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The Mammoth Book of Pulp Fiction by Maxim…

The Mammoth Book of Pulp Fiction

by Maxim Jakubowski (Editor)

Other authors: W. T. Ballard (Contributor), Robert Leslie Bellem (Contributor), Robert Bloch (Contributor), Lawrence Block (Contributor), Gil Brewer (Contributor)27 more, Fredric Brown (Contributor), Howard Browne (Contributor), James M. Cain (Contributor), Paul Cain (Contributor), Max Allan Collins (Contributor), Harlan Ellison (Contributor), Bruno Fischer (Contributor), William Campbell Gault (Contributor), David Goodis (Contributor), Joe Gores (Contributor), Dashiell Hammett (Contributor), Day Keene (Contributor), John Lutz (Contributor), John D. MacDonald (Contributor), Ross Macdonald (Contributor), William P. McGivern (Contributor), William F. Nolan (Contributor), Bill Pronzini (Contributor), Jack Ritchie (Contributor), Thomas S. Roche (Contributor), Mickey Spillane (Contributor), Jim Thompson (Contributor), Armitage Trail (Contributor), B. Traven (Contributor), Donald E. Westlake (Contributor), Charles Willeford (Contributor), Charles Williams (Contributor)

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This mammoth book contains about thirty pulp novels, but my favorite part is the Introduction.
Jakubowski says, “First, let’s bury the myth that pulp fiction is a lower form of art, the reverse side of literature as we know it…accredited denizens of the literary establishment relegated pulp writing to a dubious cupboard where we parked the guilty pleasures we were too ashamed to display in public.” He goes on, “what makes them [pulp fiction novels] stand out is the fact that the pulps had one golden rule …Every story in the pulps had a beginning and an end, sharply-etched economical characterization, action, emotions, plenty going on...This compact with the reader might appear self-evident, and was very much a continuation of the Victorian penny dreadfuls and novels written in installments.” Perhaps, not unlike the Sherlock Holmes stories.

The last page of the introduction (which is 15 pages long) in The Mammoth Book of Pulp Fiction contains this sentiment which I strongly endorse. “…pulp fiction is a state of mind, a mission to entertain, and literature would be so much poorer without it, its zest, its speed and rhythm, its unashamed verve and straightforward approach to storytelling…pulp fiction will never die.” ( )
  mysterymax | Sep 11, 2016 |
Pulp Fiction is an anthology of 32 stories edited by Maxim Jakubowski and published by Castle Books in 2002, but originally produced by Carroll & Graf in 1996. It’s important to note the specifics as there appear to be multiple anthologies with this title, or very similar, including the same editor. The stories were originally published between 1930 and 1996: 3 from the 1930s, 4 from the 1940s, 12 from the 1950s, 5 from the 1960s, 4 from the 1970s, 3 from the 1980s, and the previously indicated one from the 1990s. That’s a pretty good normal distribution chronologically speaking. The shortest story was Charles Willeford’s “Citizen’s Arrest” at 6 pages (1966), while the longest was the novella “Flight to Nowhere” by Charles Williams at 51 pages (1955), organized into 20 chapters. All of the authors are men (or writing under a male pseudonym), as are all of the protagonists with the exception of “Forever After.” The introduction by the editor declares that “the pulps had had one golden rule which unsung editors insisted upon and good and bad writers alike religiously followed: adherence to the art of storytelling.”

The storytelling opens with Dashell Hammet’s Sam Spade in “Too Many Have Lived” (1933), hired to investigate a missing man turned into murder victim with a dubious background. The final story is “Ordo” by Donald E. Westlake (1977). I found that one the most interesting—a contrast to all that went before. It was entirely a character study centered on the eponymous character trying to understand the transformation of the girl he was briefly married to 20 years before into the movie star she became.

The stories largely featured shady characters engaged in shady activities, living in the margins of society, which I imagine is what gave so many of them pulpy appeal to the strait-laced readers of the Golden Age of the 1950s. Some of the stories feature average guys whose lives are disrupted by bad people (for example, “Flight to Nowhere,” “Cigarette Girl,” “Citizen’s Arrest,” and “So Young, So Fair, So Dead”), while others are down on their luck as alcoholics (“The Wench Is Dead” and “A Candle for the Bag Lady”) or ex-cons (“The Bloody Tide” and “Hell on Wheels”). Others feature morally ambiguous guys who deal on their own terms with bad people (see “Black,” “Divide and Conquer,” “Finders, Killers!” and “Stacked Deck”). Still others feature bad guys involved with reprehensible people (“Forever After” and “Death Comes Gift-Wrapped,” “A Real Nice Guy,” “A Matter of Principle,” and “Enter Scarface”). Some protagonists are the classic private detectives (the aforementioned Sam Spade, Sandy McKane in “Hibiscus and Homicide,” Nick Ransom in “Preview of Murder” and Paul Pine in “So Dark for April”).

The stories feature assassinations (“The Getaway,” “Forever After,” “A Real Nice” and “Hell on Wheels”), con jobs (“Murder’s Mandate,” “Death Is a Vampire”), heists (“Black,” “We Are All Dead,” “Flight to Nowhere,” and “Finders, Killers!”), organized crime (“Black,” “The Getaway,” “The Bloody Tide and “Divide and Conquer”), double crosses (“Finders, Killers!” “Black Pudding,” “So Dark Is April,” and “We Are All Dead”), revenge (“The Getaway,” “Preview of Murder,” “The Girl Behind the Hedge,” “Sleeping Dogs,” “Killing Bernstein,” “Black Pudding” and “We Are All Dead”). There are the damsels in distress (“Flight to Nowhere,” “Murder’s Mandate,” “Cigarette Girl” and “A Matter of Principle”), and the femme fatales (“Forever After” and “Hell on Wheels”). Some of the stories are hard to classify (“Second Coming” and “Effective Medicine”), and one has a science fiction punchline (“Killing Bernstein” by Harlan Ellison).

Sometimes the protagonist dies at the end, sometimes he lives happily ever after with the girl, sometimes we’re not quite sure whether he lives or dies, and sometimes he returns to the same old life or even moves into something new. While all of the protagonists (with the exception of “Enter Scarface”) and most of the villains are white, several stories feature characters who are Mexican or Chicano, and the story set in Hawaii includes Filipinos native Hawaiian, Japanese and mixed race characters. Most of the beautiful women in these stories are described as blond, but not all of them, and many of the women are not beautiful at all, particularly in “Black Pudding,” where her face is disfigured by severe scars. Most of the stories are shallow, gritty, and straightforward, no matter how many plot twists are rolled into the narrative. A few have more interesting and sensitive characterizations, more subtle storytelling. I tended to prefer those. Like most anthologies, it was a mix of styles and quality. About halfway through, I was painfully reminded of why I had made the decision to stop consuming stories about terrible people doing terrible things, but not all of the items in this collection fit that description, and those I tended to enjoy all the more for the contrast with the formulaic. I am glad that I made it to the end, because I found “Ordo” particularly rewarding. ( )
  justchris | Jan 19, 2016 |
Good old school P.I. short stories from some of the real greats of the genre. ( )
1 vote jcovington | May 21, 2007 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jakubowski, MaximEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ballard, W. T.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bellem, Robert LeslieContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bloch, RobertContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Block, LawrenceContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brewer, GilContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brown, FredricContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Browne, HowardContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cain, James M.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cain, PaulContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Collins, Max AllanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ellison, HarlanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fischer, BrunoContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gault, William CampbellContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Goodis, DavidContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gores, JoeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hammett, DashiellContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Keene, DayContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lutz, JohnContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
MacDonald, John D.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Macdonald, RossContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
McGivern, William P.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Nolan, William F.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pronzini, BillContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ritchie, JackContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Roche, Thomas S.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Spillane, MickeyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Thompson, JimContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Trail, ArmitageContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Traven, B.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Westlake, Donald E.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Willeford, CharlesContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Williams, CharlesContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Book description
All the suspense, shocks, kicks, and titilation of yesterday's pulp magazines returns with a vengeance in these pages. Action-packed stories featuring hit men, underworld bosses, rogue cops, private dicks, and shady ladies are assembled here, written by such renegade authors as Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Ed McBain, Jim Thompson, James Ellroy, Robert Bellum, and Ed Gorman.

Introduction – Maxim Jakubowski
Too Many Have Lived (1932) - Dashiell Hammett
Flight to Nowhere (1955) - Charles Williams
Black (1932) - Paul Cain
Finders Killers! (1953) - John D. MacDonald
Murder’s Mandate (1945) - W. T. Ballard
Cigarette Girl (1953) - James M. Cain
The Getaway (1976) - Gil Brewer
Preview of Murder (1949) - Robert Leslie Bellem
Forever After (1960) - Jim Thompson
The Bloody Tide (1950) - Day Keene
Death Comes Gift-Wrapped (1948) - William P. McGivern
The Girl Behind the Hedge (1953) - Mickey Spillane
Enter Scarface (1930) - Armitage Trail
A Candle for the Bag Lady (1977) - Lawrence Block
Black Pudding (1953) - David Goodis
A Matter of Principal (1989) - Max Allan Collins
Citizen’s Arrest (1966) - Charles Willeford
The Sleeping Dog (1965) - Ross Macdonald
The Wench Is Dead (1953) - Fredric Brown
So Dark for April (1953) - Howard Browne, writing as John Evans
We Are All Dead (1955) - Bruno Fischer
Death Is a Vampire (1944) - Robert Bloch
Divide and Conquer (1957) - Jack Ritchie
A Real Nice Guy (1980) - William F. Nolan
Stacked Deck (1987) - Bill Pronzini
So Young, So Fair, So Dead (1973) - John Lutz
Effective Medicine (1954) - B. Traven
Killing Bernstein (1976) - Harlan Ellison
The Second Coming (1966) - Joe Gores
Hibiscus and Homicide (1947) - William Campbell Gault
Hell on Wheels (1996) - Thomas S. Roche
Ordo (1977) - Donald E. Westlake
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