Saturday, October 20, 2018
The Black Bat Novel That Disappeared
THE BLACK BAT NOVEL THAT DISAPPEARED
At the end of 1951, there was probably a decision at the THRILLING GROUP to drop some of their titles. With the Winter 1952 issues of BLACK BOOK DETECTIVE and G-MEN DETECTIVE, chances are both titles were included in the shake up. The next story in the Dan Fowler series was advertised as Each Night I Die by C.K.M. Scanlon, while the next Black Bat story was advertised as The Eyes of Murder. Following is the announcement in BLACK BOOK DETECTIVE:
"Next issue's Novel: The Eyes of Murder by G. Wayman Jones. Plus - An all-star array of other crime and mystery stories!"
But the Spring 1952 issue did not appear. Instead, the next issue was Stewart Sterling’s Hot, Willing – And Deadly, Winter 1953, one year later. The same thing happened over at G-MEN DETECTIVE, there was no Spring 1952 Dan Fowler story. Instead, Richard Foster’s The White Death appeared one year later, Winter 1953. Something happened the previous year. My guess is, both titles were canceled. Curiously, Stewart Sterling was brought in for the Phantom Detective in 1952, which makes me wonder if The Eyes Of Murder wasn’t his. Strangely, there is a 1941 Dan Fowler titled The Eyes of Death, and I had a suspicion that he might have planned on rewriting that into a Black Bat yarn.
It gets stranger. The Spring 1953 issue of 5 Detective Novels contains Sterling’s Model For Murder, a similar title to The Eyes of Murder. But let’s go back to 1952, and look at Sterling’s Phantom Detective entries. We have three stories, Candidate For Death, Fall 1952; The Staring Killer, Winter 1953; and Odds On Death, Spring 1953. However, it’s the Winter 1953 story we are concerned with. Here is the Blurb for The Staring Killer.
“It is Muriel Havens alone who has seen The Staring Killer committing a heinous crime. She knows he has pushed a man off a subway platform to death under the train wheels – and what’s more, The Staring Killer knows that she has witnessed the murder. For an instant, as he races past her, the killer gives her one glaring stare – a look she can never forget. It’s a peculiar, frightening stare that seems to bore straight through her hypnotically. A stare that spells death!
The killer’s staring eyes are a challenge that Muriel can’t disregard. At great personal danger, she drifts into the waterfront district, posing as one of the water front babes – determined to find The Staring Killer and help unearth his sinister machinations.”
Sounds like “The Eyes of Murder” to me. At the time he was writing The Phantom Detective, Sterling was also writing Myro Catin stories. When the Black Bat was suddenly resurrected, and they asked him for a quick story, he must have made a few changes to Hot, Willing – And Deadly, and it was accepted in place of The Eyes of Murder. They must have asked for more stories, so he turned the second Myro Catin story, The Lady of Death into a Black Bat. At the same time, Norman Daniels, who had moved to California, sent an outline for The Celebrity Murders, and those were the line up for Winter, Spring, and Summer, 1953. But only the Winter 1953 story was published. The Black Bat was canceled again. Sterling reverted The Lady of Death back to Myro Catin, and published it as The Lady’s Out For Blood, TRIPLE DETECTIVE 1953. That’s what I think happened.
There is a footnote to all this, as well. Back at The Phantom Detective, Norman Daniels’ Murder’s Agent was published in the Summer 1953 issue. The announcements listed the next story as The Merry Widow Murders by Robert Wallace, and the plot reads curiously similar to Sterling’s 1943 Spider novel, When Satan Came To Town. The Spider was about to become The Phantom Detective. There was also some similarity to that novel and Odds On Death, PHANTOM DETECTIVE, Spring 1953. Want to bet Sterling wasn’t rewriting some old novels? Nothing wrong with it, authors did it all the time in the pulps. I hope someone proves me wrong, and manuscripts are discovered for The Eyes of Murder and The Merry Widow Murders, but remember in Candidate of Death when the Phantom Detective became The Shadow? Think about it, if I’m right, the Black Bat became the Phantom Detective in The Staring Killer, and The Spider became the Phantom Detective in The Merry Widow Murders. Only in the pulps!