Dan Fowler: G-Man – Volume 2 (2013)

Dan Fowler G-Man Vol.2I’ve got to admit that the main reason I picked up this set of stories based on pulp hero Dan Fowler was because I was more interested in Neil Foster’s artwork that adorned each of the four stories in this collection. I don’t think I’ve read any pure mystery pulp fiction stories before, sticking mainly to Science Fiction pulp aside from some comic stories.   But being a big fan of Fredric Brown murder mysteries and film noir, I figured I could really enjoy these yarns as well.

The first story, “The Undercover Puzzle” by Derrick Ferguson, sets Dan and his loyal crew of FBI associates (Larry Kendal and Sally Vane) to try to figure out who killed an informant agent that was highly placed in the mob. One of the impediments is that even though the guy is dead, Fowler isn’t supposed to ‘out’ the guy so most of the detective work is being hampered by law enforcement officials along the way. The fact that Fowler is still supposed to keep it all hush-hush is kinda silly and just didn’t ring true to me, but it was a minor issue. The narrative was very brisk and there wasn’t much detail or character development. We don’t get much of sense of who Dan Fowler is as he’s really just trying to connect the dots to solve the mystery. As a dry, cookie cutter story without much depth, there wasn’t much to learn of the character someone new to Dan Fowler like myself.

The second story, “Monkey business” by Aaron Smith, was much better with just the right pacing.  Describing the rise and fall of a Polish gangster, the story is about a mysterious scarf wearing entity that supplants the gangster.  Having the mysterious new gangster hiding beneath a scarf most of the time was a great writing device that not only builds up the suspense, but also lends the story a bit of a Dick Tracy like caricature bad guy. The icing on the cake was having a sympathetic “moll” as an integral part of the story and having her feelings actually making the reader feel a little sorry for the gangster taken down.

“Proof of Supremacy” by Joshua Reynolds starts off with a bang and doesn’t let up on the action very much, feeding us just the right amount of clues (and red herrings) to keep us on our toes. Best of all, this a collaborative detective story in which Fowler teams up with a journalist-cum-detective Anthony Jenkins, with as much detective prowess as Dan himself. (I later learned that this was in fact another pulp character, “The Super-Detective”) An unrelenting string of bank robberies are linked to the kidnapping of an oil magnate and the hoods are masked men who opt to kill themselves instead of being taken prisoner. Dan and his savvy new partner quickly put together the pieces keeping them hot on the trail while dodging lots of flying lead. While I enjoyed the introduction of Jenkin’s, the amateur sleuth offering his aide is supposed to be some newsman who not only drives a Rolls-Royce but has it decked with the latest (and most convenient) hardware as well as him having truth serum handy when needed. The implausibility of all these conveniences detracts from the story which is otherwise thrillingly excellent. The addition of a Svengali-like turbaned foil adds to the already rich tapestry that I just wished was a bit more credible.

The last story “Feasting on the Predator’s Corpse” by Byron Christopher Bell, is a real doozy, although there is a bit of a catch to that. The story is all about a hitman that works for any mobster for the right price. The hitman is exceptionally violent and cruel, often satiating himself with slower and more painful methods of killing. Instead of just being handed the case, Dan is set on the killer’s trail when the killer decides to perform a job on a judge at a courthouse. While court is in session! Dan happens to be there and immediately goes on a wild manhunt that brings him to some pretty strange places. Full of booby traps, chemical concoctions and lots of action, this was a wild ride of a read. I must say that this is easily the most ingenious pulp villain I’ve ever encountered which had my eyes riveted to the text. The catch I mentioned (and don’t want to spoil) is all explained in the blurb after the story in which the author explains how he went about creating the story. This was as exciting as the story itself, so be sure to read that.

Aside from the minor detracting hiccups I mentioned, I thought this was a fine read and one that will have me reading more pulp mystery in the future. Oh, and you’ll be sure to adore Foster’s artwork along the way, rendering some of the more pivotal scenes. Great stories and great artwork. What have you got to lose?

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One Response to “Dan Fowler: G-Man – Volume 2 (2013)”

  1. Ron Fortier Says:

    The pulp hero Fowler teams up with Josh Reynold’s tale is not named Anthony Jenkins? He is Jim Anthony – Super Detective, another equally popular pulp hero in the vein of Doc Savage, which is why this team up is so much fun. He was not merely a journalist, anything but. Ye old publisher. And thanks for the review.

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