Friday, November 6, 2009

FORGOTTEN BOOKS: Six Deadly Dames by Frederick Nebel

I’ve been enjoying the Friday’s Forgotten Books posts on the blogs of Richard Robinson, James Reasoner, Steve Lewis, Randy Johnson, George Kelley, Richard Prosch, Ed Gorman, Paul Brazill, Gary Dobbs, Paul Bishop and others for sometime, and only recently realized the mastermind behind it is Patti Abbott, who graciously compiles a list each week.

Well, heck, I figure I’ve forgotten as many books as almost anyone - except possibly Bill Crider, who excels in all things - so I decided to post one too. This is it.

Frederick Nebel, in my estimation, has never received the credit due him. He was one of the major contributors to Black Mask during the glory years under editor “Cap” Shaw. Between 1926 and 1951 he contributed more than 50 stories to the magazine. His writing was lean, hard and unsentimental, making him one of Shaw’s favorites.

It’s a shame so little of his work has been reprinted. Six Deadly Dames, published by Avon in 1950, is one of only two collections of his short stories.  The other, The Adventures of Cardigan, featuring a very similar character, was issued by Mysterious Press in 1988. Last year, The Big Book of Pulps (remembered this week by Ray Foster), scored a major coup by including a novel-length sequence of the first five stories in Nebel’s other major Black Mask series, featuring Kennedy (the reporter) & MacBride (the police captain).

Six Deadly Dames contains 6 of the 15 Donahue stories. (The page below is from one of those still uncollected, from Black Mask Sept, 1932.)  Like the Continental Op, Donahue is an operative for an interstate detective agency. Like Sam Spade, he's slightly tarnished, brutal when he has to be, and twists the law when necessary. The Cardigan book also collected 6 stories, these originally from Dime Detective, but 37 more are wasting away, as are over 30 Kennedy & MacBride stories.

(click to enlarge)

Corresponding with Mrs. Nebel some years back, I asked if her husband had made an effort to get his stories published in books - particularly the first five Kennedy & MacBride tales, which seemed designed for just that purpose. She said he didn’t think much of his pulp work. He considered it dated and didn’t believe it merited collection. What he really wanted was to be a novelist, not a crime writer. To this end he produced three books, Sleepers East, But Not the End, and Fifty Roads to Town, all well received but today even more forgotten than Six Deadly Dames.

Another “Tough Dick” Donahue collection is long overdue. But it arrives, Six Deadly Dames will do. It’s a gem.


Unknown said...

I think I've forgotten more books than I remember.

Anonymous said...

These look great, I've love to read some of them. I'll have to hunt this collection up, if there are any copies around. It's a shame someone doesn't round these all up and publish them. Talk about a need for an omnibus volume!

Anonymous said...

Oh, and welcome to Friday Forgotten Books! You did tell Patti, so she can include you in her summing up, yes?

Anonymous said...

(not very much) later... I found a copy, actually a Black Mask reprint and it's on the way. Thanks for the tip!

pattinase (abbott) said...

Thanks, Evan. Just shoot me an email anytime you're posting on. (

Evan Lewis said...

Shucks, Patti, I was just thinking about sending you that email, and there you are. You must be a mindreader without peer (except, of course, for the aforementioned Mr. Crider). This is a great thing you're doing, but it sure adds to my to-be-read pile.

Glad you found some Nebel, Richard.

Randy Johnson said...

I love the old pulps, but know my knowledge is sadly lacking. Thanks to you, i know it's even worse than I thought.
You've turned me on to Dan Turner(which I've gotten a couple of volumes) and jim Anthony(which I haven't gotten yet).
I love your blog, but you're just making my TBR pile even larger than ever. It was alreadu taking over the house(hah). I may have to find another place just to live.

Anonymous said...

I have the same problem, with the Friday Forgotten book postings, and this blog. TBR - I refer to it as The Teetering Stack - grows, which reading time is eaten up by visiting more and more, ever more, interesting blogs. Yikes!

- Richard

Paul D Brazill said...

Looks like great stuff!