Friday, December 7, 2012

The G-Man and the Gun Runners

The G-Man and the Gun Runners
George Clarke and Lou Hanlon
A Big Little Book
Whitman, 1940

Genre: Mystery


Jimmy Crawford, a G-Man, had been ordered to take part in the investigation of illegal shipments of airplanes to a mysterious Oriental dictator. Mr. Harkness, the chief of federal investigators, has decided to send Jimmy to the Far East. At home while packing, Jimmy tells his younger brother Junior and his fiancĂ©e Mary that he does not like doing detached service business, i.e. meaning he's not going as a government official but as a private citizen to find out what he can undercover. Junior is upset that they just got him back home and he is sent off again, so Junior decides he’s going to go along on the trip. At the pier he accosts a telegraph messenger and offers him $20 for his uniform and sneaks aboard.

As Jimmy is unpacking his belongings, he has a premonition that he is not alone in his room. He turns around and is astonished to see Junior. Junior says that he can't stand to see Jimmy run off again and leave him behind. Jimmy calls the captain and tells him about Junior stowing away. The captain says he can stay.

The next morning at breakfast Junior makes fun of the cabin boy and Jimmy reprimands him for his rudeness. Later that day the cabin boy approaches Junior and asks if they can be friends. Junior tells the boy that he's a junior G-Man and his brother’s the real thing. Neither of them notices the man and woman who pass nearby them and overhear their conversation. The woman tells her companion that the government has begun to investigate the purchase of war materials. While the man thinks the boy may have been lying, the woman says that she saw the brother and he looks like a G-Man. The man says that she better notify Boris at once.

Later that night at dinner, they pass by the woman's table and she touches Junior, and asks him to come have some ginger ale with her. Ignoring his brother, Junior sits down at her table. She starts asking him about why he is traveling to the Far East and who he is traveling with. Junior almost lets it slip that his brother is a G-Man but catches himself just in time.

The next morning, the steward goes into Jimmy’s stateroom and tells them to go enjoy the nice deck while he fixes the room up. Once they are gone, the man searches all their belongings but is interrupted by Junior. The man grabs a pillow and practically tries to smother Junior. Jimmy goes to the captain's cabin to report what happened. The captain has an idea of who might be responsible and has a sailor placed outside Jimmy's cabin to instruct him if anyone attempts to enter again. Sonia and her companion try to search the cabin with they are busted and placed under arrest. A few days later, they escape their imprisonment by jumping off the boat and swimming to a nearby boat.

The Russian spies talk to Boris about Jimmy and he decides that he needs to lay hands on Junior. He demands that the man and woman kidnap him. Meanwhile, Jimmy and Junior arrive at their hotel in Shanghai. Jimmy doesn't know where to begin investigating but agrees to Junior’s idea of visiting a bazaar. There Jimmy wanders away from his little brother and neither of them notices the woman spy with two Orientals. The two men approach Junior and try to accuse him of stealing and drag him away. Since Junior refuses to talk to Boris, Sonia has the idea that if they could lure Jimmy there Junior might talk. Boris tells them to go and see if this could be managed. Sonia approaches Jimmy wearing a heavy veil and asks him if he's seeking his brother. She offers to take him to him. She tells him that Junior is in grave peril. Jimmy feels as if he is walking into a trap but decides that the risk maybe worth it. Meanwhile, at that very moment, Junior is being put aboard a train by several soldiers who threaten to kill him if he makes any noise.

Boris wants to hold Jimmy and Junior hostage until his criminal organization can buy what they want in America. They need planes and guns so badly that they cannot allow them to interfere. Junior is introduced to the general who allows him to write a letter to Jimmy. Sonia takes Jimmy to Boris where Jimmy casually tells him that he is not G-Man; he is just a tourist. Boris has him locked up anyway. The general says that they need planes and guns so badly they can't take any chances. Jimmy is reunited with Junior in the jail cell where he mutters that he can't believe they came 4,000 miles for this, while Junior remarks that he thinks it has been a fun trip.

There is an opposing General who is against Boris (and it gets confusing sometimes because both men are referred to as “general” sometimes so one has no idea if it is the good general or the bad general). Jimmy admits to the (good) general that he is looking for clues to a mysterious power, secretly purchasing arms in his country. The (good) general tells him that he has probably come to the right place. Meanwhile, Boris (the bad general) meets with his agents in the United States and gives them money for more planes and guns.

A few days later the general (the good one) escapes from the prison with the help of a friend. He tells Jimmy and Junior not to worry, that they will be freed soon. Boris is rightly mad that the other general was allowed to escape. It is getting dangerous so Boris demands that they find out who else was in on the plot and to shoot them all. Feeling that Jimmy and Junior have seen too much, he says they must be shot as well. The next morning, right as the men are raising their rifles to take aim at Jimmy and Junior, a voice commands them to stop. Boris finds himself confronted by the man he held prisoner. Behind him were thousands of troops. The (good) general says that he has come to escort his friend to safety and that Boris and his men are completely surrounded and must surrender. Boris manages to get into a plane before anyone captures him. Another aviator takes to the air to try to bring Boris down. The man shoots down Boris's plane and they rush to the wreckage to see if they could save him. Unfortunately he's dead. The (good) general tells Jimmy that he might as well go home and tell his government that there will be no more buying of contraband.

The book then ends with Jimmy and Junior taking a flight back home and encountering another crime—they overhear two men on their airplane talking about breaking a friend out of Alcatraz. So, of course, Jimmy and Junior stop one more crime before relaxing.

Another adventure had ended with the G-men defeating the forces of crime.”

Thoughts and Nuggets of Wisdom for Research

First published during 1932 by Whitman, the Big Little Books were small, compact books designed with a captioned illustration opposite each page of text. Other publishers adopted this format after Whitman achieved success with its early titles which were priced just at 10¢ each. A Big Little Book was typically 3⅝” wide and 4½” high with 212 to 432 pages. The interior of the book usually displayed full-page black and white illustrations on the right side, facing the pages of text on the left printed in very large print. Stories were often related to radio programs (The Shadow), children's books (Uncle Wiggily), novels, or TV and film characters.

After the first Big Little Book, The Adventures of Dick Tracy, was published in December 1932, numerous titles were sold through Woolworth's and other retail stores. With a name change to Better Little Books in 1938, the series continued into the 1960s.

This G-Men title is just as poorly written and funny as the other G-Men title. Whitman’s BLB are highly collectible but aren’t known for being great works of literature. This one featured a G-Man who has a younger, annoying tag-along kid brother who likes to get into trouble a lot and constantly say, “Ah, gee,” about everything. (We’re out of ice cream—“Ah, gee!” You’ve been kidnapped and are threatened to be shot—“Ah, gee!”) I also love that Junior has the annoying 1930s/1940s-ish name of Junior! It just is a name with connotations of annoyance for older adults.

Since this adventure takes place in the Far East, its main point of importance for my research is its racist comments. For example, when Sonia and her companion are on the ship, they get interrupted by a porter dressed in evening dress. All the foreign characters are constantly referred to as the general “Oriental” as if they are all alike and not different at all. This man bows to them and says, “Me miserable man employee for Boris. At your service please.” The man then shows them a dragon charm proving that he is definitely employed with Boris. At one point, he (and some other “Oriental” characters) is described as their “slant-eyed friend” in the narrative.

When Jimmy’s room gets ransacked by the steward there is a wonderful line of racism! The steward comes into their room and tells them to go enjoy themselves up on the deck while he cleans up (to get them out of the room so he can search it). As they leave, Jimmy says, “Okay, Fu Manchu!”

All the illustrations accompanying the text show slant-eyed Orientals with triangular hats smoking opium pipes. They all also talk in broken English. This is typical of the racist stereotypes during this period in American history.

No comments:

Post a Comment