Thrilling Detectives

Jun 11, 2015 by

Thrilling Detective 1943-11

I have a little office which says “Terry Mack, Private Investigator,” on the door, which means whatever you wish to think it. I ain’t a crook, and I ain’t a dick; I play the game on the level, in my own way. I’m in the center of a triangle; between the crook and the police and the victim. The police have had an eye on me for some time, buy only an eye, never a hand; they don’t get my lay at all. The crooks; well, some is on, and some ain’t; most of them don’t know what to think, until I’ve put the hooks in them. Sometimes they gun for me, but that ain’t a one-sided affair. When it comes to shooting, I don’t have to waste time cleaning my gun.

Three Gun Terry Mack was the world’s first hard-boiled private eye. The creation of Carroll John Daly, Terry appeared in a pair of stories featured in THE BLACK MASK in 1923 and 1924. He was soon supplanted by Daly’s best known detective, Race Williams, who debuted in the June 1, 1923 issue of the magazine that would become synonymous with the hard-boiled detective story.

THE BLACK MASK was not the only rough-paper magazine where tough-guy detectives made their home. When Popular Publications launched their line of ten-cent pulps, they got the ball rolling with DIME DETECTIVE, another classic in the line of hard-boiled periodicals. Ned Pines’ Standard Magazines was right there with Steeger and Goldsmith, starting his chain of pulp magazines with THRILLING DETECTIVE in the very same month. The first issues of Popular’s and Pines’ new periodicals were dated November 1931.

“Action-packed, well-written and well-planned stories. Novels must be of the trip hammer type, with a murder in the first chapter and others later.” Those were the editorial requirements set forth by THRILLING DETECTIVE in a 1933 issue of THE WRITER. Although they were not always well-written or planned, no one could fault the magazine for a lack of action . . . nor corpses. Under the guidance of managing editor Leo Margulies and his hand-picked staff, THRILLING DETECTIVE ran “rough-and-tumble, corpse-ridden yarns” featuring “suitably hard-nosed and hard-boiled detectives.” As Margulies often opined, his line was “the fastest bunch of all pulps.”

On Thursday evening, August 13th, beginning at 8:40 PM, John Wooley and John Gunnison pay a visit to some of the continuing characters from the Thrilling line of detective pulps — Doctor Coffin, the allegedly dead Hollywood actor turned vigilante, created by pulp and film writer Perley Poore Sheehan; the workaday detectives such as department store detective Don Marko, the creation of Stewart Sterling (whose real name was Prentice Winchell); the extremely prolific Robert Leslie Bellem’s Hollywood gumshoe Nick Ransom who, like his better known counter-part Dan Turner, “torches a gasper” or “sets fire to a coffin nail” when he lights a cigarette; and the bindlestiff crimefighter, Baghdad, Hobo Detective, written by Milton Lowe and featured in a pair of stories that ran in POPULAR DETECTIVE.

Then we’ve got the wartime creation of “Walt Bruce” — an allegedly Chinese crimefighter known as Dr. Zeng who is actually the son of white missionary parents. Written by Bellem and W. T. Ballard, the Zeng stories came about through the encouragement of the Office of War Information, which thought that playing up our Chinese allies in stories was a wonderful idea. Dr. Zeng’s sidekick Lai Hu Chow, who is really Chinese, has an artificial leg in which he can carry weapons and other useful stuff.

Of course, there’s also Race Williams, one-time BLACK MASK big dog who famously boosted sales of the magazine every time he was featured on the cover. The end was coming into sight for Race and his creator. Carroll John Daly moved into comic books after the death of the pulps. Race appeared in a handful of stories published in THRILLING DETECTIVE before he found his way into SMASHING DETECTIVE STORIES during the early fifties.

John Wooley is the author, co-author, or editor of more than thirty books, including the recent HARD-BOILED CHRISTMAS STORIES. John also penned the script for the made-for-TV movie DAN TURNER, HOLLYWOOD DETECTIVE, the award-winning independent film CAFE PURGATORY, and the documentary BILL BOYCE – MONEY ACTOR. He has also written comic books, trading cards, and thousands of magazine and newspaper stories, most of them in conjunction with his work as the music and horror-movie writer for the TULSA WORLD, a position he held from 1983 through 2006. He is currently a contributing editor and columnist for OKLAHOMA MAGAZINE and full-time freelance writer specializing in pop-culture subjects. This year, he was inducted into the Oklahoma Historians’ Hall of Fame.

John Gunnison is one of the foremost pulp dealers in the world. He’s the owner of Adventure House, a firm that not only deals in pulp magazines and other paper collectibles, but also publishes pulp replica editions and other material, including the much-admired HIGH ADVENTURE. John is the author of BAUMHOFER: PULP ART MASTER and BELARSKI: PULP ART MASTER, and co-author of THE ADVENTURE HOUSE GUIDE TO THE PULPS, one of the foremost reference works concerning pulp magazines. For Collectors Press he helped design Frank M. Robinson’s PULP CULTURE, Max Allan Collins’ HISTORY OF MYSTERY, Ron Goulart’s COMIC BOOK CULTURE, and other works. John was formerly the editor and publisher of THE PULP COLLECTOR, a leading pulp fanzine in its day.

Join the two Johns for a look at some of the most intriguing continuing detective characters that the Thrilling group published, along with a few of their creators on Thursday, August 13th, at 8:40 PM. To learn more about this and all of our PulpFest 2015 programming, please click the “schedule” button on our home page at www.pulpfest.com.

(Another leading author to appear in THRILLING DETECTIVE and other Standard detective pulps was Benton Braden. He got his start in 1933 by placing a story in Street & Smith’s CLUES ALL STAR DETECTIVE STORIES. A few years later, he found his way to Standard with a short novel entitled “Face Fixers.” It ran in the July 1936 issue of POPULAR DETECTIVE. Soon thereafter, he began the “Mr. Finnis” series for THRILLING DETECTIVE. It concerned a wealthy young bachelor who, “when he became the deadly foe of crime . . . his features seemed to have set as though they were granite. His eyes were smoldering, bitter, resolute in determination to kill or be killed.” Benton also wrote the “Percentage Kid” stories for Standard as well as the adventures of Willie Brann, a gumshoe with an insatiable appetite for peanuts who packed a “pair of gats which brought terror to . . . the underworld.”  Braden continued writing for the company through 1952. One of the Brann stories appears in the issue pictured here, the November 1943 number of THRILLING DETECTIVE. The cover artwork is by George Rozen.

To learn more about the Thrilling Group and THRILLING DETECTIVE and read some of its stories, pick up a copy of THRILLING DETECTIVE HEROES, edited by John Locke and John Wooley and published by Adventure House in 2007.)