A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Back Deck Pulp #6

A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Back Deck Pulp #6

Nebel_MacBrideNewspaperadEDITED“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)

And with only more week to go, here’s the rest of the Back Deck Pulp posts from my Facebook feed – which I used as an unofficial promo for this column. You can read the first five Back Deck Pulp posts by clicking the links at the end of this one.


Frederick Nebel was a prolific, solid pulpster whom Joe Shaw turned to to replace Dashiell Hammett when the latter left Black Mask. Stories featuring Donahue, Cardigan, Gales & McGill, and MacBride and Kennedy were just some of quality work he turned out. I consider Nebel one of the best of the Pulp Era writers. 

Back Deck Pulp is reading some MacBride and Kennedy on a pleasant evening. The long running series featuring a hardboiled police captain and a drunken reporter was a Black Mask staple. Frederick Nebel was a first rate pulpster. I already wrote a A (Black) Gat in the Hand post about his ultra-tough private eye, Donahue. And I’ll be doing one for his popular series featuring Cardigan of the Cosmos Agency. (Well: I will if this column makes a return appearance…)

Nebel is one of my top five hard boiled writers.

Today it’s Tae Kwon Do Pulp as Black Belt Recommended Sean Byrne practices. It’s another MacBride and Kennedy story from Frederick Nebel. “Backwash” appeared in a 1932 issue of Black Mask. It’s included in the excellent anthology from Bill Pronzini and Jack Adrian.

Nebel_MacBrideCoverEDITEDBack Deck Pulp finished the first Lou Archer story last night. It was ok. Back outside and back to Frederick Nebel this morning as the deck dries out.

“He sighed lugubriously…” – Frederick Nebel, ‘Rough Reform’ (MacBride and Kennedy) I think my sighing has been inadequate. I need to work on that!

Recommended by Back Deck Pulp!

‘The group was led by a tall, bony-looking man in a dark suit and a gray fedora, shoes polished so highly that every time one swung forward it caught and reflected the lights in the corridor.

MacBride walked across the dance floor as he would walk down a street – firmly, matter-of-factly, objectively.

Last, and well in the rear, came a small, spare man in nondescript clothes; he swayed gently from side to side, hummed absent-mindedly, and seemed to take a passing, foggy-eyed interest in the swooning murals on the walls.’

Enter, Frederick Nebel’s MacBride and Kennedy.

Nebel_GalesMcGillOneEDITEDThe heat wave put Back Deck Pulp on a break, but Fall weather finally came to Columbus this morning. So we’re out back again! Still reading MacBride and Kennedy stories from Frederick Nebel. I think the back-and-forth provided by having two main characters works well for Nebel and sets his writing style in these stories apart from that in the Cardigan and Donahue tales. As I’ve said, Nebel is one of my top five pulpsters.

Back Deck Pulp has switched over to Frederick Nebel. Before Nebel became a Hammett-styled hard boiled mainstay at Black Mask, he wrote adventure stories for the Fiction House stable. That included air adventures (once very popular grist for the pulps), including a series featuring Gales and McGill. They are fun, Hardboiled adventure yarns. I think the interplay between the pair influenced the MacBride and Kennedy series. Volume two of this collection from Altus Press debuts at Pulp Fest in a few days.

Back Deck Pulp continues to work through Frederick Nebel’s Gales and McGill collection from Altus Press. I’d never bothered with air stories: a very popular Pulp category for several years. But I’ve enjoyed these so much, I’ve ordered the second collection, which just came out last week from Altus. I like these in large part because I’m a huge Nebel fan, but I may give Arthur J. Burks a try. And I have liked the two Horace McCoy stories I’ve read featuring Captain Frost of the Air Texas Rangers (Hell’s Stepsons).

Abandoned the keyboard for some Back Deck Pulp. Still working through the hard boiled air adventures of Frederick Nebel.

From Altus Press.


Office Desk Pulp goes back to one of the anthologies I talked about in A (Black) Gat in the Hand post number three. Bill Pronzini, Jack Adrian, or both, wrote the SUPERB introduction to the Hard-Boiled anthology which they edited. It’s one of the best I’ve found in discussing the hard-boiled genre. Highly recommended!


Horace McCoy wrote about Captain Jerry Frost, the leader of the Air Texas Rangers group known as Hell’s Stepsons. They were basically an elite air corps for the Texas Rangers. The stories are fun air pulp. Thomas Parker wrote an essay on McCoy’s best-known novel, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?

Waaay too hot for Back Deck Pulp to be out back: so, working on a A (Black) Gat in the Hand post on the Fall, 2017 Black Mask.

Along with this Captain Jerry Frost story from Horace McCoy, highlights include an unpublished story from Lester Dent (that Doc Savage guy), Day Keene and Hugh B. Cave.


Quarry_CollinsEDITEDWind chill is a cooool 37, but equipped with sweat pants, two sweatshirts (Oxford Comma!), and a hot cider, Back Deck Pulp is back!!! Max Allen Collins wrote four books about a hit man named Quarry back in the seventies They weren’t family friendly on the language and sex scales, but they were quality hard boiled. There were a few more books later, but the character was still retired. The series resumed a few years ago over at Hard Case Crime and Quarry is still at it. Collins is an excellent writer.


Les Klinger did not one, but two, excellent annotated Sherlock Holmes collections. I have both of them. He’s done other annotated editions, including ones for H.P. Lovecraft, and for Dracula. His latest included some hardboiled novels. 

Back Deck Pulp is a subsidiary of A (Black) Gat in the Hand, which appears exclusively at BlackGate.com. Today, this monster arrived for review! Novels featuring Charlie Chan, Philo Vance, Ellery Queen, The Continental Op and Cesare Bandello (Rico in ‘Little Caesar’) total over 1,100 pages! With over 100 illustrations, and annotations from Leslie S Klinger, this is SOMETHING! Review to come at Black Gate. Thanks to head honcho John O’Neill for sending it on to BDP!



I tried a couple of Ross MacDonald novels years ago, and didn’t care for them. However, since a lot of folks put him up there with Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler (and I have some issues with that second name, even), I thought I’d try him again. But with this short story collection. Meh. 

Rain moved Back Deck Pulp indoors. I’ve never been crazy about Ross MacDonald’s writing style, but I’m giving him another try with the Archer short story collection.

I don’t like the novels. Giving the short stories another try. His prose is so heavy handed, the novels plod along for me

Back Deck Pulp is still struggling with MacDonald. It’s a heavy writing style with a plodding pace. Frankly, I’m kinda bored.

Yes. All the Archer short stories. With two Stories originally featuring other characters rewritten with Archer.



While Back Deck Pulp prefers The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps, I still highly recommend making this one of your first anthology purchases. Over 50 stories, covering over 1,000 pages, it’s a great collection.


One of the neat things about doing A (Black) Gat in the Hand is that I read a LOT of stories by lesser-remembered pulpsters. Some who were quite successful in their day. One such was Frederick C. Davis. Who was the subject of a series essay by Andrew Salmon.

It’s a bit muggy, but Back Deck Pulp is at it again. Today, I read another Jo Gar story from Raoul Whitfield. The Island Detective has been a frequent BDP topic. It’s like Hardboiled Hercule Poirot. I love it. I also got out one of my favorite anthologies: Hard-Boiled Detectives. It’s got 23 writers and stories from Dime Detective Magazine. I like it a lot! First, it was John D. MacDonald’s “The Man From Limbo.” Then Norbert Davis’ “Something for the Sweeper.” Now, it’s Frederick C. Davis’ “You Slay me Baby,” featuring his newspaperman, Bill Brent. The talented Andrew Salmon will be writing about another Davis character over at A (Black) Gat in the Hand.

BloodNThunder_1EDITEDBlood ‘N’ Thunder

Ed Hulse is a giant in the pulp publishing field. His Blood ‘N’ Thunder line has some of the best pulp-related articles and essays to be found anywhere. I thoroughly enjoyed the copies I bought for this column. Highly recommended. And The Blood ‘N’ Thunder Guide to Pulp Fiction should be on EVERY pulp fan’s shelf. 

Back Deck Pulp took the family to see Toby Mac last night. Fantastic show and with a great message. So, got up a little late this morning,

I’ve recently added some of Ed Hulse‘s great Blood ‘N’ Thunder issues to the BDP shelves. I’ll be getting more!! These things are modern day Pulp treasures.

This issue includes a history of Dime Detective, an essay on the only movie made from a Norbert Davis story (more neglect of one of my faves! – and it’s a western!) and the first of Frederick Nebel’s Cardigan stories. It’s also got quite a bit more!

I picked up a couple reference books from the line as well. You should really check out Ed’s stuff. I’m working on a Q ‘N’ A with Ed for A (Black) Gat in the Hand.

Gat_BlackMaskFall2017BLACK MASK FALL 2017

Matt Moring, the man behind the fantastic Altus Press, recently revived the legendary Black Mask Magazine. It’s still going, and I talked about a  couple issues in Back Deck Pulp. I also reviewed an entire one here at A (Black) Gat in the Hand.

Now THIS is Back Deck Pulp (see today’s earlier indoor post). I finished issue 2 of the new Black Mask. Now it’s issue 3

A previously unpublished story from Lester (‘Doc Savage’) Dent? A rewrite of a story that failed to sell? I’m in!

A detective story from Hugh B. Cave and one from the under-appreciated Day Keene? Excellent!

You’ll be seeing several BDP posts from this issue.


Richard McGivern is pretty much forgotten today. But he was a hardboiled writer in the Nebel and Hammett mode (though not as smooth as the latter). His work deserves to be much more widely read today than it is.  

I’m off-site for training today, so it’s Salt Barn Pulp!

This is one of the anthologies I included in post number three of the column. It’s a pretty good one.

Today I’m reading the largely forgotten William P. McGivern.



I had a guest post lined up on Flynn, who was a western writer of more than moderate talent. Unfortunately, that didn’t quite pan out. If A (Black) Gat in the Hand makes a return appearance in the next few years, I’ll probably do an essay on the Maddox stories.

Darkness does not stop Back Deck Pulp! An actual Writer (as opposed to me) will be doing an A (Black) Gat in the Hand post on Flynn.


“It’s hardly likely. All my kin were killed off in the battle between the Monitor and the Merrimac.”

That’s from Merle Constiner’s Luther McGavock in “Let the Dead Alone.” Back Deck Pulp (moved inside due to rain) finds that a memorable, odd line. We’ll see how the story shakes out. I’m a BIG Battle of Hampton Roads fan, having even written a screenplay about it.


Along with W.T. Ballard’s Bill Lennox stories, and William Campbell Gault’s novels, Raoul Whitfield’s Jo Gar was the best discovery I made in writing this column. I read the Altus Press collection of the entire Gar Canon and absolutely loved it. Gar is very much like an action-oriented, hardboiled Hercule Poirot. I LOVED these tales. 

Back Deck Pulp has talked about these stories several times already and I’ve mentioned them over in A (Black) Gat in the Hand. But these days, when I’ve got a little quiet time, there’s nothing else I’d rather sit down with for ten minutes or so and read than a Jo Gar story from Raoul Whitfield (writing as Ramon Delcolta). They are smooth, enjoyable short stories. Highly recommended Hardboiled Pulp. And with all 26 stories, this book from Matt Moring and Altus Press is THE collection!


There’s one final post to come next week, but winter came and I covered up the patio furniture and closed down Back Deck Pulp. I got a lot of good reading done out back on the deck this summer and fall. And I’m glad I pitched this series to  my boss at Black Gate. Who continues to, amazingly, let me write mystery-related posts at the World Fantasy Award-winning website. Which just goes to show that the mystery genre, and in this instance, the wonderful world of pulp, has a broad appeal. But you, dear reader, already knew that. didn’t you?

Porch_ClosedEDITEDWintry weather has descended, so Back Deck Pulp has closed up shop

I had fun doing it, and hopefully a few folks checked out a writer or two as a result

I’ve got enough BDPs for at least one more A (Black) Gat in the Hand post!

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: Back Deck Pulp #4
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Back Deck Pulp #5

A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Joe ‘Cap’ Shaw on Writing

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.

And he will be in the upcoming anthology of new Solar Pons stories!

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x