JOHN K. BUTLER “The Saint in Silver.” Steve Midnight #4. Novelette. First published in Dime Detective Magazine, January 1941. Reprinted in The Hardboiled Dicks (Sherbourne Press, 1965). Collected in The Complete Cases of Steve Midnight, Volume 1 (Steeger Books, 2016).

   I’ve said it many times, and a couple of times in print as well, that of all the stories in The Hardboiled Dicks, Ron Goulart’s  highly seminal pulp detective anthology from 1965, “The Saint in Silver” was the one that I remembered most.

   Well, “ha” on me. Now, over 50 years later, last night I finally read it for a second time, and guess what? It was like reading it for the first time.

   Nothing I thought I knew about the story was true. I even had the object in the title wrong. I remembered it as a statue. What the saint in silver really is, I won’t tell you (although there’s no reason why I shouldn’t), but nothing could be further from the truth.

   Maybe the only thing I remembered correctly is that Steve Midnight (Steve Middleton Knight) is a taxi cab driver, and he usually has an overnight shift. He’s not a PI, but there were nine stories in the early 40s in which he was the leading character, all for Dime Detective. I assume that he was generally his own client, but I could be wrong about that.

   In “The Saint in Silver,” for example, he’s out a fare of $18 if he doesn’t find the blonde and the drunken guy who smashed up their own car while in the midst of a treasure hunt. After hiring him to continue their hunt, they disappear on him when the next clue takes them to a cemetery in the rain, with Midnight ending up clocked over the head in a tomb.

   Butler was a very good writer, nothing fancy, but the first half of the story simply flows and catches the reader along with it. The second half, the tracking down of the cab’s occupants, devolves into a case that involves both a narcotics ring and a rich pseudo-evangelist, is not as compelling, but it’s still a very good yarn. (Maybe at 48 pages, it’s just a little long for its own good.)

   And yes, by the way, one of the Steve Midnight stories is titled “Death and Taxis,” in the January 1942 issue of Dime Detective.

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.