Since acquiring Brian Tennyson’s brilliant The Canadian Experience of the Great War: A Guide to Memoirs, I’ve spent a great deal of time and money tracking down pulp magazines from the 1920’s & 30’s. Battle Stories, War Stories, War Novels & the incredibly rare Canadian War Stories contain dozens of articles, short stories, poetry (and even the odd illustration) by Canada’s veterans.
Little of this work is anthologized; none is digitized.
Take the case of Will R. Bird, for example. He is arguably Canada’s most prolific literary author of the Great War and one can, with patience, acquire his memoirs and novels: Private Timothy Fergus Clancy (1930), And We Go On (1930), Thirteen Years After (1931), The Communication Trench (1932), Sunrise For Peter (1946), and Ghosts Have Warm Hands (1968), as well as his regimental histories of the North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment and the North Nova Scotia Highlanders.
This is quite the output, until one considers there are approximately 85 additional short stories dealing directly with the First World War that are not contained in any collection.
Now, in all honesty, there’s a reason much of the war fiction that appeared in pulp magazines hasn’t been collected. Most of it is written expressly for what one would now call the YA crowd: there are a lot of rip-roaring adventures and good one-liners and it’s all very G.A. Henty. That said though, academics are increasingly paying attention to middlebrow literature, and –at a stretch –I’d say these sorts of stories qualify.
While one can question the literary value of some, if not most of these pulp stories, there’s no debating the fact the twelve-year-old boys who were reading War Stories or the like in 1930’s became the hardened men who took Ortona and Juno Beach a little more than a decade later. I’ve been thinking about that a lot as I flip through these crumbling old pulps.
So, I’ve decided to start posting some of these stories as PDFs. I’ve cleaned up the images a bit. The first offering is a Will R. Bird short story called “Call Off The War!” from the October 10th, 1929 issue of War Stories. The PDF is below the cover image. Enjoy.