Sunday, December 1, 2019

30% OFF: JOSEPH T. SHAW, The Man Behind BLACK MASK by Milton Shaw

Joe “Cap” Shaw has become an almost mythic figure in the history of hardboiled fiction. A great deal has been written about him over the years, but usually as a supporting character in stories celebrating one or more of his writers. And that, I believe, is the way Shaw would have wanted it. Most of his professional life was devoted to encouraging and promoting the careers of others.

Now, at last, we have a book-length study devoted to Joe himself, written by none other than his son Milton Shaw. The book was obviously a labor of love, and is the closest we will ever come to knowing the man behind the legend. AND, today and tomorrow only, you can get it for 30% OFF at the Steeger Books Black Friday/Cyber Monday Sale. That's HERE (use promo code 2019TURKEY). 

The author has done a fine job of gathering anecdotes and analysis from multiple sources, adding never-before-seen correspondence between Joe and his writers, and enriching it all his own extensive research and personal insight.

The real meat of the book is the center, dealing with Joe’s time at the helm of Black Mask and the succeeding years spent as a writer and literary agent.

Much of the information about the Mask years is new to me, and all of it fascinating. The focus is on his relationships with the important writers: Tom Curry, Dashiell Hammett, Frederick Nebel, Carroll John Daly, Raymond Chandler, Dwight Babcock, Lester Dent, Horace McCoy, W.T. Ballard, Raoul Whitfield, Erle Stanley Gardner and Tom Curry. With most, that relationship was cordial and mutually beneficial, but the exception was Gardner, who comes across as surprisingly contentious.

Possible reasons for Shaw’s departure from the magazine in 1936 are discussed at length, leading into the making of The Hardboiled Omnibus, his work as a literary agent and the eventual formation of his own agency.

One of the more interesting parts of the book is a lengthy section (over 100 pages!) devoted to correspondence between Joe and writers William R. Cox, Norman A. Fox and Tommy Thompson. It’s here that we really see the inner working of Shaw’s mind and personality, and glean a wealth of detail about the evolving literary market of the 1950s.

Before all that, of course, there’s much all-new information about Joe’s parents, his upbringing and his experiences in World War I. And after his retirement, we’re treated to an inside look at life with his wife and children at their home in Scarsdale, New York.

It’s Joseph T. Shaw, from beginning to end, with lots of good stuff in between. If you’re a Black Maskian like me, this book is required reading.

1 comment:

Rick Robinson said...

Been there, (Saturday), done that. Thanks for the tip!