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Black Lizard: Wikis


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Black Lizard was a publisher imprint during the 1980s. A division of the Creative Arts Book Company of Berkeley, California, Black Lizard specialized in presenting rediscovered forgotten classic crime fiction writers and novels from the decades between the 1930s and the 1960s. Creative Arts Book Company was founded by Don Ellis in 1966. Creative Arts filed for bankruptcy protection in 2003.

Creative Arts was best known for its Black Lizard imprint. Founded and edited by writer Barry Gifford, Black Lizard released over ninety books between 1984 and 1990, including reprints of classic novels by Charles Willeford, David Goodis, Peter Rabe, Harry Whittington, Dan J. Marlowe, Charles Williams, and Lionel White, as well as original novels by Barry Gifford and Jim Nisbet. Lizard is single-handedly responsible for renewing the interest in pulp master Jim Thompson in the late 1980s, long after his death, which resulted in several film adaptations of his novels. The original series were mass-market paperbacks with covers drawn by Kirwan.

Barry Gifford's relationship with Black Lizard is also sometimes credited with having first applied the term noir fiction to a certain sub-genre of hardboiled fiction. Thus, in an introduction writtern by Gifford to the Black Lizard editions of Jim Thompson's novels in 1984, Gifford writes: "The French seem to appreciate best Thompson's brand of terror. Roman noir, literally 'black novel,' is a term reserved especially for novelists such as Thompson, Cornell Woolrich and David Goodis. Only Thompson, however, fulfills the French notion of both noir and maudit, the accursed and self-destructive. It is an unholy picture that Thompson presents. As the British critic Nick Kimberley has written, 'This is a godless world,' populated by persons 'for whom murder is a casual chore.'" Gifford's use of the term noir in this context resulted in a term that is narrower in scope than that used by the French roman noir as applied to fiction.

Random House bought the rights to the Black Lizard name in June 1990 and merged it with Vintage Crime. Vintage Crime/Black Lizard was the result. Many of the originally published books were replaced by mainstream-friendly writers such as Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain, as well as numerous contemporary authors. The mass-market paperbacks were replaced by trade paperbacks with black-and-white photographs on the covers. Most of the series was reprinted in this new format, but practically all of the books published by Lizard before the merge, with the notable exception of books by Jim Thompson, have been allowed to fall out of print and have remained so since the early 1990s.


By the time of its acquisition by Random House, Black Lizard had issued the following novels (cover Illustrations, with three exceptions, by Jim Kirwan):

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