Barry Reese

Pulp Writer Extraordinaire

An Amazon user named Rose posted this review of The New Adventures of Richard Knight :

5 out of 5 stars

Richard Knight was a pulp hero in the 1940s, now revived by the Pulp Obscura line with this anthology of new stories. The basic concept is a simple one and adequately explaining in the introduction: rich playboy Richard Knight is secretly top spy Q, an ace pilot with a secret identity. The supporting cast are also given a reasonable role; he is assisted by his partner the plain and honest Larry Doyle and his superior General Brett while a romance interest is provided by Brett’s ward Benita. Real-world issues and politics of the era between wars is mixed with fantastic concepts such as death rays and monsters now normally relegated to science fiction. The stories in the anthology have no real relation to each other but all follow a consistent style and tone while still providing their own unique variations.

In Hell’s Hand by Josh Reynolds Knight must face a band of airborne pirates terrorising European air-travel and destabilising its fragile peace. The villain is effectively ruthless and twisted but while his insanity is shown clearly his motives and origin are not included. The story worked with a strong premise but felt as if it were too short to do it justice and the ending in particular seems abrupt compared to its build-up. Nonetheless, the near continuous action and the chilling descriptions make up for the simplicity of the narrative and the both threat and Knight’s competence in meeting it are well established

Doyle is given a larger role in Richard Knight and the Stones Of Heaven by Barry Reese and provides both solid back up for Knight and some welcome humor to the narrative. A group of artefact-hunting Nazis clashing with Knight in their efforts to build a death ray is a very traditional story but still retains its charm. The writing is strong and engaging and the only possible criticism is that the one aerial battle is limited, included because it is a standard feature of Keyhoe’s plots rather than for its contribution to the narrative. The story is split into chapters in the style of the original stories and this works well in breaking up the action and the stages of what is in essence a step-by-step story.

When a freak crash leads to the destruction of a whole town Knight is left struggling against an invading force and an unkillable monster in The Bapet by Terry Alexander. The plot is not dissimilar to that of a horror movie with the cast slowly diminishing as the story progresses and Knight is kept moving from the site of one grisly death to another at a sustained pace though this slows towards the end when the story descends into an extended sequence of various characters pointing guns at each other for the sake of exposition before picking up again for the final showdown.

The Hostage Academy by I.A. Watson gives Knight’s strong supporting cast an active role, each one showing their strengths in their own way. When a US Senator dies in a plane crash after suddenly reversing his policies Knight is suspicious but his investigations show no evidence of foul play. He’s willing to leave it until another far more personal plane crash sends in search of revenge. Like the Stones of Heaven this story makes use of chapters though with slightly different effect, thematically separating events, settings and points of view so that each new chapter feels distinct from the last. The opening is a spectacle taken from the middle of the plot before shifting back to narrate how the character’s came to such a dangerous position, effectively catching the reader’s interest and establishing the scale of the plot. This story gives an important role to Benita who is otherwise ignored in this anthology despite her place in the originals. She is given a strong enough part here to make up for it however and adds a greater and subtler emotional depth to the story.

In Fear From Above by Frank Schildiner Knight is called in to investigate a mysteriously abandoned ship and finds himself fighting an immortal terrorist with designs to destroy humanity. The character background in this story is very strong with detailed descriptions of each person’s attitudes and opinions but is lengthy and the story takes a long time to properly begin. Knight is the only familiar character in this, the others waved off as being elsewhere, and due to this the story has a more action-based quality with little meaningful interaction.

Crimes of the Ancients by Adam Lance Garcia starts in the middle of the plot with an action scene and tells a concise story with more in the way of touching characterisation than intricate plotting, finishing the anthology with a mood piece rather than an epic. An old flame of Knight’s returns to cause trouble and an old enemy is not far behind, giving Knight the opportunity to swap snarky comments with both. The exact events that led to the story starting are left to the reader’s imagination but enough is explained to make the plot make sense and as the story is strongest in its simple self-contained nature a potentially complex build-up would have lost it some of its appeal. Through its tight focus on the main character Crimes of the Ancients gives Knight an opportunity to show the strength of his character and finishes the anthology on a self-reflective note.

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