Beth Moore

Created by Margie Harris

Beth MooreAs far as I can tell, BETH MOORE has to be one of the very first hard-boiled janes of the pulps, appearing alongside more widely known sisters such as Trixie Meehan, Violet McDade and Carrie Cashin, and certainly the first created by a woman. Beth’s problem was that she only appeared — as far as I can tell — in one story. But it’s a corker!

“Murdered,” which appeared in the October 1934 issue of the pulp Thrilling Detective introduces us to Elizabeth “Beth” Moore, a green-eyed “she-shamus extraordinary, a girl in her late twenties but already famed as one of the city’s most brilliant investigators.” She works for the Moore Detective Agency, owned and operated by her father, but she’s no Ivanka, checking her makeup and waiting to be rescued — in fact, she’s out to rescue dear old dad in this one. Her supervisor at the Moore Agency, Tony Nitti, may push her out of the way to protect her, but by the story’s explosive wrap-up, Beth has more than proven she can take care of herself, thankyouverymuch.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Not much is known about Margie Harris — not even if that was her real name. But she was a prolific pulpster whose career roughly spanned the thirties. At first, she was a regular contributor to magazines specializing in “gangster fiction,” such as Gangland Stories, Double Action Gang Magazine, The Underworld, Gangster Stories, Ten Story Gang, Prison Stories, Racketeer Stories and Greater Gangster Stories. When the gang pulp genre faded, Harris simply moved on to other markets, such as Thrilling Detective, The Phantom Detective, Super-Detective Stories, Popular Detective and the like, which is when she created Beth Moore, and a few other potential female eyes, in such intriguingly titled stories as “Ex-Dick Feminine” (one of three stories featuring a possible P.I. named Helen Dyer) and “The She-Shamus” which may have also featured Beth). The search continues…

Certainly, whether she was writing about gangsters, gunmolls or gumshoes, Harris had a flair for the hard stuff — all the stories that I’ve managed to track down are fast-paced, violent and doused in rough-edged slang, and more than one pulp afficiando has dubbed her “the first hard-boiled woman writer.” A collection of her gangland stories, Queen of the Gangsters: The Stories of Margie Harris, was published in 2011. Hopefully, the word will spread — she was that good.

As David Bischoff puts it in the introduction to the collection:

“(Margie Harris) slammed her typewriter like a machine gun, mowing down good guys and bad guys alike; shooting them, knifing them, blowing them up-lacing her prose with metaphysical commentary on the destinations of their damned souls.”

But perhaps even more amazing, writing for the pulps may have been just a sideline for her. According to Indefensible Publishing, it’s suspected that she had a possibly more prominent career as a journalist and/or police officer and/or gangster. And the closest thing we have to a clue is a letter Harris wrote to pulp innovator Harold Hersey, publisher of Gangster Stories, in response to the growing curiosity of his readership and their doubts that a woman could write such gritty material.”

SHORT STORIES

  • “Murderered” (October 1934, Thrilling Detective)

COLLECTIONS

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

 

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