‘A malaise conveyed to the reader’

Edmund_WilsonEdmund Wilson (1895-1972), was a literary critic and essayist who wrote for Vanity Fair, the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books. Wilson made a few contributions to Southern California literary history — as well as editing his university friend F. Scott Fitzgerald’s posthumously published and incomplete Hollywood novel The Last Tycoon, his essay ‘The Boys in the Back Room’ (1941) was a significant early discussion of expatriate California novelists like James M. Cain and Horace McCoy.

Continue reading →

Death in a Bowl (1931)

Death in a Bowl cover

Raoul Whitfield was one of the first generation of hard-boiled writers published by Black Mask Magazine. His writing career mirrored that of his friend Dashiell Hammett – a high volume of short stories published in the pulps from the mid-1920s to the early 1930s, a relatively small number of novels (most of which were constructed by combining together several short stories, as Chandler would later do with his early novels), and then a fairly early decline into poor health and literary unproductiveness.

He is a fairly obscure figure, compared to his Black Mask peers Hammett, Carroll John Daly (author of some of the earliest recognisably ‘hard boiled’ stories) and Erle Stanley Gardner (creator of the hugely successful Perry Mason series). Peter Ruber and Victor A. Berch’s biographical essay acknowledges Whitfield’s status as ‘Black Mask’s Forgotten Man’, and suggests that he was significant for the volume of work he produced during his decade of productivity, if not for the quality of that work.

Continue reading →