Created by Erle Stanley Gardner
“I am my own courts, my own collector, my own judge.”
— Sidney lets us know the score
Yet another (and certainly one of the toughest) of the many colourful characters Erle Stanley Gardner created for the pulps, master of disguise SIDNEY ZOOM was a wealthy, crime-fighting adventurer whose “soul craved combat… as the soul of many men craves strong drink.” He appeared in sixteen novelettes and short stories in Detective Fiction Weekly in the early thirties.
He was quite a character, old Sid was — his impressive dress-up skills had been honed while working as an intelligence agent for not one, not two but three (count ’em) THREE! different nations. Independently wealthy, he lived on a yacht, the Alberta F., and ventured forth nightly to set the world right. Aiding and abetting were his loyal secretary Vera Thurmond and his police dog Rip, to defend the innocent against the machinations of the rich and powerful who preyed on them.
He was a firm believer of DIY justice, and dispatched it on a regular basis, with the aid of Rip and loyal secretary Vera Thurmond, often through elaborate and barely, rarely legal scams. “The law—bah!, he announces in one story, “What a crude system it is!”
And just to prove his point, he runs some astonishingly bold and barely legal scams to tilt the scales of what he sees as justice in his favour–all rendered in the certifiably whiz-bang prose style Gardner favoured in his pulp work.
Well-heeled, tough, quixotic (but not above a few dodgy shenanigans), Pry bore clear similarities to several of Gardner’s other pulp (or pulpish) characters, from Paul Pry, The Patent Leather Kid and Lester Leith right up to Bertha Cool & Donald 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.
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.
- “The law—bah! What a crude system it is!”
- “…Sidney Zoom’s character was such that no one could come in contact with him without feeling the strange influence of the man. He influenced the lives of those about him as a lodestone influences the needle of a magnet.”
- “The weak and the helpless found in him a haven of refuge, a gigantic wall of strength. The oppressor found in him a grim enemy, tireless, uncompromising, letting no man-made law stand between him and his prey.”
- “His soul craved combat,” Gardner writes, “as the soul of many men craves strong drink.”
- “Zoom is no great shakes as a sleuth, and Gardner’s cut-to-measure plotting and prose could charitably be described as workmanlike. But in the most offbeat of these stories… the schemes Zoom concocts are breathtakingly audacious.”
— Kirkus Reviews on
- ”The Higher Court” (March 8, 1930, Detective Fiction Weekly)
- “Willie The Weeper” (March 29, 1930, Detective Fiction Weekly)
- “My Name Is Zoom” (April 12, 1930, Detective Fiction Weekly)
- “The Purple Plume” (May 24, 1930, Detective Fiction Weekly)
- ”Time In For Tucker” (September 13, 1930, Detective Fiction Weekly)
- “Stranger’s Silk” (January 3, 1931, Detective Fiction Weekly)
- “The Death Penalty” (January 17, 1931, Detective Fiction Weekly)
- “Borrowed Bullets” (March 21, 1931, Detective Fiction Weekly)
- ”The Vanishing Corpse” (August 15, 1931, Detective Fiction Weekly)
- “Higher Up” (September 19, 1931, Detective Fiction Weekly)
- “The First Stone” (October 24, 1931, Detective Fiction Weekly)
- “It Takes A Crook” (February 6, 1932, Detective Fiction Weekly)
- ”The Green Door” (August 20, 1932, Detective Fiction Weekly)
- “Cheating The Chair” (September 17, 1932, Detective Fiction Weekly)
- “Inside Job” (January 7, 1933, Detective Fiction Weekly)
- “Lifted Bait” (October 21, 1933, Detective Fiction Weekly)
- “Stolen Thunder” (March 19, 1934, Detective Fiction Weekly)
- The Casebook of Sidney Zoom (2006) | Buy this book
Collects ten stories.
- Rogue’s Gallery
Erle Stanley Gardner’s Other Series Characters