Wearing a low-cut dress or sweater - usually in tatters - and menaced by a group of muscular thugs or a single, scarred villain, the cliched cover girls of pulp fiction magazines stole the limelight from their rather more spirited sisters concealed within.
Okay - I confess this book is the point at which I gave up on this series.
Not that there weren't a few reasonable stories within the collection, but mostly because I'm really very very over the idea that all women are either tramps, or manipulators (or both), or victims, or pathetic, or stupid (well smart if they are manipulating)... and so on.
Even allowing for sensibility differences between when these stories were written and now, I just kept wondering if these authors had wives, or daughters, or mothers that they liked much. And I do know the difference between "fiction" and "reality" but this collection was so relentlessly, tediously predictably clichéd that it was a real struggle for me to finish.
PULP FICTION - THE VILLAINS edited by Otto Penzler
Harlan Ellison introduces a collection of 16 taut and muscular tales starring some of fiction's hardest-boiled criminals, crooks, desperado's and rogues. Anti-heroes to a man, these are the guys who can be guaranteed to outwit the cops, make off with the dough and get the girl. Just don't get in their way.
I suspect that when, half-way through a book, you're still thinking that the introduction has been a highlight, it probably would be a good time to throw in the towel.
Not that there's nothing particularly unpredictable about any of the stories in this anthology, having said that, I think that was part of the problem. It was all a bit predictable, and most of the stories got overly tedious as a result. Obviously, when reading these sorts of collections, some allowance has to be made for a differing sensibility, but I will confess that I was very quickly over the tough guy with the soft interior; the scheming women; the constant cliches and the rather transparent plots.
Having said that, it really was a fantastic introduction by Harlan Ellison, and it possibly could have been called worthwhile reading as an exercise in reminding me of how far we've come. But to be honest, introduction aside, it was all pretty forgettable.