Tag Archives: A Detective Story

Contents Vol. I No. 10

Introducing Dime Pulp Number Ten

In Issue Ten of Dime Pulp, A Serial Fiction Magazine, the big news is that Colin Deerwood, who had always considered A Detective Story as a working titled, has finally settled on Better Than Dead for the title of his 1940 serial detective fiction prompted by the illustration of a vintage Black Mask cover and featuring the hapless Lackland Ask now on the run from the cops and the mob after the massacre in the Heights.

The Last Resort, aka Tales Of A Long Legged Snoop, picks up the pace toward its concluding chapters as Lee Malone, former international beauty and reporter for The Corkscrew County Grapevine, accompanies her boss to a Charity Fund Raiser fashion show at Montague Winery’s flashy mini Bavarian castle.

In the final installment of The White Room, Helene Baron-Murdock’s Detective Jim Donovan of the Weston County Sheriff’s Office Violent Crimes Unit narrowly escapes being shot on sight as he tries to solve the mystery of the death of Ike Carey in this latest Hard Boiled Myth.

Dime Pulp continues its crime spree with the serialization of two full length novels, The Last Resort and Better Than Dead, A Detective Story, as well as another serial short story based on Greek myths under the rubric of Hard Boiled Myth.

If you’ve made it this far, go ahead and follow the links below to reading entertainment with the serial contents of Volume One, Number Ten

  —Perry O’Dickle, chief scribe
and word accountant


TLR banner321Deep in the redwood wilds along the Corkscrew River, someone is shooting neighborhood dogs. The year is 1985 and Lee Malone, former fashion model, queen of the runways from Paris to Milan, once dubbed the most beautiful woman in the world, now a part-time reporter for The Corkscrew County Grapevine, is looking for a story to sink her teeth into. When Lee finds the owner of Kelly’s Seaside Resort brutally murdered, it leads her on an adventure that includes a mysterious gray van, another murder, extortion, pornography, sex slavery, and a shadowy organization of militant feminists known as SAPHO.  In the process, Lee Malone’s notorious past catches up with her. 

The Last Resort, Chapters 30-31

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Greek myth is rife with murder, mutilation, cannibalism, mayhem, and the ever popular incest.  Weston County Sheriff’s Detective Jim Donovan of the Violent Crimes Unit wouldn’t know a Greek myth from a Greek salad, but if he did he would find some troubling similarities to the cases he’s investigating.  Revisited as crime fiction are the strange death of Hippolytus, the agonizing death of Heracles, the slaughter of Penelope’s suitors, the Fall of Icarus,  the sparagamos of Orpheus, and the cursed lineage of Pelops.  Helene Baron-Murdock’s Hard Boiled Myth taps into the rich vein of classical literature to frame these ancient tales in a modern context.

The White Room I
The White Room II
The White Room III
The White Room IV
The White Room V

BTD head

Lackland Ask is the name. ‘Lack’ to my friends, ‘Don’t’ to those who think they’re funny. You might have seen my portrait on the cover of Black Mask, the crime fiction magazine. This is my story. It starts with a blonde. This kind of story always starts with a blonde. 

A Detective Story—10

 

Better Than Dead—10

by Colin Deerwood

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“Becky? Becky!” but with the gag covering my mouth I could have just as well been saying “cookie.” I clattered around in my severe confinement and yelled, “Becky! Get me out of here!” I had managed to slip the gag off to one side of my chin. “Becky! Hurry!”

“I can’t, Lack. They would know it was me and I would be in much more trouble. I am confined to my room and was only able to sneak out because, as your native Americans say, they were having a big powwow.” She sounded sorry sad and I might have sympathized except that I had a pressing need.

“Becky, listen to me!” I strained to make my voice heard, the gag now around my chin. “You don’t understand! This is very serious!”

“Lack, I know,” she spoke quietly, “I have overheard them talking. It is serious.”

“Then get me out of here!”

“I can’t, I’m sorry.”

I figured I’d let her in on the emergency. “How can I put this delicately, uh, I have to whiz so bad my back teeth are floating!”

“Whiz? What is this whiz? Oh, perhaps it is the new all color film from Hollywood? But teeth, I’m not certain. . . .”

“Becky!” I yelled, “Listen to me! If I don’t get out of here I’m going to wet my pants! Just let me out of this box so I can find a corner to do my business and I promise I’ll get right back in and no one will ever know. I’ll even let you tie me up.” I was desperate. I would have crossed my legs if they hadn’t been tied at the ankles.

Silence. Then, “The teeth that float. . . .”

“Becky! I’m begging you! Let me out of here!”

“Shush!” she hissed. “I think I hear them calling for me.” I heard movement away from the box. “I’ll return if I can.”

That decided that. It didn’t matter  that I wet my pants because worse was yet to come and once I was ripe enough, the mugs would sort through what’s left of me and get their diamond. I would have to come to terms with that, but incrementally.

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Wet wool is itchy. Maybe that would make a good epitaph for my tombstone not that I could be guaranteed anything more than cement socks at the graveyard bottom of the East River. The happy thoughts just weren’t coming as I tried to distract myself.

I’d managed to get the gag off my face and somehow loosened the rope binding my hands only to have them explode into a swarm of pins and needles. Problem was, I was breathing my own air and it was making me drowsy.

I could hear workmen nearby hammering. Someone raised a shout. And the sporadic hammering resumed. I was surprised by the sound of running and suddenly my confinement was given more light as well as a large displacement of air. I was crushed by a heavy weight consisting of knees, elbows, and full torso with a voice shushing in my ear. The lid to the box snapped down and I was in the dark again. It was Becky. And it was the last straw that emptied my suffering bladder.

I grabbed her by the elbow and brought my face close to hers. “What I heard wasn’t hammering, they were gunshots. Who was doing the shooting?”

She was breathing hard in my ear, her chest heaving. I started to say something but she shushed me again. “Stay quiet they won’t find us.” She whispered and I realized I could get used to those whispers in my ear. I tried to relax but trussed up the way I was and with her knees in my kidney and her elbow in my neck, I just couldn’t get comfortable. She wasn’t tied up so she could shift her weight and her hip pressed down on my ribs causing me to gasp for breath. I grunted. She whispered “Sorry,” and that made it all better. We stayed quiet listening to each other’s breathing and for any sounds outside our confinement. My stomach rumbled or maybe it was hers. The minutes seemed like hours.

I heard a hinge creak and a shaft of light pierced the dark interior. Now both her knees were gouging into my arm and my thigh. There was enough light for me to catch her profile as she peaked outside the box which I realized was a large trunk with a domed top. Then she sat back down on me and let the lid drop and we were in the dark again.

“It was awful, Lack, they burst in shooting everyone.” She started to blubber.

“What? Who? Becky, untie me and get me out of this box so I can understand what you’re babbling g about.”

The trunk lid was pushed open and I was bathed in a dim grey light.

“These knots are impossible! And they’re wet!”

“I have a penknife in my vest pocket, use that!”

I felt her frisking me but maybe she was unfamiliar with men’s vests?

“Oops, sorry.”

“Yeah, not that pocket.”

Finally she found it after fumbling under my coat and began sawing at the rope tying my hands to my feet. The ropes came loose and I was able to free one hand and pull myself upright. She stood on the outside of the trunk helping me stand up. I took the knife from her and freed my feet. I pulled myself over the edge of the large trunk and fell to the floor. It hurt and felt good at the same time.

I didn’t waste a minute getting rid of the ropes, rubbing the circulation back into my wrists. I grabbed her by the elbow and brought my face close to hers. “What I heard wasn’t hammering, they were gunshots. Who was doing the shooting?”

“I don’t know,” her eyes wide with fright, “Their faces were covered by kerchiefs and they wore auto racing goggles. I heard one of them shouting ‘Where are the diamonds?!’ Issac and Golie and the others were shooting too, and Herr Doktor I think was. . . .”

We were in some kind of storage loft. A dull light seeped through the dusty windows along one wall, packing crates, more large trunks, odds and ends of bulky furnishings made indistinct shadows and shapes. The windows were closed but I could still hear the sirens getting closer. “We have to get out of here.!”

Rebecca pointed to the door set into the far wall and I followed, limping the cramps out of my legs. I was reminded once again that I’d been left to my own devices and that certain things can’t be put off forever.

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The door led to a dimly lit hallway at the head of a flight of stairs leading down. At the opposite end a window allowed access to a fire escape. I could hear the shouts and clomping of flatfeet spreading out over the crime scene several floors below. From the vantage of the window onto the fire escape, the alley was swarming with the flashing lights of patrol cars.

fire escape2“What floor are we on?”

“We are at the very top, seven.”

“I shook my head. “Too much can go wrong on a fire escape seven stories up. What’s on the roof?”

“A little garden where the women of the building grow edibles for their kitchen. Oh, and Golie’s pigeon coop. He is so gentle with them, you wouldn’t think that he was the same fearful enforcer.”

“How close are the nearby buildings?” I was thinking if worse comes to worse.

She shook her head. “No, they are either too distant or many stories shorter.”

“Well, that’s it. We’re cornered. The cops are after me in connection with my lawyer Ralphie Silver’s murder I heard through the grapevine. They found my prints at the scene. Kovic’s mob is after me for dumping him in the drink and icing his muscle. That I should have figured, but Max confirmed it. Somebody else is after me for something I don’t even know about. And my ex is after me for alimony payments. The cops are gonna turn this place upside down looking for witnesses, victims, or gunsels and I’m a hot property.”

She looked at me perplexed. “I am not certain I understood everything you were saying except that maybe you are in a lot of trouble if the police find you. I too must avoid contact with the police because if they ask for my papers, they will learn that I am in this country illegally.”

“Rats, just as I get out of one pickle I end up in another!”

“Lack, this is no time to think about food. I have an idea. Come.”

She hurried back into the storage loft and I followed on her heels as she rushed over to a bank of shelves and started pulling down bags and suitcases. She rooted through some large boxes, yanking out articles of clothing, handing me a dress. “Here, try this on.”

It was too tight around the shoulders and the neckline was too revealing. I saw what she was up to and I liked what she had in mind but I didn’t think it was going to work. Not many dames of the six foot square shouldered variety.

She must have realized that too. She pulled out a large man’s overcoat that likely belonged to somebody who was wider than they were tall. The bottom hem came to my knees. She fit a big ugly green scarf over my head and tied it under my chin.

“Take off your pants.”

I wasn’t sure I heard right. “What?”

“And your suit jacket. Put them in this bag”

She had me step into a large skirt with lace around the hem and then fit an apron over that, cinching it at the waist. My hairy ankles and clodhoppers were still in plain view.

She frowned. “Stoop down. Yes, bend your knees. Good, that hides most of your ankles and your socks and garters. Here, keep this bag with your clothes in front of you so that they cannot see your big man’s shoes.”

She hurriedly slipped into a large gray overcoat and slung a leather purse over one arm. She wrapped a multicolored scarf over her head and tied it under her chin. Then she fussed with my scarf, closing it around my face so that nothing but the tip of my nose and my eyes were showing. She stepped back to admire her handiwork and gave a big smile. “If we had a mirror we could see that we look like a couple of old babushkas on the way to market!”

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The first cops, a couple of plainclothes mugs running up the stairs with their guns drawn like Saturday matinee cowboys didn’t expect to see us. We were on the back stairs that existed for services not the front where the lobby, elevator, mezzanine, and carpeting were for looks. The young one with the slicked back hair and the twenty five dollar suit stared at us and then spoke to Rebecca. “You ladies live around her?”

I looked him over. I could take him and his cheap suit but what about his partner, a downtown cop I’d seen in the company of Hogan before looking back wondering why the kid was bothering?

It was the two cops guarding the other side of the door  on the steps leading to the alley that wanted to make a deal of it..

Rebecca, shoulders hunched timidly, pointed a finger up the stairwell and said “mop,” miming the action, and then mimed passing an iron over a board.

“Ok, yer the housekeepers for the apartment upstairs? You seen any guys with guns running around?”

I had a hard time keeping from bursting out laughing and covered with a sneeze. Rebecca’s shock and disbelief looked real.

“C’mon,” the older cop called, continuing up, “they don’t understand a word you’re saying.”

The second set of cops were mostly uniforms clustered around the exit door to the alley and looked mean the way street cops do, having seen it all, and too worldly wise to be taken by some cheap disguise, parted like the Red Sea as Rebecca held me under the arm and I shuffled along as best I could to the exit door, head bowed down, not one of them thinking what are these two old broads doing at the scene of  a crime?

It was the two cops guarding the other side of the door on the steps leading to the alley that wanted to make a deal of it.

“Hold up, ladies, and where do we think we’re going now?” He was a tall skinny redhead with his cap sitting on the back of his head. His partner was a beefy bloke with a cauliflower for a face. He said, “What you two’s doin here?”

Rebecca put her fists to her hips and got close, frowning into his grainy mug. “Ve are to verk how ve cannot eat not verk?”

“Now, ma’am,, he just wants to know the reason why you’re being at a crime scene seeing as how it being off limits to all but the police and all.”

“I vant complain!” she shouted, “but no is listen! Mrs. Krawitch old lady!” she said tugging me down the steps, “cannot sleep all that bang bang bang. I call police can’t sleep! Tell them must verk Vest Side, mop, mop, mop, clean, clean, clean!”

“But lady, we are the cops!” pasty face offered.

copsShe pointed a finger at his puffed out chest. “Then something do it about!” she said with all the authority of a shrew. “I have verk go now. Come, Mrs. Krawitch.” Hooking an arm around my stooped shoulders, she carefully steered my shuffling progress through the maze of idling squad cars, occasionally glaring back accusingly at the two perplexed coppers.

I had to admit that she had talent and I could just imagine what those dumb flatfoots were saying behind our backs.

“That’s the trouble with them foreign broads, they’s ugly as sin. Ya seen the mug on that old hag. I swear she was growing a moustache. Smelled like an outhouse.”

“Yeah, but the young one’s a looker.” 

“Problem is they all end up looking like they got crippling arthritis,  five o’clock shadow, and permanent shiners.”


Next Time: The Subway To Bliss

Contents Vol. I No. 9

Introducing Dime Pulp Number Nine

In Issue Nine of Dime Pulp, A Serial Fiction Magazine, the big news is that Colin Deerwood, who had always considered A Detective Story as a working titled, has finally settled on Better Than Dead as the title of his 1940 serial detective fiction prompted by the illustration of a vintage Black Mask cover and featuring the hapless Lackland Ash in a quest for diamonds and the legendary Empress’ Cucumber.

The Last Resort, aka Tales Of A Long Legged Snoop, picks up the pace toward its concluding chapters as Lee Malone, former international beauty and reporter for The Corkscrew County Grapevine, is under suspicion of torching her own country cabin. To the rescue comes her neighbor, Rhonda LaLonda, one time porn star, to take her under her wing for commiseration and whiskey.

In the fourth installment of The White Room, Helen Baron-Murdock’s Detective Jim Donovan of the Weston County Sheriff’s Office Violent Crimes Unit ties together more pieces of the mystifying puzzle into the death of Ike Carey with the help of Ionna Gunn, director of the environmental group, EAF, that points to a sinister government agency operating behind the scenes as he tries to solve the mystery of this latest Hard Boiled Myth.

Dime Pulp continues its crime spree with the serialization of two full length novels, The Last Resort and Better Than Dead, A Detective Story, as well as another serial short story based on Greek myths under the rubric of Hard Boiled Myth.

If you’ve made it this far, go ahead and follow the links below to reading entertainment with the serial contents of Volume One, Number Nine

  —Perry O’Dickle, chief scribe
and word accountant


TLR banner321Deep in the redwood wilds along the Corkscrew River, someone is shooting neighborhood dogs. The year is 1985 and Lee Malone, former fashion model, queen of the runways from Paris to Milan, once dubbed the most beautiful woman in the world, now a part-time reporter for The Corkscrew County Grapevine, is looking for a story to sink her teeth into. When Lee finds the owner of Kelly’s Seaside Resort brutally murdered, it leads her on an adventure that includes a mysterious gray van, another murder, extortion, pornography, sex slavery, and a shadowy organization of militant feminists known as SAPHO.  In the process, Lee Malone’s notorious past catches up with her. 

The Last Resort, Chapters 28-29

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Greek myth is rife with murder, mutilation, cannibalism, mayhem, and the ever popular incest.  Weston County Sheriff’s Detective Jim Donovan of the Violent Crimes Unit wouldn’t know a Greek myth from a Greek salad, but if he did he would find some troubling similarities to the cases he’s investigating.  Revisited as crime fiction are the strange death of Hippolytus, the agonizing death of Heracles, the slaughter of Penelope’s suitors, the Fall of Icarus,  the sparagamos of Orpheus, and the cursed lineage of Pelops.  Helene Baron-Murdock’s Hard Boiled Myth taps into the rich vein of classical literature to frame these ancient tales in a modern context.

The White Room I
The White Room II
The White Room III
The White Room IV

BTD head

Lackland Ask is the name. ‘Lack’ to my friends, ‘Don’t’ to those who think they’re funny. You might have seen my portrait on the cover of Black Mask, the crime fiction magazine. This is my story. It starts with a blonde. This kind of story always starts with a blonde. 

A Detective Story—9

 

Better Than Dead, A Detective Story—9

by Colin Deerwood

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The rain had stopped but there were puddles among the piles of trash in the alleyway. I steered her away from a big one by stepping in it for her.

“You’re so gallant,” she said.

She had looped her arm through mine and leaned on me for support. I leaned on her because it felt good. She was smiling and humming to herself and I kinda knew what that felt like just then.

“Mind if I call you Becky?”

She looked shockingly pleased. “Becky, a name like in your American writer, Shemuel Klemins’ book, who is the sweetheart of a Tom Sawyer, yes, Becky. We read his stories when I was in school in Zurich.” Her tone turned confidential and intimate. “He is quite famous with his American tall tales translated into many languages. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was my very favorite. How I longed to sail on the mighty Mississippi!” she added with a sigh.

toms1Max’s hi-test fruit juice had really made her loopy and I didn’t want to pop her bubble to correct her because she was pretty happy thinking she knew what she was talking about, but everybody knows that Tom Sawyer was written by Mark Twain and even though I never read the book I did see Jackie Coogan in the movie version and that whole fence routine was a pretty funny scam. I’ve known guys who operate just the same way, although they weren’t all that nice or clever in getting you to do their work for them, and then taking all the credit. As for that whole bit with Becky, it just proved that dames are dames even at a young age waiting for some charming prince to ride up on a white pony and rescue them.

We were under the streetlight by then. I looked down into her glimmering eyes and said, “You can call me Tom.”

Her laughter echoed down the deserted rain wet street. It was a pleasant laugh, full of promise.

“Golie? Golie is here, too?” Now she was frightened and that was exactly what she wanted me to be as Hairy the Hat had her by the arm and was hustling her toward the Packard.

Then Herr Hat had to spoil it. He came running out from the shadows. “Rebecca, Rebecca! Where have you been? You took so long! We were going to come looking for you!”

“Oh, David!” she said as he approached, obviously ready for any and more attention, “Were you really worried about me?”

By then he’d got close enough to get a whiff of her breath as she smiled up at him. “Are you drunk?” I got the benefit of an angry glare.

“Don’t be silly!” She slapped him playfully on the lapel. “I am perfectly slobber, I mean, sober!” And then broke out in a fit of giggling.

The Hat was making moves like he might want to take a poke at me. I wasn’t too worried about him, he was just a kid. It was the other guy behind him, a guy I hadn’t seen before, with slick backed pomaded hair, a razor sharp nose, pencil thin moustache, and a mean sadistic gleam in his bug eyes.

The dame saw him, too. “Isaac? Why is Isaac?” she addressed the kid in the hat, and then stared at me, instantly sober.

I was keeping my eye on the Isaac guy when  I thought I saw the big pole in front of the barbershop step forward. I wasn’t feeling any pain but I wasn’t that far gone. Then I remembered that there wasn’t a barbershop on this block and that wasn’t a barber pole. The guy was seven foot if he was an inch and a head on him like a cornerstone.

“Golie? Golie is here, too?” Now she was frightened and that was exactly what she wanted me to be as Hairy the Hat had her by the arm and was hustling her toward the Packard.

“Hey!” I shouted, about to say, “you can’t do that!” when I got a set of knuckles in the kidney from razor face. I folded like a day old racing form.

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If it ever crossed my mind I might have considered what a ragdoll felt like being tossed into the back of the rattletrap pulled up at the curb. It was an old bazou from the previous decade, as they say up north of Maine, and if it ever had a cushioned bench seat it wasn’t obvious. It didn’t matter anyway as I was dumped on the floorboards and the big mug kept his foot on my back while hatchet face took the wheel. The jalopy was lacking in springs as well and every bump and pothole was telegraphed like a smack to my face. It seemed like the driver was going out of his way to find something to bump over or bang against. And of course when he took a corner on two wheels, my head slammed on the door post. Good thing I was wearing my hat. By the time the ride was over I’d been pummeled and no one had laid a hand on me. Unless you count the bruiser’s foot, and the brass knucks to the kidney that was the admission price for this carnival ride.

The gorilla pulled me to my feet and pushed me against the gray granite of a swank building. And it had started to rain again. I had a sense that I was back where I started from but in the alley by the servant’s entrance. I was still feeling weak in the knees when Mutt woke me up by slamming my head against the bricks. Neither of them had said a word the whole time I was taken for the ride. Now the skinny guy said, “Less go” while the lummox picked me up and tossed me into the open doorway.

There were a couple of tough nuts waiting for me, each one there to greet me with a fist to the solar plexus or the side of the head. At least I was out of the rain. I tried to look at the bright side but now all I was seeing were stars. Then everything went black because they knocked my hat off and pulled a hood over my head. I was more in the dark than I wanted to be. One of their punches had affected my hearing and all that was coming through was the dull roar of voices as they dragged me up a couple flights of stairs. I wasn’t resisting but they were moving faster than my legs would allow and they didn’t care that my shins were banging against the risers. Then they half dragged me a long stretch through another door by the sound of it slamming open.

A gruff voice gave an order that sounded like “put him there” or “in the chair” and next thing I knew I was thrown roughly into the sitting position and the hood was yanked off my head. I blinked in the bright light. A couple of big body shapes came into focus. The Mutt and Jeff of the strong arm crew first, hovering, waiting for me to make a wrong move, any move, in fact. Among them standing well back by his desk, Herr Doktor and his pointy goatee looking more than agitated, the bookshelves and the maps looming behind him and I knew I was back to where I’d started from, but obviously things had changed.

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“Do you takes us for fools?!” It wasn’t a question Professor Soloman was expecting me to answer.

“We have made inquiries about you, Mr. Ask. We have friends in high places. According to them you have an unsavory criminal record, receiving stolen property, public nuisance, drunk and disorderly, impersonation a police officer, soliciting prostitutes, nonpayment of alimony, vagrancy, assault and battery, unlicensed possession of a firearm, discharge of a weapon in a public place, murder, attempted murder, trespassing, invasion of privacy, stalking and spying with lewd intent. To say nothing of the fact that you have a price on your head placed there by the notorious Balkan gangster, Jan Kovic, a mortal enemy to our cause and my people, a tentacle of the Black Hand in this country!”

By the time Soloman got all that out off his chest I had a chance to get a sense of the mess I was in. There were a couple of other palookas besides the viper named Isaac and the gorilla they called Golie standing around the den with broad shoulders and mean eyes mostly pointed at me. They had me surrounded. The next thing I know I might be dead.

I pointed to the pocket of my suit coat. “Mind if I smoke?” I was playing for time and they probably knew it. The viper hissed and made like he was going to smack me one. He hadn’t hit me in the last five minutes and maybe he needed to go another round.

Soloman waved him away. “No, no, let him have his cigarette.” He said it like he was letting me have my last smoke.

I shook out one of the few left in the pack of Lucky’s and fit the smiz to my lip, the one that was starting to swell when the snake had smashed my face against the wall. I searched out a blue tip from my vest pocket and snapped the flame to life with a thumbnail. After I caught a lungful I blew it out slow and easy like I didn’t have a care in the world. I felt a little tickle below my throbbing nose where my moustache used to be and put a finger up to it. It felt sticky and when I looked at the tip I saw that it was blood. I leaned back and crossed one leg over the other.

“You might have missed a couple, Doc, but seeing as how they were minor offenses, I’ll let it pass.” I picked a fleck of tobacco off the tip of my tongue. “Sounds like someone let you take a peek at my rap sheet. Each one of those so-called charges are not at all what they seem.” I brushed some floorboard dirt off my pantleg “Take for instance the drunk and disorderly. I’m no stranger to drink but when you find out your wife has been carrying on with your best pal, well, it does something to you so I got drunk and angry. You can’t blame me. And besides the mug threw the first punch and I was in no mood for that and laid him out with a right to the jaw. But he wouldn’t stay down so I had to kick him in the head a couple of times till he got the idea, and then the bartender and some of his friends came after me and I had to pull my rod to let them know I meant business and put a round over their heads. When the cops arrived I told them I was one of them and showed them my private investigator tin. They said that it wasn’t a real badge and that I was under arrest.

“But it was just that one time.” I waved away the smoke. “And just to set things straight, I never murdered anyone. The rest of that is just part of the job or misunderstandings, personal and financial. Besides you don’t need a pedigree to do what I do in a world of cheats, chiselers and double crossers. You gotta know the game, Doc, And that’s something I know. So you think you can just toss me around and step on me? Something’s up and it smells fishy.” I blew out another mouthful of smoke like I meant it.

“Fishy? There is this!” He shoved a wet towel in my direction and I saw what looked like a soggy pile of paper the size of an address book resting on its soaked black leather covers. It looked very familiar.

“This mushy matzos is what was discovered in the water closet after you left.” He positioned himself to give me the broadside. “But not before the contents had been irreparably damaged!”

I’d seen Oliver Hardy give a more convincing chin nod. He had malarky written all over his mug.

“This item you had to sell to us is useless, worthless. We could not consider the remuneration we had agreed on and must withdraw our offer.”

I got up to take a closer look but the big brute slammed me back in the chair with one hand on my shoulder like he was merely closing a window. I stared at the pile of paper pulp. How could four dozen pages get so soggy in that short of a time? I hadn’t stuck Yamatski’s address book in the toilet tank, but in the space behind it and the wall, and if the address book had survived a swim in the East River fairly intact, especially zippered shut, why was it now just a sopping stack of curled pages?

Then I remember that I’d seen such a mess before. In the kitchen of Pat Fitzpatrick’s apartment, a freelance reporter I used to know who went off to cover the war in Spain and hasn’t been heard from since. His wife at the time, Flossie the floosy, had washed a pair of his trousers but forgot to check the pockets and didn’t find his notebook till she was putting it through the ringer. Pat was in a rage when I just happened to drop by and I might have saved Floss another knuckle mouse to her powdered cheek. But Floss wasn’t one easy to phase. She heated up her iron and one by one steam pressed each of the pages and laid them out to dry. Pat’s pencil and the ink scribbles were still readable if not a little scorched. She’d even stitched it together when it was dry and handed it back to him saying that maybe it wouldn’t have happened if he washed his own clothes.

I eyed what had been my ticket out of the dumps. If the information in that address book was that valuable, why weren’t they trying to save it? I would have. I didn’t doubt that it had occurred to them so why the con?

“Keep your shirt on, big boy,” I said as I fished the pebble out and held it between my thumb and forefinger. “This what you’re looking for?”

I drew on the fag and considered my options. I didn’t have many. I never expected a jackpot from the contents of the address book just more opportunities to get my revenge on Kovic and his mob, and I’d already harvested the cash so I was back to Go and waiting for my turn on the dice. I let out a breath of smoke. “Well, easy come, easy go. Too bad about the soaking of the goods, Doc, and that we won’t be doing business. I can’t expect you to accept damaged goods.”

“Garbage!” the old guy insisted, “You offer me garbage!” He pointed his cigar at me accusingly. “And to think I allowed young Rebecca to accompany you to meet with that degenerate, Max Feathers, a traitor to his people!”

I could tell he was warming up to launch a tirade and I didn’t want to hear it. “Listen, Doc. . . .”

“No, you will listen, Mr. Ask. I will not deal with criminals like you and Feathers. Again my suspicion is aroused. Perhaps you are an agent of the Black Hand after all, sent to reconnoiter the scope of our operation. I was right to be suspect you of trying to trick us with this worthless material! This garbage.”

“I get the drift, Doc, it’s garbage, but it’s my garbage so I’ll just take it back and be on my way.”

“Don’t bother yourself with it, we will dispose of it for you.” He called over one of his goons, “Maurice, see that this muck is thrown out with the kitchen refuse,” and handed him the pile of wet paper.

I had to object. “Hey, wait, that’s my mine, I don’t care if it’s wet!”

Soloman waved away my objection. “It is unusable rubbish. You have no use for it.”

“It is still my property.”

“It is something that belonged to someone else of which you were in possession, hardly your property. You are a thief and consort of thieves. Young Rebecca tells me that you, not she, are in possession of the uncut diamond, something else that does not belong to you. You will surrender it.” He held out his hand.

I admit that it stung my pride that she’d finked on me because I thought that there just for a moment maybe we had seen eye to eye and she had felt about me the way I felt about her but it was probably just Max’s bug juice that was making me addlepated. A dame is always going to be looking out for her own best interest and the kid was a dame, she couldn’t help it.

“Ok. Ok, let me stand up. I have to reach in my trouser pocket.”

I was hemmed in on all sides. Once I gave them what they wanted what’s to say they wouldn’t drop me off a roof or in the drink with bricks tied to my ankles. I was getting the bum’s rush that was plain to see, and this skit with the useless notebook was doing serious damage to their high and mighty cause.

I stuck my hand in my pocket and felt for the little white box the diamond was in. I could tell that it had popped open, likely during my manhandling on the way over, and that now the rock was somewhere in the corner of my pocket consorting with the local lint. I pulled out the open box to give my finger more maneuvering room and tossed it on Soloman’s desk.

He was alarmed to see it empty and Isaac stepped toward me impatiently like I was trying to pull a fast one.

“Keep your shirt on, big boy,” I said as I fished the pebble out and held it between my thumb and forefinger. “This what you’re looking for?”

I laughed at Soloman’s anticipation as I tossed the rock in my mouth and did a quick swallow just before Isaac’s fist hit me right on the button and the lights went out.

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I felt trapped like a rat, encased on all sides by something that wouldn’t give. I was blind as a mole but I could still picture what that was like. I couldn’t feel my hands and my shoulders ached from being pulled behind my back. My knees ached for the same reason. I was struggling to breathe. I’d been falling and tried to catch my breath. That’s what brought me back. I had a clanging headache as well. If it was a bad dream I was dying to wake up. The combination of the workover I got and the gut full of Max’s plum potion treating me to the stamping feet of pink elephants convinced me that the pain was too real to be all in my head even though that’s where all the hurt was congregating.

crateHow long had I been out? My jaw still throbbed so maybe not that much time had passed. I was thirsty and at the same time had the urge to relieve myself. I was lying on my left side, not my preferred side for unconsciousness. I didn’t have much choice the way I was trussed up. The gag was constricting my breathing and I started to panic. I could still move my head and tried to rub my cheek against the surface I lay on. I didn’t have much leeway. I felt as if I’d been stuffed in a crate that was too small for me.

Finally the edge of the gag pulled away enough to let in a little unobstructed air. It was a relief but my bladder may have got the wrong message. Next to being dead, the last thing I wanted was a spill in my BVDs.

I was boxed in, no mystery there, and how to get out was a question for Professor Quiz as I had let my subscription to Houdini Magazine lapse and missed the issue where they had tips on how to escape from a fix just like this one.

At the same time I managed to reposition the blindfold up over my cheekbone that allowed for an unimpeded view of more dark. There was a distinct smell of damp mustiness that reminded me of mothballs and dusty attics.

It was a familiar smell. I’d spent a lot of time in my granny’s attic above the old mercantile store upstate. It was a kingdom of dust and cobwebs and I would root around in the old crates and barrels and cedar chests and play with old wooden toys that belonged to my dad and my grandad before him. Tattered leather bound books piled on the floor and the shelves behind them, and bundles of piano sheet music for the piano no one played anymore, itself gathering its own dust in the parlor below. There were mice and spiders in the rafters, threads of gossamer trailing from the clay thimbles around which the wires for the “electric”, as granny called it, were wound to power the light in the parlor and in the kitchen and one in the bathroom.

I’d lived at granny’s off and on when I was growing up, mostly when the old man was at sea and the old lady was off doing something that didn’t involve anything that had to do with me. They fought a lot and drank a lot when they were together, and I kinda fell into that pattern too, and soon I was a candidate for reform school which had nothing to do with reform and everything to do with keeping me locked up. How I ended up being a private peeper is another story for another time.

I tried to unbend my knees but that only pulled on my arms and wrenched my shoulders but in doing so I managed to dislodge more of my gag. Big gulps of air almost made me forget the headache and my throbbing chin. I was still under pressure from my bladder. I did a little more squirming and all it did was make me feel helpless.

Angry, I jerked  whole body no matter how much it hurt. It had the effect of bunching up the top of the blindfold so that my left eye could peek over the edge and make out more darkness. I kicked the only way I could and my feet hit a wall behind me with a solid thud. I could feel with the top of my head that it was lodged in a corner of the crate. My knees with a little movement bumped another solid surface.

I was boxed in, no mystery there, and how to get out was a question for Professor Quiz as I had let my subscription to Houdini Magazine lapse and missed the issue where they had tips on how to escape from a fix just like this one.

Beside the sounds of my struggle and grunts there wasn’t much to hear. I felt like I was drowning in a big bowl of silence. Silence, with an occasional creak and groan of the architecture and maybe the occasional soft tread, titter, and squeak of rats, the occasional slammed door, a distant car horn, the rumble of an elevator, those are the sounds of silence in the big city. And the occasional sound of feet walking discretely on toe tips, the sharp tapping of fingertips on the outside of the crate, and of a soft voice asking softly, “Lack, are you all right?”


Next Time: Massacre In The Heights

Contents Vol. I No. 8

Introducing Dime Pulp Number Eight

In Issue Eight of Dime Pulp, A Serial Fiction Magazine, things are heating up in Corkscrew County as former supermodel and now reporter for the Corkscrew County Grapevine, Lee Malone is shocked from a riverside reverie of her time in Sabbia Negru under the protection of the women of SAPHO, Société Anonyme Protectrice des Hétaïres et Odalisques, to learn that she is suspected in the arson of her own cabin as The Last Resort, aka Tales Of A Long Legged Snoop, picks up the pace toward its concluding chapters.

In the third installment of The White Room, Helen Baron-Murdock’s Detective Jim Donovan of the Weston County Sheriff’s Office Violent Crimes Unit ties together more pieces of the mystifying puzzle into the death of Ike Carey that points to a sinister forces operating behind the scenes as he tries to uncover the true identity of “Dad” Ailess and solve the mystery of this latest Hard Boiled Myth.

Lackland Ask of A Detective Story finds himself in a pawn shop at the edge of Chinatown with the young linguaphile minx where the proprietor, Max Feathers, not only appraises the uncut diamond but launches into a hair-raising tale of his escape from St. Petersburg and his harrowing journey on the Trans-Siberian Railroad with jewels sewn in the seams of his clothes, and where they are also introduced to the Empress’s Cucumber.

Dime Pulp continues its crime spree with the serialization of two full length novels, The Last Resort and A Detective Story, as well as another short story based on Greek myths under the rubric of Hard Boiled Myth.

If you’ve made it this far, go ahead and follow the links below to reading entertainment with the serial contents of Volume One, Number Eight

  —Perry O’Dickle, chief scribe
and word accountant


TLR banner321Deep in the redwood wilds along the Corkscrew River, someone is shooting neighborhood dogs. The year is 1985 and Lee Malone, former fashion model, queen of the runways from Paris to Milan, once dubbed the most beautiful woman in the world, now a part-time reporter for The Corkscrew County Grapevine, is looking for a story to sink her teeth into. When Lee finds the owner of Kelly’s Seaside Resort brutally murdered, it leads her on an adventure that includes a mysterious gray van, another murder, extortion, pornography, sex slavery, and a shadowy organization of militant feminists known as SAPHO.  In the process, Lee Malone’s notorious past catches up with her. 

The Last Resort, Chapters 26-27

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Greek myth is rife with murder, mutilation, cannibalism, mayhem, and the ever popular incest.  Weston County Sheriff’s Detective Jim Donovan of the Violent Crimes Unit wouldn’t know a Greek myth from a Greek salad, but if he did he would find some troubling similarities to the cases he’s investigating.  Revisited as crime fiction are the strange death of Hippolytus, the agonizing death of Heracles, the slaughter of Penelope’s suitors, the Fall of Icarus,  the sparagamos of Orpheus, and the cursed lineage of Pelops.  Helene Baron-Murdock’s Hard Boiled Myth taps into the rich vein of classical literature to frame these ancient tales in a modern context.

The White Room I
The White Room II
The White Room III

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Lackland Ask is the name. ‘Lack’ to my friends, ‘Don’t’ to those who think they’re funny. You might have seen my portrait on the cover of Black Mask, the crime fiction magazine. This is my story. It starts with a blonde. This kind of story always starts with a blonde. 

A Detective Story—8

 

A Detective Story—8

by Colin Deerwood

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stormy sky allywayI instructed the boys to park mid-block in the shadow of the cone from the street light. Max’s Triple A Loans was half a block down and locked up tighter than a spinster’s legs on a full moon night. I squired the dame around the corner and into the alley that ran behind Max’s pawn shop. She didn’t hesitate once as we entered the narrow unlit corridor of discarded crates and overflowing overturned garbage cans, a sliver of gutter water gleaming down the center, the scramble of rats scurrying away. Visible in between the gap of tall buildings the sky was filling with the dark billowing clouds and in the distance a flash then a rumble sounding like someone was moving furniture around in the apartment upstairs, really heavy furniture.

I’d been there before and even though the sign on the large metal door claimed to belong to Ho Gung Import Exports, I banged on the door a couple of times. I knew Max burned the midnight oil counting his filthy lucre and probably even slept there. All I got for my trouble was a reminder of how hard a metal door can be. I tried again, this time adding my voice. “Max! It’s me, Lackland Ask, open up!” I thought I heard a movement on the other side of the door and put my ear up to it. “Max! Open up!”

“Go away,” a faint tired voice answered.

“Come on Max, it’s me, Lack Ask. I found your stupid niece for you when she ran away upstate with that travelling Bible salesman!”

Nothing. Except for the raindrops that were falling with increasing intensity.

“I don’t know what was worse for Max, that she ran away or that it was with a Bible salesman,” I said from the corner of my mouth. I slapped  the palm of my sore hand on the door a few more times. “Come on, Max! It’s important! And it’s starting to rain!”

The gal thought she’s give it a try, stepped up and rapped on the door delicately with her knuckles. “Mr. Fedderman,” she called out, “my name is Rebecca Levy. I request a special favor of you. I am here with my betrothed, Mr. Ask, and we have an item we wish for you to appraise if you would be so kind.”

What she said was more of a mouthful than Open Sesame, but it worked. I could hear the bolt being slid back and the tumblers turning and finally the heavy door creaking on its hinges swinging outward to reveal Max with a Louisville slugger in one hand and a very perplexed look on his mug. He stared at Rebecca and then at me and back again. “Betrothed?” he croaked.

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“Come in, come in” Max waved his hand impatiently, smiling at Rebecca and frowning at me. There was the stink of old in the little storage room in the back and it wasn’t just Max. And as I had guessed, a cot pushed against the wall under some shelves crammed with pawned items. He led us into the cage that was his office just off the main showroom and pulled the chain on the overhead light. In among the clutter was a rolltop desk and a work bench.

Max sat in the only chair and looked up at us. He was a sight. A halo of wild white frizz surrounded his mottled dome, wrinkles on his forehead stepped down to a pair of cheaters like the bottoms of jam jars astride a carbuncled schnozzle below which sat a smear of liver lips on a bed of untrimmed whiskers. No wonder he was known as The Owl on the street, but an owl that had just smoked an exploding cigar. He smiled and showed that he was running out of teeth and the ones that he still had weren’t in that good a shape. The smile was aimed at the dame. Me, he fixed with a squint.

Max grunted and placed the pebble in the palm of his hand and poked at it with a finger. “The first difference you will notice between a pebble and an authentic uncut diamond is that an uncut diamond has a faint oily feel to it.”

“So you are getting married? The temperature in Hell must have dropped below zero.” The liver lips shaped a smirk.

“Thank you for agreeing to see us, Mr. Fedderman.” The kid beamed her glow at him. “It is the matter of a stone and its authenticity. Mr. Ask. . .I mean, Lackland, doubts that it is real.”

“A stone,” Max breathed noncommittally.

“Yeah, Max, it’s supposed to be an uncut diamond, but how can you tell? I mean, it looks like a pebble you might find in your shoe.”

“Uncut diamond?” Now the old guy was interested because instead of slouching in his chair he sat straight up.

“Lackland says you are an expert in such matters and can appraise its value for us.”

From the look on Max’s face maybe he took the term “expert” to  be some kind of insult. He stood up and I realized how short he was. Still, puffing out his chest he said, “Young lady, I will have you know that I was the most respected and renowned purveyor of gemstones in the international community of Shanghai. I handled only the finest in jewels, from diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, and jade. . . .” He was about to go on but the tailor’s daughter jumped in.

“Oh, jade, I love jade. My mother had the most beautiful jade necklace. . . .”

Not to be outdone, Max dismissed what she had to say. “I carried only the finest of Burmese jade, the jade of emperors and empresses, to some more valuable than diamonds!”

Now it was my turn. “That’s what I told them, Max. . . .” And at the dame’s scowl, corrected myself, “Uh, her, that’s what I told her. You know your gems, diamonds especially.”

“Of course, if I do say so myself.” Acting humble didn’t suit him. “If I may examine the specimen.” He held out his hand and the girl reached into her coat pocket and produced a small white box. Max took it from her and opened the box and muttered a hmmm. He set the box on his work bench and found a pair a tweezers which he used to hold the rock up to the light.

“Like I told you, Max, it looks like something you might find on the beach.”

Max grunted and placed the pebble in the palm of his hand and poked at it with a finger. “The first difference you will notice between a pebble and an authentic uncut diamond is that an uncut diamond has a faint oily feel to it.” Then he parked his glasses on top of his dome and pulled a loupe from his vest pocket and fit it in his eye socket. “The next detail is the surface of the stone, its facets, what are their shapes.” He dropped the diamond back into the little white box and handed it to me. “Congratulations! You are in possession of a genuine diamond. Quite a valuable one, I have to tell you.”

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money eyesWell, that cinched it. I was going to be a rich man. My eyes and my grin were competing with each other over which was going to get bigger. I looked at the dame and her smile was trying to make up its mind if she was pleased or now what. But I didn’t care. All I could think about was what I was going to do with all that money once I turned those diamonds into cash. A new roadster like a Torpedo or that Roadmaster I had my eye on, an apartment in a classy neighborhood with a doorman at the entrance, new suits, none of those second hand threads, dames, booze, travel, maybe catch a train to Frisco and look in on Della who I heard was working for a slick lawyer on Mason Street and flash my roll and say “who’s the loser now.”

Luck was finally turning my way. I could open my own office instead of just passing out business cards in cocktail lounges and night clubs. I would certainly be looking at a more upscale clientele. I’d actually have customers I could call clientele. I would need a receptionist, someone to answer the phone and show the clients into my private office with Lackland Ask, Confidential Investigations in gold lettering on the frosted glass pane of the door, maybe a dame like this one, smart, sassy, and eager to learn. Happy days were here again where actually they had never been before or if they had, they didn’t stay for very long. I was going to be rich!

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No doubt I was taking advantage of the situation but I reached around and put my arm over the frill’s shoulder and pulled her to me. “Hey baby, how about that. we got a real diamond. It’ll make a beautiful wedding ring!”

I got a sharp elbow in the ribs for my trouble. “Yes, of course, darling,” she said between gritted teeth and giving me a firm no smile avoiding the closeness of my face like I had three day bender breath. “Maybe we should be on our way and thank Mr. Fedderman for his kindness.”

I looked at my cup. Maybe the joy juice had affected my hearing. “You mean Dracula country? Don’t tell me you’re a vampire, Max.”

“Leaving?!” Max’s whole body, head, arms, legs shook no. “I would not think of it! This happy occasion calls for a drink! I insist!” and he produced a short round bottle from the bottom drawer of a dusty wooden file cabinet, the kind of bottle Sinbad might have rubbed when he was calling out the genie. He had a glass but it was greasy and finger stained. He shook his head and scurried to a set of shelves along the wall crammed with odds and ends, mostly glass and porcelain figurines like you might find in a Chinese variety store. He reached into the clutter and with a grin that was startlingly sinister, produced a pair of blue and white tea cups, setting them on the edge of the desk, and proceeded to drip some of the liquor into each of them before pouring a generous helping into the smeared glass for himself.

I didn’t see why not. A drink always went a long ways to settling my nerves. It was the best tonic I knew. Besides I was in a mood to celebrate. The frail wasn’t so sure and stared at the cup Max had handed her.

“Mazel tov! To the health and prosperity of your union. May you have many offspring to see to you in your old age!”

She went all red in the face and I almost felt sorry for her. She hesitated and Max leaned forward to say something like it was going to convince her. “Ming dynasty,” he said indicating the cup, “Very rare.”

She pass the cup under her nose, still uncertain.

“A plum brandy from the old country.”

She took a tiny sip to wet her lips. She smiled at the sweetness of the taste and tried a little more. By the time it reached her throat her eyes were watering and she was trying to catch her breath. She began to cough.

“Where are my manners?” Max gently steered her to the only chair in the room. “Here, sit, sit.”

She thanked him and asked, “Where is your old country?”

“Transylvania.”

Dracula_(1931I looked at my cup. Maybe the joy juice had affected my hearing. “You mean Dracula country? Don’t tell me you’re a vampire, Max.”

“Pah!” Max spit, “The fever dreams of an Irishman. In the Carpathian Mountains there are many strange legends, but none of them are about vampires.”

Rebecca took another sip now that she was sitting. She nodded. “I have heard many of the folk tales from that region. They are similar to the ones I grew up with.”

Max was pleasantly surprised from the way his whiskers parted to form a smile. “And where is that, my dear?” So when she said the name of the place that sounded something like Salami-ka, he exclaimed, “We’re practically neighbors!” He poured himself a little more of the liquor and then a dab into each of our cups. “To the crucibles of civilization!” he toasted and took another big gulp and just to be polite I followed suit. The girl, too, though maybe not so eagerly.

Then she asked the question that set it all in motion, and gave Max the opportunity to tell his story. “How did you end up in Shanghai?”

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“When I was a young man I had to leave my tiny village in the shadow of the larger castle town of Sibiu because of a matter of honor. It was a matter of honor for the father of a young woman who vowed he would kill me on sight. I offered to marry her but because of who I was that was impossible. I come from a poor family, my father an itinerant tailor, and she was the daughter of a prominent man in the village. I was quite handsome in those days and was known about the village as “zilbertung”. My father went to the mayor of the town and begged him to intercede. Being a wise man, the mayor proposed a solution. The man’s honor needed to be appeased but he was not an unreasonable man except for the fact that he wanted to kill me. He would accept satisfaction on two conditions. One, that I was to be banished from the village, and two, that a compensatory payment be made. As I said, my parents were very poor. The first stipulation would break my mother’s heart but at least I would still be alive, but the other was beyond their means. The mayor had an idea that would resolve both of the demands. With my parents’ agreement, my father was ready to kill me himself, the mayor took me to Sibiu and sold me to a travelling merchant as an indentured servant.”

“Oh, how awful!” the kid breathed, and accepted another drib from Max’s bottle while I leaned my rear on the edge of the desk. Max had the floor.

“It was the best decision I never made in my life!” Max held his glass up in acknowledgement and lapped up more of the juice. “From that moment on, I trusted only fate, dame fortune. Decisive action is for schnooks. And most of my life has proved me right. Opportunity is always underfoot, you only have to trip over it.

“As it turns out, the man I was sold to was a trinket merchant, a man who bought, I should say swindled poor peasants out of their family heirlooms. And he beat me horribly at first, especially when he was drunk, but I learned that he had a weakness for folk tales and so with my silver tongue I beguiled him with stories from my village, some that I had heard at my grandmother’s knee and others that I made up ex nihilo, especially the ones with fantastic beasts and enchanted maidens who would lure young men with their whiles. And so I always made certain that he had plenty to drink at whatever inn we stopped at and I would tell him stories until he fell asleep.

“By the time we arrived in St. Petersburg, he had me reciting my tales to the denizens of roadside taverns and passing the hat. Of course I never saw any of the money because I was essentially his slave, a slave to a Slav. But in St, Petersburg, creditors caught up with the merchant who was known as Ursulov, by the way, a bear of a man. He owed many debts and to pay them off he had to sell me even though he had become very fond of me and my stories.

Soviets-2“And I had landed in St. Petersburg at the turn of the century, a simmering cauldron of political dissent and talk of revolution, but now as the servant of a man who was a jewel merchant or a jewel thief, depending on whom you spoke with, a tiny man with a very bad temper who was not quite Russian and not quite Chinese—he claimed to be from the region near Lake Baikal which later proved useful in extricating me and my companions from a very dangerous situation.

“But I digress. At first I merely swept the shop and washed the windows and kept the fires going in the winter, and because I was quite strong, I accompanied him when he thought he might need protection. He carried a pistol and allowed me a knife. A known jewel merchant was not safe on the streets of St. Petersburg and he had made many enemies over his gem transactions. He had a young apprentice as well, a boy of about my age, perhaps younger, named Freddy, from Switzerland, and we became fast friends.”

“Ah, Switzerland,” the dame murmured, leaning a little sideways and accepting more of the fruit juice from the bottle. I had a refill as well. After a while, that stuff made you feel kinda warm and cozy, like you didn’t have a care in the world, and added to the fistful of diamonds I had in mind, I didn’t.

“I attended boarding school in Zurich,” she said dreamily, “I learned French, Italian, German, and English while I was there, and I had a friend in each of those languages.” She looked up at me trying to focus her eyes, “And now I am learning American.”

“The discontent in the streets of St. Petersburg and Moscow came to a boil and the people revolted against the government. The revolt was quickly put down but it paved the way for the Bolsheviks a dozen years later.”

“A woman of words in the ways of the world!” Max raised his glass again and we all downed a slug. “I too learned many new languages during my time working for Otobayar as the merchant was known. Chinese and Russian, German, and French. Because of my silver tongue, languages were easy for me, and soon Mr. Otobayar came to trust me as someone who could always bargain a good price for the merchandise, either up or down, depending on the circumstances. I also learned much about the gem business, especially that stones were an international currency, and quite easily transported across borders sewn in the lining of a sleeve or the cuff of trousers, and were accepted everywhere.”

“Kinda like diamonds,” I said and I sounded stupid saying it.”

“”Exactly,” Max said passing the bottle around.

“Diamonsh,” the kid echoed and sounded just as stupid.

“Those were wild and dangerous times in St. Petersburg. There were strikes by workers and peasants alike. Factions of the military were trying to gain power by overthrowing the Tsar’s rule. There was fighting in the street, soldiers killing many of the citizens who were protesting, demanding food, better wages, or even wages. Much of this fomented by the disciples of a dead Engländer by the name of Marx. Less than half a dozen years into the new century, Russia had started a war with Japan. The discontent in the streets of St. Petersburg and Moscow came to a boil and the people revolted against the government. The revolt was quickly put down but it paved the way for the Bolsheviks a dozen years later.”

“The damned Reds,” I growled and emptied my cup

“Soon Mr. Otobayar, whose full name by the way had thirty letters to it and was unpronounceable to anyone not familiar with the Mongol tongue even when they were sober, realized that a man in a business such as his was in more danger than a mere bodyguard could protect him from. It was time to flee. He had Freddy and I pack up as much as we could carry, sewing strings of gems into our clothes, in the linings of our suitcases, and the heels of our shoes, and we boarded the Trans-Siberian Railway and headed east. The streets of the capitol were running with blood and the Russian Empire was losing the war to the Japanese.”

“The Japanese,” Rebecca spoke dumbly and I had to agree with her.

“When we arrived in Moscow to board the train,” Max said, steeling himself with a sip for the next part, “there were soldiers everywhere. They were heading to the battle front. We feared we would not be allowed to board. But there were also poor peasants conscripted to hard labor in the east and so we rode in the boxcars with them, with Mr. Otobayar disguised as our servant.”

Max stared at the wall of his office like he was looking out a window and shook his head like he didn’t like what he was seeing. “It was an incredibly long journey across the wilds of Russia complicated by the fact that the train heading east, the one Mr. Otobayar, Freddy and I were traveling on, was regularly sidetracked to let pass the trains heading west that were loaded with the dead and wounded from the war with Japan.

transiberian“Even in your most extravagant moment you could not imagine the horrors I witnessed. Peasants starving or killing each other over a crust of bread, soldiers committing suicide or deserting which was almost the same thing as they had no hope of surviving in the wilderness, and particularly after a troop train of their wounded comrades passed the other way, there were always the wails of inconsolable desperation. We had to be continually on our guard and Mr. Otobayer and I had to deal forcefully with the growing insolence of the peasants. We feared for our lives and the gems we carried which of course would mean nothing to them. They wanted our clothes and our shoes.”

Max talked in a way that put pictures in my head and I just stared at him looking at what his words said. The girl was looking up at him with her mouth hanging open.

“Fortunately for us, as the train rounded the southern tip of Lake Baikal, we took on a contingent of soldiers native to that region whose language Mr. Otobayat was quite familiar with and was able to convince them to allow us to continue to our destination in their company and under their protection.

“When we arrived in Harbin we waited for weeks in vermin infested lodgings along with other Russian refugees who had arrived before us and were still waiting for the Eastern Chinese Railway train to take us to Peking  We roomed alongside criminals and deserters, Japanese agents and Chinese soldiers. Our lives were more in danger than they had been on the train for these men, and women, knew the value of the gems they suspected us of carrying.

“Mr. Otobayat had engaged one of the servants at the inn to be our ears and eyes and keep us informed of the intentions of the other guests. The night of the train’s arrival he warned us that several of the toughs and army deserters planned to attack us in the morning of the train’s departure for Peking. Mr. Otobayat on hearing the news came up with a plan. He paid the servant to betray us and tell the bandits that we had got wind of their plan and were fleeing to a neighboring village. As there was only one road in that direction the gang of ruffians set out to follow us, assuming that we could not have gone very far. We waited for them outside the city limits hiding in ditches alongside the road. Once they came into view, we had Freddy run down the road in full view. As they ran past us, we jumped out of the ditches and beat them with our clubs. Mr. Otobayat had to shoot one of them and I cut another one’s throat.” Max held his hand like was holding a knife.

The dame’s eye opened wide and rigid like the slots on a pay phone. He kinda got my attention, too. And as if to fan all the smoke away, he said, “A week later were in the international settlement in Shanghai. Mr. Otobayat acquired quarters where we could continue our business in gems and sent Freddy on a steamer across the Pacific to America to look for further opportunities. Mr. Otobayar always thought of the future. Unfortunately his past caught up with him and he was murdered in a deal with a Burmese jade dealer.”

Max held the smoked glass of the bottle up to the light and squinted with one eye. There was a corner left, probably enough for one more round whether we needed it or not. “Fortunately I knew enough of the gem business to continue in the trade, I had my silver tongue, and by then I was considered a yu shu lin feng, a handsome young man, and cut quite a dashing figure among the emigres of the international settlement as well as the citizens of the middle kingdom. I even became the president of League of International Gem and Diamond Merchants, Shanghai chapter.” He frowned. “Until they brought false charges against me and had me barred from membership.” He dismissed them with a wave of a hand and downed the last in his glass. He peered at the tailor’s daughter. “And that is how I ended up in Shanghai, my home for a quarter of the century. I won’t bother you with the details of my having to flee before the Japanese invaded, the fascist Blue Shirts I had to bribe, the tongs, the Green gang, and Shanghai gangsters like Crater Face Huang and Elephants Ears Wang!”

Now there were some names for a Dick Tracy funny book and maybe the girl thought so too because she started giggling and then broke into a loud guffaw. “Elephant Ears Wang!” she snorted, and then let out a very unladylike gut splitter, tears running down her cheeks.

They say laughter is contagious. I thought it was kinda funny myself and volunteered a couple of chuckles. They bounced around the small office and the next thing I know, we were all practically rolling on the floor, pointing fingers, crying, and trying to catch our breaths with a bad case of the yuk-ups and ho-ho-hos.

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Wheezing and holding a hand up in surrender, Max wiped the tears from his eyes. “Thank you for your gift of humor, Miss Levy, soon to be Mrs. Lackland Ask.” That only caused to her to laugh some more, but not as heartily. He gestured to the interior of his shop. “Let me offer you something for your trousseau. Pick any item of clothing, silk dresses imported from China, or silk pajamas for the wedding night, perhaps. With my compliments.” He winked at me and I gave him a big wink back like we were part of some vaudeville routine.

“Oh, I just love the feel of silk on my skin,” she said getting to her feet, a little wobbly but managing a cross ankle dance to the clothing racks Max was pointing to further in the shop.

“Ah, yes, yes, the Empress’s Cucumber.” Even he looked a little embarrassed, clearing his throat

Max gave me the raised eyebrow and called me over for a tête-à-tête which I knew was French for a mouth to ear. “These diamonds, they have relations?” He was trying to be subtle but it almost went over my head.

“Uh, yeah, about a half dozen, I’d say. And if this deal works out, they’ll be all mine.” I couldn’t help grinning but Max’s grim mug made me stow it.

“Deal, what deal?”

“Don’t worry Max, I’ll cut you a commission for moving the rocks for me.” I looked over my shoulder to see if the dame was still occupied with sorting through the rack of dresses and pajamas. “See, I had this address book that belonged to one of Kovic’s goons and unbeknownst to me it was full of information about this mob called the Black Hand.”

At the mention of the Black Hand he gave me the Felix the Cat bug eyes. And nodded impatiently.

“These guys, the girl, this rabbi and his group are fighting them or something like that. It’s got everything to do with what’s going on. . . .”

“Yes, yes, I am getting the flavor of what you are saying. And it is you that Kovic is looking for?” He was giving me the once over like he didn’t think I had it in me. “There is a price. . . .”

That’s when we heard the kid scream and then start laughing again. I figured she spotted a rat but why was she laughing? It sounded hysterical.

She was holding a bright red Chinese dress to her neck with one hand and standing by one of the glass display cases, pointing to a brocade cloth Chinese box on top. “What is that?” she said, looking as she if she was pleasantly mortified.

I was kinda brought up short myself. I knew what it looked like and I could give a guess at what it could be used for, but I didn’t want to say. I left that up to Max.

“Ah, yes, yes, the Empress’s Cucumber.” Even he looked a little embarrassed, clearing his throat.

Now that he said it, I had to agree, it did kinda look like a cucumber. It was green and longer than it was wide, rounded and curved at the tip, with some carved leaves around what looked like a stem or handle at the other end. It looked like something valuable or at least expensive tucked in the plush padded red lining. On the other hand, it also looked like something you might find in the bedside table drawer of some lonely old maid.

“This once belonged to an empress?” The disbelief wasn’t hidden.

“Oh, no, no, this is merely a soapstone replica. They are also known as ‘auntie’s friend.’ The original one belonged the Empress Dowager Tzu-zi and made of the finest most translucent Burmese jade.”

“Her name was Suzy?” Now I was doubting what I was hearing.

“No Tzu-zi, although I know it does sound like Suzy. The original Empress’s Cucumber mysteriously disappeared after her death shortly after I arrived in Shanghai. Being in the jade business at the time I had heard rumors that it was for sale to the highest bidder. Mr. Otobayar thought he could broker a deal with a rich Japanese industrialist but it was all quite secret and I was kept out of the transactions. Although his death was attributed to a jade deal gone bad, I believe Mr. Otobayar was murdered by a sect of loyalist bent on restoring imperial rule. They believe that possession of the Empress’s Cucumber will boost their claim to legitimacy among the people of the middle kingdom. And from what I hear from my informants even though no knows where it is, treasure hunters and agents loyal to the throne of Heaven are still searching for it.” Then dropped his voice confidential like. “There is a rumor that the jade has been sighted recently. Whoever has possession of it is holding millions of dollars and the fate of a people in his hands. No wonder they would kill for it.”

traditional-chinese-bridal-dress001Max turned his head and smiled at the frail as if he hadn’t just been talking about conspiracy and murder. “So you’ve picked the red cheongsam dress with the gold embroidered birds of paradise. Excellent choice. The size looks right but maybe the hem could be let out a bit otherwise you might show a little more ankle than is proper. I can have it done by tomorrow and delivered to your address.”

As Max was showing us to the back door, Rebecca asked. “I was wondering, whatever became of your friend Freddy after he left for America?”

Max shook his head. “Sad story that. He returned to France and joined the Foreign Legion to fight in the Great War, and was wounded, lost his hand. Now I hear he seeks out the company of Bohemians and degenerate artists.”


Next Time: Full Flush Or No Flush

Contents Vol. I No. 7

Introducing Dime Pulp Number Seven

In Dime Pulp, A Serial Fiction Magazine, Issue Seven, Helena Baron-Murdock’s Hard Boiled Myth featuring Weston County Sheriff’s Detective Jim Donovan, drops more clues than an Agatha Christie mystery to the Greek myth she’s adapted. Part two of The White Room finds Donovan looking into the mysterious restricted zone at the top of Mount Oly and almost being run off the road by ominous tinted window dreadnaughts as well as concluding that answers to the identity of the murder victim might be closer to sea level at the Sparta Creek Trailer Park.

The Last Resort continues the adventures of Lee Malone, former super model and now small town reporter for the Corkscrew County Grapevine, with a close call from a presumed friend now antagonist, and a deep dive into her kidnapping by the radical underground feminist group known as S.A.P.H.O.

The latest installment of A Detective Story finds our semi-hero with a chance to get a handful of uncut diamonds in exchange for an address book possibly belonging to a member of The Black Hand, get next to a good looking dolly all the while while teaching her the subtleties of American slang.

Dropping A Dime, News, Views, and Reviews in which yours truly, Perry O’Dickle, aka The Professor, offers up his considered and considerable opinion on the fine art of pulp fiction, reviews of crime fiction, old and new, as well as news of upcoming publications features another look at Max Allen Collins’ Nolan saga from Hard Case Crime with reviews of Two For The Money and Skim Deep.

Dime Pulp continues its crime spree with the serialization of two full length novels, The Last Resort and A Detective Story, as well as another short story based on Greek myths under the rubric of Hard Boiled Myth.

If you’ve made it this far, go ahead and follow the links below to reading entertainment with the serial contents of Volume One, Number Seven

  —Perry O’Dickle, chief scribe
and word accountant


TLR banner321Deep in the redwood wilds along the Corkscrew River, someone is shooting neighborhood dogs. The year is 1985 and Lee Malone, former fashion model, queen of the runways from Paris to Milan, once dubbed the most beautiful woman in the world, now a part-time reporter for The Corkscrew County Grapevine, is looking for a story to sink her teeth into. When Lee finds the owner of Kelly’s Seaside Resort brutally murdered, it leads her on an adventure that includes a mysterious gray van, another murder, extortion, pornography, sex slavery, and a shadowy organization of militant feminists known as SAPHO.  In the process, Lee Malone’s notorious past catches up with her. 

The Last Resort, Chapters 1-3
The Last Resort, Chapters 4-6
The Last Resort, Chapters 7-10
The Last Resort, Chapters 11-13
The Last Resort, Chapters 14-20
The Last Resort, Chapters 21-23
The Last Resort, Chapters 24-25

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Greek myth is rife with murder, mutilation, cannibalism, mayhem, and the ever popular incest.  Weston County Sheriff’s Detective Jim Donovan of the Violent Crimes Unit wouldn’t know a Greek myth from a Greek salad, but if he did he would find some troubling similarities to the cases he’s investigating.  Revisited as crime fiction are the strange death of Hippolytus, the agonizing death of Heracles, the slaughter of Penelope’s suitors, the Fall of Icarus,  the sparagamos of Orpheus, and the cursed lineage of Pelops.  Helene Baron-Murdock’s Hard Boiled Myth taps into the rich vein of classical literature to frame these ancient tales in a modern context.

Long Shot I
Long Shot II
Notification Of Kin
Valentine’s Day I
Valentine’s Day II
The White Room I
The White Room II

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Lackland Ask is the name. ‘Lack’ to my friends, ‘Don’t’ to those who think they’re funny. You might have seen my portrait on the cover of Black Mask, the crime friction magazine. This is my story. It starts with a blonde. This kind of story always starts with a blonde. The brownstone was on the Westside and easy enough to find. So was the mug’s yellow roadster. It stuck out like a new shoe in a cobbler’s shop. I was being a sap again. I woke sitting straight up, sweat pouring out and over me, my undershirt drenched. I was going to have to change my shorts. Some dream. They worked me over, demons in dingy cable knit sweaters. They pumped my arms and peered in my face with eyes as black as eightballs. He handed me a hat. “The pièce de résistance.” He said it like he was serving me dessert. The gat fell from his hand and clattered across the marble floor. It looked like something that might have survived the battle at Ypres. I looked at him and back at the hand and then at the rabbi and his granddaughter who all seemed very pleased by what was being offered. “You’re offering me pebbles? Little gray rocks?”

This kind of story always starts with a blonde
“I was being a sap again.”
“Some dream”
“demons in dingy cable knit sweaters”
“He handed me a hat.”
“The gat fell from his hand” 
“You’re offering me pebbles? Little gray rocks?”

dime-reviews-hdrOnce again from Hard Case Crime, the imprint that is doing it’s darndest  to resuscitate pulp nostalgia with it’s tantalizing cover art and reprints of  of crime fiction classics as well as original contemporary genre fiction comes Max Allen’s Collins’ continuing saga of master thief  Nolan and his young, comic book-loving partner, Jon, matching wits with mobsters while trying to hang on to their lives as well as their stash of bank heist loot. This installment of Dropping A Dime takes a look at the origins of the Nolan and Jon team in Bait Money as well as the contemporaneously penned wrap-up curtain call (but not “curtains”) for the duo in Skim Deep.  

Dime One
Dime Two: Come Back, Nolan, Come Back
Dime Three: He’s Back! (Nolan, that is)

A Detective Story—7

by Colin Deerwood

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Her eyes never left me as she steered the old gent to a chair alongside Soloman’s desk. They were blue shiny pools and I was drowning in them. She stood behind him once he was seated. Gramps had perked up since the fainting episode, his cheeks had a little color and he was focused, attentive. He pointed a gnarled finger in my direction. “You have more of these documents?”

I drew myself up to my entire height, pulled in my gut, and put as much authority as I could in my stance. It was all an act. I was wondering what the hell I’d gotten myself into. “Yeah, I do. It’s an address book.”

Soloman threw old Joe a look and then said, “You can read the Cyrillic?”

“Ixnay, Doc, I’m just guessing from the way some of it was arranged. Plus there were street names in American I could figure out.”

Now it was Rabbi Joe’s turn. “You are in possession of this dress book?”  There was a fierce gleam in his eye as he leaned forward.

“Yeah, yeah, I just brought that page to see what it might be worth. I coulda brought the whole works but you guys mighta said it was nertz and I woulda never known the diff.”  As it was the book was digging into my backbone just about the beltline.

Soloman and Joe looked puzzled. Finally the old rabbi asked, “What is this ‘nertz’?”

Soloman shrugged. “It is not Yiddish to my knowledge. And this ‘diff’ I do not know also.”

JELLO ADThe tailor’s daughter smiled and I about swooned. She spoke and I felt my knees turn to Jell-O. “I think I know, zayde. I have been studying my American. Nertz is a Brooklyn pronunciation of the expression ‘nuts,’ maybe meaning crazy or perhaps nonsense, also a negative term for bankrupt or no good.”

Even I didn’t know that and I used the word all the time. This frail would be a smash on Information Please.

Soloman looked surprised and the old guy beamed a prideful smile at his granddaughter.

“Also,” she continued, “I believe that ‘diff’ is a shortened form of the word ‘difference.’  Americans speak like telegrams I have learned.”

Just like that I was laid bare by some Jane who just got off the boat.

Soloman harrumphed to get the conversation back on track. “I would say that if the rest of the book is similar to what you have shown us, we could come to a lucrative arrangement.”  He smiled what wasn’t really a smile.

I figured when he said ‘we’ he meant more than just those present in the room. I had to be extra cautious around these jokers. There was a whole dining room full of tough kikes on the other side of the door. And once the dolly had opened her yap instead of flapping her lashes some of her glow had dimmed for me. She was out of my league, besides. “Yeah, doc, what you got to offer? I’m all ears.”

Rabbi Joe gave a knowing nod and Soloman went to the wall of books, moved a couple aside to reveal a tiny wall safe. He looked over his shoulder to make sure no one was peeking and then spun the dial. When he rejoined us he had a tiny cloth bag in his mitt like a miniature Bull Durham pouch.  He loosened the ties and poured the contents into the palm of his hand and held it out for me to take a gander.

I looked at him and back at the hand and then at the rabbi and his granddaughter who all seemed very pleased by what was being offered.

“You’re offering me pebbles? Little gray rocks?”

It took a while to register and then Soloman almost choked on his goatee laughing. Rabbi Joe’s laugh was wheezy squeak. The girl held her hand over her mouth but her eyes were yukking it up. When Soloman finally caught his breath he intoned, with all his puffed up superiority, “But Mr. Ask, these are uncut diamonds.”

You coulda fooled me. What do I know of uncut diamonds? They looked like rocks to me. And then as if a light had been shined in my eyes: rocks, diamonds, ok, I got it. But who could tell the diff. Maybe I sounded suspicious. “How am I supposed to know that these aren’t fake?”

“I can assure you, Mr. Ask, these are diamonds of the highest quality. From Africa,” he added.

Learn something new every day. Diamonds that look like driveway gravel from Africa when all I thought they had was bananas and coconuts.

“Maybe you are who you say you are, Doc but I only met you and Rabbi Joe here less than thirty minutes ago. I need to get the say-so from someone I’ve known a bit longer.”

Soloman looked astonished. “You have an appraiser?”

“Yeah, guy I know runs the pawn shop over on Fourth near Chinatown. He was in the diamond trade years ago. He knows his stuff.”

Now Soloman was almost on his tippy toes with indignation. “Stuff? If he knows this stuff then I knows of his stuff. I am familiar with everyone in the diamond trade. Name your stuff expert!”

I’d obviously hit a nerve. And again I was distracted by the comely granddaughter and feeling like the big bad wolf. “Yeah, sure, everyone knows him. Triple A Pawn, Max Feathers proprietor.”

Two bigger bug eyes you couldn’t find in the cartoon featurette at a Saturday matinee.

“Feathers?” he moaned the name as if was a curse. “Max Feathers was disbarred from the League of International Gem and Diamond Merchants. Feathers is a fraud! A cheat! A scoundrel! A confidence man!”

I shrugged. “Yeah, but he knows his diamonds.”  From the shade of crimson creeping up toward his popping temple veins I figured my bird in the hand had flown the coop. But I was saved by an angel.

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“Herr Doktor” she said, and why he wasn’t charmed is beyond me. He raised an eyebrow as if being spoken to by a woman was highly irregular. “Zayde,” she also invoked the protection of the old rabbi, “I have a suggestion if you will indulge me.”  Of course I was enchanted and I’d have to say she’d been doing pretty good at learning her English. Old Joe gave a nod lifting his hands to Soloman as if asking what’s the harm?

“Just as Mister Ask has brought only one page, perhaps we can allow him one,” and she smiled at me, “pebble to verify with Mister Feathers. In exchange for the book he will receive more.” She beamed, proud of herself although gramps wasn’t so sure.

Soloman didn’t like the idea as soon as she started talking and when she was done he liked it even less.  “Nein, nein. What if he did not return? He has gained an item of value and we have nothing but a scrap of paper! Does he take us for fools?”

The thought had crossed my mind. If the diamond was real I could be on a boat to Havana before anyone was the wiser.

“It was my suggestion, uncle, and I have a feeling that Mr. Ask is in a situation unlike any other he’s been in before.”  She came at me with her eyes as if she were boring in and I began wondering when I’d last changed my underwear.  “Here he is with the opportunity to make a considerable amount of money, enough to give him a vacation from his dangerous profession for a very long time. I don’t think that he would pass up that opportunity.”  Now she was appealing to my mercenary side: with a load of dough I could ditch this burg, maybe move to Hollywood, reconnect with Grace. “Furthermore, I think that Mr. Ask is a man of honor, a man of his word who would not consider betraying us.”  By “us” I was sure she meant “her.”  And the way she said it, the implications were tempting. I just wanted to see how committed she was to her scheme.

“There was an expression I liked to see after I’ve made love to a woman—shock and pleasure. I recognized it immediately because it was so rare of an experience.

“Thanks, miss, I forget your name, but you are correct. I am a man of my word. Once I shake on a deal it is solid. And if what I have is that important to you,” and I meant to her, “then it is just makes good business sense for us to conduct this exchange, the book for the rocks.”

Soloman sniffed like something didn’t smell right. He squinted one eye at me as if trying to view me from a different angle.

“Like the girl said, I take one diamond to Feathers. He looks it over. If he gives the ok, I get the gravel and you get the book. No one breaks a sweat.”

Soloman was shaking his head. He didn’t like the logistics. “How will we make the exchange? The Rabbi nor I cannot go abroad.”

“What? I ain’t asking you to leave the country.”

“No, no we have to be careful in this city. We have enemies. We cannot be seen in public.”

“How about a coupla your minions. They look like they can handle themselves.”

Soloman gave a sour look. He didn’t like that idea either.

“How about the dame?”

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There was an expression I liked to see after I’ve made love to a woman—shock and pleasure. I recognized it immediately because it was so rare of an experience. That’s what was missing in my life. I could tell by the demur smile that she liked the idea. Shock for being put into that position and pleasure because it felt good.

Soloman sputtered like he’d inhaled something down the wrong way and coughed till his eyes bulged holding on to the edge of his desk for fear he might fall down.  Then it translated into, once he caught his breath, “absolutely not, impossible, I won’t hear of it.” And in a couple of other languages, I couldn’t be sure.  In a way it made the objection international, like we were hemmed in by little flags stuck in a map. The old rabbi looked uncomfortable, color coming to his ears, and lowered his eyes.

But she knew her mark. “Zadye,” she began, “if you send Mr. Ask with your men to the Feather Diamond place he will become suspicious and might not want to verify the authenticity of . . .” and looked directly at me, “the pebble.”

The rabbi had lifted his eyes. They asked what are you getting at?

“Now if I were to accompany Mr. Ask to the pawnbroker, he would not be suspicious because we could pose as betrothed,” she smiled, pleased with herself, “and we are inquiring as to the authenticity of the stone.”

It sounded so simple. And naive. I know, I’d been there.

Soloman wasn’t buying it. “Nien! Nein!” He was pacing now. “It is not safe! Who knows who we’re dealing with.  This might all be a ploy. He could be working for them. To kidnap Rebecca!”

“Herr Doktor, they could not have known that I would be involved. I didn’t know it more than a minute ago when I suggested it.”

“Rebecca, my child, these are cruel and evil people we are dealing with. They are clever, insidious.”  His head wagged back and forth like a dog’s tail.  That meant no.

“Listen, Hair Doctor, do we have a deal or don’t we? Otherwise I’m wasting my time here.”

“What you suggest is impossible. How do I know you have what you’re claiming to have in your possession? That it is authentic. What else is there beside this single page? What am I buying?”

“First of all, Doc, suddenly you’re worried about authenticity. You musta thought that this page was the hoot’s snoot otherwise you wouldn’ta asked me into the inner sanctum. You were gonna offer me a bag of gravel in exchange for the book. That’s how authentic you made that single page. I get it. You think you need to be extra careful because you don’t know me from Adam. But lemme put you straight. This book usta belong to one of Yan Kovic’s goons, a guy by the name of Yamatski who is now swimming with the fishes in the East River. How I got it is a story we won’t get into. Just let’s say I got wet and the pages only suffered a little water damage around the edges, but everything is still readable because it was written in pencil. It’s an address book and doubles as a wallet, about the size a cigar case, leather like one, and it’s got a wraparound zipper that closes up the three sides.” I don’t know why I felt I had to claim the wallet was empty, but I did. “There are pages of what look like names and addresses like I said, and what looks like some kinda codes. I couldn’t figure out what they said because my Buck Rogers decoder ring got lost in the mail.  Besides they mostly was all in that serialic writing.”

Now the doc and old Joe were trying to say something to each other without opening their mouths.

I gave them a nudge. “I saw you flash the old stink eye when I mention’s Kovic’s name. He’s from that part of the world you were showing me on the map, am I right?” I pointed to the map on the wall. Mrs. Peabody would have been proud of me—maybe something did sink in after all.

“Yes, the name is known to us. America is truly the land of opportunity when a petty thief in his home country can become an American gangster and make more money than even the President of the United States. Is that what you call democracy, rule by the petty?”

“He’d be part of this secret society then, the Black Hand, I’m guessing.”  Even the frill took a breath in fright at the mention of the name.

Soloman nodded glumly. “They are a network of thugs and murderers who prey on the vulnerable, the fringes of society and culture where the powers that be often look the other way. We are the mercy of their genocidal schemes. There is a chance, a slight chance, that the address book will provide information that will aid us in our resistance and thwart their aims. These fascists are drunk with power! The Black Hand must be stopped from terrorizing our people!”

“You don’t have much of a choice then, do ya, doc. Me and the bird take a rock over to Feathers’ shop. He scopes it and it’s either deal and you get the book you wanted or no deal and I get a free ride downtown in the company of a beautiful young woman.”

Soloman made a face that made him look like he had exclamations points all over his mug!!!  “They are real, that you can count on, and I would expect delivery of the address book upon verification!”  He glanced sideways at the rabbi whose head reluctantly nodded yes. “Simon and David will drive you there and make certain there is not a. . .double cross, as you American’s like to say.”

I shook my head. “The girl is right. Max sees a couple of mugs with us, he’s gonna smell something fishy. Just me and her. Nothing to worry about. Max won’t bite. You just watch.”

“Nonetheless, they will accompany you and stay discreetly hidden but nearby. Should the need arise, Rebecca, do you know what to do?”

“Surely my father must have told you of what I and my troop of Red Kerchiefs did in the hills above the city.”  Before Soloman could interject, she said, “We secured the parachute drops and parachutists and hid them from the authorities.”

“Ja, ja, we are well aware of your exploits. And that is why you are here in the United States. To keep you safe, out of harm’s way. You are, after all, Rabbi Joseph’s great granddaughter and ark of his ancient family line. Your father was foolish to leave you behind.”

“I stayed with my mother, to fight in the resistance.”

“And sadly she is no longer with us.” Soloman lowered his head. “And you are here in relative safety.”

“I would have stayed behind! I wanted to avenge her death! Instead you had me kidnapped and brought to this country!”

I had to step in. “I hate to breakup this family tussle here, but missy, if you want to get your revenge, the quickest way is to get going with the plan.”  I coulda asked her if she had a backup plan but this was looking like taking candy from a baby. “Only I need to use the can before we head out.”  With the quizzical looks they gave me I had to add, “My bladder’s lapping at the overflow valve.”  Still nothing. “The facilities, the toilet?”

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They rolled a big Packard around to the front entrance. The tailor’s daughter didn’t look a bit like the kid in Soloman’s study. She was wearing a dark wool skirt and a beige blouse with a collar tied in big bow under her porcelain chin, a russet three quarter length wide lapeled tweed coat, and a tiny brown Robin Hood peaked cap with a black and red band propped jauntily on the luster of her long auburn hair. Looking like she just stepped off the silver screen, she smiled at me as I held the door open for her, long lashes blinking a beguiling thank you.

1940-packard-1Two mooks sat like bowling pins in the front seat of the Packard—they couldn’t have been more than sixteen years old—the one who looked like he was working on a ‘stache driving. The other one had a head of curly hair no hat, even the bucket he was wearing, was going to hide.

I sat in the back seat with Rebecca. I’d made a detour to the water closet before we left, pretended to make my business all the while wedging Yamatski’s address book up behind the gravity flush water tank. Then I flushed.

I even felt a little flush—sitting next to this specimen of female flesh had worked up my blood. It was her feisty nature as well as her good looks that kept my interest. She, however, was interested in only one thing. Learning how to talk American.

“What is this stink eye?”

“Uh well,” I was at a loss, “it’s just kind of one of those looks you give somebody who says something that spills the beans when they shouldn’ta.”

“Beans? In the kitchen? I see, they have spilled a pot of beans and you are giving them this look that you are disappointed, no, angry! Angry eye, yes?”

“Yeah, angry, maybe the evil eye without all the hoodoo voodoo behind it.”

“ Hoo-doo voo-doo. This is your American tall tales you are telling me. I have heard that they are told and one must be cautious because they have flam flam. No, flim flim, that’s it!”

She had such a little pink innocence to the scrunch of her nose, such a determined set to her lips, such an intense gaze I couldn’t decide if I wanted to kiss her or laugh in her face. “Flim flam.”

“Yes, that is what I said. And this stink to the eye. It smells, it emits an odor, and you are . . .threatening with it? No, you are giving them this, this. . .stentsch with the look of your eye! Yes?”

She had my mind taking corners I didn’t even know were there and it was making me dizzy. I was on the verge of asking her if she wanted to see Niagara Falls because I was about to change my name to Niagara and I was falling for her. But it would have just added to the confusion. I didn’t want to look like a dumbo so I said, “The look says you can see the reek rising up off them and lets them know that you can.”

She cocked her beautiful head to one side as if considering the explanation “And who is this Buck Rogers, an associate of this Feathers man?”

I don’t know why all this wasn’t covered at Ellis Island but all of a sudden I was feeling like a tour guide at the Statue of Liberty. “Naw, Buck Rogers, he’s this guy who flies around in a rocket to other planets in outer space. In the funny papers, the brats, you know, the Katzenjammer Kids? He’s on the radio, too, and in the movies, that Olympic champ, Buster Crabbe plays him.”

Her pretty little forehead gave a frown. “This is your flam flim, yes?”

She was a real doll, and I can’t say that I’d ever met one before, not one like this, not putting on a front, acting tough or sexy, but smart as a pistol, and from what I could see, some terrific gams. She caught my gaze and pulled the hem of her skirt to cover her knees. “I am curious also. A hoot’s snoot, this is more of your filmy flam?”

“Naw, just something I made up. ‘don’t give a hoot’ means ‘I don’t care,’ and ‘snoot’ means ‘nose,’ kinda like I’m ‘thumbing my nose’ and I just threw them together because they sound the same. It’s jive talk, that’s all.”

“A whole other American language?

“You might say that. It’s what you might hear on the street, you know from the hep cats or if you hang out in jazz clubs.”

This is something you can do in American? I am unaware.”

“Well, yeah, you can if you’re good at it”

“And you are good at this, what would you call, improvisational arabesques, verbal flourishes? Maybe you should be a writer.”

“Yeah, I thought about it once.”

“What happened?”

“I ran out of paper.”

She laughed, peals of amusement filled the entire car, and even Mr. Hair had to look over his shoulder to make sure we weren’t being unruly.

“Ah yes, I understand,” her eyes widely innocent,  “Jive talk, a kind of argot.”

She wasn’t going to get me with that fancy word because I knew exactly what she was talking about so I said, “No, it ain’t like them snails you eat at fancy French restaurants.”

This time she chortled behind her gloved hand and her eyes gleamed merrily reflecting the neon night of the passing streets. “Mr. Ask, I find you extremely charming which belies your rough exterior and manner. This is a most wonderful and informative conversation.”

“Pigs who speak Latin, another one of your American tall tales, yes?”

The beam of her smile blinded me and tangled up my tongue. I didn’t know what to say, besides my heart was in my mouth and I didn’t want to spit it out and hand it to her because that would definitely be uncouth, and what little couth I had I wanted to wait and use at the right time so I said “Yeah, I was thinking the same about you, and maybe sometime you and me, we could, ah, get to know each other a little better, you know, over a cup of coffee or a drink, I could take you to a club, go dancing, hear some jazz.” I put my arm across the seat behind her and moved in her direction. “We probably got a lot in common. I mean, you’re doll and I’m a guy.”

She shifted toward the door on her side and I felt something hard poke against my ribs. I looked down at her hand in her coat pocket and up into that determined look I had found adorable earlier now steely and uncompromising. “You are suggesting what it is called a date, but not from a palm, one agreed on ahead of time on a calendar. I don’t think my father would approve or allow it. Our supposed engagement is a ruse, Mr. Ask, nothing more. Please do not try to make more than it is. I am fully capable of taking care of myself.”

I shrugged and sagged back to my side of the bench. I felt the breeze of being blown off followed by the disappointment of being wrong about a dolly again, I always end up leading with my chin wearing my heart on my sleeve, and falling for a herring, the operator behind my eyes putting me through to a wrong number.

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I’d been shot down before so I laughed it off. “I dunno why you need any help from me. Your English ain’t so bad.”

“Yes, but it is my American I must improve. I am curious again for a word. What is this ixnay?”

“Nix, no. What you just said to me, notta chance. It’s pig Latin.”

“Pigs who speak Latin, another one of your American tall tales, yes?”

“No, it’s for real, something we used to talk in the neighborhood among us kids. Only thing I still use is ixnay, anybody who’s ever spoken it still does, that and amscray.”

“Amscray, I have not heard.”

“It means scram, beat it. . .go away?”

“I must remember these, scram, beat me. . . ? I am still confused as to why you speak the Latin of pigs as a child.”

“Well, it ain’t really Latin, it’s a made up language, kind of a code so you can say stuff that somebody who don’t know the igpay ain’t gonna understand, like if they ain’t part of your gang, see?”

“Now I am very confused. Are you being truthful or are you with me making a toy?”

“No, it’s all true. Now I wasn’t as good at it as little Stevie Silverman, he’s the guy who taught igpay to most the guys in our gang. We called him “Stubby” cause he was so short. He could hold whole conversations in pig Latin. Once he recited the preamble to the Declaration of Independence in pig Latin to history class. Mrs. Peabody didn’t know if she shoulda been shocked or amused, but it got Stubby beat up on the playground for being a showoff anyway.”

“This is fascinating. How is this pig Latin spoken?”

“It’s pretty easy. You take any word, like say ‘pig’ and you move the first letter of the word to the end and add ay, a-y, so pig becomes igpay. Or, like scram, you take all the letters bunched up before the a and move them to after the m, add an ay, and you get amscray. Simple.”

“That is easy for you perhaps, but let me see if I grasp. Pig is igpay. If I wanted to say  pig Latin I would say igpay. . .atinlay?”

“Yeah, I suppose, if you wanted to say that. Usually we just said things like amscray or uckday.”

“You would say a duck? For whatever purpose?”

“That is a very short question to a very long answer, but the gist is ‘keep your head down.’ Unray was always popular when we seen the cops coming.”

“Run, am I correct?”

pawnshop“Yeah, I think you got the hang of it. Try this one on for size. Ouyay areyay ayay ishday.”

“I am at a loss. It sounds like an infant’s babble.”

“It means ‘you are a dish.’”

“A dish? What is a dish? Do you mean a place setting. . . ?” She blushed, “Oh, porcelain.”

I laughed “No flies on you.”

She brushed at her shoulders, suddenly alarmed, “I hope not!”

I laughed again. And we were there.


Next Time: Max and The Empress’s Cucumber

Contents Vol. I No. 6

Introducing Dime Pulp Number Six

Dime Pulp, A Serial Fiction Magazine, Issue Six features a large chunk of Colin Deerwood’s A Detective Story, getting into the meat of the first act as Lackland Ask, Confidential Investigations, finds his lawyer gunned down in his office and narrowly escapes the same treatment as he seeks out someone to decipher the Cyrillic writing in the dead hood’s address book only to encounter a breathtaking young frail who just might be the key to untold riches, at the very least enough scratch to let him live comfortably in a style he is not normally accustomed to.

Helena Baron-Murdock’s Hard Boiled Myth featuring Weston County Sheriff’s Detective Jim Donovan, is called out for an unidentified body found in the surf which turns out to be a possible homicide. In the course of his investigation he learns of a top secret installation in the coastal hills that draws his suspicions in a multipart short story titled The White Room that involves hang gliders, environmental activists, and a clandestine government agency.

Further in the adventures of Lee Malone, former super model and now small town reporter for the Corkscrew County Grapevine, who has just missed witnessing a murder and now has been called in to be deposed in the original murder she almost witnessed in the continuing chapters of The Last Resort in which she is suddenly reminded of her party girl past while meeting hostility from someone she thought she could trust.

Also in this issue, a sneak preview of a new serial novel slated for future publication in these hallowed (hollowed?) pages as we lift the veil on a Steampunk adventure by nouvelle roman author, Phyllis Huldarsdottir featuring the indomitable Captain Lydia Cheése (pronounced Chase), Airship Commander, whose quest for her father. the legendary Commodore Jack Cheése, might just take her around the world titled Cheése Stands Alone .

Dropping A Dime, News, Views, and Reviews in which yours truly, Perry O’Dickle, aka The Professor, offers up his considered and considerable opinion on the fine art of pulp fiction, reviews of crime fiction, old and new, as well as news of upcoming publications features a book review of Max Allen Collins’ Double Down from Hard Case Crime.

Dime Pulp continues its crime spree with the serialization of two full length novels, The Last Resort and A Detective Story, as well as another short story based on Greek myths under the rubric of Hard Boiled Myth.

If you’ve made it this far, go ahead and follow the links below to reading entertainment with the serial contents of Volume One, Number Six

  —Perry O’Dickle, chief scribe
and word accountant


TLR banner321Deep in the redwood wilds along the Corkscrew River, someone is shooting neighborhood dogs. The year is 1985 and Lee Malone, former fashion model, queen of the runways from Paris to Milan, once dubbed the most beautiful woman in the world, now a part-time reporter for The Corkscrew County Grapevine, is looking for a story to sink her teeth into. When Lee finds the owner of Kelly’s Seaside Resort brutally murdered, it leads her on an adventure that includes a mysterious gray van, another murder, extortion, pornography, sex slavery, and a shadowy organization of militant feminists known as SAPHO.  In the process, Lee Malone’s notorious past catches up with her. 

The Last Resort, Chapters 1-3
The Last Resort, Chapters 4-6
The Last Resort, Chapters 7-10
The Last Resort, Chapters 11-13
The Last Resort, Chapters 14-20
The Last Resort, Chapters 21-23

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Greek myth is rife with murder, mutilation, cannibalism, mayhem, and the ever popular incest.  Weston County Sheriff’s Detective Jim Donovan of the Violent Crimes Unit wouldn’t know a Greek myth from a Greek salad, but if he did he would find some troubling similarities to the cases he’s investigating.  Revisited as crime fiction are the strange death of Hippolytus, the agonizing death of Heracles, the slaughter of Penelope’s suitors, the Fall of Icarus,  the sparagamos of Orpheus, and the cursed lineage of Pelops.  Helene Baron-Murdock’s Hard Boiled Myth taps into the rich vein of classical literature to frame these ancient tales in a modern context.

Long Shot I
Long Shot II
Notification Of Kin
Valentine’s Day I
Valentine’s Day II
The White Room I

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Lackland Ask is the name. ‘Lack’ to my friends, ‘Don’t’ to those who think they’re funny. You might have seen my portrait on the cover of Black Mask, the crime friction magazine. This is my story. It starts with a blonde. This kind of story always starts with a blonde. The brownstone was on the Westside and easy enough to find. So was the mug’s yellow roadster. It stuck out like a new shoe in a cobbler’s shop. I was being a sap again. I woke sitting straight up, sweat pouring out and over me, my undershirt drenched. I was going to have to change my shorts. Some dream. They worked me over, demons in dingy cable knit sweaters. They pumped my arms and peered in my face with eyes as black as eightballs. He handed me a hat. “The pièce de résistance.” He said it like he was serving me dessert. The gat fell from his hand and clattered across the marble floor. It looked like something that might have survived the battle at Ypres. 

This kind of story always starts with a blonde
“I was being a sap again.”
“Some dream”
“demons in dingy cable knit sweaters”
“He handed me a hat.”
“The gat fell from his hand”

Sneak Preview

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In March of 1892, a Scotsman by the name of Arthur C. “Artie” Doyle was hanged by the neck until dead after being found guilty of a string of grizzly murders of prostitutes in Whitechapel. At that moment, history veered off its presumed course and headed in a direction all its own in which the Great War never happened because the Kaiser was afraid of offending his grandmother, Queen Victoria, whose life was prolonged by the wonders of biology. The peace of her reign, known as the Pax Victoriana, despite some major environmental disasters, has lasted 180 plus years keeping as many Victorian airs as possible while making accommodations to bio technology. Follow Capitan Lydia Cheése (pronounced Chase), Airship Commander, into a world in which the biological sciences overshadow the physical sciences. Steam engines dominate most modes of propulsion. The skies are filled with lighter-than-air craft and railroads cover most of the globe. Internal combustion engines are banned except in the non-aligned nations of the African continent.  Can Lydia Cheése find her father, the antigovernment turncoat and radical, Commodore Jack Cheése. Will her quest take her around the world in less than 80 days or is it a lifelong journey?  Catch your interest? Below is a sample of how any of that might occur in an alternate world never before explored.

Cheése Stands Alone

dime-reviews-hdrFrom Hard Case Crime  nominated for  numerous honors since its inception including the Edgar, the Shamus, the Anthony, the Barry, the Ellery Queen, and the Spinetingler Award with titles that include Stephen King’s #1 New York Times bestsellers, Joyland and Later; James M. Cain’s lost final novel, The Cocktail Waitress; lost early novels by Michael Crichton (writing under the name “John Lange”) and Gore Vidal (writing as “Cameron Kay”), comes Max Allen’s Collins’ second outing  in the Nolan series , continuing the saga as Nolan and his young, comic book-loving partner, Jon, match wits with a skyjacker and a vigilante slaughtering the members of a Midwest crime family.

Dime One
Dime Two: Come Back, Nolan, Come Back

Dropping A Dime Two

Come Back, Nolan, Come Back

MAX ALLAN COLLINS’ MASTER THIEF, NOLAN, RETURNS IN ALL-NEW EDITIONS OF HIS CLASSIC ADVENTURES 
DOUBLE DOWN | Max Allan Collins | May 25, 2021 | Trade Paperback | 352 pp
 ISBN: 978-1789091410; e-ISBN 978-1789091427
US $13.95; CAN $18.95 

FULL DISCLOSURE: Hard Case Crime provided the review copy of Double Down by Max Allan Collins after these editorial offices begged for any kind of review material, press releases, etc., to post in this column, essentially filler in an effort to give the impression that we here at Dime Pulp are dialed in and ready to drop a dime on the fine art of pulp fiction (which may sound to some like an oxymoron but more on that later).

Hard Case Crime might have even thought that they had merely tossed a crumb our way but it had the effect of opening up a whole new box of donuts. At any rate, the classy pulp tome with its appropriately garish cover remedied an editorial unfamiliarity with Max Allen Collins’ writing and his master thief and heist maven, Nolan. 

Hard Case Crime has built a solid inventory reissuing some underappreciated and long forgotten authors of the paperback pocket book explosion of the 40s and 50s as pulp magazine fare evolved to standalone crime novels. Reprints of Collins titles make available a later iteration of popular adventure/crime novels of the waning decades of the 20th century in what might be termed “pop pulp,” a style readily adapted to graphic novel storyboard treatment. This is not to overlook their emphasis on the work of Donald Westlake, Laurence Block, or the terrific Gregory MacDonald twofer riff on O. Henry’s The Ransom of Red Chief reissued as Snatch. As well, Hard Case has published a few excellent original works, including Von Doviack’s Charlesgate Confidential.

DDownThe great thing about Hard Case Crime paperback novels is the nostalgic eye candy of titillating covers in that postwar Madison Ave advertising style that brings to mind twirling the wire kiosks of paperback novels in the corner pharmacy over by the greeting cards display looking for something to jump out, something lurid, scandalous, colorful at least, in the hues of rebellion. Essentially these Hard Case Crime paperbacks work as artifacts of taste and nostalgia, a repackaging of an idealized past in the history of crime/men’s adventure literature as a popular mode of storytelling. Although the genre will likely remain popular, actual volumes of bound pulp paper with the eye catching covers may become specialized objects much like vinyl LPs, especially with the advent of the more cost effective eBooks. As I write this, public libraries are discarding their mass paperback collections in favor of the less space demanding digital formats. 

Hard Case Crime titles are also repositories and reiterations of some incredibly terrific writing and imaginative storytelling. The writing style of the hardboiled pulp genre is sourced in the Anglo-American idiom with its laconic exaggerations, understated asides, snappy comebacks, and quaint argot. They are in the main imaginary constructs, based to some extent on experience, but passing themselves off as the real world for reading entertainment. Often situations are farfetched and downright improbable but nothing good writing, deft imagination, and diverting dialogue can’t paper over to render the illogical and unlikely readable. What makes the pulp genre an art is the diverse skill of its practitioners.

Max Allen Collins’ genre specific Nolan novellas have a certain tongue-in-cheek air to them that seems more pop than pulp, particularly with their emphasis on comic book collecting as a kind of meta-referent. Pop fetishizes consumer objects for their cultural resonance whereas pulp is a category of materials used in the manufacture of entertainment literature just as film specifies the medium of cinema. Pop pulp subjects relive imagined circumstances through the objects of their obsession, fantasizing situations in which they can partake in tandem or take on the persona of their fixation. Collins clearly defines his protagonists, Jon and Nolan, as separate individuals yet Nolan doesn’t exist without Jon nor can Jon indulge in his fantasy without Nolan. Or, at the very least, the poster of steely-eyed, rock-jawed Lee Van Cleef that eerily resembles, who else, Nolan.

Also, by way of disclosure, there is a certain amount of resonance to the Nolan referent around the editorial offices of Dime Pulp as it is the family name of one of our contributing authors, Pat Nolan, who is also the brain behind this mad pulp caper as well as the man behind the curtain at Nualláin House, Publisher—Nualláin being Gaelic for Nolan, donchaknow, in tribute to that jolly leprechaun of prose, Flann O’Brien (of The Third Policeman fame) whose real name was Brian O’Nolan or O’Nualláin if you’ve an ear for Celtic speak. It goes without saying that Nolans are a pretty fecund lot and can be found, other than their home turf, from Quebec City to Buenos Aires. Most often it’s a last name, but sometimes a first, especially in the Appalachians and rural South where, as indentured servants and criminals let loose in the new colonies, Nolans headed for those hills as soon as their feet hit dry land after a long and horrific Atlantic crossing. Throw a rock in those parts and you’ll no doubt hit a Nolan, first name or last. Nolans are everywhere, but for Max Allen Collins, Nolan is a mononym—it isn’t his first or his last name, but both, and as such underlines his iconic role as the heroic figure.

Double Down was released by Hard Case Crime in May of 2021 following the April release of Two For the Money. As the titles suggest, each volume features two Collins novella reprints from his Nolan series of the 1970s and 80s. The last two volumes, Tough Tender and Mad Money, will follow in 2022 and 2023. Collins opens with a useful introduction to the genesis of the Nolan series, admitting inspiration from the Parker novels of Donald Westlake’s pseudonymous Richard Stark as well as reiterating a firm denial that he was copy/parodying Don Pendleton’s The Executioner series whose main character is a similar sounding “Dolan.”

These are Max Allan Collins’ fledgling works written years before he wrote Road to Perdition, before his Quarry novels were turned into a Cinemax original series, before he was named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America or ghosting the Mike Hammer novels for the late Mickey Spillane. Set against a ground of pop culture nostalgia for comic books, old movies, and golden age cartoons, the stories work as an accessory after the fact to their illustrated four color context. Nolan is the master thief, and young Jon, the comic book aficionado, is the sorcerer’s apprentice. Collins’ narrative style, a casual conversational ramble, allows veracity to the coincidental material that makes up the underworld of criminals or at least reprehensible lifestyles somewhere in the middle of Iowa where,  not so coincidentally, Collins attended the university and its fabled Writer’s Workshop.

In the first novella, Fly Paper, Jon and Nolan fly to Detroit to commit their righteous payback heist where a comic book convention is also being held and which allows plenty of opportunity to nerd out on comic book references, and of course, since they’re flying, there has to be a skyjacking, DB Cooper style. From this story alone one would get the impression that being a thief, albeit an honorable one, is harder work than might first appear.

Collins uses as epigraph at the beginning of the second novella, Hush Money, a quote from 30’s bank robber, Alvin Karpis, to give an inkling of insight into his Nolan character: “A thief is anybody who gets out and works for his living, like robbing a bank, or breaking into a place and stealing stuff. . . .” On the other hand and in direct contrast to Nolan, “A hoodlum is a pretty lousy kind of scum. He works for gangsters and bumps off guys after they’ve been put on the spot.” In this light, Nolan is a working man, not a mob connected mug.

The midwestern locales of Cedar Rapids and Des Moines in the Nolan sagas provide an entirely appropriate set location for the revalorization of a regional culture hero, the bandit, the bank robber, as in the likes of the James Brothers. The Daltons, and half a century later, Machine Gun Kelly, Pretty Boy Floyd, John Dillinger. Nolan has worked managing Mob assets, but he is not a mobster, and he would like to break free from the association but lacks the leverage or is thwarted or suffers a setback which in itself is the MacGuffin to these tales. He wants out of the game, independence, but will the game let him?

The Nolan stories are narrated matter-of-factly, a backstory always close at hand to smooth over any unexpected inconsistency, told with a faux naïve garrulousness that renders the character of Jon as Nolan’s foil, and in some respects, his Watson. The depictions are spare and not averse to cliché, sketched with minimalist efficiency. The characterizations with the exception of the protagonists are also austerely presented. Unfortunately the “love making” and opposite sex encounters have not weathered well the decades since they were originally conceived (pardon the pun).

As we’ve advocated before here at Dime Pulp, the novella is the ideal vehicle for crime fiction and these two novellas by Collins don’t disappoint in their succinct story arc leading to resolutions that invariably beg for further opportunities to thieve and adventure in the spirit of radio/movie serials of the forties, and four color comic books.

In evolutionary terms, comic books and pulp magazines stem from the same source: penny dreadfuls, the National Police Gazette, and sensationalist yellow journalism of the 19th century. Following WWII, pulp novels and comic books emerged as the go-to reading entertainment while monthly magazines lagged into obsolescence and radio dramas morphed into TV shows. The mood and thrust of the postwar pulp novel reflected the upheaval and brutality engendered by another world war. Crime novels of that time depicted unflinchingly the cruelty and disillusionment of desperate men and women with a darkness and fatalism termed noir. Revenge and lawlessness became more prevalent as themes such as injustice must be avenged took prominence. Yet Justice is blind and wields a double edge sword and in the end, the realization that vengeance is a poor substitute for justice. To enter into that self-devouring daisy chain is enter the lair of the viper, Vendetta ®. Literary depictions of violence tend to be one dimensional, fleeting, and unsatisfactory. It is the lead up to the act, and its consequences, that grabs attention as all violence enacted on the screen or on the page is symbolic no matter how well depicted or orchestrated in its intent to trigger the amygdala’s flight or fight response. A successful effort is often judged by how well and how often the symbolic can undermine the suspension of belief and present the reader with real chills. To be able to accomplish such a feat takes imagination and not a little sadism.

In contrast to the violent vengeful dark despair found in the postwar pulps novels, there was a kind of daffy innocence to prewar pulp fiction appearing in monthly magazines, often as cliff hanger serials, and selling at newsstands. And it is this particular tenor Dime Pulp would like to echo even though it is yet another marginal drop in the meta bucket. Serials were a large part of pulp fiction’s appeal, working class epics on the installment plan for one thin dime. As a serial pulp magazine, Dime Pulp, as in the pulpy days of yore, hopes to offer not only high quality serials but garishly appropriate cover renditions. Pruriently attractive colorful cover art and its arousing effect in stirring up the imagination was a main selling point on the newsstands. A fact attested to by Dime Pulp’s A Detective Story by Colin Deerwood as the story is entirely predicated on the author fixing his gaze on the cover of a vintage issue of Black Mask magazine and improvising time travel to an imagined place where such a detective might live, say in the years leading up to Pearl Harbor. As a serial it has unlimited potential for unfolding from the pages of pulp to the pages of panels. As well, the nominal policiers of Helene Baron-Murdock’s Hard Boiled Myth find themselves with a seemingly endless and labyrinthine source of material gleaned from Greek myth and tragedy. Although the stories are episodic, the thread follows a sheriff’s detective toward the end of his career and into retirement. The Last Resort, A Lee Malone Adventure, Pat Nolan’s pastiche of the private eye genre turned on its head (buxom babe with brains vs. splinter faced chisel chin with a breath that could pickle a squid), was based on a character from a short story published serially in a weekly newspaper. The novel too, published in 2012 by Nualláin House, Publishers,, was written in installments over the course of a few years for a monthly writing workshop, and now returns to publication in its serial roots.

Lastly, just to reiterate, in case it was not made previously clear, the aim of Dime Pulp, aside from garnering a few discerning readers, is to indulge in a speculative fiction make-work program for the benefit and amusement of the author(s), and to partake of the imagination. You are welcome to come along for the ride.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it,
Perry O’Dickle for Dime Pulp