The Compleat Adventures of "Needle Mike"
William E. Barrett
Introduction by Robert Weinberg


1. Tattooed Crime (Street and Smith’s Detective Story Magazine, Volume 146, #2 – August 10, 1934)
2. The Tattooed Corpse (Dime Detective Magazine, Volume 15, #4 – January 1, 1935)
3. The Tattooed Countess (Dime Detective Magazine, Volume 17, #1 – March 15, 1935)
4. The Tattooed Curse (Dime Detective Magazine, Volume 18, #1 – May 15, 1935)
5. The Tattooed Cobra (Dime Detective Magazine, Volume 19, #1 – August 1935)
6. The Tattooed Chain (Dime Detective Magazine, Volume 19, #3 – October 1935)
7. The Tattooed Cop (Dime Detective Magazine, Volume 20, #3 – February 1936)
8. The Tattooed Circle (Dime Detective Magazine, Volume 21, #3 – June 1936)
9. The Tattooed Chinamen (Dime Detective Magazine, Volume 22, #1 – August 1936)
10. The Tattooed Champ (Dime Detective Magazine, Volume 22, #3 – October 1936)
11. The Tattooed Claw (Dime Detective Magazine, Volume 23, #2 – January 1937)
12. The Tattooed Clock (Dime Detective Magazine, Volume 24, #2 – May 1937)
13. The Tattooed Card (Dime Detective Magazine, Volume 24, #4 – July 1937)
14. The Tattooed Chief (Dime Detective Magazine, Volume 26, #3 – February 1938)
15. The Murder of Needle Mike (Dime Detective Magazine, Volume 28, #1 – August 1938)
16. The Tattooed Combination (Dime Detective Magazine, Volume 28, #4 – November 1938)

Cloth Bound Hard Cover with Dustjacket 572 pp.
ISBN 978-1-55246-949-1  Out-of-Print

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Other Lost Treasures From the Pulps

Look no further for all the exciting "Needle Mike" stories. William E. Barrett wrote sixteen of these fast-paced crime stories between 1934 and 1938 for readers of Detective Story Magazine and Dime Detective Magazine. Lee Server in the Encyclopedia of Pulp Fiction Writers describes the protagonist: "Barrett’s pulp masterwork was the Needle Mike series, gloriously seedy adventures of a crime-solving tattoo artist. Needle Mike was a gray-haired, gold-toothed, jaundiced-looking lowlife who practiced his trade in a ratty office building otherwise occupied by lawyers and mail-order tricksters. In reality, Mike is young Ken McNally, the son of a St. Louis millionaire, who occasionally drops out of polite society, heavily disguised, assumes his grubby alternative identity ...." The stories were written by William E. Barrett (1900-1986), the Denver-based pulp writer who in later years published such mainstream novels as The Left Hand of God (1951) and The Lilies of the Field (1962) which were turned into popular movies. -- John Robert Colombo

The Strange Story of William E. Barrett

By Robert Weinberg

One of the great pleasures of reading the pulps is discovering what happened to a favorite author or artist after the pulp magazines disappeared. The science fiction field, for example, is filled with writers, artists, and editors who graduated from the pulps to the hardcover and paperback fields with no problem. Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, A.E. van Vogt, John W. Campbell Jr., and Virgil Finlay all started their careers in the pulp magazines and continued to be quite successful after the pulps ceased publishing. The same is true for the mystery field, the romance field, sports, westerns, etc. etc. However, most of the time the writer continues working in the same field in which he made his mark. Thus, science fiction writers for the pulps, continued to write sf for hardcovers. Western writers wrote westerns for the pulps and then for paperbacks. But not always. Take, for example, William E. Barrett.

Born in 1900, Barrett was a pulp veteran by the time he wrote a one page autobiographical sketch published in the March 15th, 1935 issue of Dime Detective where he discussed his career as an author:

"Started writing in ’25 and it has paid all the bills since ’29. The published count is over 500 yarns. I’ve used my own name and three pen names."

Fascinating stuff but never once does he mention his religion or any interest in writing religious material. Later in the piece he discusses his airplane fiction and his series running in Dime Detective about a tattoo artist, Needle Mike. But no mention of his Catholic faith.

Perfectly acceptable, as the pulps aren’t exactly the place to push religious topics. But, important nonetheless, as after Barrett stopped writing pulp fiction he moved on and became a writer in another genre far removed from the mystery and detective field. You don’t need to be a detective to guess which one. Obviously, Barrett wrote religious themed fiction about Catholic life. Among his numerous books, he wrote the biography of Pope Paul VI, The Left Hand of God (made into an excellent Humphrey Bogart flick) and Lillies of the Field. Yes, the same Lillies of the Field that was made into the award-winning film starring Sidney Portier. Not exactly the type of fiction you would think a writer of hardboiled mystery fiction would excel in. But Barrett did.

His Needle Mike stories, collected complete in this volume, demonstrated a fondness for tough, complicated mystery fiction. Mike was in reality. Ken McNally, the son of a rich millionaire in St. Louis. Bored with his day-to-day life as a rich clubman, McNally studied tattooing in the Orient. After returning to his home town of St. Louis, he established a secret identity as Needle Mike, a low-life drunken tattoo artist in the dock area of the city. Whenever he gets too bored by his rich friends, McNally colors his hair gray, yellows his skin, puts on a knee-brace so that he walks with a limp, and fastens a gold cap to a tooth and becomes Needle Mike. A swig of rotgut liquor establishes him as a drinker, and McNally has a cheap tattoo parlor on the wrong side of town where he practices his trade.

Needless to say, since this is Dime Detective and not Dime Tattoo, every time he assumes his Needle Mike guise Ken finds himself involved in some deadly mystery involving tattoos. The series is fun if you didn’t read the stories one right after the other. Like many gimmick-driven adventures, there are only so many plots that revolve around tattoos, so there is a certain sameness to the Needle Mike adventures. Taken one at a time, they are still fun. And there’s not a hint of religion in any of them.

Welcome, then, to another Lost Treasure of the Pulps!  Robert Weinberg