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Glossary and Character Taxonomy  Breakdown by Country of Origin   Bibliography   Table of Contents    The Best of the Encyclopedia

Gar, Jo. Jo Gar was created by “Ramon Decolta,” the pseudonym of Raoul Whitfield (Ben Breed, Dion Davies, Donald Free, Gary Greer, Ben Jardinn, Buck KentCaptain MacLeod, Mel Ourney, Chuck Reddington, Bill Scott, Alan van Cleve), and appeared in twenty-five stories in Black Mask and Cosmopolitan from 1930 to 1937, beginning with “West of Guam” (Black Mask, Feb. 1930).

Jo Gar is a Filipino detective of part-Spanish descent who walks the mean streets of Manila, dealing with toughs and crime bosses. The Manila of the Jo Gar stories is much like the cities of American private eyes of the 1930s, with night club entertainers, hotel managers, gamblers, and other lowlifes. Whitfield, who spent many years as a child and teenager in the Philippines, portrays the islands in a hard but fair (and not racist) way. For his part Gar is very much in the hard-boiled tradition, and is a smart, tough private detective. He is a small man, with short arms, narrow shoulders, stubby fingers, and greying hair, and although he is soft-spoken and polite he is still as tough as they come.

* I'm including Jo Gar in the Best of the Encyclopedia category because his stories are well-written and fun. Raoul Whitfield was a professional writer in the pulps for over twenty years, writing works in every genre and for a wide range of pulps. He was a solid professional: not in the top tier of pulp writers, I think, but in the second or at worst third tier. (The Whitfield characters included in this encyclopedia include some winners and some clunkers, which is about par for pulp professionals of the 1920s and 1930s.) But in the character of Jo Gar Whitfield created someone who shot to the top tier of pulp characters and has stayed there ever since. Whitfield does a splendid job of describing 1930s Manila, and at least seems to have been trying not to be a racist while doing so. And Whitfield does a splendid job in characterizing Jo Gar, who becomes a very memorable hard-ass hardboiled private eye. Taken together, they are some of the best detective stories, with the best detective protagonist, of the pulp era. 

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