Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Richard Sale's "Daffy Dill"
Richard Sale, you may have heard, was called the "Dumas of the Pulps" because he wrote so much and so widely. He's believed to have written over 500 pulp stories. I've sampled a lot of them, and while I've never read a bad Sale story, my favorites are the Daffy Dill adventures he did for Detective Fiction Weekly. One source says the Daffy Dill series began in 1934. I don't know, because I've been unable to find a good Richard Sale (or even Daffy Dill) bibliography. If anyone can point me toward one I'd be much obliged. The issue seen here is Feb. 27, 1937. That's Daffy with the flashlight and his pal, homicide Detective "Poppa" Hanley, with the gun.
Daffy is a reporter for the New York Chronicle. His first-person narration is just about the wackiest and breeziest this side of Dan Turner. But while Turner verges on parody, Daffy Dill is the real goods. Richard Sale was somehow able to deliver screwball slang and make it sound like literature. And he obviously had a lot fun doing it. "Dancing Rats" features several characters very likely named for folks he knew. The killer is George Harmon (Coxe). There's a detective named Babcock (Dwight) and another character named Kyne (Peter B.).
Sale also wrote a number of novels. Among them are three fine mysteries, Lazarus #7, Passing Strange and Benefit Performance. Much later, he wrote The White Buffalo, in which Wild Bill Hickock and Crazy Horse go hunting the same mystical critter. Thankfully, the book is much better than the cheesy movie.
The Daffy Dill series cries out to be reprinted. Unfortunately, the only readily available story I'm aware of is "Three Wise Men of Babylon" in The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps. Go back a ways and you'll find one in Hard-Boiled Dames (1986), and another in The Hardboiled Dicks (65-67).