From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Let's put it straight, like a fist in the face: this treasure trove of more than 50 stories and novels offers the best value ever for fans of hard-boiled detective fiction. In the pulp magazine Black Mask (1920–1951), Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler made their bones, with Erle Stanley Gardner and other heavyweights at their heels. As Penzler (Agents of Treachery) notes in his intros to each selection, an amazing number of these writers moved on to movies and TV. Highlights include the complete The Maltese Falcon, the original version from the pulp, unreprinted for 80 years. (Hammett made a couple of thousand changes for the hardcover novel.) The novel Rainbow Diamonds, featuring Raoul Whitfield's Filipino detective Jo Gar, appears in a book for the first time. The iconic story "Sail" by Lester "Doc Savage" Dent shows up in a variant draft, preferred by the author. The only way Penzler can top this one--a bigger book of Black Mask!
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This isn’t the first anthology of Black Mask, the seminal and venerated mystery pulp magazine published 1920–51, but it certainly is the biggest. And anthology machine Penzler, whose crime-fiction bona fides are unquestioned, selects a superb list of stories. Some alumni went on to become household names, such as Erle Stanley Gardner, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and John D. MacDonald, while others are better known to aficionados, such as Fredric Brown, William Campbell Gault, Day Keene, and Cornell Woolrich. Still others will be known only to hard-core fans (anybody remember Norvell Page?). Notable entries include but are not limited to “Luck,” an early, unpublished draft of Lester Dent’s oft-anthologized “Sail”; the serial version of Hammett’s Maltese Falcon, which is different from the book; “Bracelets,” by Katherine Brocklebank, the only woman known to write for Black Mask; and Chandler’s “Try the Girl,” whose protagonist, Carmady, was renamed Marlowe after the success of The Big Sleep. New author biographies plus original artwork and introductions add to the fun. Any serious collection of pulp fiction needs this tome on the shelf. --Keir Graff