RARA-AVIS: The Mammoth Anthology of Pulp Action

From: Bill Crider ( bcrider@houston.rr.com)
Date: 02 Dec 2003

I've read a few more stories in this volume, not to be confused with its superior predecessor, The Mammoth Anthology of Pulp Fiction.

Bill Pronzini's "The Pulp Connection" is another story I'd read before, and it's certainly not an action story. It features his "nameless" p.i., but it's a cozy locked-room story from EQMM.

Bruce Cassiday's "Brush Babe's Poison Pallet" is the real thing, action pulp of the purest ray serene, from All-Story Detective. Opening paragraphs:

    "It was a street of crooked turnings and twisted doorways and sagging roofs. It was a crooked street walked by crooked people and watched over by crooked devils in the sky. A brooding and evil darkness stood guard above it, shutting off the light from the heavens.
    "Many men had come down this twisting, narrow, tortuous lane and hand never come back. It was a street of lost souls, a street of barter where the costiiest memories were traded for the cheapest coin. The roadway to hell, this stree.
    "Last Mile Lane, Greenwich Village, Manhattan."

Plenty of babes, booze, and bullets to follow.

Next up is "The Gangsta Wore Red," which was originally published in France in 2000. I'm not familiar with the author, Michael Guinzburg, but his story is out there, for sure. Overwrought, Jim Thompsonesque prose, with a brilliant, crazy, bad-ass cross-dressing narrator out for revenge on the whole world. Ultra-violent, tough, grotesque.

Then comes "Caravan to Tarim" by David Goodis, from that famous pulp, Collier's. (Just kidding. About the pulp part, that is.) Different from any story I'd read by Goodis, this one is a desert adventure tale. OK, but not what I was expecting.

"The Lady Who Left her Coffin" is from Dime Detective and stars Hugh B. Cave's investigator of the occult and supernatural, Martin Lane. Like the Cassiday story, this one has plenty of action and some seat-of-the-pants plotting.

Frank Gruber's "Death at the Main" is about cockfighting and the detective is Oliver Quade, the Human Encyclopedia. This one is from Thrilling Detective. Smooth and fast. Gruber may have been an SoB, but he could write an entertaining story. Though once again the plotting might bring a few quibbles.

My favorite so far is "Red Goose" by Norbert Davis. It was published in Black Mask, and Ben Shaley is a satisfactory tough detective. This one has a stolen painting and more plotting hi-jinks.

The biggest rip-off in the collection is Charles Willeford's "The Next Five in Line." I will now tell you what the editor did not until the end of the
"story." It's not a story at all. It's the beginning of an unfinished novel, and I think it was awfully unfair of the editor not to put a note to that effect at the beginning rather than at the end. I think I'll put this anthology aside for a while now.

Bill Crider

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