Yeah, I’d like to write that…

challengers-kirbyI was able to write one of my all-time favorite pulp heroes — The Avenger — for Moonstone. Twice!

I’ve also written The Green Hornet, G-8 and His Battle Aces, The Black Bat, The Black Terror and lots more. I’ve written sourcebooks that were all about Spider-Man, Marvel’s Avengers and a lot more…

But there are still some dream projects out there that I’d like to tackle:

Batman. I’ve read some good Batman prose novels but I’d love to handle Bruce Wayne and company just once. I think it would be a blast.

The Shadow. Taking on Walter Gibson’s signature character would be intimidating as hell but I’d jump at the opportunity.

Conan. I’m not sure I’d ever be able to live up to the passion of Robert E. Howard’s writing but I’d give it my best shot.

Airboy. I’m not too big on aerial pulp, despite having written both Richard Knight and G-8… but Airboy’s appearances in the Chuck Dixon comic book series made me a fan.

Challengers of the Unknown. I didn’t much care for the Ron Goulart novel that came out way back when… I like to think I could do better. The themes and characters are right up my alley.

Seekay. One of the greatest obscure pulp characters ever!

Norgil the Magician. Walter Gibson’s *other* great hero. I have a ton of ideas for this crime-solving magician.

The Phantom. Lee Falk’s classic hero would be a blast to write!

There are other projects that I’d love to tackle, too, but those are the ones that keep popping up in my heart and mind. Someday, maybe…

Classic Pulp Villains

The pulp heroes often faced villains who were memorably over the top. Though most of the villains only appeared once (mainly because they were either killed by the heroes or accidentally brought about their own demise), there were still a few that stuck in my memory. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Fu Manchu – How can you top this Oriental mastermind? His brilliance was unmatched and I enjoyed the fact that he didn’t consider himself a villain at all.
  • John Sunlight – The man who exposed the secrets of Doc Savage’s Fortress of Solitude, Sunlight was just as formidable as the Man of Bronze. The only thing that would have made him better in my opinion was if he’d had an interesting supporting cast, mainly as a counterpoint to Doc’s Fabulous Five.
  • Doctor Satan – I first encountered this guy in Ron Fortier’s Hounds of Hell novel and have enjoyed him ever since. Dressed as the freakin’ devil, this guy has a memorable group of servants and is so over-the-top evil that he’s fun to root against. I enjoyed him so much that I’ve used Doctor Satan as a foil for both The Peregrine and Lazarus Gray.
  • Fantomas – The brilliantly evil Fantomas was as cool as they came, but sadistic and ruthless. For years, I’ve thought using some version of this character in one of my stories. Eventually, I’ll get around to it.
  • The Prince of Evil – Benedict Stark was a twisted killer who battled The Shadow over the course of four novels. The first two are definitely the best – the depraved depths that Stark is willing to go to really makes him stand out amongst The Shadow’s rogues gallery.

What about you guys? What pulp villains could you never get enough of?

BTW, the Doctor Satan image at left is by Anthony Castrillo and features the crimson-clad bad guy as he was depicted in my Peregrine series.

My Favorite Shadow Novels

death_tower(Updated 12/28/2019)

As most of you know, I’m a big fan of The Shadow – in fact, I used to host a podcast entitled The Shadow Fan. Today I thought I’d share with you a few of my favorite Shadow novels, so that if you’re looking to jump into the series, you’ll have some recommendations about where to start. These are by no means all the great Shadow stories — it’s just a handful that I really love. In addition, there are still Shadow novels that I haven’t read yet — so I might go back and add to this list as time passes.

To be honest, I think it’s a great idea to simply start with the first story and go forward — but that’s not always possible, I know. So here are my favorites, in order of publication:

Continue reading → My Favorite Shadow Novels

Let’s Talk About Sex

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 and he eventually gets married and fathers a kid, so he must have the same physical desires that the rest of us do.

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 Peregrine 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!

Norgil the Magician

Walter Gibson is rightly associated with The Shadow, having written 282 novels featuring the character. But he also wrote 23 stories featuring the lesser-known “Norgil the Magician,” drawing upon his real-life knowledge of magic. Norgil debuted in the November 1937 issue of Crime Busters and continued to be published until 1940. These 23 stories are, for the most part, very hard to come by. In 1977, Mysterious Press issued two volumes collecting 16 of the tales — I can only assume there were plans for a third book that ended up never happening. The books themselves are beautiful things to behold — both feature Jim Steranko covers.

I’m lucky enough to own these two volumes and I thought I’d take some time to talk about the first of them with you. It contains 8 stories, selected as a “best of” from the ’37-’40 period. The very first story is a little rough compared to the others — it’s easy to see that Gibson (writing under the Maxwell Grant byline) gets more comfortable as time goes on. Unlike The Shadow, Norgil doesn’t have a large supporting cast — in fact, the only character who appears in each tale alongside Norgil is his trusty stage assistant, Fritz. There is also a showgirl named Miriam who is in many stories but it’s really only in one of them that she has much to do or say — the rest of the time she’s basically background material.

The basic premise of each story (all of which are around 22 pages in this book) is this: the story opens with Norgil in some new city, performing a magic trick, which Gibson explains to us. Then he becomes involved in solving a murder/jewel theft/protection racket scheme. He usually manages to solve the mystery with the help of another magic trick, which Gibson again gives a full description of. Sometimes Fritz helps, sometimes not. My favorite plots involved Norgil attending a magicians’ convention (“Battle of Magic”) and one about a ring that people are being killed over (“Ring of Death”).

All the villains in this book are of the small-time variety: hoodlums, rich guys who are secretly bankrolling the mob, etc. There’s no true threat for Norgil, who handles all the cases with relative ease. In that sense, it reminds me of a perfect setup for a television series, a la Murder, She Wrote – our hero could travel each week, with one or two supporting cast members, solving crimes wherever he goes.

Norgil himself is suave and intelligent. There’s no signs of romance in his life but he’s a friendly sort who seemingly knows people in every town. He’s a master of disguise, good with his fists and a master illusionist.

Gibson’s trademark writing style is recognizable but the character certainly feels different from The Shadow. If you enjoy Gibson’s more famous creation, I think you’ll find enjoyment in this one, as well. My biggest complaint is that I kept hungering for Norgil to face a true master criminal, one that would push him to the limit. Despite all the gunfire and death traps in this book, I never really felt that Norgil was threatened.

The book is great fun and an interesting look at a forgotten character.

I give the book 4 out of 5 stars — if Norgil’s opposition had been greater, I would have given it a perfect score. Norgil is one of those characters on my bucket list to write… I tried unsuccessfully to get the rights to him at one point and would dearly love to have a shot at handling this wonderful but forgotten hero.

Yeah, I’d Like To Write That…

challengers-kirbyI was able to write one of my all-time favorite pulp heroes — The Avenger — for Moonstone. Twice!

I’ve also written The Green Hornet, G-8 and His Battle Aces, The Black Bat, The Black Terror and lots more. I’ve written sourcebooks that were all about Spider-Man, Marvel’s Avengers and a lot more…

But there are still some dream projects out there that I’d like to tackle:

Batman. I’ve read some good Batman prose novels but I’d love to handle Bruce Wayne and company just once. I think it would be a blast.

The Shadow. Taking on Walter Gibson’s signature character would be intimidating as hell but I’d jump at the opportunity.

Conan. I’m not sure I’d ever be able to live up to the passion of Robert E. Howard’s writing but I’d give it my best shot.

Airboy. I’m not too big on aerial pulp, despite having written both Richard Knight and G-8… but Airboy’s appearances in the Chuck Dixon comic book series made me a fan.

Challengers of the Unknown. I didn’t much care for the Ron Goulart novel that came out way back when… I like to think I could do better. The themes and characters are right up my alley.

Seekay. One of the greatest obscure pulp characters ever!

Norgil the Magician. Walter Gibson’s *other* great hero. I have a ton of ideas for this crime-solving magician.

The Phantom. Lee Falk’s classic hero would be a blast to write!

There are other projects that I’d love to tackle, too, but those are the ones that keep popping up in my heart and mind. Someday, maybe…

Norgil the Magician

Walter Gibson is rightly associated with The Shadow, having written 282 novels featuring the character. But he also wrote 23 stories featuring the lesser-known “Norgil the Magician,” drawing upon his real-life knowledge of magic. Norgil debuted in the November 1937 issue of Crime Busters and continued to be published until 1940. These 23 stories are, for the most part, very hard to come by. In 1977, Mysterious Press issued two volumes collecting 16 of the tales — I can only assume there were plans for a third book that ended up never happening. The books themselves are beautiful things to behold — both feature Jim Steranko covers.

I’m lucky enough to own these two volumes and I thought I’d take some time to talk about the first of them with you. It contains 8 stories, selected as a “best of” from the ’37-’40 period. The very first story is a little rough compared to the others — it’s easy to see that Gibson (writing under the Maxwell Grant byline) gets more comfortable as time goes on. Unlike The Shadow, Norgil doesn’t have a large supporting cast — in fact, the only character who appears in each tale alongside Norgil is his trusty stage assistant, Fritz. There is also a showgirl named Miriam who is in many stories but it’s really only in one of them that she has much to do or say — the rest of the time she’s basically background material.

The basic premise of each story (all of which are around 22 pages in this book) is this: the story opens with Norgil in some new city, performing a magic trick, which Gibson explains to us. Then he becomes involved in solving a murder/jewel theft/protection racket scheme. He usually manages to solve the mystery with the help of another magic trick, which Gibson again gives a full description of. Sometimes Fritz helps, sometimes not. My favorite plots involved Norgil attending a magicians’ convention (“Battle of Magic”) and one about a ring that people are being killed over (“Ring of Death”).

All the villains in this book are of the small-time variety: hoodlums, rich guys who are secretly bankrolling the mob, etc. There’s no true threat for Norgil, who handles all the cases with relative ease. In that sense, it reminds me of a perfect setup for a television series, a la Murder, She Wrote – our hero could travel each week, with one or two supporting cast members, solving crimes wherever he goes.

Norgil himself is suave and intelligent. There’s no signs of romance in his life but he’s a friendly sort who seemingly knows people in every town. He’s a master of disguise, good with his fists and a master illusionist.

Gibson’s trademark writing style is recognizable but the character certainly feels different from The Shadow. If you enjoy Gibson’s more famous creation, I think you’ll find enjoyment in this one, as well. My biggest complaint is that I kept hungering for Norgil to face a true master criminal, one that would push him to the limit. Despite all the gunfire and death traps in this book, I never really felt that Norgil was threatened.

The book is great fun and an interesting look at a forgotten character.

I give the book 4 out of 5 stars — if Norgil’s opposition had been greater, I would have given it a perfect score. Norgil is one of those characters on my bucket list to write… I tried unsuccessfully to get the rights to him at one point and would dearly love to have a shot at handling this wonderful but forgotten hero.

Yeah, I’d Like to Write That…

challengers-kirbyI was able to write one of my all-time favorite pulp heroes — The Avenger — for Moonstone. Twice!

I’ve also written The Green Hornet, G-8 and His Battle Aces, The Black Bat, The Black Terror and lots more. I’ve written sourcebooks that were all about Spider-Man, Marvel’s Avengers and a lot more…

But there are still some dream projects out there that I’d like to tackle:

Batman. I’ve read some good Batman prose novels but I’d love to handle Bruce Wayne and company just once. I think it would be a blast.

The Shadow. Taking on Walter Gibson’s signature character would be intimidating as hell but I’d jump at the opportunity.

Conan. I’m not sure I’d ever be able to live up to the passion of Robert E. Howard’s writing but I’d give it my best shot.

Airboy. I’m not too big on aerial pulp, despite having written both Richard Knight and G-8… but Airboy’s appearances in the Chuck Dixon comic book series made me a fan.

Challengers of the Unknown. I didn’t much care for the Ron Goulart novel that came out way back when… I like to think I could do better. The themes and characters are right up my alley.

Seekay. One of the greatest obscure pulp characters ever!

Norgil the Magician. Walter Gibson’s *other* great hero. I have a ton of ideas for this crime-solving magician.

The Phantom. Lee Falk’s classic hero would be a blast to write!

There are other projects that I’d love to tackle, too, but those are the ones that keep popping up in my heart and mind. Someday, maybe…

My Favorite Shadow Novels (Updated 2/26/18)

death_towerAs most of you know, I’m a big fan of The Shadow – in fact, I used to host a podcast entitled The Shadow Fan. Today I thought I’d share with you a few of my favorite Shadow novels, so that if you’re looking to jump into the series, you’ll have some recommendations about where to start. These are by no means all the great Shadow stories — it’s just a handful that I really love. In addition, there are still Shadow novels that I haven’t read yet — so I might go back and add to this list as time passes.

To be honest, I think it’s a great idea to simply start with the first story and go forward — but that’s not always possible, I know. So here are my favorites, in order of publication:

Continue reading → My Favorite Shadow Novels (Updated 2/26/18)

My Favorite Shadow Novels (Updated 6/22/16)

death_towerAs most of you know, I’m a big fan of The Shadow – in fact, I host a podcast entitled The Shadow Fan. Today I thought I’d share with you a few of my favorite Shadow novels, so that if you are looking to jump into the series, you’ll have some recommendations about where to start. These are by no means all the great Shadow stories — it’s just a handful that I really love. In addition, there are still Shadow novels that I haven’t read yet — so I might go back and add to this list as time passes.

To be honest, I think it’s a great idea to simply start with the first story and go forward — but that’s not always possible, I know. So here are my favorites, in order of publication:

The Living Shadow – April 1, 1931

The Eyes of The Shadow – July-September 1931

The Shadow Laughs – October 1, 1931

Gangdom’s Doom – December 1, 1931

The Death Tower – January 1, 1932

The Ghost of the Manor – June 15, 1933

Murder Every Hour – June 1, 1935

The London Crimes – September 15, 1935

The Sledge-Hammer Crimes – August 1, 1936

Crime, Insured – July 1, 1937

The Shadow Unmasks – August 1, 1937

The Green Hoods – August 15, 1938

Death From Nowhere – July 15, 1939

The Golden Master – September 15, 1939

Shiwan Khan Returns – December 1, 1939

The Invincible Shiwan Khan – March 1, 1940

The Prince of Evil – April 15, 1940

Masters of Death – May 15, 1940

Murder Genius – July 1, 1940

The Man Who Died Twice – September 15, 1940

The Devil’s Paymaster – November 15, 1940

The Thunder King – June 15, 1941

The Devil Master – September 15, 1941

Temple of Crime – November 15, 1941

The Book of Death – January 15, 1942

Death’s Bright Finger – May 15, 1942

The Vampire Murders – September 1, 1942

The Black Dragon – March 1, 1943

The Sinister Shadow – 2015