“They’ll never come,” says Billy, as he carelessly lights a cigarette.
“That’s what they said about prohibition,” I counters.
A real period offering, “An Inside Job” (PDF link) was published by Black Mask Magazine in 1927 and is offered by them now online. I had a bit of an urge to re-watch High Sierra yesterday afternoon, and since my job frowns on taking a couple of hours off to watch Bogart movies, I had to settle for reading this. It’s a pretty fair substitute, actually.
One of my favorite things about 1920s gangster stories is how literate they are – or at the least, how literate they expect their readers to be. Thrown into jail, the narrator kills some time by “shaking the bars like old Monte Cristo used to do.” Not exactly the kind of not-so-pop culture reference you’d see in most modern stories. Plus, I just love gangster slang, and no matter how hard modern writers try to replicate it, they never seem to manage. Something about the density of it; it’s almost a dialect of its own.
“An Inside Job” is a fun twist on the usual detective story, though – the gangster as detective’s assistant. I gotta say, if there were a whole series of Billy Hearn and Jimmy Black stories, I’d read them all.