FREDERICK C. DAVIS “Death to the Witness.” Show-Me McGee #6. Novelette. First published in Detective Fiction Weekly, 24 February 1934. Advertised as “The Hand of Doom” on the front cover. Published separately in the UK in paperback by Sharman Ellis Ltd., sometime in the 1930s.

   Almost without fail a series character in the old pulp magazines had to have a gimmick — something that made him different from all of the others, something that made him stand out in the reader’s mind so that they’d recognize him when they came across the next of his adventures.

   Some of these gimmicks were awfully minor ones, though. Show-Me McGee’s was exactly that. Hailing from the “Show Me” state of Missouri, Detective Lieutenant John McGee was one of those policemen who had to see the evidence and be convinced of what it told him before he ever went into action.

   As gimmicks so, this is a mere trifle. I have an idea that by the time this one came out, the sixth in the series, even the author had gotten tired of it or he’d run out of ways to build it into the stories he was writing. There’s only one paragraph in this one that it’s really brought up.

   And speaking of the story, this one’s about a cleaning lady in a large office building who witnesses a murder, one committed by a mysterious criminal mastermind, and she is the only one who can identify him. Trouble is, she’s in a coma in a hospital bed, and the killer has ordered all the members of his gang to get in and bump her off.

   The title on the cover, “The Hand of Doom,” is actually the more appropriate one, and in a way, in 1934, it may have been science fictional. Show Me McGee manages to save the day by the judicious use of liquid oxygen, freezing the killer’s hand so that it breaks off just before he is able to detonate several sticks of dynamite.

   Well, howdy. As perhaps you can tell, this is a story that’s filled with action from beginning to end. Even if this happens to be a mug of your favorite brew, it’s deeply flawed, though. Why, you might ask, even at the time, didn’t the killer knock off the cleaning lady as soon as he saw that she had seen him? He slugs her on the head instead, and dumps her into a nearby closet. To his regret later on — for the rest of the story, in fact.

       The Show-Me McGee series —

Hell on Wheels (nv) Detective Fiction Weekly Sep 30 1933
Murder Without Motive (nv) Detective Fiction Weekly Oct 7 1933 (*)
The Killer in the Tower (ss) Detective Fiction Weekly Nov 18 1933
The Devil’s Dozen (nv) Detective Fiction Weekly Dec 2 1933 (*)
The Three Doctor Jekylls (nv) Detective Fiction Weekly Dec 30 1933
Death to the Witness (nv) Detective Fiction Weekly Feb 24 1934 (*)
Stone Dead (nv) Detective Fiction Weekly Jun 9 1934
The Eye in the Wall (nv) Detective Fiction Weekly Jul 21 1934

   (*) Reprinted by Sharman Ellis Ltd. in the UK, probably all as 64 page paperbacks. Fellow blogger Morgan Wallace has recently posted a long review of The Devil’s Dozen, which also includes a photo image of the cover. Follow the link.