Black Mask (magazine)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
hardboiled, film noir

Black Mask was a pulp magazine launched in 1920 by journalist H. L. Mencken and drama critic George Jean Nathan as one of a number of money-making publishing ventures to support the prestigious literary magazine The Smart Set, which Mencken edited, and which operated at a loss. Under their editorial hand, Black Mask 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."

Contents

Editorial control

After eight issues, Mencken and Nathan considered their initial $500 investment to have been sufficiently profitable, and they sold the magazine to its publishers, Eltinge Warner and Eugene Crow for $12,500. Joseph Shaw took over the editorship.

Contributing authors

Shaw, following up on a promising lead from one of the early issues, promptly turned Black Mask 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, and established the model for many later acerbic private eyes. In Black Mask, author George Harmon Coxe created Casey, Crime Photographer which became a media franchise with Novels, Films, Radio, Comic book tie ins, Television and legitimate theatre.

Black Mask later published 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 and Erle Stanley Gardner. The magazine was hugely successful, and many of the writers, such as Hugh B. Cave, who appeared in its pages went onto greater commercial and critical success.

Pulps general decline

Black Mask reached a sales peak in the early 1930s, but then interest began to wane under increasing pressure from the comic book market, cheap paperback books, radio and the cinema. In 1936, refusing to cut writers' already meager pay, Shaw resigned, and many of the high-profile authors abandoned the magazine with him. From this point onward, Black Mask was in decline, eventually ceasing publication in 1951.

In popular culture

Black Mask magazine was the specific pulp fiction magazine that inspired the 1994 Quentin Tarantino film Pulp Fiction. Originally, the title of the film was Black Mask, before being changed.

An issue of Black Mask magazine features as a (planted) clue in the 1927 murder mystery novel Unnatural Death by Dorothy L. Sayers.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Black Mask (magazine)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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