Will Murray's Pulp Classics #6
Dan Fowler: G-Man Audiobook
by George Fielding Eliot writing as C.K.M. Scanlon
Liner Notes by Will Murray
In the flood of pulp magazines featuring the hard-hitting exploits of a single hero, only one magazine read as if its stories had been torn out of the headlines. That was G-Men, starring the closest equivalent to Eliot Ness and his Untouchables the pulps dared offer up.
The origins of this exemplary series are obscure. Leo Margulies, editor-in-chief of the Thrilling chain, may have been eyeing rival titles such as Secret Service Operator #5 and Secret Agent X, thinking there’s gold in fictionalizing the exploits of undercover men. Early in 1935, Margulies let it be known in the trade that he was planning to issue Secret Service Detective Stories—a bland and uninspiring title if one was ever floated.
But Secret Service Detective Stories never materialized. In April, James Cagney starred in a blockbuster film, G Men. That July, a radio program by that same name debuted to strong ratings. It later became even more famous as Gang Busters. Pulp editors always looked to Hollywood and the headlines for inspiration. Margulies didn’t need to be hit over the head. He scrapped the Secret Service concept and appropriated the popular title, which had been coined by gangster George “Machine Gun” Kelly when, after being surrounded by armed F.B.I. agents in 1933, threw up his hands and cried, “Don’t shoot, G-Men! Don’t shoot, G-Men!” Or so the legend goes. G-Man stood for Government Men, specifically F.B.I. agents.
These were the days of iron-fisted Federal Bureau of Investigation director J. Edgar Hoover battling back the gangster tide that was overrunning major cities all across America. Seeing the local law-enforcement was outnumbered and outgunned—if not compromised—by organized crime he reorganized the old Bureau of Investigation into America’s first national police force—sanctioned to cross state lines in the pursuit of justice. In the pulps, the urban menace of mobster crime had given rise to The Shadow and all the superhuman crime-fighters who followed.
Five years into this ever-shifting reality, Margulies and his editors must have decided the reading public was ready for a crime-crusher who didn’t wear a black cape or a weird mask, and who operated within the law. They were ready for the real deal.
So they created Special Agent Daniel Fowler. Young but hardened, the product of the FBI’s new scientific investigation methods, Fowler and his aides, Larry Kendal and Sally Vane, formed a special roving unit of the Bureau, willing and able to rush to any state in the Union to combat counterfeiters, extortionists and sundry foreign spies.
To write the exploits of such a non-nonsense hero, they understood that they needed a writer of a different cut than the boys who were grinding out The Phantom Detective every month. Maybe they tried a few of their Phantom authors and they flopped. In any case, they called in George Fielding Eliot, a former major in U. S. intelligence.
Born in the U.S. in 1897, Eliot served in the Australian infantry during World War I, seeing action from Gallipoli to the Somme. He was wounded twice. After the war, he migrated to Canada where he became a Mountie. While serving as a U. S. Army reserve officer, Eliot started writing stories, becoming a familiar byline in magazines ranging from War Stories to Margulies’ Sky Fighters. In 1933, he resigned as a U. S. Intelligence officer so he could write military non-fiction articles without being hampered by official censorship.
Eliot knew how to operate a Tommy gun, and what it was like to hear the snap and crack of live rounds whistling past your head. He also knew how to get his man—hallmarks of the Mounties and the G-Men both. His credentials were perfect. Eliot was also writing at a level that put the myriad Phantom ghosts to shame.
Titled after an underworld slang term for kidnapping, with the Lindbergh baby kidnapping fresh in the public consciousness, and inspired by the notorious Purple Gang, the premier exploit of Dan Fowler and his team was called Snatch. It was published under the house pseudonym of C. K. M. Scanlon. It was an instant success among readers who had been reading daily newspaper accounts of the F. B. I.’s successful crusade against John Dillinger and “Baby Face” Nelson, and other otherwise-unstoppable Public Enemies. Their bodies were fast piling up—filled with government lead, with no sign of The Shadow or the Spider anywhere in real life.
Seared by crime, trained by Hoover, and motivated by a stern sense of justice, Special Agent Fowler went on to a long and successful career spanning nearly two decades, and a single 1937 film, Federal Bullets. Only the death of the pulp magazine industry put an end to his fame.
By that time, his original author had moved on. With the start of World War II in Europe, Eliot went onto a new career as a major military historian and radio commentator. With Edward R. Murrow, Eliot broadcast riveting accounts of the war from London. He participated in CBS’ live radio coverage of the attack on Pearl Harbor, said to be the first time that medium covered a major breaking news event. After the war, Eliot became a newspaperman and authored numerous books on military history. He died in 1971, a highly respected man in the corridors of the U. S. State Department.
In order to do justice to this riveting hero, we’ve recruited the impeccable-voiced Richard Epcar to narrate Snatch. If you like his hard-hitting performance as much as we do, expect to hear more of Dan Fowler’s exciting exploits, such as Bring ‘Em Back Dead, Sentinels of Slaughter, and King Crime! Let the Tommy guns roar!