Thursday, December 15, 2011

Imagine how well he’d do if he DIDN’T get captured twice.

Norman A. Daniels was one of the many talented and very prolific writers who churned out countless adventure and mystery stories during the pulp era. Writers like Daniels might never have produced a Maltese Falcon-level classic, but they knew how to construct plots and write exciting action.

Daniels is perhaps best remembered now for writing some of the stronger adventures for the Phantom Detective (a character whose pulp career ran twenty years), but he turned out quite a lot of other stuff as well. “Corpse Collector,” a short story I recently downloaded to my Kindle, is just one of his many efforts. It was first published as a back-up feature in the November 1935 issue of Secret Agent X magazine.

A gang of crooks (called the Shotgun Gang because of their preference for that weapon) has been looting  banks and gunning down innocents for some time now. When they kill a cop during their latest outing, a detective whose been behind a desk for years asks to go back out into the field.

This is Captain Stone, our protagonist for this fast-moving tale. And I do mean fast-moving. Like most professional pulp writers, Daniels doesn’t waste any time or unnecessary words in getting to the good stuff.

Knowing that one of the Shotgun Gang was killed during their last hold-up, Stone deduces how they’ll try to get rid of the body. That allows him to follow one of the gang members to their hideout and put in motion a plan that will lure them all into a trap.

It’s a plan that doesn’t always go smoothly. Stone actually ends up getting captured TWICE in a matter of just a few minutes. But he continues with his plan and improvises when he has to, using the new-fangled technology of putting radios in patrol cars to run a con on the villains and get them away from potential hostages before bringing the hammer down on them.

Norman A. Daniels was a storyteller—able to spin an entertaining yarn that grabs your attention and holds you for the short time it takes to read through it. It’s a rare and valuable talent and it’s nice that his tales are still available to entertain us today.

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