The Weird Detective Adventures of Wade Hammond / Paul Chadwick
I’d read one or two Wade Hammond stories in the past and remembered liking them, so I picked up this recent collection. As noted in the introduction, Hammond is something of an odd amalgamation: he’s a world traveler and adventurer (and he’s obviously done some big game hunting, judging by the trophies mounted on the walls of his apartment), he’s been a newspaper correspondent, and he’s also an unofficial consultant for the police, who have a habit of calling him in whenever there’s some unusual murder.
These stories from the pulps Detective-Dragnet and Ten Detective Aces do a good job of tracing the development of the series during its nearly five-year run. In the early stories, Hammond functions as a pretty standard hardboiled dick, taking on various gangsters and killers. But as the series goes on the murder methods become more bizarre, and soon enough Hammond is facing killer robots, giant tarantulas, ghosts, mysterious balls of deadly purple light that strike from the skies, and walking skeletons. This is a pretty entertaining blend of the hardboiled detective and weird menace genres, and true to the weird menace roots, most of the stories have the old Scooby-Doo resolution, where it turns out there’s a logical explanation for the seemingly supernatural events.
Chadwick, probably best known as the originator of Secret Agent X and author about about a third of the novels featuring that character, was a good solid pulp writer who could handle gritty action scenes and moody, atmospheric horror with equal skill. The only drawback to these Wade Hammond stories is that despite his colorful background Hammond never really comes alive as a character for me. For some reason he remains rather flat. Still, I enjoyed this collection, especially the stories with the more bizarre angles, and I wouldn’t hesitate to read more Wade Hammond stories if I came across them.