cover image The Complete Slayers

The Complete Slayers

Paul Cain, edited and with a biographical essay by Max Allan Collins and Lynn F. Myers Jr.. Centipede (, $75 (764p) ISBN 978-1-933618-99-9

This first collection of all of Cain%E2%80%99s fiction (a novel, The Fast One, and 15 short stories first published in 1930s pulp magazines) would better achieve the editors%E2%80%99 aim of reintroducing him if it were available in a less pricy edition (E-book, anyone?). Given the cost, it%E2%80%99s unlikely the casual fan of hard-boiled crime fiction will bite; those who do may be put off by the often over-the-top introductions to the stories. For example, Bill Pronzini prefaces "Parlor Trick" by observing, "Given the same theme and plot elements, Hemingway would have been hard-pressed to write it more convincingly." Such hype makes disappointment inevitable, and does a disservice to a decent hard-hitting gangster yarn. Cain%E2%80%99s capable on occasion of the witty Chandleresque simile (a thug%E2%80%99s head "looked like it had been made for him when he was a baby and he%E2%80%99d never gotten around to having it changed"). Cain%E2%80%99s spare prose works well in the genre, but no single entry stands out as a classic. (Feb.)