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May 2024
Volume 24 Issue 3
COMPLIMENTARY

Oct 2022 | General | 0 comments

Cowboy heroes of the silver screen ride again

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October 2022

Thanks to a former Mohave Valley Daily News managing editor and Mohave County spokesman, several almost-forgotten B-western stars of silent and early sound cinema have found work in a new series of historical science-fiction westerns.
In 2012, local resident Darryle Purcell retired from working for other folks and, returning to his western roots, began writing and illustrating those classic serial-style adventures. His historical-pulp fiction adventures have brought Ken Maynard, Hoot Gibson, Crash Corrigan, William S. Hart, Buck Jones, Tom Mix and other film-cowboy heroes back from the golden age to battle Nazis, Communists, saboteurs and old-fashioned bad guys as well as banshees, zombies, aliens and evil from beyond the grave in the Hollywood Cowboy Detectives (HCD) series published by Buckskin Editions in both Kindle and paperback versions.
“I grew up enjoying the B-western movies and serials made during the 1930s through the ’50s,” Purcell 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 California and Arizona) to battle those who would harm the innocent. We all remember films in which the Three Mesquiteers fought Hitler’s National Socialists in the early 1940s.”
According to Purcell, the HCD series 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 gathered together to deal with an adventure. There is a ton of research material available concerning old Hollywood, filmmaking, individual actors, directors and even locations. The most fun I have is during the preparation for these books when I am reading up on the wonderful people who worked so hard on B-western films and serials. The early movie cowboys were all real rodeo champs and the stunts were all performed exactly as they are seen on film.
“During the 1930s and ’40s, governing agencies around the world were experimenting with unique weaponry, some of which I’ve used in these adventures. The sci-fi and supernatural elements are based on traditional beliefs and are a big part of the cliffhanger storylines,” Purcell said.
Sean “Curly” Woods, former Los Angeles Examiner crime beat reporter and current studio flack, is Purcell’s main fictional protagonist who appears in all HCD publications. In Mystery at 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, Maynard was also 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.”
The author explained that, 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. The Hollywood Cowboy Detectives deal with organized crime, a sniper attack, aerial combat against an experimental 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.
Currently there are a total of 12 HCD novels and several short stories available in Kindle format at Amazon and other online markets. The novels have all been published in paperback as well, some containing bonus HCD short stories. Purcell has illustrated all of the books with color covers and black and white internal art in the style of the pulps and adventure novels of the 1930s.
While all of the HCD Kindle editions are currently available, some of the paperbacks are no longer in print, Purcell stated. “But the publisher is preparing new editions that should put all paperback books back on the market in the next couple of months.”
The latest HCD adventure, Mystery of the Atomic Hammer, just came out in Kindle format in July, bringing the Hollywood Cowboy Detectives back after five years, older but not necessarily wiser, to battle an evil on an atomic scale!
“Published last year, the 11th adventure, Mystery at Winchester House, took place late in 1941,” Purcell explained. “I brought all of the main characters back in Mystery of the Atomic Hammer post-war. It’s 1946 and America is licking its wounds following the Second World War. Monogram Pictures star Sidney Toler is missing and studio flack Curly Woods and veteran cowboy star Hoot Gibson along with chauffeur Nick Danby, who recently returned from the war, are assigned to find the studio’s Charlie Chan actor. Along the way, supernatural spirits appear to warn the group of an evil danger, which plagues the investigators at every step.
“The atomic genie is out of the bottle and sinister forces are experimenting on human guinea pigs, as well as other living creatures. Curly and the gang battle for their lives at an abandoned ranch, haunted gold mine and extensive underground caverns near Oatman, Arizona, and in the docks of Los Angeles as well as an eastern-remedies hospital in Chinatown. Abominable beasts, which are creations of science gone mad, and an unbelievable weapon that harnesses the power of the atom bomb are targeted toward the American way of life, while only the Hollywood Cowboy Detectives are aware and able to save humanity.
“It’s a lot of fun to write these pulps,” he said. “Quite a few of my books take place in areas where I have lived,” Purcell said. “I grew up on a ranch near Redding, Calif., lived throughout Los Angeles and Orange counties, and, thanks to Uncle Sam, spent time at a variety of military bases in this country as well as in the jungle of South Vietnam’s Central Highlands. Several of my books contain adventures that are set in western Arizona.”
Purcell began his career in newspapers as a political cartoonist. He also worked in television animation, educational comic books and a variety of positions as an illustrator.
“I read a lot of pulp authors during my youth,” he said. “And I wanted to write fun reading material where I was able to create characters I liked who would overcome challenges and defeat evil, a tad unlike our current world. I also wanted to control my own illustrations to further each story.”
Purcell also writes and illustrates The Man of the Mist series, which, although somewhat humorous, is a bit like The Shadow, The Spider, The Avenger and a few other champions of justice that appeared back in the Golden Age of Pulps and Old Time Radio. The three Mist novels, published by the same company and available in both Kindle and paperback, are Trail of the Bat Beasts, Cave of the Blood Demons and Cauldron of the Hollywood Head Hunters.
OffBeatReads has recently published Purcell’s contemporary novel, Vermin Calling, which, according to Purcell, is a never-ending succession of the “splash-page” adventures of comic-book artist Vernon Jiles (AKA Vermin) and his lovely and talented partner Tenacity Mills. The two cartoonists charge forward into the battleground-streets of southern California to fight drug dealers, mob thugs, Communist revolutionaries and mind-manipulating evil, all with the assistance of their extraordinary comic-book characters.
“Did I mention that there is a lot of humor in all of my books,” he said. “Having been a smartass has finally paid off.”
Purcell, whose local newspaper editorial cartoons and columns tended to tweak politicos, said his current books are “kinder, gentler and designed to provide action, adventures and laughs for young readers all the way up to old geezers like me.”

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