I’m not sure the Secret Agent X novels really qualify as Forgotten Books, since they’re being reprinted regularly by several different small press publishers, but hey, in the minds of the general public, they’re not exactly front and center.
“Kingdom of Blue Corpses”, from the December 1935 issue of the pulp SECRET AGENT X, is one of the more oddball entries in the series. It’s very comic-booky (if that’s a word), with a master villain who calls himself the Blue Streak and wears a blue rubber suit, somewhat like a frogman’s outfit, emblazoned with a lightning bolt. His minions – every self-respecting master villain has to have minions, of course – wear black rubber suits that look even more like frogmen and drive around in a sinister black hearse. The Blue Streak’s weapon in his campaign of terror is an electrical cannon that fires lightning bolts, and as a side effect, the corpses of the people struck by it turn bright blue. No explanation is forthcoming for this side effect, but that’s all right. This yarn isn’t very rigorously plotted, even by pulp standards.
Which doesn’t mean it’s not a lot of fun, as Secret Agent X tries to bring the Blue Streak to justice in a series of extremely fast-moving, action-packed confrontation. As usual, “X” employs several different disguises, and his girlfriend/assistant, beautiful blond reporter Betty Dale, even gets in on the act this time, as “X” disguises her so she can take the place of a young woman he suspects of being involved with the Blue Streak.
The actual identity of the author behind the “Brant House” house-name on this one hasn’t been established, as far as I know. The first part of the story reads like it could be by Paul Chadwick, the creator of the Secret Agent X character and the principal author in the series in its early years. The style changes somewhat during the course of the story, becoming more terse and action-oriented, which has led some readers to speculate that maybe Chadwick started the novel and from some unknown reason, another author finished it. This seems possible to me as well, but at this point, we just don’t know. Whoever wrote “Kingdom of Blue Corpses” did a good job of keeping things moving, even if they don’t always make complete sense. An affordable reprint will be available soon from Beb Books, and if you’re a Secret Agent X fan, or just a fan of over-the-top pulp yarns, you’ll want to read this one.