I’m continuing my look at Frederick C Davis’ 1930′s pulp hero the Moon Man. In reality police detective Stephen Thatcher, the Moon Man stalked the night-darkened streets of fictional Great City clad in his black costume and his helmet made of one-way Argus glass. Armed with two automatic pistols plus limitless courage and ingenuity the Moon Man captured or killed Great City’s most dangerous criminals – both white collar and blue collar – and robbed them of their ill-gotten booty. He would then distribute that money to the city’s Great Depression-ravaged poor. All this made him hunted by both the crooks AND the cops. For more on the Moon Man and other neglected pulp heroes click here: https://glitternight.com/pulp-heroes/
34. PREVIEW TO MURDER – The title is meaningless because there are no outright “murders” in this story, just 4 deaths in shootouts and those don’t happen until the end of the story. Davis apparently just wanted to use the word “preview” because the villains in this flick are a bogus newsreel company who use their business as a cover to commit robberies at or near the “news events” they cover. The story starts out with the Moon Man vying with the newsreel crooks – “Independent Sound Films, Inc” – for the $15,000 (in 1930’s money) in the safe of corrupt tycoon and politician Harley Elbridge. The daring theft takes place while Elbridge is making a speech about his pet topic – if he gets elected Mayor of Great City he’ll replace most of the police force brass and make capturing the Moon Man his number one priority.
In reality Elbridge is in cahoots with Great City’s organized crime element and they want the Moon Man eliminated for their own reasons. The Independent Sound Films trio were filming the speech and accidentally caught footage of our hero’s lady love Sue McEwen helping the Moon Man. They use that footage to blackmail our hero into commiting robberies for them. All this plays out against the backdrop of the Mayoral race.
In the end the Moon Man exposes Elbridge, who loses the election; plus the three Independent Sound Films villains kill a cop and are shot to death themselves in a climactic gunfight with our hero, and the incriminating film of Sue McEwen burns up along with ISF Inc’s offices. Best of all the Moon Man recovers the $90,000 the gang had him steal for them and distributes it to poor families. Sadly Davis was already beginning to repeat himself. The blackmail angle plus the shooting deaths of the blackmailers amid a fire that destroys both their headquarters and their blackmail material is basically a rehashing of the whole Red Six storyline.
35. GHOUL’S CARNIVAL – A gangster war is raging in Great City. The war is being fought between the organized crime outfits run by Marcus Fernand, “The Prince of Crooks” on the one side and Vito Barone on the other. When Barone’s thugs rob and kill one of Fernand’s bagmen and are then robbed in turn by the Moon Man the warring crimelords decide to call a truce until their mutual enemy is dead.
Meanwhile, the police surprise the Moon Man and his sidekick Angel (real name Ned Dargan) in their new hideout forcing the two into a masquerade: Stephen Thatcher hides his Moon Man costume and in his identity as Detective Sergeant Thatcher pretends to have traced Angel to the hideout and arrested him. Fernand and Barone’s goons spring Angel from police custody, intent on torturing him into revealing the Moon Man’s identity. Our hero must maneuver himself between the two criminal gangs and free his faithful sidekick, all while staying clear of police Lieutenant McEwen’s latest ingenious trap for the Moon Man.
36. SKELETON SNARE – In keeping with the theme of repetition set in Preview to Murder Frederick C Davis recycled even more elements from earlier Moon Man stories. Yet another person is impersonating the Moon Man and commits a murder while robbing one of the few wealthy yet honest citizens of Great City. Once again our hero sets out to prove his innocence, etc, etc. And yet AGAIN an innocent person is suspected of being the Moon Man, making it even more urgent that Stephen Thatcher catch the real murderer.
Making this go-round even lamer is the ridiculous fact that Davis depicted Steve’s true love Sue genuinely suspecting him of being guilty this time! It’s irrational and out of character but you can sense Davis’ desperation for fresh twists and turns even though by this point he’d basically exhausted all the variations that the Moon Man’s premise made possible. Maybe it was just as well that he only did two more stories after this one. At any rate, the Moon Man – to no one’s surprise – clears himself of the murder charge, makes it clear that the suspected party is NOT the Moon Man and proves that the whole affair was engineered by a high society man who had been blackmailing the murder victim.
YES, JUST TWO MORE MOON MAN STORIES TO GO AND THEN BALLADEER’S BLOG WILL MOVE ON TO ANOTHER NEGLECTED PULP HERO.
FOR SIMILAR ARTICLES AND MORE OF THE TOP LISTS FROM BALLADEER’S BLOG CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/top-lists/
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