RARA-AVIS: More on Seven Anderton

From: Moorich2@aol.com
Date: 12 Sep 2003

For a guy I first figured was a house name at Columbia Publications old Seven Anderton really got around. First I learned that he had a bunch of stories in Argosy circa late 1920s into the 1930s (although so far I haven't found any in my issues) and someone on another list gave his autobiography from Argosy
(which Todd reprinted here). And from that I learned that he left home early and hoboed around, rode with Pancho Villa, was bad into drink before a woman became his wife and he sobered up. Not mentioned was his term in prison which respectable sources tell me he was serving when he published his first story. But before that first story another writer sold a story "Seven Anderton" to Blue Book in 1926 and said he had it from the horses mouth but then writers have been lying about that long before E.R. Burroughs really made it a cliche in the pulps. Oh, and I checked the Brad Day index and old Seven had a long story in Amazing Quarterly back in 1932.

So old Seven was real and continued to sell stories until his death in 1958. Today I checked our archives and our Juri (you still on the list Juri?) wrote about him back in 2000, shortly before I joined the list. He mentioned that Anderton's stories about Edna Pender in the 1950s were among the ground-breakers for female private eyes.

Hmmm...there were two "Ware and Pender" stories in my issues of "Famous Detective" and so I pulled out the February 1952 issue (the same with the Hunt Collins story) and read "Hot Ice House-Warming."

All I can say is Wow! This is the toughest broad I've yet discovered in pulp fiction. She is a female Mike Hammer. No lie. Steve Ware is her partner in St. Louis and is the first person narrator but he was never really much of a success until he hooked up with Edna Pender and he knows it. We see the story through his eyes but this is not an equal partnership. Ware does what Edna tells him and hangs on for dear life.

She is ugly. A Sergeant Polcher comes to take away her gun and her permit and she stops him cold. "By gawd," he declared, "there ought to be a law against a female being that ugly."

"Did you ever see her smile?" Steve asked.

"No, but I've heard her swear. I had to look some of the words up; they were lulus."

I figured the point was she didn't smile but a page later she did and Steve Ware made his point plain. "Steve forgot everything else in watching the smile. Miss Pender certainly had the most unfortunate face that ever grew on a woman, but her infrequent smile brought about a major miracle with the job lot of mismatched features. It was like an optical illusion, producing something that was almost--or perhaps more than--beauty."

He says to her about officer Polcher: "Why don't you smile at Polcher?" She sways back "I'd laugh out loud at him...if he didn't make so damn mad. He wants my gun! Fat chance: before I get through I'm going to curl his hair, but tight."

I was now beginning to realize that this was not simply some dashed off story for the penny a word or less that Anderton received. This is a carefully, artfully developed character. Miss Pender does not like cops or any authority because she grew up poor and tough and doesn't trust them. I wonder if this is a reflection of Anderton's personal experience? She berates Ware for being too friendly with the cops.

In this story a woman has just been released from prison and the police are following her because she is the widow of a robber from who they never recovered the loot. Edna Pender takes her side against the cops and against other gang members after the loot. Pender hides her, which is not against the law as the woman walked down the whole sentence. The cops have no right to hold her. Pender is aided by taxi drivers and other regular citizens who trust her far more than the police. A taxi driver says: "They say I am a damned crook and I say as long as nobody think so but the cops, and Miss Pender is my friend, I will get along."

So later in the story a bad guy tries to kill her. She was laying in wait for him and the hunter becomes prey. Because she wanted to question him, she tries to shoot the gun out of his hand. But the bullet glances off the weapon and travels up his arm creating a nasty wound. The guy dies from shock. Steve Ware later says she didn't kill the guy, he died of a heart attack. "Then I brought it on," she retorted, "and I want the credit."

Edna Pender is at one point captured by a crooked cop and tied up in an old ice-house. Steve and Sergeant Polcher follow the crooked cop to the ice-house.
 Do they rescue Pender? Not on your life. She has worked herself free and is waiting on the guy who locked her up.

Howell, the crooked cop, opens the door with Sergeant Polcher and Ware hiding and watching (and doing the 1st person narration). "There was a sudden flurry of action and a scream from Howell as he reeled back and fell, rolling. Something burst from the door and landed on top of him. It was Miss Pender. She was a dirty and disheveled bunch of action and fury; she struck again and again at Howell's head."

They yell at her to stop, don't kill him.

"Miss Pender looked around, saw them and rose with her shoulder bag in her left hand and a set of brass knuckles gleaming on the other. Hair awry, clothes torn, soiled and covered with ancient sawdust, she stood astride her moaning victim. Polcher say afterward that she should have put her foot on Howell's chest and howled."

As Howell lay on his back groping for his armpit, Miss Pender kicks his hand away. Ware chides her for not telling him about Howell and she says to her partner, "You always go to the cops," she glared at Polcher, "and they wouldn't have believed me. I'd have done all right if you hadn't come along. All I ask is that you don't be damn nuisances now. This is my meat," she kicked Howell, "and I'm going to recover the Solomon stuff."

Howell, his eyes filled with blood, begs Sergeant Polcher to save him.
"She's crazy."

Miss Pender put her brass knuckles in her purse and grabs a pistol. "This can be simple," she said, "or the louse can get where he can stall. I'm going to talk to him a while inside that insulated icehouse. It smothers noise. I tried it."

Ware and Polcher decide to do just that. She asks them to leave the door cracked so she can see to shoot. But before this takes place a confederate of Howell's comes out of the darkness and grabs Sergeant Polcher and puts a gun to his head. "This gun is cocked," the newcomer warned. "One wrong move, and I will pull the trigger."

Steve Ware was "frozen. A move for his gun would most certainly mean death for Polcher."

Rara friends, if you think Edna Pender would be stopped by the threat to honest Sergeant Polcher you haven't been paying attention. She did at least shoot first the threatening gun hand which made his shot miss the good sergeant. Then she blew a kneecap off the bad guy.

Someone tells the sergeant he was lucky she at least shot the gun hand first.
 "You have ridden Edna ever since she was a kid making faces at you on the shanty town beat."

Polcher grunted. "She made faces. Who could tell?"

Friends this is the real deal. I am a collector...well maybe an accumulator is more like it. I own thousands of old mags and I buy still more...digging through them and sometimes wondering what drives me to do so. Here is the reason. It is finding, totally unexpectedly, a gem of a story and a writer I never heard of who just may have authored other little wonders that might be in that next mag I buy.

Richard Moore


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