Black Mask was a pulp magazine launched in 1920 by journalist H. L. Mencken and drama critic George Jean Nathan as one of a number of money-making publishing ventures to support the prestigious literary magazine The Smart Set, which Mencken edited, and which operated at a loss. Under their editorial hand, the magazine was not exclusively a publisher of crime fiction, offering, according to the magazine, "the best stories available of adventure, the best mystery and detective stories, the best romances, the best love stories, and the best stories of the occult." The magazine's first editor was F. M. Osborne. Clifford Lathrop compares the case work of Nelson Van Alden to a story from the magazine. ("Battle of the Century")

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