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Black Mask

Black Mask was a 'pulp' magazine launched in 1920 by H. L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan. When, eight issues later, the magazine was sold to the publishers, Joseph Shaw took over the editorship.

Shaw, following up on a promising lead from one of the early issues, promptly turned Black Mask into an outlet for the growing school of naturalistic crime writers led by Carroll John Daly. His private detective Race Williams was a rough and ready character with a sharp tongue, and established the model for many later ascerbic private-eyes.

Black Mask later published the hugely influential Dashiell Hammett, and other writers who came in his wake, such as Raymond Chandler and Erle Stanley Gardner. The magazine was hugely successful, and many of the writers who appeared in its pages went onto greater commercial and critical success.

Black Mask reached a sales peak in the early 1930s, but then interest began to wane under increasing pressure from the comic book market, cheap paperback books, radio and the cinema. In 1936, refusing to cut writers' already meagre pay, Shaw resigned, and many of the high profile writers abandoned the magazine with him. From this point onward, Black Mask was in decline, eventually ceasing publication in 1951.