Black Mask (magazine)

Black Mask was a pulp magazine first published in April 1920[1] by the journalist H. L. Mencken and the drama critic George Jean Nathan. The magazine was one of several money-making publishing ventures to support the prestigious literary magazine The Smart Set, which Mencken edited, and which had operated at a loss since at least 1917. Under their editorial hand, the magazine was not exclusively a publisher of crime fiction, offering, according to the magazine, "the best stories available of adventure, the best mystery and detective stories, the best romances, the best love stories, and the best stories of the occult." The magazine's first editor was Florence Osborne (credited as F. M. Osborne).[2]

Black Mask
September 1929 cover of Black Mask, featuring part 1 of serialization of The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett. Illustration of private eye Sam Spade by Henry C. Murphy, Jr.
EditorH. L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan; Philip C. Cody (1924-1926) later Joseph Shaw
FrequencyStarted monthly, then twice a month after August 1922, then monthly in 1926
PublisherPro-Distributors Publishing Company, 1920-40; Popular Publications 1940-51
Year founded1920
First issueApril 1920
Final issue1951
CountryUnited States

Editorial control

After eight issues, Mencken and Nathan considered their initial $600 investment to have been sufficiently profitable, and they sold the magazine to its publishers, Eltinge Warner and Eugene Crow, for $12,500. The magazine was then edited by George W. Sutton (1922–24), followed by Philip C. Cody.[3] Cody had significant interests and expertise in the publishing world serving as Vice President of Warner Publications publishers of such mass market magazines as Field and Stream, and pulp genre publications such as Black Mask. Under Cody's editorship, the content of Black Mask became more sensationalist. Cody, who had a keen sense for what appealed to the public marketplace, focused on what had the most reader allure. Under Cody, the stories chosen for publication were longer, more intricately plotted and strewn with more blood, guts, gore and sex. Cody served as both circulation editor and general editor from 1924 to 1926. In 1926, Joseph Shaw took over the editorship.

Contributing authors

Early Black Mask contributors of note included J. S. Fletcher, Vincent Starrett, and Herman Petersen.[4] Shaw, following up on a promising lead from one of the early issues, promptly turned the magazine into an outlet for the growing school of naturalistic crime writers led by Carroll John Daly. Daly's private detective Race Williams was a rough-and-ready character with a sharp tongue, establishing a model for many later acerbic private eyes.

Black Mask later published stories by the profoundly influential Dashiell Hammett, creator of Sam Spade and The Continental Op, and other hardboiled writers who came in his wake, such as Raymond Chandler, Erle Stanley Gardner, Paul Cain, Frederick Nebel, Frederick C. Davis, Raoul F. Whitfield,[4] Theodore Tinsley, Todhunter Ballard (as W.T. Ballard), Dwight V. Babcock, and Roger Torrey.[5] The best-known contributors to Black Mask were mostly men, but the magazine also published works by many female crime writers, including Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Katherine Brocklebank, Sally Dixon Wright, Florence M. Pettee, Marion O'Hearn, Kay Krausse, Frances Beck, Tiah Devitt and Dorothy Dunn.[6] Crime fiction made up most of the magazine's content, but Black Mask also published some Western and general adventure fiction.[2]

The magazine was successful, and many of the writers whose work appeared in its pages, such as Hugh B. Cave, went on to greater commercial and critical success. Writer George Harmon Coxe created "Casey, Crime Photographer", for the magazine; the character became a media franchise, appearing in novels, films, radio and television programs, comic books, and theatrical productions.[7]

Black Mask's covers were usually painted by Fred Craft or J. W. Schlaikjer.[8] Shaw gave Arthur Rodman Bowker a monopoly on creating illustrations for the interior of the magazine.[9]

Decline and revival

Black Mask reached a sales peak in the early 1930s, but then interest began to wane under increasing pressure from radio, the cinema, and rival pulp magazines. In 1936, refusing to cut writers' already meager pay, Shaw resigned, and many of the high-profile authors abandoned the magazine with him. Shaw's successor, Fanny Ellsworth (1936–40), managed to attract new writers to Black Mask, including Cornell Woolrich, Frank Gruber, Max Brand and Steve Fisher.[10] However, from the 1940s on, Black Mask was in decline, despite the efforts of a new editor, Kenneth S. White (1940–48). The magazine in this period carried the work of John D. MacDonald.[2] Henry Steeger then edited Black Mask anonymously until it ceased publication in 1951.[3]

In 1985, the magazine was revived as The New Black Mask, featuring noted crime writers James Ellroy, Michael Collins, Sara Paretsky and Bill Pronzini, as well as Chandler and Hammett reprints. Edward D. Hoch praised the revived Black Mask, stating in the book Encyclopedia Mysteriosa that "it came close to reviving the excitement and storytelling pleasure of the great old pulp magazines". As a result of a legal dispute over the rights to the name Black Mask, the magazine ceased publication in 1987. It was revived as a short-lived magazine entitled A Matter of Crime.[11]

Original copies of the Black Mask are highly valued among pulp magazine collectors. Issues with stories by Chandler and Hammett are especially rare and command high prices.[2]

In 2016, the magazine, including its copyrights and intellectual property, were acquired by Steeger Properties, LLC.[12] It was relaunched by Altus Press.[13]


  • The Hard-Boiled Omnibus: Early Stories from Black Mask, edited by Joseph T. Shaw (1946).
  • The Hard-Boiled Detective: Stories from Black Mask magazine, 1920–1951, edited by Herbert Ruhm (1977).
  • The Black Mask Boys: Masters in the Hard-Boiled School of Detective Fiction, edited by William F. Nolan (1985). Includes a short history of the magazine.
  • The Black Lizard Big Book of Black Mask Stories, edited by Otto Penzler (2007).


  1. ^ Michelle Denise Smith (2006). "Sour Cans and Love Slaves: National Politics and Cultural Authority in the Editing and Authorship of Canadian Pulp Magazines". Book History. 9. JSTOR 30227392.
  2. ^ a b c d Bleiler, Richard (1999). "Black Mask". The Oxford Companion to Crime and Mystery Writing. Rosemary Herbert, ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 38–39. ISBN 0-19-507239-1.
  3. ^ a b Hagemann, Edward R. A Comprehensive Index to Black Mask, 1920–1951. Popular Press, 1982. ISBN 0-87972-202-9.
  4. ^ a b DeAndrea, William L. (editor). Encyclopedia Mysteriosa. MacMillan, 1994. ISBN 0-02-861678-2. (pp. 287–89).
  5. ^ Smith, Erin Ann. Hard-Boiled: Working-Class Readers and Pulp Magazines. Temple University Press, 2000. ISBN 1-56639-769-3. (p. 95).
  6. ^ Pronzini, Bill, "Women in the Pulps", in Deadly Women: The Woman Mystery Reader's Indispensable Companion, edited by Jan Grape, Darryl Dean James, Ellen Nehr. Carroll & Graf, 1998. ISBN 0-7867-0468-3. (pp. 17–19).
  7. ^ Cox, J. Randolph (2005). Flashgun Casey, Crime Photographer: From the Pulps to Radio and Beyond. David S. Siegel, William F. Nolan. Yorktown Heights, N.Y.: Book Hunter Press. ISBN 1-891379-05-4.
  8. ^ Robinson, Frank M., and Davidson, Lawrence. Pulp Culture: The Art of Fiction Magazines. Collectors Press, 2007. ISBN 1-933112-30-1. (p. 59).
  9. ^ Layman, Richard. Discovering the Maltese Falcon and Sam Spade. Vince Emery Productions, 2005. ISBN 0-9725898-6-4. (p. 78).
  10. ^ Nolan, William F., The Black Mask Boys: Masters in the Hard-Boiled School of Detective Fiction. William Morrow, 1985. (p. 30).
  11. ^ Encyclopedia Mysteriosa. (p. 256).
  12. ^ Steeger Properties, LLC website
  13. ^ moring (2016-10-05). "Argosy, Black Mask, and Famous Fantastic Mysteries Return". Altus Press. Retrieved 2018-05-28.

External links

A Shot in the Dark (1941 film)

A Shot in the Dark is a 1941 American drama film directed by William C. McGann and written by M. Coates Webster, starring William Lundigan, Nan Wynn, and Ricardo Cortez. It was released by Warner Bros. on April 5, 1941. The film was based on the short story "No Hard Feelings" by Frederick Nebel in the Black Mask magazine. The movie is also a remake of the Torchy Blane film Smart Blonde (1937).

Black Mask

Black Mask may refer to:

Black Mask (magazine), a pulp magazine launched in 1920 by H. L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan

Black Mask (film), a 1996 movie starring Jet Li

Black Mask 2: City of Masks, 2002 sequel movie to the 1996 film

Black Mask (anarchists), the original name of the situationist group later known as Up Against the Wall Motherfuckers

Black Mask (comics), a foe of the Batman in the DC Comics universe

Blackmask (comic book), a three issue mini-series from DC Comics set in the 1950s

Black Mask Studios, a comic book and graphic novel publishing company

The Black Mask, a 1905 collection of short stories by E. W. Hornung concerning the gentleman thief A. J. Raffles

The Black Mask (film), a 1935 British crime film directed by Ralph Ince

Black Mask, a character in Hikari Sentai Maskman

Black Mask, a minor character in Mad Max: Fury Road

Blackmailers Don't Shoot

"Blackmailers Don't Shoot" is a short story by Raymond Chandler. It was first published in December 1933 in the magazine Black Mask.


The bugeye is a type of sailboat developed in the Chesapeake Bay for oyster dredging. The predecessor of the skipjack, it was superseded by the latter as oyster harvests dropped.

Carroll John Daly

Carroll John Daly (September 14, 1889 – January 16, 1958) was a writer of crime fiction.

Gambling Ship

Gambling Ship is a 1933 American Pre-Code drama film directed by Louis J. Gasnier and Max Marcin, and starring Cary Grant and Benita Hume. It was based on Paul Cain's short stories: "Fast One", "Lead Party", "Velvet" and "The Heat", which were published in the Black Mask magazine. It was released on June 23, 1933. Ace Corbin retires from the racket as a gambling boss, but the enemies attempt to stop him.

H. L. Mencken

Henry Louis Mencken (September 12, 1880 – January 29, 1956) was an American journalist, essayist, satirist, cultural critic and scholar of American English. He commented widely on the social scene, literature, music, prominent politicians and contemporary movements. His satirical reporting on the Scopes trial, which he dubbed the "Monkey Trial", also gained him attention.

As a scholar, Mencken is known for The American Language, a multi-volume study of how the English language is spoken in the United States. As an admirer of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, he was an outspoken opponent of religion, populism and representative democracy, the latter of which he viewed as systems in which inferior men dominated their superiors. Mencken was a supporter of scientific progress, and was critical of osteopathic and chiropractic medicine. He was also an ardent critic of economics.

Mencken opposed both American entry into World War I and World War II. His diary indicates that he was a racist and antisemite, who privately used coarse language and slurs to describe various ethnic and racial groups (though he believed it was in poor taste to use such slurs publicly). Mencken at times seemed to show a genuine enthusiasm for militarism, though never in its American form. "War is a good thing," he once wrote, "because it is honest, it admits the central fact of human nature ... A nation too long at peace becomes a sort of gigantic old maid."His longtime home in the Union Square neighborhood of West Baltimore was turned into a city museum, the H. L. Mencken House. His papers were distributed among various city and university libraries, with the largest collection held in the Mencken Room at the central branch of Baltimore's Enoch Pratt Free Library.

Joseph Shaw

Joseph or Joe Shaw may refer to:

Joseph Shaw (boxer) (1938-2005), American boxer

Joseph Shaw (legal writer) (1671–1733), English legal writer

Joseph Shaw (editor) (1874–1952), editor of Black Mask magazine, 1926–1936

Joseph Shaw (Christ's College) (1786–1859), Master of Christ's College, Cambridge

Joseph Shaw, newspaper editor from Westminster, Maryland, murdered in 1865

Joe Shaw (rugby union) (born 1980), Newcastle Falcons rugby union player

Joe Shaw (footballer, born 1882) (1882–19??), forward for Sunderland, Hull City and Grimsby Town

Joe Shaw (footballer, born 1883) (1883–1963), left back for Arsenal and was later caretaker manager at the club

Joe Shaw (footballer, born 1928) (1928–2007), centre half for Sheffield United

Joseph Tweed Shaw (1883–1944), Canadian politician

Joseph Carl Shaw (1955–1985), executed by the State of South Carolina

Joseph Shaw (academic) (born 1971), British academic and chairman of the Latin Mass Society

Joseph Shaw (editor)

Joseph T. "Cap" Shaw (1874–1952) was the editor of Black Mask magazine from 1926 to 1936.

Prior to becoming Black Mask editor, Shaw had worked as a newspaper reporter and as a soldier in World War I, attaining the

rank of captain (Shaw's friends gave him the nickname "Cap").

Shaw was also a professional fencer,

and even won an Olympic medal for his fencing ability. Under his editorship, Black Mask published many works of crime fiction now recognised as classics of the genre, by authors such as Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler,

and Erle Stanley Gardner.Chandler greatly admired Shaw's ability to encourage Black Mask writers, claiming in a letter,

"We wrote better for him than we could have written for anybody else".Despite Black Mask's critical and commercial popularity, Shaw was eventually fired from the magazine. Shaw then

worked as a literary agent, though without notable success. He died in Manhattan aged 77.

List of Casey, Crime Photographer stories in Black Mask

for more in depth information about the magazine see Black Mask (magazine)The Casey franchise was started in 1934 by George Harmon Coxe in Black Mask (magazine). A total of 22 stories were published in the magazine, plus two serialized novels.

Note the company these stories keep within the pages of Black Mask such as Raymond Chandler & E. Stanley Gardner. This magazine was an important part of the pulp magazine genre.

In addition to these stories, the two earliest novels were serialized over three issues each.

List of Fallen Angels episodes

The following is a list of episodes from the Showtime anthology series Fallen Angels. A series of six episodes first aired in 1993, followed by a second series of nine which first aired in 1995. Each episode was approximately thirty minutes with no commercials.

Philip Marlowe

Philip Marlowe () is a fictional character created by Raymond Chandler. Marlowe first appeared under that name in The Big Sleep, published in 1939. Chandler's early short stories, published in pulp magazines like Black Mask and Dime Detective, featured similar characters with names like "Carmady" and "John Dalmas".

Some of those short stories were later combined and expanded into novels featuring Marlowe, a process Chandler called "cannibalizing" but is more commonly known in publishing as a fixup. When the non-cannibalized stories were republished years later in the short story collection The Simple Art of Murder, Chandler changed the names of the protagonists to Philip Marlowe. His first two stories, "Blackmailers Don't Shoot" and "Smart-Aleck Kill" (with a detective named Mallory), were never altered in print but did join the others as Marlowe cases for the television series Philip Marlowe, Private Eye.

Marlowe's character is foremost within the genre of hardboiled crime fiction that originated in the 1920s, notably in Black Mask magazine, in which Dashiell Hammett's The Continental Op and Sam Spade first appeared.

Underneath the wisecracking, hard-drinking, tough private eye, Marlowe is quietly contemplative and philosophical and enjoys chess and poetry. While he is not afraid to risk physical harm, he does not dish out violence merely to settle scores. Morally upright, he is not fooled by the genre's usual femmes fatales, such as Carmen Sternwood in The Big Sleep.

Chandler's treatment of the detective novel exhibits an effort to develop the form. His first full-length book, The Big Sleep, was published when Chandler was 51; his last, Playback when he was 70. Seven novels were produced in the last two decades of his life. An eighth, Poodle Springs, was completed posthumously by Robert B. Parker and published years later.

Red Harvest

Red Harvest (1929) is a novel by Dashiell Hammett. The story is narrated by the Continental Op, a frequent character in Hammett's fiction, much of which is drawn from his own experiences as an operative of the Pinkerton Detective Agency (fictionalized as the Continental Detective Agency). The labor dispute in the novel was inspired by Butte's Anaconda Road massacre.Time included Red Harvest in its 100 Best English-Language Novels from 1923 to 2005. The Nobel Prize-winning author André Gide called the book "a remarkable achievement, the last word in atrocity, cynicism, and horror."

Saith the Lord

Saith the Lord is a collection of a mystery story by author Howard Wandrei with a letter and a short autobiography. It was released in 1996 by F & B Mystery in an edition of 350 copies of which 100 were specially bound in Lexitone, signed by the editor, numbered and released in a slipcase with Wandrei's The Last Pin. The remaining 250 copies were bound in card stock and given away to guests at the 1996 World Fantasy Convention. The story originally appeared in the magazine Black Mask in 1940.

The Dain Curse

The Dain Curse is a novel by Dashiell Hammett, published in 1929. Before its publication in book form, it was serialized in Black Mask magazine in 1928 and 1929.

The Glass Key

The Glass Key is a novel by American writer Dashiell Hammett. It was first published as a serial in Black Mask magazine in 1930, then was collected in 1931 (in London; the American edition followed 3 months later) It tells the story of a gambler and racketeer, Ned Beaumont, whose devotion to Paul Madvig, a crooked political boss, leads him to investigate the murder of a local senator's son as a potential gang war brews. Hammett dedicated the novel to his onetime lover Nell Martin.

There have been two US film adaptations (1935 and 1942) of the novel. A radio adaptation starring Orson Welles aired on March 10, 1939, as part of his Campbell Playhouse series. The book was also a major influence on the Coen brothers' 1990 film Miller's Crossing, about a gambler who is a right-hand man to a corrupt political boss and their involvement in a brewing gang war.

The Glass Key Award (in Swedish, Glasnyckeln), named after the novel, has been presented annually since 1992 for the best crime novel by a Scandinavian writer.

The Gutting of Couffignal

The Gutting of Couffignal (1925) is a hardboiled crime short story by Dashiell Hammett. It appears, along with nine other stories by the author, in The Big Knockover and Other Stories.

The House in Turk Street

"The House in Turk Street" is an early short story by Dashiell Hammett,, featuring the Continental Op. It was first published in Black Mask in April 1924. This story indicates Hammett was turning towards themes of increasing violence in his stories, and its savagery has been commented upon; particularly how it ends in a massacre.The story was loosely adapted into the film No Good Deed, directed by Bob Rafelson.

The Maltese Falcon (novel)

The Maltese Falcon is a 1930 detective novel by American writer Dashiell Hammett, originally serialized in the magazine Black Mask beginning with the September 1929 issue. The story is told entirely in external third-person narrative; there is no description whatever of any character's internal thoughts or feelings, only what they say and do, and how they look. The novel has been adapted several times for the cinema.

The main character, Sam Spade (who also appeared later in some lesser-known short stories), was a departure from Hammett's nameless detective, The Continental Op. Spade combined several features of previous detectives, notably his cold detachment, keen eye for detail, unflinching, sometimes ruthless, determination to achieve his own form of justice, and a complete lack of sentimentality.

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