Jakubowski, editor of The Mammoth Book of Pulp Fiction (not reviewed), breezily and confidently defines the genre of this collection of 23 stories and novelettes as a place “where action and thrills are paramount and the reader is trapped in a whirlwind of adventure and suspense.” Exactly why that definition led him to include several tame locked-room–puzzles by assorted hands, a tepid Nameless story by Bill Pronzini, a torpid Sharon McCone episode by Marcia Muller, and a well-written but virtually crimeless piece by Ed McBain is unclear. Still, he packs in enough examples of dated clichés and gasp-inducing violence to please most pulpists. “You big lug!” chirps a girlie in Frederick C. Davis’s 1953 “Where There’s a Will, There’s a Slay.” “You double-dealing Delilah!” sneers a dupe in Bruce Cassidy’s 1949 “Brush Babe’s Poison Pallet.” Eyeballs are popped out, bitten off, and eaten in Joe R. Lansdale’s 1987 “The Pit,” Michael Guinzburg’s “The Gangsta Wore Red,” and Mark Timlin’s “Dog Life,” these last two both written within the past year or so. Best-writing honors go to David Goodis for his twisty “Caravan to Tarim” (1946); the most disappointing solution to a mystery is John D. MacDonald’s wind-up to “College Cut Kill” (1950). Jakubowski’s also cobbled together selections from old-timers Erle Stanley Gardner, Raoul Whitfield, Frank Gruber, and Frederic Brown, as well as the late cult figure Charles Willeford.
Despite the cast, the collection lacks the pow one would expect from the pulps.