Matt Mercer

Created by Day Keene
Pseudonym of Gunnar Hjerstedt
Other pseudonyms include
 Lewis Dixon, William Richards, Daniel White, John Corbett & Donald King

“Matt Mercer had come back from the South Pacific, leaving his arm behind on some Jap-infested island until, six-thousand miles away from that hell-hole, he found that the Little Yellow sons had returned–to claim not only his other arm, but his life, and that of his family, as well!”

The story this over-heated blurb introduces was “So Sorry You Die Now!”, and it appeared in the January 1945 issue of Dime Mystery. It’s pretty clear we’re well into the flag-waving, race-baiting  “patriotic” era of World War II, but it also pretty neatly summarizes what this string of stories by Day Keene was about: MATT MERCER, a recently returned, one-armed vet with a family to support, a man whose life was irrevocably changed by the war. That he was a private eye with a family just sweetened the pot–and certainly made him stick out from the crowd.

Mind you, Matt seems to be supporting his family just fine. Hell, he’s almost respectable. Beside his long-suffering wife, Sherry,  and the twin boys, Matt and Stevie, he can swing Magnolia, their live-in “colored maid,” and an office on the tenth floor of the Hopper Block (complete with a “girl”).

Not that Steve’s completely domesticated–he’s a hot-tempered, hard-drinking (despite his constant promises to Sherry), cigar-smoking, 6’2″ ex-Marine with twenty years service, a former First Sergeant, and his cork and metal prosthetic doesn’t seem to have slowed him down one iota.

In fact, all Matt really wants to do is re-enlist. As he puts it, “The Corps’ doctors were fools. He could do anything with his artificial hand and arm except feel. And he didn’t want to ‘feel’ Japs. He wanted to kill them.”

And he gets his chance in this nasty, action-packed story, brimming with violence, race-baiting and … One armed or not, the stories regularly feature Matt getting bonked on the head, beat up and shot, just like all the other eyes of the era.

More sensitive readers may require smelling salts, and there’s no doubt there’s plenty to offend overly “woke” types, But there’s something earthy and real and refreshingly unfiltered about these stories (it’s worth noting that internment camps were called “concentration camps,” for example), and Keene was simply a solid storyteller. His real name was Gunnar Hjerstedt, and he had a very long and prolific career, writing for the theater, radio, the pulps, paperbacks and television.


  • “The Murder Frame” (December 1941, Thrilling Detective)
  • “The Corpse Confesses” (August 1942, Ten Detective Aces)
  • “The Corpse Exchange” (December 1943, Detective Tales)
  • “So Sorry You Die Now!” (January 1945, Dime Mystery)
  • “Claws of the Hell-Cat” (January 1946, Dime Mystery)
  • “Quietly My Hangnoose Waits” (May 1946, Dime Mystery)
  • “Stay as Dead as You Are!” (October 1946, Detective Tales)
  • “Crawl Out of That Coffin!” (September 1947, Detective Tales)
  • “Thirteen Must Die!” (July 1948, Detective Tales)


Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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