Re: RARA-AVIS: Hammett or Daly? Revisited --

Bob Toomey (
Tue, 26 Oct 1999 20:38:01 -0400

William Denton wrote:

I was on the road last night when I responded to your question about Carroll John Daly, but off from my library. When I got home today I dug around and found a little more info.

In the Introduction to his _Black Mask_ anthology, _The Hard-boiled Detective_, Herbert Ruhm writes, "As a literary tool, colloquial speech was still as fresh and innovative as when Mark Twain used it fifty years before in _The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn_, and this speech was first introduced by Carroll John Daly in "The False Burton Combs [in
_Black Mask- in 1922]."

The story is told by a nameless first person narrator (setting another standard), who says of himself, "I ain't a crook; just a gentleman adventurer and make my living against the law breakers." Later he notes that, "if things get melodramatic why I guess I could shoot as good as any bootlegger that ever robbed a church. They're hard guys, yes, but then I ain't exactly a cake-eater myself." This is pretty much the same voice who speaks later in the name of Race Williams.

In a footnote, Ruhm adds, "In 1923 Carroll John Daly introduced his private eye, Race Williams, to _Black Mask_. The announcement of a new Race Williams story on a _Black Mask_ cover would increase the sale of the issue by 20%. In the late twenties, a _Black Mask_ reader poll showed the following author popularity: Daly, Gardner, Hammett."

I'll note without comment that, for all Daly's popularity, Joseph T. Shaw didn't see fit to include any of his stories in the seminal _Black Mask_ anthology, _The Hard-boiled Omnibus_.

Frank Gruber talks a little about Daly in his introduction-cum-memoir to
_Brass Knuckles_, a collection of Oliver Quade stories. "I became intimate with Carroll John Daly. He lived in White Plains, only two miles from Scarsdale, where we lived for several years. We played bridge together two or three times a week...

"Carroll John Daly was a rather slight man, possibly five eight or nine inches tall. Although he did not resemble his famous character Race Williams physically, he liked to talk like him and once Carroll -- who was not much of a drinker ordinarily -- got tanked and was arrested on the way back to White Plains. He was carrying a .45, which did not sit well with the police, for the carrying of concealed weapons in New York State is one of the most heinous of all felonies." Gruber does not, however, mention the disposition of Daly's case.

"Daly needed dental work badly," Gruber goes on, "but had a phobia about dentists and would not go to have the work done. His wife was continually after him about it.

"I enjoyed our bridge sessions tremendously, for Daly was my type of bridge player. He refused to take the game seriously and when we teamed up as partners against opponents who did not know us well, we would drive them crazy. I recall one indignant lady who got up and quit the game when he bid 'six nospades.'"


> On 25 October 1999, Bob Toomey wrote:
> : Race Williams was the first hardboiled private eye, and his creator,
> : John Carroll Daly, was, at one time, Black Mask's most popular
> : contributer.
> What led (Carroll John) Daly to start writing the way he did? I don't
> know anything about his life or previous stories.
> Bill
> --
> William Denton : Toronto, Canada : : Caveat lector.
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