The Black Lizard<BR>Big Book of Pulps

Pulp, points out Otto Penzler, owner of the Mysterious Bookshop in New York City and a prolific editor of American crime fiction, is a term "frequently misused to indicate hack work of inferior literary quality." But it was originally derived from "pulpwood," an indicator of the cheapness of the paper used to print popular magazines in the early part of the 20th century, not the prose contained therein. The fast-paced narratives and rat-a-tat prose forged by the masters of the golden age of pulp fiction -- the '20s, '30s, and '40s -- have made their work American literary classics, exerting influence on everyone from their contemporaries (including Ernest Hemingway, who, Penzler argues, borrowed much of his style from Dashiell Hammett) to our own (including Michael Chabon, Jonathan Lethem, and Quentin Tarantino). Not that anyone needs a high literary pretext to enjoy the massive new collection of vintage crime fiction assembled by Penzler, which, at nearly 1,500 pages, is thick enough to stun the most dastardly criminal. With more than 50 stories, including two full novels (by Frederick Nebel and Carroll John Daly) and an never-before-published story from Hammett, this volume collects and preserves the titans of the genre side by side with their all-too-mortal fellow practitioners. The indisputably great Raymond Chandler is here, as is Erle Stanley Gardner, creator of Perry Mason; Cornell Woolrich (who writes in "The Dilemma of the Dead Lady," about the novel technique of strangling a woman to death with a lasso of pearls); and James M. Cain, whose "Pastorale," featuring a frozen head and the burdensome nature of guilt, was first published in a very un-pulpy intellectual journal. Then there are writers whose lives were as shadowy as those of their characters. "The Jane from Hell's Kitchen" is a wildly inventive tale, involving a hanging-by-parachute, an electrocution-by-doorbell, and a gun moll named Dizzy Malone, whose room is painted entirely in shades of purple. Of the author, Perry Paul, Penzler could only discover that he was a former crime reporter. Speaking for many other forgotten authors he writes: "They vanished as quickly as they appeared, and they are largely unremembered today." Thankfully, some of them are remembered here. -

April 16: ""Blue pottery vases and bowls for flowers are most attractive, and certain blue books...will repeat and emphasize color."

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