About the Author
Otto Penzler is the proprietor of The Mysterious Bookshop in New York City. He was publisher of The Armchair Detective, the founder of the Mysterious Press and the Armchair Detective Library, and created the publishing firm Otto Penzler Books. He is a recipient of an Edgar Award for The Encyclopedia of Mystery and Detection and the Ellery Queen Award by the Mystery Writers of America for his many contributions to the field. He is the editor of The Vampire Archives and The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps, which was a New York Times bestseller.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
IT IS all too easy for reviewers to get cheap laughs by pouring sarcastic scorn on books: what is a critic after all but a failed and frustrated writer? Pulp Fiction has a foreword by Harlan Coben, arguably the brightest and wittiest crime writer in America. For readers under the age of 40, Pulp Fiction is the title of rather a good film in which a gorgeous Uma Thurman and a tubby John Travolta dance across the screen, and it looks nothing like Grease. Forget drugs, sex and rock ¿n roll as recreational pleasures, forget Samuel L Jackson in an afro, and forget especially all those four-letter words and blasphemy: literary pulp fiction is as far removed from all these late 20th-century necessities as the film Pulp Fiction is from Grease. Although it was certainly regarded as distinctly adult and mainly masculine fodder, the term pulp fiction relates originally to stories that would be regarded today as strictly A-rated. (A for Abysmal, maybe?) These are the early examples of ¿hard-boiled¿ detective stories that were published in the popular pulped wood paper magazines: the journals were cheap, ubiquitous, disposable and designed for a fairly uneducated target market who sought their thrills in short spurts of blood and guts rather than in the much longer, more prim and proper tales that appeared in books. The golden age of the ¿pulps¿ occurred in America between the two world wars last century, and featured a plethora of titles ¿ True Detective Stories, Weird Tales, to name just two ¿ although this anthology has been garnered exclusively from just the one, Black Mask Magazine. To quote editor Otto Penzler¿s introduction: ¿The hard-boiled private detective is entirely an American invention, and it was given life in the pages of pulp magazines.¿ But how to define ¿hard boiled¿ to the pulp virgin? Well, imagine the opposite of Sherlock Holmes; imagine Father Brown tut-tutting in sorrow at the spectacle of the hard-drinking private dick, and saying a quick prayer. Imagine Hercule Poirot drawing himself up to his full height of five foot four inches, his magnificent pomaded moustache bristling in indignation at the bottom-drawer gum-shoe¿s disrespectful tone; imagine Lord Peter Whimsey blanching ¿ but enough: you get the idea. Despite some misgivings, the cognoscenti of today will be drawn to this collection as Coben¿s name is on the cover, and his foreword is full of the hyperbole that, in retrospect, can be bought only with lashings of cash, over-consumption of booze and judicious administration of informal pharmaceuticals and ¿herbal¿ cigarettes. In short, despite the laudatory and over-the-top foreword and introduction, the content of Pulp Fiction is mediocre in the same way a six-year-old¿s sonnet is mediocre in comparison with a masterpiece by Shakespeare. We are given 14 short stories, from Norbert Davis¿s The Price of a Pearl (12 pages) to Carroll John Daly¿s 137-page The Third Murderer, almost all of which were published from the early 1920s to the mid-1930s. The only writer of any substance is Raymond Chandler, whose work is still in print today because he transcends the ¿hard boiled¿ genre rather than typifying it: most of the others have sunk in a mire of well-deserved oblivion. Dashiell Hammett (Sam Spade) and Earle Stanley Gardner (Perry Mason) are also vaguely familiar names to the crime story buff, but who actually reads them today? Pulp fiction is a literary form as dated as any Victorian Penny Dreadful, but without the linguistic standards or the author¿s negligible literary or artistic merit. As an easily digestible, inconsequential and inexpensive diversion for the socioeconomically ¿less privileged classes¿, it fulfilled its function admirably. Undoubtedly groundbreaking in its time, stripped of sentiment, sensibility and purple prose, pulp fiction may well have laid the foundation for many of the best American writers of today, but while the Chrysler Building is certainly an awe-inspiring structure, could the sa