Friday, October 8, 2010

Forgotten Books: A Comprehensive Index to Black Mask, 1920-1951 by E. R. Hagemann

After reading (and no doubt enjoying) your copy of the new Black Lizard Big Book of Black Mask Stories, you may be interested to know what was not included in that book. For most of us (meaning all of us who are not Walker Martin), the only way to find out is to peruse a copy of this 1982 index by E.R. Hagemann, then a professor at the University of Louisville.

The meat of the book, comprising all but 30 of the 236 pages, is an alphabetical listing of authors, listing each story, the issue it appeared in and the pages it occupied. When the story was part of a series, that too is indicated. In some cases, Hagemann also provides notes on the story’s genre, subject, and whether it was told in 1st or 3rd person. Also included are notes where (as of 1982) stories had been reprinted.

PLUS: A separate listing of authors in order of their appearance in the magazine, providing the date of that issue, a list of their series characters, their total number of stories, and pseudonyms (if any). A 6-page preface on the format and compiling of the index. A list of library holdings of the magazine (as of 1982). And a list of the magazine’s editors and their span of tenure.

This is not the sort of book you’re likely to sit down and read from cover to cover, but its definitely handy to have on the shelf for pulpy details you just can’t find anywhere else. Some of those details are surprising. For instance, which author made the greatest number of appearances? I wouldn’t have guessed, but it was Erle Stanley Gardner with 103. Less surprising were the runners-up: Raoul Whitfield (under two names) with 90, Frederick Nebel with 67 and Carroll John Daly with 60. Dashiell Hammett came in at 45, aced out by both Charles Somerville (an early contributor) and Roger Torrey.

At the time Prof. Hagemann was working on this book he was also editing a special issue of Clues, A Journal of Detection (Fall/Winter 1981)  focusing on Pulp Detective Fiction. I did a piece on Nebel for that issue, so I was corresponding with the professor, and was eager to get the Index as soon as it came out. And I did.  

One thing that always puzzled me about the book was the choice of cover art. With scores of great covers to choose from, why select this one from March 1946? The art is by Rafael De Soto, who produced many fine covers in the 40s, but I consider this one of his weaker efforts. And the headliners for this issue are names forgotten by all but hardcore pulp collectors.

More, more, more Forgotten Books are linked at pattinase.


Deka Black said...

Wow! Really great book for investigators and clean doubts away! The work behind this book must be humongous. I would like to see one for Weird Tales.

George said...

I would have guessed ESG published the most stories in BLACK MASK. He might have published more if he hadn't scored with the Perry Mason novels and broken into the Big Time with the SATURDAY EVENING POST.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I am always looking for copies of this magazine in used bookstores but no luck so far.

Charles Gramlich said...

I'm always amazed at the folks who compile these bibligoraphies and indexes. What monumental tasks often times.

Laurie Powers said...

I'm with you on the cover art. I've got a couple in my collection that would have been better. Actually, my collection of BLACK MASKs IS only a couple, but that's besides the point.

Patti, if you ever find them in a used bookstore, grab them and don't look back. I'm afraid that, unless the bookstore owner doesn't know what he's got, that the prices will be steep. They will probably get even more dear now that the Big Book has come out.

Paul D Brazill said...

Well, this IS a labour of love.

Cullen Gallagher said...

I like these sorts of reference books. Wish there were more of them!

Todd Mason said...

Evan, I'm surprised you're surprised by Gardner...even by the standards of the pulpsters, the man was a writing machine.

I do love books like this, mean, mint condition BLACK MASK and WEIRD TALES complete collections aren't lying around your local thrift stores for pocket change? Clearly, you guys just don't know how to live in collectors' fantasy worlds (I have difficulty convincing the proprietor of the largest secondhand store I regularly frequent that I'm serious about wanting to see any fiction magazines she has, despite my regular purchases, but perhaps she's simply shellshocked by rents and such).

Evan Lewis said...

I guess I'm surprised by Gardner because he's in so few of the issues I have. Of course, I was collecting mainly by author, and he wasn't one of the guys I was after. AND, while his main Black Mask series character, Ed Jenkins the Phantom Crook, is pretty well known, the others are now forgotten: Bob Larkin, Black Barr, Ken Corning and Pete Wennick.

Richard R. said...

For starters, these are always labours of love, and they are far more work to do, and do accurately, than anyone who hasn't worked on one can imagine. I wasn't aware of this one, but honestly, I'm not sure I have a use for it, not being a pulp collector and relying on the reprint houses to feed the Black Mask need. Still awfully nice to know it's in existence.

Oh, and I haven't even STARTED the Black Lizard Black Mask collection... and now it's packed away in a box, somewhere. **sigh**

Walker Martin said...

Deka Black in the first comment says he would like to see an index for WEIRD TALES. I have two or three with my collection but the best by far is THE COLLECTOR'S INDEX TO WEIRD TALES by Sheldon Jaffery and Fred Cook(1985 Bowling Green Popular Press). It's even bigger than the BLACK MASK index at 8 1/2 by 11 inches and 162 pages.

Both the authors were good friends of mine especially at Pulpcons, but unfortunately no longer with us. I highly recommend this book to fellow lovers of the macabre.

Evan Lewis said...

Thanks, Walker.

As far as I know, Professor Hagemann is still with us. I googled up a reference to him doing his professing at UCLA as recently as 2009.

Deka Black said...

Thanks Walker!

Russ Pfister said...

I just purchased a copy on eBay for under $25 (USD). The seller is from Australia and has 2 more copies left. There's also a copy up for auction on the site, opening bid is $15. Can't wait to browse through it when my copy arrives.

Tom Roberts said...

When I put together JO GAR's CASEBOOK by Raoul Whitfield for Crippen and Landru (2002), which collecting all the Black Mask Jo Gar stories, we ran as the appendices a couple essays by Mr. Hageman reprinted from Arm Chair Detective.

If memory serves, it was his widow that gave permission to reprint the articles.

Just for the record, there are some mistakes in Mr. Hageman's Black Mask Index. Primarily missing citations.

The citations (stories) are only arranged by author, then alphabetically by title, and never chronologically by issue. This makes the book nearly impossible to utilize from a researcher viewpoint, and denies the user the vantage of seeing the stories in the context of which writers were appearing in the same issues and time periods.

This information is imperative to know and understand when researching and writing about Black Mask, as the writers each fueled off what the other contributors were doing and creating.

Tom Roberts
Black Dog Books