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on October 24, 2015
I've been at this one quite a while because it’s huge. I'm of two minds about this collection, as I am many of Penzler's collections. There is some great stuff here, no doubt. Names like Hammet, Cain (Paul and James M.), Chandler, Gardner, Nebel, Charters, and Woolrich fill these pages. If you're a fan of pulp, and/or these writers, however, you might already have read Chandler's Killer in the Rain (the short story he expanded into The Big Sleep later) and Red Wind, for instance, and the same goes for some of these other names well known to those who enjoy the genre. Some of these stories were expected to be here. So if you're fairly well read on 20s, 30s and 40s pulp, the only reason to pick this one up would be the lesser known authors and stories from the higher end detective pulps. Therein exists my caveat to this collection. Penzler appears to have a bias against what is considered the B level of pulp magazines, and some of the authors who wrote in them. To my point, one of Fred MacIsaac's great Rambler stories could easily have replaced one of Penzler's picks. And though I might understand the omission of Robert Leslie Bellem's early Dan Turner: Hollywood Detective stories which appeared in Spicy Detective Magazine, due to their slightly salacious (terribly tame by today's standards, however) bend, the later Dan Turner stories were toned down and lengthier, with more plot to accompany Bellem's fantastically entertaining stories, in all their over-the-top dialog. So it is hit and miss for me on this one. I'm glad I have it, because in one book I have some of the great stories from those pulp giants I cited at the beginning of the review, all of whom are revered today. Many of those stories are four and five star gems. But I was ho-hum about some of the other stories chosen, and even more so because of some glaring (at least to me) omissions. Story choices are a matter of personal taste, of course. But seriously, no Fred MacIsaac and no Bellem, not to mention a conspicuously absent Norvell Page, in "The Big Book of Pulps" gives this one a downgrade, because those writers' best pulp stories are miles better than some of the picks here, in my opinion. Pulps weren't literature, they were supposed to be entertaining, and having those three guys absent here, is eyebrow raising.
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on May 7, 2017
I second Bobby Underwood's excellent review, particularly in regards to Robert Leslie Bellem. Bellem was one of the few pulp writers who appreciated the inherent humor of the genre--the polar opposite of the brittle, often old-womanish Chandler, who Penzler is so enamored of.

Check out "The Pulps: Fifty Years of American Pop Culture Hardcover" by Tony Goodstone, a much more entertaining book.
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on April 23, 2012
Despite the honest warning by Jason Harman, the Kindle edition of THE BLACK LIZARD BIG BOOK OF PULPS d o e s include the complete novel "The Third Murderer" by John Carroll Daly.

His warning that it did not made me examine my Kindle copy of the book. There I found the glitches that may have dismayed Mr. Harman.

In Chapter VIII, after the line "'Honesty--the one thing the rich leave for the poor to fatten on.'" I had most of a page blank. I went forward a page, and it picked up "I didn't like her mood,..." A similar glitch of extra space between lines occurs in Chapter XVII between "'...I'd forget influence and shoot the guts out of Eddie Gorgon.'" and "Not elegant? Maybe not."

Despite those glitches, all XXXII chapters of John Carroll Daly's "The Third Murderer" a r e present in the Kindle edition of THE BLACK LIZARD BIG BOOK OF PULPS. I hope Mr Harman has held on to his re-purchased copy, so he can finish reading the novel.

And, need I add, the Kindle edition's the only way you can hold the book one-handed and read it. Even though I have the DTB of both, I got the Kindle edition of this one last year (around the time Mr. Harman first purchased his) and look foward next month to picking up (despite the new price) the Kindle edition of THE BLACK LIZARD BIG BOOK OF BLACK MASK STORIES.

Both are definitely five-star recommendations!
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on December 31, 2016
I have only read three stories in the ebook version, but I have noticed that Erle Stanley Gardner's name is misspelled as ERIE in multiple references (as in Lake Erie). Meanwhile, the character of Della Street is mentioned by Penzler, the editor, in an intro to a Gardner work, and her name is spelled DELIA. I don't know if these are printing errors or copyediting mistakes, but it makes one wonder what else is incorrect in the book.

The first story was not very well written, and I would have thought the editor would kick off such a tome with a compelling piece of pulp fiction.

Given the price of the ebook, I am disappointed with my purchase.
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on March 9, 2013
This compilation of stories from the heyday of the detective magazine pulps is a whole lot of fun. I’ve always been a fan of the big shots of the noir/detective genre, Hammett, Cain, Chandler and Woolrich, but this batch of writing is full of obscure talents who produced lesser-known gems worthy to be resurrected. True, the writing and plot development in these “penny-a-worders,” varies in quality. Some stories are snappy and clever with everything playing out with a fast-paced economy of construction. Other efforts are hokey and carelessly written but that doesn’t diminish their entertainment value. If nothing else, this volume enmeshes the reader in a fantastical criminal counter-culture of the American 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. Living contrary to the accepted values of the era, men were tough, practiced at bluff and violence and women were dames with agendas other than keeping house. This book is highly recommended.
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Every once in a while a book comes along that you just know is going to be great before you even read it.

"The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps" is such a book. I first ran across it while casually browsing through a small-town bookstore on a trip. Its lurid red-and-yellow cover practically screamed at me from the shelf. I looked around furtively before picking it up, checking to see if anyone was watching. After all, the goon with a rod threatening the blonde dame on the cover was a little (okay, a LOT) sensationalistic, and surely not typical fare for a serious reader. Its massive bulk--it felt more like a telephone directory than a regular book--seemed to hint at the density of ideas and words contained within its covers. I thumbed through it. That was all it took. I was hooked. I ordered it from Amazon as soon as I got home.

Other than reading a few Dashiell Hammett novels while on a "Maltese Falcon" kick recently, I really had never read much crime fiction. Stories from the pulp magazines of the 1920's, '30's and '40's, such as "Black Mask," "Dime Detective" and "Detective Fiction Weekly," were virgin territory for me. But I can't imagine a better introduction than "The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps." The 51 stories and two full-length novels in its 1,150 pages are, bar none, some of the best examples of this classic hard-boiled American genre. They're printed in a two-column format that presumably was the same way they were laid out in the pulps, and many of the stories include what seem to be original pulp-era drawings--a nice touch. I won't even try to summarize or rank the stories. That would be an overwhelming task, and you'll have your own favorites anyway. But I can guarantee you many hours of pure escapism as you work your way through this hefty tome. It's great stuff, and great fun. Buy it and enjoy!
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on April 30, 2016
There are so many stories in this book that one can't really use one word descriptors.
If you like pulp detectives and noir, this is just what you are looking for.
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on July 26, 2013
The Big Book of the Pulps so wonderfully divided into three sections, The Villains, The Crimefighters and (I love this one) The Dames, is a marvellous compendium of short stories from the golden age of the monthly magazine era when stories such as these, written by authors who were masters of their craft, were readily available to all. Many of these writers wrote short stories, novels and screenplays and the introduction at the beginning of every story is a wonderful way of getting to appreciate the writer of each story. I couldn't find a story in this volume that I could say I didn't like. This is a great read.
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on March 5, 2015
This is the second anthology I got. Dang, wish there was a third and fourth! Stories were riveting and held my interest. They really knew how to write in the "old days"!
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on January 10, 2008
Nearly 1200 pages of pulp fun, this enormous anthology contains some of the most notable authors of the era, as well as a great many that are now largely forgotten. I appreciate the chance to discover lost classics, curiosities, and other rarities. The great breadth of pulp fiction contained herein will, of course, contain plenty of hits and misses for each reader depending on his tastes, but taken as a whole you're bound to have a good time with this book. Also sspecially noteworthy is Harlan Ellison's sharply humorous introduction to the section of the book entitled VILLAINS.
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