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:
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.
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