I want QUIBI to make a series about a time machine which allows an old writer to huddle with the Black Mask writers so they can author books that would confound Fuzzy Bear Hackers that were launched by Putin who wants to be Tsar. While preparing to launch their first counter-attack, the grandparents of the old man appear in the secret warehouse they meet in in Ventura by the Sea. Jack London and George Sterling join this endeavor to save Western Civilization from the Tsarist Red State Menace. Putin has launched a superior rocket and evangelical rednecks down in the red states are celebrating. They have been brainwashed by the Trumpire. Bohemia has risen! Long live the King of the Bohemians!
As the Authors of the Quest raise their goblets at the great table, a man comes out of the shadow. It is Ian Fleming, who is kin to Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor.
“What are you doing here, Fleming. This is our side of the pond!”
“Not any more. Mr. Rosamond, grandson of Royal Rosamond, is writing the worst spy-detective novel ever written. It’s about two Lesbians that take on the revival of the Romanov Empire. If he finishes this trashy dime novel, he will ruin my reputation.”
“Really. Is this true Mr. Rosamond?”
“Yes! I confess! I was inspired by the oppression of Pussy Riot who are going to jail and being whipped in public in order to destroy Putin’s reputation.”
“I see. Makes sense to me!”
“Why hasn’t the Queen of England written a formal protest? She and her family have Romanov DNA, what Putin would kill for to own.”
“Are Baigent and Leigh still around?”
“Let me get this straight. I have gone into the past, somehow?”
“Wrong! We have gone into the future. We are the Futurian Brotherhood, and we are quite aware that you have the gift to write about the future – days before real events occur. In a sense…we are – the future!”
“Have you heard of the great library of Alexandria and the Mouseion? How about the Septuagint? There was a duplicate archive in the temple that King Herod built. This archive was secretly moved to the Land of God by the Ashekinazi Jews, one of the Lost Tribe. You have written a chapter where you have Victoria Bond and Miriam Christling look for Queen Victoria’s lost library that you suggest is a collection of Russian Fairytales. You are poised to write that Starfish found this library. We highly suggest you go no further, because this would be a death sentence. A Great Goddess Muse is dictating much of your writing. The reason she does, is because you descend from Cleopatra and Mark Anthony. So does your cousin, Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor.”
“And so does Jesus!” offered another Black Mask Brother.
“And so do you!”
“Have you heard of the Septuagint, Mr. Rosamond?”
“Yes. I am a theologian.”
“Why did you give up on your book ‘Where Art Thou?”
“I felt my Biblical work was rendered hopeless by the evangelical followers of Tim LaHaye who wrote the ‘Left Behind’ series.”
“Left behind? Do you see what is going on? We are from – the past. We can go into the future. There is a dark force which wants to put an end to the future of earthlings, but for a handful of their elite.”
“Your Muse wants to see Victoria’s fairytale archive because the true Torah, and the work of the Nine Muses is encoded – there!”
“Look at the cover of our magazine. Who does this woman in the water look like?”
“Oh my God! It’s – Liz Taylor!”
“Yes! They called her a Movie Goddess. Indeed, she is the Tenth Muse, the Muse of Motion Pictures.”
“How many of us are in this photo?”
“We have been called Dwarfs by Walt.”
John Presco a.k.a. John Wilson Rosamond
The Great Library of Alexandria in Alexandria, Egypt, was one of the largest and most significant libraries of the ancient world. The Library was part of a larger research institution called the Mouseion, which was dedicated to the Muses, the nine goddesses of the arts. The idea of a universal library in Alexandria may have been proposed by Demetrius of Phalerum, an exiled Athenian statesman living in Alexandria, to Ptolemy I Soter, who may have established plans for the Library, but the Library itself was probably not built until the reign of his son Ptolemy II Philadelphus. The Library quickly acquired many papyrus scrolls, due largely to the Ptolemaic kings’ aggressive and well-funded policies for procuring texts. It is unknown precisely how many such scrolls were housed at any given time, but estimates range from 40,000 to 400,000 at its height.
Black Mask Authors
This extremely rare photo of the first west coast Black Mask get-together on January 11, 1936 captures possibly the only meeting of several of these authors.
Pictured in the back row, from left to right, are Raymond J. Moffatt, Raymond Chandler, Herbert Stinson, Dwight Babcock, Eric Taylor and Dashiell Hammett. In the front row, again from left to right, are Arthur Barnes (?), John K. Butler, W. T. Ballard, Horace McCoy and Norbert Davis.
Rosemary told me her father, Royal Rosamond, used to sail to the Channel Islands and camp with his friend, Dashiell Hammett who is seen standing on the right in the photo above.
Aunt Lillian told me she would fall asleep listening to Royal and Erle Stanley Gardner on the typewriter in the living room. Royal was Gardner’s teacher and a member of the Black Mask. I believe I can almost recoginize Black Mask authors under the tree on Santa Cruz Island sitting under a tree with my grandmother, Mary Magdalene Rosamond, who does not look very happy as she embraces a black dog. Who is that woman? Is she a writer? She looks a bit crazed, as does the guy holding a gun. Is Mary hearing some far-out and weird ideas around the campfire?
When I was fifteen Rosemary showed me about six magazines wherein her father’s stories appeared. There were several mysteries. I am going to send the camping photo to some experts. That looks like Raymond Chandler in front of the tent. Is he the guy packing heat?
Hammett wrote the Maltese Falcon that begins with a story about the Knight Templars. Was this a tale passed around the campfire on Santa Cruz Island?
Chandler had an immense stylistic influence on American popular literature, and is considered by many to be a founder, along with Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain and other Black Mask writers, of the hard-boiled school of detective fiction. His protagonist, Philip Marlowe, along with Hammett’s Sam Spade, is considered by some to be synonymous with “private detective,” both having been played on screen by Humphrey Bogart, whom many considered to be the quintessential Marlowe.
Sterling was born in 1869 in Sag Harbor, New York, where his ancestors stretched back to the Puritans. As a young man, he joined the seminary to become a priest and excelled in studying poetry. In 1890, he decided against the priesthood and moved to California to work in real estate with his uncle, a successful businessman. Around that time, he began writing poetry seriously. In 1896, he married Carrie Rand, a stenographer in his uncle’s office.
By 1900, Sterling was active in every Bay Area literary circle, and his reputation was burgeoning. Novelist Mary Austin wrote of Sterling that in 1900, there was a “rumor of a new poet of Keatsian promise, rising somewhere about the Golden Gate.” He belonged to the Bohemian Club, where influential journalists, artists, and businessmen met behind a closed door marked with the cryptic motto “Weaving Spiders Come Not Here.” Along with London, Sterling also attended a salon at the artist Xavier Martinez’s house and studio in Piedmont, a San Francisco suburb. He ate at Coppa’s, whose owner, Poppa Coppa, was an art lover who served the Bohemians heaping plates of seafood. “One dined so well in San Francisco in those days,” Austin wrote. “And all for thirty-five cents!”
Black Mask (magazine)
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September 1929 cover of Black Mask, featuring part 1 of serialization of The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett. Illustration of private eye Sam Spade by Henry C. Murphy, Jr.
|Editor||H. L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan; Philip C. Cody (1924-1926) later Joseph Shaw|
|Frequency||Started monthly, then twice a month after August 1922, then monthly in 1926|
|Publisher||Pro-Distributors Publishing Company, 1920-40; Popular Publications 1940-51|
|First issue||April 1920|
Black Mask was a pulp magazine first published in April 1920 by the journalist H. L. Mencken and the drama critic George Jean Nathan. The magazine was one of several money-making publishing ventures to support the prestigious literary magazine The Smart Set, which Mencken edited, and which had operated at a loss since at least 1917. Under their editorial hand, the magazine was not exclusively a publisher of crime fiction, offering, according to the magazine, “the best stories available of adventure, the best mystery and detective stories, the best romances, the best love stories, and the best stories of the occult.” The magazine’s first editor was Florence Osborne (credited as F. M. Osborne).
After eight issues, Mencken and Nathan considered their initial $600 investment to have been sufficiently profitable, and they sold the magazine to its publishers, Eltinge Warner and Eugene Crow, for $12,500. The magazine was then edited by George W. Sutton (1922–24), followed by Philip C. Cody. Cody had significant interests and expertise in the publishing world serving as Vice President of Warner Publications publishers of such mass market magazines as Field and Stream, and pulp genre publications such as Black Mask. Under Cody’s editorship, the content of Black Mask became more sensationalist. Cody, who had a keen sense for what appealed to the public marketplace, focused on what had the most reader allure. Under Cody, the stories chosen for publication were longer, more intricately plotted and strewn with more blood, guts, gore and sex. Cody served as both circulation editor and general editor from 1924 to 1926. In 1926, Joseph Shaw took over the editorship.
Early Black Mask contributors of note included J. S. Fletcher, Vincent Starrett, and Herman Petersen. Shaw, following up on a promising lead from one of the early issues, promptly turned the magazine into an outlet for the growing school of naturalistic crime writers led by Carroll John Daly. Daly’s private detective Race Williams was a rough-and-ready character with a sharp tongue, establishing a model for many later acerbic private eyes.
Black Mask later published stories by the profoundly influential Dashiell Hammett, creator of Sam Spade and The Continental Op, and other hardboiled writers who came in his wake, such as Raymond Chandler, Erle Stanley Gardner, Paul Cain, Frederick Nebel, Frederick C. Davis, Raoul F. Whitfield, Theodore Tinsley, Todhunter Ballard (as W.T. Ballard), Dwight V. Babcock, and Roger Torrey. The best-known contributors to Black Mask were mostly men, but the magazine also published works by many female crime writers, including Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Katherine Brocklebank, Sally Dixon Wright, Florence M. Pettee, Marion O’Hearn, Kay Krausse, Frances Beck, Tiah Devitt and Dorothy Dunn. Crime fiction made up most of the magazine’s content, but Black Mask also published some Western and general adventure fiction.
The magazine was successful, and many of the writers whose work appeared in its pages, such as Hugh B. Cave, went on to greater commercial and critical success. Writer George Harmon Coxe created “Casey, Crime Photographer“, for the magazine; the character became a media franchise, appearing in novels, films, radio and television programs, comic books, and theatrical productions.
Black Mask’s covers were usually painted by Fred Craft or J. W. Schlaikjer. Shaw gave Arthur Rodman Bowker a monopoly on creating illustrations for the interior of the magazine.
Decline and revival
Black Mask reached a sales peak in the early 1930s, but then interest began to wane under increasing pressure from radio, the cinema, and rival pulp magazines. In 1936, refusing to cut writers’ already meager pay, Shaw resigned, and many of the high-profile authors abandoned the magazine with him. Shaw’s successor, Fanny Ellsworth (1936–40), managed to attract new writers to Black Mask, including Cornell Woolrich, Frank Gruber, Max Brand and Steve Fisher. However, from the 1940s on, Black Mask was in decline, despite the efforts of a new editor, Kenneth S. White (1940–48). The magazine in this period carried the work of John D. MacDonald. Henry Steeger then edited Black Mask anonymously until it ceased publication in 1951.
In 1985, the magazine was revived as The New Black Mask, featuring noted crime writers James Ellroy, Michael Collins, Sara Paretsky and Bill Pronzini, as well as Chandler and Hammett reprints. Edward D. Hoch praised the revived Black Mask, stating in the book Encyclopedia Mysteriosa that “it came close to reviving the excitement and storytelling pleasure of the great old pulp magazines”. As a result of a legal dispute over the rights to the name Black Mask, the magazine ceased publication in 1987. It was revived as a short-lived magazine entitled A Matter of Crime.
Original copies of the Black Mask are highly valued among pulp magazine collectors. Issues with stories by Chandler and Hammett are especially rare and command high prices.
In 2016, the magazine, including its copyrights and intellectual property, were acquired by Steeger Properties, LLC. It was relaunched by Altus Press.
- The Hard-Boiled Omnibus: Early Stories from Black Mask, edited by Joseph T. Shaw (1946).
- The Hard-Boiled Detective: Stories from Black Mask magazine, 1920–1951, edited by Herbert Ruhm (1977).
- The Black Mask Boys: Masters in the Hard-Boiled School of Detective Fiction, edited by William F. Nolan (1985). Includes a short history of the magazine.
- The Black Lizard Big Book of Black Mask Stories, edited by Otto Penzler (2007).
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Today is my birthday.