FFB: Roscoes in the Night

this is the 99th in my series of forgotten or seldom read books

Roscoes in the Night by Robert Leslie Bellem, © 1934-1950, collection © 2003, Adventure House, 2003 oversized trade paper, featuring Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective – mystery – pulp short stories

Roscoes in the NightWhat a marvelous book! Several years ago I came across this while browsing pulp collections and bought it not having read any of, or even heard of, Dan Turner or Robert Leslie Bellem. John Wooley’s informative introduction provides background on the author and stories.

This is a reproduction volume; the stories and illustrations accompanying them are photo-shots of the original pages, warts and all, so there are typos, odd punctuation, the occasional missing letter in a word. So what, these stories are a kick in the pants. Bellem was a master of hard-boiled slang. Not the thoughtfully applied jargon used by Hammett, nor the artful, literary language used by Chandler, this is slap-dash, half invented on the spot, “B” movie (or lower) language, loose and free and a little silly, which is just right for these stories. In Bellem’s lexicon, women are frails, skirts, dames, cupcakes, dolls and cuties. You get the idea, and there’s plenty more. Turner doesn’t just look at something, he lamps it, gives it a swift squint,  tabs it. You gotta love it when you read a sentence like “I cocked a snook at the wig-wag, yeeped at the guard and went through the door with my roscoe ready for action.”.

The plots aren’t that complex or clever, but these were pulp novels (really novelettes) appearing in Spicy Detective and Hollywood Detective. This is great fun and is highly recommended.

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The rest of the Friday Forgotten Book posts
can be found at Patti Abbott’s blog Pattinaise

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13 Responses to FFB: Roscoes in the Night

  1. Carl V. says:

    Those sound really fun, and I like the idea of them being reproduced the way they are so that you see the ‘warts and all’. I think that gives it a bit more of a historical edge to it.

  2. Richard says:

    These are a hoot, Carl. Worth a try.

  3. I have a couple of Dan Turner collections, but not this one.

  4. John says:

    Bellem was some word winger, wasn’t he? I think only Michael Avallone came close to surpassing him. But not completely. I love all that crazy manufactured kind of writing. Cupcakes! I just read a book with a lot of carny slang and one of the women was described as “a real hot bowl of chili.” Didn’t Shell Scott like to refer to women as “tomatoes”? These guys were hungry for something.

  5. I love me some Dan Turner stories.

  6. Jeff Meyerson says:

    Dan Turner was Cap’n Bob’s role model.

  7. Richard says:

    John, when I was a youth (many years ago…) it was not uncommon to hear pretty women called a tomato. As it happens, I like both Shell Scott and Mike Shayne too.

    Evan, absolutely!

  8. I ordered a copy of ROSCOES IN THE NIGHT immediately after reading your review.

  9. Barry Ergang says:

    S.J. Perelman wrote a piece about Bellem and Dan Turner titled “Somewhere a Roscoe…” that’s almost as funny as the stories themselves. Along with a spoof of Raymond Chandler called “Farewell, My Lovely Appetizer,” it’s included in the collection THE MOST OF S.J. PERELMAN.

  10. Cap'n Bob says:

    I’ve been a Bellem fan for a good 30 years, though I never considered him a role model (sorry, Jeff, but that honor belongs to Eddie Haskell). The Dan Turner yarns are great fun and not to be missed.

  11. Pingback: Books with silly names: December’s classic crime in the blogosphere | Past Offences

  12. Pingback: RECOMMENDATION #9: ROSCOES IN THE NIGHT: A BOOK OF DAN TURNER STORIES By Robert Leslie Bellem « George Kelley

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