Several almost-forgotten B-western stars of the past have found work in a new series of historical fiction westerns.
Ken Maynard, Hoot Gibson, Crash Corrigan, William S. Hart, Tom Mix and other film-cowboy heroes from the 20s through the 50s have returned to battle Nazis, saboteurs and old-fashioned bad guys in the Hollywood Cowboy Detectives (HCD) series published by Page Turner’s Buckskin Editions in both Kindle and paperback versions.
Darryle Purcell, a long-time Mohave County, Ariz., resident known for his topical newspaper columns and political cartoons, has reset his editorial sights on historical western fiction.
“I grew up enjoying the B-western movies and serials made during the 1930s through the ’50s,” the former Mohave Valley Daily News managing editor said. “Many of those films were contemporary to the years they were produced. Western heroes such as Col. Tim McCoy would board a train in the metropolitan east of, say, 1936 and arrive in the old west (quite often Arizona) to battle evil doers. We all remember films where the Three Mesquiteers fought the Nazis in the early 1940s.”
Purcell is writing and illustrating the 1930s-contemporary western series, which embraces the adventurous world of pulp publishing while also saluting the great western movie serials of that era. The first publication, Mystery at Movie Ranch, is comprised of 12 cliffhanger chapters set in the San Fernando Valley area of southern California during the filming of the 1934 Mascot Pictures serial, Mystery Mountain, starring Ken Maynard.
“I do a lot of research on what was being filmed, where, by which studio within a specific time frame,” he said. “I then carve a window in the time period where certain people could have joined together to deal with an adventure.”
Sean “Curly” Woods, former Los Angeles Examiner crime beat reporter and current studio flack, is Purcell’s main fictional character who appears in all HCD publications. In Movie Ranch, Woods’ assignment is to write fluff public relations articles about the serial and its stars and keep Maynard out of trouble while looking into the possible sabotage of the Mascot production.
“From a variety of sources, Ken Maynard was a temperamental alcoholic,” Purcell said. “Nobody’s perfect. He was still a skilled rodeo, circus and film cowboy idolized by youth from the 1920s through the ’50s.”
While helping Maynard battle his personal demons, Woods discovers real enemies are not only targeting the western production, but the American way of life. Joined by western movie star and World Champion Rodeo Cowboy Hoot Gibson, Maynard and Woods engage in a series of deadly encounters with an army of anti-American terrorists ruled by a sinister mastermind known only as the Viper. The Hollywood Cowboy Detectives deal with organized crime, a sniper attack, aerial combat against an experimental German flying machine, interrogation by a sadistic enemy scientist in an underground stronghold, an ungodly creature who is the product of evil experiments, and a variety of battles with those who would eliminate all who believe in freedom and justice.
“With this series, I hope to revive the lessons of the straight shooters while introducing a new generation to some of the great cowboy heroes of the past. Besides having served in the First World War, most of them had been working cowboys on ranches, rodeos and wild-west shows before joining the motion picture studio system. Often, their movie careers began as stuntmen for other, less-talented, film stars. The HCD series honors the hard work, amazing action talents and ethical lessons of the B-western film stars of the past,” Purcell said.
The illustrated book series can be found at Amazon.com by searching Books for Hollywood Cowboy Detectives.