Steve Midnight

Created by John K. Butler
(1908-64)

 

Although he wasn’t really a private eye, STEVE MIDNIGHT sure acted like one in the pages of Dime Detective in the 1940s. Steven Middleton Knight earned his nickname from the moneyed days of his youth when he had a rep as a “midnight playboy on a nation-wide scale.”

But the depression hit, and his father committed suicide, after losing everything. The sole support of his sainted mother (of course!) and sickly sister (naturally), Steve turned to jockeying the cabs he once used to ride on the midnight shift, for the Red Owl Cab Company of Los Angeles. And when Danger! Mystery! or Murder! flagged his cab, he always gave them a ride.

Perhaps because he once had money, Steve no longer had much use for it, and refused to be bought off. He usually takes a case for personal reasons, to collect a fare he was owed, or to get himself out of a jam.

Ultimately, honest, working-class Steve usually finds himself going up against wealthy but crooked members of the upper classes, whose smooth, respectable surface hides all manner of greed and corruption, lending a sense of political and class consciousness to the stories. He comes across as a refreshingly honest, compassionate hero, not at all cynical or venal, unlike so many of his contemporaries, and his description of Los Angeles ranks right up there with Chandler’s.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Author Butler is best-known for his Steve Midnight stories, but he was a prolific pulpster, pounding out numerous stories for such pulps as Black Mask, Detective Fiction Weekly, Double Detective and especially, Dime Detective, including a handful of stories featuring  hard-boiled telephone company investigator Rod Case. At the same time, he was responsible for the scripts for over 50 B-flicks, more than half of them westerns, many of them featuring Roy Rogers. Among his screen credits are such classics–and occasionally, alternative classics–as Drums Along the RiverMy Pal Trigger and–get this–Post Office Investigator.

In the fifties, Butler moved on to television, again favouring westerns, although he also wrote for shows like The New Adventures of Charlie Chan, The Adventures of Dr. Fu Manchu and 77 Sunset Strip.

UNDER OATH

  • “Cruising the foggy night streets of Los Angeles in his Red Owl taxi, dodging blondes, bruisers, and bullets in a series of rapid-fire, fast-paced novelettes from the 1940s, his complete adventures are gathered her between book covers for the first time. This is one cab ride you won’t want to miss!”
    William F. Nolan

SHORT STORIES

  • “The Dead Ride Free” (May 1940, Dime Detective)
  • “The Man from Alcatraz” (July 1940, Dime Detective)
  • “Hacker’s Holiday” (October 1940, Dime Detective)
  • “The Saint in Silver” (January 1941, Dime Detective; also The Hardboiled Dicks)
  • “The Killer was a Gentleman” (March 1941, Dime Detective)
  • “Dead Man’s Alibi” (July 1941, Dime Detective)
  • “The Hearse from Red Owl” (September 1941, Dime Detective)
  • “The Corpse That Couldn’t Keep Cool” (March 1942, Dime Detective)
  • “Death and Taxis” (January 1942, Dime Detective)
  • “The Corpse That Couldn’t Keep Cool” (March 1942, Dime Detective)

COLLECTIONS

  • At the Stroke of Midnight (1998, edited by John Wooley) | Buy this book
  • The Complete Cases of Steve Midnight, Vol. 1 (2016) | Buy the book

FURTHER INVESTIGATION

Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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