Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Two-Fisted Detective Stories

Just the titles of the stories in this digest mystery magazine ought to tell you whether or not they would be to your taste: “TNT Temptress!”, “As Hot as Hell!”, “The Devil is a Dame!”, “You Can’t Bury Evil!” . . . well, you get the idea. And yes, they all have exclamation points in the TOC and on the stories themselves, even though they’re not on the cover. If you’ve been reading this blog for very long, you can probably guess how I felt about them. I had a great time reading them, of course.

The authors in this issue are a mixture of the well-known (Talmage Powell, Ed Lacy, Hal Ellson, Edward D. Hoch) and the completely unknown, at least to me (Art Crockett, Jim Arthur, Jim Barnett, Leslie G. Sabo, Vic Heston, Don Unatin, and J. Simmons Scheb). I looked up those I’d never heard of on the Fictionmags Index and discovered that most of them published only between the years 1958 and 1961, and virtually all of their stories appeared in magazines like TWO-FISTED DETECTIVE STORIES, WEB DETECTIVE STORIES, SURE-FIRE DETECTIVE MAGAZINE, and the like. I suspect that they’re all pseudonyms and/or house names.

But what about the stories themselves, you say. Well, most of them are crude, violent, sleazy, and vastly entertaining. “TNT Temptress!” is one of a series featuring private eye Juan Kelly, who keeps a garrulous parrot named Pepe in his office. In this one, a beautiful female wrestler comes into Kelly’s office not to hire him but to beat him up for putting her loan-shark boyfriend in the hospital. Naturally, the plot becomes a lot more complicated than that, even in 15 pages. This one would have fit right in at SPICY DETECTIVE a quarter of a century earlier. “H-Man!” by Talmage Powell, “Mask of Terror!” by Ed Lacy, and “Drive My Hearse, Darling!” by Edward D. Hoch are all slickly-written twist ending stories. “Lovelies Are For Lynching!” by Jim Arthur is a nightmarish noir yarn about a psycho killer, also with a twist ending. Despite the magazine’s title, the Juan Kelly novelette is really the only detective story. The others are all crime/suspense tales with a lot of fairly graphic (for the time) sex and violence in them.

This issue is the final one listed in the Fictionmags Index. That might mean it was the final issue published, or it might not. A house ad instructs readers to “Watch for Juan Kelly’s latest adventure with girls, gangs, guns in the February issue of Two-Fisted Detective Stories”, but that doesn’t really mean anything, either. All I know is, I enjoyed these stories enough so that if I ever run across another issue of TWO-FISTED DETECTIVE STORIES, I’ll grab it without hesitation.
(Thanks to Steve Mertz)


Juri said...

I think at least Art Crockett is a real name. Marc Arnold mentions him in the foreword to the anthology MURDER PLUS. Crockett wrote lots of true crime stuff for magazines much more sleazier than this one.

I've read a story by Leslie Sabo. It was pretty wild, too.

Charles Gramlich said...

Would definitely be intersting to see who these folks are in reality.

Leslie Sabo sure sounds like a pseudonym

Anonymous said...

Great post. I liked seeing the prolific Ed Lacy included among the authors. I didn't recognize any of the lesser knowns.

Ed Lynskey

August West said...

I will pick up anything that has Ed Lacy or Talmage Powell in it. But this one takes-the-cake, unbelievable issue! I love the cover and the titles of the stories. It's a treasure, I'm jealous. Where did you ever find it?

James Reasoner said...

I can't take credit for finding this one. A good friend of mine sent it to me after the fire.

I think Leslie G. Sabo deserves a post of his own.

Unknown said...

I've bid on these on eBay. Very price stuff. I've never won one. Aren't these the magazines that Robert Silverberg and Harlan Ellison wrote numerous pen-name stories for?

James Reasoner said...

Silverberg and Ellison may have written pen-name stories for these magazines, but they show up there under their own names, too, along with Block and Westlake. Makes me wonder if Scott Meredith had some connection with the magazines.