Wednesday, July 7, 2010

REAPER'S DOZEN: Brian Drake's salute to Black Mask

Is it Black Mask, or is it Brian Drake?

That’s the question you may be asking yourself as you read Reaper’s Dozen, the new hardboiled story collection available for download (for the mere pittance of $1.99) from Smashwords or Amazon.

Brian Drake’s dedication reads: For Captain Joseph T. Shaw, editor, Black Mask Magazine, 1926-1936. I think he would have liked these stories. 

Well, I wholeheartedly agree. Had these tales been written 80 years ago, Brian Drake may have taken his place as one of Shaw’s regulars alongside Frederick Nebel, Raoul Whitfield, W.T. Ballard and Paul Cain.

If you’ve read those guys, you know what to expect from Reaper’s Dozen. If not, a word of warning: These stories are not for the faint of heart. They’re fast, hard-hitting and tough as a two-dollar steak.

Drake gives us a nice blend of intriguing scenarios:
- A corpse so disfigured she can only be identified by a spider tattoo.
- A bride in a bloody wedding gown, twenty years late to the ceremony.
- An old pal who gets out of the slammer one day and lands in the morgue the next.
- A supposedly babe with a $200,000 bounty on her head.
- A pair of liquor store bandits who take the wrong man hostage.
- An unmarried man who gets a ransom note for his wife.
- A gambler who needs a bodyguard, and fills the position just a gunshot too late.
- A P.I. blackmailed into putting the squeeze on a politician.
- A priest hiring a gunman to bring down an underage sex racket.
And more.

You'll find surprises around every page, but you can sure of three things: The narration will be tight, the dialogue will be sharp and guns may go off at any moment - with deadly results. This book ain’t called Reaper’s Dozen for nothing.

Want a sample of Drake's diamond-hard prose? Check out his gripping tale, "The Red Ruby Kill" at BEAT to a PULP. And pay him a visit at Brian Drake Explains It All (if you dare).

Above: Artist's conception of Reaper's Dozen as it may have been designed by Joe "Cap" Shaw.
Below: Actual virtual cover.


Deka Black said...

For a moment i was thinking the first image was a actual cover of Black Mask.

David Cranmer said...

A very enjoyable collection of hard hitting prose. Shaw would have published any one of these gems.

Walker Martin said...

Deka was thinking that this is the actual cover of Black Mask. Well, it is. This is the September 1932 actual image with the date and story titles changed. Joe Shaw encouraged the artists to paint stylish and eye catching covers.

Evan Lewis said...

Walker wins the no-prize for identifying the Sept 1932 issue. I'm to blame for the Black Mask cover (not Brian) but it seemed appropriate given the book's content.

Deka Black said...

Well, this is a evidence: There is covers what today remain among the best and keep his strenght

Richard R. said...

Given the forgettable and amateurish nature of the actual cover, it's a pity someone didn't spend a few bucks for rights to something better, or at least hire an artist to do a cover. The one they give is a turnoff, I'd never pick up the book, based on the awful cover alone. But then it seems I couldn't pick it up anyway, since it appears to be an on-screen only publication. Like I said: it's a pity.

Evan Lewis said...

I sort of liked that virtual cover, especially since I suspect that's Brian himself aiming his .45 at us. In any case, it didn't come with the download. It's just sort of a billboard giving the book a presence on Amazon and Smashwords.

Deka Black said...

I like the actual cover. Is simple, and eye-catching. It says "this is about crime/noir". Is like tha author himself is about to shot his .45 stories at us.

Brian Drake said...


Thank you for the review and I'm very glad you liked the stories. Perhaps you'll also enjoy my novella about "Mr. Pierce", the character who appears in the final two stories of the collection, called "Justified Sins". Look for it in a month or two.

That is indeed me on the cover with one of my pistols. Rebecca Forster, a dear friend and fellow scribbler, designed the cover, and did a great job.

I only wish I could travel back to 1925, buy myself a Royal, and start retyping everything to see if Shaw really *would* buy the stories. Then again, don't we all?

Evan Lewis said...

I'll be looking for that story, Brian. It shouldn't be too hard to find yourself a 1925 Royal on the collectors market if you really want to feel closer to Cap and the gang. Bet a typewriter would feel mighty clunky now, though.

Brian Drake said...

Actually, Evan, I have two Royals, one portable and one full-size, that belonged to my grandparents and I spent serious money to get both working again. I type that way before putting things into the computer. The typewriter keys sound like machine guns when I get going really fast and I use two fingers like Mickey Spillane did. Parts and ribbons remain plentiful and in production (there's a huge niche market for old typewriters) so it's not "ancient" at all. And they don't crash or get viruses.