An Ever-Growing List of Lester Dent’s Detective Characters
Kenneth Robeson was the prolific author of about a jillion pulp stories, and was best known as the creator of the Doc Savage series.
But his real name was Lester Dent. And under that name and an avalanche of other pseudonyms and house names that included H.O. Cash, Harmon Cash, Tim Ryan, Cliff Howe, Maxwell Grant, A C.I.D. Official, Ralph Powers, A Legation Attaché, A London Detective, William Dexter, A Police Reporter and C.K.M. Scanlon, he wrote countless western, war, detective and mystery stories for the pulps.
Including a string of private eye tales that ranged from gritty and dark to high-flying Doc Savage-type adventures to just plan WTF? weird. The ultra-prolific Dent was known more for his quantity than his quality, but for sheer inventiveness of detective characters, the only one I can think of who even comes close is Erle Stanley Gardner.
The stories appeared in numerous pulps, including Crime Buster, Ten Detective Aces and Argosy, and he even cracked Black Mask a couple of times. In fact, he held Black Mask in such high esteem that he saved some of his best work for them, including his two stories about Oscar Sail, which many consider his best work, and one of them even made it into Cap Shaw’s The Hard-Boiled Omnibus.
Dent had all sorts of private detective characters and “agency men.” He created several “gadget detectives” — variations on the whole Doc Savage scientific detective/weird menace/superhero theme. He also created several straightforward gumshoes. It depended on the market, and he wasn’t above reworking a story to sell it, or trying out a character, a plot, a gimmick, a twist in one of his detective tales and recycling it for a Doc Savage yarn.
THE “GADGET DETECTIVES”
- Lynn Lash
The first of his gadget-loving scientific detectives, and a precursor to Doc Savage.
- Foster Fade
Also known as “The Crime Spectacularist,” Fade’s job was to solve fantastic crimes, on behalf of a NYC tabloid.
- Lee Nace
“The Blond Adder” had so many gadgets he needed a sack to carry them in.
- Click Rush “The Gadget Man”
Arguably the weirdest P.I. Dent — or almost anyone — ever created, Click Rush (aka “The Gadget Man”) takes his orders from a giant talking toad.
THE STRAIGHT EYES
- Curt Flagg
The first of Dent’s series characters. Within two years he created Doc Savage.
- Steve Harden
A one-shot dick, but what a shot.
- Sean Kerrigan
One of Dent’s weird mystery guys, going up against a supervillain called The Spark.
- Cleve Dane
Now here’s a skill you don’t see often in private eyes — Cleve can throw his voice.
- Dave “Diddle” Lacy
Another skill most P.I.s don’t have — Dave juggles golf balls.
- Wes Kaine
Pint-sized Kaine has a few tricks up his sleeve.
- Oscar Sail
Many consider the two Black Mask stories featuring Sail to be Dent’s finest work.
- Ed Stone
A former prizefight tries to make it as a P.I., with the assistance of his Chinese valet.
WITH A TWIST
- Chance Molloy
Not strictly a private eye, but the two novels he appeared in are some sort of hard-boiled.
- The Pulp Paper Master Fiction Plot
Lester Dent’s sure-fire recipe for writing a successful pulp story.