ROBERT WALLACE “The Mark of the Beast.” Dexter Wynne #1. First published in Thrilling Detective, February 1933. Facsimile edition published by Adventure House, paperback, January 2012.

   Robert Wallace is a house name known to have been assigned to the work of eight or more authors. Unless there is someone who reads this and knows, I have no way of telling you which one of them wrote this particular story.

   Billed as “a complete book-length novel,” it is the longest story in the magazine, but even so, it takes up only 33 pages. In it, private eye Dexter Wynne is asked by a client to check into a mysterious telegram from his sister, telling him that she is afraid of something in the mysterious house where she is living with their stepfather.

   Wynne asks his client, Harry Bates to stay while he investigates, but when he gets there, he find Bates has gotten there ahead of him, dead on the road, with half his face torn away. More than one death follows, making the guilty person all the more apparent as soon there is no one left to suspect. Lots of hidden passageways add to the atmosphere, or at least that was the intent. The build-up to the conclusion fails badly, with a rather prosaic explanation making the whole affair rather shoddy and shopworn.

   I have not said anything about Dexter Wynne, the PI in this tale, and whose only appearance this probably was. There is a reason for that. There is nothing to say. His name could have been chosen out of a hat.

   It is wonderful to have artifacts such as the magazine this story first appeared in reproduced in such a beautiful format, but I’ve sampled the rest of the stories in it, and I haven’t found any of them to be any better than this one. Not all of the detective pulps published in 1933 were of Black Mask caliber.


      Complete contents:

The Mark of the Beast by Robert Wallace
The Banding Murder Case by Allan K. Echols
The Black Ram by Perley Poore Sheehan
The Face That Came Back by Wayne Rogers
The Den of Skulls by Jack D’Arcy
Death Talks Backs by John H. Compton
The Trail of the White Gardenia by Donald Bayne Hobart
The Coward by Ken Rockwell
Reflections by John Lawrence
The Crumpled Clue by J.S. Endicott