Monday, April 14, 2014

Vintage Mystery #23



I read this book for the Vintage Mystery Bingo Reading Challenge 2014. The challenge is to read 6 or more Vintage Mysteries. All novels must have been originally written before 1960 and be from the mystery category.

I read this for E-4:  Read one Mystery with a Professional Detective 

Short story collection: Pulp Fictions – editor, Peter Haining. Collection by Barnes & Noble Books, 1997

This collection of short stories that will excite enthusiasts of classic crime fiction. In any anthology, some weak stories are bound not to appeal to a every reader’s taste (Mickey Spilliane – go away) or are included only because the writer is associated with the genre (Quentin Tarentino).

But most of the stories were written by masters of the genre either famous (Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Ross Macdonald, James M. Cain) or unjustly forgotten  (Robert Leslie Bellem, Carroll John Daly). I was surprised to see Pulitzer Prize winning author MacKinlay Kantor wrote for the pulps.

The puzzles faced by PI’s, G-men, and regular detectives are not especially tangled or clever. The speech of tough cops and ruthless gangsters sometimes reeks of sensationalist clich├ęs. This seems to have been put together by a British editor for the UK market. So it is disconcerting to read hard-boiled diction with “kerb” and “spilt” and “dustbin.”

But the characteristic style of narration and heavyweight atmosphere make most of the stories fine examples of the genre that came out of the disillusionment of WWI, the widespread law-breaking due to Prohibition in the 1920s, and the bite of the Depression in the 1930s.

I suppose that readers for whom noir begins with James Ellroy and ends with Elmore Leonard may find this anthology quaint. But I would recommend this collection to readers curious about the antique crime fiction.

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