Friday, October 22, 2010

Black Mask Audio--Get This Now!

Have you seen this? I hope I'm late to the party but I couldn't resist this when I saw it and had to write it up. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Blackstone Audio, the folks behind the most recent Mike Hammer audio plays, produced a audio version of Black Mask Magazine--of sorts. Not all of the stories included were featured in Black Mask, but most of them were, and this is a treat. Here's their own description, which tells the tale better than I:

In the1930s and '40s, Black Mask was the single most important magazine for the modern mystery field. Here, writers such as Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Earl Stanley Gardner reshaped the established view of mystery fiction, creating the "hard-boiled" private eye.

Now this series resurrects from those pages the toughest of tough detectives in sonic dramatizations from the award-winning Hollywood Theater of the Ear.

Stories included in this volume are "Lost and Found" by Hugh B. Cave, "Pigeon Blood" by Paul Cain, "Rough Justice" by Frederick Nebel, "Black" by Paul Cain, "The Missing Mr. Lee" by Hugh B. Cave, "Trouble Chaser" by Paul Cain, "Too Many Have Lived" by Dashiell Hammett, "Taking His Time" by Reuben J. Shay, and "Waiting for Rusty" by William Cole.

These programs are great, and it's really nice to see Paul Cain (with three stories!!!) included. These stories come alive like never before and it makes for a wonderful afternoon of entertainment. Purists may note that Hammett's tale came from American Magazine and not Black Mask, but who cares (though a tale of the Continental Op would have been great).

Of course, nowadays we produce noir features with elements we think they contained back in the day instead of what they truly contained, and these recordings are no exception. Whoever wrote the music really liked saxophones, and the instrument somehow feels out of place, like they're trying to force a certain mood--a noir mood, if you will, and it doesn't work. Hard-boiled tales work best when you don't try to dress them up.

It's great to see this because (a) it may bring our favorite material back into vogue and (b) it says this is Volume 1, which leads one to believe that there may be more to follow.... pardon me while I wipe up my drool.


  1. Are the stories read or dramatized? I suppose "Too Many Have Lived" was chosen because it's a Sam Spade story, and the best of the three Spade shorts.

  2. All but two are dramatized. The two that are just read are the Shay and Cole stories. Was "Too Many" the best of the Spade shorts? I didn't like any of them.

  3. Seemed to me that Hammett had a little fun writing that story, while the others were clearly just potboilers.

  4. Hmmm.. I'll read it again and see if I change my mind.