Every Friday I focus on a New Pulp work that I think merits your attention. Sometimes it will be something that’s brand new, other times I’ll look at something that’s a few years old. This week, I’m encouraging you to check out The Hardluck Hannigan Omnibus Volume 1 by Bill Craig. Before we get too deep into our analysis of this book, let’s see how the publisher describes it:
For the first time Hardluck Hannigan’s first two adventures in one huge volume! Join Hannigan as he heads to the Dark Continent and into the Dark Heart of the Congo during the search for the legendary Emerald of Eternity, and then he takes on Nazi flying saucers and The infamous Kondor Legion in The Sky Masters!
As mentioned above, this book collects the first two Hardluck Hannigan novels (Emerald Death — which, strangely, is never given a title in the omnibus — and The Sky Masters). The Hannigan series has spanned seven novels so far and the second omnibus has already been released, collecting the next two in the series. The author, Bill Craig, is one of the more prolific men in the New Pulp field but for some reason, he’s skated along under the radar for a lot of people. I have a few suspicions about why this is – the biggest one being that most of his books are self-published. Now, there are others in the New Pulp field who handle their own publishing and have flourished (look at Wayne Reinagel and Van Plexico) but I think both of those guys have done a little better job when it comes to marketing. Van, especially, rarely has an ‘off’ switch — I’ve seen him turn every conversation conceivable into an opportunity to push one of his novels or a book by another author that he’s published. Nothing wrong with that — in fact, if you’re the guy who’s handling your own publishing and marketing, it can be incredibly useful. Because of this, Van seems to be doing quite well for himself and I’ve personally witnessed him selling large numbers of books at cons. Craig, though, is more of a laid back marketer. He has websites and facebook pages but I just don’t get a strong idea of his ‘presence’ very often. I can understand why he doesn’t want Pro Se or Airship 27 publishing his books but I think doing so might give him more clout — which he very much deserves.
Because this stuff really is good.
I think that nobody in New Pulp today captures the frenetic atmosphere of Lester Dent better than Bill Craig. This stuff is unabashedly PULP. Want a badass man’s man as the leading character? Check. Want Nazi zeppelins? Check. Interested in Hitler’s obsession with the occult? It’s here. Want incredible action scenes where our hero is fighting on the wing of an aircraft or battling undead armies in the Congo? All here.
The pacing is brisk and the characters are easily definable. I mean both of those in a good way — within a paragraph or two, you feel like you know these archetypal characters and you can move forward with the exciting plot. There are winks and nods to classic pulp throughout — one of the characters in this volume receiving the same “clouding men’s minds” training given to a pilot named Kent Allard, for instance.
And this is a shared universe, of sorts, as other characters from Craig’s creations are name-dropped and certain elements introduced here are then further explored in his other series. Having said that, Hannigan stands alone so that you don’t have to seek those out if you don’t want.
Is the series perfect? No. The romance introduced in this book develops at a breathtaking speed — it’s fun but it feels too quick. And I was hoping that the editing would have been tightened up for these omnibus editions but there are still paragraphs formatted differently than the ones surrounding it, typos and so forth. This does feel self-published, down to the fairly generic stock cover image on the front.
But I’d still recommend this without a single hesitation — it’s FUN. It’s EXCITING. Sometimes, the sheer enthusiasm of the author makes up for any technical flaws that may exist in the work and this is one of those times. I hear people deservedly praising certain New Pulp characters as being the symbols of the field (Derrick Ferguson’s excellent Dillon series come to mind) but Hardluck Hannigan deserves to be in that category as well. I had bought several of these novels in single form but I’m buying them again in omnibus editions because I’m excited to re-read them and easily catch the ones that I’ve missed.
If you haven’t read Bill Craig’s work, then you’re missing out on some of the most fun and entertaining New Pulp on the market. It’s not revolutionary… but that’s not his intent. He’s giving us new adventures in the classic style and I, for one, can’t wait to see even more. Highly recommended!