Sunday, September 14, 2014

Three More Examples Of Today's New Pulp

You may recall that back in April of this year I wrote an article in which I gave three examples of New Pulp in today’s popular media. My hope was to show that the Pulp tradition never really went away and is alive and well. It’s just that the tropes of Pulp have been conscripted by Action Adventure, Horror, Science Fiction and many other genres. But there’s New Pulp aplenty all around. You just have to look for it:

CONGO: This is one of the most spectacular examples of New Pulp. And when I say spectacular I’m talking about the sheer audacity of the story which is primarily a jungle adventure with a diverse and eccentric band of explorers looking for The Lost City of Zinj and the diamond mines located there. It’s a strictly 1930’s plot successfully transplanted to the 1990’s and enhanced with modern day technology.

The movie is directed by Frank Marshall, who frequently collaborated with Steven Spielberg and written by John Patrick Shanley. It’s based on the novel by Michael Crichton but take it from me, the movie is way better than the novel. Which is the case with most of Crichton’s novels. Probably because Crichton really wasn’t interested in characterization. Crichton was more interested in the technology and the effects of science going wrong. But CONGO is the stuff of Saturday afternoon cliffhangers than most of his other stuff and that’s what Marshall and Shanley wisely decided to focus on. ‘Cause trust me, this movie moves. There’s enough fights, captures, escapes, close shaves with death and breathtaking action to give Lester Dent on his best day a run for his money.

That’s not to say they throw out the technology entirely. One of Our Heroes is Dr. Peter Elliott (Dylan Walsh) a primatologist who has taught a gorilla named Amy how to speak using sign language. Her sign language is translated into digital speech by means of a special backpack and glove. Peter decides to return her to Africa and is funded in this endeavor by Herkermer Homolka (Tim Curry) a shady character who has led unsuccessful expeditions to Zinj in the past and thinks that Amy may be the key to this one being successful.

Also joining the expedition is Dr. Karen Ross (Laura Linney) a communications expert who needs to get to the Congo to find her fiancé (Bruce Campbell) who was looking for a rare blue diamond that can only be found near volcanos. Guess where the Lost City of Zinj just happens to be in the neighborhood of?

Along with The Great White Hunter Munro Kelly (Ernie Hudson and yes, I do know he’s black. But that’s how he always introduces himself and it leads to one of the movie’s funniest lines later on) and his team, they set off to find the Lost City of Zinj which is guarded by killer gorillas.

There’s no adequate way I can tell you just how much sheer fun CONGO is. Just let me say that if you don’t want to see a movie where Laura Linney is blasting away with a laser at killer gorillas while fleeing from an exploding volcano, then this obviously isn’t the movie for you. But for those of you who want to check it out, it’s available for instant streaming on Netflix.

DIRK PITT: Described by his creator, Clive Cussler as a modern day homage to Doc Savage, I’ve always admired Cussler’s unashamed love of Classic Pulp and his enthusiasm for it. A good case could be made that Cussler was writing New Pulp long before the title was ever coined. He’s certainly the most successful at it and the character of Dirk Pitt is by now as well-known as Doc Savage and James Bond, another fictional grandfather of Pitt’s.

So far there have been 22 Dirk Pitt novels written with more to come, especially since Cussler’s son Dirk has co-written the last six with his father and most likely will eventually take over the series entirely.

When it comes to branding Dirk Pitt as New Pulp one has only to check out a few of the novels to see that he comes by that legitimately. Despite working as marine engineer for the National Underwater and Marine Agency, in every novel Pitt finds himself battling megalomaniacal supervillains with world conquering schemes that would wring gasps of envy from Fu Manchu or Ernst Stavro Blofeld. In the course of his adventures Pitt has recovered Captain Nemo’s ‘Nautilus’, raised the ‘Titanic’, discovers the existence of a secret base on the moon, finds Atlantis, stops a plot by a race of genetic supermen to destroy civilization and create a Nazi empire… need I go on?

Dirk Pitt hasn’t had much success outside of the novels. He’s been in two movies so far. He was played by Richard Jordan in 1980’s RAISE THE TITANIC! which you should avoid as if it were Ebola.

But 2005’s SAHARA with Matthew McConaughey as Pitt and Steve Zahn as his sidekick Al Giordino is way better and even though Cussler was very unhappy with the movie I found it a lot of fun. Only thing I can complain about it is that McConaughey and Penelope Cruz have zero chemistry together on screen.


Written by Jonathan Collier and directed by Jeffrey Lynch this is not only an hilarious SIMPSONS episode but an outstanding pulp action adventure story as well. Don’t believe me? When was the last time you saw an episode of an animated show where the plot hinged on Nazi art treasures and a tontine?

We find out in this episode that Abraham J. Simpson was the commanding officer of “The Flying Hellfish”, a gung-ho infantry squad in WWII whose members included the fathers of Chief Clancy Wiggum, Seymour Skinner and Barney Gumble. The laziest and most cowardly member of the squad is Corporal Montgomery Burns.

During the final days of WWII, The Flying Hellfish take a German castle and discover it’s full of priceless artwork. Through quick talking, Burns convinces the others to enter into a tontine. Upon the death of the others, the treasure, now called The Hellfish Bonanza goes to the last survivor.

Burns and Abe Simpson are the last two survivors and Burns hires Fernando Vidal, the world’s most devious assassin to kill Abe. Naturally pissed off by this, Abe, with the help of his grandson Bartholomew J. Simpson determines to go get the Hellfire Bonanza before Burns gets his hands on it.

From start to finish this is a delightful episode that plays out like a miniature summer action movie. And it’s downright touching how Bart and Abe bond together while on this wild treasure hunt and see Bart gain a new found respect for his grandfather who he had previously only thought to be a nutty old coot.

That’s three more examples of New Pulp for you and I hope you enjoyed them. If any more occur to me, you’ll be the first to know. Peace!


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Kickin' The Willy Bobo With: DON GATES

Derrick Ferguson: Who is Don Gates?

Don Gates: Don Gates is a 40 year-old guy who has spent way too much time in his own little world and now it’s finally spilling out of his head onto paper.  I’m married to the sweetest and gutsiest girl I’ve ever known and we have some crazy pets and a fairly quiet, happy life together.  I’m a geek from the old-school who grew up in the 80’s and has a head full of movie quotes and useless trivia.  I’m a casual gamer and former casual musician (I once played the bass, although probably not that good).

DF: Where do you live and what do you do to keep the bill collectors away?

DG: In 2012 we relocated from Florida, where I was born and lived all my life, to Canada to be near my Mom after my Dad passed away.  I am a dual-citizen of both the US and Canada.  My day job is doing network tech-support for a Canadian cell-phone provider: I’m lucky enough to work from home, so I usually spend my workday in my pajamas.  It’s not always as nice as it sounds though: cabin fever can be a bitch sometimes, and sitting at home around all of my distractions can make the workday feel like it’s dragging on.  The job isn’t the most creatively-rewarding but I usually end my day feeling good that I’ve been able to help somebody fix their problems, so that’s something.

DF: Tell us something about your background

DG: Born in 1974.  Dad was a cop who got injured on the job and retired early, Mom was a stay-at-home housewife.  I was an only child, so I was probably spoiled.  I was (and am) an introvert so I spent lots of time reading or drawing or daydreaming.

DF: How long have you been writing?

DG: I had been creating for years – superheroes and sci-fi tales – but was always limited to my own headspace for that stuff.  I’d be pushing carts at Pic N Save or working in the electronics department at Toys R Us or whatever menial job I had at the time but I’d constantly be coming up with stuff in my head.  I never thought any of those ideas could be turned into anything worth writing, so I’d never develop them to the point of committing them to paper.

In 2007 I began to come up with my own pulp characters, ones that I felt I actually could expand upon and maybe even start writing and maybe – just maybe – get published.  I tossed my ideas around with a few online friends who gave me some invaluable feedback, and I went from there.

DF: What's your philosophy of writing?

DG: I don’t know if I really have one.  I try to entertain but to also make the characters human and believable, if not relatable.  The best reading experiences to me are always the ones where you can see the main characters as whole people, and so I try to do that a little bit without making them so complex that it bogs the story down.  This is pulp, after all, so it’s gotta move fast.

I also don’t have an exact plan of attack when I write: I try to outline everything but I usually end up with a beginning, an end, and a few points between and then flesh it out and connect the dots.  I have yet to write a rough draft or a second draft or whatever.  I usually write and edit as I go, and let the story evolve while making sure to hit those specific points along the way.  I guess I’m a plotter and a pantser… a pants-plotter?

DF: What audience are you trying to reach with your work? Is there an audience for Don Gates?

DG: I want to reach anybody that wants to read an adventure.  I’m sure that when it comes to my Challenger Storm stuff, part of me wants to reach the Doc Savage pastiche fans, although I really don’t think of Storm as a pastiche.  He’s influenced by Doc Savage a bit, yes, but I’m certainly not trying to write Doc stories with the names of the cast changed or anything.  (Not that there’s anything wrong with pastiches, mind you, they just aren’t what I want to do.)

Is there an audience for Don Gates?  I hope so.  So far I haven’t gotten fan comments from strangers who say “I love your stuff!” or anything, but I can tell there’s a few people out there who do like what I’m doing.  I kinda hope there will be an audience one day, actual “Don Gates fans”.  That’d be cool.

DF: Why New Pulp?

DG: because it’s so damned fun!  Ever since I was introduced to The Shadow when I was twelve years-old or so I’ve had pulp on the brain, because it’s just pure excitement.  Adventure in far off lands, devious villains, heroes of action, beautiful dames… there’s such a feeling of glamour and romance to it (not the “lovey dovey” kind of romance but that great “lost golden era” kind).  It’s nice that in this day and age there’s a place to escape to where dreams could come true, where there were still places on the map that were blank and unexplored.

And New Pulp as a concept is terrific because it throws in “post-pulp” influences and sensibilities and opens up new grounds for pulp to tread.  It keeps it from getting stale but also keeps the familiar and comfortable tropes.  Before “New Pulp” became a phrase, I liked to think of it as “pulp remixed."

DF: What writers have influenced you?

DG: I’m pretty sure that anyone that I’ve ever read and enjoyed has influenced me in one way or the other.  My first big reading experience was Jules Verne’s 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, I’m pretty sure that stayed with me.  William Gibson in his prime (the “Sprawl Trilogy” that began with NEUROMANCER) was very important to me, and I loved his prose: “J.G. Ballard meets Raymond Chandler in cyberspace”.  I love Lovecraft and periodically go on Lovecraft reading-binges.  And I love the greats from the hero pulps: Walter Gibson for his genius, Lester Dent for his inventiveness, and Norvell Page for his visceral energy.

Probably the biggest influence on my writing has probably been Dave Stevens’ THE ROCKETEER.  That comic changed my life and showed me that you can create “new old adventures”.  I read a magazine article about the series when I was thirteen and before I was finished reading it I knew that I couldn’t rest until I’d tracked down every Rocketeer appearance I could find.  It even influenced me in ways I didn’t realize until after I’d been writing a while: the similarity of the name Clifton Storm to Cliff Secord was entirely subconscious, for example.  That’d be a crossover I’d love to write, though.  A dream project.

DF: What's your career plan as a writer?

DG: There’s supposed to be a plan?!

Seriously, I don’t know if I have one.  I want to write stuff that I’ll enjoy writing and to write as much as I can crank out… which isn’t really that much.  I’m a pretty slow writer which is something I need to work on.  And should my path somehow take me to “the big leagues” then I’d be cool with that. (REALLY cool, actually)

DF: Do you think it's desirable for us as New Pulp Writers to chase Mainstream audiences or is that just a dream always out of reach?

DG: No, I don’t think it’s out of reach.  The other day Annie and I were at Wal-Mart and we came across a display stand filled with those “Hard Case Crime” novels.  She hadn’t seen them before and was kinda surprised to see all these books with pulpy covers and big name writers.  She said something like “I can see this as a sign; maybe pulp is coming back into mainstream popularity.”  This was only a day or so before the news of the Bradley Cooper EXECUTIONER movie and the Shane Black DESTROYER movie news, so maybe she’s right.  And that’d be fine with all of us, I’m sure.

DF: Who is Challenger Storm?

DG: Clifton “Challenger” Storm is a guy of incredible potential, a hero who does what he does not only because it’s the right thing to do but because of a burning need for redemption.  He was brought up wealthy (because all pulp heroes like him need a big bank account), but while his parents were philanthropic with their wealth he was arrogant, cruel and cold and extremely self-centered and spoiled.  At around age nineteen his parents died in a car accident, and while he was returning home to take over their fortunes the passenger plane he was travelling in crashed in the mountains during a freak blizzard.  Although the accident left him with three long scars on the left side of his face, he was otherwise unharmed while everyone else aboard the plane was killed.  He was left alone to survive in the mountains and he experienced an epiphany, the same kind of soul-searching I imagine a lot of sole survivors go through: “Why was I left alive?  Why me?” etc.

The answer comes to him that he’s still around to become the opposite of who he was, to help build the world instead of bleeding it.  He throws away his old ways and leaps into a rabid self-improvement regimen to try and become as skilled as he can both mentally and physically.  After graduating college at the top of his class and with numerous extracurricular activity achievements, he disappears and travels the world, learning as much martial and esoteric skills as he can manage.  When he returns home to the US, he sets up the Miami Aerodrome Research and Development Laboratories (MARDL for short), a collective think-tank of designers, scientists, engineers…  All are like-minded individuals who want to make the world a better place through science and technology. 

MARDL also has a “troubleshooting” arm, a ragtag group of adventurers and thrill-seekers who join Storm on his missions against the human predators of the world.  If someone needs aid and they can’t get it elsewhere, Storm and his troubleshooters will help.

Storm is not as infallible as guys like The Shadow or Doc Savage.  When creating him, I always used the mantra “He’s not Doc Savage, but he’s trying to be.”  Storm screws up, he gets emotional, he feels guilt or second guesses himself, he has self-doubt.  He may know arcane martial arts, can design and build revolutionary aircraft & equipment, and runs a gigantic utopian-minded organization, but he’s also messy and has no idea how many people are on his payroll.  His secretary, Marie, is indispensable to him and MARDL because she helps keep everything in check.

DF: Tell us about THE ISLE OF BLOOD.

DG: THE ISLE OF BLOOD is the first Challenger Storm novel and winner of the 2012 Pulp Factory Awards for Best Cover Art and Best Interior Art, both of which were handled by the legendary comic artist and illustrator Michael Wm. Kaluta.
In the novel Storm and his team are asked for help by an aviation tycoon whose daughter, a teacher on the tiny impoverished island-nation of La Isla de Sangre, has been kidnapped by a vicious group of guerilla warlords known as the Villalobos Brothers.  They’re holding his daughter ransom, but soon after the team begins the rescue mission they discover there’s more to the story than they thought.  Meanwhile, the Villalobos Brothers begin to unleash a mysterious super-weapon called “the Goddess of Death” upon their enemies and start to set their sights on taking over the island itself.

There’s also a framing device in the book in the form of a mysterious secret agent on his way to Florida to meet Storm to offer him the chance to work for his agency, the Eye, in exchange for government sanctioning of MARDL’s vigilante activities.  During the “intermission” chapters we see the agent learning about Storm’s past, and through these scenes the reader also experiences Storm’s “origin”.

The print edition of the book is out of print right now, but there are plans for a newly edited and tweaked edition: while I fix some bugs inside the book, Michael Kaluta is doing some cover touch ups that have been bugging him (what exactly they are, I couldn’t say because that cover is terrific).


DG: THE CURSE OF POSEIDON is the second Storm novel.  Ships and their crews are mysteriously disappearing without a trace in the Aegean Sea near Greece, the victims of a rumored “curse” of the ancient sea-god Poseidon.  Meanwhile, freak tsunamis are striking coastal villages and weird black-armored beings are spotted at the scene afterward.  Storm becomes embroiled in these events through one of his troubleshooters, Diana St. Clair (who Storm has an unrequited crush on).  Diana’s ex-lover – a former MARDL scientist – is among those missing aboard the disappearing ships.  Storm and his team join the hunt and eventually confront a villain who can use water itself as a weapon and can make mindless slaves out of free men.

The cover and interiors are again supplied by Michael Kaluta, who has done some astounding artwork once more.  The response to the art – especially the cover – has been extraordinary.

DF: Okay, so let's get to the question that I'm sure you get asked many times and here's your chance to have it in print so that when you're asked in the future you can just refer them to this interview: How did you get Michael Kaluta do to the covers and interior illustrations for your Challenger Storm novels?

DG: By reading aloud from the Necronomicon while standing in an ancient and powerful magic circle of stones, pledging my eternal soul to the Outer Gods in exchange for Kaluta’s participation.

Actually, what happened was this:

I’ve been a huge fanboy of Kaluta’s art since I discovered his work on The Shadow (through the very same issue of COMICS SCENE magazine that introduced me to the Rocketeer and Doc Savage, I may add… it was a landmark moment for me, and I still have the issue).  For years my wife heard me go on and on about his artwork, and eventually she did what I didn’t have the balls to do: she sent him an email to tell him how much of a fan I was, etc.  Michael is a very personable guy and he and Annie struck up a friendly email acquaintanceship.  She eventually mentioned to him that I had written a New Pulp novel and jokingly asked if he wanted to do the artwork for it.  To our surprise, he said something to the effect of “let me see what I can do”.  Next thing you know, he signed on and soon he and I were trading emails and shooting the breeze about classic warplanes and art nouveau illustrators.

I’m still not sure exactly what made Michael agree to do the artwork.  Perhaps it’s because he has an affinity for the subject matter, or maybe it gave him an excuse to draw classic airplanes (an interest that I didn’t know we shared until he started working on THE ISLE OF BLOOD).  One thing’s for certain: he has never “phoned the artwork in”.  He has approached every illustration and cover with a thorough, professional attitude and has never settled for anything that he feels is sub-par.  Mike is a true craftsman.  It may sound biased, but some of his work on Challenger Storm is some of my favorite Kaluta art ever.

And it’s also very cool that one of my idols is now someone I can call a friend.  I owe it all to my wife, who I’m sure has voodoo powers now because she was able to somehow bring this all to pass.

DF: You've got prestigious names such as Ron Fortier and Michael Kaluta attached to your books. How does that make you feel?

DG: Bluntly, I’m living the dream.  I grew up reading Ron’s terrific work in THE GREEN HORNET and looking at Michael’s awesome and intricate artwork, so to have these guys participating in my project is an incredible feeling.  I’m honored to be working with them, and I’m standing on the shoulders of giants.

DF: How many Challenger Storm novels do you have planned?

DG: Approximately 14.  Now, it sounds like I’ve got an awesome lineup in the works, but some of these are fleshed out into plot germs while others are just a line or two in a notepad file that I want to expand upon further.

After THE CURSE OF POSEIDON comes WHITE HELL, currently “in production”.  Anyone who has read the epilogue in CURSE… can probably tell where WHITE HELL will be going.  After that I definitely know the next 2 books I want to do but beyond those I’ll need to do more expanding of my plot ideas.  I also have some ideas of where the world of Challenger Storm will be headed into the modern era.  There’s a heroic legacy brewing slowly here…

Keep in mind too that I’m a super-slow writer and have other projects going at the same time, so whether I ever hit my goals or not depends on how well I can beat my procrastination and laziness.

DF: What's a Day in the Life of Don Gates like?

DG: I get up about an hour before my workday starts and begin drinking my requisite dosage of coffee.  I work my shift, the length of which can vary, and when I’m done I usually relax with the Missus and the dogs & cats and watch something on TV.  If any writing is gonna get done, I either need to force myself to do it during this time or wait until I have no distractions whatsoever.  I usually end my night watching Japanese tokusatsu shows for a while in bed before going to sleep and probably getting less shut-eye than I should be.

DF: Recommend a movie, a book and a TV show.

DG: Oh damn… see, I suck at this kind of thing because I’m really behind and I’m constantly catching up.  We started watching BREAKING BAD a night or two after the series finale.  Okay, I’ll try to recommend stuff that isn’t the norm and that folks might’ve missed.

For a movie, I’d recommend BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW.  It’s a very oddly-paced sci fi film from Canada involving an esoteric clinic and institute gone wrong.  There are psychics, sinister New Age stuff gone awry, and a weird ALTERED STATES-esque sequence in which something comes back from the “other side” with an acid tripper who took it too far.  It looks and feels like it was made in the 80’s, and not the fun-time 80’s either but a weird technophobic underbelly of the era instead.  I’d probably throw it in the same loony bin that VIDEODROME came from.

For a recommended book, I’d say to check out THE ARCANUM by Thomas Wheeler.  It brings together Harry Houdini, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, HP Lovecraft, and Marie Laveau in an epic fictional crossover.  Folk who enjoyed Paul Malmont’s fictionalized pulp writers’ adventures will probably dig this.  It was a lot of fun.

And for a TV show, folks who’ve never seen THE PRISONER should watch it (and stay away from the AMC remake).  Hell, folks who’ve already seen it a million times should watch it again.  It’s not just entertainment, it’s thought-provoking televisual art.

Derrick Ferguson: What can we look forward to from you in 2015?

DG: Hopefully a lot more than what I’ve been able to crank out so far.  I’ve got a short story in Airship 27’s upcoming 2nd volume of TALES OF THE HANGING MONKEY, which was a blast to write and led me to creating a heroine who’ll probably show up again elsewhere.  I’ve also just completed a short story for another publisher that’s unlike anything I’ve written yet.  Not only is it a modern-day story, it’s also in a genre that doesn’t really have a lot of prose material out there.  Beyond that I’ve got another short story slot in one of Airship 27’s future volumes of MYSTERY MEN & WOMEN, a tale featuring a character I’ve wanted to do for a long time and only recently was able to flesh out.  And another short story slot in an anthology I can’t talk about yet: very top secret right now.

Apart from all this short story stuff (which is proving to be really fun and liberating), I’d also like to get around to finishing the Challenger Storm web serial I started on my blog a long time ago: that’s been really neglected.  I’m still cooking up Storm #3, WHITE HELL while making sure it hits the right notes it needs to hit.  There’s also a dream novel I’m working on that focuses on a favorite public domain superhero of mine.  And I’d love to go ahead with plans of the “Storm legacy” novel, where we catch up with his grandchildren as they find their own way into adventure.

Yikes, that’s a lot.  As long as I can kick myself in the butt hard enough, I can deliver on all of that.  Wish me luck: I’ll need it!  And thanks for this interview: it’s been fun!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Derrick Ferguson Has A Martini At EL MOROCCO

Having read four of his books now and one of them twice I think it’s safe to say that I’ve become a fan of Raymond Embrack. It’s always such a pleasant surprise to discover a writer who really makes me sit up and pay attention to what he’s doing and Raymond Embrack certainly does that. Why do I like his writing so much? I think it’s because he has that Swing For The Fences quality I always enjoy reading. Each and every one of his books I’ve read so far reads as if he’s afraid he’ll never write another one again and so they’re stuffed with off the wall characters, wild ideas and wilder concepts.  Add to that playful dialog married to descriptive passages and labyrinthine plot twists that I do think he gets carried away with at times.  But we’ll get into that later on. Right now let’s get into the plot of EL MOROCCO.

It’s the swingin’ hepcat 1960’s and Guy Roman is a hot up-and-coming comic working Atlantic City. He’s not quite big time yet but he’s on his way. Until he gets derailed by New Jersey wiseguy wannabe Jackie Rockafero who blatantly hijacks Guy’s comedy routine as he thinks it would be fun to trade leg-breaking and loan sharking to be a stand-up comic. Naturally Guy takes exception to this. Jackie offers Guy gold or lead. Guy takes lead and winds up left for dead in a filthy A.C. alley alongside the ridiculously gorgeous showgirl Tess Revere who has also pissed off Jackie in a way I would not dare dream of revealing here.

Once he recovers, Guy, along with the brain damaged but still recovering Tess heads to Los Angeles where Jackie has become a comedic megastar. Guy’s intention is to not only take back his act but to make Jackie Rockafero sorry he was ever born. The conflict between them escalates into a major war that before it’s over involves the Hollywood film industry, celebrity gangster Mickey Cohen, crooked gossip columnists, high powered agents who are little more than scam artists and the West Coast Mafia a.k.a. The L.A. Set.

One of the things that makes EL MOROCCO so much fun to read is Raymond Embrack’s affinity for the language, attitudes and feel for the 1960’s. His characters all have a wonderfully smart-ass way of talking and yet he manages to not have them all sound the same. Everybody’s a smart-ass in their own way, if you know what I mean. And the characters and tone of the book are totally authentic to the time period. So those of you who are actively PC should be warned. The people in EL MOROCCO talk, act and think like people who lived in the 1960’s talked, acted and thought and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m actually more comfortable with that than with books that are supposed to be set in the 1930’s, 40’s, ‘50’s or ‘60’s but are peopled with characters from the ‘00’s.

What else can I say to recommend the book? Raymond’s way of writing is one where he’s clearly having fun with language and with words. He obviously enjoys the way he’s telling the story in the language and style and rhythm of the dialog and description. It’s really enjoyable to read his prose as it sings and swings with the patois of 1960’s hipster jive talk.

What’s my only quibble with the book? Remember earlier when I mentioned that Raymond gets carried away with plot twists? The plot twists at the conclusion of EL MOROCCO come so fast and there are so many of them that I felt he was pushing it and I was wondering if he was deliberately trying to see how many plot twists he could throw in there before they collapsed under their own weight. But that’s okay. Above all, I like and admire Raymond Embrack for his sheer audacity and willingness to take the chance of going too far with his bizarre plots and outrageous characters. It’s always more fun to read a writer who isn’t afraid to Go There instead of one that offers up easily digestible prose that is no more exciting to read than recycled oatmeal is fun to eat. He’s an extremely entertaining writer and if you’re going to start reading him, EL MOROCCO is a great place to start.

File Size: 313 KB
Print Length: 174 pages
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English
ASIN: B009625IDC

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Derrick Ferguson Battles The BRIDGEPORT BRAWLER!

I think it’s safe to say that the FIGHT CARD series of books are not only a success but a validation of something that New Pulp writers, editors and publishers have been saying all along: it doesn’t matter what you call it. If it’s written well and professionally packaged, people will read it. By the end of 2014, there will be thirty-six FIGHT CARD books, all unique in their own way and touching on various aspects of the fight game. FIGHT CARD has evolved enough to now boast romance, luchadore and MMA novels as well as the core group of FIGHT CARD books which take place in the 1950’s.

For those of you unfamiliar with the traditional FIGHT CARD books, here’s the set-up: the protagonists are orphans that grew up in Chicago’s St. Vincent’s Asylum For Boys where Father Tim Brophy, a battlin’ priest of the real old school teaches boxing to his boys as a way to help them grow up and be men. At 25,000 words, the novelettes are designed to be read in one or two sittings. Having contributed to FIGHT CARD myself I can testify to the fact that it’s a genre that’s a lot of fun to work in and really put me in touch with the spirit of being a real pulp writer.

BRIDGEPORT BRAWLER by David White (writing under the FIGHT CARD house name of Jack Tunney) is a little different from other FIGHT CARD books in that it sometimes reads more like a character study than a boxing novel. Don’t get me wrong now. There’s boxing action. Plenty of it. In and out of the ring. But I can’t help but wonder if David White was more concerned in his story in trying to show us how sometimes the best thing in the world we can do can also be the thing that leads to our downfall. Our protagonist Pat White is simply not smart enough to do anything to solve his problems except use his fists. And using his fists only gets him into deeper and deeper trouble. Asked by his best friend and manager Homer to throw a fight because of a heavy debt he owes the mob, heavyweight boxing champ Pat “The Hammer” White is understandably upset, to put it mildly. 

And even though he agrees to do so, his pride and his anger gets the better of him and he reneges on the deal. A decision that has the expected result. But it doesn’t end there. That decision not to throw the fight results in Pat White descending into a black hell of alcoholism, depression and petty crime. It seems as if no matter what he does to try and pull his life together, things just don’t go right for Pat. And as usual in these kinds of story, the hero is redeemed by the love of a good woman and reaching deep inside himself for that reservoir of hidden strength he never knew he had, brought out by a wise old mentor. And as in every FIGHT CARD novel, the hero must step into the ring one more time to prove to himself that he’s worthy enough to call himself a man.

BRIDGEPORT BRAWLER is a good fast read. Maybe too fast in spots. There were some sections where I wished David White had taken more time with the characters and firmed up their relationships. There are several parts where characters make life-changing decisions on the spur of the moment and it’s in those parts where I can see the wires being pulled by the writer. It doesn’t feel as if the characters are making the decisions organically and naturally. The last thing you want as a writer is for the reader to be able to see you working the story from backstage.

But there’s no doubt that David White knows how to keep a story moving. There’s absolutely no fat or padding here and if you’re looking for a quick yet solid read to entertain you a couple of hours then you should pick up a copy of BRIDGEPORT BRAWLER and enjoy.

File Size: 2216 KB
Print Length: 80 pages
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Publisher: Fight Card Books (July 9, 2014)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Kickin' The Willy Bobo With: ANDREW SALMON

Derrick Ferguson: Who is Andrew Salmon?
Andrew Salmon: Andrew Salmon is a pop culture junkie with occasional deep thoughts. He loves his wife, football, hockey, great movies, books and comics, nature and writing.

DF: Where do you live and what do you tell the IRS you do for a living?
AS: I currently live in Vancouver, BC. Hey, I'm Canadian! I don't have to tell the IRS anything. Ha! Seriously though, I work as an extra in the film industry here as well as being a full-time writer.
DF: Tell us a little something about your background.
AS: I was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec, which is not a good thing if you're English. They've got a few hang ups about French there and the discrimination is palpable. I graduated from Loyola High School, an all boys school and, yeah, that sucked. Got a BA in Creative Writing from Concordia University, which allowed me to work in a cabinet factory (because I didn't speak French) where I somehow managed to become head of my department. With no desirable future in Quebec, the wife and I went West for greener pastures, no winter, and plenty of opportunity.
DF: What are your influences?
AS: My Holy Trinity of writing influences consists of Charles Dickens, Rod Serling and John D. MacDonald. Great TV like the original Star Trek, Babylon 5, 24, The Shield, The Wire, The Twilight Zone all push me to create. Classic literature helps as well as dozens of great writers past and present. Crime fiction, hardboiled fiction, pulp - these are my reading passions.
DF: How long have you been writing?
AS: I began writing before I knew I was a writer. Back in grade school, we'd be asked to write a half-page story based on an image or idea and I'd write 12 pages without batting an eye! I didn't know I was a writer until June, 1982 when I went into Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan as a fan and came out a writer. The movie changed my life as, for the first time, I saw the machinery that drove storytelling. I got a glimpse behind the curtain and instantly understood how it was done. Of course learning to do it oneself takes a little bit longer. But that day in '82 was the day I became a writer so we're looking at 32 years! Yikes!
DF: What’s your philosophy of writing?
AS: Make it good. Know the clichés and don't use them. Drop into the text what John D. MacDonald called a little unobtrusive poetry so that the prose is a pleasure to read. Create interesting characters or if you're using someone else's, do so with respect.
DF: You a plotter or a pantser?
AS: Bit of both. I'll start out with the overall plot concept, then just wing it on that first draft to see what happens. I don't know what any of my stories are about until I've finished that first draft. This is why I suffer the woes of Job when I have to pitch. "So, what's your story about?" "I don't know! I haven't written it yet!" Just letting it happen for that first draft works well for me because the story is at a point where it can go anywhere. Revising the first draft, the story and its meaning slowly rise out of the mire and I shape the revised versions of the work accordingly. I wrote once from a detailed outline and, I have to tell you, it was boring as hell! Each day was, okay, I have to do this, then this, then this. Ack! I went nuts!
DF: You write in a variety of genres. Which one is your favorite?
AS: I love writing historical action. I'm a research guy. Hey, I'm nuts for research! I love digging into the past for those entertaining, thought-provoking or just downright fun elements of yesteryear and weaving those into my tales across genres ranging from detective, hardboiled and hero pulp. Detective fiction seems to be my meat and potatoes these days, which makes sense since I've been reading classic hardboiled fiction for decades. So, yeah, it's detective fiction for me.
DF: What audience are you trying to reach with your work? Is there an audience for Andrew Salmon?
AS: I hope so or I'm out of a job! I'm trying to reach an audience who likes a good tale. Historical fiction really strikes a chord with many readers and I'm with them so that seems like a good enough answer so far as an audience goes. Of course historical fiction must resonate with today's reader and that's a challenge I find invigorating. As for a specific audience for what I do, I don't think I've done enough stand alone work to determine that. I've been so busy working on classic, public domain characters that I haven't had a chance to create enough of my own work. That's going to change though, soon.
DF: You've had Sherlock Holmes stories in Volumes 1 to 5 of airship 27’s SHERLOCK HOLMES-CONSULTING DETECTIVE anthology series. And you've written a FIGHT CARD novel featuring Sherlock Holmes. Obviously you like the character. What is it about Sherlock Holmes that fascinates you?
AS: That I'm able to write him! Seriously, that fascinates and mystifies me. When Airship 27 first tossed out their offer, I said no simply because I hadn't read the tales and had seen the bare minimum of the endless adaptations on TV and for the movies over the years. I knew only what had seeped down through pop culture so who was I to write a Holmes tale? Only thinking about it later, did I realize that I couldn't pass up the chance to write, arguably, the most popular character in the history of pop culture so I grabbed the last opening for that first anthology, then tried to figure out how the hell I was going to write the story. Bring on the research! 
When that first tale won an award, I knew I was on to something. What came out of that first experience was a fondness for Watson and now, with 7 Holmes tales under my belt to date (multiple nominations and two awards), that fascination hasn't faltered. I like Watson and his voice. From that my obsessive research into Victorian times and trying to get at the heart of Holmes keeps me on my toes. Doyle created characters for the ages and doing them justice is important to me. Holmes and I seemed to have found each other - and things are getting freaky. Fooling around with those stupid online quizzes recently, I learned that I'm Arthur Conan Doyle (What Famous Classic Author Are You?) and that Doyle should be writing my biography (Which Author Should Write Your Biography?) so things are getting a bit weird.

DF: For those reading this who may want to write a Sherlock Holmes story of their own: how do you construct a proper Sherlock Holmes mystery true to the character and his method of solving mysteries?
AS: For me, it begins and ends with the canon and getting the characters right. This is the foundation on which to build. Read through the canon, and only the canon, to get a handle on Holmes and Watson, how they think, how they speak, the whole nine yards. Once you have an understanding of who they are - and that will grow with time - then you have to come up with something to get Holmes off his butt. There are examples of his solving cases Nero Wolfe style. It takes something of great interest to get him on his feet and working. And here's where the understanding of the characters comes into it. This 'something' can't just be of interest to you, the writer. No, it's got to be something that piques the interest of the greatest fictional brain that ever lived. For me, that's the hardest part of writing a Holmes tale. 
I've gotten to the point where Holmes and Watson will have discussions in my head when I'm not writing so I've developed an understanding of who they are. It's the damned case that's the challenge. What can be so important, mysterious or challenging that Holmes would want to look into it? You've got to impress Holmes! That ain't easy. This is why it takes me longer and longer to write my Holmes tales. After that, you've got to make the detecting difficult, throw in things that only Holmes could uncover. If your reader has it figured out before Holmes does, you're in trouble.
DF: Did you have much of a problem selling the idea of a FIGHT CARD novel featuring Sherlock Holmes to Paul Bishop and Mel Odom?
AS: Actually it was the reverse. Fight Card came to me. The way I heard it, it went like this: Paul Bishop was at the Pulp Ark convention and a bunch of the creators in attendance were sitting around shooting the bull when someone mentioned doing a Fight Card Sherlock Holmes. The assembled liked the idea and the question of who to approach to write it came up. My name was thrown out there and was met with some enthusiasm so when Paul returned home, he got in touch. The funny thing was that I had been thinking for awhile that I'd like to be part of the Fight Card team and was going to approach them when I'd finished the tale I was working on at the time. So Paul's call to me was met with considerable excitement. I said yes right off and was honored that the folks at the con gave me the thumbs up. Of course after we'd ended the call, I was left trying to think how to write the thing. Ha!

DF: Are you working on a sequel to SHERLOCK HOLMES: WORK CAPITOL?
AS: Yup. The working title is Sherlock Holmes: Blood to the Bone and it's for a December release. Unlike Work Capitol, this one won't be a Christmas tale but will still make a great stocking stuffer regardless! The going has been tough this summer as the last few months have been marred by personal tragedy but the work progresses. The idea was to top the first one, which was very well received. So far so good but there's still a long row to hoe.
DF: Tell us about THE DARK LAND.
AS: The novel was a long time coming. I got the idea during the Clone Saga in the Spider-Man comics back in the 90s. The name of the lead, C-Peter Reilly, should be a tip-off there. The first Clone Saga, from the 70s, was and still is my favorite Spider-Man story and I loved the conundrum of how do you prove you're you? Then, during the terrorist attacks in 2001, I was struck by the tragic loss of so many police- and firemen who were killed en masse while doing their jobs. Taking this a step further, I wondered what would happen if disasters killed these first responders on a global scale? Who would be left to maintain order? This lead to the idea of gifted police officers having their DNA and minds preserved for future catastrophes where billions of people perished and chaos resulted. 
The idea that a ready-for-the-street police force could be produced quickly via cloning with digital mindfiles inserted into the new-grown clones seemed like a strong premise. Instant experienced law enforcement rather than rookies overwhelmed by what was going on around them. When a clone dies or is killed, you just grow another one and insert the updated mindfile if it can be recovered. For the novel, the disasters have already happened, and C-Peter Reilly is grown to do his part. 
In this world, clones are given computer-generated, random names and all of the personal memories of the original officers have been deleted from the mindfiles. So why does C-Peter Reilly have the memories of his Source? His search for the truth while hunting a killer in the ruins ensues. Although this one tells a complete story, THE DARK LAND is the first of a series. The next two books are mapped out. I've already written a short story that is the last C-Peter Reilly adventure, jumping 100 years into the future. I want to return to the world again. However a certain Victorian consulting detective is taking up a lot of my times these days...

DF: How come we haven't seen a sequel to GHOST SQUAD: RISE OF THE BLACK LEGION yet?
AS: Ask Ron Fortier. I had a lot of fun working on the first one. Ron's the plot-master here and he's been kicking around an idea for a few years. And it's a good one. But he's a busy guy. When he's got it locked up, I'll get an email, I'm sure. Hey, if there are any Ghost Squad fans out there, start a sequel campaign and we'll make it happen. I'm game.

DF: THE LIGHT OF MEN is probably your best reviewed book and one you obviously invested much of yourself in. What was the initial idea that spurred you to write the book?
AS: Well, that horrible chapter of human history has always fascinated me as much as it repelled. Reading through the history, I found I was more overcome with anger than sadness. I would become furious that such a abominable situation would ever arise and that no one could do anything about it. Then while reading an account of people who had visited Auschwitz, I learned that visitors tended to burst into tears upon first passing through the gates, as if the very ground was steeped in sadness but, upon leaving, they were angry, furious. I had never visited any of the camps still standing but shared the same feelings towards them as those who had. So I decided to channel that, empower the powerless while trying to come to some personal understanding of how and why these camps happened and the effect they had on survivors.

DF: THE LIGHT OF MEN is a unique book. Was the writing of it equally unique?
AS: Thanks! I lived with this book for 12 years. Researching/writing the novel while working on other things. I started out on the novel having barely written anything and one reason the book took so long to write was because I wasn't a good enough writer to write it. There was so much I wanted to do with the story. It was beyond my abilities. So I kept researching while I wrote other things, kept honing the plot. Then when the time came to sit down and do it, I still didn't know if I was up to the task. The novel kept changing and evolving. The last chapter, set in stone for 12 years, suddenly had a new ending WHILE I WAS WRITING IT! 12 years of getting to this point just flew out the window and what took its place was infinitely better. The writing process was difficult as well because I had to reconcile whether or not to present the history or shape it and tone it down for fiction. I decided to go for accuracy because it seemed to me that the camps have faded into history. People know the basics of course, but the details have been glossed over by time. Believing that nothing about the camps should be sugar-coated, I set out to place the reader in one so they could experience it first hand and KNOW what such a camp was like. But did I pull it off? Even after the novel had been accepted for publication and was released, I still didn't know. 
It was only after reading positive reader reviews, receiving thanks from the 761st Tank Battalion (the African-American unit that had liberated a camp only to have their name scrubbed from history), having the book included in the Holocaust Memorial Museum Library, a nibble of interest from the film industry and seeing the novel become the subject of book club readings/discussions that I was assured I had done the material and the history some justice. Sadly the book has yet to find a wider audience but I'm hoping the Kindle version will encourage readers to give it a try without breaking their wallets. It's not for the squeamish but it'll stick with you. I guarantee it.
DF: I’m fascinated with your BERLIN NOIR website. For those who are unfamiliar with the genre, explain what Berlin Noir is and what you accomplish with your website.
AS: Berlin Noir began with Philip Kerr's initial trilogy of books: MARCH VIOLETS, THE PALE CRIMINAL and A GERMAN REQUIEM. These were released as separate novels before being collected in an omnibus entitled BERLIN NOIR:

The genius of the set up was to have the novels follow a police detective, Bernie Gunther, from the early days of Nazi rule (March Violets) when Germans had just begun to learn and deal with the fact that the Nazis weren't a joke, then move on to 1938 for THE PALE CRIMINAL when the Nazis had a stranglehold on Berlin, and the rest of the Germany as war loomed before jumping to REQUIEM where it's 1947 and Germany is a graveyard. The collection proved so successful that the title became the name for this type of fiction. Kerr went on to write more successful Bernie Gunther novels, which inspired others to write tales of crime and espionage with this fascinating historical setting and a new genre was born. From series to stand alone novels set during the Nazi regime, the books kept piling up. 
But when you google Berlin Noir or punch it in at Amazon, you get Kerr's collection for the most part and it's hard to find the others entries in this burgeoning genre. As a fan, I thought a one-stop place to learn about the books would be a great help. I read the books anyway, so why not review then for the blog? This way fans, new and old, can see what's out there, read reviews, see the cover art on the various editions and from there, hopefully, decide what their next Berlin Noir fix will be. I've heard from visitors to the blog who were unaware there were so many Berlin Noir books (29 reviews to date) and have been grateful for the blog. More than 9000 visits later and the blog is still going strong.
I have had to cut back on the reviews because I'm running out of books! Ha! Turns out reviewing them takes less time than writing them. Who knew? So to give the various authors time to add to the genre, I've slowed things down to once a month or so. That seems to be working and it gives readers time to find the blog and read the reviews before the next one comes along.
DF: What are your future plans for your writing career?
AS: More Holmes! The idea is to do one more Fight Card Holmes after this year's to make three entries overall. After that, unless I get an idea for a fourth, it'll be time to move on. Ultimately it'll depend on the readers. If they really like the books, that fourth idea might come a little more easily. We'll see. I've got a Holmes book to do for Pro Se Press as well as a Moon Man story for them. I've got an idea for a Holmes novel I've been toying with and I hope that will come together. There's also my own Berlin Noir entry that's been simmering for a few years now and looks to be about ready to serve. Other than the above, I'll see what comes along. Earlier this year, I was offered a chance to contribute to a different type of Holmes anthology and that was a lot of fun. Can't say more about it just now but the news will be breaking soon. That invite was out of the blue so I'll keep my eyes and ears open for more of those should they come down the pike. 
Hint to publishers: I'm always open to hear what's cooking so don't be shy. I've got a Secret Agent X idea I'm going to develop once more of the stuff mentioned above is in the can. And I want to give Mack Bolan a try. There's more but who wants to hear about vague stuff in the works? I'll be keeping myself busy at any rate.
DF: What’s a Day In The Life of Andrew Salmon like?
AS: Just the typical glitz and glamour of a writer's life. I run errands in the morning to get the blood going, then it's keyboard time followed up by research then more keyboard time and revisions. Added to that is beating the drum online to get readers interested in what I do. And all this between film gigs. Not terribly exciting stuff. Unless you're a writer, and then you know just how exciting all this can be. I love what I do.
Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know?
Andrew Salmon: Well, I think it's all about covered. If anyone's interested in my stuff, they can look me up on Amazon. And the BERLIN NOIR blog can be found here  Thanks for getting this far, dear readers. And thanks to everyone who has tried something I've written. I hope you enjoyed it. Much appreciated!