Thursday, May 29, 2014

Detectives Beyond Borders discovers a Black Mask writer

One of the catcher's
masks looked like this.
Good fun in New York yesterday at a party HarperCollins threw for book bloggers in conjunction with BookExpo America (BEA) 2014.

I didn't meet any other bloggers, but I did renew acquaintances with James Hayman, an author who was part of a panel at Bouchercon 2013 that struck me with its commonsense stance on e-books and electronic publishing.  A chat I had with Hayman's editor could eventually lead to posts on editors and book promotion and ways to keep midlist authors from leaping out of high windows. The sliders and little hot dogs and other hors d'oeuvres were just fine, too, and the wine flowed like water.

HarperCollins is a subsidiary of Nosh Corp., and the bash happened at the NoshAmerica Building in Midtown Manhattan, in a room normally occupied by the sports division of Nosh News. The decor was all photos and exhibits, including a display of baseball catcher's masks from the 1880s through the 1950s, including one that looked like the famous helmet from the Sutton Hoo ship burial,  but with a turban on it.

I made a pre-party stop at Mysterious Bookshop, where I bought a fat volume of stories by Theodore A, Tinsley, a Black Mask author new to me, about Jerry Tracy, celebrity reporter, a character also new to me. The book grabbed me from the first line:
"Jerry Tracy opened a ground glass door and stepped into the dingy little Broadway office maintained for him by the Planet, New York's goofiest Tab."
The first few stories have all the wisecracking I've come to expect from detective pulps of the early 1930s, and little or none of the dated prose style I sometimes find obtrusive in such stories. And the story "South Wind" includes a brand of heartstring-tugging tragedy and humanity rare in any crime fiction, much less the kind that features speakeasies, hard-drinking reporters, and hard-boiled dames.

Tinsley wasn't Dashiell Hammett; no one was, and no one ever will be. But my early reading suggests he ought to be at least right up there with Frederick Nebel and Raoul Whitfield.

Finally, I also bought the complete stories of Paul Cain, one Black Masker who might well be up there with Hammett if he'd written more.  I have a good deal of this material elsewhere, but the volume has an illuminating introduction that's especially good in its assessment of Cain's critical reception as compared to Hammett's.

© Peter Rozovsky 2014

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Blogger Unknown said...

Ah, Black Mask . . . what a terrific era and publication for highly entertaining writers . . . Thanks for reminding me that so many titles with which I am not familiar are lurking out there in the shadows . . . But, alas, the golden age of pulp magazines is long gone . . . sad, sad, sad . . .

May 29, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

R.T., you might like a paperback reference book called Paperback Confidential. I always enjoy discovering writers who were no Hammetts, but who were pretty damn good nonetheless.

May 29, 2014  

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