Paul Pry

Created by Erle Stanley Gardner

Yet another of the many colourful characters Erle Stanley Gardner created for the pulps, PAUL PRY (aka “The Crime Juggler”) was one of Gardner’s many wealthy, eccentric con artist/detectives who made a living scamming other criminals.

Pry bore clear similarities to several of Gardner’s other, more popular characters, from Sidney Zoom, The Patent Leather Kid and Lester Leith right up to Cool & Lam and arguably even Perry Mason. All of them took delight in beating crooks at their own games, though Pry seemed to employ more hands-on methods than some of the others.

Pry was a suave, if rather peculiar gent; a dandy who carried a cane that concealed a sword, and lived in a swank hotel, where he kept his collection of drums from all over the world. But it wasn’t simply your run-of-the-mill apartment, of course– his suite was heavily fortified, and boasted steel doors. Then again, it matched  his sedan, which was a heavily armored sixteen cylinder monster. Pry, it seems, wasn’t fooling around.

Aiding and abetting Pry in his various dodges and capers was “Mugs” Magoo, an ex-cop and former alcoholic who lost his right arm in an accident but retained an almost miraculous memory for mug shots, hence the nickname. He accompanied Pry on his escapades, often disguised as a bum.

Pry appeared in twenty-six short stories and novelettes, making his debut in the very first issue of Gang World, itself the first pulp title from Popular Publications. After Gang World was scuttled in November 1932 (due to declining sales and the waning popularity of the gangster pulps), the Pry simply stories moved to Popular’s Dime Detective.

Arguably the best-selling American author of the 20th century at the time of his death, Gardner, of course, was best known as the creator of the celebrated Perry Mason series, but cut his teeth writing for some of the leading magazines of the time, such as Argosy, Detective Fiction Weekly and Black Mask, where his stories frequently outdrew those of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.


  • Gardner had no crossovers between his very series, with one exception: “Mugs” later showed up as the Jerry Bane‘s Man Friday.


  • “The Crime Juggler” (October 1930, Gang World)
  • “The Racket Buster” (November 1930, Gang World)
  • “The Daisy-Pusher” (December 1930, Gang World)
  • “Wiker Gets The Works” (January 1931, Gang World)
  • “A Double Deal In Diamonds” (February 1931, Gang World)
  • “Riddled With Lead” (March 1931, Gang World)
  • “Slick And Clean” (April 1931, Gang World)
  • “Hijacker’s Code” (May 1931, Gang World)
  • “The Easy Mark” (June 1931, Gang World)
  • “One Man Gang” (July 1931, Gang World)
  • “Car Fare To Chi” (August 1931, Gang World)
  • “Muscle Man” (September 1931, Gang World)
  • “Loaded With Dynamite” (October 1931, Gang World)
  • “The Cat-Eyed Wench” (November 1931, Gang World)
  • “The Knockout Guy” (December 1931, Gang World)
  • “Hell’s Fireworks” (January 1932, Gang World)
  • “Gangster De Luxe” (February 1932, Gang World)
  • “The Dynamite Hour” (March 1932, Gang World)
  • “Hell’s Danger Signal” (April 1932, Gang World)
  • “Loaded With Lead” (August 1932, Gang World)
  • “Queen Of The Double Cross” (September 1932, Gang World)
  • “The Bullet Mob” (October 1932, Gang World)
  • “Dressed To Kill” (September 1 1933, Dime Detective)
  • “Snatch As Snatch Can” (September 15 1933, Dime Detective)
  • “The Cross-Stitch Killer” (November 15 1933, Dime Detective)
  • “The Finishing Touch” (August 1938, Dime Detective)
  • “It’s The McCoy” (January 1939, Dime Detective)


  • The Adventures of Paul Pry (1990)
  • The Adventures of Paul Pry, Volume One (1991)
  • Large print reprint of 1990 edition, divided into two volumes
  • The Adventures of Paul Pry, Volume One (1991)


Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith, with a big tip of the fedora to Monte Herridge and Markus Rauber for helping to crack the case.


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