Magazine Review: Saucy Romantic Adventures August 1936 by various
This was one of the “spicy” pulp magazines, sold “under the counter” to readers wanting something more titillating than the standard action fare. By modern standards, this is pretty tame stuff, mostly consisting of descriptions of women’s naked bodies (minus genitalia) and strong hints that the characters engage in extramarital sex. The reason this particular issue was reprinted by Adventure House is because the Domino Lady is on the cover (painted by Norman Saunders). But we’ll get back to her.
The lead story is “Yeomen of the Woods” by Armstrong Livingston (almost certainly a psuedonym.) It takes place during the Anarchy, the war between King Stephen and Empress Matilda in 12th Century England. Four people traveling through the woods are set upon by bandits led by John o’ the Glade. John, it turns out, is in the style of Robin Hood (who traditionally is said to have lived some decades later.)
The wealthy knight is held for ransom, and his squire set to fetch it. A poor monk returned from the Far East is treated with a bit more respect. As for the stripling lad, it turns out to be a maiden in boy’s clothing. Alais has in fact come to the woods to find John and request his help. Her father is a craftsman, and false rumors of his wealth have reached the ears of Baron Raymond de Gondrecourt.
As a result, the wicked baron has captured Alais’ father and is trying to compel the old man to tell where his treasure is hid. Since there is no treasure, the baron will no doubt resort to torture unto death to force the old man to speak words he does not have.
John doesn’t have the forces to invade Gondrecourt Castle, but comes up with a plan to trick the baron and one of his neighbors (who the baron is at odds with) into fighting each other away from their castles, then have a third lord of better character mop up the survivors while John and his men use a ruse to take the small garrison that will be left at Gondrecourt. This works, up to a point, but it turns out that Gondrecourt’s castellan is a wily old fellow and more than a match for John’s strategy.
The monk turns out to have brought gunpowder back from China, a very useful item. Too bad that history must be preserved!
Honestly, this story contains no “spicy” bits whatsoever and could easily have been printed in any of the standard adventure pulps. There’s period ethnic prejudice between the Normans and Saxons, and the monk uses some unfortunate language to describe the Chinese.
“Emeralds Aboard” by Lars Anderson is the Domino Lady tale. Ellen Patrick was a California socialite until her father was murdered by the crooked political machine. To avenge her father and maintain her lifestyle, Ellen donned a domino mask, cape and backless white dress to become the Domino Lady. She steals from the rich (particularly corrupt politicians) and takes a cut for herself before giving the rest to the poor. She was one of only a handful of masked mystery women in pulp fiction.
In this story, Ellen is returning from vacation in Hawaii when she learns that the snooty wife of a corrupt politician is aboard, and sporting some valuable emeralds. Also aboard is “Fingers” Deshon, a known jewel thief, and part of a gang that has a grudge against the Domino Lady. Ellen must find a way to lift the gems and deliver her rival to justice, with the unwitting assistance of a handsome ship’s officer.
The cover depicts a scene from the story, as Fingers (disguised as a ship’s officer) whips the concealing deck chair blanket off Domino Lady. The clown in the background is seasick and doesn’t see any of this. Later, Ellen starts a striptease to distract Fingers, but he doesn’t get to see much before she knocks him out.
An amusing but slight story.
“Cupid By a Nose” by Ernie Phillips takes us out West, to a young farm girl hoping to make some money by competing in a rodeo. What Clara Lou doesn’t know is that the women’s competitions in this particular traveling rodeo are fixed to make sure that the owner’s daughter Vesta always wins.
Vesta’s fiance Bob Carter takes a shine to Clara Lou pretty much instantly–he’s telling her that he loves her later that night. Vesta understandably reacts badly to this, framing Carter for running off Clara Lou’s handsome trained horses. That leaves Clara Lou with just Cupid, a scarred, scrawny-looking cayuse.
This being an underdog tale, Clara Lou and Cupid outperform expectations, even winning the big race. The crooked judges try to disqualify Clara Lou in favor of Vesta, but Carter shows up with Clara Lou’s other horses and the proof of wrongdoing just in time to save the day.
The insta-love thing aside, I liked that both the male and female leads got to shine and contribute to the solution of the story’s problem.
“Aloha Oe” is set in Hawaii. Bim Arlen, recent Annapolis graduate, is on shore leave on the big island. Taking a walking tour, he’s shocked yet intrigued when he spots a young woman skinny-dipping on a remote beach. After waiting for her to put her clothes back on, Bim introduces himself to Kee.
Kee is a local mixed race girl, who is “white-passing” at a small distance. She works as a schoolteacher in Honolulu, but is on vacation here in her tiny home village. Bim and she fall in love almost instantly and are soon engaged with the blessing of her father.
Except that then Bim remembers that all his relatives are racist, and the Navy officers’ wives society isn’t much better. He’s not sure he has the moral courage to stand up to them, nor does he want to subject Kee to their scorn. Bim’s cold feet lead to an apparent suicide. You suck, Bim.
“The Lover of the Moon Girl” by Hector Gavin Grey, is schlock science fiction. Zane Hansard, an unusually handsome and strapping astronomer, discovers that a spaceship from the moon is about to land near his Pasadena observatory. He rushes to tell his boss, only to discover that said boss is in league with the moon invaders–indeed, he was the one who invited them here!
Cecelia, the moon girl, comes from a society that uses artificial wombs, and knows not the concept of love between a man and a woman. (Or any of the variants you might have thought of.) One hot kiss later, Cecelia has converted to the Earth cause, and winds up pumping babies out the old-fashioned way.
It’s exactly the sort of thing that gives pulp SF a bad reputation, with bad science, plot holes galore and a terrible romance plotline.
“Dark Lady” by Mohammed El Bey is set in Egypt. Archaeologist Nelson Cliff bears an amazing resemblance to the statues of Amen-Ra the Second, whose tomb he is excavating. His headman Abu has been acting suspiciously of late, far less efficient and effective than when they started.
Things come to a head when a young woman from a nearby city comes to the dig claiming to be Ayesha, wife of Amen-Ra. Nelson is not amused, but a series of incidents indicates that even if she isn’t a reincarnation of the ancient queen, the girl has some peculiar gifts. Abu’s trap works, but not before he himself is destroyed.
Murky story, and the villain is ill-defined.
“Mockery” by Marie Forgeron is a short-short. A man meets his ex-wife on a cruise ship back from Hawaii. It turns out this was deliberate; she’s gotten divorced from the man she dumped him for, and is ready to let bygones be bygones. Unfortunately for both of them, the man has a subtle and horrific plan for revenge. An effective little chiller. (Some offhand racism.)
The issue is rounded out with “Our Days are Numbered” by Patricia Peabody. It’s a numerology column, which strikes first with the note that it’s hard to get any pleasure out of numerology if you don’t believe in it.
This is a nifty little reprint. If you’re just interested in the Domino Lady, her stories have been collected into their own book.