A couple of weeks back, Mr. Richard Robinson (of Broken Bullhorn fame) and I toured a few Portland area bookstores. He came away with two fistfuls of Perry Mason paperbacks, and I scored this hardcover - No Quarter.
Reading The Thin Man (again) recently, I came across this passage (and no, sorry, it’s not the famous one about Nick’s erection). Nick’s sort-of client, Dorothy Wynant says, “I don’t suppose you know Jorgensen.” “I know a Nels Jorgensen,” says Nick. To which Dorothy replies, “Some people have all the luck.” This is the only time I’ve spotted Hammett paying tribute to one of writer friends.
Jorgensen, I’m sad to say is the Forgotten Man of Black Mask. Despite making 40 appearances in the magazine, 32 of them featuring a cool gambler hero called Black Burton, he’s been consistently ignored by editors of hardboiled anthologies. Why? Beats me. Stylistically, I’d rate him just behind Frederick Nebel, on a par with Raoul Whitfield, and certainly ahead of George Harmon Coxe.
His career as a novelist is rather spotty. The earliest I’ve found reference to is Three Bad Men (1917) a novelization of the John Ford film, based on a novel by another guy. A (probable) juvenile called The Balloon Boys appeared in 1926, as did a collaboration with Linton Wells called Jumping Meridians. Breed of Gun Smoke, another western, was published by Chelsea House in 1930 and reprinted elsewhere. Then El Coronel, A Romance of Mexico in 1935, and The Laughing Caballero in 1936. After that, I’ve found nothing until 1954, the year of No Quarter, and a juvenile baseball book called Dave Palmer’s Diamond Mystery. Another juvenile, Smoke Jumpers, appeared around this time or shortly after. And that’s it. No mysteries. If anyone knows of other novels, I’d sure like to hear about them.
Jorgensen’s style here is lean and tough, though maybe a shade less lean and tough than the Black Burton stuff I’ve read in Black Mask. I’m thinking what the world needs now is a book called The Complete Adventures of Black Burton. Hear that, you reprinters?
Want a sample of Jorgensen's mystery writing? There's a Detective Fiction Weekly story you can read online right HERE
More Forgotten Books at pattinase!.