Thursday, March 17, 2016

"He Was As Dead As an Old Cigar Stub"

Tough guy private eye Mike Dobson enjoyed a short-lived career in the pulps, apparently appearing in only three stories:

   (1) "Doom on Sunday," G-Men Detective, November 1948 (below)
   (2) "Satan Holds the Key," Popular Detective, November 1948 (below)
   (3) "The Mayor Is Dead," Popular Detective, May 1949

Like so many PIs of the era (and our own, too, ask Joe Mannix), in just about every case Mike would get conked on the coconut at least once, be distracted (and/or deceived) by one or more beautiful women, and engage in lethal gunplay—all in a day's work for your average pulp gumshoe. What makes him different from the usual private eye, though, is that he enjoys a cordial relationship with the police of Center City, being good friends with the Commissioner and on speaking terms with the rest of the force, a consequence of his father having been mayor for twelve years.

"Doom on Sunday."
By B. J. Benson (?-?).
First appearance: G-Men Detective, November 1948.
Short story (10 pages).
Online at PulpGen HERE (PDF).
"Private Eye Mike Dobson Finds a Corpse in His Car!"
When Officer Muldoon stops Mike Dobson on the highway, imagine their surprise when they discover this:
There was a body on the back floor. It was the body of a man, and he was as dead as an old cigar stub. He was jack-knifed in there with his head pushed up against his knees. A black stain had spread over the back of his gray suit. Three or four holes had been punched in there and it didn't take an expert to see that they had been made by bullets.
Principal characters:
~ Mike Dobson, PI: "You know I don't like people bloodying up my car and using it for a hearse."
~ Detective Lieutenant Pete Gillis: "After all the favors I've done him. After all the business I've thrown his agency."
~ Officer Muldoon: "I wouldn't do that, Mr. Dobson. You have only a private license. I'll call in."
~ James R. Westcott: Due to circumstances beyond his control (he's dead), he is unlikely to say much.
~ Fred Westcott: "Don't talk to me about the police. If they had any kind of a police force in Center City the thing never would have happened. It never would have happened in Hamilton. I hate to think I'd have to live in this city and depend on them for anything."
~ Lawrence Corliss: "But why? Why would anyone want to kill him?"
~ Mrs. Corliss: "You're crazy."

   "I don't think anything. You might as well know that this is no time to get sensitive. This is murder. We can't afford to be polite."
   "All we need is a big haystack and a needle."
   "The moment my foot crossed the threshold there was a click and the lights went out. I hit the floor fast. At the same time my arm flicked up to my shoulder holster and came up with my gun. Off to my right there were two bright flashes and two loud staccato reports. I sent three rounds quickly in that direction, my .38 booming in the closeness of the room. At the same time I started to roll away. Something came down in the inky blackness and exploded in a blaze of light. That was all. . . ."
   "His body was up against the wall as though he was thrown there like a sack of potatoes."
   "She was a big flashy blonde in her early thirties. She was well-stacked if you liked them built when meat was cheap. She had long eyelashes which could never have been the real thing."
   "I started to duck but I was a little too late. I felt it come down on the side of my head. I had a whole slew of Fourth of July fireworks all to myself . . ."
   "I never saw such people. They go plumb crazy when they see firearms."

Typos: "A looked at it." - Picture caption: "The gun went of in the air."

~ ~ ~

"Satan Holds the Key."
By B. J. Benson (?-?).
First appearance: Popular Detective, November 1948.
Short story (14 pages).
Online at PulpGen HERE (PDF).
"On the trail of a fortune in stolen gems, Mike Dobson runs into murder—and battles to unlock the sealed door of a bewildering crime mystery!"
Chapter I - "Killer On A Rampage"
Chapter II - "Brass Candlestick"
Chapter III - "Slater Remembers"
Chapter IV - "A Trap Is Sprung"

Principal characters:
~ Mike Dobson: "You're a big man in this city, Mr. Dobson. You have big connections."
~ Mr. Greer: "The wrinkled old man behind the cashier's grill. . ."
~ Eddie Balkus: "A skinny little fellow, with small mean eyes and a long nose. A nervous little guy."
~ Lieutenant Pete Gillis: "One of these days I am going to quit this homicide business and get me a job as custodian in a public library."
~ Raymond Asher: "The elevator starter, a big fleshy man of about forty."
~ Lydia Earnshaw: "She was wearing the same maroon uniform but it did more for her than it did for Asher. She was small and round and cuddly with baby blue eyes and an innocent look on her round face. She flashed me a big smile."
~ Mildred Case: "I don't care about any reward. I mind my own business."
~ Detective Sergeant Truro: "Boy, this one's a beaut. Let me know if you find anything. Let's have some cooperation this time."
~ Mrs. Troy: "This sinful city."
~ Arthur Slater: "I mean the whole thing has been too slick. Those things don't happen just like that. Someway, somehow, you contributed to it unknowingly. You did something which, in itself, was unimportant."
~ Valerie Clements: "I haven't the faintest idea what you're talking about, Dobson. Your hat's over there."

   "I like to work alone and I don't like to make too much money. I might get soft and start to slip."
   "I dropped at the sound of the first shot and clawed for my gun. As he swung the gun to me, my own was out spitting flame. He shot at the same time, the bullet whining off the steel cashier's grill near my head. Mine caught him full in the neck. As he started to fall, I had another going in to make sure. He dropped heavily to the floor, the jewelry spilling from his bulging pocket."
   "What do I do? Buy a ouija board?"
   "She moaned again. I lifted her head gently. But as I did, she gave a gasp, some blood trickled out of the corner of her mouth, and she was gone."
   "I eased my gun out of the holster and moved over to the curtain. I kept feeling I was doing it all wrong. I started to turn around but I never quite made it. There was a step behind me—a slight, slithering sound—and something hard came down on the  back of my head and exploded in a blaze of white sparks. I saw the faded carpet come up to meet me as I went out. . . ."
   "Go ahead. Slap it on. I can use it. It goes well with my headache."
   "I play things alone because I get better results that way. If I stick with cops, everything's got to be strictly legal. You can't do it in private work and get results."
   "Tomorrow night the cops are going to take you in and talk to you. They have ways of making you say things."
   "Look out there. In the doorway across the street you'll see a tall guy who looks like the Washington monument with ears. His name's Murphy. He's a cop. He's been on your tail steady since Tuesday. You go home and stay home."
   "I went by her. Her perfume smelled like thirty dollars an ounce."
Mike Dobson's third case happened here.
- Whoever this "B. J. Benson" was, he or she published 22 stories using that monicker between 1948 and 1951, and vanished thereafter; see FictionMags's list HERE.

The bottom line: "If you die in an elevator, be sure to push the Up button."
Sam Levenson

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