Monday 15 April 2024

The Complete Adventures Of The Domino Lady

Blonde Heat

The Complete Adventures
Of The Domino Lady

by Lars Anderson
Altus Press
ISBN 9781618273581

“Adventure was her meat and danger her dessert.”
Black Legion - Saucy Romantic Adventures

There seems to be some divergence of opinion as to the identity and, indeed, the existence of a writer named Lars Anderson. Wikipedia reports that it’s a publishers house name (just like Kenneth Robeson was a Street And Smith house name for the Doc Savage and The Avenger stories... although the primary writer behind the Doc Savage stories was really Lester Dent) but, according to Tom Johnson’s afterword in this very tome, he says that Will Murray (who wrote a lot of the modern Doc Savage adventures I’ve been reviewing on this site... again under the house name Kenneth Robeson) has verified that Lars Anderson was an actual person.

I’d like to know more but, whichever is the case, this collection from Altus Press, The Complete Adventures Of The Domino Lady, reprints the six stories he (or perhaps they) wrote for two publications in 1936. The first five of these stories, published that year, comprising The Domino Lady Collects, The Domino Lady Doubles Back, The Domino Lady’s Handicap, Emeralds Abroad and Black Legion all appeared in issues of that year’s Saucy Romantic Adventures while the sixth and final story, The Domino Lady’s Double, appeared in Mystery Adventure Magazine.

Now, after reading pulps by Lester Dent, who I think is a much better writer than Maxwell Grant (house name for Walter B. GIbson, who wrote The Shadow stories), I think I was somewhat spoiled by the former’s brilliant writing style because, I’ll be honest, it took me a few stories in of this collection to get into the character or, more specifically, the way she is written.

Nothing wrong as a character per se... to avenge the murder of her Irish politician father, wealthy socialite Ellen Patrick dons the guise of The Domino Lady, which includes a black domino mask, a completely superfluous cloak and her automatic pistol... basically becoming a Robin Hood style figure, stealing from rich, corrupt politicians and mobsters to give to needy charities, getting people out of blackmail threats and the like, wanted by both the police and the underworld. But she’s written... and this may well have been a publisher’s stipulation, since she was appearing in Saucy Romantic Adventures, after all... like she’s almost in a soft porn parody. I mean, how many times do I have to read about her ‘kissable shoulders’ and her shapely, somewhat peripatetic bosoms as a description of her character in every tale?

Having said that, I did eventually get used to the sex hugging style of the descriptions and did find the stories interesting, especially for the reason that they are almost a microcosm for exactly the sorts of stories you would get in various 1930s or 1940s feature film runs of characters thrown up on the silver screen. So, in six short stories you get the blackmail photographs plot, the ‘withdraw your winner of a racehorse from the race if you know what’s good for you’ plot, the heist on a luxury sea cruise plot, the corrupt politicians and power mongers syndicate plot and even a ‘framed for murder by a Domino Lady double’ plot. And these are exactly the kinds of tales you would see on a long run of films about such characters as The Saint or The Falcon or, well, take your pick.

But, they are peppered throughout with such succulent but cringeworthy bits of purple prose like “Ellen was breathing fast, her glorious bosom tossing beneath the scanty bodice of her gown.” or “The tall sleuth’s masterful arms went around her palpitant figure and his seeking lips found the damp grotto of her warm mouth.” which, okay, had me chuckling quite a lot in places. Having said that, though, I did warm to both the character and the writing style by the end of this short run and it’s a shame there were only six short stories about the character. Or so I thought...

In another classic case of opening a can of worms, it seems that this character I’d never heard of until I read The Complete Adventures Of The Domino Lady is now more popular than ever and lots of new short stories (where she teams up with the likes of Sherlock Holmes and The Phantom) and various comics are now published contemporaneously about the character. So, yeah, I think I’m going to have to take a punt sometime next year and buy up a couple of tomes of her new stories and see what’s been done with the character in recent times, I think. I  can only hope that phrases referencing her kissable curves and throbbing bosom are as prevalent in the new writings as they were in the originals.

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