Re: RARA-AVIS: Gender-Neutral "Three-Gun" Terry Mack

From: George Upper (
Date: 01 Dec 2001

--- JIM DOHERTY <> wrote:
> Isn't the fact that Terry specifically identifies
> himself as "Terrence Mack, Private Investigator" (as
> opposed to "Teresa" Mack, for example) in the first
> story to feature him a pretty strong argument
> against
> the position that he's gender-neutral?

The short answer to that is yes, obviously. For brevity's sake in the post, I didn't go into my whole argument, which is more complex than "Terry Mack is gender neutal." In fact, I've not yet finished the paper, so I'm not even sure on all the details of my argument yet. I'm not going to argue that Daly tried to portray Mack as a character that looks male but really turns out to be female, or anything like that. I'm saying something more along the lines of "Daly infused a bunch o' typically feminine qualities into the men of his tough-guy writing." (I probably won't phrase the thesis statement exacly like that.) I am arguing, in fact, that Daly is more complex than he generally receives credit for, because the type of reading (gendered, etc.) that would discover this complexity didn't really exist until after he was out of vogue.

It's much more than Terry Mack--Daly has a pattern of playing with names. In one story, for instance, he has a young girl named Edna whom everyone calls Eddie; the bad guy is named Ed. He has another with a P.I. named Tracey Young. For that matter, Race isn't exactly a gender-specific name. (I love that Terry and Tracey were created by a man named Carroll, also.)
 The bad guy in the Tracey Young story is a clear pre-cursor to Daly's Satan Hall character, and is described in literally dozens of "feminine" ways: for instance, Daly says in one place that he has a voice
"low like a woman's;" in another, it's "high like a woman's." (Most of these examples, by the way, are from lost Daly stories that I have recovered.)

These are just examples; Daly's work is full of this kind of thing, too much for it to be coincidence, in my opinion. (It may not be exactly conscious, either, but I don't think it's coincidence.) What I haven't decided yet is why Daly did all this. We all know about Hammett's "gunsel" practical joke on Cap Shaw; maybe this was Daly's way of getting something else by his editors, particularly an editor who was proud of having a stable of male writers who were at least six feet tall. (I mean, thank God for Cap and what he did in BLACK MASK, but that is a pretty ridiculous thing to be concerned about; wouldn't you want to tweak him?)

One last thing to keep in mind--I'm not married to any of my positions on Daly yet, and I'm open to someone saying "No, he wasn't doing that; he was doing this." I'm pretty sure that he was doing SOMETHING, though.

Now...aren't you sorry you asked?


===== George C. Upper III, Editor The Lightning Bell Poetry Journal

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