Black

Created by Paul Cain (pseud. of Gerge Sims, 1902-66)

Tough, hard and cold, private dick BLACK popped up in a couple of short stories in Black Mask in the thirties. Originally from New York, where he alludes to some shady business he was involved in, he's now doing quite well legitimately, "keeping people out. of trouble, not getting them into it." Black is his last name; he is not given any first name in the stories.

Like Hammett, there is that spare, dispassionate tone in Cain's work, which narrates events in a flat, unemotional manner. The detective is cold and unemotional, a lean, mean detecting machine, who gets involved in gang disputes in "Black", and plays both sides against each other, just like The Continental Op in Red Harvest.

As with all Cain's stories, they're masterpiece of a "stripped-down prose style that makes...Ernest Hemingway look flowery and...Andrew Vachss seem somehow overblown," according to Jack Adrian in Hard-Boiled.

In his short literary career, Cain (real name: George Sims... maybe) only wrote 17 or so short stories, all for Black Mask. Five of them were combined to make his one and only novel, Fast One, pretty much a hard-boiled classic, and seven of them were collected for his one collection, Seven Slayers. In that small but powerful body of work were even a few private eye tales, most notably the two featuring Black. As George Ruric he worked as a production assistant and as Peter Ruric as a screenwriter in the thirties and forties, scripting Gambling Ship (allegedly "derived" from Fast One), The Black Cat, Affairs of a Gentleman, Dark Sands, Twelve Crowded Hours, The Night of January 16, Alias A Gentleman, Mademoiselle Fiji and Grand Central Murder.

And if that's not enough trivia, it turns out that Cain may have been the one who suggested that actress Myrna Adele Williams change her name to Myrna Loy, apparently drawing his inspiration from a modernist poet named Mina Loy.

SHORT STORIES

  • "Black" (1932, Black Mask; also 1950, Seven Slayers)

  • "Trouble-Chaser" (April 1934, Black Mask; also 1995, Hard-Boiled)

COLLECTIONS

Long-awaited collection, co-edited by Lynn Myers and Max Alan Collins, features the novel Fast One and all Cain's short fiction written for Black Mask and other pulps. Includes both his P.I. stories about Black, as well as intros to each story by some of the current big shots of crime fiction. And me, there to cleanse the palate, no doubt.

Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.


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