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The Black Mask Boys: Masters in the Hard-Boiled School of Detective Fiction Paperback – December 1, 1987
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Hardboiled genre's writers. Informative background on all. If you're a fan of the "pulps', like others have said before me, it really is a "must have."
-Three Gun Terry by Carroll John Daly
-Bodies Piled Up by Dashiell Hammett (reprinted elsewhere as "House Dick")
-Hell's Kettle by Erle Stanley Gardner
-Sal the Dude by Raoul Whitfield
-Rough Justice by Frederick Nebel
-Frost Flies Alone by Horace McCoy
-Gundown by Paul Cain (originally titled "Murder Done in Blue")
-Blackmailers Don't Shoot by Raymond Chandler
These stories all exemplify the tough guy, shoot 'em up style of crime fiction that made Black Mask the popular literary outlet it was for so many years. Editor Tom Nolan introduces each work with a short, candid biographical sketch of its author and some very brief comments about its fictional protagonist. With the exception of Gundown by Paul Cain, each story stars a recurring or serialized character.
In most cases, the plotting is less than airtight but all eight stories are fast paced and action packed. The most engaging is Hell's Kettle by Erle Stanley Gardner. It features the hardboiled Ed Jenkins who is quite adept at using his fists or a handy submachine gun when the situation arises. Remarkably enough, Jenkins is also a master of disguise and a fluent speaker of unaccented Cantonese.
This book contains a considerable amount of interesting information on the history of Black Mask magazine. Published between 1920 and 1951, Black Mask enjoyed a heyday between 1926 and 1936 under the able editorship of Joseph Thompson Shaw. Nolan points out how Shaw actively cultivated the writing talent that gave the magazine its enviable reputation.
The Black Mask Boys rates 5 stars. Highly recommended to pulp fiction fans and to those interested in learning about the historical underpinnings of the genre.
Nolan's book is very useful, in that it provides a history of the magazine, with due attention to the editorial handiwork of 'Cap' Shaw, headnotes on the principal writers and samples of their work. It also includes bibliographical material and addenda material such as a list of Black Mask's competitors.