The Corpse on the Grating – Hugh B. Cave

pulpgrating01Last story of the Pulp Fiction Megapack.  Number XXV of XXV.

Dale and the mysterious M.S. have been summoned to the home of Professor Daimler.  He tells them of his efforts and failure at bringing a dead body back to life.

I assume Daimler will return because that scene was a big fat nothing.  Returning from the Professor’s home, they pass a large dark warehouse, made more frightening by the corpse clinging to the iron door.  He appears to have died of horror.  M.S. fancies himself a reader of dead minds.  He divines that there is something terrible about Room 4167 in the warehouse.  When Dale scoffs, M.S. offers him £100 if he will spend the night in that room — a trope we’ve seen before.

That night, Dale enters the building with M.S.’s assistance and climbs the stairs in search of room 4167.  Once in the dark 4167, he fortuitously finds a flashlight.  He does end up seeing something that horrifies him, and M.S. has an explanation.

Really, though, it is so uninteresting that it deserves to be at the ass-end of a $.99 anthology of 25 stories.


  • First published in Astounding Stories of Super-Science, February 1930.  Entire issue available here, but why would ya?
  • Also that month: Pluto discovered.

The Floating Island of Madness – Jason Kirby

Who is Algernon Fraser? pulpfiction01

Our narrator Secret Service Agent Ainslee is flying over the Arabian Desert with Brice of Scotland Yard and Foulet of the French Sureté.  They have been tailing a small aircraft all day.  Suddenly their prey seems to go to warp speed, quickly becoming a speck on the horizon, then disappearing from their sight.

Who is Algernon Fraser?

We flashback to 2 days earlier when Ainslee is in Constantinople (not Istanbul) and loses a suspect.  He finds that Foulet lost the same man in the same way and location.  Foulet believes this man is tied to an organization trying to conquer the world.  All they have to go on is that both escapes took place on a roof and an airplane was nearby.

Who is Algernon Fraser?

They meet Brice that night and he shares his plan with them.  They meet at the airfield before dawn.  After a few hours, they spot an airplane (and get inordinately giddy considering this is an airfield).  It does turn out to be the one they were waiting for, as a glider quickly zips from a rooftop to be towed by the airplane.  This is where we joined their story.

The airplane has vanished and they are running low on fuel.  They decide to do the sensible thing and turn back, but some force holds the plane on the same course.  Their speed accelerates beyond the craft’s ability.  Like Dagney Taggart, they penetrate a barrier and find themselves landed on a solid surface.

They deplane onto a massive flat area surrounded by a six foot wall and are greeted by emotionless drones.  They are told that they will be taken to meet The Master.  And, by the way, don’t try to “go over the wall” because we are 2,000 feet in the air.

After a short walk, they arrive in a laboratory and meet The Master — Algernon Fraser. Ainslee knows the name.  Five years ago, Fraser had burst onto the scientific community with amazing discoveries.  “Discoveries that would reorganize the living conditions of the world.”  Then, like John Galt, he just disappeared.  No one knew if he was dead or alive. Soon he was forgotten.  He established this floating “Galt’s Gulch” using his scientific discoveries.

Fraser explains his discovery of Fleotite which is “not only lighter than air, but lighter than ether.”  I assume he doesn’t mean the anesthetic, so is he saying it is lighter than space?  Which way would it float?  He further describes his uses of light and magnets which have enabled his escapes, the speed of his aircraft, how gliders can be sucked off of rooftops, and how this giant platform can be hanging in the air.

Having been written long before James Bond was created, the three agents do not recognize the now-standard explanation by the villain before doing something awful to them.  Of course had they known, they would still be comforted by the fact that the dastardly time-released deed always backfires.

Fraser has the three men injected with a serum that will turn them into compliant automatons just like the Obama Press Corp, yet retain their memories and intelligence.  They will lose all will and power to resist.  Through an unlikely ruse, they switch out the syringe’s content with water.  And he used the same same syringe on all three men?

Unfortunately, Fraser deems Brice to be the most intelligent of the three and has the doctor give him another — real — injection.  Damn that British accent for making him sound so intelligent!

Yada yada, Ainslee and Foulet are on a deck beneath the platform.  The serum has worn off after three days.  He wants secret information about their countries, or he will cut loose the deck to fall 2,000 feet.  As they refuse, he starts cutting cables.  As he gets to the last two, Brice appears and knocks him out.

Brice pulls the two agents up and tells them to escape in the plane they came in; he will join them later.  Reluctantly, they take off without their friend.  They see the platform start to falter — Brice has shut down the lights and magnets that stabilized it and drew in their airplane.  They watch the platform ascend “straight to the stars”, and are relieved to see a parachute floating Brice safely to earth.

They land on the hard Arabian Desert sand and reunite with their friend.  Sadly, unless Fraser was nice enough to refuel their plane, they are going to die in the middle of the desert.


  • First published in Astounding Stories of Super Science, January 1933.
  • Also that month:  On the 30th, Hitler appointed Chancellor, promises parliamentary democracy.  What could possibly go wrong?

The Ape-Men of Xlotli – David R. Sparks

pulpxlotli01Yikes — longest story in the collection — 114 pages according to Amazon’s print version.

The action starts immediately as Kirby is running from eleven Mexicans firing at him with bullets “whining over his head and whizzing past the hoofs of his galloping, stolen horse” — nice grouping!

He stops to give the horse a rest and some water. In the distance, he sees the band of Mexicans come to a sudden stop.  Also, the horse runs off.  He surmises that both events have something to do with the sickening sweet smell in the air, and a sound like a geyser.  With no horse, and the Mexicans not moving, Kirby ventures into a canyon unknown to him.

Before long he sees a rattler and a skeleton.  He is able to tell from the bones that it was a white man, and sees that he died grasping a golden cylinder.  Continuing along the narrowing canyon, Kirby comes to a dead end.  Luckily, he is able to detect a hidden doorway and goes through it.  On the other side of a dark tunnel, he emerged into a “diminutive Garden of Eden.”

Over the course of eleven days, Kirby detected signs of life, and that someone had been in his camp as he slept.  He takes one of their clues to be a hint to go down into the geyser, so he spends days fashioning a rope to lower himself down.

Immediately after the next eruption, he lowers himself into the hole.  At 100 feet, he discovers another horizontal tunnel and hears music.  Looking up, he sees someone cut his rope and he falls, or slides down the sloping pit until he is ejected into a pool of water outside.  It gets better as he is rescued from the water by a group of hot babes.

They tell him that their people have lived there forever, unknown to the outside world. But now they need help.  This is proven true as a band of the titular ape-men storm the beach.  They try to carry the babes back into the jungle, but Kirby shoots one of them and the others get the idea.

The girls want him to lead a revolt against their human leaders.  For many years, there had been only girls born, and in the last 16 years, no babies at all.  So now 34 young women were ruled by some old geezer Wise Men.  Between the low birthrate and the ape-men, the girls sought outside help to help with the ape-men infestation.  The Wise Men wanted to enter a treaty with the ape-men where they would give away some of the girls in exchange for peace.

They ascend the plateau where the Wise Men live.  One of the very old men immediately comes at Kirby with a knife.  He subdues the old man and demands to see the High Priest.  The High Priest then tries to do what the Wise Men could not — Kirby responds by punching him in the face, and kicking him out of the tower.

Much of the High Priest’s power is due to his separation from the others.  Like the Wizard of Oz, once they see that he is just a dude, he is greatly diminished in their eyes.

After kicking the High Priest out of his tower, Kirby takes one of the babes as his wife. Their marriage and his coronation are scheduled for the same day so they will get screwed on gifts.

Like all socialist utopias, this one has a cache of weapons hidden by the elite.  Kirby distributes the rifles to the girls and makes Annie Oakleys out of them

Just as Kirby and his bride Naida are preparing to be married, Kirby spots some ape-men, presumably on the bride’s side.  Luckily, this wedding is packing more heat than Connie Corleone’s.  After they see that Naida has been taken, they arm up and head for the ape central.

They make their way through this underground wilderness, facing a dinosaur, wild beasts, things with tentacles — again with the tentacles! — and even the legendary Quetzacoatl.  Kirby is able to save the day by merely killing the High Priest.  And every last remaining ape-man.  On earth.

A pretty good story.  Longer than the others, so there was more meat to it.  Maybe not so much in characterization, but in various scenes of action.  Sadly with the cast of nubile jungle-women, there was nothing the least bit risque in their clothing or actions.


  • First published in Astounding Stories of Super Science, December 1930.  Entire issue is available at Gutenberg.
  • Also that month: Bette Davis arrives in Hollywood; national concept of beauty takes a weird turn.

The Terrible Tentacles of L-472 – Sewell Peaslee Wright

pulpterrible01Not to be confused with LV-426.

Hanson is recalling the days of his youth — 100 years ago — when he was sub-commander of the spacecraft Kalid of the Special Patrol.

Immediately upon receiving a promotion to commander, he is given the assignment to find two missing ships, the Dorlos and the Filanus (commanded by Rear Admiral Tobias Fünke, I believe).

Both ships had been ordered to L-472 and never returned.  The Kalid is to follow their trail, but very carefully.  The are ordered not to land until they have spotted the ships from low-level reconnoitering.  But really, what is the alternative?  Land and search the planet on foot?

The Kalid spots the ships, but is unable to positively identify them.  Yeah, those are probably two other ships on this uninhabited, unexplored rock described as “off the beaten path” (of space?).  Hanson plays the odds and decides to land the ship.  As they get closer they are able to confirm that these are indeed the missing ships.  Both are intact, with their hatches wide open, not even a screen door; but no signs of life.

The rescue party consists of half the Kalid crew, and they are packing “atomic power pistols.”  Christ, I’m a 2nd Amendment guy, but let’s not get crazy.

The group enters the Dorlos which, like the Mary Celeste, seems like it was abandoned suddenly with no clue as to why.  Hearing a commotion outside, they rush to the hatch. The trees are now:

“Lashing and writhing as though in the grip of some terrible hurricane, trunks bending and whipping, long branches writhing, curling, lashing out –“

Next time I see the word writhing twice in one sentence, there better be some girls involved.  Come to think of it, they certainly seemed to have skewed the chained and scantily clad babes toward the early selections of this anthology.

When two of the men make some sudden movements to avoid a bee-like creature, the low gravity of the small planet can’t stop them from soaring into the air.  In mid-air they are snagged by the tentacle-like branches of the forest.  The trees continue attacking the men until they use the disintegrater beams to start slicing through trunks.

They get a signal from a survivor of the Dorlos to kill as many trees as they can.  He describes a similar scene as the Kalid experienced.  The Dorlos’ crew, unready for the low gravity, sailed into the air and were snagged by the trees for feeding.

After a bloody or at least sappy attack, the humans prevail.  Hanson is able to save 11 men and is a hero.

A nice little space opera, but could have used more action with the tentacles.


  • First published in Astounding Stories of Super-Science, September 1930.  Entire issue is available at Gutenberg.
  • Also that month: First non-stop flight from Europe to the US despite Lindbergh having made his US to Europe flight 3 years earlier.  Guess they didn’t want to push their luck.

The Ray of Madness – Captain S.P. Meek

pulpray01Agent Carnes of the Secret Service is paying a visit to Dr. Bird’s private laboratory in the Bureau of Standards.  Things start off with a sinister vibe as Carnes is refered to as an operative rather than an agent.  And Bird has a private laboratory?  And don’t get me started on those bastards at the Bureau of Standards.

They chat about a new element named Lunium.  It is unusual in that it was discovered by using the spectroscopic method on the moon, hence the name.  Such a discovery makes sense in the spectra of the sun and other stars, but the Moon is a rock with no atmosphere, so this is a mystery.

Carnes seems to take the service part of his job more seriously that the secret part.  He knows that “a corpse is a chatterbox compared to [Dr. Bird].”  In strict confidence, he tells Dr. Bird that the “President of the United States acts as if he were crazy.”  And not in the way politicians are usually criminally insane, but “Bugs! Nuts! Bats in his belfry!”

First he showed a failing memory, then a restlessness, then a habit of nocturnal prowling.  He will awaken, rage back and forth in the bedchamber, then go back to sleep.  During the day, he is lethargic, a complete blank at times.  He also keeps his eyes shut and avoids light.

Bird forms a theory, but like Sherlock Holmes, keeps it to himself until he can test it out.  I have a feeling Dr. Bird was intended to be a recurring character.

The story gets very topical as Bird says, “the worship of ISIS was really only an exalted type of moon worship.  The crescent moon, you may remember was one of her most sacred emblems.”  However, he was referring to this Isis.

Using a lot of scientific jargon, Bird is able to deduce that the Russki’s were shining a beam into the solarium where the President had been sleeping.

This one got a little tedious with the experimentation and science, but I could easily imagine Bird in other stories.


  • First published in Astounding Stories of Super-Science, April 1930.
  • Also that month:  Hostess Twinkies invented.
  • The scientific passages make sense now that I see that Meek was a chemist in the military.  He wrote under the names Capt. S.P. Meek, Maj. S.P. Meek and Col. S.P. Meek.
  • As suspected, Bird and Carnes were the subject of many other stories.