“Punk” is narrated by Jerry, whose job is collecting coins from slot machines and pinball games located in disreputable taverns. Jerry has two childhood friends: Big Ed, a local hood who owns the machines Jerry services and Slats, an honest police detective.
About a month ago, Jerry murdered a guy who also used to work for Big Ed. The cops are looking for the dead guy and suspect foul play. There’s a lot going on in this novelette: a love triangle, political corruption, more murders, mutilation, a frame-up and lots of hardboiled, tough-guy patter.
Adams was a solid writer with an ear for dialogue, and his style never slips into parody (like, say, Robert Leslie Bellem’s Dan Turner: Hollywood Detective). Like a lot of pulp writing of the 1930s, the novella is over-plotted with way too much happening. To his credit, the author does a nice job keeping all the plates spinning. It’s also plenty violent and action-packed with a tidy ending.
I’m thankful that a forward-leaning editor put this collection together, and I intend to dip back into it in the future. For reference, the other novellas are:
“Frame for a Lady” (1938)
“Forty Pains” (1941)