Saturday, June 06, 2009

The Rio Kid Rides Again!!

Frontier Guns
by Tom Curry
The Rio Kid Western
December 19, 1939 issue
Better Publications (original)
Adventure House (reprint)

The Rio Kid, Rider for the right, blazes into battle when passion for plunder and greed for power rowel the border country! Follow Captain Pryor of Custer's Brigade as he plunges into mortal combat against the "Eagle!"


The lead “novel” in this classic pulp series is actually the very first in the adventures of the Rio Kid. With this adventure Bob Pryor, the Kid, begins a 76-issue run that ended in May 1950.

For those who do not know, Adventure House is a small press publisher specializing in pulp reprints. They have been around for about 20 years. They started with magazines that discussed the pulps in all their variety, reprinting key pulp stories in each issue. The fiction section became more popular with readers so Adventure House publisher John Gunnison readjusted his focus and in the process nearly single-handedly invented the modern pulp reprint business model and format.

Gunnison created Pulp Review, a magazine with all reprints from the pulp era. The publication is up to its 106th number and marks as one of its great accomplishments the entire Purple Invasion run from Operator 5. Alongside the renamed High Adventure, Adventure House publishes four full magazine reprints each month. Today he is nearly one-third the way through reprinting the G-8 and his Battle Aces series and he has taken a large bite out of the Phantom Detective and Secret Agent X series. The Rio Kid is his first western. Hopefully there will be more from this series, and perhaps from the rare Pete Rice series, too (editorial wish list).

There’s good reason for reprinting the Rio Kid: he's a true “hero” pulp, something Adventure House focuses on. Bob Pryor is fully grounded in the West, but his accomplishments are a bit on the wild side. His enemies, at least in this first issue, are hidden masters of crime who go by mysterious names. The Kid fights The Eagle this time, a fellow not yet ready to give up on his plundering ways now that the Civil War is done.

In contrast to the pulpy aspects of a masked villain, Bob Pryor involves himself with numerous historical figures, including a young General Custer, Benito Juarez – liberator of Mexico and deadly enemy of dictator Santa Ana – and Big Foot Wallace, famed mountain man.

There are many twists and turns as the Rio Kid tries to stop a land grab in which the Eagle has killed Pryor’s parents and many neighbors in order to steal all of the choice ranches. Despite the deep personal tragedy, the Kid plays it cool in order to maintain his anonymity. But the gang recognizes him and he is forced to flee for his life with guns blazing.

While on the run, Pryor makes friends with Juarez, reunites with Custer (his old commander), and finds the ranch families who were attacked by the Eagle’s men and fled into hiding in the deep timber. His adventures stretch up and down the Rio Grande and to both sides of the border. The Eagle and his minions, with treachery and murder, chase the Kid all over Texas, and vie for the red gold of Leguna – the lost mine.

Within these frenetic pages are so many comfortably familiar character and plot points which writer Curry takes and weaves confidently into real events of the time that played out in the region.

Make no mistake. This is no history lesson. This is pure pulp at its clich├ęd best. It reads quick and easy, each page is full of fun and action. While a steady diet of this much fluff can rot your teeth, The Rio Kid Western Frontier Guns is a welcome addition to the library. And like with almost all of the Adventure House offerings, we’re grateful to John Gunnison for making these classics available again.

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