Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Black Mask Story #1 (A Prelude).

Sunday night, I opened up one of the two Black Mask magazines I bought at Pulp Fest. This particular issue, September 1943, features an Ed Jenkins novelette, "The Gong of Vengeance," by Erle Stanley Gardner, and it's one of the reasons I bought this issue. But when I was contemplating the purchase, I checked out the Table of Contents and was delighted to find that one of the stories was by Frederick C. Davis (1902-1977), whose work was honored with a panel at Pulp Fest and was represented at the convention by his son and his granddaughter, Karen Cunningham. Karen and I had a couple of very interesting conversations and found out that our grandfathers had a few things in common besides the pulps: they had both grown up in the Kansas/Missouri area and both of their fathers had been physicians.

Frederick C. Davis was a prolific writer who is famous to many pulp enthusiasts for writing the "Operator #5" stories featuring Jimmy Christopher, "America's Secret Service Ace." Davis wrote these stories until 1935, at which time another writer picked them up.

Anyway, this Davis story is entitled "I Thought I'd Die," and it is a Peter Trapp novelette. I emailed Karen and asked her if she knew anything about this character and she didn't. She did some quick research on google and found the "Comprehensive Index to Black Mask, 1920-1951, which showed that her grandfather had written 13 stories for the magazine, two of which were Peter Trapp stories. So while the editors may have hoped that Davis would write more about this character, there were only two in the final output.

I'm not done with the story yet, but will give you a review later in the week with a short bio of Davis. Promise. And Karen told me that she will be happy to give me more information on her grandfather in a few weeks once she takes care of a few mundane chores like writing a master's thesis. I really don't know why she thinks that would be more important than my blog.

And I'm sorry to say that my scanner died somewhere between last week and this morning, so I can't show you a photo of the cover of this issue. (First my computer died a few weeks ago to the tune of about $400, and now my scanner. And my refrigerator is making funny noises now. Is Mercury in retrograde??) To appease you Black Mask fanatics, here's another one with a rather famous story featured on the front.


Walker Martin said...

By the way, a dealer near my table at PulpFest sold the five parts containing The Maltese Falcon, for $4,000. And the condition of the issues were not that great. Funny thing is the buyer is not a Black Mask or Hammett collector. He bought the issues because of Erle Stanley Gardner.

Laurie Powers said...

I guess in this case what drove the price up was that the entire series was there? I learned at Pulp Fest that entire runs of Black Mask are extremely scarce.


Wow - to only own a few of those.

Lana Gramlich said...

Sorry about your inevitable hardware problems. Let's hope the wave of anti-technology has passed you for the time being!