The Black Lizard big book of pulps

Book - 2007

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New York : Vintage Crime/Black Lizard 2007.
Other Authors
Otto Penzler (-)
Physical Description
xiv, 1150 p. : ill. ; 24 cm
  • Foreword
  • Part 1. The Crimefighters
  • Harlan Coben
  • Introduction Paul Cain: One, Two, Three
  • The Creeping Siamese Erle
  • Honest Money
  • Frost Rides Alone
  • Double Check
  • Stag Party
  • The City of Hell!
  • Red Wind
  • Wise Guy
  • Murder Picture
  • The Price of a Dime
  • Chicago Confetti
  • Two Murders, One Crime Carroll
  • The Third Murderer
  • Part 2. The Villains
  • Introduction Erle
  • The Cat-Woman
  • The Dilemma of the Dead
  • The House of Kaa
  • The Invisible Millionaire
  • You'll Always Remember Me
  • Faith
  • Pastorale
  • The Sad Serbian
  • Finger Man Erle
  • The Monkey Murder
  • About Kid Deth
  • The Sinister Sphere
  • Pigeon Blood
  • The Perfect Crime
  • You'll Die Laughing
  • The Crimes of Richmond City
  • i. Raw Law
  • ii. Dog Eat Dog
  • iii. The Law Laughs Last
  • iv. Law Without Law
  • v. Graft
  • Part 3. The Dames
  • Introduction
  • Angel Face
  • Chosen to Die
  • A Pinch of Snuff
  • Killer in the Rain
  • Sally the Sleuth
  • C. S. Montanye: A Shock for the Countess
  • Snowbound
  • The Girl Who Knew Too Much
  • The Corpse in the Crystal
  • He Got What He Asked For
  • Gangster's Brand
  • Dance Macabre
  • The Girl with the Silver Eyes
  • The Jane from Hell's Kitchen
  • The Duchess Pulls a Fast One
  • Mansion of Death
  • Concealed Weapon
  • The Devil's Bookkeeper
  • Black Legion
  • Three Wise Men of Babylon
  • The Adventure of the Voodoo Moon
  • Brother Murder
  • Kindly Omit Flowers
  • Contributors
  • Notes
  • Permissions
  • Acknowledgments
Review by New York Times Review

Ronan Bennett's ZUGZWANG (Bloomsbury, $24.95) takes its title from a chess term for those endgame maneuvers in which a player must execute moves that can only lead to defeat. However inelegant the word sounds when applied to a thriller set in St. Petersburg in 1914, it aptly conveys the refined cruelty of the games of intrigue that entrap a respected psychoanalyst, Otto Spethmann, when he undertakes the treatment of two problematic patients. As an elitist who eschews politics and has all but forgotten his Jewish roots, Spethmann considers himself safely removed from antiSemitic prejudice and political violence. But he becomes swept up in the tumultuous events of his time when he tries to help a Jewish chess genius, Avrom Rozental, overcome the "acute psychological instability," arising from his humble origins in a Polish shtetl, that may prevent him from winning an important international tournament. Spethmann further cooks his own goose by embarking on an adulterous affair with another patient, a famous beauty whose "hysterical" illness he traces to a childhood trauma involving her tyrannical father, a reactionary industrialist with powerful friends in the secret police. To complete the Zugzwang effect, the affair that Spethmann's daughter had with a murdered anarchist puts him in an untenable position with a tenacious police inspector. Except for some enthusiastic bedroom scenes, Spethmann narrates this complicated story in an analyst's dispassionate voice. He does bristle, though, when a Bolshevik scolds him for his political apathy and bourgeois selfishness. And he finally snaps back at the revolutionaries who try to engage him in their assassination plots by appealing to his sense of integrity. "I seem to be surrounded by just men," he remarks, then adds, "I find just men utterly terrifying." Such vigorous ethical debates do much to offset the plot's schematic design, which follows the convolutions of the chess game Spethmann plays with his best friend throughout the book. In this desperately cunning match, it's exciting to simply be a pawn. They're still feeling the aftershocks of 9/11 in the bluecollar neighborhoods of New York where Reggie Nadelson sets her streetwise crime stories. On Staten Island, the epicenter of the action in FRESH KILLS (Walker, $24.95), "every other street was named for a dead firefighter" lost at the World Trade Center. There's also no escaping the significance of the mountainous landfill the graveyard for what remains of the twin towers that gives the novel its title. Nadelson finds her theme in the emotional garbage still smoldering in the city's psyche. Artie Cohen, the soulful Russianborn cop at the center of these densely populated books, keeps a loft in Red Hook and maintains extensive oldworld connections in Brighton Beach. To him, Staten Island is the remote borough where you go to fish, a treat he promises his 14yearold nephew, Billy, who's on leave from the Florida reform school where he was sent for killing a man. But the murder of a little girl and Billy's own creepy behavior shake Artie's faith in the ties of family and friendship. Some garbage just won't stay buried. Anthologies normally sit on the night table, handy for nibbling. But THE BLACK LIZARD BIG BOOK OF PULPS (Vintage, paper, $25), which runs to 1,150 pages and screams at you with its lurid typography and cheesy cover art, looks as if it would bite back. Should you take that chance, there's guilty fun to be had in the snarling prose and vintage illustrations of what the editor, Otto Penzler, promises are "the best crime stories" from the "golden age" of the '20s, '30s and '40s. Most were culled from Dime Detective, Detective Fiction Weekly and (pause for genuflection) Black Mask, the cream of the 500 or so cheaply produced magazines that proliferated on newsstands before World War II. While you don't go trawling for Faulkner among the journeymen authors in Depressionera America who wrote their fingers raw for a penny a word, names like Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Cornell Woolrich and James M. Cain are well represented here. And someone you think you know can always spring a surprise, as Erle Stanley Gardner does with his suave but forgotten sleuth, Ed Jenkins, the "phantom crook" in "The CatWoman." Still, I suggest putting off the big guns for the joy of discovering a lesserknown worthy like Steve Fisher whose teenage sociopath in "You'll Always Remember Me" is indeed memorable or for the jolt of stumbling across one of those "weird menace" novelties about avenger heroes who traipse around in silly costumes. (Penzler's editorial notes are especially helpful in putting these pulp phenomena in perspective.) That said, I admit to having made a beeline for "Faith," an unpublished story by Dashiell Hammett, whose shruggedoff prose looks even tougher in the doublewide column format. But even among the literati, a tasteful style isn't really the point of hardboiled pulp writing. As indicated by the anthology's three sections "The Crimefighters," "The Villains" and "The Dames" these adventures satisfy because they encode every kind of male fantasy into their formulaic narratives about cynical private operatives plugging bad guys in defense of women who'll betray them in the end. So it's not exactly P.C., but as one smart dame puts it when a kidnapper offers to educate her in crime: "Jake with me, Ed." Ronan Bennett's thriller takes its title from a chess term for maneuvers that must end in defeat.

Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [October 27, 2009]
Review by Booklist Review

Pulp fiction's comeback is so complete that it's hard to call it a guilty pleasure. Publishers are busily reprinting old favorites and issuing new stuff written in the manner of the old ones. And, as always, the covers are surely half of the appeal. Black Lizard has been in this business longer than most; this mammoth compilation of reprints is, paradoxically, a Vintage Books Original. And Penzler's credentials as both editor and fan can't be questioned although genre loyalists will have fun debating his choices. Using a stringent definition of pulp, he selects mostly works that first appeared in the immortal Black Mask. Divided into three parts Crimefighters, Villains, and Dames the Big Book features names both beloved (Chandler, Hammett, Cain) and barely remembered (Booth, Reeves, White). There are firsts of one kind (a claimed first-ever publication of Dashiell Hammett's short story Faith) and another (a novel, The Third Murderer, by Carroll John Daly, the inventor of the hard-boiled private-eye story). It's a little less fun reading these slim things in a groaning compendium, but at least it's a paperback. And good luck finding them all on your own.--Graff, Keir Copyright 2007 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

This impressive anthology of pulp-era crime stories from veteran editor and publisher Penzler reveals not only tales with surprising staying power but also some of high literary quality. To be sure, there are some selections sure to offend modern sensibilities and others whose extravagant prose now comes across as laughable or ludicrous. But aside from questions of quality and taste, these tales laid the foundation for most branches of the crime fiction genre as we know it today. Raymond Chandler's "Red Wind" is as effective now as it was when published in 1938. An unexpected treat is "Faith," a previously unpublished Dashiell Hammett story. Multiple offerings from Erle Stanley Gardner, Hammett, Chandler and Cornell Woolrich add luster. Divided into three sections-the Crimefighters, the Villains, the Dames-with cogent intros by Penzler to each entry, this comprehensive volume allows the reader to revisit that exciting time when the pulp magazines flourished and writers pounded out fiction for a penny a word or less. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Though written strictly as cheap entertainment, pulp detective stories have found a new respectability, both as serious literature and as golden nuggets of Americana. Collected by noted mystery aficionado Penzler, this Black Lizard bruiser offers the cream of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, more than 45 stories in all, from Olympians like Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Erle Stanley Gardner, Cornell Woolrich, and James M. Cain to the long-forgotten penny-a-word boys. The book is divided into three sections: "The Crimefighters," "The Villains," and "The Dames," each with its own introduction (Penzler on the crimefighters; Harlan Ellison, who talks as much about himself as he does the villains; and Laura Lippman on the dames). Many of the stories share both the pessimism of their time-the good guys don't always win and the bad guys aren't always punished-and the optimism to fight the good fight. The stories are presented in two columns per page, the way they first appeared in Black Mask, Dime Detective, and other hack-fests of yesteryear, and include the original art, typically a thug with an automatic threatening the PI or a slinky babe in her lingerie. Though other similar collections exist, this noirasaurus will appeal to the genre's many fans. If pulps are your cup, it will runneth over with Black Lizard's gangbusters collection.-Michael Rogers, Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Veteran anthologist Penzler, who's had highly variable results commissioning new stories (Dead Man's Hand: Crime Fiction at the Poker Table, 2007, etc.), turns back to the sure-fire past. Here is God's plenty, or at least Mugsy's. As if the job were too much for him, Penzler, who introduces a section called "The Crimefighters," has enlisted Harlan Ellison (who doesn't seem to have read the assignment) and Laura Lippman to introduce "The Villains" and "The Dames." Of the 57 reprints, 56 originally appeared in pulp magazines. The highlights are the usual suspects. There are three stories apiece by Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Erle Stanley Gardner and Cornell Woolrich, and the dramatic drop-off all around them explains why you know those names better than you know Leslie T. White, Paul Cain, D.B. McCandless, Norbert Davis, Richard B. Sale, C.S. Montanye or Roger Torrey (two stories each). The most striking curiosities are "Sally the Sleuth," a pair of comic strips by Adolphe Barreaux, and "Faith," a Hammett sketch that's never been published in hardcover. The writing ranges from hardboiled sublime (Chandler's "Red Wind") to execrable (Carroll John Daly's The Third Murderer). Virtually all the stories go on too long, but Daly's short novel helps demonstrate why the longish story was pulp fiction's ideal mtier, and what miracles Red Harvest and The Big Sleep were. Part reference, part guilty pleasure, part doorstop. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Foreword by Otto Penzler Like jazz, the hard-boiled private detective is entirely an American invention, and it was given life in the pages of pulp magazines. Pulp now is a nearly generic term, frequently misused to indicate hack work of inferior literary achievement. While that often may be accurate, pulp was not intended to describe literary excellence or lack thereof, but was derived from the word pulpwood, which is the very cheap paper that was used to produce popular magazines. These, in turn, were the offspring of "dime novels," mainly magazine-sized mystery, Western, and adventure novels produced for young or unsophisticated readers. After World War I, the popularity of American pulpwood magazines increased rapidly, reaching their peak of success in the 1920s and 1930s, as more than 500 titles a month hit the newsstands. With their reasonable prices (mostly a dime or fifteen cents a copy), brilliantly colored covers depicting lurid and thrilling scenes, and a writing style that emphasized action and adventure above philosophizing and introspection, millions of copies of this new, uniquely American literature were sold every week. At first, the magazines sought to publish something for all tastes, so a single issue might feature a Western story, an aviation adventure, a mystery, a science fiction tale, and a sports report. New titles came along and most of the old ones quickly morphed into special interest publications. The very first issues of Black Mask , for example, often had Western scenes on the covers, but by the mid 1920s it had become devoted almost entirely to mystery fiction. While there were magazines designated to stories of railroads, jungle adventure, "spicy" stories, romance, horror, and any other subject that enterprising publishers thought would attract a readership, the most successful pulps were those featuring superheroes and detective fiction (with the notable exception of Weird Tales , the long-lived pulp devoted to fantasy and science fiction). One of the elements that made the detective magazines so popular was the heroic figures in the center of the action. The hard-boiled cop or, especially, private detective was the idealization of the lone individual, representing justice and decency, pitted against virulent gangs, corrupt politicians, or other agencies who violated that sense of goodness with which most readers identified. The best of these crime-fighting tough guys became series characters, taking on one group of thugs after another, always emerging victorious in spite of the almost hopeless odds he (and these protagonists were almost always male) encountered. Many of the most memorable of these protagonists became staples of Black Mask , Detective Fiction Weekly , Dime Detective , and the other major pulp publications. Dashiell Hammett's Continental Op, Carroll John Daly's Race Williams, Frank Gruber's Oliver Quade, Ramon Decolta's (Raoul Whitfield) Jo Gar, Norbert Davis's Max Latin, George Harmon Coxe's Flash Casey, W. T. Ballard's Bill Lennox, Robert Reeves's Cellini Smith, and Frederick L. Nebel's Cardigan are just a few of the detectives who appeared month after month to the delight of a reading public whose appetite for this sort of no-nonsense, shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later fiction remained unsated until the end of the second World War. Crimefighters in the pulps were seldom the sensitive type who understood that a difficult childhood or an unloving grandmother were responsible for the violence of the criminals with whom they came into contact. No, his role was to battle bad guys, and he did it without fear, without pity, and without remorse. It was a black-and-white world in the pulps, a simple conflict between the forces of goodness and virtue and those who sought to plunder, harm, and kill the innocent. In the pages of the pulps, and between the covers of this book, Good is triumphant over Evil. Perhaps that is the key to the enormous popularity they enjoyed for so many years. Depression-era crowds eagerly snatched up each new episode of their favorite crime-fighting protagonist, rooting for and identifying with the stalwart men of action and intellect. In addition to the hero, there was another essential element in each adventure-a monstrous opponent. For a hero to be worthy of the name, it was utterly required that he do battle with a villain so despicable, so vile, so conscienceless that only a man of supreme strength of body and mind, and an incorruptible soul, could hope to emerge victorious. Here, in The Crimes of Richmond City , you will see the almost overwhelming odds faced by MacBride and Kennedy as they attempt to right the wrongs they are forced to encounter. Other detectives, in other tales, had no lesser difficulties to overcome. The pulps were also home to a different kind of crook, and readers were able to identify with them, too. These larcenous entities were admittedly thieves, but not your common, or garden variety, robber. Virtually all the thieves who became successful series characters in the pulps (and, indeed, in all of crime fiction) were Robin Hood--type crooks. They did not commit violent acts, and they stole from the rich. Not just any rich person, mind you, but always someone who had come by his fortune illicitly. This was an exceptionally agreeable manner of behaving during the Depression era, when literally millions of Americans were jobless, standing in slow-moving bread lines to procure minimal sustenance for themselves and their families. The impoverished multitudes blamed the actions of Wall Street brokers, bankers, big businessmen, and factory owners for their plight, so what could be more attractive than to see someone break into their posh apartments and crack their safes, or nick the diamond necklaces from the fat necks of their bloated wives? Furthermore, these crooks generally donated their swag to charity or to a worthy individual (after deducting a sufficient amount to ensure their own rather lavish lifestyle, of course). Perhaps not strangely, but nevertheless in apparent contradiction to their chosen careers, a large percentage of these redistributionist thieves, after several successful adventures, become detectives. Often they are suspected of a murder or another crime which they did not commit, and so must discover the true culprit in order to exonerate themselves. In other instances, they have friends in the police department who need their help. A long tradition of criminals behaving in this manner predates the pulp era. The American master criminal, Frederick Irving Anderson's creation, the Infallible Godahl (not included in this collection because he did not appear in the pulps), was so brilliant that he planned and executed capers so meticulously that he was never arrested. Eventually, the police paid him a large stipend to not commit crimes, since they knew they could never catch him and wanted to avoid the embarrassment of seeing headlines with yet another successful burglary. It is left to your own ethical proclivities to determine whether you identify with the safecrackers, con men, burglars, and villains or with the police who are paid to catch them. Women were not significant in the early years of the pulp magazines. Hulbert Footner's Rosika Storey was a successful character in the pages of Argosy , eventually appearing as the prime figure in six books beginning in the late 1920s, but she had little company. Black Mask seldom used stories in which women were featured, rarely bought stories by women writers, and never had a female series character. The major authors didn't mind writing about women; they merely wrote about them, sometimes with great prominence, as the catalyst for all the ensuing action. Also, in more cases than not, they were the victims, either innocents or bad girls who got what was coming to them (according to the murderer). When girls (and they were usually called girls, or dolls, or, heaven help us, frails, or some term of endearment like honey or sugar or baby or cutie) took the role of detective, they tended to be acceptable to male readers mainly when they were assistants, girlfriends, or professional sidekicks, such as reporters. Their roles were predictable in most stories. If they weren't present as comic relief, they needed to be rescued. It would be impossible to calculate the number of pretty young things who were kidnapped or held hostage until our hero burst through a door on the last page to save her-often from a fate worse than death. One needs only to look at the colorful cover paintings that adorned the magazines for evidence of this cliché. It is a rare cover indeed that does not display a buxom beauty in a low-cut dress or sweater, frequently in tatters, being menaced by a thug or gang of thugs. Some of the lesser pulps, those that paid even less than the standard penny a word, began to feature women in the second decade of the detective pulps, the 1930s, while those that sought an audience with racier material, such as Gun Molls , Saucy Stories , and Spicy Detective , had even more ample reason to feature them. In these pages, opportunities for placing luscious young beauties in grave peril of violation were rampant, providing titillation to young male readers who hid their ten-cent purchases inside newspapers or more respectable journals. One role in crime fiction in which women have been featured with some regularity is as the criminals. The pages of the pulps are rich with female jewel thieves of a certain elegance who seem always to be in formal attire at a country house party or a penthouse soiree. They function largely in the same manner as their male counterparts, though they are often required to use their seductive beauty to escape capture. Tough broads appeared in later pulps, either as out-and-out hoodlums or, more frequently but no less dangerously, as gun molls for their gangster boyfriends. All types of female detectives and crooks who first saw the light of day in pulp magazines appear in section three of this book. There are independent private investigators, assistants, rogues, victims, molls, police officers, and innocent bystanders. They are young and old, good looking and plain, funny and dour, brave and timid, violent and gentle, honest and crooked. In short, very much like their male counterparts. While there is more than one way to judge the success of a pulp magazine, including longevity, circulation, and profitability, the undisputed champion in the area of having developed the greatest writers and having had the most long-lasting literary influence was Black Mask , and most of the stories in this collection were originally published in its pages. Had it done no more than publish Carroll John Daly's first story, Black Mask would have achieved immortality. On May 15, 1923, with the publication of "Three Gun Terry," the hard-boiled private eye made his first appearance, quickly followed by Daly's creation of Race Williams, the first series character in hard-boiled fiction. While Daly was truly a hack writer devoid of literary pretension, aspiration, and ability, he laid the foundation for the form that continues to flourish to this day in the work of such writers as Robert B. Parker, Joe Gores, James Crumley, Bill Pronzini, Michael Connelly, and James Lee Burke (although the latter two employ series characters who are cops, they function in the same individualistic way that private investigators do, and frequently use the same smart-aleck speech patterns as their kindred freelancers do). Dashiell Hammett produced his first Continental Op story for Black Mask later in the same year, and the future of the genre was secure, as the editors and the reading public quickly recognized that this was serious literature in the guise of popular fiction. Every significant writer of the pulp era worked for Black Mask , including Paul Cain, Horace McCoy, Frederick L. Nebel, Raoul Whitfield, Erle Stanley Gardner, Charles G. Booth, Roger Torrey, Norbert Davis, George Harmon Coxe, and, of course, the greatest of them all, Raymond Chandler. It was the era between the two World Wars in which the pulps flourished, their garish covers enticing readers and their cheap prices providing mass entertainment through the years of the Great Depression. It has been widely stated that the advent of television tolled the death knell for the pulps, but it is not true. They were replaced by the creation and widespread popularity of paperback books, virtually unknown as a mass market commodity before World War II. There is quotable prose in these pages, and characters that you will remember, and fascinating evocations of another time and place, but the writers mainly had the goal of entertaining readers when these stories were produced. No reasonable reader will ever complain that the stories are slow moving, that they lack action and conflict-in short, that they are dull. Many of the contributors to this book went on to successful writing careers in other arenas, including Hollywood, but here is the real stuff: stories written at breakneck speed and designed to be read the same way. Excerpted from The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps: The Best Crime Stories from the Pulps During Their Golden Age--the '20s, '30s And '40s All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.