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A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Norbert Davis’ Max Latin

A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Norbert Davis’ Max Latin

“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)

A Black Gat in the Hand makes a rare Fall guest appearance! I think that John D. MacDonald was one of the greatest writers of the 20th Century – in any genre. He’s my favorite author, and I’ve written several essays about him here at Black Gate. His last piece of professional writing before he died was an introduction to The Mysterious Press’ collection of Norbert Davis’ Max Latin short stories. Written for Dime Detective magazine, they are one of my favorite private eye series’.

Unfortunately, MacDonald comes across as a grumpy old man shaking his cane and yelling “Get off my lawn, you kids!” He essentially accused Davis of being  a sell-out for moving from the pulps to the slicks. It’s a very unflattering intro. Steeger Books has reissued the collection, but with a new introduction: by me!

Getting to replace something that John D. MacDonald wrote is a thrill for me. As I am an unabashed Norbert Davis fan, it’s a lot more complimentary than JDM’s was. I listen to the audiobook of these stories several times a month. I really enjoy them. Below, find my new intro. And if it sounds like something you might like, swing by Steeger Books and order a copy. It really is one of my favorites.

Norbert Davis is considered one of Joseph ‘Cap’ Shaw’s Black Mask Boys: Those writers who formed the core of the legendary magazine editor’s stable. But Shaw only accepted four of Davis’ submissions, and one has to think it likely that there were more, but which were rejected. Davis would sell ten stories to subsequent Mask editors. Shaw did include a Davis story in his ground-breaking The Hard-Boiled Omnibus, but in reality, Davis was much less of a ‘Shaw guy’ than those more commonly identified, like Dashiell Hammett, Erle Stanley Gardner, Raymond Chandler, Frederick Nebel, Raoul Whitfield, or even Horace McCoy.

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A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Hardboiled in Key West – John Leslie

A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Hardboiled in Key West – John Leslie

“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)

I wanted to bring over another post from The Public life of Sherlock Holmes. From my experience, this is a WAAAAAY below the radar private eye series. But I’ve read it through twice, and I really like it. And it’s got a very Pulp Era atmosphere, though it was written in the nineties. So, here’s a revised essay on John Leslie’s Key West, piano-playing, private eye.

If you read this column, (or are a FB friend) you know that John D. MacDonald, author of the Travis McGee series, Cape Fear (originally titled The Executioners), and much, much more, is my favorite writer. And I believe, one of the greatest American writers of the twentieth century, in any genre. His is the pre-eminent name in the subcategory of ‘Florida writers.’ Randy Wayne White’s Doc Ford, a marine biologist who lives in a stilt house, is absolutely McGee’s successor. I think White is a top-notch writer and I certainly recommend that series.

I’m not as up on this group as I used to be, but Carl Hiassen is probably the best-known Florida scribe these days. His biting satire and hilarious situations can be laugh-out-loud reading. In a similar vein to Hiassen are the works of Lawrence Shames. He also pokes fun at the absurdities of Florida life with a series of mostly unconnected books set in Key West. They provide some chuckles.

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A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Wally Conger on ‘The Hollywood Troubleshooter Saga’

A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Wally Conger on ‘The Hollywood Troubleshooter Saga’

“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)

Wally Conger and I chat on FB about our common interests in books, movies, and TV/streaming shows. We’re even co-Admins on a FB group dedicated to hardboiled/noir, and another one about Solar Pons. He’s also a big fan of the extremely talented James Scott Bell, so I was really happy when Wally agreed to write an essay about that author’s pulp series starring Bill Armbrewster! Take it away, Wally:

Hollywood and hardboiled noir will be forever intertwined. And James Scott Bell, a winner of the International Thriller Writers Award, writing teacher, and creator of at least four entertaining thriller series of books that I can think of (including the delightful Kick-Ass Nun stories), has recently underscored that fact with his ebook Trouble Is My Beat: The Bill Armbrewster, Hollywood Troubleshooter Mystery Novelettes in Classic Pulp Style.

Admittedly, that’s a mouthful of a title, but it’s good marketing. It describes exactly what this gem is. The year is 1945. The war’s just ended, the boys are marching home, and Hollywood is grinding out movies faster than Rita Hayworth is plowing through husbands. Bill Armbrewster is the “troubleshooter” for National-Consolidated Pictures — in other words, he works to keep the studio’s image, and the images of its “people properties,” squeaky clean.

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

A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Back Porch 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 Chandler’s The Big Sleep

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

I did six Back Deck Pulp installments. If you don’t know what that was – I had a great back deck at my former house. I would sit out there and read a lot. Mostly pulp stuff, but other things too. And I would take a pic of the book/or rarely, on my Kindle); trying to include some of my yard, or deck, and my leg or knee (hey – it was just a thing). And I’d talk about what I was reading. Usually sharing info about the author.

They were fun little things to share what I liked reading. And often it was a plug for an upcoming A (Black) Gat in the Hand post. I’m in an apartment now, with a small concrete slab back porch. With winter, and then the brutal heat of June, now behind us, I’m getting out there to read a little more. So, Back Porch Pulp makes its debut as Back Deck Pulp’s successor. Enjoy!

JACK HIGGINS

Back Deck Pulp has been re-branded. Back Porch Pulp. I read a $1.99 Jack Higgins ebook, “Comes the Dark Stranger.”

I have 49 Higgins books on the shelves: I’m a fan. That one was ‘meh.’ Predictable and not that exciting.

I’m a big fan of his WW II historical fiction stuff. And the first dozen Sean Dillon books.

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A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Tracer Bullet Takes the Case

A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Tracer Bullet Takes the Case

“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)

I have had a Roger Torrey essay in mind for a couple years. And I thought I was going to write it this past weekend, but it didn’t quite work out that way. I’ll still be doing one this summer (he tells himself), using a short story from Black Dog’s excellent collection, Bodyguard. But today is not that day!

Calvin and Hobbes rivals Fox Trot for my all-time favorite comic strip. Bloom County barely holds off Dilbert for the third spot. Of course, the magic of C&H captivated millions over the years, and still does.

I have all of the non-repeating collections. Having bought them as they came out, I didn’t get that massive hardback collection. I even have the one from the exhibit here at Ohio State in Columbus, OH back in 1995. I didn’t see that one, unfortunately.

Calvin is a six-year old kid, and he has a stuffed tiger named Hobbes. Hobbes is alive when it’s just Calvin around. He’s a normal stuffed animal when someone else is (I only noticed one panel with an animated Hobbes, and someone else there…). Calvin is constantly getting into trouble with Hobbes.

There were some recurring characters, like Spaceman Spiff. There were two or three series’ with Calvin imagining himself as the classic hardboiled private eye, ala Sam Spade. He is Tracer Bullet.

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What I’m Watching – April 2022

What I’m Watching – April 2022

Outer Range

A couple weeks ago, I did a post on the marvelous, no longer with us, Terry Pratchett. That included a British miniseries for The Color of Magic, which freely adapted parts from the first three novels. Starring Sean Astin and Tim Curry, I liked it.

Then last week, I did an in-depth look at three USA Network shows which I liked, from the glory years. Monk, Psych, and Burn Notice. So, while I’m in this kind of mood, figured I’d talk about some of the stuff I’m streaming/watching lately as well. I don’t actually watch ANY network television any more. I think Moms was the last show I tuned in to. I did like The Unicorn, with the amazingly talented Wilton Goggins (Justified), but just sort of drifted away from that. I do want to get back on board with Nathan Fillion’s The Rookie.

Oh well – between Prime, current streaming shows, and my DVD collection (it’s always Bogie time!), don’t feel like I’m missing anything.

This is an Amazon Original, dropping episodes weekly. It stars Josh Brolin. I’m a fan of both him and his dad – they do rugged SO well. Being a Robert E. Howard fan, I’m familiar with the Weird Western sub-genre. And this one is also a crime show – sort of. Six of eight episodes have dropped.

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When USA was Kicking the Major Networks’ Collective Butts!

When USA was Kicking the Major Networks’ Collective Butts!

In the early 2000’s, for about a decade and-a-half, USA Network was cranking out quality shows. For some programming, they were a viable competitor to the big four. In those pre-streaming days, I faithfully watched each week. And in the past year, I’ve discovered a couple I didn’t watch the first time around. I decided it’s time to talk about a few of them. So here’s the first of a two-parter, looking at some of those great USA Network shows.

MONK (2002 – 2009)

How have I never written a stand-alone about Monk for Black Gate? That needs to be rectified in 2022! This is the show that put USA on the original programming map. Tony Shaloub’s defective detective just grew in popularity each season. The series finale, when aired, had the highest rating of any hour-long drama series on basic cable.

Shaloub is Adrian Monk – formerly a brilliant detective for the San Francisco Police Department. He was a bit obsessive-compulsive, but it was manageable. Barely. But then his wife, Trudy, is killed by a car bomb, and his OCD goes extreme. He ends up discharged by the police department. He can’t solve the murder, and it eats at him. He can’t do what he’s best at, to fix the biggest issue in his life.

His former partner, Captain Leland Stottlemeyer, is now chief of police, and he occasionally hires Monk to consult on tough cases. Lieutenant Randy Disher is his right hand. Stottlemeyer is competent, and Disher is brave; but they’re not brilliant. That’s where Monk comes in.

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Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Day 55

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Day 55

So, in 2020, as the Pandemic settled in like an unwanted relative who just came for a week and is still tying up the bathroom, I did a series of posts for the FB Page of the Nero Wolfe fan club, The Wolfe Pack. I speculated on what Stay at Home would be like for Archie, living in the Brownstone with Nero Wolfe, Fritz Brenner, and Theodore Horstmann. I have already re-posted days one through fifty-two. Here is day fifty five (May 15). It helps if you read the series in order, so I’ve included links to the earlier entries.

Day Fifty Five – 2020 Stay at Home

I had to step out and help Fred find Evelyn Lanham’s step-son, Jason. Apparently not satisfied with wasting all of his late father’s money, he wanted to break her; thus the bail-jump. He was hiding out in a rented room above a bar down near the docks. Since the bar wasn’t doing much business, it wasn’t a bad spot. Fred got the initial lead but ended up stuck and I got him the rest of the way. The guy got loose from Fred and dashed through the kitchen and then out the back door, which was where I, ever the good operative, happened to be standing. I lent our quarry a hand. Or rather, a foot. He didn’t seem to appreciate the gesture. Parker was happy with us, and since it was a favor, no payment was necessary.

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Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Days 50 & 52

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Days 50 & 52

So, in 2020, as the Pandemic settled in like an unwanted relative who just came for a week and is still tying up the bathroom, I did a series of posts for the FB Page of the Nero Wolfe fan club, The Wolfe Pack. I speculated on what Stay at Home would be like for Archie, living in the Brownstone with Nero Wolfe, Fritz Brenner, and Theodore Horstmann. I have already re-posted days one through thirty-nine. Here are days fifty (May 10) and fifty-two (May 12). It helps if you read the series in order, so I’ve included links to the earlier entries.

Day Fifty – 2020 Stay at Home

No surprise that it’s been quiet here in the brownstone. Getting out to investigate a crime at Lewis Hewitt’s place was a flurry of activity during the lock down. With so many cases of the virus still being discovered daily, I’ve resisted the urge to call Bascom for a new assignment. Though, I may soon.

At lunch, Wolfe talked about the recovery of the American economy from the Pandemic. Supply chains, consumer fears of infection, strained cash reserves of businesses, social distancing and other health guidelines; It will be a slow return towards normal. Fortunately for him, and also for my paycheck, he expects clients to return. He was suitably grumpy at the prospect, of course. Work remains something to only undertake when forced by circumstances.

But crimes continue. And there will be more crimes of the type clients bring to him, as activity ‘out in the world’ increases. Which will keep him in beer, books, food, and flowers. I may have to practice badgering him into taking on jobs. I’ve gotten out of the habit.

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Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Days 45 & 46

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Days 45 & 46

So, in 2020, as the Pandemic settled in like an unwanted relative who just came for a week and is still tying up the bathroom, I did a series of posts for the FB Page of the Nero Wolfe fan club, The Wolfe Pack. I speculated on what Stay at Home would be like for Archie, living in the Brownstone with Nero Wolfe, Fritz Brenner, and Theodore Horstmann. I have already re-posted days one through thirty-nine. Here are days forty-five (May 5) and forty-six (May 6). It helps if you read the series in order, so I’ve included links to the earlier entries.

Day Forty Five – 2020 Stay at Home

“WHAT is this?”

I looked back at Nero Wolfe as I went to my desk. “Your beer. What does it look like?” I had just put the tray on his desk.

“This most certainly is not my beer, Archie. What is this flummery?”

“Well, sir, it is Cinco de Mayo.”

“Archie…”

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