Clay Holt

Created by Carroll John Daly
Pseudonyms include John D. Carroll

(1889–1958)

There but for the Grace of God–or possibly the disapproval of Black Mask editor Joseph “Cap” Shaw–goes Race Williams

It’s well known how little the ambitious Shaw thought of Carroll John Daly‘s writing–despite the fact that his stories featuring trigger-happy Williams were exceedingly popular with readers, and that Daly’s name on an issue’s front cover pretty much guaranteed a boost in sales. And so, Daly actually stopped writing for Black Mask during Shaw’s reign sometimes in 1934, moving over to its rival, Dime Detective, and only returning sporadically after Shaw left.

But Daly was not the world’s most imaginative writer, with almost all his series characters, despite their occupation, coming off as guns a-blazing vigilantes. And so we have CLAY HOLT, a hard-boiled private eye who was a “sucker for women,” and bore a startling resemblance to ol’ Race, making his debut in Dime Detective–just as the Williams stories stopped appearing in Black Mask.

Pure coincidence, I’m sure. And any similarities purely a fluke, right?

Still, Clay did succeed in one area where Race had, despite his popularity, had failed–Clay managed to nab Daly his one and only film credit, a surprise given how popular and prolific he was.

Ticket to a Crime premiered December 15, 1934, just months after the story it was loosely based on (“Ticket to Murder”) had been published in Dime Detective, but both the roscoe-spitting persona of the private eye and the blood-spattered, hard-boiled tale were toned way, way down, transformed into a moderately entertaining rom-com/mystery, with Clay now a bland, down-on-his-luck private doofus with slicked back hair (woodenly played by Ralph Graves, an American screenwriter, film director and actor) who discovers he’s suddenly completely besotted by his long-suffering secretary, Peggy (she took off her glasses!). Too bad he hasn’t paid her for six weeks…

The film, by almost all accounts, was a frothy, fluffy dud. As Noirish points out, the film was the kind “the Poverty Row studios churned out seemingly by the dozen during this era… saved from complete mediocrity by the appeal of its two leading ladies, who seem somehow a cut above their male counterparts.”

SHORT STORIES

  • “Death Drops In” (July 1, 1934, Dime Detective)
  • “Ticket to Murder” (October 1, 1934, Dime Detective)
  • “Excuse to Kill” (December 15, 1934, Dime Detective)
  • “The Bridal Bullet” (May 1, 1935, Dime Detective)
  • “Dead Men Don’t Sign Checks” (October 1938, Crime Busters)
  • “Murder Made Easy” (May 1939, Black Mask)
  • “Clay Holt, Detective” (February 1942, Detective Story Magazine)

FILMS

  • TICKET TO A CRIME Buy this DVD
    (1934, Beacon Productions)
    67 minutes
    Premiere: December 15, 1934
    Based on the story “Ticket to a Crime” by Carroll John Daly
    Adapted by Jack Neville
    Screenplay by Charles A. Logue
    Directed by Lewis D. Collins
    Produced by Max Alexander
    Starring Ralph Graves as CLAY HOLT
    Also starring Lola Lane, Lois Wilson, James Burke, Charles Ray, Edward Earle, Hy Hoover, John Elliott, John Webb Dillon.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

 

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