RARA-AVIS: Defective Detectives

From: Reed Andrus ( randrus@home.com)
Date: 30 Jan 2000

Bill Hagen wrote:

> Someone earlier had a question about a Defective Detective anthology, published
> by Bowling Green State University Popular Press, edited by Ray Browne & Gary
> Hoppenstand. Believe both the original and a follow-up, More Tales of the
> Defective Detective in the Pulps, are still available.
> I have the second one, and prize it since it reproduces the original pages--
> including illustrations and ads--from 1939 Dime Mystery Magazine issues.
> Collected in More Tales are 3 stories by "Russell Gray" [Bruno Fischer], 2 by
> Edith ahd Ejler Jacobson, 2 by John Kobler, and one by Leon Byrne.

This may be wandering further down an OT topic than is suitable for this group. I went back to the book I referenced earlier (THE SHUDDER PULPS by Robert Kenneth Jones), and found an entire chapter entitled
"The Defective Detectives." The author's premise is that one of the failings of the pulps was that the villains were more interesting than the protagonists. So, a trend of "humanizing" the hero arose, making them "weird" or "flawed" to increase interest level, I guess from a series establishment perspective.

Jones doesn't generalize; he places the beginning of this trend squarely in the pages of the October, 1938 issue of Dime Mystery Magazine. He describes the emergence of Peter Quest (created by John Kobler), a PI who couldn't see due to recurring attacks of glaucoma.

The team of Edith and Ejler Jacobson mentioned above, created Nat Perry, a hemophiliac detective known as The Bleeder.

Jones says the "defective detective" trend was pretty much gone by 1941
-- the weirdness of the heroes was so commonplace it bored readers (WW2 was also heating up, which had a major effect on the pulps). Some of the later characters included Loring Dowst's Pendexter Riddle, the
"extraordinary question mark;" Dale Clark's Ghostly Jones, a poltergeist specialist; Dane Gregory's Rocky Rhodes and Satan Jones; Stewart Sterling's Jim Big-Knife, last of the Kwanee Blackfeet; and Wyatt Blasingame's Joe Gee, the detective who couldn't sleep while on a case.

Russell Gray/Bruno Fischer is cited time after time as the creator of the most interesting characters. Calvin Kane, for example, had a deformed body, sidling along "like a crab as he dragged his withered right leg along. One shoulder was six inches higher than the other. But he had one physical advantage: arms like steel."

These writers were both the antithesis and the successors of Hammett.

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