This is the second in a series of three reviews of Dime Detective magazine issues from the 1930s, 40s and 50s.
Cover artist uncredited, cover is unsigned.
6 Ready for the Rackets · Anon. · cl
Racketeers and swindlers of all sorts are lying in wait for you, eager to rob or cheat you of your hard-earned cash. All you need to thwart them, guard against them, is a foreknowledge of their schemes and methods of operation. Write in, telling us your own personal experiences with chiselers and con men of various sorts. It is our intention to publicize —withholding your names, if you wish—the information you have passed on, paying $5.00 for every letter used. No letters will be returned unless accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed envelope, nor can we enter into correspondence regarding same. Address all letters to The Racket Editor—DIME DETECTIVE MAGAZINE, 205 E. 42nd St., N. Y.
8 Thanks for the Ration Card! [Inspector Allhoff] · D. L. Champion · nv 4/5
|Dime Detective June 1943 – Thanks for the Ration Card! – D. L. Champion|
Inspector Allhoff is one of the stars of Dime Detective in my estimation. He’s a police inspector who lost his legs to injuries sustained in a botched raid on a gangster hideout. The loss of his legs warps him into a surly, misanthropic person who lives across the street from Police Headquarters and solves mysteries while guzzling endless cups of coffee. This particular story, set during World War 2, starts off with a surlier than usual Allhoff missing his coffee due to rationing (one pound of coffee per person per week).
I observed that the percolator which rested on the electric plate atop Allhoff’s desk was silent. Its belching gurgle no longer reverberated through the room. The plate was cold and the pot was empty.
While Allhoff is exploding at the lack of coffee, a crook, Roy Gardiner, comes in to the room, and pleads with Allhoff to help him. Allhoff refuses:
Allhoff glared at Gardiner. He said with ominous calm: “I should take a present from you? Me? An upholder of law and order who’s sent a score of your kind to the chair. And I should accept something from you? Are you trying to bribe me to keep you out of Homicide’s clutches? Are you—?”
Gardiner gives Allhoff a present of 2 pounds of coffee.
Allhoff’s principles against accepting gifts from such scum of the underworld as Gardiner vanished. He snatched up one of the packages with one hand, held out the empty percolator to Battersly with the other. Battersly, understanding what was required of him, filled it with water.
Allhoff spilled coffee into its top, switched on the electric plate and sat back, staring eagerly at the pot as if he were Harry the Hophead, cooking up a fresh batch of opium.
Allhoff gets involved in Gardiner’s case – a murder of a American recently returned from prospecting diamonds in Brazil. He sends the two policemen seconded to him to investigate the witnesses and Gardiner’s alibi. All seems fine, and Gardiner is released by the police. Just when things seem to be settling down, Allhoff discovers that Gardiner has only given him a pound of coffee, the two bags containing the gifted coffee are half sawdust and half coffee. Enraged, Allhoff proceeds with the case…
The Allhoff stories are well-crafted, with humor that is as black as the coffee Allhoff drinks, and bitter as his heart. This series is being reprinted by Altus Press, volume 1 of The Complete Cases of Inspector Allhoff has 10 of the stories and is worth your time and money.
28 The Doctor’s Ditch [Doc Pierce] · Richard Dermody · ss, illustration by Pete Kuhlhoff 3/5
|Dime Detective June 1943 – The Doctor’s Ditch – Richard Dermody – illustration by Pete Kuhlhoff|
This is an unusual series for a pulp magazine in the 1940s, normally they were very concerned about being moral and always had the good guy winning in the end. Doc Pierce, however, is a confidence trickster and these stories are told by a sidekick in the best Damon Runyon dialect. There is good writing here, especially when it comes to depicting characters, while the plot itself is very light and frothy.
The town is inhabited by a bunch of old guys and dames that wobble around like spavined selling-platers and if you see a couple of people together on the street the chances are one of them is holding the other one up.
Mrs. Higgins is a nosy dame with big ears and her hair pulled into a tight wad at the back of her collar. She acts like it will cost her four bits if she cracks a smile and from the way she looks at me I figure she will just as soon dust a little arsenic on my pork chops as not.
36 The Nervous Doorbell [Dean Wardlow Rock (The Dean)] · Merle Constiner · nv 3.5/5
|Dime Detective June 1943 – The Nervous Doorbell – Merle Constiner|
Fans of fair play golden age detection stories will find this one interesting reading. Wardlow Rock, the eponymous Dean, and his sidekick Ben Matthews are at odds with each other after reading a newspaper article that mixes up their names, and reverses their roles and importance. A letter arrives, offering the Dean an opportunity to purchase a page from the diary of a French serial killer, and the Dean connects this (in some unexplained manner), to a string of recent murders on the estate of a rich and dysfunctional family, the Stockards. He invites them over to his residence, interviews them and ends the meeting with the Stockards engaging him to reveal the identity of the murderer and protect them from becoming victims. Through a chain of connected circumstances, the Dean unravels the murderous plot targeting the family wealth and identifies the killer.
I expected to find an office. What we stepped into was a shanty. Just imagine a shack picked up from down along the railroad track and stuck back into the fourth story of an old office building and you’ve got the picture. There was a packing box bunk built into the corner of the room, a rusty hotplate on a trestle between two nail kegs, and a couple of broken-down chairs. The sort of grab-and-run furniture that an enterprising bum can get in alleys. Everything except the object in the center of the room. A beautiful old-time cherry desk, deep-carved and lustrous. A man was sitting behind the desk. On its surface, before him, was an antique pistol—an enormous, smoothbore flintlock job.
72 Bull Luck · Will Johnson · ss · illustration by Carl Pfeufer 3.5/5
|Dime Detective June 1943 – Bull Luck – Will Johnson – illustration by Carl Pfeufer|
This seems to be the only story by Will Johnson. A pity, for the story is short, crisp and well narrated. The story is about a criminal preparing to pull off a robbery at a gas station. He has put in plenty of preparation and does not trust to luck. However, when he tries to get away, his karma catches up with him. Nice twist in the tale ending; this story is noirish enough that it could have been published in Manhunt a few years later.
74 Mr. Six Feet Deep · W. T. Ballard · ss· illustration by Carl Pfeufer 3.5/5
|Dime Detective June 1943 – Mr. Six Feet Deep – W. T. Ballard – illustration by Carl Pfeufer|
Another hard-boiled story, this time about a casino owning gambler who fakes his own death, down to a public funeral, when a bomb meant for him blows up his visiting half-brother. The narrator is the bodyguard of the gambler, who thinks he failed at his job, and goes back home after attending the funeral, only to find the gambler sitting in his apartment, waiting for him. Everyone around tries to muscle in on the gambler’s business, and things come to a head soon. The ending leaves the narrator disappointed in humanity, waiting for the army to call him up.
91 Double Trouble · Byron W. Dalrymple · ss · illustration by Joe Farren 1.5/5
|Dime Detective June 1943 – Double Trouble – Byron W. Dalrymple – illustration by Joe Farren|
A weak effort from the author in his first and last appearance in Dime Detective. A game warden finds a ransom note, purporting to be from his brother, demanding $5,000 for the safe return of his deputy. The warden goes to the ransom dropoff place specified in the note, overpowers the kidnapper and is generally smugly complacent about his and his deputy’s cleverness.
94 This Is the Way We Bake Our Dead · Hugh B. Cave · ss · illustration by Joe Farren 3.5/5
|Dime Detective June 1943 – This Is the Way We Bake Our Dead – Hugh B. Cave – illustration by Joe Farren|
The prolific Cave has the last story in this issue, a story of a newspaperman caught in a 11 year old murder and its ripples in the present. The skull of the victim is found at a construction site and the police are called in. By the time they get there, the skull has gone missing. The next day, the dead body of the man who found the skull is discovered. The past comes back to haunt the present, and Cave gives us a horrific and tragic ending.
My favorite story is this issue is "The Nervous Doorbell" starring the series character, The Dean by Merle Constiner. Written with wit and humor and the plot is very complex. There were almost 20 of these long novelets in DIME DETECTIVE. Most of them close to 20,000 words.
You are right about the DL Champion series. Though there is humor the series is very dark and bleak, with Alhoff hating everyone. It's interesting to note that Champion's series in BLACK MASK starring Rex Sackler, was the complete opposite, full of humor and stressing Sackler's penny pinching habits.
My favorite period for DIME DETECTIVE is the 1940's. Evidently the editor during the forties, Ken White, encouraged the writers to write long, involved stories full of black comedy and humor.