JUDSON P. PHILIPS “Men About to Die.” Novella. Park Avenue Hunt Club #11. First published in Detective Fiction Weekly, February 2, 1935. Never reprinted. See comments #’s 1 and 2 for reprint information.

   Running in the pages of Detective Fiction Weekly, where it vied for readers’ attention with the likes of Erle Stanley Gardner’s Lester Leith, Richard Sale’s Daffy Dill, and Carroll John Daly’s Satan Hall, the popular Park Avenue Hunt Club was an American version of Edgar Wallace’s Just Men, a team of vigilantes battling crime in the age of the Depression, gangsters. John Dillinger, and Bonny and Clyde.

   Product of a lawless age, this secret organization had sprung up suddenly to stand squarely in the path of the criminal. Gangsters and racketeers found themselves confronted by a foe who dealt out death for death, brutality for brutality. The underworld … found themselves prey to the Hunt Club which moved swiftly, secretly, and relentlessly.

   The Club members were handsome former secret agent Geoffrey Saville; big game hunter and red haired giant John Jericho; and chess master and medical student Arthur Hallam, who, their identities known only to Inspector James Emory Doane NYPD, wage a violent and bloody war on the underworld of New York.

   Pretty standard pulp stuff it sounds and it was, but behind the name Judson P. Philips was Hugh Pentecost, one of the longest lived writers to emerge from the pulps and who, like relatively few others, had a healthy critically successful career as a mid-list author under his own name and as Philips, and whose many series included the popular hotel manager Pierre Chambrun and freelance journalist Peter Styles series as well as one featuring John Jericho, an artist who shares with the Hunt Club Jericho mostly only his size and red hair.

   Like most of the writers who survived the pulps and thrived, Pentecost not only outgrew his origins, he expanded his horizons so that the Peter Styles books had a serious social conscience tackling major issues of the day, while Jericho’s adventures featured a deeply humanitarian sleuth often rescuing victims of society. Save for retaining a gift for plot, suspense, and action they and Chambrun are a far cry from the bloodthirsty Park Avenue Hunt Club.

   The dangerous Dzamba brothers, Leonardo, Salvatore, and Vincente (no, they aren’t mutant ninja turtles) are on trial in a case brought by none other than Inspector Doane and prosecutor John Crowther, and a witness has warned Doane that the Dzambas plan a spectacular escape during the trial, so he calls on Saville, Jericho, and Hallam to be present when the bloodshed begins. The Club has a history with the Dzambas, Jericho himself having killed brother Angelo with his bare hands.

   And sure enough something goes wrong, the judge is murdered in chambers, four policeman are killed in a bloody shootoutmand the Dzambas are on the loose. The Park Avenue Hunt Club is on the prowl, turning to a crooked former cop who helped the Dzamba brothers in the past but Salvatore gets to him before the boys can.

   With the Dzambas out for revenge, and even their own lawyer murdered by them, the one target left is prosecutor Crowther, who lives in the country with his young wife. Local yokels can hardly be expected to protect him, so it looks like a job for the boys.

   No detection here, it’s mostly an action piece closer to the hero pulps and they’re figures of justice than sleuths, but it is satisfyingly fast paced, and despite a plethora of characters in a relatively short piece. it works well enough.

   This is a single contained story, though some of the Park Avenue tales were serials and likely a bit less rushed, if still as plot and action heavy. You can see why this series was popular and featured so often on covers of the magazine. It’s pure pulp, full of movement, setbacks, and a big finale with the three heroes once again emerging triumphant in their secret war against crime, and in a relatively few years Pentecost would be moving on to a long successful career.