Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Death Waits at Sundown by L. Ron Hubbard (pulp Western audiobook)

These days, L. Ron Hubbard's name is largely connected with the antics of the some of the more "outspoken" members of Scientology, overshadowing the fact that the man really knew how to tell an entertaining story. All 150 of the stories Hubbard wrote for the pulp magazines of the 1930s and '40s are being rereleased in paperback and audio under the evocative title Stories from the Golden Age.

The audiobooks are a professionally produced combination of traditional audiobooks, with narration deftly handled by actor R.F. Daley, and old-time radio, with skilled actors, genre-specific music, and sound effects.  Death Waits at Sundown contains three stories: the title tale, "Ride 'em Cowboy" and "The Boss of the Lazy B."

When a vigilante committee convicts young Frank Taylor of stage robbery, he is scheduled to hang at sundown. His brother Lynn tries to cast doubt on Frank's guilt by robbing the next coach himself -- with the help of the sheriff, whom the vigilantes ran out of office. This is an exciting listen that was first published in Street and Smith's venerable Western Story magazine in the fall of 1938.

"Ride 'em Cowboy" is easily filed under "ranch romance," so much that one would think it first appeared in the long-running pulp of the same name instead of a summer 1938 issue of Western Story. All his life "Long Tom" Branner has been developing his horsing skills in order to prove himself worthy of Vicky Steward. But Vicky is looking to prove herself, and nothing irks her more than competing and coming in second place to Long Tom. The lead actress in "Ride 'em Cowboy" is unfortunately a detriment to this audio, but the action-filled climax more than makes up for it.

All three of the stories dramatized in Death Waits at Sundown should appeal to fans of good old-fashioned Western pulp fiction, and even more so to those who have enjoyed the Western offerings of old-time radio.

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