Friday, January 09, 2015

Visual Pulp: The Ace Double Titles of Jack Bickham

Ed here: I want to add my own words about Jack Bickham. He was a fine writer who might have hit the big big time but for the oversight of an agent. He was a solid pro who managed to write several books that deserve to be remembered. He was also one of the nicest people I've ever known. Ben Boulden of Gravetapping  does a fine job with Jack's earliest work. 
Posted: 08 Jan 2015 07:00 PM PST
Jack Bickham died of lymphoma in July 1997 at the of 66. He is best remembered as a teacher of writing. He wrote several successful, and still in print, how-to writing titles for Writer’s Digest and he lectured in the journalism department at the University of Oklahoma. While he is mostly remembered as a teacher, Mr Bickham was also a fine novelist. He wrote in several genres; mystery, suspense, Western, and science fiction. His most successful novels, stylistically, thematically and commercially, were his Brad Smith suspense novels. A series that featured an aging tennis pro who is also something of a semi-pro spy. The Brad Smith novels were published by TOR/Forge between 1989 and 1994. See the line up here.

The Brad Smith novels were written and published late in Mr Bickham’s career. A career that began in the pulp paperback era. It started with one the pulpiest producers of all: Ace Books. He wrote seven novels for Ace between 1958 and 1961; each as one-half of a double. Six Westerns and a lonesome mystery. The covers are lurid, and the writing is brief and stark. These titles are different than his later work, but also the same. They are certainly shorter (mostly running about 125 pages in mass market), and absolutely by the hand of a writer still learning his craft, but, much like his later work, each is strong on sensible plotting, reliable cause and effect action, and entertaining and likable characters. 

Below is a list of Mr Bickham’s work published by Ace. The pertinent information is all there: title,year published, Ace serial number, and the companion book. And, more importantly, a nice fresh, newly minted, scan of the coverfront and backof each book. 

Gunman’s Gamble. Ace D-308. Published in 1958 with Draw and Die! By Roy Manning. The first sentence:
“The sky had already begun to streak with pink and purple of nightfall when he rode to town, but the townsfolk came alive when they saw him.” 

Feud Fury. Ace D-384. Published in 1959 with Mountain Ambush by Louis Trimble. The first sentence:
“‘Trouble’ Clayton Hartung muttered.”

Killer’s Paradise. Ace D-442. Published in 1960 withRider of the Rincon by Rod Patterson. The first sentence:
“The eleven men stopped their steaming horses at the crest of the treeless hilltop and paused for just a moment, still in the driving, cruel July Kansas rain.”

The Useless Gun. Ace D-462. Published in 1960 with The Long Fuse by John A. Latham. Read the Gravetapping reviewThe first sentence:
“Four killers, honed to perfection in a series of raids and county seat wars, rode west out of Dallas County, Texas.”

Dally with a Deadly Doll. Ace D-489. Published in 1961 withSomebodys Walking Over My Grave by Robert Arthur. The first sentence:
“‘Celery’ said Larry Crystal”

Hangman’s Territory. Ace D-510. Published in 1961 withThe Searching Rider by Harry Whittington. The first sentence:
“The late spring storm was breaking.”

Gunmen Can’t Hide. Ace F-120. Published with Come in Shooting by John Callahan. The first sentence:
“The winter of 1880 had been cruel in Colorado.” 

This post originally went live January 17, 2010 in a very different form. The text was adjusted (hopefully for the better) and the book images were changed out for the bigger and better versions. I hope you enjoy.


Unknown said...

I may be one of the only academics to do any research on Bingham. In 2002 I was teaching at SMU in Dallas and went to a conference in San Antonio, where I discussed his novel The Apple Dumpling Gang and, of course, the Disney adaptation. I met a few people who were familiar with him as a journalism professor in Oklahoma.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

It was interesting to read about Jack Bickham and his fiction. I'll be keeping an eye out for his novels.

Ben Boulden said...

Randy. It's interesting how different the film version and the novel version of THE APPLE DUMPLING GANG actually are. I loved the film version as a kid, and when I read the novel in my late-teens I was kind of shocked it wasn't more slap-stick (like the film). I would have loved to sit in on your discussion of the novel and film.

Unknown said...

I am very embarrassed that I got his name wrong, I know it is Bickham but it was 1 am when I typed my message and I was not wide awake!