As the grim 1930s turned into the dangerous 1940s, pulp magazine publishers began searching for new titles and concepts. One of the oldest, the Munsey Company, looked over the field with its Doc Savages, Shadows and Spiders and decided that the time for cloaked superheroic avengers had peaked. So they brainstormed a new breed of heroes that broke the mold.
The mystic Green Lama was the first. An American Buddhist lama who fought crime, he has never been duplicated.
Munsey followed up with an equally original crime-buster, Dr. Thaddeus Clay Harker. An aging but spry Kentucky colonel, Dr. Harker was a criminologist operating under the cover of an itinerant peddler of patent medicines, his Chickasha Remedies.
Doc Harker specialized in small-town trouble far from the big cities. His M. O. was to send his advance agent, the lovely master of disguise, Brenda Sloan, to lay the groundwork for his arrival. Then he and his strong right arm, ex-heavyweight wrestler Hercules Jones, would blow into a trouble spot and begin their quiet investigations, operating out of his mobile trailer crammed with patent medicines and sophisticated scientific apparatus designed to combat crime. No one suspected that the genteel Southerner with the courtly charm concealed a steel-trap intellect burning with a single-minded determination to stamp out evil. Yet once Doc Harker got started, invariably all hell would break loose!
The creation of Texas writer Edwin Truett “Bud” Long, Doc Harker debuted in Detective Dime Novels in April, 1940, and continued in Red Star Detective. In his first thrilling case, Doc and Herk come to Abbottville, Texas–-an outwardly ordinary place that the Underworld is planning to turn into a secret Crime Nest.
Every issue of Red Star Detective also included a backup novelette by the notorious Robert Leslie Bellem, starring Nick Ransom, ex-Hollywood stunt man turned private eye, the proprietor of Risks, Incorporated. “Peril for Sale” marks his debut.
Also included are three swift-moving short stories, Murray W. Mosser’s “Trouble For Three,” L. K. Frank’s “Trooper’s Vacation” and C. S. Montanye’s “A Gal Named Sal.”
Michael C. Gwynne turns on the charm in our most unusual audiobook. If you cotton to Doc Harker and his little band of troublebusters, we have lined up several sequels.