Monday, January 24, 2011

Calling, The Green Ghost

"The Green Ghost"
Author: Johnston McCulley
Original Source: THRILLING DETECTIVE 03/34, Standard Magazines.

The more famous of the Green Ghosts is probably Standard's George Chance, magician turned pulp hero/detective who starred in his own pulp first as the Ghost and later as the Green Ghost. However, Chance wasn't the first character to call himself the Ghost nor the Green Ghost. There were at least two Green Ghosts that preceded him, one even published by the same company.

McCulley's Green Ghost was the second of the pulp heroes to call himself by that name. Danny Blaney was once an honest and good cop. When he's framed by crooks, even though there's not enough evidence to send him to trial, he's still believed to be guilty by his peers and loses his badge. Hating both crooks and the police, he embarks on a career as the Green Ghost, who steals from the crooks while also solving crimes in order to show up the police. As the Green Ghost, Danny wears a light green hood and gloves along with a non-descript black suit and dark shirt. He has no special skills other than being a clever detective and a good shot. He is prone to using a blackjack in order to subdue crooks, not relying on any special fighting skills or strength. He covers his ill-gotten income by claiming an inheritance from a distant relative and opens an all-hours cigar stand where has at least one staff member, a night clerk.

In his first story, we are nearing the end of an investigation. A jewel robbery has recently been done and he waylays two flunkies, "Snoopy" Carns and Bill Sorsten. He relieves them of most of their loot and then allows them to get away, to report to their chief, Max Ganler. Ganler specializes in ironclad alibis, built around the maxim that one person cannot be in two places at once. Claney is convinced that Max helped them with the robbery but the crook has an alibi as throwing a party for his best girl, Lily Ratch, that has lasted all night. As the Green Ghost he confronts Ganler before his witnesses and police detective Tim O'Ryan to show how it was done.

McCulley specialized in the rogue heroes, masked men that operated outside the law in order to bring about justice. His characters and style is in keeping with the works of Frank Packard and his big creation, the Grey Seal. With the Green Ghost there are some interesting choices such as Blaney is not bothered by suplementing his income with stolen goods as long as he can manage to embarrass both the crooks and the police. There's no greater good or social justice underpinning his actions as in the Moon Man stories. His disguise and abilities aren't all that great and the debut story is fairly prosaic. It's lacking the oomph to elevate it to the next level of being truly memorable.