Black Mask

As Keith Alan Deutsch defines in the introduction to Otto Penzler’s Black Lizard Big Book of Black Mask Stories:

“In many ways black mask took the 19th century American western tale of outlaws and vigilante justice from its home on the range and in dime novels and transplanted that mythic tale to the crooked streets of Americas emerging twentieth century cities it introduced a new landscape for both American adventures of justice and also a new kind of narration told with the vernacular language of the streets and featuring new urban villains…”

Today we highlight issues with stories by Erle Stanley Gardner, the American lawyer turned author best known for creating the beloved Perry Mason. At the time of his death, Gardner was the best selling American author of the 20th century. His pen names include: A. A. Fair (Cool and Lam), Kyle Corning, Charles M. Green, Carleton Kendrake and others. Excited by trial strategy but otherwise bored while practicing law in California, he began his pulp writing with his first story published in 1923. Known for accurate portrayal of courtroom scenes and sharp legal maneuvers, by 1932 he was writing more than 200,000 words per month, bringing to life ingenuous characters like Lester Leith and Ken Corning. Corning was a lawyer and crime sleuth, and the seed archetype for the beloved Mason. (Though not beloved by all. Rex Stout asserted, “Perry mason books aren’t even novels…”)

Far outshining the Mason dynasty, for pulp lovers, are his truly epic Black Mask contributions. Gardner can claim both the longest run in Black Mask history and the most characters created for the pulp, he has left us with an enduring canon.

We present: King of the pulps, Erle “Million Word” Gardner:

Black Mask July 1930

This issue contains the complete novelette “Big Shot” by Erle Stanley Gardner.


Black Mask June 1932

This issue contains the complete novelette “Cooking Crooks” by Erle Stanley Gardner.



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