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The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps    edited by Otto Penzler order for
Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps
by Otto Penzler
Order:  USA  Can
Vintage, 2007 (2007)

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* * *   Reviewed by Lisa Respers France

No one is more qualified to edit a book literally chock full of pulp fiction than Otto Penzler. He is more than well known among mystery and crime novel lovers as an expert in the field. Here, the veteran editor has delivered a most glorious tome that is worth the price of purchase if only for the delight of a never before published story by Dashiell Hammett.

Pulp fiction refers to the pulp magazines published years ago that - for the cost of a few cents - delivered crime and mystery short stories to a generation of readers. Weighing in at an impressive 1160 pages plus, Big Book of Pulps gathers some of the best of the best (along with a few that don't shine as brightly) into one impressive volume. The book is divided into three sections, The Crimefighters, The Villains, and The Dames, with each section containing wonderful introductions from three of today's titans - Harlan Coben, Harlan Ellison and Laura Lippman.

All of the expected masters are here including Hammett and Chandler, but there are also little known authors like Leslie White. Some of these stories from the 1920s, 30s and 40s might seem slightly jarring to modern readers. This is an era when women were dames and tough talking dicks weren't above a little brutality to get the information they wanted. But fans of crime and mystery genres will recognize these engaging stories as the predecessors to many a current gritty novel.

Fans of pulp fiction will be thrilled with this collection which is completely authentic and almost exhaustive in the amount of stories. Those who truly know the genre understand that while it wasn't always the best writing, it was never boring and the recycling of familiar themes is almost comforting to the reader. The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps lives up to its name and more than delivers.

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