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
What kind of P.I. gets knocked unconscious by a man with no legs and only one arm?
Hollywood stuntman turned private eye NICK RANSOM, that’s who!
Nick was one of Robert Leslie Bellem’s “other” eyes, although his official occupation, at least initially, wasn’t private detective at all. Nope, he was the owner and proprietor of Risks, Incorporated, an agency employing several daredevils and action junkies who contracted out for various jobs, from stunt work to furnishing “thrill footage” for various Hollywood studios.
Sure, he initially sported a rather cissyish plastic cigarette holder with silver filigree that a client once gave him, but Ransom (sometimes spelled “Ransome”) was no wimp–he also carried a roscoe under his arm (you never know when there’ll be a need for ka-chowing), and knew how to use it, even if he claimed he only used it on occasion to “impress potential clients.” And of course, he could always count on a little help from his two-fisted buddy, Ole Brunvig, of the LAPD homicide squad who just happens to be one mean cop.
Of course, Bellem is best known for Dan Turner, he of the sneezing roscoe. The Ransom stories might have been arguably more subdued (they would almost have to be) than the Turner stories, although they were plenty action-packed, and some of that ol’ Turner patter often pops up. With over 3000 pulp stories to his credit, it’s no surprise Bellem created a few non-Turner P.I.s. Others included Cliff Downey and Duke Pizzatello.
THE PLAY’S THE THING
Ransom had one thing that Dan Turner, as far as I know, never had: an off-Broadway adaptation. Ransom may have only appeared in a dozen or so short stories, mostly in Thrilling Detective magazine, but he resurfaced over fifty years later in a dramatic production by New York’s Old School Theatre, an Off-Off Broadway dramatic company, adapted from one of Bellem’s short stories, and starring Matt Wagner (pictured) as Nick. And they weren’t shy about tooting the production’s literary roots. Their blurb read:
“Pulp Theatre! From the pages of a 1949 ‘pulp’ detective magazine to the stage, set to live jazz music: meet Nick Ransom, handsome former Hollywood stuntman turned Private Detective, as he tries to solve a murder mystery chock full of guns, gams, bullets, bodies, scotch, scandal, naked truth (and naked women).”
- “The sky came down and hit me on the noggin. All the stars in the heavens fell with the sky and danced in my optics, and all at once I was pitching down a long dark tunnel that gulped m like a raw oyster. My head came off and floated away. It wasn,t a head, it was a balloon, and somebody had cut the string. It drifted on a rising current, and the current became a whirlpool of pain filled with India ink… I didn’t even feel the floor when it bounced me.”
— “Preview of Murder”
- “My head vibrated like strings on a hockshop banjo and my stomach churned.”
— Nick returns to consciousness, ibid.
- “(Nick’s) been described as a toned-down version of Dan Turner, but if there’s any toning down done, it’s not by much! Nick’s first-person narration is full of eye-popping slang, as well as equally eye-popping descriptions of feminine pulchritude. There’s plenty of wild action, too.”
— James Reasoner (July 2020, Rough Edges)
- “…the Old School Theatre Company revive[s] a 1949 pulp detective story in Preview of Murder, delving straight-faced into the smoky tale of a mysterious set of homicides. Though Old School’s fliers cite The New York Times‘ plaudit, “Laughs … in a mad, crazy flood,” the chuckles heard are actually the spasmodic byproduct of embracing noir on its own terms. Lead actor Matt Wagner, who plays private dick Nick Ransom, is the most engaging presence in an interesting, if somewhat subdued, genre exercise.”
— The Orlando Weekly
- “Peril for Sale” (April 1940, Detective Dime Novels)
- “Danger’s Delegate” (June 1940, Red Star Detective)
- “Hazard’s Harvest” (August 1940, Red Star Detective)
- “Jeopardy’s Jackpot” (October 1940, Red Star Detective)
- “Risks Redoubled” (August 1941, Double Detective)
- “Suicide Scenario” (February 1948, Thrilling Detective)
- “Mahatma of Mayhem” (April 1948, Thrilling Detective)
- “The 9th Doll” (August 1948, Thrilling Detective)
- “Serenade with Slugs” (December 1948, Thrilling Detective)
- “Homicide Shaft” (April 1949, Thrilling Detective)
- “Preview of Murder” (June 1949, Thrilling Detective)
- “Puzzle in Peril” (October 1949, Thrilling Detective)
- “Blind Man’s Fluff” (February 1950, Thrilling Detective)
- “Murder Steals the Scene” (August 1950, Thrilling Detective)
THE PLAY’S THE THING
- PREVIEW OF MURDER
(August 10-26th, The 2001 New York International Fringe Festival)
Based on the short story by Robert Leslie Bellem
Adapted by Dawne Seifert
Directed by John Peterson
Original Music by Andy Cohen
Starring Matt Wagner as NICK RANSOM
Also featuring Dawne Seifert, Jon Hemingway, Mike Gold, Robert Watts, John Dowgin, Terry Burch
Nominated for 2002 Spotlight Production, The Orlando International Fringe Festival.