The Lone Bagman

During his first adventure, a vigilante crimefighter spots a crumpled grocery sack lying on the floor. Hoping to keep his identity secret, he picks up the bag, pokes two eyeholes through the paper and pulls it over his head. Watch out Chicago kingpins; the Bagman has come to town.

But unlike other masked avengers (real and make-believe), the Bagman doesn’t exactly strike fear into the hearts of his intended prey. “You’re a real tough guy, Mr. Shopping Bag, ain’t ya?” scoffs his first adversary. Even his confidants don’t respect his nightly pursuits. “Putting a bag over your head is just an invitation for every moron on the street to beat you up,” says a close friend. “The place for your head is not in a paper bag.”

But Frank “Mac” McCullough isn’t easily dissuaded. As a former bagman for the mob, it was his job to shake down innocent shopkeepers for protection money. Now reformed as a bag-wearing mystery man, he has declared war on crime—just like his heroes, the Lone Ranger, Tom Mix, Doc Savage, and Robin Hood.

Being a fan of pulp fiction is a big inspiration for McCullough. It’s 1933 and he frets when he misses an episode of The Lone Ranger on the radio, and he proudly carries an “official” Tom Mix Straight Shooters membership badge in his wallet. He even has a huge collection of pulp magazines that he uses as a reference library. “Every hero should have one,” he says.

Tales of the Bagman is pointedly self-conscious and referential. And because of it, McCullough might be the first nerd in pulp history. He builds a secret lair because Doc Savage has one, he reflects on the marksmanship of Tom Mix, and he freely namedrops various fictional heroes like the Shadow, Sam Spade, and G-8 and his Battle Aces.

Despite his best efforts to chase the mob out of Chicago, half the city considers the Bagman a menace. He’s in a war with crime and, oddly enough, that makes him a criminal too. He’s a tough guy, and he possesses “a certain moral flexibility.” But in reality, he’s just a big softie. “Ask anybody on the street,” writes the author. “Mac McCullough was an all right guy. Kind of goofy, but all right.”

[Tales of the Bagman / By B.C. Bell / First Printing: September 2010 / ISBN: 9781934935767]

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