Tuesday, May 10, 2016


Aging Cowboy Stars Ride to Help Karloff and Lugosi Menaced by a Real-Life Monster

I drove my DeSoto up to the gate at Republic Pictures and awaited entry approval. Blue-uniformed, security guard John McCabe had been a Los Angeles County deputy once, which took place during the lifespan of an adult mayfly. Apparently, the one thing he learned in that law enforcement position was to always exude authority. The immaculately dressed gatekeeper swaggered up to the driver’s side of my car, looked me over and checked to make sure I wasn’t trying to smuggle in an unapproved line of chorus girls.
“Identification,” he said.
“Johnny,” I answered. “It’s me, Curly Woods. I’ve worked here for two years.”
“Identification,” he repeated.
I showed him my driver’s license and he stepped back, stood at attention and waved me through the gate for the umpteenth time that year. As I drove onto the lot, I thought about the daily challenges that a Republic gate guard had to face. Although I thought McCabe should have learned to relax and just wave those of us he recognized through without giving us the third degree, I was sure he had to keep on his toes as he daily faced a tenacious crowd of teenage autograph seekers. And it would have been a tremendous blow to his ego if he had mistakenly approved the entry of a 13-year-old girl wearing a Gene Autry mask.
Unlike the gate guard, Rick Danby’s secretary, Lorelai, smiled and waved me through the door to his office. Rick always looked like he just walked off a film set where he was the immaculately tailored stand-in for William Powell, right down to the pencil-thin mustache. Sitting with Rick at a large coffee table in the center of the circus-tent-sized room were his brother, Republic chauffeur Nick Danby, and rodeo champion and classic film star Hoot Gibson. Over the last several years, I had relied on my two best friends, Nick and Hoot, during many life-threatening situations.
“Sit down and pour yourself a cup of coffee, Curly,” Rick said. “I’m sure I don’t have to introduce these two reprobates.”
We shook hands and garbled a variety of howdies. Gibson was dressed in his personal-appearance, western outfit of boots, Levis, bright red western shirt, yellow bandanna and 10-gallon white hat. Nick, as always, looked sharp in his gray chauffeur’s uniform complete with cap, flared jodhpurs and English riding boots.
“I asked all of you here today because I know how well you work together in dealing with possibly threatening situations,” Rick said as he put flame to a cigarette. “The movie business is full of competing personalities with big smiles and promises of faithful support for creative ideas. We take our ideas and construct fantasies with light, shadow and, now, sound effects. Those fantasies make us or break us, depending on the public’s reaction. And, if the public doesn’t throw money at our productions, we also recognize that those aforementioned promises are as shallow as the silver screen.”
“That’s show business,” Gibson said. “The only thing you can trust about some people is that, sooner or later, they will stab you in the back. I’ve found that, pretty much, the only folks I completely trust are in this room right now.”
“You don’t want to add any of your ex-wives to that list?” Nick said.
“Especially not them.”
“Throughout my life I’ve always been able to trust my brother,” Rick said. “And, over the last few years, you two have also earned my trust equally. Nick, you and Curly are already on the payroll. I’d like to put you on as well, Hoot, to complete my team.”
“Well, I am kind of between jobs,” Gibson said as Nick elbowed me in the ribs and snickered. “But whatever you’ve got planned for these two, you do need somebody who knows what he’s doin’ to keep them from falling off a cliff.”
“Good,” Rick said. “Now, you guys all know that Herbert Yates created Republic Pictures through a tenuous partnership between several Poverty Row studios. He basically forced the studios to unite under his leadership or he would use his film lab to force them into bankruptcy. In that process, Republic acquired Gene Autry from Mascot and John Wayne from Monogram, as well as a variety of other actors, facilities and equipment.”
“Yeah,” I said, “but the marriage didn’t last long, as the Monogram boys didn’t care much for Mr. Yates’ dictates. That company is back in business as an independent studio.”
“Exactly, Curly,” Rick said. “Monogram is no longer part of Republic, but some of us at Republic still have ties to Monogram.”
“Economic ties?” Gibson asked.
“Yes,” Rick answered, “and philosophical ties.”
“You aren’t thinking of switching studios, are you?” I asked.
“It’s a possibility,” Rick said. “I have some differences with Republic on the studio’s focus on musical westerns. They may currently be profitable, but they just aren’t that exciting. I still think there is a big market out there for good old-fashioned adventure westerns, like Hoot used to make. And I’ve found out there are a few folks over at Monogram who agree with me.”
“Well, you certainly know that we agree with you,” I said as Hoot and Nick nodded. “But what can we do to help right now?”
“Monogram is struggling to get back on a profitable level,” Rick said. “If that studio is to have a future, it must make it through this year without any great losses.”
I scratched my head and sipped some coffee.
“What makes you think the studio might fail?”
“I have an uncle who is currently working on some productions at Monogram and he tells me there have been a few problems over there,” Rick answered. “A couple of sets have been torched and some equipment destroyed. It very well could be someone or some group trying to take the legs out from under Monogram. You guys have been pretty successful at investigating this kind of trouble and sniffing out the culprits.”
“Do you think it might be the mob or another studio?” Gibson asked.
“I don’t know, but I want the Hollywood Cowboy Detectives to find out. I’ve talked to Uncle Bill….”
“Uncle Bill!” Nick exclaimed with a smile.
“…and he’s built you some cover at Monogram so you can investigate.”
“Uncle Bill was married to our mom’s sister from 1920 until ’22,” Nick said. “But we still keep in touch. He’s one of the nicest men you’ll ever meet.”
Rick handed his brother a card.
“Here’s your gate pass. Uncle Bill is expecting you,” Rick said. “Good luck and keep in touch.”
I left my car on the lot and joined Hoot and Nick in the studio Packard. We had a relaxing ride through town on our way to Monogram. Gibson was still the happy-go-lucky cowboy who was going through a not-so-lucky period of his life.
“The traveling shows all want me to perform, but they also want me to invest,” he said. “I’ve already invested, and lost, all my money in wild-west shows. I’m just glad Rick came up with the idea to pay me to do something, whatever it is.”
“Yeah, me too,” I said. “I hope we can help him and Uncle Bill. How’ve you been, Nick?”
“Same old thing,” he said. “It’s either feast or famine. Last week I was driving Autry and Burnette. This week it’s you two.”
That brought a growl out of Gibson.
“He didn’t mean anything by that, Smiley, I mean, Hoot,” I said.
He growled again.
“That reminds me,” Nick said. “Let’s stop by Rinty’s Bar for a drink later.”
We pulled up to the Monogram gate. Nick showed the pass to the guard and we were waved in. He parked the Packard near what looked like a bunch of executives’ vehicles – Packards, Cadillacs and Lincolns.
“The sedan will rest better here with its own kind,” Nick said. “There’s no room for DeSotos here.”
“You may think your company’s sedan is special,” I said, “but I own my DeSoto – and it can kick that Packard’s ass anytime!”
“Oh, yeah?”
“Knock it off, kids,” Gibson said, “or I’ll ride by someday on my horse and drop fresh biscuits on both your hoods.”
Nick led the way to the entrance to Stage Five.
It took us a minute for our eyes to adjust to the dark interior of the large stage building. We walked past stacks of boxes and unused furniture into an open area where lights, cameras, sound equipment, chairs and even a ladder stood in anticipation of the next scene. On one side of the equipment was a three-walled living room set next to what looked like the inside of a barn with a haystack, pitchforks and three stalls. On the other side was what seemed to be a surrealistic alleyway in San Francisco’s Chinatown.
“Wow! That’s a rather dark, spooky, deserted street,” Gibson said. “I’d feel a little better about it if there were some lights on around here – or at least a script girl or two.”
I chuckled at Hoot’s reaction, turned and walked through a door into one of the set businesses.
“There’s got to be someone around here someplace,” I said, closing the door behind me.
“There is,” said a deep voice that rumbled out of Hell from close to my right ear.
I turned slowly and then lifted my head to look up into the most evil looking eyes I had ever seen. Light glancing through the window glass from some other part of the set illuminated a side of the man’s face from below showing arched eyebrows, high cheekbones and a rock-like jaw that framed his thin-lipped smile. The man, dressed in a dark suit, reached down and placed a huge hand on my shoulder. At that point, I felt like I was a piece of rancid fish looking up at Spade.
“You must be Curly,” the man said in his deep British accent as the door flew open.
“Uncle Bill!” Nick said.
“Little Nicky, so good to see you. How’s your big brother?”
“He’s fine. I see you’ve met Curly. And I’m sure you know Hoot.”
Gibson walked in.
“Well, well,” Gibson said. “Uncle Bill Pratt a.k.a Boris Karloff. How ya doin’, Pug?”
“Just peachy, cowboy,” Karloff laughed. “In case you didn’t know, Nicky, I played a character named Pug Doran in a 1928 Hoot Gibson oater. But we go back a lot farther than that.”
“We sure do, Bill,” Gibson said. “We met back in the early 20s while hamming it up in the silent days.”
“Yeah,” Karloff said. “You had top billing back then and I usually didn’t get any billing at all. I’m really glad to see you, Hooter. You’re still the all-American good guy.”
“And you seem to be making a fortune out of being all kinds of bad guys.”
“I do,” he said. “And I love it. However, as Mr. Wong, I’m a good guy. What were they thinking?”
Slowly I thawed my frozen position and shook hands with Boris Karloff, also known as William Pratt.
A man wearing a flipped up fedora, white shirt and brown vest carrying a clipboard walked up to us.
“Hey, Boris,” he said. “Nice work yesterday. The fog machines really did their stuff here in Chinatown. The boss loved the dailies this morning.”
“That’s great, Allen,” Karloff said. “I do my best work surrounded in fog.”
“I’ll have the boys get the machines out of here,” Allen said. “We’ve got a couple of close-ups to shoot this afternoon near the lamppost.”
“I’ll be ready, Allen. My cowboy friends and I are going to chew the fat a bit, and then I’ll get in character.”
“Uncle Bill,” flanked by his nephew “little Nicky” and his old cowboy pal Hoot Gibson, led the way to the Mr. Wong’s dressing room in the far back of Stage Five. I trailed along behind them, hat in hand.
“Relax, gentlemen,” Karloff said, as he removed an oriental robe from one of the four chairs in the room. “I’m pleased to see all of you.”
“So, what do I call you? Boris, Bill, William?” I asked.
“You can call me Bill, Curly,” he said. “With my nephew and the Hooter here, you are now family. When I’m on stage or promoting my work, I go by Boris. But to family like you guys, I’m still old Bill Pratt.”
“Well, Bill, do you have time to go over what we are up against and how you think we can help?”
“I do,” Karloff said. “I’ve got a couple of hours before I have to become Mr. Wong again for a few close-ups.
“Rick and I came up with a cover story for all of you. I’m going to be taking a week off starting tomorrow and I’ve told several people that my old cowboy buddy Hoot Gibson and I will be hanging out together, perhaps doing a little fishing. And, as of today, Nicky is my new chauffeur.”
“What about Curly?” Gibson said. “He’s pretty well known as Republic’s cowboy flack.”
“That’s true, Hoot,” Karloff answered. “And many show-business types also know that he was once a reporter with the Los Angeles Examiner. So as far as anyone is concerned, Curly is working with an un-named investor on the development of a new fan magazine targeted for those folks who love Frankenstein, The Mummy and other monster movies.”
“That’s kind of a stretch, isn’t it?” Nick said. “Aren’t most fan magazines designed for lonely housewives and teenage girls? Do you think a picture of Lionel Atwill on a magazine cover could outsell one of Gable?”
“Not if they know Lionel,” Karloff said, “but one of me might. Of course the idea of a spooky fan magazine is bogus, but this is Hollywood and people will believe anything. The explanation is that the publication is targeted toward young people who love a good scare. And Curly, being a good feature writer, is working with me to develop a style of PR for a new group of fans.”
“That sounds like a good plan, Bill,” I said. “Now, what are we really looking into?”
“At the moment, I’m not sure. We’ve had some destroyed props, torched sets and what looks to be sabotage. At this time, I don’t know who would want to do such things, or why. One thing is, it has to be stopped before someone gets hurt.”At that moment, the dressing room shook as a large explosion sent all of us up and out of our chairs. I yanked the door open to a stage filled with dust and the sound of pieces of scenery dropping to the floor. We fought our way through the smoke and debris toward the stage entrance. As we got near what used to be the Chinatown set, I tripped, falling on top of two legs sticking out from under part of a storefront and lamppost.
Allen must have been right near the center of the blast.

Monday, May 9, 2016

The Hollywood Cowboy Detectives Ride to the Rescue of Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi in Newest Series Book

The Hollywood Cowboy Detectives Ride to the Rescue of Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi in…
Newest Pulp-Style Novel in B-Movie Inspired Series
Available in eBook & Paperback

It’s 1939 and someone seems to be trying to kill famous monster stars Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, shooting a horror film at Monogram Studios. Sets are being burned down and the Hollywood Cowboy Detectives – PR flack Curly Woods, studio chauffeur Nick Danby and cowboy star Hoot Gibson – are asked to find out who is behind the arson and why.

With the help of Karloff and Lugosi, longstanding rivals (who find it difficult to bury the hatchet and work together even when their lives are in danger), the Hollywood Cowboy Detectives pursue the trail of a monstrous honed figure whose goal may be to destroy Los Angeles itself. Fighting their way through flying torpedoes, suicide bombers, brown-suited thugs, and weapons that fire liquid electricity, the HCD’s and their actor allies finally find themselves trapped and outnumbered in the underground lair of a real-life monster that makes Universal Studios’ horrors pale in comparison.

In this cliffhanger, pulp-style adventure, author Darryle Purcell’s Hollywood Cowboy Detectives find themselves up against their most dangerous nemesis yet.

Hollywood Cowboy Detectives is a unique new series – featuring real-life, old-time western movie stars Hoot Gibson, Ken Maynard, Tom Mix, and PR man Curly Woods – set in 1930s Hollywood and the whole Southwest

Cover and six interior illustrations by award-winning animator and writer Darryle Purcell.

Available in Kindle and paperback.
eBookspecial introductory sale price $1.99
Paperback special introductory price $9.99
Read free excerpt click here.


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Great Review for Hollywood Cowboy Detectives from Paul Green, author the Encyclopedia of Weird Westerns

Classic B-western stars ride again     
Alien BansheeSeveral almost-forgotten B-western stars of the past have found work in a new series of historical fiction westerns.

Ken Maynard, Hoot Gibson, Crash Corrigan, William S. Hart, Tom Mix and other film-cowboy heroes from the 20s through the 50s have returned to battle Nazis, saboteurs and old-fashioned bad guys in the Hollywood Cowboy Detectives (HCD) series published by Page Turner’s Buckskin Editions in both Kindle and paperback versions.

Darryle Purcell, a long-time Mohave County, Ariz., resident known for his topical newspaper columns and political cartoons, has reset his editorial sights on historical western fiction.
“I grew up enjoying the B-western movies and serials made during the 1930s through the ’50s,” the former Mohave Valley Daily News managing editor 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 Arizona) to battle evil doers. We all remember films where the Three Mesquiteers fought the Nazis in the early 1940s.”
Purcell is writing and illustrating the 1930s-contemporary western series, which 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 joined together to deal with an adventure.”

Sean “Curly” Woods, former Los Angeles Examiner crime beat reporter and current studio flack, is Purcell’s main fictional character who appears in all HCD publications. In 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, Ken Maynard was 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.”

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 ruled by a sinister mastermind known only as the Viper. The Hollywood Cowboy Detectives deal with organized crime, a sniper attack, aerial combat against an experimental German 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.

“With this series, I hope to revive the lessons of the straight shooters while introducing a new generation to some of the great cowboy heroes of the past. Besides having served in the First World War, most of them had been working cowboys on ranches, rodeos and wild-west shows before joining the motion picture studio system. Often, their movie careers began as stuntmen for other, less-talented, film stars. The HCD series honors the hard work, amazing action talents and ethical lessons of the B-western film stars of the past,” Purcell said.

       --Paul Green, author the Encyclopedia of Weird Westerns
Mystery of the Alien Banshee (illustrated) can be found at Amazon's Alien Banshee page.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


Former County Public Information Officer Publishes Illustrated Western Series
Lake Havasu City, AZ – Mohave County’s former Public Information Director, Darryle Purcell, has been quite busy since retiring from public life.  Since his retirement in 2013, Purcell has been
writing and publishing a series of western novels.  “This illustrated series showcases Darryle’s talent,” Supervisor Buster Johnson stated.  “He has taken his love for writing and illustration and combined it into this magnificent series,” Johnson continued.  Purcell’s illustrated series is called the Hollywood Cowboy Detectives (HCD).  Published by Page Turner’s Buckskin Editions, the series embraces the adventurous world of pulp publishing while also acknowledging the great western
movie serials of the 1930s.  “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,” Purcell stated.  Page Turner’s Buckskin Editions currently has published two of the books in Purcell’s series


Saturday, December 20, 2014




"Breezy and entertaining." -Henry's Western Round-Up

In the newest installment of the Hollywood Cowboy Detectives series, writer Darryle Purcell's homage to the B-movie westerns and movie serials of yore, Curly Woods, Hoot Gibson and Ken Maynard join forces with action star "Crash" Corrigan, plus radio Mercury Theatre stars Orson Welles and Ray Collins. Together the team pool their unique talents to entertain children, battle Nazi zombies, and uncover the identity of a diabolical assassin, while fighting their mutual desire to strangle each other – on a wild Hollywood junket aboard a celebrity and danger filled bus from southern California to the Golden Gate. Their fellow passengers include a roster of other actors and actresses, a radio announcer, a mute sound- effects specialist, a photographer, G-men, plus a talentless reporter and a psychic (who are both killed by the bites of a king cobra). The action begins when fascist saboteurs place bounties on the heads of Curly, Hoot and Ken. From there the story hurtles pell-mell to San Francisco – or bust! And in a story within the story, the author tips his hat to one of the great old-time radio program, The Shadow, which Welles starred in during the mid-1930s.

Saturday, November 15, 2014



The Miracle Rider is...

...one of my favorite western serials. The Miracle Rider (1935) was the last film of Tom Mix. His character, Tom Morgan, battles veteran villain actor Charles Middleton (Flash Gordon’s Ming the Merciless) as Zaroff to protect Indian lands. There are a lot of great action scenes that show Mix, at 55 years old, was still able to portray the western hero.
I always loved “contemporary” westerns such as this where cowboys meet up with (1935) technology and science fiction elements such as the “Firebird” rocket plane and a mysterious explosive that can only be found on the Indian reservation.

One of the uniquely jarring parts of the film was after Mix has dispatched the villains. The young Indian girl who has obviously been in love with Tom throughout the picture is sad that her hero is leaving to go back East for a better job. Instead of Mix taking off his hat and holding it up to cover a kiss to show they will be together, he shakes her hand and offers her a job as his secretary.