A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Back Deck Pulp #4

A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Back Deck Pulp #4

Gat_HBOmnibusEDITED“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 Chandler’s The Big Sleep

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

Hopefully, by now, you know that I’ve done a slew of Facebook posts under the label, Back Deck Pulp, kind of cross-promoting this column. Especially since last week’s column was BDP #3! Below are some more of my Back Deck Pulp posts, collected by subject matter. I tried to share some interesting info. You be the judge! Here are links to BDP #1, and BDP #2.


In 1946, Simon & Schuster put out The Hard-Boiled Omnibus, an anthology of Black Mask stories, put together by the legendary Joseph ‘Cap’ Shaw. It is the Beeton’s Christmas Annual (the first appearance of Sherlock Holmes) of hardboiled. All such anthologies can point back to that initial volume.


The Back Deck Pulp library now includes an original, 1946, hardback copy of The Hard Boiled Omnibus! You better believe there will be a A (Black) Gat in the Hand post on this bad boy! (I didn’t get around to writing that post. Maybe a 2019 special column…)

And I bought it from the current Black Mask rights holder and editor, Matt Moring. Most cool

Readers of Back Deck Pulp know that Raoul Whitfield’s Jo Gar was just about my favorite discovery from this column. Just fantastic stories.


Deck_BackYardEDITEDDeck_SetupEDITEDThe back deck and yard are my favorite parts of our house. Thus, Back Deck Pulp. The chair with the foot stool is the usual spot for the pics. I use the other furniture as needed.

Had to mow tonight, so no BDP, though I’ve been reading and writing about Jo Gar today. He’ll be the focal point of a A (Black) Gat in the Hand post on the excellent April, 1930 issue of Black Mask. (Didn’t write that post, either. Maybe I’ll have enough of those to do a limited ‘A (Black) Gat in the Hand’ run in 2020…)

How excellent, you ask? A Gar story; a MacBride and Kennedy from Frederick Nebel; the first installment of Dashiell Hammett‘s The Glass Key AND the final installment in what became Whitfield’s Green Ice novel. For 20 cents!!


I have raved about Davis at Back Deck Pulp and A (Black) Gat in the Hand. I think he deserves to be FAR better remembered and respected. I will do a post on the Max Latin stories.


Gat_DavisLatinEDITEDToday, Office Desk Pulp begins a A (Black) Gat in the Hand essay on the Max Latin series from the criminally under-appreciated Norbert Davis. I’ve already done a post on Davis’ Ben Shaley. It’s a shame there were only five Latin stories (all written for Dime Detective), because it’s a great series. These tales show how Davis excelled at mixing Hardboil ed and humor. I thoroughly enjoy the Max Latin stories and highly recommend the Altus Press collection.

Got dark kinda quick! Back to the Nook and the enjoyable Max Latin. Norbert Davis is also in my top five.

His non-Latin stuff is excellent, as well.

“Murder in the Red” appeared in the April, 1940 Dime Detective and it’s the first story about Bail Bond Dodd, who is a PI-like bail bondsman It’s a great series and just more proof that Davis was a master pulpster who should be more read today. Altus Press reissued the first four Dodd stories. I can’t wait for the rest! You’ll be reading about Davis multiple times over at BlackGate.com in A (Black) Gat on the Hand.


I wrote the intro to Altus Press’ reissue of the Peter Kane stories.


Cave_ParlorEDITEDGat_CaveSmokeEDITEDTonight’s Back Deck Pulp features Hugh B. Cave. Before he became one of the Weird Menace greats, he wrote Hardboiled mysteries.

I’m a big fan of his drunken Boston PI, Peter Kane. “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” was a standalone tale in the December, 1938 Black Mask and reprinted in the Fall, 2017 issue.

I’ve mentioned weird menace maven Hugh B. Cave before. He wrote quite a few mystery stories in his early Pulp days. Come Into my Parlor collects a dozen of his best stories from Detective Fiction Weekly. It’s a good read.

Cave had 63 stories in that magazine: more than in any other Pulp.


Perry Mason was the bestselling author in the world when he passed away. While Mason only ever appeared in book form, Gardner was one of the most prolific pulpsters of them all and a Black Mask staple.  


Gardner_CoolLamHeapEDITEDBack Deck Pulp is one-third of the way through The Case of the Curious Bride – my first Perry Mason. It’s okay. Less enthralling than a Cool and Lam book by the same author. Definitely not as good as the recent Brock Callahan book I read by William Campbell Gault. Nothing wrong with it, but not much of note, either. I’ll continue on. I’m enjoying the book about Gardner more.

Finished my first Perry Mason book: The Case of the Curious Bride. The courtroom scene at the end was hands down the best part.

Office Desk Pulp tackles my second Perry Mason! I’ve read that Mason was more like a typical Hardboiled PI in the first 10 or so books. The Case of the Lucky Legs (book #3) did nothing to disprove that to me. However, I like the characterization in The Case of the Shoplifter’s Shoe (book #13) better. I’m more interested in the series now.


Now THAT is quite a rejection letter!


Dear Mr. Gardner: This is terrible. Sincerely, H.C. North Associate Editor

That’s a rejection note sent to Erle Stanley Gardner in 1924 by Black Mask Associate Editor Harry C. North. Gardner had broken into the magazine the prior year with “The Shrieking Skeleton” (under the name Charles M. Green)

Gardner seemed to survive the brusque dismissal of his story…

The brutal rejection comments that Gardner ‘sort of accidentally’ received when he submitted “The Shrieking Skeleton” actually jumpstarted his relatively non-existent career. That will (became) be a future A (Black) Gat in the Hand post over at BlackGate.com.

Back Deck Pulp is taking a Pulp break. As with Cool and Lam, Mason is a quick, easy read. I’m starting to enjoy the series.


Gardner_Secrets2EDITEDSecrets of the World’s Best-Selling Writer is a fascinating book, based on Erle Stanley Gardner’s notebooks, journals, and papers, which are kept at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas. I think there’s even more great stuff someone could pull out of the source materials, but it’s still a terrific read for any writer. Or Gardner fan.

ESG – Secrets of the World’s Best-Selling Writer

Back Deck Pulp continues to work through this book in our non-existent free time. This is a fascinating read. It’s got a ton of info from Gardner’s papers at the Univ. of Texas, with insights into his approach to writing and neat stuff about his career I highly recommend this book.

Back Deck Pulp HIGHLY recommends this book, which is chock full of info from Erle Stanley Gardner’s notebooks and letters. It’s an excellent look into his writer’s mind. And not just superficial, ‘Set a time and write every day’ types of things.

There is some fantastic stuff in here. I think it is a fascinating read from a mystery master.

Chapter 7 includes a presentation he made to Staff working on the Perry Mason tv show, regarding the ‘lowest common denominators.’ It is a classic.



Erle Stanley Gardner’s first short story “The Police of the House” appeared in Breezy Stories, one of the (mildly) saucy pulps, which actually ran in some form for 34 years.

Hi second tale, “Nellie’s Naughty Nightie,” appeared two months later. And his third story, two years later, would be in The Black Mask (‘The’ was dropped a few years later).

Gat_GardnerSkeletonWow – your third sale cracks Black Mask. Not a bad start for a full-time lawyer.


As mentioned above, I went on to write a post about Gardner’s first submission to Black Mask, which was accepted. 


It’s a cool 58 degrees this morning at Back Deck Pulp. I recently posted the amusing story behind Black Mask’s rejection of Erle Stanley Gardner’s “The Shrieking Skeleton.” Now I’m reading the revised version they accepted. Meh.

The whole thing will be a A (Black) Gat in the Hand post in the Fall. It was an ok story in the shudder pulps style. Finishing up my first Perry Mason: The Case of The Curious Bride. At the courtroom scene. My favorite part of the book.


Richard Sale’s newsman, Daffy Dill, was the subject of another never-quite-got-around-to-it post for this column. At least I did mention Dill, and The Cobra, in Back Deck Pulp. And I did talk about a Dill story in my review of the Spring, 2017 Black Mask.


Sale_KaaEDITEDIt’s a beautiful morning at Back Deck Pulp! I already wrote a BDP about Richard Sale and his newspaperman Daffy Dill. I think that Sale is best remembered for creating The Cobra. The Cobra was one of those weird menace, costumed crime fighters like The Shadow, Operator 5 and The Phantom Detective (who you know was created by D.L. Champion because you read about that here at BDP and in my weekly BlackGate.com column, ‘A (Black) Gat in the Hand’…) Sale dropped out of college to work for a newspaper during the day and to write for the pulps at night in NYC. He would go on to write successful novels, screenplays and even direct movies.


 I first read some of Joe Gore’s Dan Kearny Associates novels, about a San Francisco repo agency, at least 20  years ago. And I considered Gores an elite pulp writer. My re-read of five of the six novels only reinforced his standing in my all time top five.


Back Deck Pulp is revisiting a book I last (re)read in 2007. I would put Joe Gores up there with Frederick Nebel and Raoul Whitfield.

His DKA (Dan Kearny Associates) books, though a little dated technology-wise, are among the best Hardboiled of the mid-to late twentieth century. I consider Gores a must read.

Gores_DeadSkipEDITEDBack Deck Pulp is in the basement watching the Dodgers turn the World Series around in Game Three on the big screen. Let’s Go Blue! And reading book three of Joe Gores’ DKA series. The books remind me of Ed McBain’s 98th Precinct police procedurals. But on the private side. And that’s high praise, indeed! I would rank Gores among the best of the post-Pulp Hardboiled writers. And above Mickey Spillane and Ross MacDonald. I HIGHLY recommend checking him out

Back Deck Pulp has moved to the Mount Carmel East waiting room. Don’t worry, all is good. And continuing in with Joe Gores’ DKA series. 32 Cadillacs is the fourth novel and definitely has the most humor. It’s very gypsy-centric

My re-read of the series (there are two more novels) is confirming that Gores is deserving of mention among the greats of the Hardboiled genre.

Come November 12, six of the previous nine A (Black) Gat in the Hand posts will have been written by guest columnists. Which is awesome! But I probably should be writing a few more posts, seeing as how it’s my column.

Assuming I get my editor hat off and my writer hat on (no, not the deerstalker), on November 19th, here’s how my post will open – pending the usual rewriting:

‘The forties saw the end of the mystery pulps as a driving force in the hardboiled genre and the magazines limped along into the fifties before finally being pronounced ‘dead.’ But thanks to pocket paperbacks and digest magazines, the hardboiled style continued on in the ‘Post-Pulp Era,’ albeit diminished in volume and popularity.

One of my favorite ‘modern’ hardboiled series’ is Michael Stone’s Streeter, about a Denver bail bondsman. You know that, of course, because you read my thoughts about it right here at Black Gate. And for just one novel, Eddie Muller’s boxing-centric The Distance, drawing heavily on his father’s experiences as a San Francisco sportswriter, is one of the best I’ve read.

Gores_HammettEDITEDBut if you asked me to nominate one post-Pulp Era writer worthy of mention with Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Frederick Nebel, I wouldn’t put forth the expected names of Ross D. MacDonald or Mickey Spillane. I’ll let others who like them a lot more than I do, put forth their merits. I’m going to offer up…Joe Gores. (That’s great stuff! Unfortunately, I didn’t finish the essay..)

Back Deck Pulp is doing a little background reading for an upcoming A (Black) Gat in the Hand post on Joe Gores

This book, which contains a lot of info on Dashiell Hammett’s life, has the writer, while working on The Dain Curse, reliving his detective days (he was a Pinkerton agent). It was adapted into a film.I like the DKA books much better, but it’s still worth a read.

Back Deck Pulp finished Joe Gores’ Hammett. Which was made into a Francis Ford Coppola movie. And now it’s back to Gores’ excellent DKA series. This is the fifth of six novels.

I think the DKA series ranks among the best Hardboiled of the second half of the twentieth century. Gores was that good.

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: Back Deck Pulp #1
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: W.T. Ballard’s Bill Lennox
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Day Keene
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Black Mask – October, 1933
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Back Deck Pulp #2
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Black Mask – Spring, 2017
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Frank Schildiner’s ‘Max Allen Collins & The Hard Boiled Hero’
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: William Campbell Gault
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: More Cool & Lam From Hard Case Crime
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: MORE Cool & Lam!!!!
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Thomas Parker’s ‘They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?’
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Joe Bonadonna’s ‘Hardboiled Film Noir’ (Part One)
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Joe Bonadonna’s ‘Hardboiled Film Noir’ (Part Two)
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: William Patrick Maynard’s ‘The Yellow Peril’
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Andrew P Salmon’s ‘Frederick C. Davis’
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Rory Gallagher’s ‘Continental Op’
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Back Deck Pulp #3

A (Black) Gat in the Hand will run through Tuesday, January 1st. A new Robert E. Howard-centric column will take its spot on January 8th. Hey – we are a World Fantasy Award-winning website, you know!

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.

Notify of

1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

[…] (Black Gate): “You’re the second guy I’ve met within hours who seems to think a gat in the hand means a […]

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x