Black Dog Books specialize in reprinting classic stories from the long-ago era of pulp magazines. Those anthologies had their heyday in the early part of the twentieth century, and while many may dismiss them as “old fashioned,“ they are nothing of the sort. As publisher Tom Roberts has repeatedly shown, there is a treasure trove of great writing contained in those dusty pages.
A favorite genre for the company is the Western. I have always been a fan of the books of authors such as Louis L’Amour and Max Brand, but had never had access to really early Western material before now. With the publication of Unmasked: The Forgotten Origins of Hollywood's Most Famous Western Heroes, Black Dog Books has taken the reprint idea to a whole new level.
The stories contained here are the literary origins of such famous television and movie heroes as Hopalong Cassidy, The Cisco Kid, and Zorro. The fourth and arguably most famous is The Lone Ranger, who did not actually originate on the printed page, but rather on radio. When the character’s popularity took off, the decision was made to launch The Lone Ranger magazine in 1937, where our hero’s exploits were first documented on the printed page.
Clarence E. Mulford’s Hopalong Cassidy was very different from the one we came to know from television. The original character had a limp (hence his nickname) and a penchant for rowdy behavior. As Francis N. Nevins writes in his introduction, “Welcome to the world Mulford made! Sanitized cowboys keep out!”
The first Hopalong Cassidy story appeared in the December 1905 issue of The Outing Magazine. The remaining five followed from April to August 1906. When the stories were later anthologized into book form, there was a great deal of alteration done by editors, either by cutting some sections to pick up the pace, or adding new material to create continuity. Thankfully, Black Dog has gone back to the originals and published these short stories exactly as they were originally written.