Sunday, June 12, 2016

It's a Great Time to Be a Reader: The State of Modern Pulp, as I See It

When it comes to pulp fiction, it’s a great time to be a reader. I use the term “pulp” because I’m not sure how else to classify the type of works I’m referring to. For me, pulp is sort of an all-encompassing term that may include hard boiled P.I. tales, men’s adventure, and westerns. Perhaps “genre fiction” is more accurate. No matter what you call it, it’s a great time to be a fan and connoisseur.

A couple of years ago, I thought just the opposite. When I was a kid in the ‘80s and into the ‘90s, one could still easily find pulp on the paperback racks. True, it was thinning out, and wasn’t anywhere near the levels it had been during its zenith. As a teen in the ‘90s, I could easily find such western series as Longarm, The Trailsman, Slocum, and The Gunsmith. Beyond these series, there were a whole host of other “adult westerns” that flooded the market, but never seemed to last long. Westerns as a whole regained popularity in the 1990s, in film and in paperback form, it seems, and there was a plethora of titles.

When it came to action and adventure, series such as The Executioner and The Destroyer were going strong, along with others that came and went. But, the herd started thinning as time went on. I could still scour used book stores, and the occasional antique store I went to with my grandparents, to find real treasures. The big publishers in New York decided to shave a few off here and there, and pretty soon only a few series held on. Recently, we saw Longarm, Slocum, Fargo, and even The Gunsmith go the way of the buffalo. A few western series are still out there (Johnstone), but it’s looking bleaker and bleaker every day—as far as the New York publishers, anyway.

Thankfully, it’s looking better and better with the small houses and independent guys. Today, even though the Big Guys aren’t publishing hardly any pulp or genre fiction, it’s a great time to be a pulp reader! Thanks to the Kindle, and other e-reading devices, I now have virtually more material at my fingertips than I have time to read! And it’s not poorly written, throw-away junk either. We are talking the masters here, people.
Prolific author James Reasoner is still putting out just as much as he used to, publishing under his own imprint, Rough Edges Press. He’s not alone, either. He has the likes of Ed Gorman and others joining him. Some stories are new, and some are reprints of long out of print gems. Either way, if you want some great action packed reads, Rough Edges is a good place to start.

James is one of my literary heroes. As a wannabe author, I admire the sheer amount the man writes (with no drop-off in quality), and the fact that he struck out on his own and is making it happen. I’ve read much of his work, even being able to spot the titles he wrote for various series such as Longarm (turns out, I was correct ina lot of my guesses. I believe I’ve spotted him writing for another still-running and aforementioned western series, but I will say no more).

Speaking of westerns, The Gunsmith can still be found, but not on the local drugstore paperback rack as in the old days. Robert Randisi (who writes wonderful mysteries, as well) has brought his creation Clint Adams (The Gunsmith) to the wonderful world of e-reading with new Gunsmith titles. The old ones are being reissued, as well, thanks to the guys over at Piccadilly Press. Piccadilly is publishing tons of works, many of them classic pulp western reprints, at affordable prices. Good stuff!

John Hegenberger is a “new to me” author who has quickly become one of my favorites. He’s been writing for a while, but only recently has introduced his detective fiction to the world. I’m sure glad he did! Stan Wade, a late ‘50s and early ‘60s P.I., is a great character who interacts with all sorts of classic Hollywood types. His adventures are quick and fun, and I highly recommend them. Beyond that, John has some other great titles including some sci-fi. I interviewed John, and if you haven’t read it, click here to enjoy. He’s an author you should be familiar with.

Long-time comic book and pulp author Ron Fortier is going strong over at Airship 27. Not only is Ron’s own work published under that press, but he’s got some great pulp authors with him, putting out some awesome stuff! Mr. Fortier recently announced that his Brother Bones character, the Undead Avenger, is going to be appearing in a movie! I’ve been reading Brother Bones, and I can tell you it’s great pulpy fun. Much like The Shadow and the great pulp heroes of old, he’s sure to please fans of the genre. Also, a good place to start when taking flight with the Airship is their anthology The Legends of New Pulp Fiction. Lots of good short stories in that collection, and it raises money for a great cause. It’s a good introduction and jumping off point to dozens of great modern pulp writers.

I could go on and on. I’m sure I’ll be back with another modern pulp round-up, but the authors mentioned above are a great place to get going, if you’re looking for such titles. For fans of the genre like me, we live in exciting times! It’s also a great time to be a pulp writer, but more on that in my next post.

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