Very Cool Books From The Pulps; Black Dog Books
Yes there actually were pulp writers other than Hammett, Chandler Gardner worth reading and studying. Tom Roberts Roberts at Black Dogs Books has heroically set about demonstrating that with his line of sturdy, attractive trade paperbacks that highlight some of the lesser known scribes who filled the pages of pulps major and minor.
BODYGUARD AND OTHER STORIES
Roger Torrey isn't somebody I knew much about. I'd read a few of his stories but hadn't been impressed enough to hunt more down. My loss. In this collection of hardboiled crime stories we find a storyteller whose tales go down as smoothly as a chocolate malt. He knew how to keep excitement at a high pitch but what keeps his tales memorable is a mordancy you don't find in a lot of routine pulp crime. There's a grittiness and sense of doom in these pieces that make you realize you're reading about real human beings instead of the usual stereotypes (though you'll find those here too).
The biographical piece by Ron Goulart is excellent and gives amply motive for the mordancy I mentioned. Torrey died whenhe was not quite forty. He never met a bottle he didn't like.
DEAD MAN'S BRAND AND OTHER STORIES
As readers of this blog know, Norbert Davis is my favorite pulp writer. Not only was he masterful at plot and pace his sly and wry take on humanity oddly enough gave his stories a reality his more melodramatic peers rarely equaled. As a fan of forty years, I've read as much of his crime fiction as I could find. I learned through various biographical studies that Davis had also written for western pulps but except for a few odd samples here and there I'd never read any.
Once again Tom Roberts and Black Dog Books have rescued a major writer's lesser known work and published it in an attractive durable edition complete with one of Bill Pronzini's unequaled portraits of a pulp writer.
What sets Davis' western fiction apart from standard fair is once again his take on humanity. I recall reading a long time ago a criticism of his work that claimed his stories suffered because of his "odd" characters. But that's what makes the stories work. All the familiar tropes of the western are here--though I think Davis brought not only action but a real western color to his stories; he'd done his homework--but also some of his usual insights into people who are just a wee bit different from standard pulp types.
As with the Torrey, I had a great time reading this collection and I want to tip my hat to Tim Roberts and all the fine salvage work Black Dog Books is doing.