Friday, April 26, 2013

The Next Generation comes to New Pulp

Attending Windy City Pulp and Paper Con in Chicago reinforced the fact that the burgeoning New Pulp world is quickly becoming as diverse as the classic originals. While most people tend to stereotype pulp as falling between sword & sorcery, hardboiled detective fiction, and costumed avengers it was really far more broad in its appeal encompassing everything from sci-fi to swashbucklers to boxing tales to romance to humor. A few months ago I spotlighted "Pro Se Presents" for doing an excellent job of bringing diversity back to contemporary pulp fiction. This week’s article looks at two new titles from New Pulp publishers and creators that push the boundaries in unexpected directions. First off is the new title from Airship 27 from the team of Richard Kellogg and Gary Kato. It is no surprise to see Airship 27 continuing the tradition of giving readers new Sherlock Holmes titles to enjoy. What is surprising is that Kellogg and Kato’s book, "Barry Baskerville Solves a Case," is aimed at children. The title is equal parts Encyclopedia Brown, Nate the Great, and Sherlock Holmes. While my own kids are too big to enjoy this, I can’t wait to read this title to my grandkids one day. Barry Baskerville is an absolute hoot for Holmes fans. Each page is dripping with wonderful references to the canon that parents will love (a bit like finding Easter eggs on a DVD). Best of all the many references never detract from the story to spoil the fun for kids who will want to be just like Barry. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE NEXT FRIDAY.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Set Sail on the Waters of Darkness

"Waters of Darkness" is the new novel from David C. Smith and Joe Bonadonna published by Damnation Books. Longtime readers of my column will recognize Bonadonna as the author of the well-received sword & sorcery title, "Mad Shadows" and the recent space fantasy, "Three Against the Stars." David C. Smith will be familiar to Robert E. Howard fans for his series of "Red Sonja" novels in the 1980s. The shade of Robert E. Howard lingers over every page of "Waters of Darkness," the first collaboration by these two talented authors to see print. The principal characters, Crimson Kate O’Toole and Bloody Red Buchanan would have fit in nicely had this 17th Century swashbuckler first seen print in the pages of "Weird Tales" in the 1930s. A quest for fabled treasure sets these two buccaneers sailing for the Isle of Shadow in the far distant Eastern Seas. They find themselves combating an evil priest of Dagon and the sorcerer in his thrall along the way and most of the crew of the Raven pays the cost for their having crossed paths. This book is extremely fast-paced and is perhaps the new pulp title that most closely rings with the authentic flavor of classic pulp. It is not surprising since David C. Smith was always among the top echelon of Robert E, Howard pastiche writers and Joe Bonadonna has quickly established himself as a breath of fresh air in the new pulp world. Together the mixing of both men’s styles (classic pulp of the finest caliber with quirky and highly literate mixing of fantasy, hard-boiled humor, and an expansive cinematic vocabulary) produces what will doubtless be hailed as one of the finest new pulp titles of the year. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Resurrection of Dr. Phibes

Longtime readers will be well aware of my love for Dr. Phibes, the cult classic character played by Vincent Price in two campy AIP productions forty years ago. “Phibes is special” is how my old friend, Chris Winland summarized the property a couple decades ago and his understatement couldn’t be more accurate. Equal parts horror, comedy, thriller, and romance the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Part of what made Phibes special is there were only two films despite several attempts over the years to get a third film as well as a TV series off the ground. A few years ago, the character’s co-creator, William Goldstein acquired the literary rights to his property from MGM who control the AIP catalog. At the time, Goldstein had to contend with unlicensed comic book appearances and an attempt by his former writing partner to revive the series with a new film. Having settled legal matters, Goldstein set about reviving the book series. Forty years ago, Goldstein not only novelized the screenplay he co-authored for the original film but he also novelized the sequel he helped develop. The movie tie-in novels are a very different beast from the films. Devoid of the eye-popping art deco sets and costumes, the campy scores and the scene-stealing performances by the likes of Vincent Price, Joseph Cotton, Robert Quarry, and Terry-Thomas; the books read like old-fashioned pulp thrillers with an exceptionally keen eye for historical detail. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE.

Saturday, April 6, 2013


No writer enjoys receiving a bad review of their work. Sometimes the reviewer pinpoints a genuine weakness and the writer benefits from constructive criticism. Many times, the writer is left feeling the reviewer was influenced by petty jealousy or an unspecified bias or just fond of exercising the power of the pen to tear others down and amuse their own regular readers. I don’t enjoy receiving bad reviews and I can’t say I enjoy writing them either. If I take the time to read a book, I want to walk away having felt it was time well-spent. I am not a fan of "Hammett Unwritten" by Gordon McAlpine writing as Owen Fitzstephen. McAlpine is a good writer. I do not have much in the way of constructive criticism to offer. I disliked his book because I am biased. I considered dropping the review entirely. After all, why make an enemy of the author or his friends? Nothing is worse than typing the title of your book in a search engine only to find some hack tearing you to shreds for no good reason. It was the recognition of my bias against the book that I felt justified in sharing why it rubbed me the wrong way. I revere the work of Dashiell Hammett. Beyond the books and short stories, I’ve read every Hammett biography and critical analysis I could find. I’ve read his published letters. I’ve read works of fiction involving Hammett as the principal character. Some, such as Joe Gores’ "Hammett" and Ace Atkins’ "Devil’s Garden," were brilliant works that rang true in their portrayal of Hammett the man and their evocation of Hammett’s writing style. Others, such as William F. Nolan’s "Black Mask Boys" series and McAlpine’s "Hammett Unwritten," left a bad taste solely because I wanted to love the books but walked away disappointed. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY