Ten adventures of Sidney Zoom, a one-man justice league who sallied forth from his private yacht to walk the mean streets in the early 1930s.
Gardner (1889–1970), a lawyer who was one of the pulps’ brightest stars even before he created Perry Mason, had no sentimentality about the legal profession. “The law—bah! What a crude system it is!” announces his hero, a rich man who amuses himself by venturing forth each night to seek out unfortunates, especially those unjustly accused of murder, whose problems the legal system can’t remedy. With the help of his loyal secretary Vera Thurmond and his preternaturally intelligent police dog Rip, Zoom devises and executes canny, barely legal strategies for bailing out his charges and getting revenge on their oppressors, who are sometimes pressed unwittingly into financing the rescue operations. Zoom is no great shakes as a sleuth, and Gardner’s cut-to-measure plotting and prose could charitably be described as workmanlike. But in the most offbeat of these stories, “‘My Name Is Zoom!’” and “Stolen Thunder,” the schemes Zoom concocts are breathtakingly audacious.
Part avenger, part detective, Zoom is a fascinating link between the dozens of earlier action heroes Gardner created (The Danger Zone, 2004, etc.) and the suavely bare-knuckled Perry Mason.