Month: September 2013

Liberty Girl!

2013-09-27 17.43.18A new week begins!

After taking last week off from The Shadow Fan’s Podcast, I’ll be recording Episode 51 later this week. I’ll be reviewing a novel from 1939 and the 2nd annual from Dynamite’s ongoing comic book series. Look for it to be uploaded over the next few days.

It looks like the next book from me to be released will be Liberty Girl. This was an unusual project for me as I took a graphic novel and converted it into prose — I also added a brand-new short story to the mix. This kicks off a line for Pro Se Press where they deal with prose versions of characters from Heroic Publishing. I know Eternity Smith and Flare are both lined up for future books, as well as more Liberty Girl. The art today is from Jeff Hayes and will be the cover to the Liberty Girl book — it’s GORGEOUS, don’t you agree? Anyway, if you like traditional superhero action, I think you’ll enjoy the stories I’ve written with this character.

After that, a new edition of Rabbit Heart will be coming from Pro Se Press. I’m excited to have this one back in print as it’s my most popular work with a small but very vocal segment of fans. With hardcore sex and violence, it’s not like any of my other work (though The Damned Thing is close) and if you think you know my writing… you might pick this one up and see that I’m capable of more than pulp adventure.

Have a good day, folks!

 

The Timeline Of My Pulp Fiction Universe (Current as of September 29, 2013)

rook_v2_cover_mock_up_smallMajor Events specific to certain stories and novels are included in brackets. Some of this information contains SPOILERS for The Rook, Lazarus Gray, Eobard Grace and other stories.

~ 800 Viking warrior Grimarr dies of disease but is resurrected as the Sword of Hel. He adventures for some time as Hel’s agent on Earth. [“Dogs of War” and “In the Name of Hel,” Tales of the Norse Gods].

1748 – Johann Adam Weishaupt is born.

1750 – Guan-Yin embarks on a quest to find her lost father, which takes her to Skull Island [Guan-Yin and the Horrors of Skull Island].

1776 – Johann Adam Weishaupt forms The Illuminati. He adopts the guise of the original Lazarus Gray in group meetings, reflecting his “rebirth” and the “moral ambiguity” of the group. In Sovereign City, a Hessian soldier dies in battle, his spirit resurrected as an headless warrior.

1793 – Mortimer Quinn comes to Sovereign City, investigating the tales of a Headless Horseman [Gravedigger Volume One]

1865 – Eobard Grace returns home from his actions in the American Civil War. Takes possession of the Book of Shadows from his uncle Frederick. [“The World of Shadow,” The Family Grace: An Extraordinary History]

1877 – Eobard Grace is summoned to the World of Shadows, where he battles Uris-Kor and fathers a son, Korben. [“The World of Shadow,” The Family Grace: An Extraordinary History]

1885 – Along with his niece Miriam and her paramour Ian Sinclair, Eobard returns to the World of Shadows to halt the merging of that world with Earth. [“The Flesh Wheel,” The Family Grace: An Extraordinary History]

1890 – Eobard fathers a second son, Leopold.

1895 – Felix Cole (the Bookbinder) is born.

1900 – Max Davies is born to publisher Warren Davies and his wife, heiress Margaret Davies.

1901 – Leonid Kaslov is born.

1905 – Richard Winthrop is born in San Francisco.

1908 – Warren Davies is murdered by Ted Grossett, a killer nicknamed “Death’s Head”. [“Lucifer’s Cage”, the Rook Volume One, more details shown in “Origins,” the Rook Volume Two] Hans Merkel kills his own father. [“Blitzkrieg,” the Rook Volume Two]

1910 – Evelyn Gould is born.

1913 – Felix Cole meets the Cockroach Man and becomes part of The Great Work. [“The Great Work,” The Family Grace: An Extraordinary History]

1914 – Margaret Davies passes away in her sleep. Max is adopted by his uncle Reginald.

1915 – Felix Cole marries Charlotte Grace, Eobard Grace’s cousin.

1916 – Leonid Kaslov’s father Nikolai becomes involved in the plot to assassinate Rasputin.

1917 – Betsy Cole is born to Felix and Charlotte Grace Cole. Nikolai Kaslov is murdered.

1918 – Max Davies begins wandering the world. Richard Winthrop’s parents die in an accident.

1922 – Warlike Manchu tutors Max Davies in Kyoto.

1925 – Max Davies becomes the Rook, operating throughout Europe.

1926 – Charlotte Grace dies. Richard Winthrop has a brief romance with exchange student Sarah Dumas.

1927 – Richard Winthrop graduates from Yale. On the night of his graduation, he is recruited into The Illuminati. Max and Leopold Grace battle the Red Lord in Paris. Richard Winthrop meets Miya Shimada in Japan, where he purchases The McGuinness Obelisk for The Illuminati.

1928 – The Rook returns to Boston. Dexter van Melkebeek (later to be known as The Darkling) receives his training in Tibet from Tenzin.

1929 – Max Davies is one of the judges for the Miss Beantown contest [“The Miss Beantown Affair,” Tales of the Rook]. Richard Winthrop destroys a coven of vampires in Mexico.

1930 – Richard Winthrop pursues The Devil’s Heart in Peru [“Eidolon,” Lazarus Gray Volume Three].

1932 – The Rook hunts down his father’s killer [“Origins,” the Rook Volume Two]. The Darkling returns to the United States.

1933 – Jacob Trench uncovers Lucifer’s Cage. [“Lucifer’s Cage”, the Rook Volume One] The Rook battles Doctor York [All-Star Pulp Comics # 1] After a failed attempt at betraying The Illuminati, Richard Winthrop wakes up on the shores of Sovereign City with no memory of his name or past. He has only one clue to his past in his possession: a small medallion adorned with the words Lazarus Gray and the image of a naked man with the head of a lion. [“The Girl With the Phantom Eyes,” Lazarus Gray Volume One]

1934 – Now calling himself Lazarus Gray, Richard Winthrop forms Assistance Unlimited in Sovereign City. He recruits Samantha Grace, Morgan Watts and Eun Jiwon [“The Girl With the Phantom Eyes,” Lazarus Gray Volume One] Walther Lunt aids German scientists in unleashing the power Die Glocke, which in turn frees the demonic forces of Satan’s Circus [“Die Glocke,” Lazarus Gray Volume Two]. The entity who will become known as The Black Terror is created [“The Making of a Hero,” Lazarus Gray Volume Two].

1935 – Felix Cole and his daughter Betsy seek out the Book of Eibon. [“The Great Work,” The Family Grace: An Extraordinary History] Assistance Unlimited undertakes a number of missions, defeating the likes of Walther Lunt, Doc Pemberley, Malcolm Goodwill & Black Heart, Princess Femi & The Undying, Mr. Skull, The Axeman and The Yellow Claw [“The Girl With the Phantom Eyes,” “The Devil’s Bible,” “The Corpse Screams at Midnight,” “The Burning Skull,” “The Axeman of Sovereign City,” and “The God of Hate,” Lazarus Gray Volume One] The Rook journeys to Sovereign City and teams up with Assistance Unlimited to battle Devil Face [“Darkness, Spreading Its Wings of Black,” the Rook Volume Six)]. Lazarus Gray and Assistance Unlimited become embroiled in the search for Die Glocke [“Die Glocke,” Lazarus Gray Volume Two]

1936 – Assistance Unlimited completes their hunt for Die Glocke and confronts the threat of Jack-In-Irons. Abigail Cross and Jakob Sporrenberg join Assistance Unlimited [“Die Glocke,” Lazarus Gray Volume Two]. The Rook moves to Atlanta and recovers the Dagger of Elohim from Felix Darkholme. The Rook meets Evelyn Gould. The Rook battles Jacob Trench. [“Lucifer’s Cage”, the Rook Volume One]. Reed Barrows revives Camilla. [“Kingdom of Blood,” The Rook Volume One]. Kevin Atwill is abandoned in the Amazonian jungle by his friends, a victim of the Gorgon legacy. [“The Gorgon Conspiracy,” The Rook Volume Two]. Nathaniel Caine’s lover is killed by Tweedledum while Dan Daring looks on [“Catalyst,” The Rook Volume Three] Assistance Unlimited teams up with The Black Terror to battle Promethus and The Titan in South America [“The Making of a Hero,” Lazarus Gray Volume Two]. Doc Pemberley allies himself with Abraham Klee, Stanley Davis and Constance Majestros to form Murder Unlimited. Lazarus Gray is able to defeat this confederation of evil and Pemberley finds himself the victim of Doctor Satan’s machinations [“Murder Unlimited,” Lazarus Gray Volume Three]. Lazarus Gray is forced to compete with The Darkling for possession of a set of demonic bones. During the course of this, a member of Assistance Unlimited becomes Eidolon. [“Eidolon,” Lazarus Gray Volume Three]. Charity Grace dies and is reborn as the first female Gravedigger. [Gravedigger Volume One]

1937 – Max and Evelyn marry. Camilla attempts to create Kingdom of Blood. World’s ancient vampires awaken and the Rook is ‘marked’ by Nyarlathotep. Gerhard Klempt’s experiments are halted. William McKenzie becomes Chief of Police in Atlanta. The Rook meets Benson, who clears his record with the police. [“Kingdom of Blood,” the Rook Volume One]. Lazarus Gray and Assistance Unlimited teams up with Thunder Jim Wade to confront the deadly threat of Leviathan (“Leviathan Rising”, Lazarus Gray Volume Four]. Hank Wilbon is murdered, leading to his eventual resurrection as the Reaper. [“Kaslov’s Fire,” The Rook Volume Two]. The Rook and Evelyn become unwelcome guests of Baron Werner Prescott, eventually foiling his attempts to create an artificial island and a weather-controlling weapon for the Nazis [“The Killing Games,” Tales of the Rook] Gravedigger confronts a series of terrible threats in Sovereign City, including Thanatos, a gender-swapping satanic cult and The Headless Horseman. Charity and Samantha Grace make peace about their status as half-sisters. [Gravedigger Volume One] Lazarus Gray teams with Eidolon and The Darkling to combat Doctor Satan [“Satan’s Circus,” Lazarus Gray Volume Four]. Lazarus Gray battles the forces of Wilson Brisk and Skyrider. The Three Sisters are unleashed upon Sovereign City [“The Felonious Financier,” Lazarus Gray Volume Five]. Gravedigger confronts the twin threats of Hiroshi Tamaki and the immortal known as Pandora [Gravedigger Volume Two]. Lazarus Gray travels to Cape Noire to investigate the mysterious vigilante known as Brother Bones [“Shadows and Phantoms,” Lazarus Gray Volume Five].

1938 – The Rook travels to Great City to aid the Moon Man in battling Lycos and his Gasping Death. The Rook destroys the physical shell of Nyarlathotep and gains his trademark signet ring. [“The Gasping Death,” The Rook Volume One]. The jungle hero known as the Revenant is killed [“Death from the Jungle,” The Rook Volume Four]

1939 – Ibis and the Warlike Manchu revive the Abomination. Evelyn becomes pregnant and gives birth to their first child, a boy named William. [“Abominations,” The Rook Volume One]. The Rook allies himself with Leonid Kaslov to stop the Reaper’s attacks and to foil the plans of Rasputin. [“Kaslov’s Fire,” the Rook Volume Two] Violet Cambridge and Will McKenzie become embroiled in the hunt for a mystical item known as The Damned Thing [The Damned Thing]

1940 – The Warlike Manchu returns with a new pupil — Hans Merkel, aka Shinigami. The Warlike Manchu kidnaps William Davies but the Rook and Leonid Kaslov manage to rescue the boy. [“Blitzkrieg,” the Rook Volume Two] The Rook journeys to Germany alongside the Domino Lady and Will McKenzie to combat the demonic organization known as Bloodwerks. [“Bloodwerks,” the Rook Volume Two] Kevin Atwill seeks revenge against his former friends, bringing him into conflict with the Rook [“The Gorgon Conspiracy,” The Rook Volume Two]. The Rook takes a young vampire under his care, protecting him from a cult that worships a race of beings known as The Shambling Ones. With the aid of Leonid Kazlov, the cult is destroyed [“The Shambling Ones,” The Rook Volume Two].

1941 – Philip Gallagher, a journalist, uncovers the Rook’s secret identity but chooses to become an ally of the vigilante rather than reveal it to the world [“Origins,” the Rook Volume Two]. The Rook teams with the Black Bat and Ascott Keane, as well as a reluctant Doctor Satan, in defeating the plans of the sorcerer Arias [“The Bleeding Hells”]. The Rook rescues McKenzie from the Iron Maiden [“The Iron Maiden,” The Rook Volume Three].

1942 – The Rook battles a Nazi super agent known as the Grim Reaper, who is attempting to gather the Crystal Skulls [“The Three Skulls,” The Rook Volume Three]. The Rook becomes embroiled in a plot by Sun Koh and a group of Axis killers known as The Furies. The Rook and Sun Koh end up in deadly battle on the banks of the Potomac River. [“The Scorched God,” The Rook Volume Six]. In London, the Rook and Evelyn meet Nathaniel Caine (aka the Catalyst) and Rachel Winters, who are involved in stopping the Nazis from creating the Un-Earth. They battle Doctor Satan and the Black Zeppelin [“Catalyst,” The Rook Volume Three]. Evelyn learns she’s pregnant with a second child. The Rook solves the mystery of the Roanoke Colony [“The Lost Colony,” The Rook Volume Three]. The Rook battles against an arsonist in the employ of Bennecio Tommasso [“Where There’s Smoke”, Tales of the Rook]. The Warlike Manchu is revived and embarks upon a search for the Philosopher’s Stone [“The Resurrection Gambit,” The Rook Volume Three]

1943 – The Rook teams with Xander to deal with the Onyx Raven [“The Onyx Raven, Tales of the Rook]. The Rook is confronted by the twin threats of Fernando Pasarin and the undead pirate Hendrik van der Decken [“The Phantom Vessel,” The Rook Volume Four]. Evelyn and Max become the parents of a second child, Emma Davies. The Rook teams with the daughter of the Revenant to battle Hermann Krupp and the Golden Goblin [“Death from the Jungle,” The Rook Volume Four] The Rook battles Doctor Satan over possession of an ancient Mayan tablet [“The Four Rooks,” The Rook Volume Four]. The Rook travels to Peru to battle an undead magician called The Spook [“Spook,” The Rook Volume Four]. The Rook clashes with Doctor Death, who briefly takes possession of Will McKenzie [“The Rook Nevermore,” Tales of the Rook]. Baron Rudolph Gustav gains possession of the Rod of Aaron and kidnaps Evelyn, forcing the Rook into an uneasy alliance with the Warlike Manchu [“Dead of Night,” The Rook Volume Four]. Doctor Satan flees to the hidden land of Vorium, where the Rook allies with Frankenstein’s Monster to bring him to justice [“Satan’s Trial,” The Rook Volume Four]. Tim Roland is recruited by The Flame and Miss Masque [“The Ivory Machine,” The Rook Volume Five]. The Black Terror investigates a German attempt to replicate his powers and becomes friends with a scientist named Clarke [“Terrors”]

1944 – The Rook organizes a strike force composed of Revenant, Frankenstein’s Monster, Catalyst and Esper. The group is known as The Claws of the Rook and they take part in two notable adventures in this year: against the diabolical Mr. Dee and then later against an alliance between Doctor Satan and the Warlike Manchu [“The Diabolical Mr. Dee” and “A Plague of Wicked Men”, The Rook Volume Five].

1946 – The Rook discovers that Adolph Hitler is still alive and has become a vampire in service to Dracula. In an attempt to stop the villains from using the Holy Lance to take over the world, the Rook allies with the Claws of the Rook, a time traveler named Jenny Everywhere, a thief called Belladonna and Leonid Kaslov. The villains are defeated and Max’s future is revealed to still be in doubt. Events shown from 2006 on are just a possible future. The Rook also has several encounters with a demonically powered killer known as Stickman. [“The Devil’s Spear,” The Rook Volume Five]. The Rook encounters a madman named Samuel Garibaldi (aka Rainman) and his ally, Dr. Gottlieb Hochmuller. The Rook and his Claws team defeat the villainous duo and several new heroes join the ranks of the Claws team — Miss Masque, Black Terror & Tim and The Flame. [“The Ivory Machine,” The Rook Volume Five]

1953 – The Rook acquires the Looking Glass from Lu Chang. [“Black Mass,” The Rook Volume One]

1961 – Max’s son William becomes the second Rook. [“The Four Rooks,” The Rook Volume Four]

1967 – The second Rook battles and defeats the Warlike Manchu, who is in possession of the Mayan Tablet that Doctor Satan coveted in ’43. Evelyn Davies dies. [“The Four Rooks,” The Rook Volume Four]

1970 – William Davies (the second Rook) commits suicide by jumping from a Manhattan rooftop. Emma Davies (Max’s daughter and William’s brother) becomes the Rook one week later, in February. [“The Four Rooks,” The Rook Volume Four]

1973 – The third Rook is accompanied by Kayla Kaslov (daughter of Leonid Kaslov) on a trip to Brazil, where the two women defeat the Black Annis and claim the Mayan Tablet that’s popped up over the course of three decades. Emma gives it to her father, who in turn passes it on to Catalyst (Nathaniel Caine) [“The Four Rooks,” The Rook Volume Four]

~1985 – Max resumes operating as the Rook, adventuring sporadically. Due to various magical events, he remains far more active than most men his age. The reasons for Emma giving up the role are unknown at this time.

Events depicted in the years 2006 forward occur in one of many possible futures for The Rook. As revealed in Volume Five of The Rook Chronicles, the events of 2006 onward may — or may not — be the ultimate future of Max Davies.

2006 – The Black Mass Barrier rises, enveloping the world in a magical field. The World of Shadows merges with Earth. Fiona Grace (descended from Eobard) becomes a worldwide celebrity, partially due to her failure to stop the Black Mass Barrier. [“Black Mass,” The Rook Volume One]

2009 – Ian Morris meets Max Davies and becomes the new Rook. He meets Fiona Grace. Max dies at some point immediately following this. [“Black Mass,” The Rook Volume One]

2010 – The Ian Morris Rook and Fiona Grace deal with the threat of Baron Samedi [“The Curse of Baron Samedi,” Tales of the Rook]

2012 – The fourth Rook (Ian Morris) receives the Mayan Tablet from Catalyst, who tells him that the world will end on December 21, 2012 unless something is done. Using the tablet, Ian attempts to take control of the magic spell that will end the world. Aided by the spirits of the three previous Rooks, he succeeds, though it costs him his life. He is survived by his lover (Fiona Grace) and their unborn child. Max Davies is reborn as a man in his late twenties and becomes the Rook again. [“The Four Rooks,” The Rook Volume Four]

Saturday Matinee: Original Sin from The Shadow

The_Shadow_Knows_by_E_MannEvery Saturday I find a movie or clip that I think will appeal to the fans of this blog. Since most of you enjoy action/adventure, I tend to focus on something that falls into that category. This week we’re looking at: Taylor Dane’s Original Sin, which was the theme song to 1994’s The Shadow big-budget motion picture. Now, people have many different feelings about the movie itself — some love it, some loathe it and some (like me) enjoy it while recognizing its many flaws. But almost everyone likes the theme song — Taylor Dane delivers a big, powerful tune and the video mixes in all kinds of clips from the film.

It’s a good power ballad and it’s not too dated, though you can certainly tell it’s from the Nineties.

Enjoy!

Guest Blog: The Need for Pulp Literature

adamToday is a special day at Ye Olde Blog — for the first time ever, I’m running a piece that’s entirely written by someone else. When I first began giving thought to inviting someone to do a turn on this blog, the very first person I thought of was Adam Lance Garcia. Adam is one of the most innovative voices in New Pulp and his work on books such as The New Adventures of Richard Knight and The Green Lama – Unbound has rightfully earned him a growing legion of fans. I’m proud to say that Adam will be contributing to the second volume of Tales of The Rook. Adam not only has a distinctive voice as a writer, he also sees New Pulp with fresh eyes. Though a fan of the classic material, Adam is not afraid to break free of the trappings of the genre. His feelings about what pulp is and what it could — and should — be are quite clear and very interesting. I hope you’ll enjoy his viewpoints and I encourage you to leave behind comments as I do think these kinds of conversations are great ones to have. If you’re interested in learning more about Adam, please follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook and stop by his website.

Without further ado, I give you Adam Lance Garcia and The Need for Pulp Literature:

A few weeks ago I started a bit of flame war with one of my publishers over what is—or isn’t—pulp. The argument began after I posted the following statement on my Facebook Page: “There needs to be more character development, more gay characters, less reliance on the “formula,” and less “good to be good” in pulp stories.”

My publisher took great offense to this suggestion, commenting: “No, there does not. What you are describing is something else…but not pulp.”

But perhaps it is time for “something else.”

Now, full disclosure, this wasn’t the first time I’ve been embroiled in this sort of conversation, (nor is it this first time this sort of conversation has been had) though it definitely was the most public, and apparently, the most blood boiling one I had been involved with in some time.

Generally speaking pulp, or for that matter, New Pulp, is defined as: “…fast-paced, plot-oriented storytelling of a linear nature with clearly defined, larger than life protagonists and antagonists, creative descriptions, clever use of turns of phrase and other aspects of writing that add to the intensity and pacing of the story.” (newpulpfiction.com)

Since I started my writing career I’ve often found myself on the edge of what many people consider “pulp.” I write stories that don’t follow a set formula, that feature a diverse cast of complicated characters that make mistakes, grow, and change over time. Originally these decisions weren’t conscious, I just wrote the stories that I wanted to read. But the more I wrote, the more the conversation of what is and isn’t pulp began coming up, and the more often my work was cited as an example of one or the other. Personally, I don’t like to define my work, partially because I’d rather let the story define itself. I enjoy mixing genres, but I’ve made my name in pulp, so let’s talk pulp.

While this is a generalization and certainly doesn’t apply to every author, I feel a recurring weakness with New Pulp movement is the stringent dedication to the style of the original pulps. This isn’t to be confused with keeping canon with the original tales—I work very hard to tie my Green Lama tales directly with Kendell Foster Crossen’s stories. Rather, many writers are so in love with the idea of pulp that they are writing stories for a 30s audience. I’m not implying that these writers aren’t producing good work, or that there isn’t a place for these kinds of stories. They are and there is, and when they work, man, they really work, but the problem is these sort of stories only really appeal to a very narrow section of the reading audience—the folks that are already reading pulp. It’s not speaking to a larger, much more refined literary audience who want more out their stories. If the format, the genre, the style, whatever you want to call it, is ever going to survive, expand, and gain relevancy, it needs to change.

There needs to be a “something else.”

Arguably this has already happened, just take a look at the best sellers list. Let me tell you, James Patterson, Clive Cussler, JK Rowling, Dan Simmons, Neil Gaiman, Michael Chabon, and Stephen King are pulp writers. Big plots? Big characters? Linear storytelling? Check, check, check. They even have gay characters, complicated characters, and absence of formula.

The difference between those writers and “New Pulp” is that “New Pulp” is broadly defined by the Hero Pulps, the men in masks, the big damn heroes running around saving the world from destruction. There are exceptions, of course, but if you look at what’s being published under the “New Pulp” banner, the majority of them have someone in a mask or a ripped-Doc Savage shirt. It’s to these sorts of tales that I’m speaking, lest there be any confusion.

So, let’s break down my original post and start explaining things.

More character development.

A lot of writers seem to confuse character traits with character development. Character traits are useful to help build the basic structure of a character, but they’re only surface deep. So often we meet characters that are little more than two-dimensional placards moved from action scene to action scene. We never really learn to care for these characters, as if putting them into danger should be enough to make the readers worry whether or not they’ll make to the end of the story. We need to spend time learning who these people are, give them flaws, make them grow. Let them talk, let them argue. Have them make mistakes and learn from them, and not just the mistakes made during the action sequence. We need to believe in these characters. Perhaps my biggest issue with New Pulp stories is the fact the characters either stay stagnant, learning all of nothing by the end of the story, or if they do, they’re effectively reset at the start of the next tale. Indiana Jones, perhaps the best, most popular modern “pulp” character, is a hero, as my most gracious host, Mr. Barry Reese pointed out, “who is established to have had sexual relations with someone who was underage (Marion) and who later abandoned her at the matrimonial door. He’s still a heroic figure but he’s very nuanced.”

More gay characters.

I’d actually like to expand this point to more diversity in general. Pro Se Productions’ Black Pulp anthology was a huge step in the right direction, (it deserves all the accolades it receives) but we shouldn’t stop there. We live in a pluralistic society and our stories should reflect that. One of my favorite additions to the Doctor Who canon was Captain Jack Harkness. Harkness, played by John Barrowman, is the immortal leader of Torchwood and a hero in his own right—incredibly flawed, but a hero nonetheless—who just happened to be openly bisexual. Shocking, I know. Our heroes shouldn’t all be straight white men, and if they are something else they shouldn’t fit into some archaic stereotype. It is why Green Lama’s Tibetan “assistant” Tsarong is always treated as an equal; he is eloquent and intelligent, and never subservient. It is why I was so eager to write Emma Davies for Barry’s upcoming Tales of the Rook: Volume 2. A lesbian hero? Sign me up.

Less reliance on the “formula.”

Lester Dent, the man behind Doc Savage, is noted to have created the “golden plot,” a strict point A to Z storytelling mechanic that was meant to guide all the other house writers working on the Doc Savage tales. That’s all well and good when you need to pump out a story to make your monthly deadline, but there’s a reason why shows Breaking Bad is winning awards and CSI is… well, CSI. Working within a formula prevents you from surprising the audience. I admit to sometimes finding myself hitting similar beats in my stories. These are never intentional and when they do happen I make sure to have the characters acknowledge the similarities and then work at subverting your expectations as to what will come next. A teacher once told me every conversation you write has to be the most important conversation these characters have ever had. Obviously he was speaking in hyperbole, but this line of thinking is true not just for the characters but the stories themselves. There needs to be something fundamentally special about every story you write—especially if you’re writing a series—there needs be change, there needs to be loss, there needs to be something that takes your characters to places they’ve never been before. Keep your readers on their toes, not just waiting for the next beat to arrive.

Less “good to be good” in pulp stories.

I’m not advocating we should all start writing our own Walter White, but a character without any believable motivation is just poor writing. Take a look at Chris Evan’s Captain America as example of how to do a “good to be good” character. Steve Rogers was bullied his entire life, so when he was asked why he wanted to join the army his answer isn’t “to kill Nazis,” it’s because he “doesn’t like bullies.” His life experiences helped make him into a hero. We need to start asking why the hero is doing what he’s doing. Maybe it’s more than childhood trauma; maybe it’s guilt; maybe it’s for money and fame; maybe it’s because of their own sociopathic nature; maybe it’s because they’re bored; and maybe, just maybe, he doesn’t have to be the shining white knight. Sure, this is escapism, but so many of the heroes in our world—the people who inspire us—are flawed human beings. Great men and women have cheated on their spouses; have experimented with drugs; have done morally questionable—if at the times personally justifiable—acts. Our heroes should reflect that, because what is more heroic than a person overcoming their flaws?

And if I were to add one more thing to this conversation let me add this:

Stronger women.

We need to move away from the female character defined by male characters. Perhaps one my least favorite moment in a pulp story ever is when the hero burst into a woman’s home, unannounced, and she happily agreed to go with him because he “looked trustworthy.” It is face-palm worthy writing, sloppy, and honestly, offensive. Women should be treated as more than a damsel in distress or a sexy villainess. This doesn’t mean more women with guns. Guns don’t make people strong. Guns are stupid, violent things and if anything they limit the hero, but that’s a conversation for another time. Nor do I mean more female villains. People seem to think if you have a female villain it means she’s a strong female character, more than anything she’s a stereotype highlighting what men feel is “wrong” about women. Nor does that necessarily mean she should be made masculine, or for that matter, more feminine. Nor do I mean she should be half naked all the time. Apparently, every female hero needs to be falling out of her clothing to be considered a hero. This isn’t to say female shouldn’t be sexy, or for that matter, have sexual desires. If anything the idea of portraying a heroic woman as pure and metaphorically virginal ignores the fact that women are human beings (the same goes for the male heroes by the way, God forbid our heroes have sex). What we need to see are female characters that are just as well rounded as the male characters, with their own opinions, wants, and desires; who can have another conversation with another woman about something besides a man.

Maybe what I’m ultimately arguing for is Pulp Literature; something that tries to do something more than just emulate what’s come before, that tries to elevate the standard and says “there’s more we can do here.” It doesn’t mean we need move away from what makes pulp “pulp,” but we should take the risks to explore the grey area between the very restrictive “golden formula” and “something else.”

But here’s the thing. All of this stuff is already being done right now. Everything I’ve stated above—that “something else”—is often heralded in pulp fiction review sites as brilliant, modern, and, perhaps most importantly, as New Pulp. Take for example, Michael Patrick Sullivan’s The Auslander Files, which was hailed for it’s “modern sensibility devoid of the melodramatic romances of the early pulps. The Auslander kills, both the guilty and the innocent, to accomplish his missions and foil the saboteurs. It’s a morally ambiguous line he is willing to cross time and time again.” (http://www.pulpfictionreviews.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-auslander-files.html)

But, then again, bemoaning an idea in the abstract and loving it in the execution is essentially the core of modern fan culture.

So call it pulp, call it New Pulp, call it Pulp Literature or call it “something else.” All that matters is if it’s good.

The Daily Grind

rook_v3_whisper_and_keane_roughHello Everyone!
I’m still working away on my Pulse Fiction story. It’s pretty slow going but I’m going to really try to get at least 1,500 words put on it tonight. That would take me close to the midway point of the tale. It got off to a great start last week but as it’s gone on, I’ve realized I just really like one of the supporting characters. When I write her, it’s a pleasure. The rest of the story is work. That’s the way it goes sometimes — you have to push on and hope that the finished product is something that will have appeal to readers. I think some writers get hung up on this illusion that their work has to be perfect…

I’m a working writer. I hit my deadlines and then move on to the next project. I always try to do my best but I’m not going to over-analyze my own work. I have too many other projects to get to! Honestly, I think that’s what stops a lot of people from every finishing even a single novel, let alone writing a bunch. They massage the text again and again, building up this fear that it won’t hold up when it’s finally presented to the public. I always want people to love my work but if they don’t, you know what? Maybe they’ll like the next one better. You can’t hide your work out of fear of being rejected. Have I written crap? Sure. Every writer has. Have I written things that I’m really proud of? Yep. Sometimes I’ve done both in the same paragraph!

Once I’m finished with this, I might work a little more on Lazarus Gray Volume Five and then I have to turn my focus on to this Sherlock Holmes novella that Pro Se wants. My ultimate plan is to get Holmes and the Lazarus Gray book completed ASAP and then I can start on the crossover novel that will feature a cover by Chris Batista. What evil plot could merit the combined attentions of Gravedigger, Lazarus Gray and The Rook? Trust me, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Our art is a teaser sketch from artist supreme George Sellas. This one depicts Whisper and Ascott Keane and is the final piece scheduled to run in The Rook Volume Three Special Edition. Once he’s completed this one, all the files go to Pro Se and it will move into production. These two look good together, don’t they?

Characters I Love # 20: Special Agent Pendergast

still lifeEvery Wednesday, I focus on a character from adventure fiction (film, comics & prose) that I simply adore. This week we’re talking about: Special Agent Aloysius Xingu L. Pendergast, created by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. An agent for the FBI, Pendergast made his debut as a supporting character in the novel Relic, which was adapted into a movie (without including Pendergast). Born in 1960 and raised in New Orleans, Pendergast is noted for his Southern good manners and his accent. He is pale and thin, with an overall look of an enticing undertaker.

Pendergast is practically a modern-day pulp hero. His knowledge extends to almost every known discipline and he’s no slouch with a firearm. He has an insane archenemy in his brother, a Cabinet of Curiosities at his disposal and frequently finds himself in crimes that border on the supernatural. My personal favorite is Still Life With Crows, which is the one book that I usually hand folks who are interested in the character. “Read this! You’ll love it and then you can go back to the beginning and read them in order.” I loved his relationship with Corrie Swanson, a young girl who accompanies him on this particular adventure.

Given how disappointing the Relic movie was, I’m kind of glad they left Pendergast out of it. I’d love to see a film or tv series starring this character. He has a wide range of characters who comprise his supporting cast and several of them come to unfortunate ends as the series progresses. My favorites are Corrie Swanson, Vincent D’Agosta, Constance Greene and Bill Smithback. Often, these characters are just as much fun as Pendergast himself.

Originally a very mysterious character, we now know an exhaustive amount about Pendergast’s background, which I think was a bit of a mistake. Read Still Life With Crows and tell me you’re not just eaten up with curiosity about him. Then come back to me after The Diogenes Trilogy and The Helen Trilogy and tell me you’re not more than a little bit tired about hearing about his past. Sometimes giving fans what they say they want can be a big mistake. Like The Shadow, Pendergast worked best as a man of mystery. Some background info is good… but when the stories are all about his brother, his family or his supposedly dead wife, we’re getting too navel-gazing for my tastes.

Still, the series is well-written and quite fun. White Fire will be published in November 2013 and features the return of Corrie. I’m quite looking forward to it!

News, Updates and Reviews!

thumbsupHello and welcome back to another day at Ye Olde Blog!

After much contemplation, I took the plunge and returned to tumblr. If you’re brave, you can give me a follow over there and I’ll do the same for you. It’s mostly going to be just pictures and videos of things that excite me.

Didn’t get much writing done yesterday. I just couldn’t get into this Pulse Fiction thing I’m working on, even though I got off to a good start last week. Hopefully the magic will return.

Over at Amazon, a number of folks have been commenting on my books. A reader named John posted the following about The Adventures of Lazarus Gray Volume One:

My First New Pulp book and I loved it! I have read several Doc Savage and The Shadow novels from the 30s and 40s and I loved them. I was a little hesitant about the New Pulp, but Barry Reese has nailed it. I enjoyed The Adventures of Lazarus Gray even more than the original pulps that I have read. 5/5 stars.

Thanks, John! I’m thrilled that you enjoyed the book and I hope you’ll continue to check out New Pulp works – both from myself and from others. There’s a lot of good pulp adventure out there. And I’m deeply honored that you enjoyed my book more than the Doc Savage and The Shadow novels you’ve read. High praise, indeed!

Meanwhile, Shadowman: The Red Sash has gotten two reviews so far. My Pro Se publisher Tommy Hancock said:

Barry Reese’s ‘THE RED SASH’ featuring Valiant’s Shadowman is typical of Barry’s work. That is to say, it is exciting, well paced, full of emotion and characterization, and great read for anyone who is a fan of comics, pulp, action adventure, and the like. Barry brings his own touch to Shadowman and it definitely makes the story stand out.

Doc Panic’s review went like this:

This was an enjoyable book from start to finish. I have read probably all of Barry’s work, and this story like most of his others, was very well written. Pulpy goodness bestowed upon a comic character. Highly recommended!

Thanks, guys! So far, I’d say that most of the people reading The Shadow novella are people who are already reading my other works. I was curious to see if I’d pick up any new readers — it’s too early to really tell. Hopefully Valiant fans will eventually sample this story and then jump onto Lazarus Gray or Gravedigger. Fingers crossed.

I haven’t watched episode two of Sleepy Hollow yet but I really liked the first show. As many of you know, I’m a sucker for The Headless Horseman and used him as the big bad in the first Gravedigger book. If you’re looking for a pulpy supernatural way to spend an hour on a Monday night, I think Sleepy Hollow will fit the bill.

See you guys tomorrow!