Sunday, November 22, 2009

Lester Dent in Black Mask: Angelfish

Lester Dent has been the subject of talk on Ed Gorman's new improved blog the past couple of days, and Ed speaks of Dent's fine Black Mask story "Angelfish". Well, I don't have many issues of that mag from its golden age, but I do have the Angelfish ish, and I think it's pretty cool that Dent got the cover.

The artist took a few liberties here. Oscar Sail dresses all in black, while this guy has blue trousers and a green shirt. Still, this is based on a scene from the story. Private eye Sail visits his client in her hotel room (not on a boat, as seen here), where she's in bed with the covers pulled up around her neck. When he pulls the covers down, he discovers she's tied up.

Dent's two Oscar Sail stories were his only sales to Black Mask. There undoubtedly would have been more had editor Joe Shaw not left the magazine soon after their appearance.

"Sail" from Nov. 1936, can be found in The Hard-Boiled Omnibus (edited by Shaw, 1946 & 1952), Tough Guys & Dangerous Dames (1994), and EQMM 11/53 (as "V Marks the Spot").

"Angelfish" was reprinted in Ron Goulart's The Hardboiled Dicks (1967), and The Hard-boiled Detective (1977), along with EQMM 6/47 and the EQ Anthology 1966 (as "Tropical Disturbance").


Richard Prosch said...

Ed mentions Dent typing away in Missouri before moving to NYC. Was he born/raised in the Show-Me state?

Evan Lewis said...

I didn't know the answer to that, but found this on a site run by the University of Missouri, where Dent's papers reside:
Lester Bernard Dent was born in La Plata, Missouri, in 1904. For most of his childhood he lived in Oklahoma and on a Wyoming cattle ranch operated by his parents, Bernard and Alice Dent. The Dent family returned to La Plata about 1918, and Lester graduated from La Plata High School in 1923. Following high school he attended Chillicothe Business College, where he learned telegraphy. Afterwards Dent worked as a telegraph operator for a number of newspapers and news wire services in Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma.

Laurie Powers said...

Nice cover. I'm jealous - the only two Black Masks I have are from the 40s.

By the way, I have a copy of a book "Bigger than Life: The Creator of Doc Savage" by Marilyn Cannaday. Published by Bowling Green Press, 1990. Bio of Lester Dent. I don't know much about the book - she sent it to me, being a fan of Pulp Writer. Unfortunately I just never have gotten around to reading it. If you look around you could get a copy or I can send you mine.

Evan Lewis said...

Thanks Laurie. I've seen that book on Amazon and it's not expensive, so I suppose I should buy it. The review I saw was not kind. The person who should be writing a Dent bio is Will Murray. Maybe he is.

Most of my Black Masks are from the 40s, too, when it was no better than any other detective mag.

Brian Drake said...

That's a great cover. I have both stories in the anthologies mentioned, but have the darndest time getting into them despite several tries. I never seem to last more than a few pages. I'll get through them someday.

Evan Lewis said...

Howdy, Brian. You still kicking butt on NaNoWriMo?

Doug Levin said...

Those Oscar Sail stories are really great -- I read them a few years back. It's too bad there weren't more. (These are the only two in Black Mask but were there others elsewhere?) The Charles Williams nautical stuff is pretty great too, though they are more romantic and less noir than a lot of his other stuff.

Evan Lewis said...

Far as I know, Doug. Those two Sails were it.

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