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Book of the Phantom Bullet by Robert Leslie Bellem

The Book of the Phantom Bullet by Robert Leslie Bellem

The Casebooks of Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective

Five stories from the casebook of Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective.

Book Details

Book Details

The Book of the Phantom Bullet – Five stories from the casebook of Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective.

Dead Heat (1944) – The cash customers paid plenty out to watch her emote on the screen. They looked upon her as a brunette angel, but there were a lot of substantial citizens in Hollywood who knew Linda for a rat.

Daughter of Murder (1942) – There are some things a daughter ought to know about her own mother—including how she died. Dan had some doubts about both would-be heiresses but no doubt about which one wanted to kill him!

Killer’s Union (1942) – Keeping a cute movie extra on ice in his apartment is bound to get Dan in trouble. And part of it is that a gunman doesn’t forget how to play rough just because he’s turned screen actor.

Arrow From Nowhere (1943) – There was only one man on the set who could have shot the arrow, yet Dan hated to think Jeff could be guilty. Motive tumbles over motive, and suspect waltzes around with suspect—but there still remains the question: Where did the arrow come from?

The Book of the Phantom Bullet (1945) – This movie ham named McBride acted the death scene very realistically—mostly because some sly sinister stinker had put a real bullet completely through his think-tank. And as foul luck would have it, Dan Turner was on the scene and having it demonstrated that the trigger-finger was quicker than his hawkshaw eye. From then on, Dan was busier than a confused dog in a flea circus. . . .
Chapter II Long-gone Bullet
Chapter III Suspects Supreme
Chapter IV No Modest Mayhem
Chapter V Brawl for a Book

Robert Leslie Bellem (1902-1968), the creator of legendary Hollywood private detective Dan Turner, was the definition of prolific, producing some 3000 short stories over a thirty year career. While his friends knew him as Leslie, his publishers were afraid he would be perceived as being female, and so he used his first name Robert to publish under. Not that it was likely that a woman would have written the Dan Turner stories. . .

The Book of the Phantom Bullet contains 7 illustrations.


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Excerpt: The Book of the Phantom Bullet

I  BATED my breath when the gunfire started; felt my hackles prickling as Ben McBride raced up the broad marble staircase to elude the shooter. Then, suddenly, he stiffened in midstride; toppled backward and pitched headlong down the flight, bouncing from tread to tread like a rubber dummy until he hit bottom. Motionless, he sprawled grotesquely in counterfeit death and waited for the cameras to quit grinding.

“Jeeze!” I heard somebody whisper on the sidelines. “What a performance!”

I fervently agreed with this remark. McBride’s spectacular fall was as good as Eve ever gandered in the galloping tintypes; particularly when you considered that he was just an ordinary contract hambo and not a professional stunt expert. The sequence was being filmed on a Metrovox sound stage dressed to represent the ornate reception hall of a millionaire’s mansion, and I had dropped by after lunch to cop a hinge at the shindig because the grapevine said it was going to be something extra special.

I hadn’t expected anything so realistic as this, though, and I was flabbergasted to hear the pic’s director snarl: “Cut! Let’s try it once more—and next time put some zowie in it.”

“Zowie?” Ben McBride yodeled indignantly, picking himself off the floor and starting across the set’s mammoth dimensions. He was a hefty bozo with close-cropped hair the color of clay and a puss as rugged as a rock-crusher, but for all his size he was dwarfed by his surroundings. “What the hell do you want me to do, bust my damned neck for the sake of authenticity?” Abrupt tension gripped the cast and crew; there was a curious atmosphere of electrified anger you could feel in your gizzard. Up overhead a group of juicers peered down from their high catwalks; they left their lights and hunkered on their haunches as if preparing to witness a battle royal. Below, I sensed the same suppressed anticipation all around me; and it seemed oddly out of keeping with the dignity of the set itself.

Dignified was the only word you could describe the lay out; its designer had definitely smacked the jackpot for majestic splendor. On two sides, high white walls towered upward, festooned with heavily framed oil portraits and thick mock-Gothic tapestries. At the rear a wide sweeping staircase had been installed, its imitation-marble steps rising to a balustraded balcony which stretched to right and left the width of the set. The backdrop behind the balcony was garnished with long rows of bookshelves, crammed like a public library and arranged with an eye for the artistic effect of the vari-colored volumes, and you got the impression that this was a place for pompous repose, not violence.

BUT violence was brewing just the same. The McBride ham crossed the stage with assault and bashery in his slitted peepers; his maulies were balled for action and his kisser was a thin slash in the hard granite of his map as he barged to the camera setup and planted his bulk firmly ferninst the director, a dyspeptic little sourball named Sammy Krakowski.

“So you want zowie,” McBride said. “Would you settle for a swift punch in the nose?”

For all his lack of poundage Krakowski was a gutty guy. Without getting out of his folding canvas chair he said: “Aw, go fry a fish, big boy.” His narrow, wizened pan crinkled in a maliciously mirthful grin. “Who do you think you’re scaring?”

“You, you yellow little weasel.” McBride stuck out his prognathous jaw.

Curiously enough, though, there was a querulous quality in his voice as he added: “Three times now you’ve shot that scene of me running up those stairs and getting plugged and falling all the way down. Now you want another take, a fourth. What do you figure I’m made of, cement or something?”

Krakowski chuckled. “You can always quit.”

“Quit? In the middle of the picture so you’d have to junk all the footage I’ve been in?” McBride bridled. “Quit so you’d have to do retakes with somebody else in my role?”

“I think you’ve got something there, pal.”

“Oh no. Then you’d report me to the Guild for walking off the job and leaving you in a hole. I’d get my membership card canceled. I’d be blacklisted; barred from every lot in town.”

“That I’ll buy,” the director agreed blandly.

McBride glowered at him. “I’m not quitting. If you want me out of the cast, fire me.”

“I wouldn’t think of such a thing,” Krakowski purred. “But as long as you stay in the unit you’ll take my orders and like them; you’ll do as you’re told.”

“Meaning another stairway fall, eh?”

“Meaning exactly that, big boy.”

From my spot on the sidelines I studied the runty director admiringly. Barring a faint hint of accent he talked American as fluently as if he’d been born here, although actually he’d landed in Hollywood less than five years ago, a refugee from Warsaw; and like most Poles he had a certain hard-fibered inner toughness you couldn’t help respecting. He was boss of the troupe and he took no lip from anybody.

It struck me, however, that there was more to this current argument than the mere exercise of directorial authority. I happened to know that Krakowski had been goofy over a certain frail on the Metrovox roster, a toothsome blonde bit player named Cynthia Wainwright who was very gorgeous indeed. Unfortunately for Krakowski’s romantic notions, she couldn’t see him with a microscope; instead, she’d fallen for Ben McBride. Then later, much to the director’s indignation, McBride gave her the brush-off and left her with her heart fractured—a plot as corny as something out of a silent movie. But in this case it was genuine; and I had a hunch Krakowski hankered to get even with the hambo for the way he’d treated the Wainwright wren. Some guys are chivalrous that way, especially foreigners; damned if I can see why.

YEARNING for vengeance is one thing, however, and executing it is another. It was a cinch Sammy Krakowski wouldn’t get to first base in a fracas with McBride; the actor outweighed him at least a hundred pounds, all of it muscle. But you can get pretty nifty results by forcing somebody to fall downstairs a few times, and that was what the director was pulling. “Okay,” he called sternly. “One more take. Places, everybody.”

Excerpt From: Robert Leslie Bellem. “The Book of the Phantom Bullet.”


Paperback Warrior reviewed the title story “The Book of the Phantom Bullet”HERE

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