Created by Lester Dent
Doc Savage creator Lester Dent’s final (and weirdest) gadget detective by far was inventor CLICKELL “CLICK” RUSH, aka THE GADGET MAN, who definitely took a more screwball approach to the sub-genre than his predecessors. But it turned out to also be one of Dent’s more successful creations, with Click hanging around long enough for eighteen stories to be published in Crime Busters in a two-year period spanning 1937-39. He even made the leap to a few comic book appearances.
But his biggest claim to fame may be that he’s the only private eye I know of who takes his marching orders from a giant talking toad.
I mean, what the fuck?
Okay, there are a few other differences between Click and Dent’s other Doc Savage wannabes. Like, Click is no hulking hunk of handsomeness — Dent describes him as having an “ant-eater nose” and possessing a “face wedged down sharply to a small mouth under a mustache that was a small eyebrow”—obviously not the handsome young stud portrayed over there on the cover of the 1923 collection from Steeger.
Of course, Click has the usual Dent-approved geegaws in his arsenal, all of his own invention, including gas grenades, radio amplifiers, exploding shoes, a portable x-ray machine, a phone-tapping kit, a bulletproof vest, hypodermic needles loaded with knockout drugs, flash matches, vials of liquefied tear gas and the like. Eager to sell his crimefighting inventions to the police, he sets up shop in New York City.
Unfortunately for Click, New York’s finest give him a pass.
But fate intervenes, and one morning he discovers a three-foot tall papier maché toad sitting in his office, plunked on top of half of a $10,000 bill, plus instruction to insert a light bulb into its mouth. He does so, and damned if the toad doesn’t start to speak, introducing itself as Bufa. Seems a mysterious individual intends to use the radio receiver hidden in the tchotchke to give Click instructions on how to solve a specific crime. If Click succeeds, he gets the other half of the $10,000 bill. It’s screwy as hell, but $10,000 is $10,00, right?
Next adventure, the same thing. Do the math — $10,000 a pop sure beats $25 a day, plus expenses, or whatever the going rate for a P.I. was back then. So Click sucks it up, and becomes a private eye, on retainer to one specific client. And no, he never does figure out who his mystery benefactor is.
The success of the Click Rush stories inspired Dent to try a novel, reworking the character as Homer Sail, the Crime Sensationalist, but scrapping all the gadgets. It never sold.
SHORT STORIES & NOVELLAS
- “Talking Toad” (November 1937, Crime Busters)
- “Death in Boxes” (December 1937, Crime Busters)
- “Funny Faces” (January 1938, Crime Busters)
- “The Scared Swamp” (February 1938, Crime Busters)
- “Windjam” (March 1938, Crime Busters)
- “The Little Mud Men” (April 1938, Crime Busters)
- “The Hairless Wonders” (May 1938, Crime Busters)
- “Run, Actor, Run!” (June 1938, Crime Busters)
- “A Man and a Mess” (July 1938, Crime Busters)
- “The Wild Indians” (August 1938, Crime Busters)
- “The Itching Men” (October 1938, Crime Busters)
- “The Devils Smelled Nice” (December 1938, Crime Busters)
- “Six White Horses” (February 1939, Crime Busters)
- “The Mysterious Jugs” (April 1939, Crime Busters)
- “The Minks and the Weasels” (May 1939, Crime Busters)
- “The Remarkable Zeke” (August 1939, Crime Busters)
- “The Frightened Yachtsmen” (September 1939, Crime Busters; as by Kenneth Robeson)
- “The Green Birds” (December 1939, Street & Smith’s Mystery Magazine)
- SHADOW COMICS
(1940-41, Street & Smith)
- “The Talking Toad” (July 1940; #5)
- “The Tale of the Itching Men” (August 1940, #6)
- DOC SAVAGE
(1940-43, Street & Smith)
- “Untitled” (February 1941; #3)
- Talking Toad: The Complete Adventures of the Gadget Man, Vol. 1 (2023) | Buy this book
Includes the first six stories, plus a new intro by Will Murray.
- The Pulp Paper Master Fiction Plot
Lester Dent’s sure-fire recipe for writing a successful pulp story.
- Lester Dent’s Rogues Gallery
An ever-growing list of his detective characters
THE DICK OF THE DAY
- August 19, 2023
The Bottom Line: One of pulp’s weirder crimefighters, inventor Rush takes orders from a talking toad and used everything from gas grenades to exploding shoes to see that justice was done.