Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Shock Troops of Justice !

Tom Roberts, publisher of Black Dog Books, does us all a great service by rescuing forgotten stories by pulp legends like Lester Dent, Frederick Nebel and Talbot Mundy. But he also brings to light a lot of great work by guys I never heard of - like Robert R. Mill.

Shock Troops of Justice collects twelve stories that appeared in Blue Book between 1935 and 1938, all focusing on Duke Ashby of the F.B.I. The most shocking thing about them is that they were far more realistic than other crime stories of the day. In a preface to the first story, Mill says he met personally with J. Edgar Hoover and gained full access to the inner workings, methods and case files of the F.B.I. How true that is I don't know, but he sure seems to know his stuff.

While these stories are fiction - and well-written fiction to boot - the criminals, the crimes and the methods Duke Ashby and his fellow agents employ all ring true. I picked up the book intending to sample the first story, and got so interested I read three in a row. These are tales, I have no doubt, that Dashiell Hammett would have admired.

Duke Ashby is Mill's representation of the ideal federal agent - young, bright, clean cut, modest, fearless, dedicated and straighter than an arrow. Ashby and his fellow agents, in fact, are the only elements of the stories that are not entirely realistic. They're grown-up Boy Scouts, along the lines of Jimmy Christopher, Operator No. 5. The difference is that while other pulp heroes are battling fantastic, world-beating terrors, Duke Ashby & friends go after kidnappers and bank robbers. And that's a good thing. The pulpiness of the heroes emphasizes the reality of everything else.

Blue Book is not a mag we hear much about today, but it was one of the best of its time. Mill's work was running alongside that of guys like Carl Sandburg, Edgar Rice Burroughs and H. Bedford-Jones, and he deserved to be there. He had a sly and clever wit, and many of his lines sneak up on you and make you smile.

Check out Shock Troops of Justice, and the rest of the amazing Black Dog line, right HERE. 


Deka Black said...

I fear the protaginists can be the only thing that some readers could find un-likable. Being too perfect is as bad as being too bad.

Tom Roberts said...

Thanks, Dave.

Glad you enjoyed the stories. BDB will have more collections by Mill in the offing.

Mill was a writer who died much too young (in his forties from tuberculosis).

Tom Roberts
Black Dog Books

Evan Lewis said...

With modern fiction, Deka, I'd agree. But in this case, it works. It's part of the series' charm, and a reminder that we're not reading True Detective.

Charles Gramlich said...

Shock troops of Justice is a great title. Makes me think of the movie I watched the other night about J. Edgar Hoover.

Deka Black said...

You got a point Evan. Very true. i'll give it a try.