Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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My favorite classic pulp characters

Good ideas don’t grow on trees.
The good idea behind this post was stolen from author Barry Reese‘s blog.
A top ten of my favorite pulp characters.
Why not?

captain_future_1940fal_v1_n4I normally say that I came to the pulps in a very circuitous way – but the fact is, I’ve been reading pulps for most of my life (say, the last thirty six years), only I did not know it.

Starting at the age of ten, with Jack Williamson’s The Legion of Space, I read a lot of old SF – stuff that was published in pulp magazines like Astounding, or Amazing. Then, when two or three years later I discovered fantasy (through the books by Lyon Sprague de Camp), I started reading things that came from Unknown and Weird Tales.
And then, of course, there were hard boiled mysteries – Philip Marlowe, Sam Spade…
Pulps.

And the movies and TV, of course – Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan, Guy Williams as Zorro…

And what about TinTin comics, or Terry and the Pirates?

What I really missed until much later were “proper” hero pulps – The Shadow, The Spider, Doc Savage etc.
I was more of a strange worlds/exotic locales sort of reader.
As a consequence of my reading history, my top ten heroes list is strange.
Maybe.

Therefore, in no particular order…

black_mask_197408. Leigh Brackett’s Eric John Stark
. Edmond Hamilton’s Captain Future
. Norvell Page‘s The Spider
. Robert E. Howard‘s Solomon Kane
. Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan
. Walter B. Gibson’s The Shadow
. Lester Dent’s Doc Savage
. C.L. Moore’s Northwest Smith
. Dashiell Hammett’s Continental Op
. (various authors) Sexton Blake

Double-feature special mention
. Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter
. Robert E. Howard’s Conan
. Norvell Page’s Wen Tengri aka Prester John

“Is this actually pulp?” special mention
. Russell Thorndike’s Captain Clegg aka Dr Syn

And there’s still a lot of characters I have to read seriously – next on my list is Henry Kuttner’s Thunder Jim Wade.
Such was the amount of solid fiction published by pulp authors, there’s truly a world worth exploring out there.


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Lazarus Gray and my weekend plans

laz3coverMy plans for the weekend (including the updating of this blog) went belly up when Pro Se Press released, early this week, the third volume in Barry Reese‘s The Adventures of┬áLazarus Gray series.
As soon as I was aware of the book’s availability, I grabbed myself a copy (ebooks are just great – they are cheap and there’s no waiting for the postman!) and shelved every other project for a while.
The fun bit being, after all I can file the hours spent reading this baby as “research” (but more on that later).

For the uninitiated, Lazarus Gray is the central character in Barry Reese’s series of pulp stories set in Sovereign City in the 1930s, and featuring crime-busting, evil-thwarting team, Assistance Unlimited.
An obvious, heartfelt homage to such Lester Dent classics as Doc Savage and The Avenger, Lazarus Gray is a man of mystery and action – his past gone, he swears to bring justice to the city, and assistance to anyone in need.
And so he does.

The Lazarus Gray stories feature all the classic pulp elements – the stalwart, omnicompetent hero, his varied team of quirky assistants, a choice of villains, thrilling locations, superscience, ancient mysteries, the supernatural…
In a proper new pulp twist, Mr Reese approaches his materials with a modern sensibility, sidestepping the trap of political correctedness by providing us with a fresh, modern, intelligent take on “delicate” issues such as gender, race, politics.
This is pulp like in the days of old, but without the outdated and unpleasent biases of our grandfathers.

The third book picks up where the earlier entry in the series (Die Glocke) left off, and shows us that the universe in which the characters move is still evolving – there’s big changes in the air, there’s lots of stuff happening, old enemies are back in the game, new enemies are in, too.
The author’s willingness to let his characters grow, change and mutate is another element of fun and interest in the series. There is a dynamic quality, in Sovereign City and its denizens, that keeps the reader’s attention up.

This is new pulp as it’s meant to be, and to me, the Lazarus Gray stories are an almost perfect template of how it’s done – they are complex, tightly-plotted, hard-hitting, fun.
There’s a lot to learn, here, for someone trying to crack the genre.
That’s why I file ’em not as entertainment, but as research.

The ebook edition of the third volume in the series – which goes by the title of Eidolon, but let’s not spoil the fun by revealing more – also includes a short, gorgeous comic and a selection of black and white illustrations.
Not bad, for something like 3 euros.

Defects?
There’s too little of it – the Lazarus Gray stories are a fast, fun read, and the new book’s over way too soon.

All in all, a highly entertaining, intelligent, stimulating read.
The whole series is highly recommended.