Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Richard Sale's "Daffy Dill"

Richard Sale, you may have heard, was called the "Dumas of the Pulps" because he wrote so much and so widely. He's believed to have written over 500 pulp stories. I've sampled a lot of them, and while I've never read a bad Sale story, my favorites are the Daffy Dill adventures he did for Detective Fiction Weekly. One source says the Daffy Dill series began in 1934. I don't know, because I've been unable to find a good Richard Sale (or even Daffy Dill) bibliography. If anyone can point me toward one I'd be much obliged. The issue seen here is Feb. 27, 1937. That's Daffy with the flashlight and his pal, homicide Detective "Poppa" Hanley, with the gun.

Daffy is a reporter for the New York Chronicle. His first-person narration is just about the wackiest and breeziest this side of Dan Turner. But while Turner verges on parody, Daffy Dill is the real goods. Richard Sale was somehow able to deliver screwball slang and make it sound like literature. And he obviously had a lot fun doing it. "Dancing Rats" features several characters very likely named for folks he knew. The killer is George Harmon (Coxe). There's a detective named Babcock (Dwight) and another character named Kyne (Peter B.).

Sale also wrote a number of novels. Among them are three fine mysteries, Lazarus #7, Passing Strange and Benefit Performance. Much later, he wrote The White Buffalo, in which Wild Bill Hickock and Crazy Horse go hunting the same mystical critter. Thankfully, the book is much better than the cheesy movie.

The Daffy Dill series cries out to be reprinted. Unfortunately, the only readily available story I'm aware of is "Three Wise Men of Babylon" in The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps. Go back a ways and you'll find one in Hard-Boiled Dames (1986), and another in The Hardboiled Dicks (65-67).


Matthew Coniam said...

Really enjoying this fantastic blog! Never heard of this guy (though I have seen the movie of The White Buffalo...) He sounds terrific.

Evan Lewis said...

Thanks, Matthew. I'm pretty much in awe of Movietone News. May interest you to know Richard Sale also had a career in Hollywood. He was mainly a screenwriter, but also did some directing and a little producing. One film where he wore all three hats was "Gentlemen Marry Brunettes" (based on a novel by his wife), with Jane Russell, Jeanne Craine, Alan Young and Scott Brady (later TV's Shotgun Slade). One of Sale's early novels was filmed as "Strange Cargo" with Clark Gable and Joan Crawford.

Ed Gorman said...

Sometime back in the eighties when I was editing Mystery Scene the phone rang one afternoon and the caller identified himself as Richard Sale (this is all from shaky memory of course). He'd seen a few copies of the magazine and liked particularly the memoirs of the pulp writers we'd been running. We talked for an hour. That much I remember for sure because then as now I had a clock on the wall above my desk. He had a lot of stories, most of them funny ones about life in Hwood. Since I gave my collection of the magazines to my alma mater I can't check. I either interviewed him or he wrote a piece himself. He was a very gracious guy. I sent him two copies when the issue appeared and got a very nice letter from him. Lazarus #7 holds up very well as does Passing Strange. BTW he graduated from the pulps early on and did a number of slick magazine novellas. In the forties Popular Library published two volumes each containing two of the novellas. I have them around here somewhere. I read one of the volumes. Good tight stuff for its era though the demands of the slicks made everybody a little clean cut for my taste.

Evan Lewis said...

I'm jealous, Ed. Somewhere around that time I was writing a piece on him for the Dictionary of Literary Biography (the volume was never published, as far as I know). I wrote him, but the letter came back opened, resealed and marked NOT AT THIS ADDRESS. I've always wondered if he saw the letter. Sounds like he probably didn't.

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