A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Back Porch Pulp #2

A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Back Porch Pulp #2

“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 we’re wrapping up another summer run of A (Black) Gat in the Hand with Back Porch Pulp #2. So, here we go!


Back Porch Pulp is reading the first novel by David Dodge. He is best known as author of the thriller novel, To Catch a Thief.

Which became a famous Cary Grant movie, directed by Alfred Hitchcock. I saw that on the big screen at The Ohio Theater. That was a treat.

I like his adventure novel, ‘Plunder of the Sun.’ Which became a not-famous movie, with Glenn Ford. Hard Case Crime reissued that book, introducing me to the author.

Dodge was an accountant. And his first couple novels were hardboiled ones starring San Francisco accountant Whit Whitney. I wrote an essay on Dodge and two of his novels, last month.


Back Porch Pulp is enjoying the cooler (albeit humid) morning with this ebook.

This is a mix of both interesting and ‘not-so-much’ pulp-era writing tips – mostly from Writer’s Digest. Current essay is from The Writers Monthly.

I haven’t recognized any of the contributors yet – which is fine. Generally ranges from the twenties to the forties.

There was an interesting essay with a variation on Lester Dent’s Master Plot Formula. That seems like a future Black Gate topic.

I prefer Blood ‘N Thunder’s print publication, The Penny-A-Word Brigade.


This is a fun little book. James Scott Bell is a NYT best-selling author. He’s also written several good books on writing.

His parents were friends with W.T. Ballard, the pulpster and Western novelist. Ballard created Hollywood studio troubleshooter Bill Lennox (one of my favorites). I wrote about Ballard and Lennox, here at Black Gate.

Bell has written several pulp-ish short stories featuring Wild Bill Armbrewster, a studio troubleshooter. They’re a bit heavy-handed in style, which makes them a mix of parody and homage – rather than just the latter. But they’re fun. And a cheap ebook. Free via kindle unlimited.

Wally Conger and I co-wrote a Black Gate essay on this book, and some essays featuring Armbrewster.



Back Porch Pulp reads a forgotten novel.

Roger Torrey is among the most forgotten men of the Black Mask Era. He was a Mask mainstay in the thirties, also appearing in Dime Detective, and many other titles.

He may well have been the hardest-drinking pulpster of them all – he made Hammett look like a tea-totaler.

He had trouble getting published as the old-style Hardboiled school changed to a more ‘noir’ style, and he settled for second-tier pulps. Torrey never changed.

He died of acute alcoholism at only age 45.

He wrote one novel, 42 Days, which I finished tonight. The title refers to the required six-week residency to get a Reno divorce.

Shean Connell is a NY PI who takes on a divorce case. He heads out to Reno and finds WAY more is going on – including murder.

His client is Todhunter Wendel. That unusual first name is almost certainly a tip of the fedora to fellow pulpster William T. Ballard. Who shared that middle name with his cousin: a moderately successful writer named Rex Stout!

This isn’t a bad novel, though I prefer Torrey’s short stories. Black Dog Press’ collection, Bodyguard: And Other Crime Dramas, shows Torrey at his best.



London’s Jack the Ripper, Austin’s Servant Girl Annihilator, and Cleveland’s The Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run: I’m a buff of all three unidentified serial killers.

Daniel Stashower has a book coming out in a few weeks on the Butcher of Kingsbury Run. America’s leading expert on Edgar Allen Poe, as well as Harry Houdini, Dan is a fellow Sherlockian, and we both like Columbo, Monk, and some other things. I’m looking forward to it.

I decided to give myself a refresher on the unsolved serial killings that confounded Cleveland’s Public Safety Director, Eliot Ness. Yep – the former Untouchable. I’ve been a buff for years. It’s a fascinating subject – both nonfiction and fiction

From September, 1935 through August, 1938, a dozen bodies were found in Cleveland – all apparently from the same killer. The victims had been dismembered to some extent. Only two were identified, and several heads were never recovered.

The killings suddenly stopped, though it’s thought the count may well have been greater than twelve. A series of similar killings in New Castle, Pennsylvania, may have been related as well. There is a popular candidate, but the case remains unsolved to this day.

Clevelander Badal is likely the leading expert on the killings. He wrote another book on the only man arrested for the killings, as well as one on the New Castle murders. This is rather slow reading, but a must for anybody interested in the case.



Back Porch Pulp is inside, as it’s already warm out at 5 AM. I recently read William Bernhardt’s novel about Cleveland’s Mad Butcher, Nemesis. And I finished my re-read of James Badal’s exhaustive recounting of Cleveland’s Torso Murders.

One of two books next up is this highly-praised graphic novel. I’ve read it once. I’ve not read a lot of graphic novels. I recall thinking it’s got a LOT of pages that are predominantly black backgrounds.

I think that this and Nemesis have the same killer. We shall see.

A couple friends commented they like this a lot. It didn’t do much for me. I’m not crazy about the layout of the panels, or that there is SO MUCH black. It’s not an easy read for me. The story is okay, and while it fictionalizes some parts, it does use the most-identified suspect. Worth a read for buffs of the Torso Murderer.


The Dark City

Back Porch Pulp makes an appearance! It’s been rainy, and then uncomfortably muggy when the sun comes back out. Not so much porch reading.

So, I’ve re-read a nonfiction book (James Badal) on Eliot Ness and the Cleveland Torso Murders. And I re-read a fiction novel (William Bernhardt). And, a graphic novel on them. Continuing my ‘Ness in Cleveland’ theme, back to re-reading the first of Max Allan Collins Jr.’s four novels about that era. I really like these. And his best-selling PI, Nate Heller, makes a cameo in book one.

As I recall, each one covers one of the major things Ness dealt with in real life as Public Safety Director. This one is about the corrupt police force. I think the other books involve the Numbers racket, labor racketeering, and of course, The Mad Butcher.

This is a fun series for a Ness fan.

Prior posts in A (Black) Gat in the Hand – 2022 Series (14)

Asimov – Sci Fi Meets the Police Procedural
The Adventures of Christopher London
Weird Menace from Robert E. Howard
Spicy Adventures from Robert E. Howard
Thrilling Adventures from Robert E. Howard
Norbert Davis’ “The Gin Monkey”
Tracer Bullet
Shovel’s Painful Predicament
Back Porch Pulp #1
Wally Conger on ‘The Hollywood Troubleshooter Saga’
Arsenic and Old Lace
David Dodge
Glen Cook’s Garrett, PI
John Leslie’s Key West Private Eye

Prior posts in A (Black) Gat in the Hand – 2021 Series (8)

The Forgotten Black Masker – Norbert Davis
A (Black) Gat in the Hand is Back!
Black Mask – March, 1932
Three Gun Terry Mack & Carroll John Daly
Bounty Hunters & Bail Bondsmen
Norbert Davis in Black Mask – Volume 1

Prior posts in A (Black) Gat in the Hand – 2020 Series (19)
Hardboiled May on TCM
Some Hardboiled streaming options
Johnny O’Clock (Dick Powell)
Hardboiled June on TCM
Bullets or Ballots (Humphrey Bogart)
Phililp Marlowe – Private Eye (Powers Boothe)
Cool and Lam
All Through the Night (Bogart)
Dick Powell as Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar
Hardboiled July on TCM
YTJD – The Emily Braddock Matter (John Lund)
Richard Diamond – The Betty Moran Case (Dick Powell)
Bold Venture (Bogart & Bacall)
Hardboiled August on TCM
Norbert Davis – ‘Have one on the House’
with Steven H Silver: C.M. Kornbluth’s Pulp
Norbert Davis – ‘Don’t You Cry for Me’
Talking About Philip Marlowe
Steven H Silver Asks you to Name This Movie
Cajun Hardboiled – Dave Robicheaux
More Cool & Lam from Hard Case Crime

A (Black) Gat in the Hand – 2019 Series (15)
Back Deck Pulp Returns
A (Black) Gat in the Hand Returns
Will Murray on Doc Savage
Hugh B. Cave’s Peter Kane
Paul Bishop on Lance Spearman
A Man Called Spade
Hard Boiled Holmes
Duane Spurlock on T.T. Flynn
Andrew Salmon on Montreal Noir
Frank Schildiner on The Bad Guys of Pulp
Steve Scott on John D. MacDonald’s ‘Park Falkner’
William Patrick Murray on The Spider
John D. MacDonald & Mickey Spillane
Norbert Davis goes West(ern)
Bill Crider on The Brass Cupcake

A (Black) Gat in the Hand – 2018 Series (32)
George Harmon Coxe
Raoul Whitfield
Some Hard Boiled Anthologies
Frederick Nebel’s Donahue
Thomas Walsh
Black Mask – January, 1935
Norbert Davis’ Ben Shaley
D.L. Champion’s Rex Sackler
Dime Detective – August, 1939
Back Deck Pulp #1
W.T. Ballard’s Bill Lennox
Day Keene
Black Mask – October, 1933
Back Deck Pulp #2
Black Mask – Spring, 2017
‘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
MORE Cool & Lam!!!!
Thomas Parker’s ‘They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?’
Joe Bonadonna’s ‘Hardboiled Film Noir’ (Part One)
Joe Bonadonna’s ‘Hardboiled Film Noir’ (Part Two)
William Patrick Maynard’s ‘The Yellow Peril’
Andrew P Salmon’s ‘Frederick C. Davis’
Rory Gallagher’s ‘Continental Op’
Back Deck Pulp #3
Back Deck Pulp #4
Back Deck Pulp #5
Joe ‘Cap’ Shaw on Writing
Back Deck Pulp #6
The Black Mask Dinner

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Bob_TieSmile150.jpgBob Byrne’s ‘A (Black) Gat in the Hand’ made its Black Gate debut in 2018 and has returned every summer since.

His ‘The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes’ column ran every Monday morning at Black Gate from March, 2014 through March, 2017. And he irregularly posts on Rex Stout’s gargantuan detective in ‘Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone.’ 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 organized Black Gate’s award-nominated ‘Discovering Robert E. Howard’ series, as well as the award-winning ‘Hither Came Conan’ series.

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

He has written introductions for Steeger Books, and appeared in several magazines, including Black Mask, Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, The Strand Magazine, and Sherlock Magazine.

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