Tag: The Avenger

Seekay

seekay_coverEverybody knows The Shadow, Doc Savage, The Spider and many of the other classic heroes… but there are many wonderful characters that aren’t as well-known. This week we’re talking about: Seekay. This pulp hero is relatively obscure, having appeared in only five stories, published in 1937 & ’38. Written by Paul Ernst (the genius behind the original Avenger novels and the Doctor Satan series), Seekay’s entire series has been reprinted by Altus Press in the volume The Casebook of Seekay and Other Prototypes of The Avenger. It’s a $29.95 paperback, which is a bit steep, but it’s well worth the price and you can probably do some shopping around to get it for less.

Seekay is a private detective who wears a plastic mask to hide his disfigurement. There was a whole trend of “defective detectives” who suffered from some form of ailment, be it physical, emotional or mental — and Seekay is one of the best of those. The first two of his stories appeared, appropriately enough, in “Stange Detective Stories” before the rest of the series switched to “Detective Tales.” While the full truth about his disfigurement is never detailed, we do get some tantalizing hints. In the very first story, he aids a young woman who goes on to become his secretary and sidekick in adventure — she yearns to know more about him and there’s some nice romantic tension as she struggles with what is obviously a growing crush on the tragic hero.

While Seekay’s success rate isn’t focused upon, we have to assume that he’s doing quite well for himself, since he’s able to pick and choose his cases. If they intrigue him, he takes them on — but if not, he refuses to even hear them out.

As with all Ernst stories, the characterization is spot-on and I’m continually amazed at how he’s able to make you feel for his characters while never losing the pace of the story. As with The Avenger, Seekay is perfectly willing to let his enemies engineer their own demise, as well.

I am genuinely sad that there’s only five of these stories out there as I think he could have had a long and interesting run. At one point, I was told the character was in the public domain but I’ve since learned that’s not true. It’s a shame in some ways as I would love to have the opportunity to write Seekay or at least read what others would do with him.

Definitely seek out the Altus Press book and see why I’m so high on this character!

2013 In Review

20130609-173120.jpgIt’s been another productive year for me as a professional writer — by my count, I was published six times (not counting reissues of various works). That’s actually one publication more than I had in 2012… so that puts some pressure on for 2014 😉

Here’s what I had published this year:

The Adventures of Lazarus Gray Volume Three: Eidolon – This one furthered the big meta-storyline that’s running through books 2-4 and introduces Darkling and Eidolon, two characters that I’m very proud of. Darkling is probably the closest I’ll ever get to writing The Shadow so I had a blast handling him.

The Adventures of Gravedigger – Charity Grace joined my pulp adventure universe this year and I’ve been thrilled with the response to her first novel. Featuring my all-time favorite George Sellas cover, Gravedigger quickly cemented her spot as the third “big hero” in my universe and I fell in love with her and the supporting cast.

The Avenger: Roaring Heart of the Crucible – Writing The Avenger once was a dream come true… to do it a second time?! Amazing! Even better, I got to make it a sequel to my 2011 story. I was very happy with how it turned out.

Strange Trails – My first work for Mechanoid Press. I introduced a new heroine here and had a good time with the experience. It’s odd that I don’t like westerns but I’ve actually written a handful of them now.

Shadowman: The Red Sash – My first foray into Amazon’s Kindle Worlds program, this allowed me the chance to write Shadowman. I managed to do a very pulp-heavy story for it and I like to think it’s a fun little adventure.

Liberty Girl – Adapting a graphic novel to prose was a new experience for me but it was also one of the most rewarding. I enjoyed handling The Liberty Girl and response has been very strong to the finished product.

If you add in all the re-issued works, I had something being published almost every month: Rook Volume Two, Rabbit Heart, the new Single Shot releases from Pro Se, etc.

Next year should bring new volumes for Lazarus Gray and Gravedigger, plus a few other stories and books that should be coming from Moonstone, Pro Se and elsewhere.

None of this would be possible without your support, my friends. Thank you so much.

From the Vault: Sex in the Pulps

mellisa_clark_unmaskedYep. Today we’re talking about S-E-X and, by extension, loving relationships.

In the classic hero pulps, there wasn’t a whole lot of sex. You’d have the occasional lurid cover, with some scantily clad woman (usually with stockings showing) in distress while our hero moved to protect her but for the most part, guys like Doc Savage, The Shadow and The Avenger were not very interested in knocking boots. Doc occasionally in later years would display a kind of boyish interest in the fairer sex and The Avenger’s love for his wife was constantly being referenced but even in the first book where you see The Avenger alongside his wife and daughter, you didn’t exactly get the image that they were passionate lovers. They were partners, friends and spouses, yes, but there was no sign of “heat” in the relationship.

There were some exceptions, of course. Jim Anthony was basically Doc Savage with a sex drive but by today’s standards, he was still a bit tame. In fact, the idea of Anthony was racier than the truth — he liked to lounge around at home in a speedo while working in the lab. Hell, what guy doesn’t? And then there was The Spider, who was very clearly a passionate lover of Nita Van Sloane. But most of the romance that was depicted between them were of steamy kisses and verbal flirtations.

The fantasy pulps (like Conan) got a lot of mileage out of ladies whipping one another and there was no doubt that Conan and others got into lusty embraces. But I’m focusing on the hero pulps because those were my favorites and that’s where most of the New Pulp writings out today fall into place.

So…

Now we’re in the age of New Pulp. Writers are now bringing in more modern ideas about race, gender relations, etc. into their pulp-inspired writings.

But we still don’t have much in the way of S-E-X. I’m not saying we *need* it, I’m just surprised there’s not more variety out there.

When I wrote Rabbit Heart, I deliberately made it dirty. Foul language, lots of explicit sex and gory violence. It was my Anti-Pulp pulp book. When I did The Damned Thing, I didn’t go quite as far but it was still a pulp novel, only with explicit oral sex scenes and rape. The reviews I got for Rabbit Heart all made direct mention of the dirty stuff because I think it’s hard to discuss the novel without it — and it was out of place in the pulp world. The Damned Thing, though, got high praise but few people mentioned the sexy stuff — maybe after Rabbit Heart, they weren’t as surprised?

We have guys and gals in the pulp field who can cover all sorts of things and do it well. I’d like to see more variety in relationships on display in New Pulp stories. No, we don’t have to go into the boudoir with the Moon Man and his long-suffering girlfriend, but if a writer could do it well, why not? Hell, just some acknowledgement that these heroes are human beings and are sexual creatures would be welcome sometimes, just for the sake of something different.

The number of unfeeling automatons I’ve met in real life are relatively few in number… so why do I see so many in pulp? Look, I have one hero (Lazarus Gray) who kind of fits that bill, too — but in his series, there’s also plenty of sexual beings who surround him. Hell, I make it quite clear in Die Glocke that Lazarus had a “steamy” romance with the daughter of the local museum curator so even he’s not as stoic as he first appears.

Yes, I enjoy pulp that features heroic figures, over-the-top villains and happy endings. I make no apologies for that. But I also like to have my heroes fall in love, make babies and grow old.

I had The Rook fall in love, get married, become a father, etc. His wife is his partner and his lover, equal in both regards.

I did this because I think of Max Davies as a man — and most men want those things.They want love, they want sex, they want a family.

So, New Pulp writers, don’t be afraid to bring the sexy back!

It’s My Birthday!

So today I turn forty-one years old. As always, such an event makes you want to look back on where you’ve been and also cast an eye on where you hope to be going. I was pretty happy with the words I wrote last year on this date so here they are once more. They’re just as applicable now as they were then:

I’m thankful that my birth father introduced me to pulp when I was a young kid. I love that stuff.

I’m thankful that my parents allowed me the freedom to pursue my own interests and to be a little bit weird. My father (really my step-dad but he’ll always be a father to me) passed away a few years ago and I still miss him. He was a great man and he taught me that you should always be able to laugh, no matter what the situation. I honestly think if you can do that, you’ll never be sad for long. His humility and grace are standards I’ll never be able to reach. My mom taught me that you love with all your heart and you don’t give up on the people that really matter, even if they disappoint you.

I’m thankful for my wife, who has stood by me through thick and thin. It hasn’t always been easy but our love remains firm — she’s my friend, my lover and my partner. She puts up with me when I’m being annoying and she’s with me through the triumphs and the tribulations.

I’m thankful for my son, who entered my life a little over seven years ago. He’s so smart and tries so hard to be good… I wish I could protect him forever. He’s reminded me of the fun of being a kid and how precious those first few years really are. I remember being his age and thinking I’d always live with my parents and always be safe with them watching over me. I’m sad he’ll have to learn that won’t be the case but I hope that he’ll end up having a happy life and be a good man. He’s off to a good start.

I’m thankful to Gary Dreslinski and Eric Moreels, who helped me get my job at Marvel. Because of them, I’ve had so many wonderful opportunities in the years since. Thanks, guys.

I’m thankful to the editors at Marvel, Moonstone, Pro Se, Wild Cat Books, West End Games and all the rest, for trusting me again and again. I’ve been able to work on The Avenger, The Green Hornet, G-8 and lots of other wonderful characters. I’ve been able to put my small stamp on them and that means I’ll live forever.

I’m thankful to my collaborators, like George Sellas, Anthony Castrillo, Tommy Hancock, Will Meugniot, Chris Batista, Tom Smith and so many others, all of whom have helped me along the way.

I’m thankful to you, my readers. I know I’m not the best writer out there but you keep coming back and trying my new projects. Thank you.

And most of all, I’m thankful to Life itself. Whatever force is out there, be it random bits of science coming together or some all-powerful entity that I’ll never comprehend, I’ve been here. I’ve smiled, I’ve laughed, I’ve made love and I’ve made my mark. I’ve made my share of screw-ups but all in all, it’s been a good life. Hopefully, I’ll get another 41 years to improve upon the first.

Friday Is Here… At Last!

roaringheartIt’s been a long week but we’ve finally reached Friday, my friends. Let us take a moment to celebrate.

Woot!

Okay, we’re done. Let’s get back to work.

Over at Amazon, there have been a couple of new reviews posted lately. Let’s see what folks have been saying!

Ralph Angelo posted this about The Avenger: Roaring Heart of the Crucible:

This novel is actually an anthology by many authors including Matthew Baugh, James Chambers, Greg Cox, Win Scott Eckert, CJ Henderson, Michael May, Matthew P Mayo, Will Murray, Bobby Nash, Mel Odom, Barry Reese, Chris Sequiera, John Allen Small and David White. There are fourteen tales of the Avenger and his crew spread across the years of his career, and they are in no particular order. My experience before this with the Avenger was limited to the original novel some thirty years ago and possibly one or two more. I like the character well enough, but to me he was never a ‘Doc Savage’. The Avenger is a man who had a terrible loss, both his wife and daughter were taken from him, presumed murdered by criminals and never found. This girded him into an almost inhuman machine that sought nothing but justice for those in similar situations. The Avenger has a few special abilities which I won’t get into here. Suffice to say the volume is filled with very exciting and action filled stories about the Avenegr and his crew. Smitty, Nellie (Smitty’s lady love), the dour scotsman Mac, as well as Josh and his wife Rosamund. Not all of the characters are in all of the stories, in fact the last tale I was pleasantly surprised to find the two most popular members of Doc Savage’s supporting cast involved in the story. They were not named, but you know it was Monk and Ham. That was a very pleasant surprise. All in all this was a very enjoyable volume. It had loads of action and interesting stories throughout. There wasn’t a clunker amongst them. It was fun reading about a character I knew so little about and still be able to follow along. The assembled authors did a very nice job with these tales of the Avenger. This has a great cover too, by the way. Highly recommended.

Thanks, Ralph! I love The Avenger and getting to write the character not just once but twice was one of the greatest achievements of my writing career. If you haven’t much Avenger, you owe it to yourself to read more… his early adventures are some of the best of the pulp era.

Caine Dorr reviewed The Adventures of Lazarus Gray Volume Two: Die Glocke. Here’s his commentary:

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes this second book in the Lazarus Gray series delivers with intense action and all around fun adventures.

I appreciate that, Caine! I hope you enjoy book three just as much.

In other news, I’m continuing to work on the new Lazarus Gray story. We meet a new villain in it — a guy known as The Basilisk and he’s definitely a throwback to some classic pulp villains of the past. I think the fans will like him.

After I finish this one, it’s off to Victorian England for a Sherlock Holmes story!

The work is never done, is it? But that’s a good thing, I suppose.

Enjoy your Friday, folks!

My Favorite Pulp Heroes

1759222-conan_the_cimmerian_by_frank_choI’ve read a lot of pulp.

I mean, a lot.

So over the years I’ve found myself drawn to certain characters more than others — it’s natural, right? Not every series will connect with you in the same way. So I figured I’d list my ten favorite pulp heroes, counting down from 10-1. Some of them are from completely different genres than each other but that’s okay.

For the sake of the list, I kept it to ‘classic’ pulp heroes — so nothing from New Pulp is on this list.

Here we go:

10. The Spider
9. Thunder Jim Wade
8. Doc Savage
7. Norgil the Magician
6. Tarzan
5. John Carter
4. Conan
3. Seekay
2. The Avenger
1. The Shadow

For years, I would have put The Avenger at # 1 and The Shadow at # 2 but the sheer weight of Shadow stories and their excellence throughout has moved him into the top spot. I read every Avenger story years ago and I’m still reading Shadow stories for the first time (there’s over 300 novels!) so I think that has a lot to do with it. Seekay and The Avenger, it should be pointed out, are both written by Paul Ernst (though other people also contributed to later Avengers)… who happens to have also been the guy behind the evil Doctor Satan, one of my favorite villains. Ernst is right up there with Walter Gibson and Robert E. Howard as my favorite pulp authors.

What would your list be like?

Author Q & A

Breyfogle_Rook_A_smallEvery now and then I let some of the questions I’m asked pile up so I can answer them all at once. Here’s the latest batch! And if you want to play along, just send me a question by replying here or through Facebook!

What characters would you love to write?

Well, I’ve had the chance to write some iconic heroes — The Avenger, The Green Hornet and G-8, for instance — but there are a few I’d still love to get my grubby little hands on. The Shadow definitely tops the list, followed by Batman, The Doom Patrol, Challengers of the Unknown, The Phantom and Norgil. I’d prefer to handle those characters in prose but I wouldn’t turn down any opportunity, be it in comics, on the back of a cereal box or whatever!

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever written?

Hmm. In terms of quality? Or do you mean in terms of being disgusting or something? I’m not sure. I do know that my book Guan-Yin and the Horrors of Skull Island is the worst-reviewed book I’ve done and, in retrospect, it is a bit of a hot mess. It was meant to be a fun, quick little romp with pirates, the undead and a giant ape… but it ended up being more “mess” than anything else. In terms of being disgusting, probably Rabbit Heart, which was all very intentional. One character is anally raped to death in that one! Good times.

If they made a Rook movie, who would you want to star in it?

A few years ago, I would have said Nathan Fillion would have made a fantastic Max Davies. He’s starting to get a little old for it now, though. I’m terrible at those kinds of questions, actually. I never cast movies in my head the way other people do. I’d just be happy they made a Rook movie at all!

What’s your favorite Rook story?

Ask me tomorrow and you might get a different answer but my favorites have been “Lucifer’s Cage” (Volume One), “Kaslov’s Fire” (Volume Two), “The Resurrection Gambit” (Volume Three), “Dead of Night” (Volume Four) and “The Scorched God” (Volume Six). I can’t narrow it down any more than that.

For each of your heroes, who is the best villain you’ve created for them?

Good question! The Rook has faced an awful lot of villains in his time and I enjoy a lot of the one-off villains a lot. But I guess I’d have to say The Warlike Manchu, who is not only an homage to Fu Manchu but to the greater Yellow Peril in general. I think he started off rather one-note but some of the later stories with him I’m pretty proud of, including the one where he is revived from the dead “The Resurrection Gambit” and the one where he and The Rook team up (“Dead of Night”).

For Lazarus Gray, I think I’d go with Walther Lunt, even though he’s killed off in Volume Two and as of this writing (I’m working on Volume Five now), he hasn’t returned. I think Lunt works because he has a classic visual and his origins are so intertwined with those of our hero.

Gravedigger has only had one book published and another completed but not yet released, so I don’t think it’s fair to really pick one yet.

Any artists you’d like to work with?

Tons! I’m proud to say that so far I’ve had guys like Frank Brunner, Anthony Castrillo, George Sellas, Fred Hembeck, Will Meugniot, Bob Hall and Norm Breyfogle do work for me. There are always more out there whose work I really love, though. My “dream list” would include George Perez, Alan Davis, Chris Batista and Jae Lee.  Our art today is the original black-and-white version of The Rook Volume Four that Wild Cat Books published — with gorgeous pencils courtesy of Norm Breyfogle.

Thanks for the questions, guys! Keep ’em coming!