John Smith

            • (1909-1985); see pseudonyms

Created by Wyatt Blassingame
Pseudonyms include Van Cort & William B. Rainey
(1909-85)

Have ears, will travel?

I’m not sure if this was a corrective to the defective detectives craze or not, but Wyatt Blassingame’s JOHN SMITH was definitely on the mend. Once upon a time, he’d been blind, but having been robbed of his sight, he developed an amazingly acute, almost super-human sense of hearing.

Which certainly came in handy when, after that miracle operation, he resumed his job as detective in New Orleans.

Come to think of it, was blind TV detective Mike Longstreet‘s stomping grounds as well.

Coincidence?

Longstreet, however, had Bruce Lee (and Pax) to lend an occasional hand, while Smith had his faithful assistant Bushelmouth, who’s not exactly described in glowing terms. He’s generally portrayed as a drunken, incompetent moron. Suffice it to say this is not exactly “woke” literature, and to be honest, it was offensive even back in the thirties when the stories were originally published.  Not that the inherent racism was the sole problem with these stories. Even by pulp standards, the plots are pretty hokey, with Smith constantly stumbling into some vast criminal conspiracy that he takes on mano à mano. Shoot-outs abound, and seemingly impossible crimes, possibly haunted houses and all sorts of criminal masterminds aren’t exactly scarce, giving many of these stories a comic book feel. As if the super-ears hadn’t already leaned that way.

Blassingame was yet another of those prolific pulpsters with a slew of series characters to his name (including Joe Gee, who couldn’t sleep while he was on a case), but the once-blind detective with the super ears proved to be his longest-running and most popular character, and even prompted a 1944 collection, John Smith Hears Death Walking, which was later folded into the multi-volume Steeger Books collection which began in 2020, as part of their “Dime Detective Library,” even though the Smith stories all appeared in Detective Tales.

Details, details…

SHORT STORIES

  • “He Kills in Darkness” (June 1937, Detective Tales)
  • “No Parole for the Dead” (July 1937, Detective Tales)
  • “No Parole from Hel” (Aug 1937, Detective Tales)
  • “Death Breaks Parole” (December 1937, Detective Tales)
  • “Death Trap for the Parole Killer” (May 1938, Detective Tales)
  • “Murder Gives No Parole” ( June 1938, Detective Tales)
  • “Steeplechase for Corpses” (September 1938, Detective Tales)
  • “Murder at the Morgue” (March 1939, Detective Tales)
  • “Madam Murder’s Children” (May 1939, Detective Tales)
  • “The Voodoo Murders” (August 1939, Detective Tales)
  • “You Can’t Insure the Dead” (January 1940, Detective Tales)
  • “John Smith and the Murder Master” (July 1940, Detective Tales)
  • “Fugitive from a Corpse-Chain” (November 1940, Detective Tales)
  • “John Smith and the War-Makers” (December 1940, Detective Tales)
  • “John Smith, Graveyard Detective” (June 1941, Detective Tales)
  • “Retained by the Corpse” (November 1941, Detective Tales)
  • “The Corpse Fights Back” (April 1942, Detective Tales)
  • “Death with a Thousand Faces” (July 1942, Detective Tales)
  • “Mr. Smith Goes to Hades” (February 1943, Detective Tales)
  • “List of the Dead” (June 1943, Detective Tales)

COLLECTIONS

FURTHER INVESTIGATION

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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