A terrific comic strip crime drama that would make a great novel or movie.
CRIME COMIC REVIEW DASHIELL HAMMETT SECRET AGENT X 9 1934
One of the earliest, longest and best stories in The Mammoth collection of Best Crime Stories, penned by the author of The Maltese Falcon. This thriller moves at a cracking pace.
Dexter, also known for no apparent reason as Secret Agent X-9, is basically a Gumshoe detective rather than a spy. He is assigned to track down a mysterious killer known as The Top. The story takes in the power struggle for a will left by a missing presumed dead millionaire.
With cross and double cross, an amnesiac who tries to burn the hero and heroine alive (as well as himself), a dangerous climb from the burning building along a splitting wooden plank, and lots of people getting shot, this is pretty gripping stuff and would make a great crime drama film even today.
The best character is the pompous cowardly Sidney Carp, who keeps convincing everyone he is on the level even when on the take, and always finding great excuses for not staying where Dexter has ordered him to be.
There is an element of whodunit to the story and several sharp plot-twists along the way. Alex Raymond used models to base his drawings on, so the story has an air of photo-realism in clothing and facial expression that few comics emulate to this day.
The story is actually the conclusion to a much longer serial that Hammett ran for the newspapers, and marks the end of an era for the story, and though picking up with a story already 80 issues in, it feels totally self-contained and complete.