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.
Legendary writers you've already heard of like Dashiell Hammett, Erle Stanley Gardner, Cornell Woolrich and Raymond Chandler are here. Legendary writers that you should have heard of like Frederick Nebel, James M. Cain, Norbert Davis, Leslie Charteris, C. S. Montayne and Raoul Whitfield are also where they should be - with the greats. Tailor-made for pulp novices and hard-boiled fans with a soft spot for the masters, this collection shows that some writing has an edge that time just can't dull.
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.