Black Mask (audio)

Classic hard-boiled crime stories from the historic and genre-defining pulp magazine Black Mask, in a beautifully performed audio collection.

Black Mask magazine (1920-1951) was a defining force in the pulp-magazine genre of hard-boiled detective stories, and this collection offers five representative pieces for the first time in the audio format. The excellent spoken performances are a rare treat, especially when finding stories of this vintage is in itself a challenge. The masters of the genre are represented in this collection, including Dashiell Hammett, under a pseudonym. Don’t skip the introduction, either: it’s a worthwhile and informative history of pulp magazines, the detective/crime genre, a number of classic authors, and Black Mask in particular. Each story has its own short introduction as well, adding to the value of the collection.

“The Phantom Crook” takes on organized crime in order to free a damsel in distress from blackmail. A case of arson and apparent murder is not what it appears. Another blackmail case threatens to take advantage of a well-meaning but bad-tempered newspaper photographer. A drunken reporter tails a detective into a warehouse district in pursuit of a crook. And in the final tale, a Florida private investigator named Sail, working off his boat, investigates a case of sunken treasure while the bodies stack up. In each story, the gritty, taut suspense is reinforced by an appropriately gruff audio performance.

Black Mask has released a total of three collections of short stories. The following two promise more of the same: dark, suspenseful, character-rich crime drama. Readers of the modern hard-boiled detective/P.I. genre owe it to themselves to check out their roots in these fine examples of detective-noir classics.

I wrote this review for Shelf Awareness for Readers. To subscribe, click here, and you’ll receive two issues per week of book reviews and other bookish fun!

One Response

  1. […] some level. A fellow traveler, you might say. I have read very little Dashiell Hammett (just a few short pieces), but I respect his contribution to a genre I love, and I hope to get around to more one day. […]

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