Cardigan (aka “Steve Cardigan” & Jack Cardigan”)

Created by Frederick Nebel
Pseudonyms include Grimes Hill, Lewis Nebel & Eric Lewis

“I said I was sorry, you want me to set it to music?”

The award for most appearances by a series character in Dime Detective has to go to prolific pulpster Frederick Nebel‘s St. Louis private eye JACK CARDIGAN.

Starting with “Death Alley” in the November 1931 issue (the very first issue!), and wrapping up in the May 1937 issue with “No Time To Kill,” the hard-as-nails Irish op for the Cosmos Agency appeared a whopping forty-four times.

Unfortunately, most of the stories went for decades without being reprinted until Mysterious Press The Adventures of Cardigan (reviewed elsewhere in these pages by Mario Taboada) reprinted a handful of them in a 1988 collection. It wasn’t until almost a quarter century later that Cardigan finally got his due, when Altus Press announced an ambitious plan to finally reprint all 44 stories, starting with The Complete Casebook of Cardigan: Vol. 1 (1931-32).

But it’s better late than never. The Cardigan stories have a hard-charging, ferocious vitality all their own, ticking timebombs that inevitably explode into action in a grand finale of violence and mayhem. You read one of these stories, and you’ll know you’ve read something. They deserve to be rediscovered by a new generation of readers. This, ladies and gentlemen, was what the pulps — at their best — were all about.

And while Nebel may not have been the world’s greatest characterist (his stories are peopled with quick sketches, not in-depth development), he also  deserves a tip of the fedora for creating Patricia Seaward, one of the few strong and viable female detectives in the boy’s world of the pulps, as tough in her own way as her partner. As Marcia Muller puts it in the introduction to Hard-Boiled Dames, even though the women in the Cardigan stories “were mere employees of the Cosmos Agency, they were able to help out the boss in forthright and startling ways.” Seaward covered Cardigan’s back in several of the stories, and on more than one case, pulled his biscuits from the oven.

Nebel’s other major private eye was “Tough Dick Donahue,” who appeared concurrently in the pages of Dime Detective‘s pulp rival, Black Mask. Donahue bore a startling resemblance to Cardigan–you’re forgiven if you sometimes get the two dicks confused–even Nebel sometimes got confused.  In the last Donahue story published, “Ghost of a Chance” (March 1935, Black Mask), Nebel apparently had Donahue working for the Cosmos Agency. 

But Nebel, a prolific pulpster, was probably best known for his stories featuring hard-boiled crime reporter Kennedy of The Free Press and his buddy, Captain Steve MacBride. In fact, a Jack Cardigan actually made his debut, as a cop, in some of the early Kennedy and MacBride stories in Black Mask, before appearing in Dime Detective as a private dick. Although by the time he made his debut in “Death Alley” (November 1931, Dime Detective), he was referred to as “Steve,” and then for a while he was just Cardigan, and finally “Jack.”


  • “Death Alley” (November 1931, Dime Detective)
  • “Hell’s Pay Check” (December 1931, Dime Detective)
  • “Six Diamonds and a Dick” (January 1932, Dime Detective)
  • “And There Was Murder” (February 1932, Dime Detective)
  • “Phantom Fingers” (March 1932, Dime Detective)
  • “Murder on the Loose” (April 1932, Dime Detective)
  • “Rogues’ Ransom” (August 1932, Dime Detective)
  • “Lead Pearls” (September 1932, Dime Detective)
  • “The Dead Don’t Die” (October 1932, Dime Detective)
  • “The Candy Killer” (November 1932, Dime Detective)
  • “A Truck-Load of Diamonds” (December 1932, Dime Detective)
  • “The Murder Cure” (January 1933, Dime Detective)
  • “Me — Cardigan” (February 1933, Dime Detective)
  • “Doorway to Danger” (March 1, 1933, Dime Detective)
  • “Heir to Murder” (April 1, 1933, Dime Detective)
  • “Dead Man’s Folly” (May 1 1933, Dime Detective)
  • “Murder Won’t Wait” (May 15, 1933, Dime Detective)
  • “Chains of Darkness (Part One)” (June 15, 1933, Dime Detective)
  • “Chains of Darkness (Part Two)” (July 1, 1933, Dime Detective)
  • “Scrambled Murder” (July 15, 1933, Dime Detective)
  • “Death After Murder” (August 15, 1933, Dime Detective)
  • “Murder and Co.” (September 15 1933, Dime Detective)
  • “Murder — La Carte” (November 15, 1933, Dime Detective)
  • “Spades Are Spades” (January 1, 1934, Dime Detective)
  • “Hot Spot” (March 1, 1934, Dime Detective)
  • “Kick Back” (April 1, 1934, Dime Detective)
  • “Read ‘Em and Weep” (May 1, 1934, Dime Detective)
  • “Red Hot” (July 1, 1934, Dime Detective)
  • “Not So Tough” (August 15, 1934, Dime Detective)
  • “Too Hot to Handle” (September 15, 1934, Dime Detective)
  • “Pardon My Murder” (November 15, 1934, Dime Detective)
  • “Leave It to Cardigan” (December 15, 1934, Dime Detective)
  • “Hell on Wheels” (February 1, 1935, Dime Detective)
  • “Hell Couldnít Stop Him” (April 15, 1935, Dime Detective)
  • “A Couple of Quick Ones” (June 1, 1935, Dime Detective)
  • “The Dead Die Twice” (August 1935, Dime Detective)
  • “Death in the Raw” (October 1935, Dime Detective)
  • “The Curse of Cardigan” (December 1935, Dime Detective)
  • “Blood in the Dark” (January 1936, Dime Detective)
  • “The Sign of Murder” (March 1936, Dime Detective)
  • “Lead Poison” (April 1936, Dime Detective)
  • “Murder by Mail” (June 1936, Dime Detective)
  • “Make Mine Murder” (November 1936, Dime Detective)
  • “Behind the 8-Ball” (March 1937, Dime Detective)
  • “No Time to Kill” (May 1937, Dime Detective)




Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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