Tough guys and dames. Thieves and murderers. Thugs and strippers. These are the characters that people these pulpy crime fiction stories from the now defunct magazine The Black Mask (1920-1951). These stories start out with an average Joe trying to help a Dame out, a beautiful one of course. A girl with a face full of trouble… Sorry, I’m getting carried away.
Body Snatcher by Theodore A Tinsley: A reporter finds a body in the home of his old friend, a former singer, who is anxious to let the police send her to jail. He knows something is not right here and after slipping his friend some drugs to knock her out (like any gentleman would), his reporter’s instincts lead him to the truth. (Read by Richard Ferrone)
Murder on the Gayway by Dwight V Babcock: A detective saves a girl from an apparent kidnapping but the girl’s story seems suspicious. Even more suspicious is her disappearance after a murder in front of “The Nude Ranch.” (Read by David LeDoux)
The Key by Clive F Adams: A policeman rescues a girl from a night in jail only to end up with a cracked skull. Now out for revenge, he follows her trail which leads to a rifled mortuary and a bunch of thugs looking for a very important letter. (Read by Jeff Gurner)
The Bloody Bokhara by William Campbell Gault: Lee, a young rug dealer of Armenian descent, is approached by a woman with some very expensive rugs. She has a business proposition for him. With his face (like Tyrone Power) and expertise, she thinks he could make her a lot of money selling her rugs to some ladies. Something is off about all this business and Lee’s morals (and his Dad) tell him to tread carefully, especially after he finds a blood stain on one of the rugs. (Read by Peter Ganim)
|This handsome fella is Tyrone Power|
By just looking at the cover for this audiobook, you know there is sexism. Yes, the women are either victims or vamps. Somehow they end up finding themselves either half naked, tied up or both! There isn’t a lot of character development here but there’s not a lot for the guys either. I think the worst one was in The Key, where the protag wanted to hurt a woman for a perceived wrong, even though he considers himself a knight in shining armour. Ironically, some of these authors created “girl detectives” in other popular crime fiction stories. None of these are in this collection but I’d love to read those.
The Black Lizard’s Big Book of Black Mask Stories Volume Six is edited by Otto Penzler. Listening to this collection was very entertaining and anyone who enjoys crime fiction will like these old stories.
About the Audio: I don’t know if I would have read these stories myself, though I enjoyed listening to them. All four gentlemen have voices that range from gravely and smoky to velvety and oh-la-la! Perfect choices for these types of stories. My favorite is Peter Ganim (whoa, he is good). (Running time 6 hours and 33 minutes)