RARA-AVIS: Re: Another Heresy -- The Black Mask and other pulp fiction

From: jimdohertyjr ( jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 06 May 2005


Re your comments below:

> My take on Red Harvest and The Dain Curse is that they reflect
> Joseph T. Shaw's overbearing editorial style. The typical Shaw
> edited Black Mask story is very linear with no plot climax just a
> series of violent events that bludgeon the reader with hardboiled
> images.
> I liked both of these books when I read them, many, many years ago.
> I remember thinking when I read Red Harvest that this book is
> Hammet's answer to Carroll John Daly or, in other words the
> Continential Op knee deep in a Race Williams plot.

In fact, it was not Daly that Shaw wanted his writers to model. He hated Daly's work and only published him because he was so popular. The writer he really respected, and wanted his stable to emulate was Hammett. Sometimes it worked, as in Frederic Nebel's Donahue stories. Sometimes it didn't (at least not as well), as in Chandler's two Mallory stories.

Hammett wasn't trying to emulate Daly in either RED HARVEST or THE DAIN CURSE. He'd already been experimenting with "town tamer" plots
(i.e. "Nightmare Town" and the Op story "Corkscrew"). And he'd certainly written more than his share of stories about screwed-up families a la CURSE's Dains/Leggets ("The Gatewood Caper" and "The Scorched Face" both come to mind).

The fact is that Hammett, quite on his own, was just as likely to use slam-bang action scenes as Daly, right from the start. In fact he was far better at them than Daly. But, action scenes notwithstanding, you can't read even the earliest, rawest Op stories and really see any influence on Hammett by Daly. Hammett was following his own muse right from the start. Daly just had the good luck to get started around the same time as Hammett, and the better luck to get "Three-Gun Terry" and "Knights of the Open Palm" published before "Arson Plus" and "Slippery Fingers." If he hadn't been first, it's doubtful he'd be remembered today.

In fact, it was Daly who, post HARVEST, emulated Hammett by sending Race Williams to a small town in upstate New York to clean out the gangster elements. The "connected stories" in which he did this were reprinted some years ago in THE ADVENTURES OF RACE WILLIAMS. I believe it may have been Daly's intention to publish that "serial" as a novel. In fact, since the phrase "better corpses" appears several times in those connected "town tamer" stories, I suspect it may even have BEEN published as a novel, in England under the title BETTER CORPSES, but I'm not absolutely sure of this.
> Does anyone have a favorite pulp other than Black Mask? Dime
> Detective, maybe? Detective Fiction Weekly? My personal favorite is
> Speed Detective.

DIME DETECTIVE was an excellent pulp, but I have a fondness for DETECTIVE FICTION WEEKLY, partly because it published so many cop stories (the founder, Bill Flynn, was an ex-cop who wrote stories and novels based on his own law enforcement experiences; for obvious reasons, that resonates with me), and because, being weekly rather than monthly, it published so many serials that were just serials, rather than ostensibly autonomous but connected "short stories." For example, Cornell Woolrich's first novel, THE BRIDE WORE BLACK, was first published in DFW.


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