Friday, August 12, 2016
Forgotten Books: Snatch! - C.K.M. Scanlon (George Fielding Eliot)
Over the years I've read quite a few of the Dan Fowler novels from the pulp G-MEN, but I'd never read the first novel in the series, from October 1935, until now. Fowler, stalwart agent of the Division of Investigation (later the F.B.I.), starred in more than a hundred of these pulp novels written by various authors. SNATCH!, by George Fielding Eliot writing under the house-name C.K.M. Scanlon, is the story of Fowler's first big case, as he's assigned to break up a gang of vicious bank robbers that has been plaguing the Midwest. As the novel opens, however, the robbers have gone in for kidnapping instead, snatching the young daughter of a bank president. Fowler, with the help of his friend and fellow agent Larry Kendal and beautiful Sally Vane, the daughter of a local police detective, sets out to crack the case.
The Dan Fowler yarns are early examples of procedurals, as a lot is made about the various methods used to track down criminals. The kidnapping plot is only about the first third of this novel, despite its title. In the middle third, Fowler goes undercover in a prison to try to find the mastermind behind the gang, and the final third is spent rounding him up. There's plenty of action, mostly chase scenes, tommy gun battles, and explosions. Tragedy strikes some of the characters, but Fowler presses on doggedly until he finally brings his quarry to justice.
Some of the Dan Fowler stories are more over the top than others. This one is fairly realistic with no real supercriminal or wild schemes. Eliot's meat-and-potatoes writing style adds to that realism. Despite the fact that Fowler gets in a lot more shootouts than most federal agents really did, it's easy to image that investigations in the Thirties really were this way. SNATCH! is an enjoyable hardboiled tale. Some of the later novels in this series are better, but this is a pretty good start. It's been reprinted several times. I don't know if any of those editions are still in print, but copies shouldn't be too hard to find if you're interested.