A (Black) Gat in The Hand: Saying Goodbye with a Black Mask Dinner

Monday, December 31st, 2018 | Posted by Bob Byrne

“You’re the second guy I’ve met within hours who seems to think a gat in the hand means a world by the tail.” – Phillip Marlowe in Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep

(Gat — Prohibition Era term for a gun. Shortened version of Gatling Gun)


This is a pretty famous photograph in hardboiled/pulp lore. It’s of the attendees of the 1936 West Coast Black Mask Writers dinner. And it’s the only known meeting of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. But there was a lot more writing talent present!

From back left: Raymond Moffat, Raymond Chandler, Herbert Stinson, Dwight Babcock, Eric Taylor, and Dashiell Hammett.

From front left: Arthur Barnes, John K. Butler, W.T. Ballard, Horace McCoy, and Norbert Davis.


This post is going to focus on the man who was primarily responsible for making this gathering happen.

Dwight Babcock sent his first very first story to Underworld Magazine. They promptly lost it! He retitled it “At the Bottom of Every Mess,” and sent it to Black Mask, figuring he’d get a nice rejection letter. Instead, he got an acceptance letter and a $100 check. When most pulps were paying a quarter to a half cent a word, Babcock got a penny and a quarter cent per word for his first effort!

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God Of War (2018): Masterpiece

Saturday, December 29th, 2018 | Posted by Matt Drought

god of war

God Of War (2018) is an incredible work of art. I believe that it is the best game of this generation. I understand this is an incredible claim to make. Each component of the game, story, graphics, and gameplay complement each other, providing a fun and immersive game that resonates with the player.

(Beware spoilers if you have never played a God Of War game)

The God of War series of games began in 2005 on the Playstation 2. The first game was named, appropriately, God Of War, which is also the name given to the entire series.

The story begins in ancient Greece, with a Spartan Warrior named Kratos. Kratos is tricked into killing his wife and daughter by the Greek God Of War, Ares. Kratos, armed with the Blades of Chaos, and fueled by utter rage, kills Ares and ascends to become a God, the new God Of War. In the following titles, it is revealed that Kratos is the son of Zeus. Kratos, disgusted with the behavior and manipulation by the Olympians, embarks on a dark path, destroying allies and foes alike to take down Zeus and the pantheon of Greek Gods.

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Merry Christmas from Black Gate

Tuesday, December 25th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Black Gate Christmas tree

It’s been about as perfect a Christmas as you could wish for here at Black Gate — with the possible exception of the weather. After a ferocious November, and a whole lot of snow shoveling, December came in like a lamb and the snow melted weeks ago. I can’t remember the last time we missed out on a White Christmas in Chicago (and it’s forecast to hit the 50s by Thursday).

Weather aside, this has been a truly marvelous year for Black Gate. I look back at the last twelve months, and I know there’s a lot to be thankful for. But the thing I find myself most grateful for are those faithful readers who return every day, helping improve the site with comments and thoughtful feedback. We cherish all our readers, but it’s our regulars who have come to mean the most. Folks like Thomas Parker, smitty59, Major Wootton, Rich Horton, Eugene R, Glenn, R.K. Robinson, Aonghus Fallon, Joe H, silentdante, Charles_Martel, CMR, GusG, Jeff Stehman, Barsoomia, kelleyg, Allard, SELindberg, and many, many others, make the effort we put in every day worthwhile. Thank you.

It’s been an incredible run the last few years — an Alfie Award, a World Fantasy Award, and many other honors. We’re very well aware that the source of all that recent fame has been you, the fans, who work hard to spread the word and bring new traffic to our humble site.

So thank you once again, from the bottom of our hearts. On behalf of the vast and unruly collective that is Black Gate, I would like to wish you all Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Continue being excellent — it’s what you’re good at.

A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Back Deck Pulp #6

Monday, December 24th, 2018 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Nebel_MacBrideNewspaperadEDITED“You’re the second guy I’ve met within hours who seems to think a gat in the hand means a world by the tail.” – Phillip Marlowe in Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep

(Gat — Prohibition Era term for a gun. Shortened version of Gatling Gun)

And with only more week to go, here’s the rest of the Back Deck Pulp posts from my Facebook feed – which I used as an unofficial promo for this column. You can read the first five Back Deck Pulp posts by clicking the links at the end of this one.


Frederick Nebel was a prolific, solid pulpster whom Joe Shaw turned to to replace Dashiell Hammett when the latter left Black Mask. Stories featuring Donahue, Cardigan, Gales & McGill, and MacBride and Kennedy were just some of quality work he turned out. I consider Nebel one of the best of the Pulp Era writers. 

Back Deck Pulp is reading some MacBride and Kennedy on a pleasant evening. The long running series featuring a hardboiled police captain and a drunken reporter was a Black Mask staple. Frederick Nebel was a first rate pulpster. I already wrote a A (Black) Gat in the Hand post about his ultra-tough private eye, Donahue. And I’ll be doing one for his popular series featuring Cardigan of the Cosmos Agency. (Well: I will if this column makes a return appearance…)

Nebel is one of my top five hard boiled writers.

Today it’s Tae Kwon Do Pulp as Black Belt Recommended Sean Byrne practices. It’s another MacBride and Kennedy story from Frederick Nebel. “Backwash” appeared in a 1932 issue of Black Mask. It’s included in the excellent anthology from Bill Pronzini and Jack Adrian.

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Elementary, My Dear Metal Men

Wednesday, December 19th, 2018 | Posted by Steve Carper

Showcase #37, March-April 1962, p7 panel Metal Men

It’s 1962. You are Irwin Donenfeld, executive vice president for DC Comics, the 800-pound gorilla of superhero comics. You are riding high on the Silver Age of comics, having revived superhero comics from their near-death experience at the hands of Fredric Wertham, the New York District Attorney, and Congress itself. A dozen new versions of 1940s legends have poured from your offices since 1956 along with brand-new successes. The secret? Showcase, a comic invented purely to give tryouts to comic concepts and get the fans, the readers, the buyers to write in insisting that one or another of them be given their own titles. The Barry Allen Flash emerged from Showcase #4, The Challengers of the Unknown in #6, Lois Lane in #8, Green Lantern in #22, Aquaman in #30, the Atom in #34.

Now you’re a victim of your own success. The Atom, after also appearing in Showcases #35 and #36, is a smash. He’s getting his own title. But he was supposed to appear in Showcase #37, March-April 1962, as well, which is due at the printer in two weeks, and you don’t want to use him again. What do you do?

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More Than Meets the Eye …

Wednesday, December 19th, 2018 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

Transformers Trading Card GameA few months back at GenCon, I stumbled across a well-placed demo area with a large cardboard display of Optimus Prime and Bumblebee. As a child of the 1980’s, I wasn’t about to miss out on this … my introduction to Wizard of the Coast’s Transformers Trading Card Game.

There are two components to the game: double-sided oversized character cards and battle cards. The character cards are foil cards that represent various Autobot and Decepticon characters with one side having a Bot Mode and the other side having their transformed Alt Mode. The battle cards are a deck of regular-sized cards, consisting of single-use Action cards and Upgrades that can be attached to individual transformers to provide Weapon, Armor, and Utility equipment that (generally) stick with the characters they’re upgrading.

The game plays out as a battle between two teams of Transformers, with victory coming to the player who is able to KO all of their opponents’ characters. Each character card has Attack, Life, and Defense stats, which alternate as you flip between the Modes. Some Modes also have powers of various kinds. Some of the powers activate when you flip the card into that mode. For example, when you flip the Optimus Prime card into its truck Alt Mode, you immediately draw a battle card. Other powers are always active so long as the character is in that Mode.

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Wordsmiths: Talking Horror and White Noise with Geoff Gander and Tito Ferradans

Friday, December 14th, 2018 | Posted by Brandon Crilly


There’s been something about this past year – tons of creators I know are doing awesome things, particularly in my Ottawa backyard, nearby in Toronto and elsewhere across Canada. It sounds cliché, but watching these projects come to fruition is one of the highlights of being a creator myself, and I’ve been lucky to chat with a few people and put together interviews to share with all of you – starting today!

Recently I had the pleasure of chatting with Ottawa horror author and games writer Geoff Gander about some exciting news: the purchase of film rights to his 2014 short story “White Noise” (published in AE Sci Fi). The short film of the same name is being written and co-directed by Vancouver-based screenwriter Tito Ferradans, who joined us to discuss the process of converting from short story to film, and the horror genre in general. He also shared some screenshots from the film to give you a glimpse of what “White Noise” will look like.

Hope you all enjoy! And make sure to check out links to the White Noise Indigegogo campaign below!

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Endings and Beginnings: The IX: Prelude to Sorrow by Andrew P. Weston

Tuesday, December 11th, 2018 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

51h5Zzyi6VLWith The IX: Prelude to Sorrow (2018), Andrew P. Weston brings the curtain down on his trilogy that started with The IX (2015) and continued with The IX: Exordium of Tears (2016). Driven to near-extinction by the all-devouring Horde, the humanoid Ardenese turned their fate over to an AI called the Architect. The Architect transported human military personnel from all across the ages in hope of finding people with new ideas about how to fight the Horde. In The IX, men of the fabled Roman IX Legion and their Celtic adversaries, along with 19th century US Cavalry, Plains Indians, a British SBS team, and some terrorists are dragged away from Earth just at the moment they are about to die.

The first book introduced the various soldiers as well as the Horde. Utterly alien monsters, at first the Horde seem to exist solely to devour every living thing in their path. As the story unfolds it becomes clear they are a far more complex enemy than the Ardenese and their new allies realize. The most striking of Weston’s achievements in the book is conveying the strangeness of the Horde.

In the next installment the temporarily victorious humans and Ardenese, warned by the seemingly mystical insights of the leader of the Native American contingent, Stained-With-Blood, launch a massive interstellar attack on the remaining Horde. Filled with massive space battles and planetary-scale destruction, the book is a blast. In the end, despite great losses, it seems the Horde has been finally defeated and the future of a hybrid Ardenese-human civilization has been ensured.

Prelude to Sorrow reveals that the victory thought won was only temporary. In fact, the situation faced in this new book is even worse than that in the beginning of the series. A new enemy, one that threatens not only the Ardenese’s existence but all existence, is revealed.

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A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Back Deck Pulp #5

Monday, December 10th, 2018 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Kornbluth_GhoulEDIT“You’re the second guy I’ve met within hours who seems to think a gat in the hand means a world by the tail.” – Phillip Marlowe in Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep

(Gat — Prohibition Era term for a gun. Shortened version of Gatling Gun)

Hopefully, by now, you’re aware of the Back Deck Pulp series of posts I ran over on Facebook. Since this is the fifth collection of them I’ve run for A (Black) Gat in the Hand!  I’ve got enough for one more, and this column will run for four more weeks, so there might be another one. You can read the first four Back Deck Pulp posts by clicking the links at the end of this one.


Cyril M. Kornbluth was a science fiction author who died of a heart attack, running to catch a train, at the age of 34. Frederick Pohl cowrote several stories with the author and finished some of Kornbluth’s stories after the latter died, He said that Kornbluth refused to brush his teeth and educated himself by reading the encyclopedia from A to Z. An interesting individual.

It’s Office Desk Pulp! I’m going to have to research C.M. Kornbluth (Apparently, he was known for his science fiction stories). ‘”A Ghoul and His Money” appeared in the September, 1946 Dime Detective. His protagonist, who is the good guy, is completely annoying and I was hoping something non-fatal would happen to him. It’s an interesting take on a hero and I think I’d like to tinker with the concept Fun, short read. Another story from the excellent anthology, Hard-Boiled Detectives.

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Birthday Reviews: Sarah Smith’s “And Every Pebble a Soldier”

Sunday, December 9th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Duncan Eagleson

Cover by Duncan Eagleson

Sarah Smith was born on December 9, 1947.

Although Smith is best known for writing historical mysteries set in Boston, she has also dabbled in speculative fiction, writing the hypertext novel King of Space and more traditional SF novels The Knowledge of Water and The Other Side of the Dark. She won the Agatha Award and the Massachusetts Book Award for The Other Side of the Dark.

Smith wrote “And Every Pebble a Soldier” for the 2015 anthology Deco Punk: The Spirit of the Age, edited by Thomas A. Easton and Judith K. Dial, based on a comment by Dial that linked Art Deco to Nazism. The story has not been reprinted.

Set in the aftermath of a truly destructive war, the protagonist of “And Every Pebble a Soldier,” a builder’s apprentice, is one of the only men to come back from war. Determined to build something useful, he begins to make a clockwork man that will help him clean up the debris that litters his town. When he finds a paving brick used to mark the grave of a friend, he chips away a bit of the rock and incorporates it into the wind-up man, eventually repopulating the village’s lost youth by creating an automaton with a piece of each one’s gravestone.

While some in the town take an interest in his hobby, others mock him or are down-right hostile.  The village priest sees him as someone performing the Devil’s work, as well as a threat to his own power in the Church. The apprentice persists, however, and slowly wins the town over as they begin to see his clockwork men as a way not only to repopulate the town, but to, in some way, bring their lost brothers and sons back to life.

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