Pulp Fiction


ERLE STANLEY GARDNER “The Bird in the Hand.” Lester Leith n#33. First published in Detective Fiction Weekly, April 5, 1932. Reprinted in The Hardboiled Dicks, edited by Ron Goulart (Sherbourne Press, 1965).

   Outwardly Lester Leith appears to be nothing more than a wealthy man of leisure, complete with a man servant he derisively calls Scuttle. Fully known to him is that Scuttle is in reality an undercover operative named Edward Beaver who works for the New York City Police Department.

   Why? Because while not a crook, exactly, Lester Leith takes great delight in reading about various crimes in the newspaper and finding exceedingly clever ways to relieve the real crooks of their ill-gotten gains.

   And always right under the watchful eyes of Beaver and his superior officer, the very irascible Sgt. Ackley. Boiling over, in fact, the latter is, at the end of every story, having been fooled again, and badly. He never learns, to the delight of the thousands of Gardner’s readers.

   In “Bird in the Hand,” the question is, what happened to a murdered man’s trunk, which has completely disappeared from his hotel room, along with five expensive pieces of stolen jewelry – the dead man known to have been a notorious fence and having had the gems in his possession.

   Among the items Leith gathers together to obtain the jewelry for himself is a skilled female pickpocket and a large cage containing a bird he describes as a “Peruvian bloodhound-canary.”

   The Lester Leith stories are wickedly clever, and this one is one of the better ones. One can only wonder how Gardner was able to come up with so many plots for them all – over 70 of them. I have read enough of them to think of them as formulaic, but the formula is a doozie of one.

Note: I first wrote a review of this story in 1967, and I posted it on this blog a few weeks ago. Follow the link and you can read it here.

LESTER DENT “Angelfish.” Oscar Sail #2. First published in Black Mask, December 1936. Reprinted in The Hardboiled Dicks, edited by Ron Goulart (Sherbourne Press, 1965).

   Miami-based PI Oscar Sail thinks his latest case is a screwy one, and it surely is. His client is a pretty girl named Nan Moberly who needs him to fake an attack on her, complete with gunfire, phony blood and a doctor who’s ready to swear she’s been shot. Sail complies, but stunts like this one seldom work out as planned.

   What follows is a complicated melange of stolen aerial photos, lots of bad guys after them, a cab driver with a wooden leg named John Silver, several deaths, Nan’s kidnapping, and a race by small boat through the wind-raged fringes of a hurricane to save her – one of the most detailed such voyages I’ve ever read.

   This is by far the most hardboiled story in all of Ron Goulart’s anthology. Dent always had a way with words, and he’s at his absolute best in this one. The ending in particular is as chilling a conclusion to a story you will read anywhere. It really is a shame hat he wrote only the two tales of Oscar Sail.

Note: I first wrote a review of this story in 1967, and I posted it on this blog a few weeks ago. Follow the link and you can read it here.

RICHARD SALE “A Nose for News.”  Daffy Dill #2. First published in Detective Fiction Weekly, December 1, 1934. Reprinted in The Hardboiled Dicks, edited by Ron Goulart (Sherbourne Press, 1965).

   In this early entry in Richard Sale’s long-running series about newspaper reporter Daffy Dill, he loses his job at the Chronicle because of a revival reporter’s malfeasance: he managed to change the word “cook” in one of Daffy’s by-lined stories to ‘crook,” and the cook in question is boiling mad. Daffy’s editor at the paper has to let him go, but with promise that if he comes up with a story big enough, he’ll hire him back.

   Top stories are hard to come by, of course, but after doing a favor for a young lady whose brother has gotten into trouble with gambling debts, she returns the favor by telling Daffy she’s going to falsely arrange a kidnapping story for herself in which Daffy will be required to be the go-between.

   And of course you as the reader will immediately know that she will somehow end up being kidnapped for real. I don’t imagine that any such scenario would ever happen in real life, but I also think that any reader who has gotten this far into the story will go along with the gag and continue on anyway, sitting back and see just how Richard Sale gets Daffy Dill out of this particular jam.

   Sale went on to wrote several dozen stories about Daffy Dill, mostly for Detective Fiction Weekly, but more than that he went on to become big name as a both a screenwriter and director. You can check out his Wikipedia page here.

Note: I first wrote a review of this story in 1967, and I posted it on this blog a few weeks ago. Follow the link and you can read it here.

FRANK GRUBER “Death on Eagle’s Crag.” Oliver Quade #8. First published in Black Mask, December 1937. Reprinted in The Hardboiled Dicks, edited by Ron Goulart (Sherbourne Press, 1965).

   At the beginning of this fanciful, not to mention far-fetched tale, Oliver Quade, also known as The Human Encyclopedia, has somehow found his way to an isolated resort located at the top of a mountain, doing what he does best: trying to sell the owner a set of encyclopedias. She may be better at resisting, though, than he isat selling them when one of the guests is found dead along a walking path.

   Remains of a bashed-up rattlesnake are found beside him, with vicious bite marks on his leg, but Quade quickly deduces it was a well-planned murder. The resort’s handyman is about to head down to notify the authorities when a car full of gangsters, escapees from a local prison, comes driving up the hill. Coincidences pile up quickly. The dead man, as it turns out, was a thief,and once the gang of crooks realize he must have hidden eighty grand worth of stolen cash on the grounds, they decide to stick around and keep all of the real guests hostage while they look for it.

   Even while it incorporates a small token of goofiness, making the story is quite a bit of fun to read, it is amazing how Gruber manages to turn the story around on itself as he does, making it perhaps the most violent one in The Hardboiled Dicks, the anthology of stories from the detective pulps Ron Goulart put together in the mid-sixties. There’s nothing very deep to this one, but somehow I’ve managed to remember the basic plot, all these many years later.

   Oliver Quade, who manages to find the money while under a lot duress in this one, was in 15 stories in the pulps. He wasn’t quite as inventive as MacGyver was in using his head to get out of jams, but selling encyclopedias for a living obviously gave him a decided edge over a lot of tough bad guys in his day.

Note: I first wrote a review of this story in 1967, and I posted it on this blog a few weeks ago. Follow the link and you can read it here.

WINDY CITY PULP CONVENTION 2022 REPORT
by Walker Martin

   A few years ago, one of my best friends attended Pulpcon, despite knowing he had a terminal illness. Hardcore collectors will survive just about anything except death. My health problems lately have not involved a terminal illness, but I suffer from claustrophobia, and I had to undergo two cataract operations in April. Despite being disappointed in these procedures, I somehow managed to, go with four other collectors in our usual van.

   Fortunately, this convention managed to cheer me up and here are my comments on the Windy City Pulp Convention. There have been over 20 of these shows and this was the 15th year at the Westin Hotel in Lombard, Illinois, which is about a half hour outside Chicago. Doug Ellis stated that there were about 500 attendees and 180 dealer tables.

   No masks were required, but many collectors wore them just to be safe. As usual the dealer’s room was very busy and set up was allowed on Thursday evening from 8 pm to about 11 pm. There were thousands of books, pulps, vintage paperbacks, original art, new pulp novels, movies on DVDs and comics.

   Some excellent books made their debut at the show. Ed Hulse of Murania Press had what looked like his biggest magazine on the pulps, Blood n Thunder 2022 Special Edition:336 pages, over 100,000 words, and over 100 illustrations. There are 10 essays in the book with the most important being the 120 pages devoted to the Doubleday Crime Club Golden Age, 1928-1940. Ed also had a preview copy of his new book, an updated edition of Wild West in Fiction and Film.

   Matt Moring of Steeger Press had several new books for sale on Mike Chomko’s table: Unremembered Murder by Carroll John Daly, volume 7 of the Race Williams series, all from 1944-1955, The Major by L. Patrick Greene, volume 4, The Life of Pinky Jenkins by H. Bedford Jones, volume 3, and the best one of all, The Complete Exploits of the Notorious Sea Fox by James K. Waterman. This last collects several stories from Frontier in the 1920’s and deals with the infamous slave trade before the Civil War. Steeger Books has passed the 600 book mark I believe. Amazing and quite an accomplishment.

   Also available was the new edition of the Windy City Pulp Stories, #21. 130 pages, all devoted to Fiction House. The best article was Will Murray’s “The Rise and Fall of Fiction House”. Also of note are articles dealing with Arthur J. Burks, the pulp magazine, Black Aces, and other Fiction House items of interest.

   The art show had several original cover paintings and illustrations from Fiction House magazines and I was really impressed by the excellent display. Ed Hulse ran the usual film show which showed serials and B-movies during the day and after the evening auction.

   Speaking of the auction, John Gunnison did his usual fine job as auctioneer. Friday night had 200 lots from the Robert Weinberg Estate and Saturday night had almost 200 lots from the Glenn Lord Estate. An entire set of Planet Stories was auctioned in several lots, many Weird Tales, including the Anniversary large issue from 1924 ($8000), and all sorts of correspondence. The Gent From Bear Creek by Robert Howard sold for several thousand.

   There were the usual panels and I attended the Fiction House discussion given by Roger Hill. On Saturday night David Saunders did his usual excellent job discussing such Fiction House artists as George Gross, Allan Anderson, and Norman Saunders. I’m looking forward to his Pulpfest presentation on Nick Eggenhofer this August.

   I’ve been collecting now for over 65 years and I don’t need much anymore, but I always find something. This year I’m rebuilding some of my sets such as All Western and Dime Detective. I found several copies of each that I need plus an Ace High from 1926 that I’ve been looking for.

   One of the problems of collecting for a long time is that you start to run out of things to collect. Most of my wants are very odd and hard to find, such as the five Sea Stories I lack. There were 118 and I have 113, so it’s not too likely that I’ll find issues I need. Same thing with Western Story and Detective Story. I only need a few issues of each for complete sets, but I’ll probably never find them. But you never know. I never thought I’d find all 444 All Story either but I did.

   Pulpfest is up next in August 4-7, 2022, in Pittsburgh. The 50th Anniversary of Pulpcon/Pulpfest! I never thought I’d see such a long run of conventions when I attended the first one in 1972. But here we are. See you there!

   

                  Note: Part two of this three-part review can be found here.

FRANK GRUBER “Death on Eagle’s Crag.” Oliver Quade #8. First published in Black Mask, December 1937. There is a tremendous contrast between the mild-mannered encyclopedia salesman Oliver Quade, and the extreme amount of violence that occurs as escaped convicts take over a secluded resort. (4)

                        

RICHARD SALE “A Nose for News.” Daffy Dill #2. First published in Detective Fiction Weekly, December 1, 1934. Unlikely circumstances cause Daffy Dill to be fired from his newspaper job, and he becomes involved in a kidnapping plot while hunting up a story to regain it. Did not seem too believable even while reading it. (2)

                        

LESTER DENT “Angelfish.” Oscar Sail #2. First published in Black Mask, December 1936. Private eye Oscar Sail is hired to steal aerial photos of oil fields and risks his life in a hurricane to save a girl. Vivid picture of the storm’s violence at sea saves the story. (3)

                        

ERLE STANLEY GARDNER “Bird in the Hand.” Lester Leith #33. First published in Detective Fiction Weekly, April 5, 1932. Lester Leith manages to steal stolen jewels under the watchful eyes of the police. Quite entertaining and amusing except for weak beginning. Gardner’s style is very noticeable; less emphasis on violence. (3)

                        

–December 1967

RAOUL WHITFIELD “China Man.” Jo Gar #18. Published under the name Ramon Decolta in Black Mask, March 1932. Reprinted in The Hardboiled Dicks, edited by Ron Goulart (Sherbourne Press, 1965). Collected in West of Guam: The Complete Cases of Jo Gar (Altus Press, 2013).

   Jo Gar is attacked in his office by someone who appears to be a Chinese coolie, but strangely enough the knife thrower misses his mark, even at close range. Gar tries to follow him, but loses him in the crowds in the streets of Manila under the stress of an approaching hurricane.

   Returning to his small cramped office, he finds a note from his client slipped under the door. The man, an importer of valuable jade, had come early and left. The note accuses a “China man” as the person who has been stealing from him.

   Then his client turns up murdered, knifed to death, and his body dumped into a river.

   This may sound like a complicated case, but in spite of what also seems like a story with a lot of action, neither is true. What makes the story work as well as it does is the setting, that of what had to have been a really exotic, foreign land to most readers of Black Mask in 1932, the streets and other sights of the Philippines. And to tell you the truth, it probably still is to most people living in the US today.

Note: I first wrote a review of this story in 1967, and I posted it on this blog a few weeks ago. Follow the link and you can read it here.

FREDERICK NEBEL “Winter Kill.” Kennedy of the Free Press & Captain Steve MacBride #32. Novelette. First published in Black Mask, November 1935. Reprinted in The Hardboiled Dicks, edited by Ron Goulart. (Sherbourne Press, 1965). Collected in Winter Kill: The Complete Cases of MacBride & Kennedy, Volume 4: 1935-36 (Altus Press, 2014).

   Russ Parcell is a cad, no way to get around that. A rich father’s son who drinks a lot, gambles a lot, and although married, runs around with cheap floozies a lot. He owes one gambling boss over $8500, which in 1935 would have been considered a lot of money, and the gambling boss is anxious to collect. It doesn’t make sense, then, for him to have killed Parcell, does it? The latter was found in the street,hid body frozen to death and covered with snow.

   It is Kennedy of Free Press who figures out it was murder. Someone had poured water on him and sent him wandering out in the cold in a drunken stupor. It is also Kennedy who does most of the investigative work on the case, although Captain Steve MacBride is there for police backup whenever he’s needed.

   It is also Kennedy who shows any personality in this particular story. He’s short and thin, and at times he can be almost invisible in a room, almost a shadow on the wall so that others also in the room can easily forget he’s there. He also drinks a lot, but whether he’s ever actually drunk is not easy to tell. He often learns a lot by pretending he’s had few too many.

   MacBride, on the other hand, could just as well be another generic cop. Luckily for Kennedy, he doesn’t mind putting up with the latter’s various foibles.

   The case, unfortunately, while long and involved, is not a particularly gripping one, and most of Kennedy’s legwork is done off screen, or with the motives for what he does do not revealed to the reader. The Kennedy-MacBride series was both a long one and very popular with the readers at the time. This particular story may not show them at their best.

Note: I first wrote a review of this story in 1967, and I posted it on this blog a few weeks ago. Follow the link and you can read it here.

      Note: Part one of this three-part review can be found here.

FREDERICK NEBEL “Winter Kill.” Kennedy of the Free Press & Captain Steve MacBride #32, Novelette. First published in Black Mask, November 1935. Collected in Winter Kill: The Complete Cases of MacBride & Kennedy, Volume 4: 1935-36 (Altus Press, 2014).

   Newspaperman Kennedy of the Free Press gets beaten up quite a bit but manages to capture a murderer whose victim is found frozen to death on the streets. Complicated story, with lots of characters to keep straight. Not really as satisfying [as the first two stories in this anthology]. (2)
   

RAOUL WHITFIELD “China Man.” Jo Gar #18. Published under the name Ramon Decolta in Black Mask, March 1932. Collected in West of Guam: The Complete Cases of Jo Gar (Altus Press, 2013).

   The servant of a Philippines importer is suspected of killing him, but Jo Gar has difficulty in obtaining proof. The flavor of the Orient comes through clearly. (3)

–December 1967

RON GOULART, Editor – The Hardboiled Dicks. Sherbourne Press, hardcover, 1965. Pocket, paperback, 1967.

   Eight stories from the pulp-age detective magazines, when violence and action were the keywords. The question is, are these stories merely representative, or were they chosen to be among the best of each author’s work? If the majority of pulp stories were below these in quality, they deserve obscurity, but if these are indeed only meant as typical examples, future digging might be quite rewarding. Overall rating: 3 stars.

[Note: Rather than reprint the entirety of the eight stories in one fell swoop, what I’ve decided to do is post them on this blog two at a time, over the next few weeks.]

  NORBERT DAVIS “Don’t Give Your Right Name.” PI Max Latin #2. Novelette. First published in Dime Detective Magazine, December 1941. Reprinted in The Complete Cases of Max Latin (Steeger Books, 2013). Max Latin, not-so-honest private eye, solves the murder of another detective working on a case connected with a job of Latin’s. Too many coincidences when thought about afterward, but is effectively done. Characterization is complete, but ending comes fast. (3)

  JOHN K. BUTLER “The Saint in Silver.” Steve Midnight #4. Novelette. First published in Dime Detective Magazine, January 1941. Collected in The Complete Cases of Steve Midnight, Volume 1 (Steeger Books, 2016). Steve Midnight, a cab driver, takes a fare on part of a treasure hunt and becomes involved in the narcotics habit of a religionist’s wife. Well told story, in Southern California surroundings. (3)

               — November 1967.

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