The best of the Encyclopedia of Pulp Heroes: Ethan Burr

ethanburrBurr, Ethan. Ethan Burr was created by “Russell Gray,” the pseudonym of Bruno Fischer (Ben Bryn, Ben Helm, Calvin Kane, Rick Train), and appeared in six stories in Strange Detective Mysteries in 1939 and 1940, beginning with “Butcher’s Holiday” (Strange Detective Mysteries, Mar/Apr. 1939). Ethan Burr is a Killer Vigilante. Burr is a New York City private detective who stacks the bodies around him with great abandon. He’s called “the Practitioner of Death” because of his skill at killing–he’s very quick with his .44–and because trouble always seems to seek him out. He had originally been a “carefree, exceptionally clever, first-grade homicide dick who was set to go far in the department.” Unfortunately, his “charming young wife had died because Burr hadn’t been able to afford the necessary surgical and medical expenses to save her life.” This leaves Burr feeling unhappy, and the smile leaves his “hard, thin mouth” and “steel-gray eyes.” He quits the force and opens a private detective agency, using the money he makes to support his two small children. “His services came high, and if one wanted an utterly ruthless and fearless machine of justice, his fees were worth it.” He does not always come through his cases unscathed–one blackmailer’s knife leaves a scar across his cheek and mouth–but his enemies fare considerably worse. Burr is well-inclined toward Chinese-Americans (despite the cover art his stories were saddled with) and views them without the racism so common to many other characters in the pulps. One of the few men he trusts, in fact, is Sam Ming, the “unofficial mayor of Chinatown.”

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