The Black Mask Murders: A Novel Featuring the Black Mask Boys, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Erle Stanley Gardner

William F. Nolan, Author
William F. Nolan, Author St. Martin's Press $19.95 (214p) ISBN 978-0-312-10942-4
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Veteran author Nolan ( Logan's Run ) launches a series to be narrated by those crime writers he calls ``The Black Mask Boys''--Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Erle Stanley Gardner. Hammett leads off this 1935 plot, jam-packed with movie stars and moguls, gangsters, blackmailers, nasty pre-Miranda cops and even a gem-encrusted human skull dating from the Crusades. Readers will be reminded less of The Maltese Falcon than of Hammett's early pulp fiction. This tale, featuring some incredibly daring sleuthing by all three writers-made-characters, moves along like a crumpled cocktail napkin caught up in the windstorm and seems to have about the same weight in the end. Cameo appearances include those by Scott Fitzgerald and Heinie Faust, who wrote as Max Brand (and other names). Nolan dredges up some pretty portentous prose in this plumbing of the past (an encounter with Fitzgerald leaves Dash ruminating: ``All that talent--and all that booze. A bad combination''). Of interest as a period piece and for its insider allusions, this is no hard-boiled tale. (July)
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