Another monster post (18,400 words), another late posting.

I once swore that I would never be involved in anything this large and complicated on a weekly deadline again; but every two or three years, it seems, overconfidence or hubris combine with a really good idea, and before you know it…

Three things in particular caused this particular post to be delayed.

First, I discovered, backed up to a completely unrelated file, in a completely unexpected location, a whole bunch of links that had been listed to include but not written up. About 2/3 of the links in this post, in fact. There are also a few for later posts, but not even close to the scale of the impact on this one.

Second, I make it a point of making sure that there is some content of value to most GMs even if they don’t run Pulp campaigns. Normally, I can rely on the content to do that for me; this time around, that wasn’t going to cut it. So I decided to insert an extra, bonus, post-within-a post that would both be relevant and would fulfill that brief.

And third, Tuesday I got absolutely nothing done; it was one of those days of interruptions that come along every now and then. It was 7:30PM before I even finished my “breakfast” routine. It didn’t hep that I underestimated the scale of the additional work required on the post, either, but had I been able to work on it all Tuesday, it still would have gotten done in time – barely.

So that’s my tale of woe – a perfect storm of complications and setbacks. LUckily, such things are usually rare events!

The Seventh Shelf: Hardware II: Vehicles – Introduction by Mike

The quality and capabilities of transportation does more to define the shape of a society and a culture than just about anything else you can point at, with the possible exception of mass communications. Transport capabilities define how dependent populations are on local produce, define what exotic foodstuffs can be shipped in at what price, and how much produce costs. In fact, because raw materials have to be transported to where they are needed for manufacture of goods which then have to be transported to points of distribution, there are amplification effects and secondary impacts all over the sociological map.

During the California gold rush, it was routine to ship dirty laundry to Hawaii for laundering and back. Before electrical refrigeration became practical, frozen lakes were carved up and shipped south for use in New York City iceboxes. The mid-20th century was profoundly shaped by the reliability and affordability of motor vehicles, and even the design and shape of cities evolved throughout the 20th century to accommodate traffic.

In medieval times, it was routine practice for cities to have enough stored food on hand to feed the population for a year, and to supply the grain for planting the following year. At the start of the Pulp Era, this had declined to having sufficient food on hand for three or four weeks, a testament to the increased reliability of mass transport of groceries. By the 1950s, that was down to a fortnight, in the 70s or 80s, it declined to a week; and by the turn of the century, the average was three to five days. It is now two or three days, thanks to an increased focus on the desirability of fresh produce.

Similarly, as lifestyles have changed, waste generated has risen, making cities increasingly dependent on the sanitation departments that remove this to ever-expanding refuse piles. Transport is a defining factor in societies and business operations, and every time you think you finally have a handle on all the ramifications, a new one emerges to startle and confound. Think, for example, about the simple fact of where people work relative to where they live; without mass transit, suburbs are all-but impossible.

The Pulp Era is a pivotal point in the history of transportation. Commercial aviation has become a reality, albeit an expensive one. Commoners still rely on trains, an 18th century technology that was steadily improving in speed, reliability, and capacity. The motor vehicle has been mass-produced for a while, but outside the cities, infrastructure has not yet caught up; few roads are paved save in the most progressive and wealthy locations – the north-eastern United States, for example, and highways are strings of local back-roads. Submarines are making the transition from primitive to reliable, and in marine technology, the diesel engine has replaced the steam engine. Airships ply the skies, offering luxurious travel to the uber-wealthy and well-connected. The Jet engine is on the cusp of becoming a reality, and simple experiments in rocketry have been underway for a decade or more.

On top of this array of transportation possibilities and their impacts, they provide a irresistible splash of color; many of the vehicles were works of modern engineering art, as beautiful to look at as they were dangerous and often difficult to drive.

Relevance to other genres

For some genres, the relevance is fairly obvious. Late-era Cthulhu and Steampunk, for example. Post-apocalyptic genres may have deteriorated roads and dilapidated vehicles that don’t provide much better performance than the vehicles of the pulp era. For other game genres, it becomes less so, or at least, less directly so. Understanding the impact on society of transportation of people and goods remains directly relevant. Some of the techniques that we employ and have described below will be adaptable – for example, Mike uses the same basic technique to determine how far and how fast riders can move in his fantasy campaigns as the one described in the appropriate section on road trips. In fact, in an attempt to ensure that there is something of interest to most readers, he has gone somewhat overboard in that section, incorporating what could well have been a separate article into the text, which won’t surprise anyone who’s been reading Campaign Mastery for very long.

Shelf Introduction


towering old shelves of books

Image Credit: / steph p

The seventh shelf has 116 references divided into 10 categories of transportation and related fields. There are undoubtedly others that we could have chosen – we didn’t search for a history of cable cars, for example, and the Melbourne (Australia) section lists a book on trams. We might have gone hunting for books on special-purpose modes of transport, like tugboats and submarines, or the river-craft that ply the Great Lakes, or the fishing boats of the Gulf, but we ultimately determined that there would have been too few books on the subject with a substantial relevance to the pulp period. And all those pre-Depression ships would not have vanished; many of them would still be working hard for a living, but we have chosen to disregard those as well, just to keep the topic range manageable.

Zeppelins & other Airships – We start with what are probably the most iconic form of transport in the Pulp Era – airships and dirigibles. Lighter-than-air craft that use great bags of gas to carry a gondola suspended beneath and are propelled by powerful diesel engines, these were luxurious and even opulent – in the passenger areas at least. Books on them seem hard to come by, these days, but we have found a few.

Aircraft – commercial & military – Airship references are few because airships didn’t really last as a commercially-viable mode of transport. Aircraft books are numerous, because they lasted; and yet, we struggled to find recommendations in this section, simply because most of them are too tightly focused to be relevant, or material on the pulp era gets drowned out by the decades of subsequent air travel. But we were convinced that there had to be a few gems amongst so many offerings, and persisted until we had found at least some of them.

Air Routes & Commercial Aviation – And, if you thought general books about the aircraft of the 1930s were hard to find, books regarding how they operated are like hen’s teeth. Nevertheless, this category contains some prizes.

Rocketry – We thought seriously about including books on early rocketry, but ultimately these were inadequate to carry a payload of substance; either they were disqualified as a mode of transport for that reason, or any books we selected would hold little relevance. We found one offering that is worth your while – hopefully quality will make up for the lack of quantity.

Naval Power – Naval Power, as a subject, suffers from two major problems as a subject: the technological developments of World War II and subsequent periods tend to drown out the pulp era, as do the eras of steam and sail that preceded it. It’s a real problem when paradigm shifts bookend both ends of your time period; during World War I, the battleship was King, and World War II elevated the aircraft carrier to primacy. The pulp era is neither one nor the other, and as a result, tends to fall between the cracks. There are any number of books that we looked at that dispose of World War I in one chapter and move directly to World War II in the next, as though the years in between didn’t happen at all. And, of the few that we found, a number of them were far too expensive to list. As a result, to have anything to list in this section, we necessarily had to compromise our standards somewhat.

Commercial Shipping & Passenger Vessels – Only slightly better served. Large passenger vessels take so long to construct that the basic models of the pulp era are actually the embodiment of pre-depression thinking – ships like the Titanic and her sister ship – and not much changed until the post WWII boom that produced vessels like the Queen Elizabeth II, launched in 1969. And yet, this is the beginning of a time that would have a transformative effect on commercial shipping of all kinds; in order to compete with air power, ships grew ever-larger in capacity, and ocean liners ever more tourist-oriented. As with military maritime vessel design, the pulp era tends to fall between the cracks.

Trains – The dominant land-transport systems of the pulp era so far as most citizens were concerned was the same one that had dominated since the mid-nineteenth century. Steam engines may have been superseded by diesel locomotives, but not much more had changed. It would not be until the diesel-electric and fully-electric created modern suburban rail networks in the 50s and 60s that any real change would occur; until then, it was simply a matter of giving the consequences and repercussions of the changes that had already taken place time to integrate themselves into society. And yet, trains of the period were faster, more powerful, more reliable, and more efficient than those that been in extant during the Great War and early years of the 20th century, and that had vast knock-on effects; it’s just hard to find any books that discuss the subject as anything more than a footnote regarding a trend that had begun before and continued long after the period in question.

Trade – There aren’t many entries in this section, and one of the biggest ones has already appeared in the list – but it’s getting a comeback appearance here, with an additional link.

Cars & related Road Vehicles – It’s probably not going too far to define the 20th century as the age of the motor vehicle and the aircraft. Throw in the space capsule and shuttle, and you have covered the 4 most influential factors in everything else that happened. When you mention a 1920s or 1930s vehicle to someone, it’s a good bet that the first thing that comes to mind will be one of the automobiles of the period. Later, the Yankee Clippers might come up, or the DC3, but a car will take the first honors almost every time. We had a lot of trouble in this section; our preferred references were too few in number, too expensive, or both, and we had to winnow through mountains of references in search of alternatives to recommend.

Motorcycles – Mike was talking to an old friend the other day and made the mistake of mentioning that these two- and sometimes three-wheeled vehicles were included in the section on Cars (then entitled “…and other Road Vehicles” and copped an earful on the differences in culture and lifestyle even back then between the two for almost half an hour. Accordingly, Bikes are now in a section on their own.

Tanks & other armored vehicles – Mike suggested that the term “tracked vehicles” be used, but Blair quietly shot his arguments down in flames. These are military road vehicles and while some of them – staff cars for example – would be covered under the previous section, there’s plenty of variety to go around. Existing in a kind of half-way house are armored cars, and they too have been placed in this category, both to distinguish them from the standard automobile and to ram home the fact that this category contains more than just tanks.

A Recurring Note On Images:

Wherever possible, we have provided an illustration showing the cover of the book or DVD under discussion scaled to the same vertical size (320 pixels for Recommended Books, 280 for DVDs, 240 for items in the ‘For Dummies’ Sections). Where there was none available, we have used a generic icon.

Prices and Availability were correct at the time of compilation.


But First…

Before we actually start this shelf, Mike wants to add a book discovered after the previous shelf was published but which he considers too enticing to refuse. So, into the weapons section of the previous shelf, he is adding:

Spacer the-worlds-worst-weapons

632. The World’s Worst Weapons (From Exploding Guns to Malfunctioning Missiles) – Martin J Dougherty

We’ll let him explain why:

It doesn’t matter how much of this book relates to the Pulp Era. The concept of experimental and prototype weapons fits so perfectly into the Pulp Genre that this book is 100% relevant – and the notion that such weapons carry a fatal flaw is a great way to ensure that they don’t take over the campaign if the PCs fail to regain control over them. 320 pages, which is more than 3 times the size I was expecting. Reviews are a little scathing – “I would have thought I would have learned my lesson by now with their series of “the World’s Worst” but I got suckered into buying this at a local store due to its extremely low price. Well, you get what you pay for… To be fair, there are a couple of valid entries – perhaps half of them, however there are a number that just absolutely boggle my mind.” The commenter then goes on to offer examples of inclusions that he disagrees with, one way or another. And more examples. And still more examples. And, to be fair, I agree with a lot of his criticism. But if you cherry-pick from the entries, do a bit of appropriate due diligence and external research, you might just find the perfect experimental weapon to give your would-be world conqueror.

41 used copies starting at one cent, 18 new starting at $3.24.

And with that, let’s move on to this week’s actual content :)


Books About Zeppelins & other Airships

Airships in the real world come in two varieties: Rigid Dirigibles and Non-Rigid Blimps. The former are much larger and as a design, largely discredited by time of the outbreak of World War II – but were alive and well throughout the Pulp period. The latter have survived but are, in flavor terms, as interesting as soggy cardboard – in comparison with their more iconic kin.


633. Dirigible Dreams: The Age Of The Airship – C. Michael Hiam

This is a great general introduction to Airships and the many roles they played from the 19th century through to the imminent World War II.

“…fascinating stories of exploration, transatlantic journeys, and floating armadas that rained death during World War I. While there were triumphs, such as the polar flight of the Norge, most of these tales are of disaster and woe, culminating in perhaps the most famous disaster of all time, the crash of the Hindenburg…”


634. The Giant Airships (Epic Of Flight) – Douglas Botting

This is part of a series by Time-Life, and as anyone who has ever bought one of their books knows, they have production values that put everyone else to shame. It may lack in detail compared to the Hiam book, but it makes up for it with the lavish use of photographs and illustrations, perfect for taking your players inside one of these great machines.


635. Lighter Than Air: An Illustrated History of Balloons and Airships: Tom D. Crouch

This volume focuses on the people behind lighter than air flight – “flamboyant and daring, heroes and scoundrels” – which makes it tailor-made for use as a Pulp Reference – but at least half the volume will be on ballooning, which is not so useful.


636. Transatlantic Airships: An Illustrated History – John Christopher

While much of this volume treads similar territory to others already mentioned, this book is notable in focusing on the speculative use of airships that was envisaged post-war, making it a perfect reference for what might exist in a pulp world. It contains a comprehensive look at the history of the airships and the role that many experts predicted they would play in the future – Atomic Powered airships! 192 pages, 19 used and 29 new, both starting at $16.98 and there are more copies at


637. Flying Hookers For The Macon: The Last Great Rigid Airship Adventure – Thom Hook

The lurid title gives completely the wrong impression. Two American airships, the Akron and the Macon, were aerial carriers, providing long-range transport for bi-wing fighters. Long before the term became associated with less reputable professions, the pilots of these aircraft were known as Hookers. Like the author of the “most helpful” review, we had high hopes for this book as a result. To quote it: “Spurred on by the title I was somewhat disappointed by its contents. Mr. Hook provides excellent coverage of the how, where, and why the USS Macon crashed but very little as to the day to day operations. You will not find any details of the hanger where the Sparrowhawks were kept or how and what kind of aircraft maintenance could be performed there. There is no step-by-step description of aircraft recovery or launch…

“There is … an abundance of filler type material. Is a biographical chapter on Ernie Pyle really necessary? There is also a chapter on the Japanese balloon bombs of WWII and the future of lighter than air vehicles.

The book is acceptable if you are after information on the crash of the USS Macon and general information regarding lighter than air vehicles. There is also a very decent bibliography and a detailed crew list. However, if you’re like me, thinking that this book is just about the Sparrowhawks you’ll be greatly disappointed.”

Nevertheless, the book is not without value to the Pulp GM, and even though the title is misleading in multiple ways, it deserves its place in our recommendations.

Paperback, 192 pages, 20 used copies from $4.80. New copies are outside our price limits and probably not worth the value to be gained from the book, especially since Wikipedia has excellent articles on the Macon and Akron.


638. The Hindenburg – Michael M Mooney

The most famous dirigible of them all, and in many people’s minds, the one that did the most harm to the perceived viability of this mode of transport. In fact, it had no such effect; Both Britain and the US pressed ahead with airship projects following the Hindenburg disaster, the latter especially confident because they had more or less cornered the world manufacture and supply of Helium (which was the reason the Hindenburg was lifted with explosively-reactive Hydrogen instead). Nevertheless, all of these projects met with disaster of one form or another, and those more than this more famous incident caused the demise of the rigid airship. We have linked to two editions (but there are more copies out there as well). The first (pictured) is “Illustrated with Photographs”, the second is available in vast numbers – but makes no promise of photographic content.
Link 1:
Link 2:


639. The Golden Age Of The Great Passenger Airships: Graf Zeppelin and Hindenburg – Harold G Dick and Douglas H Robinson

“Drawing on the extensive photographs, notes, diaries, reports, recorded data, and manuals he collected during his five years at the Zeppelin Company in Germany, from 1934 through 1938, Harold G. Dick tells the story of the two great passenger Zeppelins. Against the background of German secretiveness, especially during the Nazi period, Dick’s accumulation of material and pictures is extraordinary. His original photographs and detailed observations on the handling and flying of the two big rigids constitute the essential data on this phase of aviation history.”

It’s the offer of operational information that is most valuable to the Pulp GM – the procedures and techniques employed in actually flying such an airship. Not many books go into that aspect of the subject at all, so this book definitely earns its place in the list.

We aren’t sure the cover image isn’t a generic placeholder, it seems remarkably plain, but we’ve given it the benefit of the doubt. 226 pages, published by the Smithsonian; 28 used copies from $2.99, 19 New from $16.82.


640. RPGNow: Modern Floorplans: Airship From Fabled Environments

This is an inexpensive offering from RPGNow at $3.76 for the PDF. We picked up a copy a year or two ago, and were profoundly disappointed by the lack of detail. While passenger areas are reasonably detailed, as are the crew quarters, there’s virtually nothing of the internal structure. The product description is confusing as well – is this a modern-day version of a luxury airship or is it a “Modern” day fictitious example supposedly from the 1920s? We’ve bought the product, and still aren’t sure.

Quite frankly, if there had been an alternative, this wouldn’t have made our shortlist, never mind actually being listed here – but there isn’t, making this the only game in town of it’s type.


641. The Great Texas Airship Mystery – Wallace O Charlton

The ultimate in ringers? During 1896 and 1897, mostly in the west and Midwest and Texas, came a sudden series of reports describing a cigar-shaped Airship, complete with crew, long before man mastered heavier-than-air flight… or so the histories of aviation would have us believe. In modern times, this would be an Unidentified Flying Object, but that term was fifty years or more into the future.

“Chariton provides his reader with a chronology of events, maps and excerpts from the newspapers of the day and places you right in the middle of the events, as if you were there, one of the befuddled witnesses,” writes one reviewer. He “…writes about this great mystery with a sense of fun, awe and intrigue.” As you would expect, the newspaper reports oscillated sharply between skeptical dismissal and credulity.

Another reviewer criticizes the book for an over-reliance on anecdotal information (what other kind is there regarding unlikely events of this vintage, we wonder?) and was also put off by the inconsistency of viewpoint, completely missing the point. But that reviewer also hints at content that could be directly pulp-relevant while considering follow-up investigation: “Has anyone attempted to search for any mysterious explosions that might have occurred soon after these sightings? If there really was a mysterious inventor named Wilson in NY or Iowa or wherever, perhaps his lab was destroyed in an accident that might have been recorded subsequently.” That sounds to us like the basis of a good pulp adventure, because it immediately begs the counter-question, “what if it weren’t?”…

Hardcover, 272 pages, 23 used copies from $10.24, 6 new from – well, let’s just say, too much.


Documentaries About Zeppelins & other Airships

Readers may be wondering why there is no mention of any of the TV documentaries investigating what ‘really destroyed the Hindenburg?’. There was a reasonably good documentary by that name that examined a number of the leading theories, dismissing some and judging the others on their plausibility that would have been compelling – an essential inclusion – if there were not an episode of Mythbusters that directly contradicted their findings in an even more compelling manner.

So far as we’re concerned, the jury is still out on the subject, and none of the theories should be taken as a definitive explanation, and none of the documentaries that are available are sufficiently comprehensive, authoritative, and unbiased. That includes the favorite theory espoused in “Hindenburg” above, which focuses on the suggestion that the explosion was caused by a crewman committing sabotage.

We thought about linking to both documentaries, but felt that there was too great a risk that readers would buy one and not the other, yielding a biased understanding. So we haven’t listed any. Just thought we’d clear that up.



642. Airships: Dirigibles and Blimps

Eighty-seven minutes of black and white historic films and newsreels about dirigibles and blimps, including “History of Heavy Airships”, a US Navy documentary that showcases the flying aircraft carriers USS Macon and USS Akron, and “Goodyear Aircraft at War” which describes the building of aircraft and scouting blimps. DVDs are manufactured to order when you order a new copy. Used copies for $14.85, New for $16.95, Amazon’s price $24.99.


Books About Aircraft

There may be additional resources on the forthcoming “Crime, Police, and Militaria” shelf.


643. Chronicle of Flight: A Year-By-Year History of Aviation – Walter J Boyne

At 512 pages, this is as comprehensive as you could possibly wish. Chronicle of flight itself into chapters, three of which deal with the pulp era: 1914-1923, 1924-1933, and 1934-1943. Each chapter contains a timeline of important developments, a two-to-four page summary of the events of the decade, and a boatload of high-quality photographs of hundreds of aircraft, airships, helicopters, designers, pilots, military commanders, and aeronautical events that start with Icarus and end in early 2003. Reportedly, there are more than a few incorrect captions, but that’s only a minor detraction from the value of this book. Best of all, it’s bargain-priced and in reasonable supply: 29 used copies from $0.46 and 11 new from $4.99. P&H will probably be higher than normal, however; the book weighs 4.4 pounds without packaging materials.


644. Atlantic Fever: :Lindbergh, his Competitors, and the Race to cross the Atlantic – Joe Jackson

For five weeks–from April 14 to May 21, 1927–the world held its breath while fourteen aviators took to the air to capture the $25,000 prize that Raymond Orteig offered to the first man to cross the Atlantic Ocean without stopping. Atlantic Fever tells the story of the race to achieve this milestone, who the participants were, and what befell their respective attempts., as well as the stories of those who subsequently attempted to emulate Lindbergh’s successful crossing – and, in many cases, failed.

544 pages, Kindle ($5.87), Hardcover (40 used from $0.01, 22 New from $5.71), Paperback (29 used from $0.01, 32 new from $2.95).


645. Grand Old Lady: Story of the DC-3 – Lt. Col. Carroll V Gines and Lt. Col. Wendell P Moseley

The DC-3 was arguably the most successful aircraft of the Pulp Era. Noisy, Drafty, Easy to fly, and Utterly reliable, the DC-3 became the luxury airliner of it’s day as we;; as being recast in dozens of other roles – the C-47 cargo plane aka the “Gooney Bird”, the R4D Naval Aircraft, and the Dakota amongst others. More than 11000 were built for the military during World War II, but the ultimate citation as to its status in aviation history has to that there are several hundreds still in service around the world, delivering passengers and cargo. At the time of its creation, it was widely held that two engines were not enough to provide stable flight if one failed; when he bet the business on the creation of the DC-3, Donald Douglass was convinced that these pessimists were wrong, and demanded of his designers that the DC-3 be able to hold its altitude on a single engine. Although development was a far rockier road than he expected at the time – see the documentary listed later in this section – the aircraft went on to exceed his every expectation. A true classic, we had good reason to focus on it in this list.


646. Douglas DC-3 Dakota Owners’ Workshop Manual: An insight into owning, flying, and maintaining the revolutionary American transport aircraft – Peter Blackah

One of the benefits of the aircraft still being in service is that maintenance manuals are still in circulation, giving the GM everything he needs as background material for an airfield maintenance hangar – even if the model of aircraft being maintained is different, this book will provide the language and foundation for the GM to “fake” it enough for plot purposes.

And yet, the title is misleading; while it contains anecdotes, stories, pictures and illustrations including technical drawings that can’t be found anywhere else. This wouldn’t actually give you the expertise needed to maintain or operate a DC-3, not the way an equivalent manual on maintaining a specific model of motor vehicle would. It’s more general and accessible by the layman than that – and that works in favor of our purposes.

So don’t be scared off.

160 pages, 14 used from $8.99 and 11 new from $27.13 – so this doesn’t meet our usual criteria, but it’s so different and useful in its subject matter that we’re listing it anyway.


647. DC-3 and C-47 Gooney Birds: Includes the DC-2, DC-3, C-47, B-18 Bolo, B-23 Dragon, the Basler turboprop Goonies, and many more – Michael O’Leary

This 128-page paperback examines the many variations of the DC-3 that evolved over the years. Notable for it’s high-quality photographs. 30 used copies from $7.64 and 13 new from $23.96.


648. Douglas DC-3: 80 Glorious Years – Geoff Jones

Published in 2014, this is a celebration of the aircraft and its history. 288 pages, hardcover and kindle, 11 used copies from $15.90, 27 new from $16.10.


649. The DC-3: 50 Years of Legendary Flight – Peter M Bowers

But, if that’s too expensive for you, consider this book from 1986 which might even have a greater focus on the pulp era (simply because that gets less drowned-out by the later history). The actual number of pages per year of history is not all that different (3.84 for this book, 3.6 for the previous one). 39 used copies starting at one cent, 11 new copies from $17.95.


650. Pan American Clippers: The Golden Age of Flying Boats – James Trautman

To only model of heavier-than-air flying vehicle that can come close to the iconic status of the DC-3 during the pulp era are the Yankee Clipper flying boats operated by Pan-Am in the 1930s, and the similar services operated by Britain’s Imperial Airways. We could hardly devote so much attention to the DC-3 without giving the flying boats their due as well. Which brings us to the contents of this book. “Illustrated with rare period photographs, vintage travel posters, magazine ads and colorful company brochures, [it] covers every aspect of the fabulous era of Pan American’s graceful clippers.” Full of diverse tidbits that only the “exceptionally well-informed” would already know, according to one reviewer, but most single out another aspect of the content for the highest praise: 200 color images and 100 historical black-and-white photographs, all of the highest possible quality, and many pf which had never been published before. 272 pages, Paperback; 17 used copies from $19.50 but start with one of the 28 new copies from $16.96.


651. The Pan Am Clipper: The History of Pan American’s Flying-Boats 1931 to 1946 – Roy Allen

A similar book to the previous one listed, few photographs and less than half the length, but makes up the deficit with era-original charts and diagrams. 28 used copies from $5.69, 2 collectible from $14.00, and 15 new for more than our price limits at $29.95. Hardcover, if that makes a difference.


652. Wings to the Orient: Pan American Clipper Planes, 1935-1945: A Pictorial History – Stan Cohen

Two reviews are pertinent: “This book is one of the finest collections on information regarding Pan-Am’s famous flying boats. Loaded with old photos, classic ads, maps and much more.”

And, “Cohen’s book is among the better works to document the short but exciting history of Pan American’s pacific clipper operations, providing insight into the pilots and aircraft that flew it and the route they took. My few complaints were with the relative dirth of information following the outbreak of World War II, some speculative accounts which have been correctly described in other books, and a lack of color photos.”

Which means that it focuses completely on the flying boats during the pulp era. 214 pages, Paperback (47 used from $0.01, 15 new from $29.99).


653. Pan American’s Pacific Pioneers: The Rest of the Story, A Pictorial History of Pan Am’s Pacific First Flights 1935-1946, Vol. 2 – Jon E Krupnick

We were unable to locate Volume 1 anywhere; if we had, this two-volume double-act might have been at the head of the list. In fact, it was while searching for Volume I that we discovered the books listed previously.

There are, in fact, two editions of this book; we have linked to the older (24 used copies from $15.85, 13 New from $49.22) because the prices for the new are out of the question (20 used from $34.14, 6 new from $72.15, 1 collectible at $125.01).

At 315 pages, and only covering half the history of the aircraft, this is going to be the most comprehensive book on the subject, but, is a book with only limited coverage of the period in history worth those prices? We weren’t sure, though inclined to think not; ultimately, we have left the decision to the individual purchaser.


654. Warplanes Of The World 1918-1939 – Michael J H Taylor

Detailed reference on the history and capabilities of the aircraft in question. 192 pages, 20 used copies from $4.73.


655. Jane’s Fighting Aircraft of WWI by W. E. De. B. Whittaker

Includes a lot of information about non-military aviation of general use, up to 1919. Not enough cheap copies available but worth the extra price, especially since the WWII volume (below) makes the cut.


656. Jane’s Fighting Aircraft of WWII – Bill Gunston

Includes a lot of information about non-military aviation in the final years leading up to the War.


657. Jane’s Encyclopedia of Aviation – compiled by Michael J H Taylor

The history of aviation from hot air balloons to late in the 20 th century. We’re referring to the older edition, published in 1989 (960 pages) – expect postage to be relatively high – – but if it’s no longer available, there is a newer version called “Jane’s Encyclopedia Of Aviation Revised Edition” with a different cover – and fewer cheap copies available!


658. Last Talons Of The Eagle: Secret Nazi Technology Which Could Have Changed The Course of World War II – Gary Hyland and Anton Gill

Nazi experimental and proposed aircraft from late in WWII – Jets, Helicopters, VTOL Aircraft, etc. These make great Pulp Vehicles if you assume (a) that they work, and (b) bring them forward a few years as prototypes.

Paperback (pictured), Kindle


659. Strange and Wonderful Aircraft – Harvey Weiss

We close out this section with a number of books on strange and dangerous aircraft, some of which even date from the Pulp era – but which (even if they aren’t period-correct) can make great vehicles for PCs and NPCs – whether they work as advertised or not. The first of these, and the one that inspired the inclusion of this subsection, is this book for children which examines some of the stranger byways and failed attempts in the history of aviation both before and after the Wright Brothers. To be honest, we were sold by the cover. 64 pages, ages 8-12 years, hardcover, 25 used from $0.01, 10 new from $14.99, 3 collectible from $8.50.


660. The World’s Strangest Aircraft: A Collection of Weird and Wonderful Flying Machines – Michael Taylor

A reviewer wrote: “This is just a scrapbook of some interesting aircraft, more than half of which really are not that “weird,” but are commonly included in many other books about “regular” aircraft. In fact, many other “weird” aircraft that could have been included are not. The textual commentary on the aircraft is extremely limited and not very interesting nor does it provide information that is not readily available online.” To which, we respond: the visually-interesting or unusual is always a popular inclusion in such general books because they catch the eye, so we aren’t too bothered by the first criticism; and that it’s always easier to find information on the internet when you know exactly what to look for.

The pages are reportedly thick and glossy, giving the impression that there are more than the actual 112 pages. That should make it more robust, but it may also increase postage. 57 used copies from $0.01, 13 New from $9.10, 1 Collectible from $18.00.


661. Weird Aircraft (Flexi cover series) – Peter Henshaw

The contents range from the sublime (the flying boats) to the ridiculous (the Junkers G38 and Spruce Goose) and way, way, waaay beyond. 256 pages, 27 used from $0.01, 7 new from $32.50.


662. The Strangest Aircraft Of All Time – Keith Ray

Most of these are strange aircraft that actually flew. There are a few minor errors that should have been caught but weren’t – the commentator who referenced this problem points to the entry for the Arup S1 which reportedly had a 26 hp motor and a top speed of 607 mph. As always, do your due diligence – Wikipedia confirms the size of the motor, and points to this being a modified glider (but has no performance information), so we suspect that a decimal place should go somewhere in that 607. After the 6 seems too slow, after the 0 seems too fast – but the date of 1926 suggests that “6.07 mph” might in fact be the correct number.


663. The World’s Worst Aircraft – Jim Winchester

The first of three different books with exactly the same name, but fortunately one of the reviewers at Amazon have two of the three and was able to compare them to educate us. Both this book and the other (Yenne, below) are good reads, “injecting humor into the subject”. This book covers a greater number of aircraft from a greater number of countries, Yenne covers fewer entries from his “Hall Of Shame duds” in greater depth. The reviewer recommends buying both; who are we to argue? 324 pages, hardcover, 29 used from $3.62, 8 new from $15.000


664. The World’s Worst Aircraft – Bill Yenne

See comments above. 160 pages, 99 used from $0.01, 17 new from $4.18.


665. The World’s Worst Aircraft – James Gilbert

This book has three strikes against it. First, we have no such comparison available to distinguish it, only a single review which gives it high praise; Second, that review leavens its praise with a complaint about appearances over functionality in terms of inclusions, which raises a slight question-mark about the content; and Third, do we really need a third book covering the same territory as the previous two?

On the other hand, there is the chance that it will cover something that the others won’t, and the pages look a lot bigger, meaning that hopefully the photographs will be, too. So it might be able to hold it’s own.

Hardcover, no page count, 12 used from $4.99, 6 new from forget-it; paperback, 15 used from $2.82, 5 new from forget-it-even-faster.


Documentaries About Aircraft



666. Planes That Changed The World ep 2: the DC3

The first half of this program is pure gold for the pulp GM, with information on flying times, costs, capacities, etc. The documentary is not available on DVD anywhere except in Australia (Amazon UK lists one imported copy at a high price £45 (
)) but that isn’t enough to keep us from making it available to readers!

Amazon US has both the series and individual episodes available through its streaming service for $2.99 an episode or $7.99 for the whole season ( and also lists a book on the subject from $5 a copy

Once again, Canadian readers get the short end of the sharp pointy thing; there are limited copies of the book (NOT the DVD) available at quite exorbitant prices.

However, we did also find the episode on YouTube:, and it’s definitely worth your effort to watch it.


Books About Air Routes & Commercial Aviation

There may be additional resources on the forthcoming “everyday life” shelf, and are certainly a few others scattered through earlier parts of the series.


667. Picture History of Aviation on Long Island 1908-1938 – George C Dade and Frank Strnad

Over 300 rare photographs, with detailed informative captions, recall Long Island’s crucial role as center of early aviation. Exploits of Lindbergh, Curtiss, Doolittle, other pioneers. First “blind” flights, seaplanes, endurance records, technological breakthroughs, much more including a map. 160 pages. 43 used copies starting at $0.01 and 19 new from $18.93.


668. Long Island Airports (NY) (Images of America) – Joshua Stoff

“Long Island is a natural airfield. The central area of Long Island’s Nassau County?known as the Hempstead Plains?is the only natural prairie east of the Allegheny Mountains. The island itself is ideally placed at the eastern edge of the United States, adjacent to its most populous city. In fact, nowhere else in America has so much aviation activity been confined to such a relatively small geographic area.” Some of which we already knew, and all of which makes this book relevant to any Pulp Campaign set in the US – or that even visits there. 128 pages, Kindle ($8.11) and paperback (27 used from $4.49, 26 New from $10.99).


669. Turbulent Skies: The History of Commercial Aviation (Sloan Technology)

This is a book more about the Aircraft and their makers than about the Airlines. That said, that is useful information for the Pulp Referee – but this book won’t supply all your needs. 1st Edition


670. Conquest of the Skies: A History of Commercial Aviation in America – Carl Solberg

Written from the customer point of view, which makes this a valuable resource. 441 pages, hardcover, 44 used copies from 1 cent, 13 new from $20, 8 collectible from $11.99.


671. From Airships to Airbus: The History of Civil and Commercial Aviation (Vol. 1: Infrastructure and Environment) – William M Leary

Between this volume and the next, this seems to be both authoritative and comprehensive. 256 pages, published by the Smithsonian. 21 used copies from 76 cents, 12 new from $20.97.


672. From Airships to Airbus: The History of Civil and Commercial Aviation (Vol. 2: Pioneers and Operations) – William F Trimble

Refer above. However there are only limited cheap copies available. 384 pages, 19 used copies from $1.58, 9 new from $28.97.


673. Sky as Frontier: Adventure, Aviation, and Empire (Centennial of Flight Series)

This seems more related to the social impact of aviation than about Aviation itself. But that is valuable in its own right.


674. Footsteps in the sky: An informal review of US Airlines in-flight service 1920s to the Present – Helen E McLaughlin

These days stewards and stewardesses are largely considered part of the furniture that comes with an airline, but when aviation was in its youth, this was almost as glamorous a profession as being a Hollywood star, and the standards, expectations, and lifestyles were unbelievable. This book was published in 1994 so take the “to the present” part of the title with a grain of salt. It is not only a comprehensive history of flight attendants, but of commercial aviation in general, and is strongly illustrated with photographs. 352 pages.


675. Long Island Aircraft Crashes: 1909-1959 (NY) (Images of America)

There were more aircraft manufacturers and airports located on Long Island than in any other part of the United States. Due to the extraordinarily high volume of air traffic, Long Island also led the country-if not the world-in aircraft crashes. As a result, it also led the world in the development of safety systems like air-traffic control systems, airport lighting, aviation weather reports, paved runways, and professional flight schools. This book not only captures images of some of the aviation disasters, but documents the evolution of safety as a result.


676. Transatlantic Flight: A Picture History, 1873–1939 – Joshua Stoff

The title is slightly misleading because there’s a lot more content in this book than it suggests. The author is the Air and Space Curator of the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, New York, and in these pages he chronicles all the drama of the international race to make transatlantic flight a reality with over 250 rare photographs, many previously unpublished. He traces a host of flight attempts, including a number made in lighter-than-air balloons and in huge “flying boats” developed by the Curtiss Company and the U.S. Navy.

Also documented here are Alcock and Brown’s difficult crossing from Newfoundland to Ireland in 1919, an around-the-world flight in 1924 by the U.S. Army’s “world cruisers” (which took five months, 22 days, and 72 stops!), Charles Lindbergh’s celebrated solo flight from New York to Paris in 1927, and Amelia Earhart’s ill-fated circumnavigation attempt in 1937.


677. Britain’s Imperial Air Routes 1918-1939 – Robin Higham

This remarkable book pictures the growth of British civil air transport from its inception in 1910 through to the formation of Imperial Airways in 1934 and then the beginnings of British Overseas Airways Corporation, better remembered by its initials, B.O,A.C. This is the birth of the aviation industry in Britain, a very different story to that of the US. Included in the book are comprehensive statistical appendices and a complete bibliography, and that last item is a major plus in our valuation. Hardcover, 384 pages, Kindle ($9.11) or Hardcover (9 used from $23.26, 22 New from $19.26.


678. Airways Abroad: The Story of American World Air Routes – Henry Ladd Smith

WWII created modern intercontinental aviation. Initially, this business was greeted with much of the wariness today’s World Trade Organization engenders. Anglo-American unity broke down over aviation even before the war was over. The negotiations required to resolve these conflicts, especially the famous Chicago Conference of November 1944, are detailed in some depth by University of Wisconsin lecturer in journalism Henry Ladd Smith in this 1950 book. But we’re more interested in the situation that these negotiations were intended to manage – an extrapolation of the world Pre-WWII – because that is going to be closer to the world of a Pulp Campaign.

355 pages. Hardcover: one used copy from $17 (we also found a signed first-edition copy being sold on e-bay). Paperback: 22 Used copies from $3.40, 5 new from $17.96.


679. Pilot’s Directions: The Transcontinental Airway and it’s History

This is a concise book on the origin and operation of the first transcontinental air route under Post Office auspices, based on a reprint of the instructions manual for air mail personnel. 16 pages, so very short. 6 new copies from $12.95; 17 used from $5.24; 1 collectible from $19.95.


680. SFO Museum Website, Aviation Museum & Library Collection

The page to which we have linked contains a high-resolution map (shown on the page at greatly reduced size) of the Pan American Airways clipper service across the Pacific with an indicator of Flight Time Required which has been useful on more than one occasion.


681. NickGrantAdventures dot com

The same Pan American Airways map, but we aren’t sure which has the better resolution, this version or the one linked to above. But we are including this link for the map below it, which was produced for an April 1936 article in Fortune Magazine on Pan American which is full of delightful anecdotes and trivia that makes great campaign color. “Pan Am bought the Alaskan airways chiefly for strategic purposes. To get mail contracts they had to bid against dog-sled owners.” But it also shows major connecting routes flown by other national airlines, and the thickness of the lines indicates the number of services a week, making this map absolutely loaded with valuable and hard-to-find information. Be prepared to lose a lot of time scrolling around examining it! As an absolute bonus, the page also has a map of the various pacific islands and who claimed them prior to WWII.


682. David Rumsey Map Collection

The page to which we have linked contains a zoomable high-resolution map of Imperial Airways air routes through Europe, the British Empire, and Across the US. You will need other maps to identify where some of the stops are.


683. Wikipedia

The Imperial Airway’s page at Wikipedia contains a link to a high-resolution 1935 map of the routes to Australia and South Africa.


684. Cool Old Photos

This site collects exactly what the name says. It’s a great place for photographic reference, though you can sometimes spend a long time looking for just what you want. Buried away on the site is the page we have linked to, where they provide two maps: one of US Air Mail routes across the US in the 1920s, and another from August of 1928.


685. Gizmodo / Pale Of Future: “What International Air Travel Was Like in the 1930s” by Matt Novak

This article provides lots of flavor text and photos, both of which will be of massive benefit the next time your players want to fly somewhere.


686. The Daily Mail Online

An article on the same subject (“Nervous flyers look away: What air travel was REALLY like in the 1930s when planes were so loud cabin crew needed megaphones and flights from the UK to Australia took 11 days” by Georgia Diebelius) from a British Newspaper’s online site, with many of the same photos – but in much larger sizes.


Books About Rocketry



687. Rocketship Galileo – Robert A Heinlein

If rockets are part of your game plan, there is only one reference that fits the bill. This is a science-fiction novel aimed at juveniles – but if you ignore the “nuclear power” aspects of the plot, and the unlikely plot device of the juvenile crew, the rest is very much an extrapolation of the experimental rockets of the era, and therefore is a model to be used for any rocket transportation in your game world. It even has Space…, no, mustn’t give away the plot twist. Suffice it to say that it’s a very pulp one.

Cheap copies:
More copies (Pictured):
Bundled with three other (enjoyable but not relevant) Heinlein novels:


Books About Naval Power

Additional resources may be found in the forthcoming “Crime, Police, and Militaria” shelf.


688. Hitler’s Naval War – Cajus Bekker

Describes the development of the German Navy up to and into World War II. Actual War period information predominates, unfortunately limiting it’s value to the Pulp GM interested in pre-war information.


689. The Metal Fighting Ship in the royal navy 1860- 1970 – E.H.H. Archibald

A wide ranging survey of every of every stage of development of the metal-hulled warship.


690. The Encyclopedia of the World’s Warships – Hugh Lyon & Consultant Captain J.E. Moore R.H.

In many respects not as useful as the Archibald volume as a general reference, but has (small) deck plans, comparative stats, specific ships of interest, and a listing by country. Great as an index of Wikipedia entries thanks to it’s listing of specific ships by ship class (and Model), eg the Kagero Class lists 18 named vessels, their fates, and when they met those destinies.

Available with two different covers, some at this link and some at this link Some new copies of this book come in at over $2000 bucks, but we haven’t linked to those!


691. Sea Power – a modern illustrated military history – Anthony Preston & Louis S. Casey, authors, & John Bachelor, illustrator

Especially valuable for the chapters on Submarines, useful reference for other subjects as well. Also covers foreign navies. Has more deck plans and some cross-sections.


692. Jane’s Fighting Ships

Any era-specific volume that has been reprinted. NB: sections dealing with the war years (from either World War) contain many inaccuracies. Aim for a volume from 1920-1935 – these are all around the $30-$60 mark. Exception: Jane’s Fighting Ships Of World War I, lots of reasonably-priced copies at this link and a few more at this link – so that’s what we’re recommending.


693. Tramp: Sagas of High Adventure in the Vanishing World of the Old Tramp Freighters – Michael J. Krieger

A lavishly-illustrated book with photographs and blueprints detailing tramp freighters from the turn of the century to the modern day. This was actually lent to us by the player whose PC owns and operates such a vessel in the Adventurer’s Club pulp campaign.

We did find one alternative that looked promising, but copies were too expensive. Look for it in the honorable mentions when that list gets published.


694. Gunboats of World War I – Angus Konstam

Detailed technical guide to the gunboats of all the major navies of the war. Many of these vessels would still be In service here and there in the Pulp Era, some converted to commercial purposes.


695. Naval Policy Between the Wars: The Period of Anglo-American Antagonism 1919-1929 – Stephen Roskill

The first of two volumes published in 1968 and 1976 respectively that in combination still constitute the only authoritative study of the geopolitical, economic, and strategic factors that shaped the Royal British Navy and the US Navy during the inter-war period. During the decade examined in the first part, the two navies are rivals and the governments antagonists, due to the aftereffects of the Armistice that ended the First World War, the struggle to prevent a new arms race, the rise of Japanese influence and power, and the attempts at peacekeeping through the fragile and ultimately doomed vessels of diplomacy and the League Of Nations. In particular, the transition from Empire to Commonwealth in Britain and the Isolationism and Empire-building of the US put the two on collision course politically even as both pursued peace through their own disparate methods. On top of that, you had the challenge to the authority of Battleships from air power, and the internal struggles of the US Military as the Navy struggled with the Army Air Corps (later the US Air Force) to obtain aviation assets for the fleet – a struggle that some say continues to this day, behind closed doors in appropriations committee-rooms. The 1920s may be ignored by most naval historians but clearly there was plenty going on.

672 pages, Paperback (7 used from $20.62, 26 New from $18.22) and one copy of the book in Hardcover costing $75. Published by the British Naval Institute Press just two days ago as this text is written (and almost sold out already), so there may be a reprinting at some near-future point, and British readers may find more copies available from local sources.


696. Naval Policy Between the Wars: The Period of Reluctant Rearmament, 1930-1939 – Stephen Roskill

The second volume of Roskill’s inter-war history is marked by increased commonality of interests between the two Navies and the governments of the day as exemplified by treaties such as Lend-Lease. 544 pages, Paperback; 9 used from $30.91 (beyond our standards), 20 new from $18.73. See comments above regarding publication/reprinting.


697. The Royal Navy, Seapower and Strategy Between The Wars – Christopher Bell

This book offers a counter-point to the two-volume official history by Roskill. Drawing on a range of unpublished sources, Bell challenges the accepted view that the intellectual shortcomings of Britain’s naval leaders resulted in poor strategic planning , instead pointing the finger at differing views between the British Navy and the civilian decision-makers regarding the role of sea-power in the post- Great War era. This book is essential for a GM to get the full picture. Strictly speaking, we should not list it; it violates both limits of price and availability, but it is too important a reference to ignore. 256 pages, 10 used copies from $39.95.


698. The Treaty Navy: The story of the US Naval Service Between the World Wars – James W Hammond Jnr

After three books from the British perspective, we could hardly ignore this book on the US position. Takes the position that the US Navy knew that war in the Pacific was coming and spent the inter-war period preparing to meet the challenge, “despite treaty limitations, pacifist opposition, a parsimonious Congress and public neglect”, a position with which we have several bones to pick; first, it smells very strongly of revisionism and prescient abilities on the part of Naval Commanders; second, it completely miscasts the isolationism that was the predominant political and social policy of the day; third, it seems to assume that money grew on trees during the great depression, or that the Navy should have been exempted from the belt-tightening that everyone else needed to accept in the period.

It is, perhaps, worth noting that the author is a post-war graduate of US Naval Academy, leading to suspicion that it might not be him reinventing history but the official naval “recollections” of the period. While in active service, he was editor and publisher of the Marine Corps Gazette, and after his service he edited another pro-Navy magazine. So there is a definite possibility of bias toward the official US Navy position in his interpretations and reporting.

Which does not mean that this book is without merit or value to the Pulp GM; even if it is judged inaccurate or distorted from a real-world perspective, it would be quite in keeping in the pulp era for it to be the foundation of the game version of the US Navy, and furthermore, it intersperses verifiable history, interpretation, and “sea stories” from the era. Furthermore, some of the content, such as the discussion of “Battleship Admirals” vs “Carrier Admirals”, can be characterized as insightful – rather than regarding the former as out-of-date fossils of a past era of Naval Strategy, Hammond suggests that the two were eying different strategic targets (Europe/Atlantic vs Japan/Pacific) and viewing the two classes of vessel from the perspective of being the most appropriate ones for dealing with the enemy on whom they were focused.

A potentially flawed book, then, but one that definitely has something to offer the Pulp GM that he can’t get elsewhere. Paperback, 294 pages, 15 used from $14.89, 20 new from $14.90, 1 collectible from $16.01.


699. Two-Block Fox: The Rise of the Aircraft Carrier, 1911-1929 – Charles M Melhorn

This book is published by the Naval Academy at Annapolis, so it clearly offers the Navy’s views on the subject. The inter-war period is often characterized as a confrontation between an old-guard wedded to their Battleships and a new generation who foresaw the dominance of the aircraft, and therefore of the delivery vehicle that conveyed those aircraft to the battlefield, the carrier. Quite clearly, the carrier won that particular battle and has been the dominant naval instrument of war ever since.

Oh, yes, the title: the term “Two-Block Fox” is believed by some to be a reference to the Foxtrot flag (red diamond on a white background, used to represent the letter F. On US Aircraft carriers, it meant “Flight Operations Underway”. When a carrier got ready to send off aircraft, the signal bridge would be told, “Two block Fox.” Immediately the fox flag would be sent to the yardarm which overhung the ship to provide a visual signal to tell nearby vessels that the carrier was launching aircraft. “Two-blocked” meant raised all the way, or run out to the end.

The alternative meaning is as a naval-service nickname for an aircraft carrier; a carrier is “two blocks in length and at sea using its 40 mile per hour speed, clouds, night, fog and other obscurations — well, the aircraft carrier is as hard to find as a fox.”

Our suspicion is that the first usage is the original meaning, and the use of the “Foxtrot” flag to signal flight operations led to the second usage.

Hardcover, 192 pages, 34 used copies from $5.71, 6 collectible from $15, new copies available but outside our price range.


700. The Rise and Fall of the Aircraft Carrier – Bernard Ireland

An account of the development of the aircraft carrier, from the early experiments and the first flush decked carrier ‘Argus’ in WW1, through to the major carrier to carrier battles of WW2 and subsequent post-WW2 developments, including details about the WW2 CAM ships, merchant conversions and escort carriers, etc. Numerous color and half tone photos, with additional maps and drawings.

We found the title provocative, but were unable to locate any reviews to shed light on the “Fall” of the carrier suggested therein. We certainly aren’t aware of any developments that have overtaken it, strategically, despite attempts by platforms such as the nuclear-powered submarine to do so. Ireland is a British retired naval engineer, editor of Jane’s and a writer on naval matters who has nearly thirty books to his credit. As independent authorities on the subject go, he is clearly amongst the best, so his opinions have weight.

Nevertheless, that’s nothing more than an intriguing side issue; the relevance of this book is in the early part of the history, and the many at-best semi-successful attempts that were made at a viable carrier design in the early post-war period. 168 pages, coffee-table sized hardcover; 30 used copies from $0.58, 2 collectible from $10.80. Published in London, so British readers may find additional copies through local sources.


Documentaries About Sea Power



701. The Ghosts Of The Mary Rose

This is a documentary about Henry VIII’s warship, the Mary Rose, which sank in battle in July 1545. The programme explores the possible causes for the ship sinking and features a computerized re-enactment of the disaster. But what makes it brilliant for Pulp GMs is that they examine ALL possible causes, and that makes this a useful primer on sunken ships (treasure-carrying or otherwise).

There are a handful of copies available through Amazon US for prices that range from the OK to the obscene

There are rather more copies at considerably better prices from Amazon UK;

…and there are less than a handful from Amazon Canada

However, both the US and Canadian copies are described as imports, without listing the region code. Unless you have a universal DVD player and a TV that can handle both NTSC and PAL formats, you need a plan B.

(Hot tip from Mike: it costs money to put region-coding into DVD players. The cheaper the model, the less likely it is to care where the DVDs come from. Before I bought my current previous DVR-DVD-Recorder/Player, I used a AUD$20 compact DVD player – about US$15 – that played ANY disk from ANYwhere).

In this case, Plan B is Youtube, at least as of this writing.


Books About Commercial Shipping & Passenger Vessels



702. The Golden Age of Shipping: The Classic Merchant Ship 1900-1960 – Robert Gardiner

The period covered by this book deals with the development of many specialized forms of merchant ship: the great transatlantic liners, the fast packets and simple tramp steamers, for example. These and many other types are described and analyzed in detail. The Golden Age of Shipping is the ninth in a series of twelve volumes intended to provide a detailed and comprehensive reference work, the essential first stop for anyone seeking information.


703. Great Passenger Ships 1930-1940 by William H. Miller

Describes the vessels, where they operated, and the economic fate that resulted, with internal and external details and photographs that help visualize the experience on board as either passengers or crew.


704. Great Passenger Ships 1920-1930 by William H. Miller

See comments above, most of these would still be in service.


705. Great Passenger Ships 1910-1920 by William H. Miller

See comments above, many of these would still be in service.


706. Workers on the Waterfront: Seamen, Longshoremen, and Unionism is the 1930s (Working Class in American History) – Bruce Nelson

A history of maritime workers, unionism and radicalism on the Pacific Coast, especially San Francisco. There are reviews that suggest that the perspectives of Longshoremen are inadequately represented, and that the text exhibits a bias towards the business owners, and several reviewers would like additional east-coast content. But even taking that potential bias into account, this could still be a useful reference to procedure and practice in a period port.

384 pages, hardcover 24 used from $0.01 and 7 new for $50+, paperback 30 used from $0.01, 14 new from $20.01


707. Floating Palaces: The Great Atlantic Liners – William H Miller

A maritime ‘arms race’ began in the mid-1890s to design and build the most luxurious and fastest ocean liners, each successive vessel trying to outdo the previous one in size and opulence. Everything on board was bespoke designed and custom-built from the cutlery to the paneling, from the china to the bedrooms, from the furniture to the boat-decks. In truth, ignoring the occasional undeclared armistice, you can argue that this arms race continues to this day, though the advent of air power has recast the ocean liner as a “cruise ship”, a mobile holiday destination in its own right. The great ocean liners were floating palaces, as this collection of images clearly demonstrates, showcasing the elegance of an unhurried time when “getting there was half the fun”.

128 pages, Kindle ($7.99) and Paperback (11 used from $14.00, 24 new from $11.44, 1 collectible at $24.95). Page size appears to be typical paperback but landscape orientation has been used.


708. Grand Luxe : The Transatlantic Style – John Malcolm Brinnin and Kenneth Gaulin

Another book of the same type on the same subject. Coffee-table size and 232 pages; unsurprisingly, it costs a little more, but you get more bang for your buck. Hardcover, 19 used from $6.29, 5 new from about $55.


709. Record Breakers of the North Atlantic: Blue Riband Liners 1838-1952 – Arnold Kludas

The author is the former director of the scientific library of the German Maritime Museum in Bremerhaven and has has published more than forty books on maritime history. He is considered one of, if not the, foremost authorities on the passenger liners of the North Atlantic. This 160-page book is more than 10 inches x 10 inches in size, and contains 50 color illustrations and 120 black-and-white photographs. The subtitle refers to the Blue Riband, a mythical trophy for the fastest transatlantic crossing, which fascinated the public during the pulp era and preceding decades and was a subject of interest for almost 200 years while never officially existing. The battle for this non-existent and strictly unofficial trophy was, however, very real, and five maritime nations (England, the US, Germany, Italy, and France) took up the challenge of producing the fastest ship on the high seas. This book traces the course of the contest, and the participants, from the early paddle steamers through to the luxury liners of the post-war period.

Paperback, 11 new from $9.22, 26 used from $0.01; hardcover 15 used from $17.98, 11 new from $39.95.


710. South Atlantic Seaway – N R P Bonsor

When it comes to passenger vessels, the South Atlantic is the forgotten corner of the world, at least in comparison to the Pacific (both North and South) and the North Atlantic, who between them, garner all the attention and glamor. This book redresses the balance by providing a comprehensive report on the passenger lines and the vessels that ply the seaways from Europe to Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina. 548 pages, hardcover; 20 used from $18.4, 8 new from $19.00.


Books About Trains

There have always been iconic professions that young children aspire to because of the romance attached to them. In the past, those have included pilot, and astronaut, and cowboy, fireman and policeman. And in the pulp era, another to be added to that list is train engine driver. In the 20s and 30s, these were the elite of the working class – for every one who achieved it, a thousand aspired to the position. Although the great age of railroading was in it’s final days, soon to be undone by the rise of air transport, this was the era when it was at its height. Before living standards rose to the point of almost every family having their own automobile in the 1950s, and before airfares became cheap enough and airliners large enough (developments that went hand-in-hand), rail was the only accessible form of mass transit for most people. This collection would have a gaping hole without books on trains, but finding books that focus specifically on the era is very hard.


711. Streamliners: Locomotives and trains in the Age of Speed and Style – Brian Soloman

In the 1930s the style was to streamline everything (whether it moved or not) and trains were no exceptions. This book details the historic and scientific context for the development of the streamlined trains that are iconic representations of the pulp era. Includes photographs, period advertising, ROUTE MAPS, and patent design drawings.


712. North American Railroads: The Illustrated Encyclopedia – Brian Soloman

Includes specifics for more than 300 railroads in North America with photographs, advertising, and histories. Presented by railroad so useful only if you know what you are looking for – but richly detailed if you do.


713. Streamlined Steam – Britain’s 1930s Luxury Expresses – A.J. Mullay

Does for England what the preceding book does for North America. We’ve linked to the first edition,, but if those run out there is a second edition as well (fewer copies, more expensive)


714. The Ultimate Europe Train Travel Guide – J Doyle White

This relates to modern travel more than period travel, but there is still a lot of great use to the Pulp GM in this volume – most of the book comprises details of every railway station in Europe from public transportation to privately-owned rail stations, but there is also a section on historic and scenic railways. Some of the tourist information is a little scanty, but as a starting point for further research this is excellent.

There are limited copies of “Volume 1”, but copies of “Volume 2” are relatively plentiful. However, we think these are actually different editions of the same book! – the covers are the same, some of the language used by Amazon is confused, and there is no evidence of a “Volume #” on the covers.


715. European Train Travel Tips – Mona MacDonald Tipping

While focused on modern train travel, some of the tips included in this book are relevant to an older era.


716. Train Wrecks: A pictorial history of Accidents on the Main Line – Robert C. Reed

While this volume focuses on the era just preceding most Pulp Campaigns and back into the late 19th Century, and on the US, the pulp plot potentials keep this book relevant.


717. Flying Scotsman: The Most Famous Steam Locomotive in the World – James S Baldwin

The Flying Scotsman may not be the most famous train in the world, the Orient Express could certainly dispute that claim to fame, but in the very late 1920s and through the 1930s, it was undoubtedly true. This book tells the whole story of the iconic train from its creation, through to the speed record of 1928 (the first train to achieve 100 miles per hour), its subsequent service, near-scrapping, rescue, and restoration. 120 pages, 9 used from $7.36 and 22 new from $8.62.


718. Flying Scotsman: LNER Class A3 Pacific 4472, 1923 onwards (Owners’ Workshop Manual) – Philip Atkins

What’s involved in maintaining, operating and restoring the iconic train. This is highly detailed manual, based around 4472’s recent overhaul and subsequent return to main-line operation, also looks in detail at every aspect of its engineering and construction, and serves as a prototype for the maintenance and operation of railroad engines and carriages in general.


719. TossnyBlog (in Japanese)

The post to which we have linked has a high-resolution map of the track layout at New York’s Grand Central Station.


Books About Trade

We aren’t recommending any books in this category as specifically relevant because we haven’t found an interesting or comprehensive one yet. In fact, we couldn’t find any books on trade in the 1930s! The books listed below are general histories of trade that will at least provide a foundation, plus a couple of books on specific commodities of note in the pulp era. Beyond that, we recommend using the internet (especially Wikipedia) by commodity for specifics of trade in the period in that resource.

There may be additional recommendations relating to this topic in the treasure section of the “Things” shelf and the forthcoming “Everyday Life” shelf.


720. A Splendid Exchange: How Trade Shaped The World – William J Bernstein

A comprehensive narrative history of world trade, starting with Mesopotamia in the year 3000 BC and running all the way through to the debate over globalization today. One reviewer felt that the author had let subjective opinion unbalance the book, leading to (for example) underplaying the Mongol conquests relative to the depredations of the Portuguese who are repeatedly demonized, even characterized as the “most brutal trading nation” of their era. Most, however, laud the book as extremely readable and of top quality.

Paperback, 496 pages, 54 new from $5.90, 69 used from $0.01.


721. The World That Trade Created: Society, Culture, and the World Economy 1400 to the Present (2nd Ed) – Steven Topik and Kenneth Pomeranz

“Why are railroad tracks separated by the same four feet, eight inches as ancient Roman roads? How did 19th-century Europeans turn mountains of bird excrement from Peru into mountains of gold? Where has most of the world’s oil come from in the 20th century?”

This book presents a series of brief, highly readable 2-4 page vignettes that bring to life the complex world of international trade and its principals – migrants and merchants, pirates and privateers, sailors and slaves, traders and tree-tappers. Importantly, the focus is less euro-centric than most such books, with several chapters devoted to the Far East and South America. However, the author’s cynicism and disapproval of European colonial expansion is a recurring theme that some reviewers find objectionable.

This doesn’t attempt to be a comprehensive work on the subject; its focus is on anecdotes that are accessible to the lay reader. That makes the contents directly valuable to the pulp GM who can turn those anecdotes into the foundations or settings of adventures.

Paperback, 304 pages, 18 new from $14.88, 89 used from $0.01.

There is also a (more recent) third edition at completely ridiculous prices.


722. Food In History – Reay Tannahill

Food is one of the most commonly-traded commodities, and trade in foodstuffs has influenced the course of great nations and mighty empires for all of recorded history and probably longer. Occasionally sparkling with wit, this is an overview of the role played by food in human history, complimented by anecdotal excursions, such as the role played by Cinnamon in the discovery of America and how food has influenced population growth and urban expansion.

It is the latter that is most directly pertinent to the pulp era; this was the time in which industrial refrigeration began, revolutionizing the preservation of foodstuffs, permitting a vast increase in the gastronomic sophistication of cities all over the world and an urban concentration of population that would have been impossible previously for reasons of brutal logistics.

There are more comprehensive books on the subject, but this seems better-suited to the needs of a pulp GM.
Paperback, 448 pages, 44 new from $9.06, 130 used from $0.01. There are also a limited number of copies with library-reinforced binding, but these cost more than our limits.


723. The Devil’s Milk: A Social History of Rubber – John Tully

Rubber is one of the wonder-materials that is responsible for the industrial revolution and the modern world, and that has fueled an insatiable demand that resulted in seemingly endless exploitation, conquest, slavery, and all the other worst traits of humanity coming to the fore. Mike has seen suggestions that the primary objective of the Japanese in World War II was control over the world’s rubber supply, and while that might be an exaggeration, it isn’t beyond the reach of plausibility. Kindle ($12.55) and Paperback, 416 pages, 18 used from $19.96 and 22 New from $23.92. There is also a hardcover edition, but copies in that format command high prices.


724. Mine to Mill: History of the Great Lakes Iron Trade from the Iron Ranges to Sault Ste. Marie – Phillip J Stager

The history of the iron ore trade on the Great Lakes, from 1900 to 1980, in visual form courtesy of photographs and reproduced picture postcards.

Contains nearly 300 views of the mines, railroads, loading docks, and ships of the Great Lakes. 128 pages, Hardcover, 11.6 x 8.7 inches, 14 used from $10.91 and 29 new from $20.61.


(597 repeat): Metal Prices in the United States through 1998 – US Geological Survey (US Department Of The Interior)

This link appeared on the previous shelf, but we had to include it a second time around. You’ll see why if you compare the two entries.

This is an invaluable *free* PDF which you can download from this link. The prices quoted are all in 1998 dollars, but there are a number of websites that will handle a conversion to 1920s or 193x currency for you, like this one, or this alternative. There is also an updated version that is available as a website and a spreadsheet and runs through to 2010:

We usually simply divide by 10 to get a close-enough number, but bear in mind that in the Adventurer’s Club world, the Great Depression was neither as deep nor as protracted as it was in real history. Game-mid-1930s is thus more like real-1940 in terms of market recovery.

Mike mentioned this PDF in an example in his article at Campaign Mastery, Lightning Research: Maximum Answers in Minimum Time, but didn’t include a link, saving that for this article/series. He also described how he and Blair use the information in another article, Oddities Of Values: Recalculating the price of valuables, which readers may find worth referencing.


Books About Cars & related Road Vehicles

All the books that we originally shortlisted to recommend are too limited in available copies to make the list. But we needed something for this category, and so have searched out books that seem promising but which have not been personally reviewed. There will be a list of books that failed to make the cut for one reason or another in the final part of the series; you may want to chase down one of the few copies of one of our preferred recommendations.

Some trivia that will be of value to GMs of pulp-era games: Tires weren’t black until 1912, when carbon was added to them for the first time. These were narrow-rims that visually remind viewers more of bicycle tires, and even into the early pulp period, tires were only a couple of inches across the face of the tread and relatively rounded in profile. By the 1930s, that had changed and tires were three or four inches wide – a fairly modern width – offering vastly greater contact with the road surface. There’s a heavy reliance on photographic resources in this section for good reason, and one of the first things that we always look at are the tyres. Handling, top speed, the likelihood of breaking a rim in rough terrain, and the all-important flavor text of what the vehicle felt like to ride in, all can be surmised based on this one factor alone.



725. Automobile Magazine’s A-Z of Cars of the 1920s – Nick Baldwin

British-built cars from the 1920s and a chapter on American-made imports of the period. Each entry has a good quality photograph and a bare-bones description with very limited information. There are more copies available than the ones we have linked to but they are up to $886 a copy. There aren’t really enough copies of this to list, either, but books on cars of the 20s are relatively hard to find. Even if the cover does look like one of those auto-trader sell-it-yourself magazines.

Hardcover 224 pages, only 13 copies available starting at $16.94 used.


726. A-Z of Cars of the 1930s – Michael Sedgewick and Mark Gillies

The title should read “A-Z of British Cars of the 1930s”, just like the previous listing. If that’s what you’re looking for, excellent – but there are only 10 copies available through Amazon at reasonable prices. This is allegedly the most comprehensive work of its kind, and that’s the only reason we’ve made an exception to our usual standards and listed it. Paperback, 216 pages, from $10.65 used.


727. Anglo-American Cars: From the 1930s to the 1970s (Those were the days…) – Norman Mort

Has a whole 16 pages on Cars of the 1930s. Nice photos, histories, original adverts – but short on technical detail, and nothing from the 1920s. Though it’s not the only book on this list to fail in that respect. At least there are a reasonable number of copies available at reasonable prices. Although the page count of 96 pages puts the price-tag (copies start from $3.34 used) into a new perspective. There are even a few new copies within our price range!


728. Vintage Cars: Motoring In The 1920s – Cyril Posthumous

This is one of the few reference book on 1920s vehicles as they were that we could locate. It is available in sufficient quantities at less than our threshold price but is more concerned with the history than with individual models and makers. Information may be hard to extract. Furthermore, coverage of American vehicles may be limited as Hamlyn is a British Publisher.


729. Concept Cars: From the 1930s to the Present – Larry Edsall

At first we were going to lose this from the list because it seems more about prototypes and more modern vehicles than the Pulp era, but then we thought, if anyone is likely to be running around in something that could be described as experimental, it’s a pulp character (hero or villain)…

Hardcover, 220 pages, 78 used copies starting at 1 cent, 17 new copies starting at $18.98.


730. American Road: The Story of an Epic Transcontinental Journey at the Dawn of the Motor Age – Pete Davies

On July 7, 1919, a cavalcade of sixty-nine military motor vehicles set off from the White House on an epic journey. Their goal was California, and ahead of them lay 3,250 miles of mud and rock. Sixty-two days later they arrived in San Francisco, having averaged just five miles an hour.

The purpose of this incredible expedition, carried out at government instigation, was to crystallize the need for good roads. En route to their destination, trucks foundered in mud, crashed through wooden bridges, and got beaten to pieces on byways barely better than trails. Modern motorists will be surprised to learn just how bad things were back then, but the story behind the undertaking is equally interesting. Automobile and tire manufacturers, who stood to gain if newly car-crazy citizens had smooth roads to travel, managed to drive the government their way; the grueling journey captured the American imagination and spurred road building to a fervor only interrupted by World War II.

228 pages, hardcover (22 New from $6.82, 5 collectible from $9.85, 52 used from $0.01) or paperback (9 New from $20.99, 2 collectible from $9.85, 25 used from $0.01).


731. Car Country: An Environmental History (Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books) – Christopher W Wells

The United States is Car Country, according to the author; a nation dominated by landscapes that are difficult, inconvenient, and often unsafe to navigate except when sitting behind the wheel of a car. “The prevalence of car-dependent landscapes seems perfectly natural to us today, but it is, in fact, a relatively new historical development. In Car Country, Wells rejects the idea that the nation’s automotive status quo can be explained as a simple byproduct of an ardent love affair with the automobile. Instead, he takes readers on a tour of the evolving American landscape, charting the ways that transportation policies and land-use practices have combined to reshape nearly every element of the built environment around the easy movement of automobiles.” The foundations for the modern automotive-friendly landscape were laid during the pulp era, as the preceding recommendation makes clear. If “American Road” asks the question, this is the story of the answers that were found, showing how the landscape made the dominance of the automobile in American society an inevitability, and how the car reshaped that landscape.

There is a book that will be listed in the honorable mentions section that we would love to have included as “the other half of the story” immediately after this book. Entitled “Drive On!”, it is the story of how the car evolved in response to the demands being placed on it by society. But while there are enough copies to justify inclusion, they are so far outside the range of acceptable pricing that it simply wasn’t feasible.

Kindle $23.34, Paperback, 464 pages, 18 used from $13.74, 32 new from $14.87, Hardcover 25 used from $17.34 and 22 new from $54.19.


732. Great Car Craze: How Southern California Collided With the Automobile in the 1920s – Ashleigh Brilliant

“With keen perception, serious scholarship and wry amusement, Ashleigh Brilliant, not only a famous epigrammatist but also an accomplished historian, recounts the profound social effects of our mass conversion to the automobile age in the 1920s.” Hardcover, 208 pages, 17 used from $9.03, 5 New from $19.95, 4 Collectible from $11.25.


733. The Car: The History of the Automobile – Jonathan Glancey

There are lost of histories of the car. We’ve chosen two that seemed to offer all the choice necessary – this 256-page overview, which purports to be comprehensive but doesn’t have room to even come close to it, and the alternative listed below.

Hardcover: 19 used from $7.19, 10 new and 1 collectible at too-much or more.

Paperback: 15 used from $6.77, 25 new from $6.78.


734. The Life of the Automobile: The Complete History of the Motor Car – Steven Parissien

At 448 pages, this comes closer to being able to accommodate “comprehensive”, in our opinion, and claims nothing less in its cover text. In fact, it’s still limited to a very America-centric perspective; don’t expect to see much on anything not sold there. Don’t look for the Tatra 11 (a Czech car) or the ZIL-41047 (Russian), for example.

We came close to pulling it out of the list, however, because there are reports that it is riddled with inaccuracies. Reviewer J Fuzz offered a list of examples that had him wondering if anything the book said could or should be trusted:

  • “He says that GM divested itself of the Dodge brand. Neat trick, considering they never owned it.
  • “The Pontiac GTO was introduced in 1962. Sorry, it came out in 1964.
  • “The Datsun 240Z was introduced with the 510 4-cylinder engine. Not right. It was a straight-6.
  • “The Prius came out in 2004. No, it was introduced worldwide in 2000.
  • “Mercedes sport brand is it’s AMF division. AMF IS a sport brand, but only for bowling. Mercedes sport brand is AMG.”

We still think that, provided that due diligence is observed, this could be a useful resource – but with its obvious limitations and flaws, it hardly has our unqualified support, and the price we would be willing to pay certainly deteriorated in light of these reviews. Fortunately, copies are both plentiful and cheap – Kindle: $4.82, Hardcover: 31 used from $2.99, 37 new from $4.99.


735. Cars: The Early Years (Illustrated edition) – Brian Laban with illustrations by Alex Linghorn and Ali Khoja

A book that you buy for the photos. Printed on high quality paper and with good binding. The phrase “The Early Years” is a bit of a misnomer, as the book’s contents range through to the 1950s. Hardcover, 236 pages, 27 used from $2.63, 8 new from $8.21, 3 Collectible from $19.99.


736. Cars: The Early Years – Brian Laban

Seemingly the same book as above, with a different cover, and no mention of the illustrators. Instead, this edition is 352 pages in length. 21 used copies from $3.98 and 17 new from $10.07. Make your own choice but we would probably pick this one, assuming that the greater page count permits greater content; the 120-or-so extra pages seem worth the extra $1.40 or so!


737. The Art of the Automobile: The 100 Greatest Cars – Dennis Adler

The author has taken his own photos of his 100 chosen “best of” for this collection of cars beautiful enough to be (in his eyes) considered works of art. In fact, there are multiple photos for each car, including pictures of the mechanical parts that distinguish them, and that’s a distinction that, in turn, distinguishes this book from the others of the type. Several of which we have also recommended. 256 pages, 12” x 9”, Hardcover; 62 used from $4.31, 39 new from $19.85, 2 Collectible from $20.00.


738. Motor Cars of the 1930s (Shire Library) – Ian Dussek

We had high hopes when we saw this listed in our search results. It is, after all, right on point, and quite affordably-priced, even if there aren’t quite enough copies to meet our usual standards. There’s no real product description, but given how obviously pertinent it was, even that would not have put us off. Then we noticed the page count: 32 pages. Decide for yourself if it’s worth it, we were immediately torn.

Paperback, 10 used from $12.11, 8 new from $3.05.


739. Just 30s – Angelo Van Boggart

This is more like what we expected the preceding book to be like, but we were more than a little put off by the collage-style cover which makes it look like a cheaply-produced mass-market magazine. Nevertheless, the details are all good – 144 pages, written by the publisher of Old Cars Weekly and the Price Guide, and a list of the innovations which appeared in the course of the decade (most of which would go on to become standard fittings (pneumatic tires, hydraulic brakes) and default industry practices, like the annual “facelift” to the designs. Paperback, 18 used copies from $0.14, 11 new from $6.75.


740. American Trucks of the Early Thirties (Olyslager Auto Library) – edited by Bart H Vanderveen

Amazon lists this as selling in the Children’s books category; the fact is that we know next to nothing more than what we’ve already told you about this book. Quite clearly it’s period-relevant. We can also state that finding photographs of period trucks is a LOT harder than photographs of period cars. So we’re inclined to give this book the benefit of the doubt, even in the face of the dearth of information. 64 pages, 18 used from $0.01, 5 new from $58.64.


741. American Trucks of the Late Thirties (Olyslager Auto Library) – edited by Bart H Vanderveen

The obvious companion volume to the previous listing. Again, Hardcover, 64 pages in length. 23 Used copies from $1.58, 1 Collectible from $29.00 and 5 New from $64.

To put those page lengths in perspective: contemplate the combined price as though you were buying a single book of 128 pages. $1.59? Sounds fair enough. $122 New? Not gonna happen. Somewhere in between is the squeeze point, at which a ready ‘yes’ becomes a firm ‘no way’. We think it’s in the $6-10 range, but your opinion might vary.

Bonus Content by Mike: “Are We There Yet?” –
How Mike & Blair determine travel times on pulp-era roads

Travel times are a three-stage process. The first is average speed (not peak speed), and the second is distance. Combine the two in the third stage and you get travel time.


Stage One: Average Speed

As an avid follower of Formula One and Top Gear, I’m well aware that straight-line top speeds haven’t increased that much over the last couple of decades. The same isn’t true of road cars, which are far less controlled in their specifications, but even so, the greatest improvements have been in road-holding and handling. Even in the pre-war 1930s, Formula 1 cars could hit 200 mph in a straight-line. Not too long ago, a Bugatti Vaeron set a new record of 267mph, something that I understand has since been beaten by a small amount. Regardless, let’s say 70mph increase between 1938 and 2016 (an interval of 78 years) – that’s a smidgen less than 1mph per year, average.

In truth, there was a lot of increase in the 20 years after the war, and then things seemed to bottom out for a long time, and only in the last ten years or so have has the upward trend been resumed. On that basis, we have set a baseline of +3 mph every 2 years for standard road cars (sports cars and weird science specials are something else again), and a baseline of 50mph average on good roads in 1940. Both rather fuzzy assumptions, but they work well enough. This compares well with modern averages – and these days you can assume that roads are 1930s-“good” quality everywhere, sometimes better.

Over dirt roads, the period average is halved – which is a big improvement over the average recorded just two years earlier in the story described in American Road (listed above for your consideration).

Both types of roads are then subclassified into three conditions: Good, Okay, and Poor. Each step down the order subtracts 5 mph from the average speed. Rain or adverse conditions subtracts up to another 6 mph, usually 3 (it’s easy to roll a d6 for how bad conditions are). Mountainous terrain with its hills and multiplicity of curves and bends subtracts another 5.

The combination tells us what the average speeds are depending on the road type and quality.

If you get a speed of 0, obviously, you are going nowhere. If you get a speed of less than zero, the GM can inflict a problem appropriate to the situation – the car may get bogged, or throw a tyre. PCs can go faster than these speeds by making a driving roll; each point by which they succeed lets them travel under control at an average 1 mph faster. However, the player has to specify his speed and then roll to keep control, and the GMs can ask for another roll any time they deem it warranted, and can also impose penalties to the roll if that seems appropriate – an icy patch or oil slick or whatever.

Another consideration is the year of manufacture of the vehicle. A car or motorcycle from 1924 is not going to be as good in 1930 as a car built in 1930. A simple rule of thumb is to average the two to get road conditions and vehicle capability – so the example would yield 1927, which on the table would be rounded up to 1928 capabilities.

The tables spell out the basic speeds according to the above rules. Click on the tables to download a version more suitable for printing.

Stage Two: Distance

This used to be so easy using Google Maps. You told it the start point and the end point, and it plotted a route. We made the basic assumption that unless it clearly paralleled an existing set of roads, highways and freeways and what have you from the modern era were all present back then. Then it was just a matter of allocating road conditions to each section of the trip. Our whole methodology was based on this technology.

Well, it’s not there anymore. Google have changed maps – for the worse in many ways, at least for our purposes. Maps don’t even fill the entire screen any more, and there’s no longer a scale provided. As a result, it’s been necessary to evolve a workaround that’s a lot more complicated and fiddly.

In order to explain it clearly, I need to demonstrate it, and that requires an example. I decided to use one from a real adventure – Driving from New York City to New Orleans, just because it was the last one that we did the “old” way, which took about 15 minutes. The amount of work now involved will enable a direct comparison with the old technique.

Step one: Screen Grabs

We start by grabbing as many screen grabs as we think we need to show the whole route at a large enough zoom that we can see major and minor cities. We aren’t worried about small towns.

In this case, that was seven – and there should have been an eighth, as you’ll see. Each one then has to get cropped and compiled into one large image. It took about 5 minutes, two of which were spent getting the right zoom level and finding the starting point.

Step Two: Overlay Grabs

Since each of the seven grabs is on a separate layer, and my software lets me control the opacity of each individually, it’s easy to stitch them together into one larger map.

As you can see, I should have grabbed the upper part of the Florida peninsula as well; the map looks strange without it.

One of the good things about the new Google Maps is that – so long as you don’t change the zoom level – place names and state names don’t move as you pan around. That makes it easy to produce a seamless map. This took another 5 minutes.

Step Three: Duplicate layer and merge mode

The colors of the map aren’t distinct enough for me to be able to manipulate it as easily as I would like in subsequent steps, so the third step is to duplicate the merged layer of map pieces twice. I sharpen one of them, and apply a brightness/contrast adjustment to both duplicates that makes the dark colors darker and the light colors a lighter. I then set both layers to a merge mode of multiply and play around with the opacity levels until I’m satisfied with the result. The image above is the result in this case – duplicate layer one was 100% opaque, duplicate layer one was 30% opaque. This is fairly typical, though I may need to lower the second one to 20% to hide jpg imperfections resulting from the sharpening.

The results dramatically improve the legibility of the map when printed on a black-and-white laser printer, or when being displayed on a laptop at a distance from a player.

This took less than a minute because I’m very familiar with the technique; the first few times, it took a LOT longer.

Step Four: Select Route(s)

With the new, darker colors for the roads, it’s easy to do a “select all of a certain color” using the standard settings and be confident of (a) getting all the road that I want, and (b) getting nothing else. I can then zoom into the map and using a colored paintbrush on a new layer, mark out the route to be followed. In this case, there were two obvious alternatives, so I did the first in Red and the second in purple where it diverged from the first.

To make them stand out a little more, given that I was going to be reducing the images a LOT in size (to about 12% of the actual size I was working at) I’ve faded those multiplying layers somewhat. This took about 5 minutes.

Step Five: Mark the Good and Road Zone

We decided a long time ago that the northeastern states all have good condition main roads. This is where the money is, this is where the manufacturing is, this is where the demand for cars would be greatest, and hence, where the demand for good roads would be greatest.

We call this the “good road zone” and it’s quick and easy to draw in and fill an overlay to indicate it on a new layer. In general, we aren’t worried about the shape of it, just where we think it will cut across our routes. We generally use the density of modern roads as an indicator.

This takes only a few seconds. Call it half a minute, to be on the safe side.

Step Six: A measuring Stick

From looking at another map – one with a scale – we know that Philadelphia is roughly 100 miles from New York City. So that’s our rough-and-ready measuring stick. I draw a straight line on yet another new layer between the two, and then a vertical and horizontal line from the end points to form a triangle.

In this image, I’ve turned off the routes layer and cropped a copy of the working image to illustrate the process, so this shows the actual size of the image that I was working on without shrinking it at all.

This takes much less than half a minute.

Step Seven: A colored dot

The next thing I do is create a filled circle in an appropriate color on another new layer. Then I resize and reposition it until the edges JUST cover the New York to Philadelphia line. I will generally get to within a few percent of the right size if I start my circle at the right angle of the triangle and draw out at a right angle to the hypotenuse until I reach the “measuring stick”; the closer to 45 degrees the hypotenuse is, the more accurate this guesstimate method becomes.

The result is a transparent dot that is roughly 100 miles in diameter.

I will then surround it with a border to make it a little easier to spot, creating that on another layer, reducing the opacity of the dot, and then merging the two layers.

All this takes only about half a minute.

Step Eight: Okay Road Zones around the major cities

We have arbitrarily decided that the major cities would all be surrounded with okay-quality roads for a radius of 50 miles. We use the size of the city name font as our guide. In this case, we decided that Atlanta and Charlotte looked big enough on the map to qualify. So I duplicated the circle and centered one around each of these centers. (Note that other places may have been large enough but weren’t on our routes).

This shows the whole map, plus – in an inset – a zoomed crop. Also, obviously, I’ve turned the route back on, so you can see how prominently it shows up against the main Good road zone.

Also, quite obviously, there’s no need for any inside the main “good zone”.

Another half-minute, maybe longer if there are more major cities.

Step Nine: Okay road zones around minor cities

I take a duplicate of one of the dots and shrink it 50% to get one that’s about 50 miles in diameter. I then position and duplicate this as necessary until every minor city on the route outside the good zone.

As a general rule of thumb, we assume that any road major enough to show up at this zoom scale and east of the Mississippi and north of the Gulf is Of Mexico is going to be a sealed road, no matter how badly constructed. That means that none of these roads are going to be dirt roads. Farther west, until you reach the far side of the rockies, you can’t make any such assumption. California is considered a mix of good paved major roads and okay-or-worse dirt minor roads, not from any personal knowledge, but because it seems right.

This took another couple of minutes. If there had been additional time spent on more major cities, it would have reduced the time in this step, so the total would have been more or less the same.

Step Ten: Adding an Okay-Zone “Fringe” to the main “Good Road Zone”

Departing the “Good Road Zone” shouldn’t by like flipping a switch. There should be some fuzziness – but because you’re only concerned with one or two routes, this can be fairly rough and ready.

I duplicated one of the minor city zones, color-shifted it to a reddish-purple (because it stood out) and then duplicated it a bunch of times. I then placed these around the edge of the “good road zone” and – on a new layer – draw a rough “Okay zone” from edge to edge, then filled it.

I would normally then turn off the markers, or – more accurately – reposition them in step eleven, but I have left them in place and visible so that you can see the technique. Time: another two minutes.

Step Eleven: A rough mountainous zone

We have a rough idea where the mountainous regions are in the US. With that knowledge as a guide, I surrounded the national parks with more marker rings (reusing the ones from step 10 and adding more as necessary), then once again drew a rough shape around their perimeters. I selected the interior and filled it in to show mountainous road zones. I then shrank that selection by about 4/5ths of the width of one of the marker circles in pixels and applied a second “coating” of the fill to make it darker.

This gives me a “dirt road zone” and a paved mountain road zone surrounding it. Not that I would expect to need it on this particular road trip, but you should always make allowances for the PCs going off-track or taking a wrong turn.

Once again, I’ve left the marker circles in place so that you can see the technique as well as the result. This took about 5 minutes. Using the old Google, it would have been a snap to turn on satellite view for a second or two to do the same thing with far greater accuracy.

Step Twelve: Add a scale

I drew a black rectangle on a new layer and duplicated it. I filled one with black and one with white, lined them up, and merged them together, then duplicated that a few times until I had a scale. I added some text to give meaning to the scale.

Turning everything on that should show up and everything off that shouldn’t produces the finished map:

It took about three minutes to make this scale in a new layer using one of the large “okay zones” as a guide, and another 30 seconds to position it. I notice that I missed something though – the Charlotte good-roads zone is not visible. No matter; I know that the purple OK zone is 50 miles wide, I can see that Charlotte is right on the edge of it, and that it’s about as far again to the next OK zone – so the entire purple road to the edge of the overlapping OK zones is actually a good road, it’s just not shown as that.

It’s also worth noting that we would have produced a small-scale overall map about twice the size of the one above but kept the working map full-sized – so that towns and states can be read clearly.

Total time to replace what we used to do in less than a minute: about 29-and-a-half minutes.

Stage Three: Combining

For stage three, we make a list of all the changes of zone or road quality in the order they take place, and use the scale to roughly estimate the length of each – to the nearest ten or twenty miles, greater accuracy isn’t needed.

We then look at each and decide “does anything happen here?” We will also deal with what the weather is going to be.

Because we don’t know how fast the PCs will choose to drive, we can’t do much more. But when the time comes, we can use the tables, and the PCs desire to risk speed, to calculate the travel time for each leg in just a second or so. The PCs can then inform us if they are stopping somewhere for lunch or coffee or whatever.

As it happened on the day, the PCs made a wrong turn in Atlanta and cut across the mountains, where they had an encounter with old-school moonshiners who didn’t seem to have gotten the message that prohibition had been repealed. There was some fun and games and some Dukes Of Hazzard action. Eventually, though, they reached their destination, taking it in turns behind the wheels of their two vehicles.

Okay, back to the reviews and recommendations!


Books About Motorcycles

Most books aren’t available in enough copies to make our list; our standards have had to be compromised so that we had something to offer.



742. Motor Cycling: A History of the Early Motorcycle – John H. Wyatt

There is a growing publishing sub-industry in reprinting old books that are now out of copyright at minimal prices and with generic covers. This is another of the products of that sub-industry, reprinting a book originally published in 1925. The paperback edition to which we have linked has a plain red cover; we’re showing the more visually-attractive faux-textured hardcover.

The book itself is a detailed guide, packed with photos and diagrams, and is as much a how-to guide as a history, with chapters such as “Reliability of Magnetos”, “Accessories, Spares and Tools”, “Driving and Up Keep: Starting the Engine, Gear Changing, etc”, and “Troubles on the Road: Refusal to Start, Choked Petrol Pipe or Jet etc”. This makes it invaluable for the pulp GM who wants to replicate the real-life difficulties that might be encountered by a PC using such a vehicle!

148 pages, Kindle $6.44 (but most Kindle editions are without the photos and diagrams, be warned), Paperback 8 used copies from $25.43 and 19 new from $15.98. The prices of hardcover copies are in the $37+ range.


743. Great British Motorcycles of the 1930s – Bob Currie

While British cars were not as successful as American ones for many years (except in the luxury department) the same cannot be said of British motorcycles. This a slightly-small coffee-table sized book, few details provided. 144 pages, 10 used copies from $3.40, 8 new from $22.28.


744. British Motorcycles Of The 30s – Roy Bacon

Again, not much in the way of details, and the majority of what is known comes from a reader’s review: “Written by a true authority on the subject, but no pictures of many important models. Packed with information for the vintage Brit bike enthusiast. A few annoying typos…” Hardcover, no page count, 15 used copies from $0.76, 5 new from $84.95. There is also another hardcover edition with prices in the hundreds of US dollars.


Books About Tanks & other armored vehicles



745. Tanks Of The World 1915-1945 – Peter Chamberlain & Chris Ellis

Extensive coverage, detailed information, includes experimental models and prototypes. Each vehicle has notes on design, production, and performance. While there is a volume in the honorable mentions that would be our first choice, availability leaves this as our first practical choice.


746. Tanks and other AFVs of the Blitzkrieg Era 1939-1941 – B T White

Although it isn’t obvious, there is a lot of technical info in the back, after the mass of lovely color pictures. There is a second volume covering 1942-1945 but that is much less useful for a Pulp Campaign.

There are some copies of the 39-41 volume available at this link and more at this one


747. Bulletproof A History of Armored Cars and the colorful characters who Ran Them, Rode Them, and sometimes Robbed Them – James L. Dunbar and Robert Grant Kingwell

There are mixed reviews of this book (of which none of the authors of this article have personal experience) at Amazon, but it is the only work that we could find on the subject in general, and is cheap enough that GMs can probably afford to take a chance on. The title sounds incredibly on-target for a pulp resource, and that’s all that we’ve got (since the two reviews contradict each other so comprehensively that we can’t trust either of them).


748. Early Armoured Cars (Shire Library) – E Bartholomew

We’ve reviewed another book from Shire Library (Motor Cars of the 1930s) above. Virtually every word of that review applies to this book as well. But we can state as fact that images and details of early armored cars are even harder to come across than images of ordinary trucks, and beggars can’t be choosers. 64 pages, 16 used copies from $4.45, 9 new copies from $11.00.



Afterword by Mike:

The most important question for a GM to be able to answer, when it comes to pulp vehicles, is, “Are we there yet?” Knowing how long it takes to get from A to B – and allowing for transit times when developing plots – is one of the most important characteristics of any vehicle in the era. And, just because it wouldn’t work or wouldn’t be practical in the real world is no reason for it not to exist in a pulp environment.

Once that critical consideration is dealt with, there are a host of subsidiary possibilities and traits to consider.

For the adventurer’s club campaign, we once came up with an aircraft that ran ballast along guy wires to change the center of gravity, obtaining a tighter turning circle and greater acrobatic maneuverability than any real-world aircraft then in existence (typically, of course, we had a PC test-pilot the thing while hunting for someone who was sabotaging the project). Never neglect the potential of a vehicle to serve as a location for adventure.

Pulp vehicles should be faster, stronger, tougher – or more sumptuous, or more decrepit. They will always be more dangerous. As with so many things Pulp, “More” is the operative adjective all things should have in common.


Next: The 8th shelf: Civilian Life!

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