Tommy Crane

Created by Richard Helms

“One week, we’d bust up an IWW meeting in the Chicago stockyards. The next week, we’d take a train to Kentucky to drive off organizers encouraging coal miners to join the UMW. Wherever anti-capitalists showed their heads…”

With two years of “slogging through the trenches of France” in the Great War and a couple of years as a Boston cop behind him, TOMMY CRANE was looking for something a little better than simply becoming another cop on the take — so he joins the Horne Detective Agency after spotting a flier in a window, in a great little historical short story, “Busting Red Heads” by Richard Helms, which soon finds the Beantown native assigned to “strike-busting squad” and shipped off to Rawlings, Kentucky where a group of workers who make passenger cars for trains are threatening to unionize.

Needless to say, things turn nasty. Two of his colleagues are murdered, apparently by labor organizers, and suddenly Tommy isn’t sure who to trust.

Helms nails the era and the volatile early days of the labor movement, when detective agencies like the Pinkertons were hired by companies to discourage any attempts by workers to organize — up to and including the use of violence if necessary.

Richard Helms, of course, is the creator of such noteworthy private eyes, both contemporary and historical, as Pat Gallegher, Eamon Gold, Cormac Loame and Vicar Brekonridge.


  • “Busting Red Heads” (March 2014, EQMM)


Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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