RARA-AVIS: Fly Paper (1929)

From: William Denton ( buff@pobox.com)
Date: 08 Oct 2002

"Fly Paper" (BLACK MASK, August 1929) is the third last Op story. It's the one with the classic opening line: "It was a wandering daughter job." A rich, wild young woman has been missing for over a year, and then her father gets a telegram from her asking for money. The Op is sent to deliver it, but it's a scam. He soon finds the girl's corpse.

Much of the middle of the story is a chase through downtown San Francisco. It's charted out on the back of one of the Dell Mapback editions of Hammett's short stories. It's a part of Don Herron's Hammett walking tour of the city, isn't it?

Here's a paragraph from the start. Sue is the rich daughter, and she's working in a speakeasy run by a Greek names Vassos. Babe McCloor is a big tough safecracker.

| Babe liked Sue. Vassos liked Sue. Sue liked Babe. Vassos didn't
| like that. Jealousy spoiled the Greek's judgement. He kept the
| speakeasy door locked one night when Babe wanted to come in. Babe
| came in, bringing pieces of the door with him. Vassos got his gun
| out, but couldn't shake Sue off his arm. He stopped trying when
| Babe hit him with the part of the door that had the brass knob on
| it. Babe and Sue went away from Vassos' together.

That's beautiful.

The method of murder in the story is outlandish, but in context it doesn't seem so crazy. And this was a 1920s pulp story, after all. They were full of wild stuff.

The story mentions Dumas's classic THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO, and uses something from it. This rang a bell, and a search of the archives turned up a message Kathy Harper (who's not on the list any more) sent in July 1998:

        "Is Brigid based on 'Milady'?"

I'll have to check to see if Dumas is mentioned in any of Hammett's published letters, or his biographies.


William Denton : Toronto, Canada : http://www.miskatonic.org/ : Caveat lector.

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