The man in the powder-blue suit--which wasn't powder-blue under the lights of the Club Bolivar--was tall, with wide-set gray eyes, a thin nose, a jaw of stone. He had a rather sensitive mouth. His hair was crisp and black, ever so faintly touched with gray, as by an almost diffident hand. His clothes fitted him as though they had a soul of their own, not just a doubtful past. His name happened to be Mallory.
That's the way one story in the December 1933 edition of Black Mask magazine begins:
The title of the story? "Blackmailers Don't Shoot," which just happens to be the first appearance in print of detective fiction by Raymond Chandler.
If you'd like to take a short tour of the apartment building where Chandler lived with his wife Cissy when he wrote those lines, check out this YouTube video featuring Judith Freeman, author of The Long Embrace.
I'm as big a fan of physical books as the next guy, as you can tell from this section on my website where I've posted scans of some of the inscribed first editions I've collected, including Hammett from Joe Gores, A Drink Before the War by Dennis Lehane and The Monkey's Raincoat by Robert Crais.
However, I'm also in the software industry, which makes me kind of geeky and gives me an appreciation for electronic gadgets, including ebook readers. I'd previously used my Palm Treo to read books like Stalin's Ghost by Martin Cruz Smith, The Tin Roof Blowdown by James Lee Burke and Red Cat by Peter Spiegelman.
But the Treo's small (back lit) screen does leave something to be desired for book reading, so I was intrigued when Amazon announced their Kindle ebook reader late last year. I bought one of the first ones (before they sold out) and have really taken to it. The size is ideal, the "electronic paper" technology used for the screen is a lot easier on the eyes, and I appreciate the fact that I can be lounging in bed at night with nothing to read one minute and have downloaded a copy of say, Charlatan by Pope Brock in another.
And to paraphrase Victor Kiam ("I liked it so much, I bought the company"), I liked the Kindle so much I arranged to have my second novel, Vulture Capital, published on it. Here's a shot of the cover:
And the first page:
A special shout out to Joshua Tallent for doing the conversion of Vulture to the Kindle format. He did an excellent job, mixing in the hard-to-format quotes and photos that start each chapter with aplomb. If you're an author or a publisher looking to format books of your own, I'd highly recommend him.
Jeff Pierce of The Rap Sheet has posted two wonderful tributes for private eye writer Arthur Lyons, who died recently in his home in Palm Springs. In one, he provides an unpublished essay he wrote about Lyons in the early 80s.
In another, he reflects on Lyon's life and contributions to the PI genre, and describes the experience of doing an interview with him in November 1980. He also recounts how he and I came to contact Lyons as a result of research I was doing for a series of Rap Sheet articles about The New Black Mask.
Here's the e-mail I sent to Lyons on November 4 of last year:
Dear Mr. Lyons,
I'm a big fan of your Jacob Asch PI books. I'm writing a short article on THE NEW BLACK MASK, where your story "Trouble in Paradise" appeared. I wanted to give an update on what you are doing of late. I know that you host the annual Palm Springs Film Noir Festival. Would you be willing to share any other news?
Thank you very much in advance, and I just wanted to say again how much I admire your books. I've got most all of them in reach on my bookshelf as I write this.
Here are the aforementioned books--reprint editions from Henry Holt published in the early 80s:
And here's the response I received back from Lyons on the 14th of the same month:
WHILE MOST OF MY TIME IS CURRENTLY BEING TAKEN UP BY THE FESTIVAL, I'M ALSO IN THE MIDDLE OF A NEW DETECTIVE NOVEL WITH A NEW MAIN CHARACTER, AS WELL AS MAKING PLANS FOR A NEW BOOK ON FILM NOIR.
THANKS FOR THE INTEREST.
It would be wonderful if someone would published the unfinished novel. Or, for that matter, step up to reprinting his series.