Yeah this book is super long. I went to Otto Penzler’s bookstore in NY this summer. I didn’t see him there, but they mentioned him around the place a little. He’s very much into this material and his passion shows through in all the section breaks and introductions. The shorter introductions written by the other writers are very distinct. Laura Lippman and Harlan Coben both take the assignment in straightforward ways and introduce their sections — Dames and Crimefighters — in earnest. Harlan Ellison takes umbrage (ironically I assume) with being asked to introduce villains and goes off about it.
The stories themselves are a mixed bag. As a collection, this book definitely collects. It houses a wide variety of stories, approaches, and plots. And some are very good, and some are very bad. Others are ridiculous, including a series about a thief who wears a glass dome over his head (like Mysterio) made of two-way mirror material. It’s silly. There’s no women in this! None! Laura Lippman writes an introduction to a “dames” section in which no stories by women appear. That’s an issue because I can tell you the name of about a dozen or so women who were writing at this time in this genre. Sigh.
The Third Murderer – 3/5 Stars
This book is one of the two full novels presented in the Otto Penzler edited collection “The Big Book of Pulps” and published by Black Lizard. As a novel, it’s not great or anything, but it’s perfectly entertaining, and as the over all collection offers, it’s a good piece of study of the genre and its tropes and conventions. In addition, it comes in the collection at about the time the reader really needs something of more substance and length, after a handful of stories that have a problem of blending in together too much, especially in the audiobook.
The novel is the fifth book in the “Race Williams” series, a private eye written in a hard-boiled fashion, and pre-dating The Maltese Falcon by two years (the Race Williams series, not this particular novel). As such, it’s pretty rough and very trope-heavy. A private eye is hired onto a case that he feels might be a set-up. He’s got connections to both the underworld (who are Italian) and the police (who are Irish), and there’s a girl. In a kind of goofball turn, the girl here has her own little demimonde sobriquet, “The Flame”. Ooooooh.
The story is conventional, but the written description is so silly, it wraps back around to funny and good again. It’s super violent, questionable morally, and over-all solid. Is it good? No. Does it more or less do what I would want it to? Yes. Does it stand out in any meaningful way? Absolutely not.