Stag Party – Charles G. Booth (1933)

Stag Party — Ha-cha-cha!  We’re off to a good start in the first two words!  The bad news is this is a novella — long enough to have chapters. The bright side is maybe I can milk this for a couple of posts.


McFee of the Blue Shield Detective Agency is checking out a dame with “a subtle red mouth and experienced eyes with green lights in them.”  Irene Mayo needs his help.  Her beau Rance Damon went to the Gaiety Club to see local gangster Sam Melrose.  McFee knows that Melrose is hiding out on Larry Knudson’s yacht trying to avoid being served a subpoena, or sardines.  Even with the gangster at sea, Damon never came out of the club.  McFee checks it out.


The downtown had gone downhill over the years.  Businesses had changed hands or closed, and “The Gaiety had gone burleycue” which I assume is a burlesque house with pulled pork, but then aren’t they all.  The Gaiety was closed in the afternoon, but McFee goes in anyway.  In the dark theater, Damon falls dead into his arms with a gunshot in his chest.  McFee assumes it is because Damon asked for change in the VIP Room.


McFee follows the blood trail to an undressing room where he finds Mabel Leclaire. Mabel’s negligee is sticky . . . and also covered in blood.  He is able to tell she used the phone, probably for a call.  “Who’d you call?”  he asks.  “Go roll a hoop,” she replies to my inexplicable amusement.


Local legitimate business man Joe Metz shows up.  He wants to get Damon’s body out of the club so owner Melrose isn’t implicated.  He accuses McFee of copping a grand jury file from Damon.  McFee asks where Melrose is, and Metz tells him he is aboard Larry Knudson’s yacht.  McFee makes his move — he smashes a lamp and flees in the dark.


He is still able to find the fuse box and steal a couple of fuses to keep everyone in the dark.  Metz’s goons Tony StarkeMonty Welch, and Art Kline run around in the dark, colliding with furniture and bloodying their knees, which had always been more of a woman’s injury in this establishment.  They hear the cops roll up and take off.  McFee crawls to Damon’s body, but it is gone.


Detective Hurley and his dicks find McFee, and are also interested in the whereabouts of the Shelldon File.  They confirm for the 3rd time that Melrose is on Larry Knudson’s yacht.  Chubby-chaser Hurley takes a moment to wistfully remember the old days.  “You need a pair of field glasses to see the jittering toothpicks that dance on the boards nowdays.”  Chief Detective Littner shows up to let us know for the 4th time that Melrose is on Larry Knudson’s yacht.


At 3:15, McFee walks out “rolling a match in his ear.”  This is the 2nd time he has done that and I still can’t figure it what it means.  He finds Irene and they drive back to her place.  When McFee sees that they are being followed, he swings by a service station and buys a 5 gallon can of crank case oil.  He pours it out on the road causing a horrific crash for his pursuer and the school bus that should be a long shortly.


Apparently this was too much excitement for Irene and she passed out.  McFee carries her up to her apartment.  He also finds the Shelldon File hidden in her coat.  She pulls a .38 on McFee to get it back, but it turns out to be full of blank pages.  McFee goes back home and finds Metz sitting in front of his apartment also holding a .38 on him.  His goons really rough McFee up.  Metz threatens him, “They got no use for dicks in heaven” which doesn’t exactly square with the way I picture it.  He is worked over pretty well before they are interrupted by Hurley and a reporter named Cruikshank.  Hmmm, of the Paris Cruikshanks?


McFee drops by his office and finds a letter telling him Melrose has the Shelldon File.  I have a hunch it is on Larry Knudson’s yacht.  He meets Irene for lunch and she has received a similar letter.  McFee rolls another match in his ear.  He finds Damon’s body in the home of a clerk who had a shop near The Gaiety.  She was conked on the head and her gas jets had been opened.  Lucky that match in his ear wasn’t lit.


Melrose finally returns from the Scudder yacht.  Wait, what?  We’ve been told four times it was Larry Knudson’s yacht — WTF is Scudder? [1]  McFee gets a phone call.  Muffled in the background he can hear someone yelling, “We are in a house on Butte Street!  I saw the name — Butte Street!  Butte Street!”  He is able to deduce that it is either Irene or The Jerky Boys . . . OK, that reference really only works in print.


McFee goes to the house on Butte Street and, appropriately, breaks into the rear of the house.  He gets the drop on the gang roughing up Irene.  She comes up with a plan for her to replace Leclaire dancing at The Shawl Club that night.  She should be able to score the Shelldon File as well as a wad of singles.  McFee ties the men to chairs.  Leclaire protests, but McFee tells her, “I’ll forget you’re a lady if you don’t sit in that chair.”  She replies, “Forget it anyway.”  It doesn’t really fit the situation, but it is such a great exchange that I love it anyway.


At The Shawl Club, we finally meet Melrose.  He is “an olive-skinned man with an uneven mouth and grizzled hair parted in the middle.  His face was old, his forehead corded by deep lines that never smoothed out.  He was thirty-eight.”  Irene does her dance, then she and McFee look for the file.  Just as they spot a manila file, they are busted.


Melrose’s goons take McFee to see him.  Turns out Melrose doesn’t have the Shelldon File either, but thinks McFee does.  The cops bust in and break up the fun.  McFee convinces them to let him have a minute alone with Melrose.

14. & 15.

McFee explains everything.  It all makes sense and there were even clues along the way.  I must admit to missing the naughtiness of the Spicy Mega-pack; especially in a story called Stag Party which takes place mostly in places with dancey girls.  It is a great read, though, and even has a nice dark ending.  Hehe, Butte Street.


  • [1] There is a Scudder Cup in yachting, but I don’t see anything called a Scudder Yacht so it must be the owner’s name.  Strangely enough, the phrase “Scudder’s yacht” appeared in the November 23, 1874 edition of The Brooklyn Daily Eagle Newspaper.
  • First published in the November 1933 edition of Black Mask.
  • Also that month:  Duck Soup released.

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