Saturday, March 17, 2018

'Your hoodlums split the scalp of a prettier girl than you to keep her quiet. Taught me how!'

Created in 1917 for Adventure by Gordon Young, Don Everhard is recognized by some as fiction's first hard-boiled detective. That recognition is based on substance rather than style. Everhard, aka Donald Richmond, an oil-rich gambler and sometimes troubleshooter, has a grim, somewhat cynical attitude, but Young as a writer, especially early on, lacks the terse, staccato manner of the more generally recognized hard-boiled pioneers writing for Black Mask. Over time, their influence sunk in, so that by 1936 Young could talk the talk as well as walk the walk. The title "Everhard" (Adventure, May 1936) suggests that his novelette was meant as a kind of "reboot" for the character, and not necessarily the first since he, or his editor, had already given a 1933 novelette the same name. There had only been one Everhard story in between, the 1936 "Everhard" being the first in more than two years. He'd been mostly writing sea stories and westerns in the interval and presumably refining his style. The 1936 story re-establishes the hero's household: his sister Helen; his servant Kang Ko, a disciplinarian of long standing; and his chauffeur Mike, a professional wrestler who himself can talk the talk, cutting a mean promo to distract people while his boss does some sneaking, as well as walk the walk by breaking a crook's neck. Everhard himself is drawn to the aid of casino operators threatened by the unexpected release from prison of "Killer" Lynn, who has vowed vengeance on both the casino owner and Everhard himself. It develops that the threat to the casino is meant to draw Everhard out so Lynn and his mysterious employer Rinsko can eliminate him. It then develops, in an entertaining extra complication, that Everhard is being used as bait to draw out Lynn and Rinsko by a G-Man and his fanatical girlfriend, who fools Everhard so completely that he suspects her of setting him up for the gangsters to kill. That element of fallibility, the extent to which his own wrath at the gangsters leads him to blunder severely, makes Everhard a much more interesting and (dare I say?) likeable character than he was in previous stories I tried to read. In short, the 1936 "Everhard" read like a very promising restart for the franchise, but Young apparently was running out of ideas for his detective. Don Everhard only made two more appearances, in the November 1937 Adventure and in his only foray outside his home pulp, in a 1939 issue of Short Stories.  His heart may not have been in the genre anymore; he may have preferred writing, and fans may have preferred reading the exploits of his cowboy hero Red Clark, which continued for much of the 1940s, until Young's death in 1948. If anyone has read anymore Everhards worth recommending, I'll be glad to hear about them.

1 comment:

  1. Quite a bit late, but I was digitizing Adventure Magazine July 18th 1921, which contains "Everhard and Sorcery", part 3 of a 4 part saga (part 4 is listed as being published in the very next issue of the magazine).. I didn't read the other parts, and if I'm being honest, skimmed through most of the start of this one, -but I found it surprisingly riveting! I can genuinely recommend it as a fun, and very very clever little crime caper!

    Now, it is unfortunately very racist, as well as sexist, but if one can ignore that, the prose is novel and engrossing, and the capers are genuinely thrilling and cleverly considered. I started doing a full reading from the time that some sort of gold smuggling heist is already in full-swing, and the dialogue of it was brilliant. Later, Everhard infiltrates a crime operation in Chinatown, and from here on is when things are brimming with racism, but if you look past that, the world-building of the whole operation, and the ever building tension as Don gets further and further into the compound on his wits and gusto alone, -it's all just a fantastic piece of fiction!
    Feasibly the scene is just Don being walked from secretary (in a manner of speaking) to secretary, through a lot of plain hallways... But Young injects a lot of great details, unspoken stand-offs, and keen-eyed observations from Dons perspective that highlight how every interaction and turn has a well-hidden potential to turn dangerous, as well as what reasons Don might have to be reasonably certain of his own safety in light of them. I would hold it all as a great historical example, a sort of how-to book on hardboiled world-building, were it not embedded with anti-Chinese xenophobia, mistrust, and derogatory remarks, as well as reliant on a kind of orientalist mysticism in its ambience that no longer rings as anything but a series of wildly inaccurate, stereotypical assumptions of a white writer in the 20's. Same goes for some of the dialogue of the few female characters, who often read like a strawman of Gordon Youngs most recent altercation with a girlfriend of his. They whiplash between wildly different emotions on a dime, with no rhyme or reason to it except for Dons (and behind it, Youngs) explanation of their inherent irrationality. If you're willing to put in an ironic reading of the story as a hilarious cautionary tale of old-timey bigotry, then all these elements serve as positives, and might honestly be transformed into one of the books most enjoyable aspects.

    Anyway, I highly recommend checking out "Sorcery and Everhard", part 3, from Adventure 18/04/21. It's not on either the Pulp Magazine Project, nor on the Pulp Mag Database on the Internet Archive (though I could submit it myself to that one), but it is available on other sources.

    I also have the link to the Flipbook version of the full magazine, though you'll have to forgive some scaling issues I couldn't fix, due to the nature of the scans (they were done by cell-phone, believe it or not! It worked amazing, and is very high quality, but we couldn't make sure all the photos were taken from exactly the same distance/angle, hence the Flipbook issue).

    Here ya go! Cheers!