From its launch in 1920 until its demise in 1951, the magazine Black Mask published pulp crime fiction. The first hard-boiled detective stories appeared on its pages. Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, Erle Stanley Gardner and John D. MacDonald got their start in Black Mask. The urban crime stories that appeared in Black Mask helped to shape American culture. Modern computer games, films, and television are rooted in the fiction popularized by "the seminal and venerated mystery pulp magazine" (Booklist).
It was just Manny Moon's luck - or misfortune - that he decided to dine at El Patio the evening the Lieutenant Governor was shot.
Young Donald Lawson was familiar with the poem "A Ballade of Suicide"...yet now his body hung dead on a crag. Murder or suicide, Manville Moon was already on the case, as bodyguard to Don's beautiful sister, Grace. For Grace's life was threatened, too. And to protect it Moon found himself crossing fists and guns with hired killers, and fencing desperately with Grace's friends, family, and fiancé, anyone of whom might have wanted to kill her.
He never should have gotten into it in the first place. But when you need money, sometimes you things you wouldn’t ordinarily think of doing. Nothing illegal, nothing like blackmail, something just a shade this side . . .At least that was the way Barney Calhoun had it figured. It looked like the easiest ten thousand bucks he’d ever make. And she was lovely, though in the end she led him to murder . . .An ex-cop turned private eye ought to know all the answers on how to commit the perfect crime.
Jud Sands lived on the edge of the law. When he blew into Ridgeford he had exactly twenty-four dollars in his pocket - it had cost a lot of money just to stay alive after he’d been fingered by Big Mark Fallon . . .But he had his gun.He had his wits. And there was nowhere else to go . . .Then there was the beautiful red-head, Bridge O’Rourke. She helped Jud in more ways than one . . .But Fallon’s boys were closing in for the kill. Not all the Bridgets in the world could save his hide if they got their hands on him....
Velda toyed with men. Sometimes she gave them what they wanted - sometimes not. But her games were somewhat limited by her marriage. For every time her husband found out about one of her flings, there were jealous rages. If he got mad enough, no allowance that week. Velda was, in fact, becoming tired of the whole mess. Then suddenly the husband was dead and Velda was a rich widow. So, if you were a cop, what would you think....
If someone had told Gamble Clancy Ross that a stenographer - just out of secretarial school, at that - could start a gang war, he would have grinned and suggested an immediate sojourn in a mental institution for the prognosticator. Even if that same someone had described the chick in question - blond, shaped like a Don Juan’s dream girl and measuring 38-28-38 - he still would have suggested a tonic for tired blood and mental fatigue.
One surprise deserves another. “Think you’ll need any help, Sergeant?” Lieutenant Wynn asked Matt Rudd. “I don’t think so, sir,” Rudd said. “Kuzniki is a dangerous, but he doesn’t know I’m here.” “O.K.,” Wynn said. “I’m going to lunch.”With his back to the door, Rudd hadn’t seen Kuzniki enter the hotel lobby. As he turned around, Kuzniki’s hand darted to a shoulder holster and he swept out a .38 automatic. Rudd froze in position, then slowly raised his hands.“You must be slowing down, Matt,” Kuzniki said.
Betty Case opened her eyes, fear gripping her. She lay very still for a moment, listening. Then she heard the sound again, like someone walking on the roof. Instantly she thought of the cat burglar, who’d been terrorizing his victims with an axe. She sat up and reached for the gun under her pillow. A rasping sound came from the hall window; the she heard footsteps outside the bedroom door. She held her breath, her eyes straining in the darkness, her hand gripping the gun tighter.
As a town, St. Cecilia was anything but saintly - prostitution, dope, gambling, the works. Matt Rudd of the Vice Squad had the lurid inside story. But he was helpless as long as crooked politicos like Nick Bartkowiak and his right-hand goon, Little Artie Nowack, kept the Police Commissioner under their thumb. Then the strangling of one of Little Artie’s call girls raised a few eyebrows, especially Rudd’s.
“Are you just going to stand there,” Sharon asked the vice cop, “or do you want to join in the game?” It was in the line of duty, Matt kept telling himself as he played at love with the wild teenager. Just enough to gain her confidence - and an invitation to the orgies at the big house. But in the end, Matt was far more deeply involved with Sharon than a cop had any right to be. When the wild party began, it was too late to prevent a murder. And the vice cop was marked for victim number two.
Manny Moon, the agile one-legged detective, is back on a case involving the son of his old friend Ed Brighton. Young Joe Brighton had been found by the police standing over the dead body of Bart Meyers, president of the Purple Pelicans - a juvenile gang to which Joe belonged. The knife used to kill Bart belonged to Joe’s father, and the police believed they had an open-and-shut case. But Manny didn’t think Joe was a killer and when he started investigating he uncovered some very dangerous information.