Dean Wardlow Rock (aka "The Dean")

Created by Merle Constiner (1902-79)

"Fortunes Devined from the Soles of Your Feet... Learn the Secrets of Love, Hate, Riches."

-- one of The Dean's many business cards

Only in the pulps! One of the more entertaining sleuths of the detective pulps of the forties was DEAN WARDLOW ROCK (better known as "THE DEAN"), a quite likable part-time private eye/professional fortuneteller/con artist who operated out of an old brick rooming house in the slums.

The stories are narrated by his room-mate and long-suffering accomplice/cohort Benton "Ben" Matthews, who plays Watson to The Dean's Holmes. At least once a story, Ben lays it all out for the reader:

"Wardrow Rock is a private investigator who knows how to make money. We run a play that really brings in the results. The boss tells fortunes and has an under-the-rose connection with the police commissioner. The Dean's a simple-acting duffer and strangers write him down as strictly foggy..."

At first glance, The Dean does appears to be something of a goofball -- eccentric, erudite, harmless enough, quite a nice guy, really. But beneath the screwball facade is a hard, keen mind and an impressive knowledge of the most arcane subjects. And he usually carries a gun "about the size and weight of a plowshare" in a shoulder holster.

By contrast, Ben'sa a relative choirboy, admitting knowledge of only two things: guns and locks.

But together they make quite a formidable (and quite entertaining) team, cracking one bizarre case after another, all with the apparent blessings of the police commissioner. Most of the nineteen stories, all of which appeared in Dime Detective, feature elements of the fantastic. Even more fantastic, though, are the unorthodox and bewildering (especially to Ben) methods that The Dean employs to crack the cases. All in all, good fun.

Constiner was born in Ohio, but lived most of his life elsewhere, much of it in the South. He had a master's degree from Vanderbilt University, and minored in medieval history. He created another pulp series character, a Memphis private eye named Luther McGavock, for Black Mask.

SHORT STORIES

  • "Strangler's Kill" (August 1940, Dime Detective)
  • "You're In My Way" (December 1940, Dime Detective)
  • "One Corpse Too Many" (March 1941, Dime Detective)
  • "The Puzzle of the Terrified Dummy" (August 1941, Dime Detective)
  • "They'll Kill Again" (November 1941, Dime Detective)
  • "The Riddle of the Phantom Mummy" (February 1942, Dime Detective)
  • "The Riddle of the Bashful Ghost" (June 1942, Dime Detective)
  • "Killer Take All" (August 1942, Dime Detective)
  • "Mr. Bettleman's Blisters" (November 1942, Dime Detective)
  • "The Riddle of the Shackled Butler" (March 1943, Dime Detective)
  • "The Nervous Doorbell" (June 1943, Dime Detective)
  • "The Riddle of the Monster Bat" (September 1943, Dime Detective)
  • "Parade of the Empty Shoes" (December 1943, Dime Detective)
  • "The Affair of the Pharmicist's Fudge" (January 1944, Dime Detective)
  • "The Arm of Mother Manzoli" (April 1944, Dime Detective)
  • "The Puzzle of the Padlocked Furnace" (July 1944, Dime Detective)
  • "The Affair of the Four Skeletons" (September 1944, Dime Detective)
  • "The Affair of the Bed-ridden Pickpocket" (April 1945, Dime Detective)
  • "The Kitchen of Master Lefevre" (December 1945, Dime Detective)

COLLECTIONS

  • The Complete Cases of the Dean, Volume One (2017)... Buy this book

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Thanks to Monte Herridge for the lead.


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