Monday, August 23, 2010
Encore Review: Six Deadly Dames by Frederick Nebel
It’s a shame so little of his work has been reprinted. Six Deadly Dames, published by Avon in 1950, is one of only two collections of his short stories. The other, The Adventures of Cardigan, featuring a very similar character, was issued by Mysterious Press in 1988. In 2008 The Big Book of Pulps scored a major coup by including a novel-length sequence of the first five stories in Nebel’s other major Black Mask series, featuring Kennedy (the reporter) & MacBride (the police captain).
Six Deadly Dames contains 6 of the 15 Donahue stories. (The page below is from one of those still uncollected, from Black Mask Sept, 1932.) Like the Continental Op, Donahue is an operative for an interstate detective agency. Like Sam Spade, he's slightly tarnished, brutal when he has to be, and twists the law when necessary. The Cardigan book also collected 6 stories, these originally from Dime Detective, but 37 more are wasting away, as are over 30 Kennedy & MacBride stories.
Corresponding with Mrs. Nebel some years back, I asked if her husband had made an effort to get his stories published in books - particularly the first five Kennedy & MacBride tales, which seemed designed for just that purpose. She said he didn’t think much of his pulp work. He considered it dated and didn’t believe it merited collection. What he really wanted was to be a novelist, not a crime writer. To this end he produced three books, Sleepers East, But Not the End, and Fifty Roads to Town, all well received but today even more forgotten than Six Deadly Dames.
Another “Tough Dick” Donahue collection is long overdue. But it arrives, Six Deadly Dames will do. It’s a gem.