Friday, 6 March 2015

All’s Fair… by Richard Wormser, 1937

Today is Holi in India, the ancient Hindu religious festival also known as the spring festival and, more popularly, as the festival of colours or the festival of love. People light a bonfire the previous night and step out on to the streets next morning to smear and bathe each other in a riot of dry and wet colours, and sing and dance and make merry. I stayed indoors, as I do every year, and used the public holiday to do something useful, like writing this review for Friday’s Forgotten Books over at Patti Abbott’s blog Pattinase.

“We want you to go in there," the scarred man said, "and find out who killed young Gowan. Why, how, everything. But you'll have to work undercover.”

Before I get down to my brief review of All’s Fair…, here’s a word about the New York-born author. Richard Wormser (1908-1977) has claimed to have written seventeen Nick Carter magazine stories during 1932-33. I have never read Nick Carter as a pulp fiction private detective who made his debut in 1886. I have only read his latter-day adventures as an AXE spy called Killmaster.

The novella All’s Fair… is about young MacBlair who travels from one mining county in California in the West to another in Ware County in the East ostensibly to learn how labour is taken care of and how miners are handled.

“They got a right to know about unions. So we sent this man in. Told him to play it easy, avoid the rough stuff. Hell, it's fertile ground there!

In reality, Mac is an organiser and a troubleshooter. He has been sent all the way to Ware County by union leader Lawrence to find out who killed his son, Gowan, and help bring the killer to justice.


The brave and feisty Mac operates undercover, disguised as the son of a fictitious mine owner in the west.

In Ware County, he encounters big old John Alastair and old Harford Rand, two rich and powerful mine owners who run the county with an iron hand. They are backed by corrupt deputies, foremen, and spies who help them keep a tight lid on union trouble.

Mac stays with the Alistairs who believe he is, in fact, the son of a fellow mine owner on a study tour, and enjoys their hospitality. Openly, he learns their mining ways; secretly, he investigates Gowan’s murder.

It’s not long before Mac falls in love with blue-eyed Sue Alastair who discovers his identity and the purpose of his visit to Ware County. She surprises Mac by revealing she is on the side of the miners.

The Mac-Sue love story, subdued as it’d seem, is soon overshadowed by the miners who, led by Lawrence, now in their midst, strike work. Sue is kidnapped but safe. And Mac finds himself in the crossfire between the mine owners and their gun-toting henchmen on one hand and the striking mine workers on the other.

In spite of its fast pace, All Fair’s… is a moderate story about mine owners and their treatment of mine workers. It’s all quite atmospheric, in fact, and probably reflective of the state of union labour and the condition of miners prevalent at the time. I agree with the description that “It is more than a stirring love story” and that “Its setting is a turbulent mining county where money and corrupt politicians rule with guns” into which Mac walks to solve a murder. No single character, not even Mac's, stands out which doesn't make this novella any less readable.


“I don't get you, mister,” Mac said, mopping. “I’m from California.”

“Yeah?” One-eye sneered. “And me, I’m from the moon. What the hell, have the conservative unions gone in for boring from within now? I thought they left that to us?”


Judging from All’s Fair…, Richard Wormser, I suspect, knew a thing or two about the mining business and how it worked. At times I felt the novella read like a western for there were shades of it.

© MoviesPictures.org
The author
Richard Edward Wormser wrote pulp and detective fiction, screenplays, and westerns, some of it under the pseudonym of Ed Friend. He is believed to have written 300 short stories, 200 novelettes, 12 books, and even a cookbook titled Southwest Cookery or At Home on the Range. He was fairly known for his Nick Carter stories. His two murder-mystery novels are The Man with the Wax Face and The Communist's Corpse. I’m interested in reading his pulp fiction.

18 comments:

  1. Sounds like me staying inside during Mardi Gras down here.

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    1. Charles, you might say Holi is a bit like Mardi Gras.

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  2. I have some Wormser crime novels. Your fine review is inspiring me to read one soon!

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    1. George, thank you. I'll be looking for some of Wormser's pulp or crime novels.

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  3. The idea of Holi has fascinated me though I don't know the origins of this festival

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    1. Mystica, I dislike Holi because it is now also associated with rowdiness on the streets.

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  4. Peasant, this sounds good, though I admit to having gotten tired of labor-management feuds as a background, or foreground plot device. I've not read any Wormser, so I don't have a handle on this or his Nick Carter stories. An unplowed field I'm unlikely to plow anytime soon, in spite of your good review.

    I had no idea what Holiday was or represented, I'll have to learn more. I usually avoid going out into holiday celebrations too.

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    1. Richard, the festival of Holi has nothing to do with a holiday except the government has declared it as a public holiday that everyone looks forward to; in my case, to stay indoors and do something meaningful or just laze around.

      I intend to read some of Wormser's Nick Carter stories, especially since I have read most of the modern Killmaster paperbacks.

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  5. I've read several of Wormser's paperback original crime and Western novels and enjoyed them. A good solid writer. The pulp stories I've read by him are top-notch, too. He did a serial for ARGOSY called "Carnival Queen" that's excellent.

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    1. Mr. Reasoner, I agree, Richard Wormser is a "solid writer" as was evident from just this one story I read. I did not know about his "carnival Queen" series which sounds interesting.

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  6. There's a story by Wormser in Volume Four of the e-book series MASTERS OF NOIR, which I've been reading and reviewing lately. The review of Volume Four will probably run on Kevin Tipple's blog next Friday, March 13th.

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    1. Barry, thanks for the heads-up to Wormser's story in the MASTERS OF NOIR series. I'll check it out as well as yours and Kevin's reviews of this ebook series.

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  7. This author sounds very interesting, Prashant. I will have to look for some of his books.

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    1. Tracy, I think, his pulp-crime stories might be of interest to you. I'm looking for them too.

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  8. A new author to me, Prashant, and unlike others I have NOT read many books about union organizers, and find the idea interesting.

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    1. Moira, the author is new to me as well though I have read about union and labour trouble in western and other genres. Wormser was a good discovery.

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  9. A new author to me, so thanks for the introduction. I doubt I'll try his work though - too much already.

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    1. Col, this particular book may not be up your street but you might want to sample his pulp-crime novels. I'll have to see if I can find them online, as I did this one.

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