Short Reviews – Pa Howdy Goes Fishing

Friday , 6, January 2017 Leave a comment

Pa Howdy Goes Fishing by Laurence Donovan appeared in the June 1943 issue of G-Men Detective. 

Though much better known for his 18 Doc Savage novels, Lawrence Donovan apparently wrote several Pa Howdy stories for various detective publications through the 30s and 40s.

Pa & Ma Howdy are Montana ranchers who’ve moved to west coast in their retirement and solve mysteries with their rubish country ways and wits to the aggravation of local constabulary and kids who insist on not getting off lawns.

In this headache-inducing adventure, Pa Howdy is a crotchety air-raid warden who crashes in on a bunch of swing kids and smashes the “greasy” “olive-faced” Italian juke-joint owner’s top end juke-box. While Pa seems to hate fun and Ma can’t abide by the factory worker girls wearing pants, Pa’s violent outburst fortuitously uncovers a possible murder mystery, leads to a kidnapping, and exposes a conspiracy which, yes, the greasy Italian is behind.

The mystery is kind of a mess, and the thick accents in which all the characters speak makes this trickier to parse in places than Chaucer in the original Middle English. I might be wrong, but Bardo, the juke-joint owner, has thrown on his loud and flashing juke-box to create enough commotion to cover a up a scuffle that has to do with an attempt to blackmail a factory worker gal whose Italian father knows something about airplane parts (or she knows something about airplane parts; it’s kinda muddled).

Now, there is one cool money-scene in this that ALMOST makes the whole mess worthwhile.

Pa & Ma Howdy are riding out on the girl’s father’s boat going after the conspirators. Somehow Pa ends up riding a torpedo that’s been launched at a refueling tanker and manages to steer it back to the juke-joint owner’s boat, jumping off right as all the conspirators get blown to kingdom come. It ends with everyone having a laugh and wondering what, if anything, to tell the police since all the bad guys are dead.

Pa comes across more as hating swing kids than taking his job as an air raid warden seriously, and seems to have singled out Bardo’s joint because he a)thinks Bardo’s an effete (Pa can’t stand men who wear jewelry) and b)hates the idea that anyone should have a newfangled and glowing contraption that costs $5000. Again, it’s pure coincidence that Pa and Ma stumble onto an actual crime. It feels like parody, but I’m not sure.

I have no idea where G-Men rates in the ranks of 1940s Detective pulps, and I don’t know if I’ll review more than this one issue, because I’d rather talk about good stories than criticize middling stories. I do hope that I’ll at least reach a point, though, where I have enough of an idea of what the pulps were like that I’ll be able to say how the Sci-fi pulps stack up.

I think I’ve already make a case that the SF pulps were not what you’ve been told the pulps were like. Even if G-Men Detective ends up being Sturgeon’s Law in full force, it doesn’t change how great much of what I’ve talked about from Planet Stories has been.

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