The G-Men Smash The Professor’s Gang (1937)

William Engle 
Grosset & Dunlap

As the title suggests, this book dates from an era when professors could still inspire fear and respect by threatening to use their superior intellect to terrorize the city, nation, or world.  There’s a great scene toward the end of the new Sherlock Holmes movie where Holmes, summarizing his various deductions, reveals that his next adventure will be against the dreaded Professor Moriarty—whom he identifies by  chalk dust on the lapel.  Ah, to diagram sentences in the morning, take lunch at the faculty club, and then hold London hostage in the afternoon with some manner of death ray.  That’s living, my friend.  Today, sadly, even professors who know how to do really scary stuff, like re-sequence your genome or trick you into studying anthropology, are generally figures of ridicule—best known for their tweed patches, constantly misplaced car keys, and complete lack of interest in Brad and Jen’s impending reconciliation.   

Obviously, the title here reveals that this particular professor and his gang will be “smashed” in the end…but still, the fantasy of a Ph.D. having a “gang” and temporarily sticking it to Johnny Law was a strong lure.   Expectations diminished quickly, however, when Engle introduces the professor as “little, twisted, and gnome-like.”  Oh well. 

Hollywood famously caught a lot of flak after Little Caesar (1931) and Public Enemy (1931) made the gangster life look—if not necessarily viable—at least noble and heroic.  Aimed at younger readers, this book—like the film G-Men (1935)-- appears to be part of the era’s larger campaign to de-glamorize criminal life and force impressionable kids to identify with the police.  Lots of emphasis here on all the cool gadgets and neat-o techniques G-Men have at their disposal.  And yes, the professor and his gang end up well and truly smashed.   

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