The New Black Mask
1980s revival of the famous hardboiled fiction magazine
Many fans of hard-boiled fiction are aware of the importance of Black Mask, the pulp magazine that flourished in the 1920s and ’30s and launched the careers of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Erle Stanley Gardner. What fewer mystery readers may know is that Black Mask was revived for a brief period in the mid-1980s as a quarterly trade paperback called The New Black Mask (NBM).
The editors of The New Black Mask, Matthew J. Bruccoli and Richard Layman, were up for the assignment. Bruccoli was best known for his research on F. Scott Fitzgerald, but he had credentials nearly as strong in the field of detective fiction, having compiled Raymond Chandler: A Check List (1968) and a number of other bibliographical works on Chandler. Layman is the author of six books about Hammett—including Shadow Man, the best Hammett biography—and is editor of Selected Letters of Dashiell Hammett. (In 2005, he also commemorated the 75th anniversary of The Maltese Falcon’s publication with a speech about Hammett and his best-known novel at the Library of Congress.)
The resulting product reflected their expertise. Published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich for a scant eight issues, The New Black Mask featured some of the best fiction from contemporary hard-boiled practitioners as well as intriguing “rarities” from past masters. I’ve always been a big fan of NBM and felt it never got the circulation or the recognition it deserved. So, in this section of my website, I’ll try in my small way to rectify that situation by taking you on a guided tour.
And, as a special extra, my first published story, “There's No Such Thing as Private Eyes,” is available as a free download in Kindle or ePub format from the page describing NBM No. 4, the New Black Mask edition where it first appeared.
(This series was edited by J. Kingston Pierce and originally appeared in the Rap Sheet.)