Friday, June 22, 2012

Forgotten Stories: "The Dancing Rats" by Richard Sale

As you may have noticed, I'm a big fan of Mr. Richard Sale. (If not, click HERE to peruse my posts about him.) Still, I was a bit surprised to find this story, "The Dancing Rats," in The Black Lizard Big Book of Black Mask Stories.

Why? Because Sale was not known as a Black Mask writer. I knew he'd done this tale, because I have the issue, but a little digging revealed that this, from June 1942, was his only true sale to the magazine. (Two more stories appeared at the end of the mag's run in the 50s, but they were reprints from Detective Fiction Weekly.)

Don't get me wrong. I was glad to see it in the Black Lizard collection, just like I was glad to see in BM. Sale was an important member of the hardboiled school, and it's fitting he should be represented in both places.

Still, "The Dancing Rats" (not to be confused with the Daffy Dill story "Dancing Rats" that appeared in Detective Fiction Weekly) is by no means a detective story, and only marginally a mystery, and I'm a little surprised it appeared in Black Mask at all. It's much more in tune with the war-on-the-homefront stories he was selling to Saturday Evening Post, and my best guess is that Post had more than they could handle, so Sale let this go to a lower paying market.

The tale's hero is Dr. Nicholas Adams, renown for his work with lepers, the same character who starred in Sale's 1940 non-mystery novel Cardinal Rock. (The same character also appeared in his first mystery novel, Lazarus #7, in 1942, though the doc's name was changed.) The Japanese are plotting to wipe out all life in Honolulu, and our man Nick, with his medical acumen, is the burg's only hope. I won't tell you what the plot involves, but I'll give you a hint. It ain't leprosy.

Stay tuned for more blathering about Richard Sale. I'm overdue for a re-reading of his second mystery novel, Passing Strange.

Friday = Forgotten Books = pattinase


Deka Black said...

I know i'm being silly, but the title is really fun :)

Anonymous said...

I'd forgotten this one. I have the Black Lizard collection, I'll have to reread the whole thing this summer.

David Cranmer said...

A sharp story that I had the pleasure of reading in the Black Lizard collection. I would like to read his novel that was turned into the STRANGE CARGO film.

Evan Lewis said...

Not Too Narrow ... Not Too Deep is a strange book, David, but the writing is smooth and the story compelling. It's sort of a spiritual adventure novel.