The Masked Woman by Johnston McCulley

The official synopsis for this reads as follows:

The masked woman called herself Madame Madcap, and she gathered a gang of cutthroats determined to loot high society of all its riches… starting with the notorious womanizer Hamilton Brone. She worked her criminal magic… and grew rich as millionaires swooned at her feet. Members of her gang worshipped her. She could do no wrong. And yet a curious pattern began to emerge, and a strange vengeance took shape not just against the men of high society, but against the men of her own brave band of criminals!”

Given my love of pulps and the fact that this is comes from the creator of Zorro, this should have had me at hello.  Or… should it?

I’m trying to take some things into account in my assessment of this.  It’s written in 1921 by one of the prolific “million words a year” pulp writers.  It features a strong and rather intelligent feminine criminal mastermind in the breakout mold of the Roaring Twenties before such an idea became a regular thing in the pulps or the Golden Age of comics that followed.  The narrator is cartoonishly bad in the same vein as 1930s serials.  The best thing I can say about this is the idea actually isn’t bad at all.  It’s just not executed very well on any level, for its time or for ours.  I can see why it’s been forgotten, but I appreciate that it inspired a thousand knock-offs, many of which were so much better.

2 stars


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