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University at Buffalo Libraries

George Kelley Paperback & Pulp Fiction Collection

The Navy Colt

cover image By: Gruber, Frank (male)
Publisher: The Military Service Publishing Co. (Superior Reprint M649)
Place of Publication: Harrisburg, PA
Catalog #: Kelley Box 261: PS3513 .R866 N38 1945
Contributor: J. Lukin


Era: 1940s Author as on Cover: Frank Gruber Geographic Locale: Chicago, Illinois with a brief excurison to Northfield, MN Date of Publication: 1945  |  Original Date: 1941 Setting: urban; various cheap and/or lowbrow milieux, with a couple of scenes in the offices and hotels of the rich Motives: murder, blackmail, financial chicanery

Plot Summary

Johnny Fletcher and Sam Cragg are in Chicago and, as usual, behind in paying their hotel bill. The weather is too cold for them to engage in their usual trade of standing on a street corner to hawk bodybuilding manuals. Good fortune comes their way in the form of Hilda, a pretty blonde who offers them ten dollars to punch a guy in the face. They visit the man's apartment and do the job, notwithstanding the fact that they have to knock a two-foot-long revolver out of his hand. Hilda fails to pay them. A corpse turns up in their victim's apartment. The police pursue them. Johnny and Sam investigate the murder in the hope of clearing themselves of suspicion. One step ahead of the police, they visit a fancy hotel, an amateur authors' meeting, and an octagenarian liar from Minnesota, finding that their search ties in with the history of the gun, which is rumored to have been used by Jesse James in a famous holdup. Thanks to Johnny's skill as a con artist and Sam's ineptitude as an aspiring screenwriter, our heroes solve the crime just as the police catch up to them.

Major Characters

Johnny Fletcher adult male, tall, extremely thin, indigent and chameleonic salesman

Sam Cragg adult male, stout and Neanderthalish, strong, flamboyant dresser, inidgent assistant salesman

Ben Beeler adult male, middle-aged, small, balding, watery-eyed, blonde-mustached, professional private investigator, easily cowed

Martha Beeler adult female, middle-aged, stout and gray-haired, meddling receptionist to a detective

Hutch Cooley adult male, fortyish, dresses very warmly and smokes rancid cigars, deputy sheriff of Northfield

Carl Streeter adult male, 20s, tall, spectacularly thin, bellicose ex-con and blackmailer

Cornelia Spatz (a.k.a. Cornelia Stafford, a.k.a. Connie) adult female, "horse-faced woman of about forty," vindictive, prudish, true-crime writer

Hjalmar Nelson adult male, Scandinavian-American, middle-aged, huge and powerful, manufacturer

Hilda Nelson adult female, 20s, a "well-dressed, beautiful girl" with plenty of money and fear

Level of Violence

about six fistfights, two offstage shootings, one non-fatal shooting described. Violence is generally elided when that's necessary to preserve the story's light tone.


except for Johnny's observations on the attractiveness or ugliness of women, sex is generally remote from the narrative. Even the betrayals and manipulations between couples that play a role in the plot are presented as having occurred long ago or far away.

Gender Roles

men's interactions with each other tends to occur on a basis of aggression. Women are capable of manipulating men with charm or violence. Women tend to pursue stereotypical professions -- receptionist, milliner, spinster.


outside of a professional wrestling match involving "The Terrible Turk," everyone is a European-American. Character tends not to be associated with nationality.

Alcohol/Drug Abuse

the impoverished lead characters drink socially when they can afford to; Deputy Cooley prefers his rancid cigars to no tobacco at all.

Law Enforcement

police officers are honest, competent, and prone to frustration over the antics of amateur detectives.

Subject Headings

Blackmail/ Illinois - Chicago/ Sales personnel and selling/ Murder/ Detectives, Private/ Swindlers and swindling

Psychological Elements

the only impediment to anyone's reasonable, self-interested behavior is Sam's doltishness. Thuggery, greed, worry over financial security, and a vindictive spirit are not presented as reflective of pathology or conducive to moral terror.