Vintage Pulp Magazine
Cloak and Dagger Challenge #121
Deal Me In Challenge: 4♣️
Date Finished: September 11, 2018
This Red Circle detective pulp from 1938 features ten stories, leading off with the Deal-Me-In Challenge story “Beware the Devil’s Spy Ring!” by Frederick C. Painton. A seemingly meek former newspaper librarian and now columnist, Mr. Quaile has a photographic memory for facts and an ability to find the connections between various stories. Teaming up with a tougher reporter, they break up a spy ring with Mr. Quale’s smarts and Bill Gates’ muscle. I identify with the know-it-all librarian and very much enjoyed his unusual character. The latter chapters focus more on Gates’ muscle and are less interesting with his standard tough guy actions.
In “Public Servant’s Payoff” by J.A. Chambliss, a cop on his last day before retirement breaks all the rules to solve a case and get famous before he is put out to pasture.
In “Side Show to Hell” by Vance C. Criss, an undercover agent breaks up a dope ring by posing as a farm hand and catching the delivery truck. In “Murder’s Not Funny” by Dale Clark a police detective tries to solve a locked room murder at the state capitol when his only credible suspect was his friend’s daughter. “Gun Trap for a Money-Killer” by Roger Torrey also gets a cover blurb, as cops investigate a street corner killing with a brother-in-law as the too obvious killer. “Hot Cars” by Norman A. Daniels has another tough guy cop investigating a stole car ring with the cars hidden underground by a car elevator. “Bullet Bait” by H.C. Brokmeyer has another cop detective after the Phantom. “Something Shock” by Omar Gwinn tells of a murderer who failed to avoid his own just desserts. “Horror in the Ravine” by Brent North is supposedly a true crime story, fairly well done, telling of a rapist and murderer in Toronto. Finally, “A Cop Breaks the Law” by John Douglass Stolp tells of a beat cop who plots to get a killer on his own after the killer had escaped prosecution, only for justice to work out without him needing to break the law.
Of all of these, the Painton story is the best. The others all suffer from having the same prototypical generic tough cop as the protagonist. Most are short, but few try anything new. These Red Circle pulps would not have been the top of the line and did not attract the best stories or talent, though Painton’s, Torrey’s, and Daniels’ names are familiar. The Red Circle line was run by Martin Goodman, who eventually would develop Marvel Comics the following year. Among the company titles listed here are Complete Western Book, Complete Sports, Best Western, Best Sports, Star Detective, Star Sports, Real Confessions, Real Sports, as well as Western Novel and Short Stories, Western Short Stories, Western Fiction, Two-Gun Western, Six-Gun Western, and Quick Trigger Western Novels. Marvel would continue to do this with their early comics, running out multiple similar titles every other month to flood the newsstands with their product.