A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Back Deck Pulp #1

A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Back Deck Pulp #1


“You’re the second guy I’ve met within hours who seems to think a gat in the hand means a world by the tail.” – Phillip Marlowe in Raymond Chandlers’ The Big Sleep

(Gat — Prohibition Era term for a gun. Shortened version of Gatling Gun)

Of course, we’re all friends here at Black Gate. But if you’re my friend on Facebook, you have probably seen at least one of my Back Deck Pulp posts (I mean; how could you miss them?). I am reading a TON of pulp stories and also reading info on pulpsters for A (Black) Gat in the Hand. And when the weather permits, I’ve been sitting on my very nice back deck and taking a picture with the story of the moment. I include a bit of info on the picture’s story or author or magazine issue. Thus, ‘Back Deck Pulp.’

I think they’re neat, myself. And most of the topics I cover will end up being A (Black) Gat in the Hand posts. Friend me on FB and see what I’ve been writing about.

Well, I started collecting all those posts and discovered that I’ve already done enough for at least two Black Gate essays. So, here’s the first. It’s very informal, and it doesn’t read like a normal post: think of it like an anthology of short stories. There’s no continual narrative – But there’s some good pulp info! I made very minimal changes and most read exactly as the original FB post did.


Today’s Back Deck Pulp is Norbert Davis’ “Red Goose,” the first of his two Black Mask stories featuring PI Ben Shaley.

When Raymond Chandler began writing for the pulps, he said that “Red Goose” impressed him more than any other tale he had read. Years later, he said he had not forgotten it.

Davis received a law degree from Stanford, but by then was selling so well to the pulps, he never took the bar exam. As you can see, Byrne House went digital today. You can read this one for free with Kindle Unlimited.

Probably nobody did humor and Hardboiled as well as Davis. But he did it clever, not as parody. And he wrote good ‘straight’ stories as well. Davis was an under-appreciated pulpster who, sadly, took his own life at only age 40. He deserves to be better read and remembered today

There’s a lot packed into this short story. I like it. Wish he’d written more with Staley.

Davis was the subject of the June 25th  A (Black) Gat in the Hand.

Gat_TorreyMurderROGER TORREY

A snippet from this morning’s pulp writing:

‘Roger Torrey broke into the pulps with the January, 1933 issue of Black Mask and quickly became a Shaw favorite, appearing eight times that year, with “Blackmail is an Ugly Word” being one of seven stories about policeman Dal Prentice.

Even among pulpsters, Torrey was a heavy drinker and fell out of favor with editors around 1940. He spent his last several years writing for the ‘lesser’ detective pulps until he died of alcohol-related causes in 1946. He was only 45 years old.

Torrey is largely forgotten today but he wrote fast-paced hardboiled yarns; often with Irish protagonists. In just over a dozen years of writing, he turned out nearly 300 stories and one novel – 42 Days for Murder (available as an ebook for only $1.49). If you like true hardboiled style pulp, you should give Torrey a chance.


Gat_ShawWriterIt’s a bit wet outside, so no Back Deck Pulp this morning. Instead of reading, it’s writing! I did finish the Norbert Davis/Ben Staley piece last night. More Davis coming.

Another upcoming With a (Black) Gat post will be on an article that Black Mask editor Joseph ‘Cap’ Shaw wrote for the May, 1934 Writer’s Digest – “Do You Want to Become a Writer or Do You Want to Make Money?”

With editorial comments from me. I think it’s an interesting piece. Shaw probably commanded more respect as a pulp editor than anybody else of that era.

Shaw was given the boot from Black Mask in 1936 and became an agent. Several prominent writers left the magazine after Shaw was fired.

If you like the old hardboiled pulps, you really should check out my Monday morning column over at BlackGate.com. I’m pretty sure you’ll find something you like. Post #3, tomorrow, will look at some of the anthologies I’m culling for stories.

And because I can’t resist talking about my two favorite writers, not only will there be a post about John D. MacDonald (#1), I’ll also do one on Robert E. Howard’s hardboiled PI, Steve Harrison.


Gat_DimeDetectiveAugust1939Essay #3 of With a (Black) Gat goes up over at BlackGate.com later this morning (covering hardboiled anthologies). I’ve already written over a half-dozen future posts, striking while the iron is hot, as it were.

The column is still trying to find its footing, though I think it’s coming along. A feature that will be appearing regularly is a look at the contents of an issue of a pulp magazine (usually with a cool cover!) There will be a paragraph or two about each author in that issue plus a little info about the magazine itself.

The impetus for this series was to share my love of hardboiled pulp writers. Highlighting specific issues – be they from Black Mask, Dime Detective, Detective Fiction Weekly, et al, is going to let me talk about a lot of different pulpsters.

I know little or nothing about several of these subjects (no surprise there, eh?), so I’m learning along with you. I’ve already become a big fan of W.T. Ballard’s Bill Lennox through With a (Black) Gat and I now appreciate Raoul Whitfield’s MARVELOUS Jo Gar tales. I had encountered a couple stories about the Filipino detective before, but they didn’t really register. They sure have this now!

I’ve written up a couple Black Mask issues and this morning I’m working on the August, 1939 Dime Detective, which was last week’s post. Raymond Chandler, Carroll John Daly, Hugh B. Cave and D.L. Champion for ten cents. That’s a deal! It went live on July 9th.

Gat_TinsleyBodyGat_HAmmettTooManyTHEODORE A. TINSLEY

Rain has moved Back Deck Pulp indoors. Theodore A. Tinsley created the most popular female character in the pulps: Carrie Cashin.

But tonight, it’s his two-fisted gossip columnist, Jerry Tracy. Tracy appeared over two dozen times in Black Mask and three stories were adapted for the big screen


It’s a Sunday night bonus Back Deck Pulp. With a (Black) Gat will, of course, talk about my favorite Hardboiled pulpster. More than once!

Too nice outside tonight to not have another Back Deck Pulp. After the success of The Maltese Falcon serial in Black Mask, editor Joseph Shaw encouraged Dashiell Hammett to write more Sam Spade stories. Not only did Hammett refuse, he would leave Black Mask by the end of the year. However, he would pen three more Spade stories a few years later. I thought only one of the three somewhat memorable. “Too Many Have Lived” appeared in American Magazine and I consider it the second-best of the three.


Gat_FlynnBrotherA Friday night Back Deck Pulp. T. T. Flynn appeared in a LOT of Dime Detective issues, but I need to do some research on him before he can feature in a With a (Black) Gat post. “Brother Murder” appeared in the December 2, 1939 Detective Fiction Weekly and was included in the Spring, 2017 Black Mask.

Flynn appeared in Dime Detective 80 times – more than any other author (7 more than Frederick C. Davis). His 35 Mr. Maddox stories were second only to Frederick Nebel’s Cardigan tales (Nebel was the star of the fourth post in this series).

Altus Press (which is continually putting out great old stuff) has released the Maddox stories in two volumes. Here’s the first one.

And a Flynn story or two has been included in the new Black Mask magazine.


Gat_Richards_ThreeDeathIt’s a Bonus Back Deck Pulp tonight! “Three on a Murder,” originally from the June, 1941 Double Detective, was also reprinted in the Fall, 2017 Black Mask (see my last post on Hugh B. Cave).

I don’t know anything about writer Kent Richards, but I like Barry Cranston and his one-man Hollywood private detective agency, Confidential, Inc..

Ok – I now know that Kent Richards was one of several pseudonyms for Kendell Foster Crossen, who was pretty active in the ‘lesser’ mystery pulps in the early forties. He wrote The Green Lama stories as Richard Foster. In fact, he had a Lama story in this same issue of Double Detective.

And if you’re thinking the title is a play on the old wive’s tale, ‘Three on a Match’ (also a Bette Davis movie with Humphrey Bogart), you’re right: they pay it off at the very end.

I’ve already got enough stuff for a second Back Deck Pulp post and I’m adding more BDPs weekly on FB.

Previous entries in the series:

With a (Black) Gat: George Harmon Coxe
With a (Black) Gat: Raoul Whitfield
With a (Black) Gat: Some Hard Boiled Anthologies
With a (Black) Gat: Frederick Nebel’s Donahue
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Thomas Walsh
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Black Mask – January, 1935
A (Black) Gat in the hand: Norbert Davis’ Ben Shaley
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: D.L. Champion’s Rex Sackler
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Dime Detective – August, 1939

A (Black) Gat in the Hand: W.T. Ballard’s Bill Lennox (next Monday)

Other hard-boiled related ramblings I’ve done at Black Gate:

A Century of John D. MacDonald
A Man Called Spade
Asimov’s The Caves of Steel
Carroll John Daly & the Birth of Hard Boiled
Cool & Lam are Back!
Erle Stanley Gardner on Mysteries
Gideon Lowry – Key West Private Eye
Glen Cook’s Garret – PI
Hard Boiled Holmes (my best pre-Black Gate work. Click on over!)
Hard Case Crime Q&A
John D. MacDonald – A Writer’s Writer
Lester Dent’s Master Plot Formula
The Maltese Falcon in Film
Michael Stone’s Streeter
Richard Diamond – Private Eye
Robert E. Howard Goes Hard boiled (Steve Harrison)
Shovel’s Painful Predicament

Bob Byrne’s A (Black) Gat in the Hand appears weekly every Monday morning at Black Gate.

His ‘The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes’ column ran every Monday morning at Black Gate  from March 2014 through March 2017 (still making an occasional return appearance!). He also organized Black Gate’s award-nominated ‘Discovering Robert E. Howard’ series.

He is a member of the Praed Street Irregulars, founded www.SolarPons.com (the only website dedicated to the ‘Sherlock Holmes of Praed Street’) and blogs about Holmes and other mystery matters at Almost Holmes.

He has contributed stories to The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories – Parts III, IVV and VI.

And coming this summer, look for another Robert E. Howard series with an all star cast!

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R.K. Robinson

Will do.
Have done.

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