Friday, February 22, 2019
“The Deadly Pick-Up” by Milton K. Ozaki: Gorgon Banner has just arrived in Chicago from Wisconsin, and is driving around to familiarize himself with the city when he notices a beautiful blonde trying to hail a taxi. He pulls to offer her a ride and she gets in, ripping her dress as she does. But she just lives around the corner so he tells her he’ll while she runs in and changes. She leaves a package in the seat and rushes up to her apartment. Thirty minutes later, Gordon goes up to see what’s taking her so long and finds her dead on the bed. Strangled. He’s sapped behind the ear, and when he awakes there’s another girl with him. She’s Sarah Livingston of the Livingston private detective agency, and the girl is her sister, Lila. They discover the package contains $60,000.00 in 100 dollar bills. The case gets more complicated when the body disappears, and Gordon discovers two rival mobs are after the drug trade, and there was supposed to be $200.000.00 in the package, one hundred grand for each mob boss, and people are going to die if they don’t come up with the missing money. Plus, the police are already looking at Gordon as a suspect in Lila’s murder. This was the first book I ever read by Milton Ozaki, and it was fast paced, with many twists. I wasn’t expecting the ending, at least not who the killer was.
Saturday, February 16, 2019
THE PULPS AND THEIR TIME
Pulp magazines were originally called such because of the pulpwood paper used to print the magazines. Frank Munsey’s ARGOSY is considered the first of the magazines to be printed on this cheap wood paper in 1896. The stories in the magazines ran from western to romance, mystery and science fiction. Johnston McCulley introduced several gentlemen thieves in the early days, including costumed Robin Hood types that robbed from the rich crooks and gave to the poor. One of his long-lived characters was Zorro. By the 1920s, the Roaring Twenties ushered in the gangster titles and for the next decade the newsracks were filled with the genre.
After the Stock Market crash of ’29, the reading masses were tired of mob rule, whether real or in their fiction. With little work, and less money, they were no longer in the mood for gangsters in expensive suits and flashy automobiles. Although cheap hardbacks could be bought for 8 cents, 10-cent pulps were the cheap literature for the masses. And it was those lurid covers glaring from the pulp magazine racks that drew their attention. Publishers recognized the trend, and in 1931 The Shadow made his debut. He was a costumed crime fighter, patterned somewhat after McCulley’s Zorro and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Other pulp hero characters quickly followed, many taking the mantle of the gentleman thief, robbing from the rich crook and giving to the poor. It was what the readers had been waiting for!
After reading Johnston McCulley’s 1913 story in TOP-NOTCH Magazine, Force Inscrutable, I was struck by the difference in the moral acceptance within stories from that period to the heyday of the pulps, just two decades later. In this story, Betty Gladstone and Dick Wellington worry over the fact that traveling together by train could be construed as immoral, since they were only betrothed, and not married. Now jump ahead twenty years, to 1933, when Dick Wentworth (The Spider) and Nita Van Sloan are apparently living together – betrothed but not married. In the teens, we were treated to gentlemanly thieves, which gave way to the violent Roaring Twenties, molls and gun rule. With the 1930s came the heroes and heroines, who were equally as tough as the mobs, and we now saw a milder drop in the moral appearance between men and women. This would be the ground rule for the next two decades, until the pulps began to fade, and the age of the paperbacks brought sex and profanity to the printed stories. It wasn’t long until the Aggressor novels threw out all semblance of morality in the new fiction. Today’s new pulp appears to be anchored in a mixture of the original and the modern, sometimes difficult to recognize, but the readers in 1913 likely felt that way about the 1930s.
However, there remains a subtle difference in the original pulp story and the stories today. Our heroes and heroines seemed more pure, without hang-ups, and a clear vision between right and wrong. Even through the 1930s & ‘40s publishers and editors would have rejected manuscripts outright that contained sex and profanity. Plus, it was made clear that drugs and crime were wrong.
There were problems, of course, as every generation has them. There was very little political correctness back then, though the editors tried to eliminate most blatant stereotypes of minorities. Still, there was a certain acceptance of the current views. However, the pulps entertained the racial masses for sixty years. The heyday of the pulp heroes was from 1931 to 1953. Twenty-two years. Which wasn’t a bad run. They gave rise to the comic book super heroes, and the 1960s’ Aggressor paperback novels. Some of the pulp heroes, like Doc Savage and The Shadow, are still popular today.
I’m thrilled that the new generation is calling their work pulp, for it means the essence of the old pulp magazines will live on. But I certainly want to remember where my influence comes from, and honor those who came before me.
I created The Black Ghost as homage to The Shadow in honor of Walter Gibson, a man I greatly admired. Perhaps The Shadow, more than any other fictional character has been my greatest influence since I listened to his adventures on the radio as a child in the 1940s. I met Walter Gibson in the mid 1970s, and we corresponded until his passing. I wrote the first Black Ghost story in 1995, however he was originally called Compere before the underworld gave him his nom-de-guarre. His stories appeared in Clancy O’Hara’s PULP FICTION MAGAZINE. (Clancy was a friend of Quentin Tarantino at the time, but later they parted ways.) The Black Ghost was the name that stuck!
The Black Ghost is set in contemporary times, as is my Man In The Black Fedora, and both seem to prove that characters written in the pulp tradition can still be a success today. However, I do love the classic period of the 1920s through the 1950s, and prefer my pulp reading in those long ago times.
Whatever your preferred reading, there is a large variety of new pulp out there. Most of it good, and worth reading, with some excellent new writers. Give it a chance, and find special authors to follow. Let’s face it, we love those wild pulpy action novels with over the top heroes and heroines and blazing automatics. Long live the pulps.
Monday, February 4, 2019
The Equalizer #1: No title. Robert McCall resigns from the Company, and hopes to re-establish his life with his ex-wife Janice, and son Scott. But things on the home front don’t look promising. As he’s meeting with his ex-wife Control sends an assassin to pick him off. And Scott is deeply into music and wonders why his dad is now trying to be a father figure for the first time in his life. As The Equalizer, McCall has two clients in the first part of the book. Bill Hamilton works for the telephone company, but accidentally discovered a code number that leads to the Pentagon, and is fired. Now someone is trying to kill him. McCall asks a favor of one of his old friends, identify the code. It appears some top people in the telephone company are blackmailing important people, and will kill to protect their interests. McCall’s other client is a young mother being stalked by a man who plans on raping her. The Equalizer frightens the stalker away, but it only pushes him over the edge, and now he not only plans on raping Colleen Randall, but kill her also.
The second half of the book has McCall and Scott going away for two days in a cabin in the Maine woods. But Scott rescues a young girl named Melinda from three men. She has been raped and her friend Jake killed. He brings her to the cabin, but is followed and the men lay siege on the cabin, cutting the phone lines and ruining the tires on McCall’s Jaguar. McCall doesn’t have weapons, but he’s trained on making explosives from scratch, as well as traps, something the killers are about to learn, and Scott finally discovers more about his father. This first novel was a fast read and fun, and taken from the TV episodes.
Friday, February 1, 2019
INTRODUCING NEW PULP AUTHOR: Colleen Drippe
The FADING SHADOWS’ magazines literally had hundreds of contributors turning out new pulp stories every month, from 1995 through the end of 2004. Unfortunately, we did not collect all of their bios at the time. Thankfully, Ginger started doing this when she was publishing her anthology series, TALES OF MASKS & MAYHEM. She was selecting stories from our old fiction magazines, and decided to add author bios in the back of each issue. So, basically, what we have here are authors that wrote for our magazines. But elsewhere I have invited other new pulp authors to submit bios.
Colleen Drippe: Colleen wrote mysteries and SF, and was very prolific. She appeared in four of our magazines: CLASSIC PULP FICTION STORIES #54, 55, 57, 59, 68, 78 & 79. EXCITING UFO STORIES #2 & 3. ALIEN WORLDS #2, 3, 11, 19 & 33. and STARTLING SCIENCE STORIES #11, 15, 19, 24 & 32. Since those long ago days she has continued writing SF novels in a series of priests populating the universe. Check out her novels, Gelen; Freightliner; and Sunrise On the Icewolf. These are exciting action novels in space and on other worlds.
Thursday, January 31, 2019
The Lineup by Frank Kane: Three men hit an illegal Chinese gambling den, robbing the illegal setup and killing the Chinese dealer running it with a spray of mustard gas. Leaving the scene a policeman stops the car for running a traffic light, but the driver is shook up and runs him down. Lieutenant Ben Guthrie and Inspector Matt Greb are assigned the case of the hit and run. The crooks hit an illegal horse bookie shop, also using the mustard gas. When the Chinese dealer dies in the hospital the doctor notifies the police that it’s a case of mustard gas poisoning, then a stoolie reports information about the horse bookie robbery, and the dead cop case gets a little bigger.
I was a fan of The Lineup when it was a radio drama, but missed the TV series that this is based on. However, I have seen the movie and enjoyed this novel. Highly recommended.
Author of TILL DEATH DO US PART