Friday, October 24, 2014

Forgotten Books: SATAN'S VENGEANCE by Carroll John Daly (1936)

Here's a book so forgotten it's never actually been a book. Seventy-five years after its pulp appearance, "Satan's Vengeance" did finally appear in a book, but only as part of the complete (or Compleat) saga of Satan Hall.

Sporting the fine cover above, "Satan's Vengeance" began its eight-part run in the March 7, 1936 issue of Detective Fiction Weekly. It was the last of three novel-length Satan adventures, the others being The Mystery of the Smoking Gun (reviewed HERE) and Ready to Burn (HERE). Why this one was not promptly issued in hardcover remains a mystery. Story-wise, it's not up to the high standard of Smoking Gun (one of my favorite Daly novels) but is at least as good as Burn.

As usual, New York City is dang near under the thumb of a dang near invincible crime boss, and the only thing standing in this master villain's way is Detective Frank "Satan" Hall. While the rest of the police department is hamstrung by politics, Satan has a free hand. He reports directly to the incorruptible commissioner. It's the next best thing to having a license to kill.

Daly's evil masterminds are fond of melodramatic names such as The Hidden Hand or The Head Tag, and this one calls himself The Other Man. The secret of his success is that he's somehow privy to all the dirt on folks in respectable society, and is able to blackmail them into providing alibis for his hired killers. As you might expect, Satan Hall - the Dirty Harry of his time - is not happy with the situation.

When one of The Other Man's minions threatens to tell tales to the cops, he's slated for a rub-out. Luckily for him, Satan knocks him cold and takes his place (above). When the two gunsels close in, Satan fires both guns through his overcoat and renders them defunct. 

Dan Gargan, one of the city's most vicious killers (on his last job, he aced two children as collateral damage), is The Other Man's head stooge until Satan takes a hand.

So Gargan lures Satan into a trap, where a coldblooded tommy-gun expert waits to take him out. Guess who gets taken out?

Part of The Other Man's racket is selling protection to delicatessen owners. Satan goes undercover long enough to send three more bodies to the undertaker.

Pillar of society Glenn E. Nostrom is providing alibis for The Other Man's killers, so Satan drops in to ask him why. 

Most of Daly's early stories feature a convenient set of curtains for good guys or bad guys to hide behind. In this case, Satan does the hiding, and gets the scoop. The Other Man is holding Nostrom's daughter hostage. 

And as if holding her hostage isn't bad enough, they lay her at the bottom of the grave and begin filling it with dirt, letting her breathe through a tube. In this scene The Other Man finally makes an appearance, and we discover he shares a tailor with The Shadow. 

Satan has practically made a career out of walking into traps and coming out shooting. This time he wears his Doc Savage shirt, but the result is the same. The Other Man, though he doesn't yet know it, is having his last laugh. 

"Satan's Vengeance" occupies about 80 of the 530 king-size pages in The Satan Hall Omnibus (aka The Compleat Adventures of Satan Hall) published in 2011 by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box. Copies run about a hundred bucks, and are well worth it (I reviewed that HERE). You may direct inquiries to George A. Vanderburgh at 


Prashant C. Trikannad said...

This is almost like a comic book!

Evan Lewis said...

Yep, as an eight-part serial, each segment got its own title page illo. But sadly, it merited only one cover painting.

Stephen Mertz said...

Rendered him defunct?!? Wait a minute, are we talking Daly or Bellem? Great post. It's been 20 years or more since I read this one but I still remember Satan taking the lash at the end. One of Daly's strengths was memorable scenes...he just had trouble, sometimes, stringing them together. Satan Hall is a great character.

Rick Robinson said...

Sounds great. I'e found those Battered Silicon Box books to be very pricey indeed, out of my range. Too bad Altus didn't do it for a third that price, or half for two volumes...

Evan Lewis said...

I'd love to see Altus do Satan Hall, but that book is so long it would fill four Altus volumes and cost about the same.