Monday, September 22, 2014

Charles Beckman's short story "The Dancing Death"?

As many of you probably know, pulp writer Charles Beckman who specialized in hardboiled and noir crime stories and wrote also for the western market has been seeing a revival of his work getting into print. (Here and here Amazon links for the new collections of his old stories.) Beckman is still alive and I was able to ask him via James Reasoner if I could a small collection of his work that's been translated in Finnish.

The collection would be with two stories. There's an old story in an old Finnish pulp magazine called Seikkailujen Maailma (The World of Adventures), and then there's a called story "Class Reunion" that was translated by my friend, Tapani Bagge, that appeared in a late crime fiction magazine called RikosPalat (Crime Bits or some such in English). Beckman gave me his permission. (There are also some three or four stories in the old issues of the Finnish edition of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, but I don't have an easy access as to who translated them and where I could find them for a permission.)

After I'd typed "Class Reunion" I started typing the other story from the 1955 pulp mag. The Finnish title is "Tanssiva kuolema", which translates back as "The Dancing Death". The anti-hero of the story is one "Kippy Nikkeli" (I believe the name's been changed), who's on the run from some organized crime thugs, one of whom is called Pope (probably so, since his name is translated as "Paavi", which is the literal translation of "Pope"). In the beginning of the story Kippy finds himself in a junky joint trying to have a hamburger. It seems he hears voices in his head, and he also reminiscences another joint where he used to dance. He's also involving with Pope's mistress falling in love with another man. It's a moody noir-type piece where there no winners, only losers.

Now, there are several problems. Beckman himself didn't remember the story, nor did he find it in the pulp magazines he still has from his writing days. The story is not "Run, Cat, Run" that was reprinted in Beckman's Suspense, Suspicion & Shockers, nor is it "Should a Tear be Shed" in the same book, even though they share some similarities.

Googling the story's name with "Charles Beckman" doesn't give any clues. I don't have access to the crime fiction short story indices and I could check only the Fictionmags Index. There are some stories with the title "The Dancing Death", but none that match. Some of the stories listed therein did appear in a pulp magazine, but they seem to be a bit old or too long, i.e. serials. The story that I have at hand is more like a filler, even though it's a good story.

But there's a story called "Die Dancing, Kid" from Detective Tales, January 1947, and by Charles Beckman. Now, the publisher of Seikkailujen Maailma used lots of stories from the Popular Publications' magazines, such as Dime Detective and Detective Tales (and also Dime Mystery). I asked Beckman again if this could be our story. He said he doesn't remember writing that story and doesn't have a copy.

Now, does anyone have the issue of Detective Tales, January 1947, and can check the story out for me?

The photo accompanying this post is the illustration for the Finnish publication. For all I know, it could be the original illustration for Beckman's story.

3 comments:

Walker Martin said...

I checked my copy of the January, 1947 DETECTIVE TALES and there is a story by Charles Beckman called "Die Dancing, Kid!". It has characters in it named Kippy and Pope and even uses the illustration that you have above.

Hope this helps.

Juri Nummelin said...

Thank you very much, Walter! I sort of knew I could trust you.

Juri Nummelin said...

Or actually "trust on you".