Satan Hall was Daly's second-busiest character, appearing in 23 pulp stories between 1931 and 1954, plus an 8-part, never-reprinted serial called "Satan's Vengeance." A second novel-of-novelettes, Ready to Burn (also available in PDF from Vintage Library), was published in England in 1951. Four more adventures were collected in the 1988 Mysterious Press volume The Adventures of Satan Hall.
Frank "Satan" Hall is no-nonsense New York police detective who doesn't play well with others. Not only does he look like old Beelzebub (complete with pointy ears), but he has a personality to match. Luckily, the commissioner appreciates his unique talents and uses him as a one-man task force to combat whatever criminal currently poses the greatest threat to law and order.
Satan is actually a detective in name only. He doesn't mess with stuff like clues or evidence. He simply challenges the bad guys to kill him, and when they try - he kills them first.
It works like this: He walks boldly into a bar full of mobsters, hands empty and at his sides. His steady tread is like the drumbeat of doom as he crosses the room, stopping inches from the face of a known killer. The killer looks into Satan's slitted green eyes and feels fear right down to his soul. Up comes Satan's left hand, slapping the killer's face and rocking him back on his heels. Up comes the right hand, delivering another slap. Then Satan's right balls into a fist and comes up from his knees to wallop the guy on the point of the chin.
That mobster now bears Satan's Mark, and his reputation is shot. His only chance to redeem himself is to go gunning for Satan. These killers are invariably fast with their hands - most are able to draw and shoot in exactly one second. But when they're dealing with Satan Hall (as is the case with Race Williams) they are always exactly one-half second too late.
As a title, The Mystery of the Smoking Gun is pretty silly. The only explanation I can think of is that publisher had a drawing of a smoking gun laying around and was hot to use it. There is a brief reference to a particular smoking gun, but there’s no mystery about it. It’s smoking because Johnny Zitto has just used it to kill a rival. And heck, this is a Carroll John Daly book, so could open it to any page at all and smell gunsmoke.
Actually, this 1936 "novel" is made up of five connected pulp novelettes originally published in Detective Fiction Weekly in 1933. And as far as I can tell Daly didn't change a word. Here's the breakdown:
In the first segment, "Death by Appointment," Johnny Zitto's gunman Chet Barloff (above, leering through a secret panel) has two reasons to blast Satan's brains out. One, Chet's taken a fancy to Mattie Hearn, and two, Satan killed his brother Ed. Guess who comes out of this scene alive?
In "Satan's Mark," Zitto is hot to take over the Bronx, and his chosen lieutenant is a hotshot called Gunner Krause (above, with pipe wrench). Unfortunately for Gunner, he too falls for Mattie Hearn. After Satan puts the Mark on him, Gunner traps him in the back of burning taxi and attempts to put his lights out. NOTE TO GUNNER: Never bring a pipe wrench to a gunfight.
"If It Is Murder" ponders the deep philosophical question, Is it murder ... to kill a rat? Mobster Joe De Grassie (above, dying) comes to town, trying to bully Johnny Zitto (above, with smoking gun) into joining his nationwide criminal Combine. The commissioner is so worried, he'd be happy if Satan skipped the pleasantries and simply gunned De Grassie down. Thankfully, De Grassie pushes Zitto too hard, especially when he develops a yen for (guess who) Mattie Hearn.
In "Satan Strikes," brutal Chicago mobster Tanto Marcco (above with knife) tries to fill De Grassie's Combine shoes. But when Mattie (above, gagged) spurns his advances, he plans to slice her up and frame Zitto for the job, counting on Satan to execute Zitto. Tsk, tsk.
And now the finale, "Satan's Threat." Sadly, this story was not featured on the cover, and the mag probably paid the price in poor sales. Up until now, Zitto's relationship with Mattie has been strictly business, but it was inevitable that he too succumb to her virtuous charms. Enter Satan (above left) and it's goodnight, Johnny.
For the illustrated lowdown on Satan's five earlier adventures (including the poop on my theory that his creation was inspired by the "blond satan" Sam Spade), click HERE.
And watch for the last Satan Hall story, "Avenging Angel," in the upcoming collection Race Williams' Double Date and Other Stories from Black Dog Books.
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