Thomas Walsh - The Unusual Suspect
Mystery Scene|Fall #169, 2021
Any paternity test on the sub-genre of police procedural will identify the DNA of Ed McBain and Lawrence Treat, as well as the 1948 movie The Naked City and the radio and TV series Dragnet…and of course Thomas Walsh.
Michael Mallory

Thomas who, you ask?

Unjustly neglected today, Thomas Walsh has as solid a claim as anyone on the title of Father of the Police Procedural Novel. His stories focused on Irish cops in New York City going through their daily paces, and he infused them with a level of psychology that had rarely if ever before been seen. More than his co-sires, Walsh pioneered the concept of the flawed hero in crime fiction. Yet he remains all but forgotten.

Thomas B. Walsh, Jr., was born in New York City in 1908 and developed a love for writing and journalism at an early age. He enrolled in New York’s Columbia University but dropped out in the middle of his sophomore year to take a job as a crime reporter with the Baltimore Sun. He supplemented his income by selling mystery and crime stories to popular pulps of the day, including the legendary Black Mask, Dime Detective, Sure-Fire Detective, and Ten Detective Aces.

By 1933, Walsh was earning enough from fiction to quit the day job and within a couple more years he moved up from the pulps to the slicks, writing for the likes of Collier’s and The Saturday Evening Post. Two of his early stories were sold to RKO Pictures and filmed as We’re Only Human (1935) and Don’t Turn ’em Loose (1936). Joseph “Cap” Shaw, the influential editor of Black Mask, thought so much of Walsh’s work that he included one of his stories in the 1946 anthology The Hard-boiled Omnibus: Early Stories From Black Mask, along with the likes of Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Lester Dent, and Paul Cain.

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