A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Back Down those Mean Streets in 2023

A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Back Down those Mean Streets in 2023

“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)

Talking Tolkien takes a one-week break, as we are into summer – though Ohio’s pleasantly cool weather might belie that. And since 2018, summer Mondays at Black Gate mean it’s pulp time with A (Black) Gat in the Hand.

Talking Tolkien has pushed the start back later than usual, but I’ve been doing pulp reading and writing to gear up for another great run. I have two introductions over at Steeger Press, ready to come out before the end of the year (I hope). I’ll post both here at book release time.

Talking Tolkien will be back next week, but I want A (Black) Gat in the Hand to make a June appearance again this year – we’re almost at 100 essays in the series! Not bad for an award-winning fantasy and sci-fi site. With me, expect the unexpected (to paraphrase from a Monk episode).


I’d not read any John Lawrence, but I picked up Steeger’s first ebook of Cass Blue. The second (and final) volume is in the works. These are different. The settings for the first three of four are more Agatha Christie than the mean streets of Chandler. A country estate with a seance, or  mansion on a secluded island.

The tone and plot are more weird menace than typical hardboiled, while Blue himself plays rough. The fourth story is a serial killer hunt in the city, that is a mix of weird menace and robbery heist.

I liked, but didn’t love, these. They are definitely a change of pace, which is nice. I will be checking out his Marquis of Broadway stories. They seem to be about a police squad who are brutal thugs, in NYC’s theater district.


Frederick Nebel is my second-favorite pulpster after Dashiell Hammett (John D. MacDonald be my favorite writer in any genre). I’ve written about his Donahue series from Black Mask. I fully intend to tackle MacBride and Kennedy, and Cardigan (I just finished volume three of Steeger’s four volume complete collection).

Nebel wrote a lot of air stories for the aviation pulps, before going full-bore hardboiled crime. I am a big fan of his Gales & McGill stories (another essay to write). Black Dog Books published his four Garrison Airways stories, and I’m reading that book now. You’ll be reading about it this summer.


I’ve wanted to write an essay on Sterling’s NY Harbor Patrol cop, Steve Koski, for a couple years, but haven’t managed it yet. I picked up a Koski novel to go with a couple short stories, so that might be on the way.

I also tried the first Gil Vine novel, Alibi Baby. Vine is the house dick for a very fancy NYC hotel. That particular story opens with a rape, and I’m not too keen on the subject matter. So, I’m presently half-way through The Body in the Bed, instead. It’s pretty good.

I even have a Fire Marshal Ben Pedley novel on the Fire tablet. I like Sterling’s writing style.


I read Torrey’s lone novel, 42 Days For Murder, and also have a short story collection. Torrey never adapted from his extreme hardboiled style (even after the pulps had left that approach behind), but I like it. He was a better writer than Daly, so his good stuff has aged better.


I read the second Brock ‘The Rock’ Callahan novel, Day of the Ram. Callahan is the nicest, most law-abiding PI in the genre. You could describe him as milquetoast. But the books aren’t boring, because Gault is as smooth a writer as I’ve found. His style is SO easy to read. Erle Stanley Gardner’s Cool and Lam books are the only others that just flow like Gault. He is a treat to read. I’m going to continue on with his Callahan, and Joe Puma, series’. Puma is a more typical private eye. If you want to read a capital ‘W’ writer, check out Gault. Quite a few of his books are free via kindle unlimited, and are also cheap to buy. My essay on Gault.


I recently had cause to re-read the first twelve Continental Op stories. Hammett was essentially learning – and then honing – his craft with these, and I was floored by how good they really are. He was improving by leaps and bounds. After finishing the twelfth story, I decided to re-read Daly’s “The Red Menace,” which appeared in the same issue of Black Mask as one of Hammett’s stories.

Good lord – it was practically unreadable. It took me over a week and several sittings to get through. My attitude towards Daly had softened over the years. But after a full dose of Hammett, it really showed what a poor writer Daly was. Ugh.

I’ve been toying with taking a Daly story and rewriting it ‘better.’ Keeping the story intact, but improving the bad prose and terrible dialogue. Yes, cocky of me. But I’m not really setting much of a high bar here.


I’m a T.T. Flynn fan. I conned Duane Spurlock into…I mean, he graciously contributed an essay on Flynn’s Westerns.  And I fully intend to write about his Mr. Maddox series, featuring a horse-racing bookie. Not too long ago, I wrote an intro for Steeger Books’ volume one collection of Mike Harris and Trixie Meehan stories. I was, however, far too late in completing and submitting it, so it missed the book. Entirely my fault. I like Mike and Trixie, so I’ll run that intro here at Black Gate.


Radio shows, movies, many more authors, short stories, and novels, TV shows and movies – you know what to expect. There is so much stuff I want to tackle: Alan Ladd’s Box 13 radio show, Wade Miller’s Max Thursday novels, Raoul Whitfield’s terrific Jo Gar (I’ve started that one), more Norbert Davis, my first Chandler essay, Jim Thomson’s After Dark my Sweet (book and movie), Miller’s Crossing, Last Man Standing, more Bogart. And a long-time goal is to do a solid piece on The Hard-Boiled Omnibus; a story-by-story look. This column could break the 200-post mark if I had the time.

I’ve talked to a couple friends who may join the fun – including some repeat offenders. I’m all for sharing our mutual love of Pulp in this column.

I’ve done a lot of different stuff here – and Hither Came Conan will always shine brightly – but the summer pulp visit always makes me happy.

Prior posts in A (Black) Gat in the Hand – 2022 Series (16)

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
Back Porch Pulp #2
Norbert Davis’ Max Latin

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
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
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.jpg

Bob Byrne’s ‘A (Black) Gat in the Hand’ made its Black Gate debut in 2018 and has returned every summer since.

He organized Black Gate’s award-nominated ‘Discovering Robert E. Howard’ series, as well as the award-winning ‘Hither Came Conan’ series. Which is now part of  THE 5-star reviewed, Definitive Guide to Conan. He also organized 2024’s ‘Talking Tolkien.’

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

He writes introductions to pulp collections and novels from Steeger Books, and has appeared in several magazines, including Black Mask, Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, The Strand Magazine, and Sherlock Magazine.

Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
John Bullard

My Summer is now complete with the return of your Gat in the Hand columns, Bob. Thanks for pointing me at some new writers to check out.

John Bullard

The Cass Blue stories do sound interesting. I always enjoy an Old Dark House, Scooby Doo setting! I’ll see if I can come up with something interesting for you on REH.

Thomas Parker

I’m looking forward to what the summer series will bring!

Thomas Parker

Have you ever done a Black Gat on the television Dragnets? I’d like to see that. The title? “Just the Facts!”


If it helps there is no rape in Alibi Baby. On the other hand, the opening is probably the strongest part of the story. Vine would probably work better as a noir protagonist than a hardboiled hero.

[…] Back Down those Mean Streets in 2023 Will Murray on Hammett Didn’t Write “The Diamond Wager” […]

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x