RARA-AVIS: Hunt Collins detective series

From: Moorich2@aol.com
Date: 06 Sep 2003

The Robert Lowndes edited pulps were well down the publishing food chain but he was always able to manage some quality on a shoe string budget. I've purchased a few copies recently of "Famous Detective Stories" from the early 1950s.
 The most recent (via eBay) was the February 1952 issue. All but one of the eight writers were unknown to me and I suspect most if not all were house names for Columbia Publications.

The one known byline made up for the others as the "Feature Novel" in the issue is by Hunt Collins, one of Evan Hunter's many pennames. The story (and at about 15,000 words it is hardly a novel) is "Dead Freight" and it is the cover story of the issue. I would not at all be surprised to learn that the nifty cover art came first and Hunter wrote the story to fit the illustration as was fairly common in the pulps.

It is a first person private eye story featuring Guthrie Lamb who carries a
.45 in a shoulder holster and drives around New York City in a 1942 Ford with 1948 engine. He likes to drink milk. "I always keep three or four bottles in the office. Some guys I know keep rye instead. Milk is cheaper, and I see straighter when I'm not drinking rye. Not that I'm a teetotaler; far from it. I just think alcohol and guns don't mix well." He says he once smashed a man with the butt of his gun because he made fun of a grown man drinking milk.

Lamb is hired by a mortician to find a corpse in a coffin that was stolen from his funeral home. The dead man was killed by a hit and run driver and the mortician was quite proud of his work. But now the family wants its money back. There is a good description of the undertaker: "His eyes were sad, brown and deep, like two cavernous pockets of sorrow dug into his face."

The story is not an undiscovered masterpiece but I enjoyed it. The concept was a good one and there are some good turns of phrase. Guthrie Lamb was a series character because this issue carries a plug for the next in the series
"The Body Beautiful" set to appear in the May 1952 issue.

I do not have an index that covers the pulps. If anyone has (or if they have a Hunter bibliography) I am curious if there were stories published in this series.

Richard Moore

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