this is the 110th in my series of forgotten or seldom read books
Brand of the Black Bat by Norman A. Daniels © 1939 (July 1939 issue of Black Book Detective – issue shown below) this edition: Altus Press 2010 trade paper, 1 of 3 novels in this omnibus edition – pulp mystery fiction, Black Bat #1
Thank goodness for Altus Press! They are the publisher of this three novel omnibus, (labeled Volume 1 so I hope there is another on the way!) which allows us to read these without the difficult and costly search for the pulp issue in which it was originally published.
It was the birthing time of many super-sleuths. With the popularity of The Shadow and The Spider, every pulp publisher wanted to have one or more of their own to help them sell more copies. Sometimes these heroes got their own magazine, eventually, but more often they shared space in a pulp like Black Book Detective, the birthplace of The Black Bat.
The second image shows the July 1939 issue, the author shown as G. Wyman Jones, pseudonym of Norman Daniels.
Yes, there was another Bat making an initial appearance about this time: Batman, who first appeared in Detective Comics #27 in May 1939. But there is no connection between that bat character and The Black Bat in this pulp novel. There is another similarity I’ll mention in a minute, but again, there is no connection.
Here we have top notch D.A. Tony Quinn, who is set to put racketeer Oliver Snate behind bars after a long time trying. Seems witnesses against Snate have a habit of dying before they can testify. Finally, Quinn has one hidden away, one who can testify and has proof to back up that testimony. In the courtroom the witness is on the stand and the records, wax recordings of a conversation, are on the table as prosecution exhibits. That’s when – and here’s that other similarity I mentioned – a gangster sitting in the courtroom leapt up and splashed acid on the records. When D.A. Quinn tried to stop him, the man threw the rest of the acid in Quinn’s face. Something similar happened to a D.A. in the Batman comics, but not until 1942, when the villain Two-Face was created.
But Tony Quinn didn’t have half a face burned, he has most of it splashed, especially his eyes. While this was happening the witness was gunned down and the gangster escaped. Snate was found innocent for lack of evidence and went free. Meanwhile Quinn lost his eyesight. Blind, living with his valet Silk, he underwent several attempts to restore his sight, but all failed. However his hearing and sense of smell improved greatly. Finally an experimental surgery done by a small town, unknown doctor was successful. Quinn discovered his night vision was many times better than that of a normal person, so much so he could see clearly in complete darkness. Quinn decides to keep his restored sight a secret, to become a creature of the night: a bat. He would track down and destroy Snate and then all evildoers, taking the name The Black Bat. No one – except his valet Silk and a young woman who had helped him, Carol Baldwin, would know his real identity as Tony Quinn, blind ex-D.A. Thus another masked crime fighter is born.
From there the plot is predictable but a lot of fun to read. Naturally there are people who suspect Quinn isn’t really blind and try to trick and test him, naturally the name of The Black Bat soon strikes fear into the hearts of the bad guys, naturally he falls for the girl but they have a platonic relationship. Oh, and the “brand” of the title? He puts little bat stickers on the bad guy’s foreheads. Huh.
Though not quite up to the quality of The Shadow or The Spider, I like this character, enjoyed this short novel a lot and will soon read the other two in this omnibus.
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The rest of the Friday Forgotten Book posts
can be found at Patti Abbott’s fine blog Pattinase