Bellem was an amazingly prolific and successful mystery author who wrote an estimated 3,000 stories between 1934 and 1947 when the pulp magazine market collapsed. Without breaking stride, Los Angeles-based Bellem transitioned to movie and then TV script-writing which he continued until his death in 1968.
Anyone interested in classic hard-boiled detective stories should be conversant with Dan Turner. Bellem racheted up the tough-guy slang to the point of parody, with over-the-top plots to match.
In Dan Turner's world, guns didn't fire; roscoes coughed. Instead of lighting a cigarette, you fired up a gasper. Lamped instead of looked, yodeled instead of telephoned, ankled instead of walked -- the list is almost endless.
Bellem wrote fast, and that's the best way to read a Dan Turner story. These 2,000-3,000 word stories usually had a sparse cast of cardboard characters and a mystery that turned on a single clue.
But what a lot of fun to read. There's nothing simple about Bellem's writing. They're so full of tough-guy slang you almost need an annotated edition of the text. Here's the start of "Snake Tangle"
I was buying a shine from Pete the Greek when a gorgeous gazelle planted her shapely form on the chair next to me. The instant she sat down she issued herself a ticket to her own funeral -- although naturally I didn't know it at the time When I sneaked a sidewise swivel at her she looked as far removed from the morgue as I am from my first million bucks.
And here's the denouement from "Headlines in Hell" (1943)
"Going somewhere?" I said.If you get a collection of Dan Turner stories, treat them like a box of rich candy -- don't consume more than one per sitting. There's a certain sameness to them that can lessen the enjoyment. But individually, they're pure fun.
The black-haired wren froze. "You - !"
"Yeah, babe. Me. Get away from Farlow so we can slip the nippers on him. He's the guy that cooled Polly Todd."
As I said this, the publicity bozo plunged his good hand into his coat; hauled forth a roscoe. "No, you won't! You won't take me alive!" And he triggered a slug at my favorite vest.