Created by Norbert Davis
Pseudonyms include Harrison Hunt, Cedric Titus
“She was one of the real mysteries of Hollywood. She was thin and flat-chested, with a complexion like yellow paste. Her black hair was lifeless and dull. Her features were assembled in regular enough order, but her face gave a queer blank effect, as though there was nothing but emptiness behind it. But on the screen she was marvelous. She was the essence of allure. She could send goose pimples along your back by just turning her head. The camera brought something out that wasn’t there.”
“Kansas City Flash” was one of the very first stories Norbert Davis ever sold (to Black Mask, no less!), but already you can see his style shaping up nicely. Colourful characters, tough action, an underlying whisper of cock-eyed humour and even whimsy, and hard, bright prose that could go ten rounds with the champ.
MARK HULL is a short but broad-shouldered, big-chested man with a .38 Colt Automatic in a shoulder rig and a scarred face from his days as a stuntman who’s been around Los Angeles “a long time;” and is “a cynically tolerant spectator of the flea circus that is Hollywood.”
According to his buddy McNulty, an ex-cop now working studio security, Hull is a “tough egg” who “picks up money now running around and doing hush-hush jobs for the studios.”
It’s probably a good thing Hull’s such a tough egg–in the story, Hull gets the crap knocked out of him when he stumbles onto the kidnapping of starlet Doro Faliv, Hollywood’s newest sensation. Naturally (this is Hollywood, after all), nothing is quite what it seems, and the short story ends on a surprisingly sad and somber note–a wonderful example of how effective Davis was as a writer, bringing us from hard-boiled action to noirish tragedy in a few pages.
But then, Davis was one hell of a writer. Raymond Chandler himself was a fan, citing “Red Goose” (February 1934, Black Mask) in particular as an inspiration for his own fiction, and later recommending “Kansas City Flash,” another early story by Davis, for inclusion in James Sandoe’s Murder: Plain And Fanciful anthology from 1948. Chandler considered the story “noteworthy and characteristic of the most vigorous days” of Black Mask.
- “Kansas City Flash” (March, 1933, Black Mask; also 1977, The Hard-Boiled Detective)