operator_5_bk_1937_01 operator_5_bk_1936_03 operator_5_bk_1937_07_08 operator_5_bk_1935_09 red_finger_bk_thorf operator_5_bk_1934_12 operator_5_bk_1937_09_10 operator_5_bk_1934_11 operator_5_bk_1936_06_07 operator_5_bk_1935_04 operator_5_bk_1934_10 operator_5_bk_1936_08_09 operator_5_bk_1938_03_04
Full Name: Ford Duane
Codename: Red Finger
Nationality: American
Organization: American Intelligence
Occupation Agent

Creator: Arthur Leo Zagat
Time Span: 1934 - 2014


Ford Duane, aka the Red Finger, is an agent with American Intelligence.

In the pages of his recorded adventures, references are made numerous times to working for the Secret Service but it is not the then Treasury Department organization, now a part of Homeland Security, but rather a generic term for an agency inside the American Intelligence community. This unnamed agency is tasked with protecting the country from foreign agents and saboteurs and the city of New York is Duane's assigned region.

To better perform his duties, Duane maintains a cover identity for the very few who know him do not think of him as the highly successful, dedicated servent of the people that he is but as the proprietor of a very run-down, shabby used book store owner, just one of many in a series of gray cramped streets far from the glamor of Broadway. It is here that he routinely sits and waits patiently for his next assignment.

His personal headquarters are secreted in the book store. Going through a curtain at the back of the shop moves a person into Duane's living quarters where other bookshelves can be found. Only Duane knows that pressing the right spot about breast-high on the shelf unlatches the case and it swings "out and back on oiled hinges". In the now revealed inner room, lit by "a small bulb high up in the ceiling", Duane can use a myriad of devices to read secret messages sent him, including ultra-violent lighting.

In the storefront, the Duane that the infrequent customer might see is that of a frumpy, non-descript man, a tad younger than most in the used book selling business but just as dusty as the volumes resting forsaken on the shelves. Appearances are often deceiving. "Ford Duane is not quite what he seems, though his very existence depends on the maintenance of his identity as a dreamy, cobweb-brained sexton of a Tomb of Defunct Books." In that backroom, hidden office, and out in the field as the Red Finger, it is a totally different story.

When first we meet Duane in his guise as the Red Finger, he is described as "a vague, black-clothed figure" as "a gray felt was pulled low over his forehead, a gray mask hid nose and mough, only his narrowed eyes were revealed, their irises a steely blue". His hands were covered by skin-tight gloves and it is there that the person Duane is assaulting is looking for "although the rest of the glove was black, the finger curled around the gun's trigger was a glaring scarlet, as if it had been dipped in fresh blood".

While he would likely not think of himself as a killer, Duane will not hesitate to bring to a violent end any man who would think to harm the country the Red Finger has sworn to protect.


Number of Books:1
First Appearance:2014
Last Appearance:2014

1 The Hand of Red Finger The Hand of Red Finger
Written by Arthur Leo Zagat
Copyright: 2014

A compilation of the 12 Red Finger stories written by Arthur Leo Zagat in the mid 30s, plus a concluding story penned by Tom Johnson.
The Zagat stories are:
Second-Hand Death
Death Rides the Sound
Red Finger
Caged Horror
Death’s Red Finger
Red Finger Meets His Match
Red Finger
Locked in With Death
Death's Toy Shop
Envoy of Doom
The Spy Who Stole Death
Red Finger's Murder Messenger

The Tom Johnson story is:
Obituaries are Final


Number of Stories:13
First Appearance:1934
Last Appearance:2014

1 Second-Hand Death Second-Hand Death
Written by Arthur Leo Zagat
Copyright: 1934

Published in Secret Service Operator #5 v2 #3, Oct 1934 - "A dingy book-stall held a secret so sinister that even Red Finger, mysterious Secret Service operator, hesitated before its ghastly doom-threat."

2 Death Rides the Sound Death Rides the Sound
Written by Arthur Leo Zagat
Copyright: 1934

Published in Secret Service Operator #5 v2 #4, Nov 1934 - "A few indentations on a shiny bit of metal lead Red Finger — ace of the Counter-Espionage Bureau — on an eerie quest in the murky waters of a death-haunted inlet!"

3 Red Finger - Death Dealer Red Finger - Death Dealer
Written by Arthur Leo Zagat
Copyright: 1934

Published in Secret Service Operator #5 v3 #1, Dec 1934 - "A snatch of music, casually sung, started Red Finger to a grim rendezvous with a yellow-faced son of Satan!"

4 Caged Horror Caged Horror
Written by Arthur Leo Zagat
Copyright: 1934

Published in Secret Service Operator #5 v4 #1, Apr 1935 - "Red Finger, mysterious undercover agent, knew of the wholesale horror that was about to be loosed upon a sleeping city. Could he, unaided, check the dark horde of destruction?"

5 Death's Red Finger Death's Red Finger
Written by Arthur Leo Zagat
Copyright: 1935

Published in Secret Service Operator #5 v5 #2, Sep 1935 - "Once more a veiled message plunges dread Red Finger into the secret, endless spy-war!"

6 Red Finger Meets His Match Red Finger Meets His Match
Written by Arthur Leo Zagat
Copyright: 1936

Published in Secret Service Operator #5 v6 #4, Mar 1936 - "The dreaded Red Finger, trailing the loveliest girl he'd ever seen, finds a new foeman in the Endless War!"

7 Red Finger — Spy Poison! Red Finger — Spy Poison!
Written by Arthur Leo Zagat
Copyright: 1936

Published in Secret Service Operator #5 v7 #2, Jun-Jul 1936 - "A crusty dowager whispers to a second-hand bookseller and Red Finger, the terror of spydom, follows a perilous trail to death — and romance!"

8 Locked in With Death Locked in With Death
Written by Arthur Leo Zagat
Copyright: 1936

Published in Secret Service Operator #5 v7 #3, Aug-Sep 1936 - "Europe's cleverest most unscrupulous foreign agent spins a plot that puts Red Finger in the path of awful and apparently unavoidable destruction."

9 Death's Toy Shop Death's Toy Shop
Written by Arthur Leo Zagat
Copyright: 1937

Published in Secret Service Operator #5 v8 #2, Jan 1937 - [plot unknown]

10 Envoy of Doom Envoy of Doom
Written by Arthur Leo Zagat
Copyright: 1937

Published in Secret Service Operator #5 v9 #2, Jul-Aug 1937 - "Chaos hung over America, and a touch on a wireless key would loose it."

11 The Spy Who Stole Death The Spy Who Stole Death
Written by Arthur Leo Zagat
Copyright: 1937

Published in Secret Service Operator #5 v9 #3, Sep-Oct 1937 - "In that terror-jammed tunnel lay the peace of the world."

12 Red Finger's Murder Messenger Red Finger's Murder Messenger
Written by Arthur Leo Zagat
Copyright: 1938

Published in Secret Service Operator #5 v10 #2, Mar-Apr 1938 - "Limitless wealth lay there, ready to buy America's doom — but the Three who plotted disaster had overlooked one small detail. It was only an uncorked bottle in Red Finger's hand — but it held the fate of a nation!"

13 Obituaries Are Final Obituaries Are Final
Written by Tom Johnson
Copyright: 2014

Published in bk_7697 - [plot unknown]


It is odd but there are times when I am totally in the mood for a pulp adventure with all the melodrama and exclamation points it can bring. When that feeling hits, a story like those of the Red Finger are savored like a good port. When I am not in the mood, though, these Red Finger stories come across so flat that it is hard to not hurt myself when I roll my eyes.

I get the secret identity bit. Having loved comicbook super-heroes for decades, the idea of having a life when not wearing the spandex just makes sense so Ford Duane versus the Red Finger, I get.

But why the dismal, gray, dusty used bookshop? Why the shabby back-room living quarters? Would the bad guys who do not know who he is care that much more or less about him if he had a nice apartment with a cat and decent lighting and ventilation?

And why the Red Finger? Mind you, I love that part. I mean, the Shadow had his girasol (fire-opal ring) so why not something to make Duane's alter-ego stand out. But Red Finger?

These stories are fast and furious and fun to read, if you are in the mood. I appreciated that they were novelettes, though, as I am certain I could have have taken a full-length novel.


My Grade: B-


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