One of my favorite things about Dick Tracy research is shining a light on lesser known film, radio and stories. Today I want to shine that spotlight on the Big Little Book, Dick Tracy Encounters Facey. Big Little Books began in 1932 and were published through 1950. After a seventeen year break, Whitman Publishing attempted to revive the series and produced 35 more books between 1967 and 1969. The first book of this new “2000” series was Dick Tracy Encounters Facey, the only Tracy story in the 35 book collection.
Like the BLB’s of earlier decades, the Facey book is small in size so that it can be easily handled by young readers. Selling for 39 cents, it was printed in three runs, each currently valued in the $4/$8/$16 range for Fair/Near Mint/Mint condition. This book is by far the most common Dick Tracy BLB to be found by collectors. Inside is a brand new ten chapter adventure, written by Paul S. Newman and copyrighted by the Chicago Tribune. Accompanying each page of the youth novel is a color Dick Tracy panel. The story itself is accurate to Gould’s 60’s era Tracy cast and has well done and accurate illustrations.
Shortly after I began working on the Depot I found myself collecting 1930’s and 1940’s era Big Little Books. With over two dozen BLB’s to find and a limited budget I focused on those BLB’s featuring stories not found in the daily comic strip. I first reviewed Dick Tracy on Voodoo Island last year and the book to the left, Dick Tracy and the Phantom Ship, is another such kids novel. Published in 1940 as part of Whitman Publishing second series, The Better Little Books, this thick hand sized book was taken directly from Ned Wever’s Dick Tracy radio broadcasts.
Sponsored by Quaker Puffed Rice and Wheat, these short radio shows usually ran a complete case in about a 15 episodes (3 weeks) and this particular case was sold in 1939 as a radio play called Dick Tracy and the Strange Case of the Ghost Ship. The Depot doesn’t have a copy of this script, but it can be found in the Ohio State University Library where a trove of Dick Tracy treasures from the Chester Gould family reside. In this book, the play has been novelized as a 13 chapter story complete with picture panels on each opposite page. While the artwork is unique to this Big Little Book, the dialog itself reads as if directly from the radio script itself and one can imagine the voice of Ned Wever (Tracy), Walter Kinsella (Patton) and Andy Donnelly (Junior) speaking from a sound stage.
The case begins with Dick Tracy receiving a request from a whaling captain friend named Billy the Kid (not the cowboy) who needs help with a troublesome racket taking place down in the Antarctic. Remembering for a moment we are in 1940 and whaling is an accepted past time, Tracy’s jaunt down to the Antarctic Ocean follows the global theme of other radio cases such as the Purple Rider in northern Canada.
Nearly all of the two dozen Dick Tracy Big Little Books are simple novelizations of the comic strips and movie serials. So when I found Dick Tracy on Voodoo Island I was excited. An original Dick Tracy story from 1944 featuring Voodoo magic? Yes, please! Unfortunately the book left me disappointed in the lack of Voodoo and feeling quite uncomfortable for other reasons. I will explain. Continue reading