Duke Pizzatello

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

“I aimed my own roscoe from the hip. It said: “Chow-chow!” and belched two slugs through Mason’s right leg. The slugs kicked his gam from under him, and he spun around and sat down on the floor and got a silly look on his hard boiled pan…”
— Duke takes care of business

Best known for creating Hollywood eye Dan Turner, he of the sneezing and chow-chowing roscoes and about a zillion short stories, novellas and novelettes in the pulps, Bellem somehow still found time to write a novel, Blue Murder (1938), featuring another hardboiled, wise-cracking private skulk, DUKE PIZZATELLO of the Kohlar Agency in Los Angeles.

The action starts with Duke being dispatched by his boss to tail a man whose wife suspects he’s cheating on her (Duke ought to know all about marital infidelity–he’s been sleeping with Gertie, his boss’ wife). And then people start getting shot, coincidences start hopping all over the place, the plot twists hither and yon, and women parade around in flimsy outfits while the men roughhouse.

Duke is no great shakes as a detective, and his scramble to convince his lover get an abortion isn’t particularly well-handled, or likely to evoke much sympathy. But rest assured–bullets will eventually fly and roscoes will eventually sneeze! Why, one guy even gets it right in the wooden leg!

While it may not rise to the heights (or sink to the depths, depending on your point of view) of Bellem’s typical flagrant wordsmithery, Bill Pronzini in 1001 Midnights does allow that Duke’s first person narration does indeed contain “some of (Bellem’s) slangy, campy mangling of the English language.”

So… You’ve been warned.

But don’t expect a lost classic. Blue Murder might have been hot stuff when it was first published, but it hasn’t aged well, and will probably only appeal to hardcore pulp fans.

Bellem also wrote vampire stories, weird menace stories, and of course, tons of detective stories. With over 3000 pulp stories to his credit, it’s no surprise Bellem created a few non-Turner P.I.s, including Cliff Downey and Nick Ransom, but none had the staying power of Dan the Man.


  • “So I had to get hold of some geetus to keep Gertie from throwing me in the soup.”
    — Duke Pizzatello


Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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