Black Mask


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Black Mask was the most significant pulp magazine oriented towards crime and detective fiction. It contributed to the development of the “hard boiled “ genre and showcased the writing of Samuel Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, among others. Hammett created the iconic detective Sam Spade. Chandler wrote such classics as The Big Sleep and Double Indemnity, starring the private detective Philip Marlowe. Humphrey Bogart immortalized both Spade and Marlowe in films throughout the 1930s and 1940s. The hard-boiled genre also paralleled with another important pulp category: the Western. Detective fiction took vigilante justice from the lawless west and brought it to the streets of U.S. cities. The change dovetailed with the public’s increasingly mistrust of law enforcement. This left the market ripe for stories about hard-driving private detectives who achieved justice at any cost. Black Mask was instrumental in satisfying this demand and readers ate it up, with a peak circulation of 103,000 readers in 1930. Black Mask ended its publication run in 1951, but its legacy still resonates in contemporary detective narratives. To learn more about Black Mask and all the other fantastic pulps, JMU Libraries encourages you to participate in the Pulp Studies Symposium on the weekend of October 7, 2016!


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