And he reminded me that I've been meaning to recommend Black Lizard's recently released Big Book Of Pulps. Published this February, the Big Book compiles an astonishing volume of the best hardboiled fiction of the prime period from the 20s through the 50s, with an emphasis on Black Mask and its contributors, including Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Erle Stanley Gardner, but also including unknowns (today) who wrote great work at the time in three rough groupings: detectives; femmes fatale; and villains. The last section may be most interesting to a modern reader, as the difference between a hero and a villain could be as slim as a dime in the Depression. Often the defining characteristic was whether the protagonist killed in self-defense, or whether, as a Texas jury might put it, the victim needed killing.
"Pulp" is of course a big word these days. The anthology doesn't cover, except as name checked in introductions by modern authors like Harlan Ellison, the non-detective pulp output of magazines featuring sports stories, westerns, and weird fiction, or now-famous pulp writers like Robert E. Howard and H. P. Lovecraft, who are subsumed by "pulp" and often sat next to Black Mask or Dime Detective on the shelves. Yet The Big Book is comprehensive, and worth reading for anyone who has an affection for the hardboiled style or modern work of the seedier sort, from James Ellroy to true crime authors like Joe McGinnis and Ruth Rendell, who owe a debt to the aesthetic if not the prose.
Highly recommended. And thanks to Teddy Gray for the loan.