week. As the Three Mosquitoes and the Three Wasps would both say, “Let’s Go!”

The first of D. Campbell’s Three Wasps stories appeared in the pages of the April 1929 Flying Aces. The greatest fighting war-birds on the Western Front roar into action. The three Spads flying in a V formation so precise that they seemed as one. On their trim khaki fuselages, were three identical insignias—each a huge, black-painted picture of a grim-looking wasp. In the cockpits sat the reckless, inseparable trio known as the “Three Wasps.” Captain Gary, their impetuous young leader, always flying point. On his right, “Shorty” Keen, the mild-eyed, corpulent little Mosquito, who loved his sleep. And on Kirby’s left, completing the V, the eldest and wisest of the trio—long-faced and taciturn Cooper.

A new C.O. has been assigned to the squadron and he can’t stand pilots who “grand-stand” which is the Mosquitoes stock-in-trade and boy do they catch hell when they get on the C.O.’s wrong side—that is until the C.O. gets in a jam and it’s trick flying that’ll save him when the Boche attack!

The C.O. called them babies and forbade stunt flying. Not content with that he separated the Three Wasps, the greatest flying, fighting trio he had. Hatred was rampant. But all this was forgotten when the great call came!

Compare this to Oppenheim’s original version of the story with The Three Mosquitoes!

Down from the Clouds

The C.O. of the flying field was sore—the Three Mosquitoes, dare-devils supreme were doing their “grand-stand stuff” again. But when the C.O. found himself in difficulties, with Boche planes swarming all around him—things were different. The best flying story of the month.

And check back on Friday when the Wasps will be back with another exciting adventure!

The Pulp Plagiarism Scandal of 1929

Link - Posted by David on February 5, 2024 @ 6:00 am in

IF FRIDAY’S story seemed a little familiar to you, there may be a reason for that. The entire story was plagiarized from another. In this case it was Ben Conlon’s “Flyers of Fortune” (Air Trails, July 1929). Yes, Carter’s “Fortune Flyers” was a virtual word for word rip off of Conlon’s earlier story.

Everything seemed to be going Robert A. Carter’s way. A former Canadian war time ace, he was Married in 1925, with a girl born the following year, the former Canadian war time ace had found a way to profit off his past experiences by not only editing two of Fiction House’s Aviation pulps—Air Stories and Wings, but he was also getting his own stories in including a 14 part series on “How to Become a Pilot” that ran in both magazines.

Toward the end of 1928, it all started to unravel.

Turns out that loving wife and child was more of a ball and chain to Carter who found he preferred the company of his friends over them. As the Port Chester Daily Item reported on January 12th:

Alimony of $35 a week and counsel fees of $500 must be paid to Mrs. Michelena Carter, of 88 Chatswood Avenue, Larchmont, by her husband, Robert A. Carter, editor of aeronautical fiction magazines, according to award made here by Supreme Court Justice George H. Taylor, Jr., in Special Term. The award was made by default as no opposition was presented by the husband.
      According to the wife’s complaint, she married Carter on August 6, 1925, at Catskill and they have lived since in this county. There is one child, Mary Elizabeth, born November 17, 1926.
      Carter, according to his wife, is thirty years of age and is employed by the Fiction House, Inc., 271 Madison Avenue, New York City. as editor of two aeronautical fiction magazines, “Wings” and “Air Stories.” He receives a salary of $40 weekly, she alleges, and from $25 to $60 for each story he furnishes the magazines.
      Basing her plea for separation on the grounds of cruelty and abandonment, Mrs. Carter alleges that without cause or provocation, Carter absented himself from their Larchmont home for several nights a week from August to December of last year. Even the Christmas holiday was spent away from home, she says, her husband telling her he preferred to spend his time with friends.
      On December 28th, she says, he packed his clothes and left with the statement that he did not intend to return and that he was “through” with her. She alleges that he left no money for her needs, that her baby is ill, and that she is without funds with which to purchase medicines or the services of a physician.
      The alimony awarded is pending the trial of the separation action.

Although the home life may have fallen apart, his writing career seemed to flourish as he started to see print in other titles—Aces, Air Trails, Flying Aces and War Birds. Which is good, since Carter and his estranged wife entered into a stipulation on June 4th whereby he was to pay $40 weekly out of his $100 weekly earnings as a magazine writer and the daring hero of many magazine exploits in the air.

He lived up to the agreement for two weeks before disappearing sight unseen.

Maybe this is why he was so hard to pin down and seemed a little cagey in that Air Trail’s biographical piece from November 1929. Or maybe it was the fact that he had already plagiarized several stories and submitted them to his boss at Fiction House, John B. Kelly as his own! And with the publication of the December 1929 issue of Wings, it all hit the fan!

The Pulp Plagiarism Scandal of 1929
The Stories in Question. The opening pages of Ben Conlon’s “Flyers of Fortune” (Air Trails, July 1929) and Robert A. Carter’s “Fortune Flyers” (Wings, December 1929)

The Port Chester Daily Item reports (on the front page!):

When the Muse failed and he resorted to plagiarism to keep the candle burning at both ends Robert A. Carter, thirty-two, self styled World War aviator, who is well known in Harrison and Rye, let himself in for plenty of trouble. He was lodged in the Tombs Prison in New York City today, charged with grand larceny as the result of a confession that he copied aviation stories verbatim from one magazine and sold them to another.
      The specific instance on which the charge is based concerns the story “Flyers of Fortune,” by Ben Conlin, published in “Air Trails.” Carter is alleged to have copied it word for word and sold it to the magazine “Wings” under the title “Fortune Flyers.” For it he received $240 from John B. Kelly, head of Fiction House, Inc., of 271 Madison Avenue, New York City.
      Carter, who formerly lived in Harrison, was arrested by a detective from the office of Assistant District Attorney Edward Laughlin at his home, 25 East 30th Street. He was indicted by the grand Jury on a grand larceny charge and a bench warrant issued for his arrest. The Indictment was based mainly on a written confession to Kelly, in which Carter admitted having plagiarized the story as well as two others.
      According to Kelly, Carter came to him about two and a half years ago and asked for a job. He said be had served in the Royal Flying Corps in Italy during the war and thought he could write stories of his experiences. He was given a Job and his stories, when published, were enthusiastically received. He was soon made managing editor of “Wings” and a little later arranged a broadcast from the Hotel Roosevelt in which he introduced several famous wa races. He also did some work for a Brooklyn station and later represented himself as the director, which was the first Intimation that Kelly had of his duplicity.

Kelly estimated Carter managed to extract $1,100 from the company through his plagiaristic efforts.

After his apprehension, it was discovered that fiction filching was the most remunerative, but not the exclusive manner of his making a living. Two Manhattan hotels had $850 worth of bad bills against him.

Convicted of the charges petty larceny, Plagiarist Carter was sentenced to serve not less than six months, nor more than three years in the penitentiary.

The 1930 US Census lists Robert A. Carter as an inmate of Cell Block A at the Hart Island Reformatory Prison in the Bronx.

This story was big news. Although it never received large splashy headlines, Carter’s plagiarism was reported in papers as if it had just happened well into 1932. It even made Time magazine—twice! Once in the 23 December 1929 issue and a more detailed piece two months later in the 24 February 1930 issue.