Oscar Sail
Created by Lester Dent (1905-1959)

When not busy churning out most of the 181 Doc Savage adventures under the Kenneth Robeson pseudonym, prolific pulpster Lester Dent could produce wild and wacky hard-boiled dicks with the best of them. Lynn Lash (Detective-Dragnet, 1932), Lee Nace (Ten Detective Aces, 1933), Foster Fade (All Detective, 1934) and Click Rush, the Gadget Man (Crime Busters, 1937) were all very tall fellows with a mutual penchant for gadgets (one of Dent's passions).  Their cases tended towards the fantastic, similar to those on Doc's side of the fence.

OSCAR SAIL was something else again, a more low-keyed, but no less engaging, sort of op. According to author/pulp historian Ron Goulart, Dent "had a special reverence for Black Mask" and the few stories he wrote for that magazine were more down-to-earth detective fare.  The Oscar Sail capers were arguably the best of these, both appearing within a few months of each other in 1936.

Sail was described as "...a long, brown man, dressed in black -- black polo shirt, black trousers and black tennis shoes... Weather and salt had not left much color in his hair."  He was a Florida private eye based in Miami and extremely tall (seven feet?); but in lieu of gadgets, he utilized his quick mind and agile body to solve his rather intense cases.  He lived on a black, 45-foot long (34-foot at the waterline) Chesapeake Bay bugeye christened "Sail." (Boating was another of Dent's passions.)

The knowledgeable reader will notice some definite similarities to John D. MacDonald's "salvage expert" Travis McGee. There has been much speculation, inspiration-wise, about this in the past but nobody has made a solid connection as yet. Lester Dent wrote for the pulps throughout their heyday, and John D. was one of the last writers to operate there during their twilight.

It is sad that Dent left us with but two stories about Oscar Sail, he really deserved more outings than that.

SHORT STORIES

Report respectfully submitted by David Nobriga.


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