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RICHARD SALE (1911-1993)

With his profession providing a passport into many spheres of life, the newspaperman is a stock character in pulp detective fiction. Sometimes referred to as 'surrogate sleuths,' journalists use their skills to search out the truth and solve crimes, even though they are neither police professionals nor amateur detectives. One of the best-known reporter heroes is Joe 'Daffy' Dill, the creation of Richard Sale, who drew on his own early experience as a New York reporter to craft his crime stories.

Sale soon left the world of journalism for a career in popular writing that mirrored the development of the various media. He got his start in the pulp magazines of the 1930's, including Detective Fiction Weekly, Argosy, Double Detective, and Baffling Detective, turning out some forty-six short stories featuring Dill. In the 1940's, he began to write for the burgeoning 'slicks': his series character Lieutenant Alec Mason solved cases set in type on the glossy pages of the Saturday Evening Post, Esquire, and Blue Book. During the 1940's, too, he turned out the bulk of his longer fiction, including six novels and a collection of novelettes. Another novelette collection followed in 1950, another mystery novel appeared in 1971, and he published a mainstream novel in 1975.

In the interim, Sale had turned his talents to screenwriting and directing. His screenplays demonstrated versatility and allowed him to indulge his passion for writing snappy dialogue. He wrote several screenplays with Mary Loos and others, ranging from Westerns to sports sagas to suspense yarns. His directing career blossomed during the 1950's, and then he began to write for television series, including Yancy Derringer and The FBI.

Typical of the time and the medium, Sale 's pulp fiction is chiefly composed of dialogue. Animated exchanges are enlivened with exclamations. The repartee is quick, spiced with wisecracks, and leavened with humour. The characters 'snap' at one another. And the delivery of information is expressed in a vernacular that could only be American: "Listen, my little rattlesnake I just put the bite on Rigo."

Sale 's hero is no stranger to violence. Despite his light-hearted nickname, Daffy Dill's adventures prove that when it comes to securing a scoop, the fist is mightier than the pencil.


| The Oxford Book of American Detective Stories | c