Audiobook Review: The Corpse Didn’t Kick

Audiobook Review: The Corpse Didn’t KickThe Corpse Didn't Kick: And Other Crime Fiction from the Legendary Magazine by Otto Penzler
Narrator: Alan Winter, Bart Tinapp, Carol Monda, Eric Conger, Jeff Woodman, Scott Brick
Length: 6 hrs, 55 mins
Series: Black Mask #9
Published by HighBridge Company on July 3, 2012
Genres: Anthologies, Mystery
Format: Audiobook
Source: Gifted

From its launch in 1920 until its demise in 1951, the magazine Black Mask published pulp crime fiction. The first hard-boiled detective stories appeared on its pages. Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, Erle Stanley Gardner and John D. MacDonald got their start in Black Mask. The urban crime stories that appeared in Black Mask helped to shape American culture. Modern computer games, films, and television are rooted in the fiction popularized by “the seminal and venerated mystery pulp magazine” (Booklist).
Otto Penzler selected and wrote introductions to the best of the best, the darkest of these dark, vintage stories for the collection The Black Lizard Big Book of Black Mask Stories. Now that collection is available for the first time on audio.

In my continuing journey of listening to the most random collection of audiobooks that I can get my hands on, I listened to this anthology of short stories from some old crime magazine. As with any anthology, some stories were delightful and others made me want to skip ahead, though I didn’t because then I couldn’t have counted this book as read. Anyway, crime fiction isn’t really my thing, but these had enough variety to keep me decently entertained.

The first two stories really did not resonate with me, largely, I think, due to the narrator, Bart Tinapp. He has what might be the perfect voice for narrating crime fiction: deep and gravelly. He could make a career in narrating profiles on missing children; he just has that kind of voice. While I do think his voice is perfect for the genre, to me, it was a bit too apt, if that makes any sense. Both stories came off feeling entirely stereotypical and I definitely felt the need to mock them as I listened. Also, his voices for women and southern accents irritated me endlessly. Speaking of accents, the one used for T. McGuirk in “T. McGuirk Steals a Diamond” grated on my ears incredibly harshly.

Some stories however proved much better, with the standouts for me having been “Wait for Me,” the only story to be narrated by a woman, and “Ask Me Another,” which centers around a man who claims to be the human encyclopedia. While several of the stories struck me as utterly predictable, others had surprising twist endings that were really quite clever.

As is to be expected with stories from the 1930s or thereabouts, there are occasionnal comments made about women or non-white individuals that made me distinctly uncomfortable. In one of the stories, though I cannot remember which, a girl gets murdered when a plot goes awry and the detective continually references her as a “poor fool.” Had she been a man, I think he might have admired her daring scheme, but a woman is just a fool to aspire to that.

If you like old school crime fiction, track down these Black Mask anthologies, because I suspect they will bring you a lot of joy. While they’re not perfect for me personally, I do think the collection was quite well done and will delight the target audience.

2 responses to “Audiobook Review: The Corpse Didn’t Kick”

  1. Kat Balcombe says:

    Yep, your audiobook tastes are certainly eclectic 😉

    Ugh, monotone narrators are like fingernails down a blackboard.

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