ERLE STANLEY GARDNER – The Face Lifter. Kayo Macray #1 (?). “Complete novel.” All Detective Magazine, June 1934. Collected in Silent Death (Pulpville Press, trade paperback, March 2013).

   I have discovered no evidence that personal body trainer Kayo Macray ever appeared in any other story but this one. This is so even though there is a hint of a case of services rendered to someone in need, one with a happy ending, that occurred before this one. When he’s asked by a current client who’s worried about what kind of jam her daughter’s gotten herself into, he gladly agrees to do what he can to help.

   This is a situation that could easily be the beginning of a Perry Mason novel. The daughter, when he meets her, tells Kayo that she’s being blackmailed, and of course it is nothing she could tell her mother about. Kayo goes into immediate action. But unlike the Perry Mason, the rest of the story is nothing but action.

   Well, no, I’ll take that back. [Plot Alert!] As he discovers by accident, after obtaining the indiscreet material the girl needed him to retrieve, Kayo learns that she was an imposter. This is kind of a neat twist, but Kayo recovers quickly and saves the day. Lots of fisticuffs, gunplay, and a frantic car chase follow.

   The title of the story comes from the fact that in the process of rescuing the damsel in distress, Kayo is very good with his fists, and messes up the face of one of the hoodlums he tracks down in very fine fashion.

   Overall, this is a mediocre story in a third rate pulp magazine, but you can always tell Gardner’s prose style from anyone else’s, no matter how early in his career he may have been writing. And just between you and me, calling “The Face Lifter” a “complete novel” is stretching the truth quite a bit. In the standard pulp magazine format, it’s only 23 pages long.