Dan Turner

Created by Robert Leslie Bellem
Pseudonyms include Ellery Watson Calder, Harley L. Court, Walt Bruce, John Grange, Nelson Kent, Kenneth A. Nelson, Jerome Severs Perry & Harcourt Weems
(1902-1968)

“And then, from an open window, a roscoe coughed Ka-Chow!”

The hard-boiled private eye, born in the low-rent pages of the pulps way back in twenties, has become a remarkably resilient mainstay of American popular culture, evolving with the times, popping up not just in literature, but film, radio, television, comics, the internet, videogames and undoubtedly whatever lies beyond. He’s also proven to be quite fertile ground for writers of all kinds, from brain-dead hacks pounding out the most clichéd and purplish of prose just to pay the rent, to those who sweated and struggled over every single comma, taking themselves very, very seriously. You only have to read the innumerable letters and essays by high-faluting pen-pushers like Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald to know that these men (commonly referred to, almost in awe, as “The Big Three” of detective fiction) took themselves very seriously indeed.

But with Robert Leslie Bellem (1902-1968), the creator of legendary Hollywood dick, the one and only DAN TURNER, it’s hard to know if he was serious or not, since he seemed to effortlessly churn out so much damn stuff (it’s estimated he wrote over 3000 pulp stories, with Turner starring in at least 300 of them, not to mention 60 or 70 comic book stories). In his prime, it was said that Bellem was pumping out a million words annually, and selling every single one of them to the pulps.

But he was more than merely prolific–he was a riot. The question is, though, did he know it?

Was he was trying to parody the hard-boiled detective genre barely ten years after its birth or (and this is even scarier) was he simply, completely unaware of how funny and original his style was?

Turner’s a “private skulk,” an “orb for hire,” worked the weird and wacky (and surprisingly violent) streets of Hollywood. His cases seemed to always involve the film world, and its neverending cast of tyranical film directors, jealous husbands, amorous starlets, treacherous stuntmen and back-stabbing co-stars. But it wasn’t the outlandish, albeit predictable, plots or the cardboard characters that made the stories so fun, although some of the methods of murder were certainly pretty high on the Quirk-O-Meter.

Nope, it was the high-octane use of every slang word known to man (and more than a few Bellem must have coined himself) that fueled the tales. Women were wrens or frills, and their breasts were pretty-pretties or tiddlywinks, something that Dan, “as human as the next gazabo,” always took the time to notice. Cars were chariots, money was geetus and no one ever got killed in the stories, they were croaked, choked, cooled, iced, de-lifed or had an act of killery performed upon them. Guns didn’t go bang – they were roscoes and they spat, coughed and belched. Or somtimes they just sneezed, though the end result was the same — people ended up dead.

Dead as a fried oyster. As vaudeville. As an iced catfish.As the 1918 Armistice. Dead, dead, dead. In fact, just knowing Turner seemed to be dangerous.

Years before TV’s Jessica Fletcher watched the citizens of Cabot’s Cove drop like flies, Dan was cutting a wide swatch through the population of Tinseltown’s recently dispatched. The only other recurring character in the series was his pal, and sometime-rival, Lieutenant Dave Donaldson of the homicide squad, whose chief pupose seemed to be to get the bodies hauled away.

Bellem kept him busy. Turner appeared in each issue of Spicy Detective from June 1934 to 1947, a pulp that specialized in “racy” subject matter. Eventually, it was re-christened Speed Detective (and supposedly cleaned up), but the Turner stories continued. By 1942, he was so popular, he even had his own pulp, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective (later just Hollywood Detective), which lasted for eight years. Not only would there be a Turner story or three in each issue, the result being that Bellem would haver written the whole issue, using a variety of pen names (and, okay, occasionally, slyly retitling an old story).

Turner even appeared in a film, 1947’s Blackmail, adapted from a July 1944 Speed Detective story, starring Richard Cortez as a blackmailed playboy who asks Turner (William Marshall) for help. Strictly B, from all reports. And more than forty years later, Turner fanatic John Wooley scripted an original story for The Raven Red Kiss-Off (1990) wherein Turner (Marc Singer) gets involved with a movie mogul, a beautiful starlet named Vala DuValle (Tracy Scoggins) and, as usual, blackmail. Apparently, this travesty went straight to VHS, where maybe three people saw it. I was one of the unfortunate few.

Then again, film’s the wrong medium for Turner, anyway. With its breakneck pace, and bursts of wonky chatter, a half-hour TV show might be a better medium, but let’s face it – nothing compares to simply reading this stuff. Hackneyed and predictable, yes, but also hilarious as hell. Bellem may have been a hack, but the gink sure knew how to commit acts of writery.

It should alsoi be noted that, even back then, Bellem had his defenders. In a now-classic New Yorker piece, “Somewhere a Roscoe,” humourist S.J. Perelman, an unabashed fan, lauded Bellem and called Turner “the apotheosis of all private detectives…out of Ma Barker by Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade.” And fellow pulpster Frank Gruber allowed, in his memoirs, that Bellem was a rather eccentric character, so let’s just assume he knew what he was doing.

But I bet Bellem didn’t take himself very seriously. And neither should we. Let’s just enjoy him. I mean, “dead as six buckets of fish bait”?

You have to be one sad sack of a gazabo not to get a chuckle out of that one.

Bellem also wrote vampire stories, weird menace stories, and of course, tons of detective stories. Over the years, he managed to create other eyes, including Cliff Downey, Nick Ransom and Duke Pizzatello, but none had the staying power of Dan the Man.

THE EVIDENCE

  • “She raised the roscoe, slapped me on the side of the noggin. For a wren who didn’t look hefty, she packed a terrific wallop.”
    — “Gun from Gotham”
  • “It’s a damned screwy feeling to reach for pajamas and find a cadaver instead.”
    — “Corpse in the Closet”
  • “I could see the sudden surge of her gorgeous watchacallems under her fawn frock. I commenced shaking her until her thingumbobs jiggled like mounds of aspic in an earthquakes.”
    — “Death’s Passport”
  • “She’s deader than a Nazi’s conscience!”
  • “A thunderous bellow flashed from Dave Donaldson’s service .38, full at the propman’s elly-bay. Welch gasped like a leaky flue, hugged his punctured tripes, and slowly doubled over, fell flat on his smeller.”
    — “Dump the Jackpot”
  • “The McBride ham crossed the stage with assault and bashery in his slitted peepers; his maulies were balled for action and his kisser was a thin slash in the hard granite of his map as he barged to the camera setup and planted his bulk firmly ferninst the director, a dyspeptic little sourball.”
    — “The Book of the Phantom Bullet”
  • “I irrigated my jitters with a nip of the same medicine.””
    — “Death’s Passport”
  • “I danced my fingers over her shoulders; dislodged the negligee. Her skin was golden, like rich cream. Her breast looked taut and palpitant under a peek-a-boo lace; I began to enjoy my work. After all, I’m not a wooden Indian.”
    — “Cat Act
  • “A hulking lug in chauffeur’s uniform… planted his oversize brogan on my running board. He had an improvised handkerchief mask over the lower section of his pan and a blue-barreled automatic in his duke. He said: ‘Freeze, snoop, or I’ll perforate you like a canceled check.’”
    — “Drunk, Disorderly and Dead”
  • “I dished him up a helping of knuckles.”
    — “Death’s Passport”
  • “She was a hell of a sweet number. Her skin was as warm and smooth as new cream, and she had what it takes to drive a man utsnay.”
    — “Dead Man’s Head”
  • Boom! An explosion of pain roared through me, blasted me all the way to my shoestrings. Klieg lights made pinwheel patterns in my glims, and atomic bomb took my grey cells apart, and I plunged into a deep black well of unconsciousness. For me it was the end of a chapter.”
    — “Careless Corpse”

UNDER OATH

  • Bellem delighted in making it do handstands and turn inside out while consciously (or un — I was never sure which) turning the whole Private eye genre on its cauliflower ear…. Awful as the stories are, they are also delightfully wacky, frankly a perfect antidote whenever the genre gets too full of itself.”
    — David Vineyard (Mystery*File)

SHORT STORIES

An incomplete list, although  I doubt even Bellem could provide a complete list.

  • “Murder By Proxy” (June 1934, Spicy Detective)
  • “Diamonds of Death” (July 1934, Spicy Detective)
  • “Dead Man’s Bed” (August 1934, Spicy Detective)
  • “Death by Telephone” (1934, Spicy Detective)
  • “Sleeping Dogs” (September 1934, Spicy Detective)
  • “Murder at Malibu” October 1934, Spicy Detective)
  • “Murder for Fame” (November 1934, Spicy Detective)
  • “Girl With Green Eyes” “December 1934, Spicy Detective)
  • “Death On Location” (February 1935, Spicy Detective)
  • “The Horoscope Case” (March 1935, Spicy Detective)
  • “Bullet From Nowhere” (April 1935, Spicy Detective)
  • “Temporary Corpse” (May 1935, Spicy Detective)
  • “Murder Masquerade” (June 1935, Spicy Detective)
  • “Five-Grand Fee” (July 1935, Spicy Detective)
  • “Voice from Beyond” (September 1935, Spicy Detective)
  • “Death’s Bright Halo” (October 1935, Spicy Detective)
  • “Beyond Justice” (November 1935, Spicy Detective)
  • “Murder’s Messenger” (December 1935, Spicy Detective)
  • “A Comet Passes” (January 1936, Spicy Detective)
  • “Cooked” (May 1936, Spicy Detective)
  • “The Million Buck Snatch” (June 1936, Spicy Detective)
  • “The Second Dagger” (July 1936, Spicy Detective)
  • “Dead Man’s Head” (August 1936, Spicy Detective)
  • “Falling Star” (September 1936, Spicy Detective)
  • “Silverscreen Spectre” (October 1936, Spicy Detective)
  • “Crooner’s Caress” (December 1936, Spicy Detective)
  • “Death’s Diary” (February 1937, Spicy Detective)
  • “Death for a Name” (April 1937, Spicy Detective)
  • “Murder Claws” (May 1937, Spicy Detective)
  • “Murder on the Sound Stage” (June 1937, Private Detective)
  • “Corpse in the Closet” (July 1937, Spicy Detective)
  • “Star Chamber” (August 1937, Spicy Detective)
  • “Veiled Lady” (October 1937, Spicy Detective)
  • “Find That Corpse” (November 1937, Spicy Detective)
  • “Dark Star of Death” (January 1938, Spicy Detective)
  • “Silverscreen Shakedown” (April 1938, Spicy Detective)
  • “Brunette Bump-Off” (May 1938, Spicy Detective)
  • “Color Scheme” (June 1938, Spicy Detective)
  • “Killer’s Harvest” (July 1938, Spicy Detective)
  • “Alimony League” (September 1938, Spicy Detective)
  • “Blackmail From Beyond” (November 1938, Spicy Detective)
  • “Crimson Quest” (February 1939, Spicy Detective)
  • “Design for Dying” (April 1939, Spicy Detective)
  • “Photograph Finish” (August 1939, Spicy Detective)
  • “Rifle Mike” (September 1939, Spicy Detective)
  • “Badger Bump” (February 1940, Spicy Detective)
  • “Drunk, Disorderly and Dead” (June 1940, Private Detective)
  • “Thug’s Threshold” (June 1940, Spicy Detective)
  • “Death Dubbed In” (July 1940, Spicy Detective)
  • “Crimson Ritual” (August 1940, Spicy Detective)
  • “Death’s Blue Discs” (September 1940, Spicy Detective)
  • “Premiere in Purgatory” (November 1940, Spicy Detective)
  • “Death’s Passport” (December 1940, Spicy Detective)
  • “Cat Act” (February 1941, Spicy Detective)
  • “Reckoning in Red” (March 1941, Spicy Detective)
  • “Killer’s Cue” (April 1941, Spicy Detective)
  • “Future Book” (May 1941, Spicy Detective)
  • “Death by Arrangement” (July 1941)
  • “Witch Hunt” (August 1941, Spicy Detective)
  • “Barmecide Bride” (September 1941, Spicy Detective)
  • “Murder’s Ten Percent” (October 1941, Spicy Detective)
  • “Picture Frame” (November 1941, Spicy Detective)
  • “Crimson Comedy” (December 1941, Spicy Detective)
  • “Murder On The Sound Stage” (January 1942, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Death Dance” (January 1942, Spicy Detective)
  • “A Comet Passes” (January 1942, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Million Buck Snatch” (January 1942, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Murder on the Sound Stage” (January 1942)
  • “Bullet From Nowhere” (January 1942, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Death in the Doghouse” (February 1942, Spicy Detective)
  • “Shouldn’t Happen to a Dog” (March 1942, Spicy Detective Stories)
  • “Gas-House Still” (April 1942, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Murder Done Twice” (April 1942, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Payoff on Peril” (April 1942, Spicy Detective)
  • “Ace in the Hole” (May 1942, Spicy Detective Stories)
  • “No Questions” (May 1942, Mammoth Detective)
  • “Killer’s Keepsake” (June 1942, Spicy Detective)
  • “Blackmail Book” (July 1942, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Blizzard in August” (July 1942, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Blonde Motive” (July 1942, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Death Drop” (July 1942, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Lady Scarface” (July 1942, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Puzzle in Purple” (July 1942, Spicy Detective Stories)
  • “Ransomed Remainders” (July 1942, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Spur of the Moment” (July 1942, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Forgery’s Foil” (August 1942, Spicy Detective)
  • “Death in the Draft” (September 1942, Spicy Detective)
  • “Death’s Dark Star” (October 1942, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Riddle in Red” (November 1942, Spicy Detective)
  • “Broken Melody” (December 1942, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “The Color of Murder” (December 1942, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Corpse by Mistake” (December 1942, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Daughter of Murder” (December 1942, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Killer’s Union” (December 1942, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “League of Leeches” (December 1942, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Malibu Mess” (December 1942, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Petticoat Payoff” (December 1942, Spicy Detective Stories)
  • “Eyes of the Dead” (January 1943, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Glittering Clue” (January 1943, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Headlines in Hell” (January 1943, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Homicide Parallel” (January 1943, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Murder in Yellow” (January 1943, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “The Murdered Mummy” (January 1943, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Riddle in the Rain” (January 1943, Speed Detective)
  • “Snake Tangle” (January 1943, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Sleeping Dogs” (January 1943, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Arrow from Nowhere” (February 1943, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “The Case of the Vanishing Limousine” (February 1943, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detectiv)
  • “The Dame Dies Twice” (February 1943, Speed Detective)
  • “Feature Snatch” (February 1943, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Heads You Lose” (February 1943, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Homicide Hunch” (February 1943, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Murder’s Blue Motive” (February 1943, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Phony Shakedown” (February 1943, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Homicide Hunch” (February 1943, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Russian Run-Around” (March 1943, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Dead Man’s Shakedown” (March 1943, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Killer’s Investment” (March 1943, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Satan’s Shrine” (March 1943, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Sing Me a Song of Murder” (March 1943, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “The Case of the Slain Gorilla” (March 1943, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Water Cooled” (March 1943, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Three Blonde Mice” (April 1943, Speed Detective)
  • “Dead Man’s Guilt” (May 1943, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Death’s Escorts” (May 1943, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Dissolve Shot” (May 1943, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Kiss the Corpse Goodbye” (May 1943, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Monster’s Malice” (May 1943, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Shakedown Sham” (May 1943, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Star Dice” (May 1943, Speed Detective)
  • “Hurry with the Hearse” (June 1943, Speed Detective)
  • “Bund Bump” (July 1943, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Cast for Killing” (July 1943, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Check Tangle” (July 1943, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Death’s Blind Date” (July 1943, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Homicide Bite” (July 1943, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Murder Tank” (July 1943, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Murder with Music” (July 1943, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Homicide Dodge” (July 1943, Private Detective Stories)
  • “Shooting Schedule” (July 1943, Speed Detective)
  • “Taps for a Trumpeter” (August 1943,Speed Detective)
  • “Black Light Payoff” (September 1943, Private Detective Stories)
  • “Corpse on Ice” (September 1943, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Death Begins at Forty” (September 1943, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Dump the Jackpot” (September 1943, Speed Detective)
  • “Harvest of Hate” (September 1943, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Murder in Wax” (September 1943, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Dead Man’s Code” (October 1943, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Homicide Highball” (October 1943, Hollywood Detective)
  • “King-Size Kill” (October 1943, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Murder Off the Record” (October 1943, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Roman Holiday Murders” (October 1943, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Death’s Dress Rehearsal” (November 1943, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Half-Size Homicide” (November 1943, Hollywood Homicide)
  • “Murder in Miniature” (November 1943, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Cat Act” (November 1943, Hollywood Detective)
  • “The Lake of the Left-Hand Moon” (December 1943, Hollywood Detective)
  • “The Case of the Homicide Dive” (December 1943, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Focus On Death” (January 1944, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Widow By Proxy” (January 1944, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Coffin Frame” (January 1944, Speed Detective)
  • “Dead Heat” (January 1944, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Focus on Death” (January 1944, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Killer’s Legacy” (February 1944, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Over the Hill to the Death House” (February 1944, Hollywood Detective)
  • “The Vanishing Vampire” (February 1944, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Killer’s Cure” (March 1944, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Odds on the Eight-Ball” (March 1944, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Corpse from the Sky” (April 1944, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Pistol-Packing Premiere” (April 1944, Hollywood Detective)
  • “5 O’Clock Shadow” (May 1944, Speed Detective)
  • “Heel’s Blood” (May 1944, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Killer’s Contract” (May 1944, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Murder in the Air” (May 1944, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Killer’s Chord” (June 1944, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Sleep for a Dreamer” (June 1944, Hollywood Detective)
  • “The Tree of the Pointing Finger” (June 1944, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Sleep for a Dreamer” (June 1944, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Sleep for a Dreamer” (June 1944, Hollywood Detective; aka “Gun from Gotham,” 1946, Rue Morgue No. 1)
  • “Stock Shot” (July 1944, Speed Detective)
  • “Dan Turner Deals an Ace” (July 1944, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Kidnap Ticket” (July 1944, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Murder’s Mouthpiece” (August 1944, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Pyramid of Death” (August 1944, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Death in the Risk Racket” (September 1944, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Murder at the Mike” (September 1944, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Home Is the Killer” (October 1944, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Killer’s Clue” (October 1944, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Murder on Wings” (October 1944, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Sinister Santa Claus” (October 1944, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Stars Die at Night” (October 1944, Speed Detective)
  • “Clever Corpse” (November 1944, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Remake for Death” (November 1944, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Trap for a Booby” (November 1944, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Cue for a Killing” (December 1944, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Death Leap” (December 1944, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Deathbed Caper” (December 1944, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Heel’s Heritage” (December 1944, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Murder by the Book” (December 1944, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Trump for the Ace” (December 1944, Speed Detective)
  • “Murder Stunt” (January 1945, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Homicide Legacy” (February 1945, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Morgue Case” (February 1945, Speed Detective)
  • “Murder Has Four Letters” (February 1945, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Murder Has Four Letters” (February 1945, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Morgue Case” (February 1945, Speed Detective)
  • “Death in the Cast” (March 1945, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Death Is Where You Find It” (March 1945, Hollywood Detectiv)
  • “Cameo Code” (April 1945, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Comet’s Consor” (April 1945, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Die, Witch, Die!” (April 1945, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Screen-Test Kill” (April 1945, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Snatch Buster” (April 1945, Speed Detective)
  • “Suicide Stunt” (April 1945, Speed Detective)
  • “The Big Cut” (May 1945, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Cure for a Quisling” (May 1945, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Dead Ringer” (May 1945, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Dolly Shot” (June 1945, Speed Detective)
  • “Homicide Flash” (June 1945, Hollywood Detective)
  • “The Dead Don’t Dream” (July 1945, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Slave Market Murder” (July 1945, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Funeral Fade-Out” (August 1945, Speed Detective)
  • “Pin-Up Corpse” (August 1945, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Crazy for the Kill” (October 1945, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Frame Around a Fall Guy” (October 1945, Hollywood Detective)
  • “The Lady Regrets” (October 1945, Hollywood Detective)
  • “The Book of the Phantom Bullet” (December 1945, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Coffin for a Coward” (December 1945, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Dog’s Life” (December 1945, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Poison Payoff” (December 1945, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Ruby Ransom” (December 1945, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Green Heat” (February 1946, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Homicide Surprise” (February 1946, Speed Detective)
  • “Kill Me Again!” (February 1946, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Murder—N.S.F.” (February 1946, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Red Night” (February 1946, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Syndicate Snatch” (February 1946, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Arrangement for Murder” (April 1946, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Fangs for the Memory” (April 1946, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Freak Snow” (April 1946, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Murder from Music” (April 1946, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Homicide’s Partner” (April 1946, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Gold-Badge of Courage” (May 1946, Speed Detective)
  • “Dirge for a Phony” (July 1946, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Key to the Kill” (July 1946, Hollywood Detective)
  • “The Queen Was in Her Coffin” (July 1946, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Serial Kill” (July 1946, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Latin Blood” (August 1946, Speed Detective)
  • “Fall Guy for a Forgery” (September 1946, Hollywood Detective; Dan Turner)
  • “Homicide Hotfoot” (September 1946, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Slow Burn” (September 1946, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Come Die for Me!” (November 1946, Speed Detective)
  • “Careless Corpse” (November 1946, Hollywood Detective)
  • “The Riddle Thumbs a Ride” (November 1946, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Come Die For Me” (December 1946, Speed Detective)
  • “Hair of the Dog” (January 1947, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Death’s Autograph” (January 1947, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Hair of the Dog” (January 1947, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Murder Strikes Back” (January 1947, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Slay It isn’t So!” (January 1947, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Homicide Honeymoon” (February 1947, Speed Detective)
  • “Death Watch” (March 1947, Super-Detective)
  • “Encore for Death” (June 1947, Hollywood Detective)
  • “You’re So Dead” (June 1947, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Don’t Go Near the Slaughter” (September 1947, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Lethal Lullaby” (September 1947, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Murder Follows Me!” (September 1947, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Death Ends the Scene” (May 1948, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Wired Alibi” (May 1948, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Cinema Corps” (August 1948, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Off-Stage Murder” (November 1948, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Homicide Spike” (November 1948, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Make with the Mayhem” (February 1949, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Murder Muscles In” (February 1949, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Body in the Closet” (June 1949, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Slayer’s Serenade” (June 1949, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Kill with a Kiss!” (October 1949, Hollywood Detective😉
  • “Triple-Edged Murder” (October 1949, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Music of Doom” (December 1949, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Starring—Death!” (December 1949, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Quickie Kill” (January 1950, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Terror on the Doorstep” (January 1950, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Death on the Set” (February 1950, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Model for a Corpse” (February 1950, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Any Number Can Slay” (March 1950, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Doom on File” (March 1950, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Action! Camera!—Drop Dead!” (April 1950, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Movie Mad—Murder Mad” (April 1950, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Cast as a Corpse” (May 1950, Hollywood Detective; Dan Turner)
  • “Screen Test for Murder” (May 1950, Hollywood Detective; Dan Turner)
  • “Cast For Murder” (June 1950, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Cutie in a Coffin” (June 1950, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Death in the Spotlight” (August 1950, Hollywood Detective)
  • “The Doomed Quartet” (August 1950, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Curtains for a Corpse” (August 1950, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Murder Wears Makeup” (August 1950, Hollywood Detective; Dan Turner)
  • “Curtains for a Corpse” (August 1950, Hollywood Detective; Dan Turner)
  • “Diamonds of Death” (August 1950, Hollywood Detective; Dan Turner)
  • “Death in the Spotlight” (August 1950, Hollywood Detective; Dan Turner)
  • “The Doomed Quartet” (August 1950, Hollywood Detective; Dan Turner)
  • “Diamonds of Death” (August 1950, Hollywood Detective)
  • “Murder – NSF” (Hollywood Detective)

COLLECTIONS

I’m not sure if Bellem’s stories are public domain or not, but there certainly are a lot of dodgy collections and facsimile reprints by a lot of questionable publishers who seem to be ripping off each other — and me, occasionally. While some are quite presentable, others are poorly produced POD jobs that look like they were spat out by a drugstore photocopy machine that needs a new toner cartridge. Buyer beware.

  • God’s Gift to the Sherlock Business: Two Adventures of (1981, Air Pirates)
  • Robert Leslie Bellem’s Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective (1983; edited by John Wooley) Buy this book
  • Spicy Detective Encores No. 1: Three Dan Turner Stories (1986)
  • Spicy Detective Encores No. 5: Three More Dan Turner Stories (1987)
  • Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective: Lights! Camera! Murder! (1990, Eternity Comics/Malibu Graphics; edited by Tom Mason) Buy this book
    Movie tie-in with several reprints of Turner stories, both prose and comics.
  • Reckoning in Red: From the Case Files of Dan Turner, P.I., Volume 1 (2001)
  • High Adventure Number 60: Dan Turner Hollywood Detective (2001, edited by John Gunnison)
    Reprints the entire contents (7 stories) of Dan Turner Hollywood Detective, January 1943.
  • Reckoning in Red: From the Case Files of Dan Turner, P.I., Volume 1 (2001, Black Dog Books) Buy this book
  • Corpse on Ice: From the Case Files of Dan Turner, P.I., Volume 1I (2003) Buy this book
  • Roscoes in the Night (2003; intro by John Wooley) Buy this book
  • Dan Turner – Hollywood Detective No. 1 (2003, Girasol Collectables)
    Includes seven stories.
  • The Robert Leslie Bellem Reader (2008, Oak Grove) Kindle it!
    Includes several Dan Turner stories.
  • The Case Files of Dan Turner (2009, CreateSpace) Buy this book
  • The Case Files of Dan Turner Hollywood Detective. Volume 1: The Spicy Years (2009, Pulpville Press) Buy this book
  • Deja Vue! I’ve Read That Before! (2008, CreateSpace) Buy this book
    Bellem was not above recycling his work, as evidenced by these six pairs of stories (the original plus the revised version), five featuring Dan Turner.
  • The Case Files of Dan Turner Hollywood Detective. Volume 2: The Middle Years (2009, Pulpville Press)
  • The Case Files of Dan Turner Hollywood Detective Volume 3: The Turner Years (2009, Pulpville Press).
  • Dan Turner Hollywood Detective 1 (2009, CreateSpace) Buy this book
  • Dan Turner Hollywood Detective 2 (2009, CreateSpace) Buy this book
  • Dan Turner Hollywood Detective 3 (2009, CreateSpace) Buy this book
  • Dan Turner Hollywood Detective 4 (2009, CreateSpace) Buy this book
  • Dan Turner Hollywood Detective 5 (2009, CreateSpace) Buy this book
  • Dan Turner Hollywood Detective 6 (2009, CreateSpace) Buy this book

COMIC STORIES

Besides the more than 300 short stories, Dan Turner also appeared in over 50 (and possibly as many as 100) comic stories. The four-page comic strip stories, all black and white, and frequently untitled, and all scripted by Bellem, most drawn by Adolphe Barreaux, originally appeared as backup features, alongside prose stories, in Spicy Detective, Hollywood Detective and Spicy Detective. They were later reprinted, in full colour, in Crime Smashers, in the 1950’s. And finally, they were reprinted, restored to their original black and white glory, in Spicy Tales: A Naughty Anthology, a 1980’s bi-monthly that featured reprints of comic stories from the pulps. And in 1991, Turner fan and pulp historian John Wooley unleashed an all-new, original Turner comic book that lasted only four issues, and called (what else?) Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective. Some older comic reprints appeared as back-up.

    • “Corpse from the Sky” (April 1934, Hollywood Detective; rep: March 1991, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
    • “The Murdered Mummy” (January 1943, Spicy Detective; rep: Spicy Tales #1)
    • “Murder With Music” (July 1943, Spicy Detective; rep: Spicy Tales #2)
    • “Zoot Suit Killers” (January 1943, Hollywood Detective; rep: Spicy Tales #3)
    • “Killer’s Foil” (March 1944, Spicy Detective; rep: Spicy Tales #4)
    • “Corpse from the Sky” (April 1944, Hollywood Detective)
    • “Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective” (June 1944, Hollywood Detective)
    • “Sinister Santa Claus” (October 1944, Spicy Detective; rep: Spicy Tales #5)
    • “Trap for a Booby” (November 1944, Hollywood Detective)
    • “Death of a Cave-Man” (February 1945, Hollywood Detective)
    • “Death for a Matador” (March 1945,Hollywood Detective)
    • “Quicksand Caper” (April 1945, Spicy Detective; rep: Spicy Tales #6)
    • “Lighthouse Snatch” (May 1945, Hollywood Detective)
    • “Murder Pane” (April 1945, Hollywood Detective)
    • “Slave Market Murder” (July 1945, Hollywood Detective)
    • “The Devil’s Ballet” (August 1945, Hollywood Detective)
    • “Death for the Loser” (October 1945,  Hollywood Detective)
    • “Homicide Double” (December 1945, Hollywood Detective)
    • “Killer in Clay” (February 1946, Hollywood Detective)
    • “High Homicide” (February 1946, Hollywood Detective)
    • “Death on the Needle” (July 1946, Hollywood Detective)
    • “Death’s Magnet” (September 1946, Hollywood Detective)
    • “Alibi Policy” (November 1946, Hollywood Detective)
    • “Crash Kill” (January 1947, Hollywood Detective; rep: March 1991, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective)
    • “The Big Shiv” (June 1947, Hollywood Detective)
    • “Murder Mine” (September 1947, Hollywood Detective)
    • “Models for Murder” (May 1948, Hollywood Detective)
    • “Strangler’s Ballet” (February 1949, Hollywood Detective)
    • “Blackmail Bump Off” (June 1949, Hollywood Detective; rep: May 1991, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective #1)
    • “Murder Mine” (September 1947, Spicy Detective; rep: Spicy Tales #7)
    • “Mysto-Magic Murder” (August 1948, Hollywood Detective)
    • “Pictures for Framing” (November 1948, Hollywood Detective)
    • “Televised Frame” (October 1949, Hollywood Detective; rep: Spicy Tales #8)
    • “Off-Stage Kill” (January 1950, Hollywood Detective)
    • “Make-up for Murder” (February 1950, Hollywood Detective)
    • “Dive to Death” (March 1950, Hollywood Detective)
    • “Bellyboard Bump-Of” (April 1950, Hollywood Detective)
    • “Death Trumps the Joker” (May 1950, Hollywood Detective)
    • “Bear-Trap Kill” (June 1950, Hollywood Detective)
    • “The Corpse in Lower Nile” (August 1950, Hollywood Detective)
    • “Bullwhip Bump-Off” (December 1950, Crime Smashers; rep: Spicy Tales #19)
    • “Make-Up for Murder” (April 1951, Crime Smashers #4; rep: Spicy Tales #18)
    • “Bellyboard Bump-Off” (July 1951, Crime Smashers #5; rep: Spicy Tales #14)
    • “Bear-Trap Kill” (January 1952, Crime Smashers #8; rep: Spicy Tales #8)
    • “Death Trumps The Joker” (May 1952, Crime Smashers #10; rep: Spicy Tales #17)
    • “Strangler’s Ballet” (November 1952, Crime Smashers #13)
    • “The Poisoned Puppet” (March 1953, Crime Smashers #15; rep: Spicy Tales #15)
    • “Murder in Wax” (Hollywood Detective)
    • “Roman Holiday Murders” (Hollywood Detective)
    • “Murder in Miniature” (Hollywood Detective)
    • “The Case of the Homicide Dive” (Hollywood Detective)
    • “Death Crusade” (Hollywood Detective)
  • DAN TURNER, HOLLYWOOD DETECTIVE
    (1991, Eternity Comics)
    Four issues
    Written by John Wooley
    Adapted from stories by Robert Leslie Bellem
    Art by Kevin Tuma, Gary Dumm

    • “The Dark Star of Death” (March 1991)
    • “Ace in the Hole” (May 1991)
    • “Homicide Hunch” (July 1991)
    • “The Star Chamber” (September 1991)

COMIC COLLECTIONS

  • THE HOLLYWOOD DETECTIVES | Buy this book
    (1991, Malibu)
    Reprints several stories featuring Queenie Starr and Dan Turner. Unfortunately, not together. And the cover sucks.
  • DAN TURNER HOLLYWOOD DETECTIVE COMICS
    (2005, Pulpville Press)
    Written by Robert Leslie Bellem
    Art by Adolphe Barreaux
    Reprints eight comic stories from the pages of Hollywood Detective.

FILMS

  • BLACKMAIL| YouTube it!
    (1947, Republic)
    Based on the short story “Stock Shot” by Robert Leslie Bellem
    Screenplay by Royal B. Cole
    Directed by Lesley Selander
    Starring William Marshall as DAN TURNER
    and Grant Withers as Inspector Donaldson
    Also starring Adele Mara, Ricardo Cortez, Stephanie Bachelor, Roy Barcroft, Tristram Coffin, Richard Fraser, Gregory Gaye, George J. Lewis, Eva Novak, Grant Withers, Bud Wolfe
    Arthur Lyons, in his Death on the Cheap, says this one’s “in the running for the worst tough-guy private eye movie ever made.”
  • THE RAVEN RED KISS-OFF | Buy this on VHS
    (1990, Fries Entertainment)
    Based on the short story “Homicide Highball”  by Robert Leslie Bellem
    Screenplay by John Wooley
    Directed by Christopher Lewis
    Produced by Linda and Christopher Lewis
    Starring Marc Singer as DAN TURNER, HOLLYWOOD DETECTIVE
    Also starring Tracy Scoggins, Nicholas Worth, Arte Johnson
    Guess what? This one’s pretty much a turd, as well.

FURTHER INVESTIGATIONS

  • The Robert Leslie Bellem Magazine (2009, Pulp Tales Press) Buy this book
    Collection of non-fiction articles on and by Bellem.
  • Homicide Highball: The Lost Dan Turner Movie Script (2020; by Robert Leslie Bellem & John Wooley) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
    Includes Bellem’s original story, “Homicide Highball”, plus Wooley’s original script for the 1990 film.

REFERENCE

  • “Somewhere a Roscoe” (October 15, 1938, The New Yorker; by S.J. Perelman)
    The humourist’s affectionate tribute to Bellem and Turner. Required reading.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Portions of the bio and bibliography were published in WordWrights Magazine as “His Typewriter Spat Ka-Chow! Robert Leslie Bellem’s Dan Turner,” with additional susbsequent bibliographical information generously submitted by Monte Herridge.

One thought on “Dan Turner

  1. A hard-core Dan Turner fan here, so a big thanks for this wonderful post. But you really nailed it with the key question when you wrote: “Was he (Bellem) trying to parody the hard-boiled detective genre barely ten years after its birth or (and this is even scarier) was he simply, completely unaware of how funny and original his style was?”

    While I delight in some of the outlandish resolutions to the stories’ crimes, it’s the incredible word-smithing that hooked me on the Dan Turner stores. But it’s so over-the-top, I always wondered if it was for-real, or if Bellem was spoofing the newborn genre.

    Thanks so much for this one!!

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