Thursday, May 19, 2016

Kickin' The Willy Bobo With...BILL FRIDAY

Derrick Ferguson: Who Is Bill Friday?

Bill Friday: You would ask the hard question first. 

This is going to sound silly but, I don’t think I’ve ever been able to give just one answer to a question like that. It’s like the answer changes out of necessity every few years, from childhood into adolescence… teenage to adult… then into who I am now. And right now, I’d have to say that I’m a man who knows his time is short. Not because I have some kind of diagnosis hanging over my head. I don’t. But when you’re young, you think you’re never going to age. That you’re invincible. That you are going to dodge every bullet, and do every thing you randomly set your mind to. Then after a few years, or decades, you realize… okay, I realized… that thoughts like those were just crap. You grow up with dreams that don’t get realized. You want to play centerfield for the Dodgers. When the expiration date for that passes, you tell yourself you want to be the play-by-play announcer for the Dodgers, and you’re glad that one didn’t happen because the guy with the job is finally just retiring after 67 years. So you get yourself busy forgetting all those random thoughts. You make yourself busy by living, getting married, rising your kids, working thirty-some-odd different jobs… none of which ever satisfy the something that’s gnawed at your insides since the day you quit dreaming and started living. And somewhere along the way, after all those years and all those experiences, you realize that the only thing you have to show for them is your recollection of them.

And then, you write.

So I guess, to answer your question, I’d have to say that I’m the guy who writes what he remembers.   

DF: What do you do to keep yourself in cheese and crackers?

BF: For most of the last ten-plus years, I have worked as a driver in the freight transport industry, primarily at night, after the rest of the world has gone to bed. After a while working graveyard, I discovered that the world is a much quieter place when there’s no one awake to interfere with your thoughts. It has been in this profession that the majority of my writing has taken shape. Most of my work hours involve the companies and corporations in and around Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Without realizing that it would eventually become a “thing”, I started tagging photos and posts with the hashtag #LAXConfidential while blogging and using social media. What started out as an unintentional homage to film noir became another way for me to sort out all the memories I was making out of life, and work. Eventually, it became the filter for the words inside my head to find their way out to the public. 

DF: Tell us a little something about your background.

BF: Here’s the part where pride and embarrassment start sounding the same. I was born and raised, and have spent my entire life, in Southern California. I’ve never lived more than a half-hour drive away from my childhood home. I graduated high school, and am currently a three-time college drop-out. I say currently because life has taught me that you can never totally rule anything out for the future. While I was on my way toward becoming a first-time drop-out, I took an English Composition class. Over the semester, I managed to turn in two of the ten writing assignments that all students were given during those 18 weeks. With three days left till summer vacation, and after the turn-in deadline had passed, my professor, Betty Dillon, informed us that if we still wanted to turn in 100 percent of the semester’s assignments, we could earn up to 50 percent grade credit on them.

After stalling for two more days, I began writing just before midnight, and finished all eight by sunrise. Later that morning, I turned them in at the final informal class meeting.

When I got the turned-in assignments back, Professor Dillon’s comments made me think she was writing about some other student. She liked them. Really liked them. Weeks later, when grades were mailed out… yes mailed, because no internet… I had gotten a C in the class. Exactly half-credit for all assignments turned in after the deadline, if all the grades were A’s.

I didn’t write again for twenty-five years.   

DF: How long have you been writing?

BF: In 2004, between jobs and spending way too much time watching Syfy Channel, I wrote a screenplay about a chupacabra, just to prove to myself I could. It was more an excuse to write out a lot of frustration in my life at the time. Looking back, it was a thinly-veiled auto-biography. I still have the script, not that it was any good. But it began to stir up a lot of what had been balled-up inside me that would end up coming out in the years ahead. Still thinking I wanted to write movies, I started and stopped a few more scripts. A couple of years later, the one I still think was some of the best writing I ever did was lost in a computer crash. I learned a lot about writing from those early years, which took another turn when I started writing online.    

DF: What’s your philosophy of writing?

BF: Don’t be “superficial.” Not everything a writer writes is going to be a work of art. Some of it will be worse than your best, and there won’t be a damn thing you can do to fix it, but be true to the depth of the feelings running through you while you’re writing and, eventually everything will work itself out. 

DF: Do you enjoy writing?

BF: I suppose, as a writer, I’m required by law to answer yes. But since I’m still under oath, I’ll tell the story this way. Because my writing is so personal, as most poetry tends to be, there are times when I just don’t think I have the words to adequately capture the thoughts or feelings that gave the first spark to the poem I’m working on. That’s pretty much always how it starts, with a word or phrase that captures a passing thought. Everybody has random, passing thoughts throughout the day, but if all goes well, mine end up creating a “beginning-middle-ending, one act story.” One that usually takes up little more than a single page. And if I don’t like where it’s going, I click save and file it away to be made better later.

That’s the luxury of poetry for the writer. If something sucks, you don’t have to keep plowing through it because you’re already 50,000 words worth of invested in a character or a plotline. You just file it and move onto the next thought, and the next. 

But as far as the pure act of writing goes, I love writing so damn much, I don’t think I can even tell anyone without sounding like a crazy person. The only people who would get it are other writers. The best I can do, and as writers we do this all day anyway, is try and express that love for it as we might through the voices of our characters. Only in this case, the characters are the people in front of us who ask. And the voice is expressing ourselves in ways they would understand. Like cooking to a chef, or running to a runner. Even a baby’s first steps to a parent. Every explanation is fair game if it clicks with the person standing in front of your words.   

DF: What writers have influenced you?

BF: Another funny thing about being a poet… I really don’t like what passes for poetry all that much. When most folks think of poetry, they think of flowery words from centuries-old voices like Byron and Shelley. When I think of poetry, I think of centuries-old voices like the angry Hebrew poets of the Psalms or the epic of Beowulf, and recent angry voices like Charles Bukowski. I have poet friends who I read, but poetry, as a genre of writing, let’s just say I would rather find the poetry in other forms. When I think of influencers, I think about how many times I’ve read Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” cover to cover, or the first few novels of Stephen King. Believe it or not, I actually like reading screenplays. Everything from Billy Wilder’s “Sunset Boulevard” to Quentin Tarantino’s “From Dusk Till Dawn.”    

DF: Do you write for yourself or for the reader?

BF: Right now, I write for myself. So much so, that I’m genuinely surprised by the positive feedback I get from my writing. I don’t know if I’ll ever be someone who thinks of the reader first. The words that come out of me are still just an extension of who I am when nobody’s paying attention.   

DF: Are you interested in critics or criticism?

BF: No. And for many reasons. I guess first, because I haven’t been subjected to much criticism… yet. To date, having only been published in anthologies and online, I haven’t gotten any bad reviews, or really, any good reviews. So the first of either kind I get with the release of A DEATH ON SKUNK STREET will both be a new experience for me. I do expect that to become a thing for me in the near future, because of the plans to have four books in print by the end of 2017, two poetry and two fiction. But for now I can say that they haven’t been a factor in what I’ve written.

You’ll have to get back to me in a year from now.  

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

BF: If you believe those online demographics generators, like the kind that hides in the “tools” section on your Facebook page, my following is very clearly outlined. Apparently, women read poetry 2 to 1 over men. Also, nobody under 25 of either gender is much of a fan. I could speculate on both of those metrics, but what’s interesting to me is that the audience you think you might be writing for, the one that you might have thought could relate to what you were saying through your words, is not the crowd that’s reading me. I would hope, in the future, that these disparate groups would somehow become more evenly balanced. I think my work has as much to say to those not in my demo. And as I go forward, I hope that, if anything could affect the way I tell my stories, it would be that desire on my part to say what is uniquely mine to say in a way that would be the most widely receivable to all people.

I think every good story, whether it is a 50 word poem, or a 50,000 word novella, should be universal on some level.

DF: You and I first got to know each other when we both wrote for BrooWaha. For the uniformed can you explain what BrooWaha is and what you wrote for them during the period of your affiliation with them?

BF: Oh, man. It’s time to jump in the Hot Tub Time Machine with Peabody and Sherman for that one. Back in the fall of 2006, I worked as an inventory manager for a surgical supply company. Business was interminably slow, and I already had the writing disease. As I sat at my desk with a fully filter-less work computer, I began to search the internet for “writing opportunities,” and found BrooWaha. Broo was a startup created by Ariel Vardi, a video game designer from here in Venice, California, originally conceived as a “Citizen Journal.” A way for local writers to share what was happening locally with the exploding World Wide Web. I signed up for the gig the first week of January 2007. The beauty of the early days of Broo was that there were absolutely no restrictions on what kind of writing you could contribute, everything from street-level journalism and political coverage, editorials, creative writing, comedy, sports, you name it. By the middle of 2007, after Los Angeles had become somewhat successful, an edition for New York writers was created. And within the pages of the New York edition, a movie reviewer made a name for himself among the readers on both coasts. A guy who went by the pen name, “DL Ferguson.”

I still love your reviews, by the way.

Anyway, by the end of my run at BrooWaha, late in 2011, I had been given a regularly featured column, “Friday on Friday.” After 5 years with the site, I left, realizing that those years had been like my do-it-yourself school of writing. It was also at the end of that run that I realized my writing had begun to condense and compress itself into something more closely associated with what could be called poetry. I’ve written mostly nothing else since.         


BF: In the almost 5 years since the end of my time at BrooWaha, my life underwent a lot of changes. A DEATH ON SKUNK STREET is the mirror of that time. There’s some dark, and there’s some light, and a lot of what all writers go through during times of self-reflection. But mostly, it’s what the subtitle says it is, “a life in poems.” Because when I look back on my life, I don’t remember in chapters. I remember it one poem at a time.   

DF: How personal are the poems in A DEATH ON SKUNK STREET? How deep into you did you get to bring them out?

BF: A couple of years ago, when I would post poems online, I realized that they were the ones that were only scratching the surface of what was going on in my life, or what was affecting me on the inside. When I would share these safe poems on social media, I knew there would have to be a book someday that had “all the good ones” I was hiding because I didn’t want to offend someone.  It even got to the point, when I would tweet or post status updates, I would use the hashtag #GoingInTheBook, to remind myself that one day I was not going to be able to stay safe anymore. But it wasn’t until the selection process began, and my editor and I started deciding what poems really were “going in the book” that I knew just how deep I was digging. 

DF: Why poetry at all?

BF: Writer’s block, originally. When I started writing my weekly feature post for BrooWaha, it didn’t take long for me to see that, based on quite a few circumstances, my words were drying up. It used to be easy to sit and bang out an 800 to 1,500 word post. By this time, it was hard just to scratch out a few lines. After some more time went by, some of these posts were shortening their way into just a few lines of prose. But what happened in all this drying up was, the thoughts were becoming more concise as the words became less. It became my way of not only conveying large ideas in a tight space, but it allowed me a freedom of expression that having to bang out 5 double-spaced, 12 point type pages never did.  I became hooked on what just a few sentences could do to allow me to get some thought onto the page without burying the lead under a construct that no longer suited me.

In the bio on the back of the book, one of the summary lines about me reads, “…became a poet out of necessity.” That pretty much sums it all up.  

DF: What is the difference between the creative muscles you have to use for poetry and the ones you have to use for prose?

BF: You said muscles. I believe that’s a very accurate way of looking at it. I used to think that poetry was the harder of the two disciplines. It didn’t make any sense to me, and I hadn’t written any since that one class in college. Before I wrote the unsold screenplay, I first tried writing a novel. Got 150 pages into it before my writers’ marathon muscles ran out of gas, and I didn’t try again. After that experience, and the continued shortening of my pieces until they reached the size they are now, I’m even more convinced that some writers are just born for certain types of writing. But I also believe that any writer can stretch out and strengthen their creative muscles, and conquer any length of expression. It’s all about desire and training.

In the early 1970s, there was a miler from New Zealand, Rod Dixon. Over the course of the next 10 years, he made himself into an elite marathoner, even winning the New York City Marathon in 1983. I think writing is like that. Poetry is a race that ends in almost no time. Novels are marathons. But the same principals apply. Make each step count. After A DEATH ON SKUNK STREET and its follow-up book are published, my goal is to complete and publish two, 50,000 word novellas in 2017. 

That will be my stretching out.    

DF: Can we expect to see more books of poetry from you?

BF: Now that SKUNK STREET is done, there will be one more book of poetry before the end of the year. The title of that book, A HOPEFUL MAN: a second life in poems, speaks of a realization that is summed up in a quote from Bernard Malamud, in his novel “The Natural”,

“We have two lives, Roy. The life we learn with, and the life we live after that. Suffering is what brings us toward happiness.”

After that, and after the longer form fiction coming next year, who knows?

DF: What is a typical Day In The Life of Bill Friday like?

BF: Currently, because of the wacky hours I keep for the job that keeps me in cheese and crackers, most typical days in the life are of the upside-down-to-most-people variety. I start work at 5 pm during the week, and noon on the weekends… yes, I often work 7 days a week… and most of those hours are on-call, meaning I could have a job that puts me on the road at a moment’s notice. But my days are mostly my own.

I get to sleep between 2 am and 4 am, and whenever it is that coffee finally finds me, I’m writing, until it’s time to pack it all up and get back to LAX. 

The convenient thing I’ve found about writing poetry is, there’s no right or wrong place to get your words on. Sometimes a word or phrase will hit me right in the brainpan, and I can just as easily thumb-type it into my phone, or write it down on a corner of my cargo manifest for coming back to later, as I can writing full-length pieces on my home computer. I’ve actually written entire poems, some of which appear in SKUNK STREET, while standing in an airline cargo terminal or in five spare minutes at the warehouse. It’s a discovery I came to slowly, and over time. In the same way that there is no right or wrong place, there is also no right or wrong way to write poetry. 

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we need to know about you or your work?

Bill Friday: As far as the work? 

A DEATH ON SKUNK STREET is available this Memorial Day, May 30th through all the usual outlets like Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and direct through the publisher, Hostile 17 Print.

Also, any questions about the next book, A HOPEFUL MAN, appearances or bookings for both books, and additional products from Hostile 17 Print can be sent directly to, or found on my website,

As far as me?

I’m still writing.    

Thursday, April 28, 2016

35 New Pulp Books To Get You Started

I get asked a lot of questions due to my affiliation with New Pulp and I’d have to say that the #2 question I get asked about it is: “Where do I get started? What should I read first just to get into it? What writers should I be reading?”

I can understand the confusion. There is a lot of New Pulp out there. Some of it excellent. Some it outstanding. Some of it is good, some of it okay and a depressing amount of it just no good at all. Even those of us who write/read/review New Pulp feel the crush of recommending books and writers to those of you unfamiliar with this genre but desperately want to know more. That’s why back in June of 2014 I put together a list of “25 New Pulp Books To Get You Started.” The purpose and intention of the list was simply to give New Pulp virgins a place to start getting their brains wet and see if they liked these waters.

Since then, there’s been a lot more books written and I saw the need to add more books to the list and so I did. With assistance from my Advisory Board consisting of Lucas Garrett, Barry Reese and Andrew Salmon I added ten more books to the list and so now you’re getting reading to read  35 NEW PULP BOOKS TO GET YOU STARTED. My intention is to add to the list yearly until I get up to 100 and then call it quits. After all, if you can’t find something worth reading in a pack of 100 books then maybe you just don’t like to read.

Again I feel compelled to remind one and all that this list is not intended to slight anybody as many of you have egos as fragile as spider webs (you know who you are) and are more than capable of taking it as a personal insult that your book isn’t on the list. Such is not my purpose or pursuit. This list is intended only to be a helpful starting point for those who have no idea of where to start reading New Pulp. Okay? We clear on that? Good.

One last bit of business and then we’ll get to the list itself: My only criteria here was to have diversity in genres and writing styles. You’ll find a wide range of New Pulp represented here in various genres. And yes, I have read all of the books on this list as I would not recommend any of them to you unless I had done so.

Okay? Okay. So let’s get on with it. If you’ve never read any New Pulp and are anxious to find out for yourself what it’s all about then here are 35 NEW PULP BOOKS TO GET YOU STARTED:

FIGHT CARD: FELONY FISTS by Paul Bishop (writing as Jack Tunney)
LIE CATCHERS by Paul Bishop
BROTHER BONES by Ron Fortier
TAURUS MOON by Keith Gaston
YESTERYEAR by Tommy Hancock
DIRE PLANET by Joel Jenkins
PROHIBITION by Terrence McCauley
EVIL WAYS by Bobby Nash
FIGHT CARD: THE CUTMAN by Mel Odom (writing as Jack Tunney)
HAWK: HAND OF THE MACHINE by Van Allen Plexico
THE OLD MAN Series by William Preston
THE VRIL AGENDA by Joshua Reynolds and Derrick Ferguson
THE LIGHT OF MEN by Andrew Salmon
DAMBALLAH by Charles Saunders
HEIR OF ATLANTIS by Arthur Sippo
THE AUSLANDER FILES by Michael Patrick Sullivan
BLACK PULP by Various Authors
HOW THE WEST WAS WEIRD by Various Authors
THE RUBY FILES by Various Authors

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Bass Reeves Is Gonna Saddle Up And Hit The Outlaw Trail Again!


Airship 27 Productions is excited to announce the production of a second anthology featuring the adventures of real life western Deputy Marshall, Bass Reeves. BASS REEVES – FRONTIER MARSHALL Vol One  was released in December of 2015 and has gone on to become one of the publisher’s best selling titles. Four popular New Pulp writers; Derrick Ferguson, Mel Odom, Gary Phillips and Andrew Salmon, contributed fictional tales starring this legendary western hero. Bass Reeves was an escaped slave who, during the years of the Civil War, lived among the Indian tribes of the Five Civilized Nations. After the war he was recruited by Judge Isaac Parker to be a U.S. Deputy Marshal and his jurisdiction was the entire Oklahoma territories.

HBO is currently filming a Bass Reeves mini-series with Morgan Freeman as a producer.

Once the book was released, it became an instant hit. Due to this overwhelming response, Airship 27 Productions is currently assembling a new quartet of Bass Reeves western adventures. Volume Two will features four brand new stories by returning writers Derrick Ferguson and Mel Odom joined now by Michael Black and Milton Davis.

Production is scheduled for the end of 2016 with an early 2017 release. So, saddle up, western fans, Marshall Bass Reeves is about to hit the outlaw trail once more. 

BASS REEVES – FRONTIER MARSHAL Vol One  is available inhard copy and on Kindle at  An audiobook version from Radio Archives is also in production.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Lines I Wish I'd Written #3

#21: “What always gets me in trouble,” Mr. Monster says, keeping his eyes forward, “is that I go and say something like that, and there’s a part of me that just has to know if it’s possible to literally knock someone’s nose down through their asshole.”

#22: “We live in a terrible place and time. Everything that’s not you wants to kill you.”

#23: “In all wars, whether marked by luck or by The Lord there were the saved and the unsaved and nothing else.”

#24: “Well, we hit a little snag when the universe sort of collapsed on itself. But Dad seemed cautiously optimistic.”

#25: “What is the face of a coward? The back of his head as he runs from the battle.”

#26: “Imagination is its own form of courage.”

#27: “A million bucks has changed stupider minds than yours.”

#28: ““All the world will be your enemy, Prince with a Thousand Enemies, and whenever they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you, digger, listener, runner, prince with the swift warning. Be cunning and full of tricks and your people shall never be destroyed.”

#29: “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”

#30: “As you can see, I have memorized this utterly useless piece of information long enough to pass a test question. I now intend to forget it forever. You’ve taught me nothing except how to cynically manipulate the system. Congratulations.”

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Kickin' The Willy Bobo With...LOU MOUGIN

Derrick Ferguson: Who Is Lou Mougin?

Lou Mougin: Me. Texan, Christian, writer of comics and New Pulp, and managing to get by. Comics fanatic for virtually all my life, which means just about 60 years. Writer of historical comics articles, interviewer of comics pros, and generally a pest.

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

LM: Abilene, Texas. Customer service and sales from home.

DF: Give us some of your background info, if you please.

LM: Born in Iowa in 1954, and getting born there is virtually all the time I spent there.  All my memories are in Texas. Parents and brother passed on. Worked in radio about 20 years.

DF: How long have you been writing?

LM: Probably before school and ever since then. Mom told me stories (she could have been a writer). I told her stories. I wrote and never stopped. Had my own universe of heroes when I was in junior high. Tried submitting scripts to the Big Two when I was in high school, to no avail. Many years later, circa 1978, was invited by George Olshevsky to submit articles for COLLECTOR'S DREAM. They ended up in COMIC READER in 1981 and I made my fandom bones then. Many more articles followed, along with interviews w/ pros for COMICS INTERVIEW and others.

When pro work dried up, I wrote a ton of fanfic, which is what brought us together, and many thanks for your kind reviews. A year or two back, Tommy Hancock of Pro Se was looking for contributors to an upcoming anthology. I applied. Turned out he knew my fanfic, and he liked my contribution. We've been pals and he's been my main prose market since then. I have a lot of stuff in the hopper with Pro Se, which hopefully, will start coming out later on. Also, my first prose short story, featuring a hardboiled detective computer, came out earlier in LEGENDS OF NEW PULP FICTION.

DF: What’s your philosophy of writing?

LM: Keep it interesting, keep it moving, wed action and characterization together, know pacing, write something you'd like to read, and listen to your editor. The best friend you have is an editor who will not let you put out crap.

DF: Do you write for yourself or for the reader?

LM: I'd assume for both! But I never assume the reader knows as much about the characters as I do. You have to give 'em enough info about the characters to let the readers know them and care about them.

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

LM: Anybody who wants to read them! I guess anyone who likes a good action yarn.

DF: How important is it to follow your instincts while writing?

LM: That's ALL you've got. Sometimes they play you false, but you learn from it.

DF: You wrote comic books for many years. Tell us how you got into the business.

LM: I was friends with Mark Gruenwald from afar. He gave me the opportunity to script some Inhumans stories for Marvel (which came out, many years later, as INHUMANS SPECIAL #1).  Also did the Swordsman origin story for AVENGERS SPOTLIGHT. Wrote some articles for Eclipse's AIRBOY, which led to me plotting 3 Heap stories. Then I hooked up with Dennis Mallonee, for whom I wrote the three-issue SPARKPLUG mini-series and tales of the League of Champions, Flare, and Icicle. I have some new stuff coming out from Heroic even as we speak.

Also I got acquainted with Roger McKenzie on Facebook, which led to my gig with CHARLTON ARROW. I've met others thru him.

Also have comic stories in at Empire Comics and another outfit, and I'm always working on other stuff.

DF: What’s the biggest difference you see in the comic book industry when you were active in it and now?

LM: A lack of heroism. We used to have characters that inspired us, who would do the right thing no matter what the cost. Now, we mostly have "heroes" who do the most expedient thing, written by people who just don't believe in heroes. I would not have Green Lantern or the Scarlet Witch go nuts and start killing people, or get Elongated Man's wife raped. Spawn was uber-popular, but how can you root for a hero who's powered by the Devil?

Decompressed storytelling, of course, is a bugaboo. So is the difficulty in keeping up with storylines these days. Of course, the generation that's the primary target ain't me, so there is that. I hope I'm not coming off as C.C. Beck.

DF: You’ve been writing for so many years…why now did you decide to write a novel?

LM: In a way, I was writing novels way back in my fanfic days. Before I did the present work, I wrote a couple of books for Pro Se that were novel length but adapted from unpublished scripts. Writing a novel wasn't too much of a jump.

DF: Tell us about MONSTER IN THE MANSIONS and how you ever got the idea to bring together two such unlikely characters.

LM: Great question, and I'm not exactly sure! What I do know is that I've long been a fan of Frankenstein by Shelley and of Green Mansions by Hudson. Loved Rima. I like the idea of crossovers if you can make them work. Also I have a habit of asking myself, "What if?", and following from there.

I wanted to see where we could go if we picked up with Frank from the end of Shelley's book, kept him in more or less the real world, and had him try to find a way of coexisting with men of his time. All of which, of course, led him to various adventures. Frank's appeal is that he is not truly evil, but a who would probably be content to live in peace, if others would let him do so. But he attracts trouble. And God help you if you make trouble for him.

Frank also has to deal with "the Beast", which is a rage that can be triggered by extreme anger. This may sound like the Hulk, but he's a lot deadlier than ol' Greenskin when he gets riled. And he usually doesn't know what he's done during it until the rage subsides.

The biggest problem with the book was the timeline, trying to fit the end of Frankenstein into the era of Green Mansions.  Don Glut helped with the Frankenstein time period. I had to do some research on the 19th Century world and on Rima's timeline as well. Reread the Hudson book, of course, and watched the Audrey Hepburn movie, which helped. I rejected several plotlines because they wouldn't work chronologically, but ended up,  thankfully, with one that worked. I hope.

DF: Do you have plans for a sequel?

LM: Yup. I left a lot of gaps in this one, some of which Frank mentions in passing. He had to work his way from the northeastern U.S. thru Mexico, Central America, and finally to South America. That took years and he did have adventures along the way. I've got ideas for a story that takes place during that gap time.

Also, there are stories that can be set after the end of this one. I'm pretty sure Frank fought in the Great War, but we'll have to see.

DF: Do you have any other novels in the works?

LM: I've got two superhero novels turned in to Pro Se.We'll have to see when those come out.

DF: Tell us about your involvement with the CHARLTON ARROW.

LM: Serendipity is the word. Roger McKenzie had been out of comics for a long time until recently. I got to be a pal of his on FB during a time in which I was really down, and he helped me out. Around that time Mark Knox started up the Charlton Arrow fanpage on FB and there were enough pros and wannabes involved for the concept of CHARLTON ARROW, the comic, to coalesce. I thought it was marvelous because it could contain all the genres of comics that aren't being treated so much by other companies...westerns, war, funny stuff, etc. Charlton had a zillion horror hosts for their books, and I've always wondered what happens to such characters after their books die. Thanks to Mort Todd, who did a great job on the story, we got a chance to find out!

The second ARROW story, "Day of Decision" stems from an idea I explored in an old fanfic:  what happens when kid comics characters find out they can't stay kids anymore? Jack Snider did an exemplary job with the art. It's still one of my favorite stories and seems to have gone over okay with the readers.

I have another story slated for a future ARROW and I'm pushing another at them as we speak.

DF: Any other projects we should know about?

LM: In prose, at Pro Se, I have the two superhero books, plus short stories in three upcoming anthologies. In comics, I have two stories in CEMETARY PLOTS, one of which, "Red Need", will be in a Free Comic Book Day version. Andy Shaggy Korty drew that one and Eric Bowen's drawing another. They're also doing a magician hero of mine who should be in an action hero anthology. For another publisher, I've got an anti-ISIS story that I'm pretty proud of. For yet another, I've scripted a retro style story of a team of 1950's heroes, which should be fun. Got more stuff coming out at Heroic, of course.

Also, I have what should be a three-volume history of Golden Age superheroes in the editing stage. Haven't heard much on that lately, but hoping to.

Derrick Ferguson: What’s a typical Day In The Life of Lou Mougin like?

Lou Mougin: If it's a work day, I get out of bed, turn on my work computer, and do my job for about 8 hours. Then I turn it off, turn on my home computer, and get busy writing and doing other stuff I like. Weekends are for more writing and catching up with stuff that needs to be done. Jaune Tom, my cat, serves as my batman.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Story Behind The Story: "Voodah of Thunder Mountain"

If you’re on social media at all by now you’ve no doubt heard about LEGENDS OF NEW PULP FICTION. It would be damn near impossible for anybody interested in New Pulp to have escaped or avoided seeing the news about it. After all, it’s a totally unprecedented event in the New Pulp Community. And an event that I believe once and for all establishes that the new Pulp Community is a Community in every sense of the word.

Last year Tommy Hancock (and if I have to tell you who he is then you’re in the wrong place) had to be hospitalized due to congestive heart failure. This was a source of horrendously bad news to everyone in New Pulp. You know that game; “The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”? It’s based on the Six Degrees of Separation concept which puts forth the notion that any two people on Earth are six or fewer steps apart. Well, Tommy Hancock is kinda like that. Just about everybody and anybody in the New Pulp Community can be connected to Tommy in one way or another. Just follow the steps and I guarantee that somehow, someway, whoever you name can be hooked up with Tommy Hancock.

It was Jaime E. Ramos and Ron Fortier that came up with the brilliant idea of a benefit anthology to assist in defraying the medical costs Tommy’s treatment would incur and sent out the call for writers and artists to submit stories and artwork. Sixty writers and thirty-six artists answered the call, including Yours Truly.

So now that I was in, what exactly was I going to write? I didn’t want to contribute a Dillon or Fortune McCall story. That would have been too easy. And in keeping with the title of the book I wanted to write a story about a pulp legend/archetype. One that has fascinated me for a very long time: The King of The Jungle.

The best known one is Tarzan, of course. Everybody knows him. Marvel Comics had Ka-Zar, Lord of The Savage Land who himself was based on a Classic Pulp hero, Ka-Zar The Great. There was Bomba the Jungle Boy, Polaris of The Snows who basically is Tarzan raised in the Arctic (the stories are actually pretty good and well worth looking up) Ki-Gor and comedic versions of Tarzan; the best known and most beloved being George of The Jungle. There were even female versions of Tarzan: Sheena, Queen of The Jungle, Jana of The Jungle, Rima and Shana The She-Devil.

But no matter how high or low I looked, I couldn’t find a black King of The Jungle with a pack of bloodhounds and a search warrant. As a kid discovering Classic Pulp during what I refer to as The Big Pulp Boom of The 1970s, I had gotten used to not finding any black pulp heroes so I didn’t hold out any hope I would find a black King of The Jungle. Even though that would seem to be a natural, wouldn’t it? I mean, in Africa you expect to trip over black Kings of The Jungle every ten feet or so.

The best advice my father gave me when I started out writing came about during one of our conversations about James Bond where I asked him why wasn’t there a black James Bond. My father replied; “Well, when you become a writer I guess you’ll have to make one up.” And in the spirit of that simply yet brilliantly profound wisdom I decided that my story for Legends of New Pulp Fiction would feature a black King of The Jungle.

Here’s where Lou Mougin enters the picture. He’s written for number of prominent comic book companies including Marvel where he wrote what stood for many years as the definite origin of The Swordsman in Avengers Spotlight #22. But that’s far from his only professional credits. Observe: View a chronological list of Lou's work

Lou and I bonded over our mutual love of fan fiction years ago. He’s written plenty of it and I read as much of it as I could find. I didn’t know he was Lou Mougin then. I knew him under the name he used to write fan fiction and its probably a good thing I didn’t as talking to professional writers makes me nervous as hell. By the time I knew who Lou was, we’d become good online friends and nervousness didn’t even enter into our conversations. Lou is also an astounding historian and is always steering me to fascinating characters and creators that I have never heard of and I’ll always be thankful to him for pointing me in the direction of Matt Baker and Voodah.

Matt Baker (1921-1959) is generally acknowledged as being the first successful African-American comic book artist here in America. The majority of his work was done during the 1940s and 50s where he took over the Phantom Lady, redesigned her into the incarnation we best know her for and drew her for about until a dozen issues until it was cancelled. Matt Baker was the foremost artist of what was then known as “Good Girl Art”: artwork depicting gorgeous women in sexy, skimpy outfits and often in provocative poses and situations. Much of his Good Girl Art is highly sought after today as collector items, particularly his Phantom Lady work. He also drew a significant amount of romance stories and the adventures of Sky Girl, an aviation heroine.

But it’s his King of The Jungle character Voodah that interests us. Lou asked me if I’d ever heard of Voodah and I replied that I had not. As he is wont to do, Lou obligingly sent me links so that I could download copies of Crown Comics, which is where Voodah appeared. The truly fascinating thing is that while Voodah was depicted as being a black man in the stories themselves, on the covers he was portrayed as being white. Indeed, after a few issues, in the actual stories Voodah suddenly switched from being a black man to a white man.

After reading the stories and letting the character marinate around in my brain cells for a few days, I got the notion of re-imagining Voodah for a modern day audience (as he’s a public domain character now) and perhaps in that way honoring the memory of Mr. Baker’s original character. It would also fall in line with my idea of presenting a Classic Pulp archetype in the Legends of New Pulp Fiction anthology.  

And that’s the long and short of how “Voodah of Thunder Mountain” came to be. On so many levels it’s one of the most satisfying stories I’ve ever written and it’s such a pleasant surprise that to date I’ve had at least half a dozen readers contact me to tell me how much they enjoyed the story and Ron Fortier has asked me if I’m going to be writing more Voodah stories. At this point I don’t think I have a choice in the matter. Am I right?

Thursday, February 18, 2016

And I Got Three More Examples of Today's New Pulp

A team of highly trained individuals, each with their own special talents and skills are led by a mysterious man of intimidating demeanor. This man displays a near superhuman emotional discipline that makes him appear cold and unfeeling. He is an exceptional physical specimen who has superior ability in physical combat and with weapons. He is driven by a need to see justice done at any costs and does not stop in the pursuit of evildoers until they are caught and/or killed. His past is a secret even to his closest friends and he only reveals details when he has to. His team is fiercely loyal to him. His team is notable in that they are all significantly eccentric in habits, traits, interests and speech.

Now, just on the surface that description could be applied to Doc Savage and his Iron Crew. Or The Avenger and Justice, Inc. Or The Shadow and his aides. But since this is New Pulp I’m talking about, the team I’m describing is NCIS, led by Leroy Jethro Gibbs, played by Mark Harmon.

Gibbs himself is a former Marine sniper, one of the best who now commands an elite Naval Criminal Investigative Service team, all of the members he himself handpicked. And quite the crew they are. His right-hand man is former Baltimore police detective Anthony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) whose goofball, juvenile attitude disguises a keen, even near brilliant investigative mind. Abigail “Abby” Sciuto (Pauley Perrette) is the team’s resident all-round genius as over the course of the show’s 12 seasons has displayed her proficiency in ballistics, traditional forensics, computer forensics, DNA analysis and hacking. She shares with Gibbs an addiction to caffeine and is a dedicated Goth.

Caitlin “Kate” Todd (Sasha Alexander) was a former Secret Service agent who left that position at the suggestion of Gibbs himself to join his team. Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard (David McCallum) is the team’s chief medical examiner and if Gibbs has a best friend, then it’s Ducky. He’s also a trained psychologist and has a habit of talking to the dead as if they can hear him while performing autopsies on them.

Timothy “Tim” McGee (Sean Murray) is the team’s computer/techno geek. He and Tony DiNozzo have a relationship that is extremely similar to the Monk/Ham relationship and like Mon and Ham did to Doc, the bickering and insulting between McGee and DiNozzo quite often exasperates Gibbs. Ziva David (Cote de Pablo) is a former Mossad agent trained in at least half a dozen martial arts, espionage, counter-terrorism, assassination and speaks ten languages fluently.

That’s quite a crew and for the first couple of seasons, the show really didn’t give them a solid workout of their talents. It wasn’t until in later seasons that they got involved with weirder and wilder mysteries (such as the case where a modern day smart phone is found inside a Civil War coffin that’s just been dug up. Or the case where a woman digs herself out of her own grave with no memory of who she is but she knows that a bomb has been planted on a Navy ship somewhere) and once the team’s missions became more international and started dealing with shadow government conspiracies and supervillain-level terrorists it really took off. Chances are that you’ve seen an NCIS episode. USA runs all day marathons at least once a week it seems. But if you haven’t, all 12 seasons are available on Netflix.

If I haven’t said it before, let me re-iterate: I love The Internet. There’s tons of stuff that I read and loved back in the 1970s and 1980s that I either lost, lent out and never got back or just threw away that I thought I’d never be able to find again. One of those things is the DOCTOR ORIENT series by Frank Lauria.

I first read the books when they were originally published back in the 70s and they were the perfect books for that time. Reincarnation, Satanism, psychic powers, astral projection, astrology, transcendental meditation, ESP, all that stuff was hotter than fish grease back then and Frank Lauria gleefully strip mined those concepts and more for his Doctor Orient adventures.

To nutshell Doctor Orient himself, let’s put it this way: imagine if Doc Savage was a psychic investigator. Dr. Owen Orient is a wealthy New York physician/psychologist who yearns for a simpler, more spiritual way of life. To this end, while he was studying conventional medicine of the body and mind he also studied the occult and is quite a formidable adept in several mystical disciplines. This naturally leads him into conflict with practitioners of Black Magic, some of whom lust after nothing less than world domination. It’s up to Doctor Orient and his team of students who he himself has taught and trained to use telepathy, telekinesis and astral protection to stand between these evil forces and mankind.

It’s also fair to say that Doctor Orient is a hipper, sexier version of Dr. Strange. The eight books in the series are not only full of supernatural action but sexual as well. Now, back in the 70s, the kind of sexual perversions that go on during the course of Orient’s adventure were considered quite titillating indeed but nowadays you can see far more daring sexual hijinks on any given episode of “Scandal”. Still, it makes for highly entertaining reading and I highly recommend the series. Frank Lauria was one of about a dozen writers who during the 70s were writing New Pulp decades before it was ever given a name. I would read what these guys were writing and say to myself; “Self, I dunno what this is but I know I want to write it.” The first seven DOCTOR ORIENT books are available only as ebooks from Amazon, all with brand new covers. The eighth book; “Demon Pope” you can get either as an ebook or in paperback. 

This third example of New Pulp I was going to include in a separate post with two other movies of the 1980s that I think it has a lot in common with: “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension” and “Big Trouble In Little China.” All three movies were ahead of their time and each one of them contained multiple elements and mixed genres in a way that audiences really couldn’t grasp at the time they came out but now we can appreciate.

But due to the recent passing away of Denise “Vanity” Matthews I felt that a mention of THE LAST DRAGON would be appropriate now and a more in-depth look later on when I get around to writing that other post (which knowing my slothful ass should see print sometime around August)

THE LAST DRAGON is a delightfully goofy mash-up of martial arts, glitzy musical numbers, Kung Fu mysticism right out of a Marvel comic book (I’m convinced that The Glow is related to The Iron Fist somehow) comedy, romance and satire. The movie follows the quest of Leroy Green (Taimak) a young black man who lives in Harlem and studies Kung Fu with your typical wise old Kung Fu Master. Leroy’s expertise in the martial arts is so great that he is known as “Bruce” Leroy. This doesn’t sit well with Sho’Nuff, The Shogun of Harlem (Julius J. Carry III) who sees “Bruce” Leroy as the only thing standing in his way of being the supreme Kung Fu Master of Harlem. But all “Bruce” Leroy wants to do is achieve such a sublime state of spiritual and physical perfection that he acquires “The Glow”, a mystical energy that only a true Master can control. “Bruce” Leroy’s quest is sidetracked when he meets the gorgeous dance club hostess and pop star Laura Charles (Vanity) who has gotten on the bad side of video arcade mogul/petty gangster Eddie Arkadian (Chris Murney)

Most of the comedy in the movie comes from Leroy Green himself. Although he is indeed black, he acts, talks and dresses as if he’s in a Shaw Brothers movie. His little brother is a streetwise hustler and it’s a nice contrast. Julius J. Carry III as Sho’Nuff is one of the most memorable bad guys in movie history, wearing this really funky and bizarre outfit that looks like something a modern day Shogun would wear. The scene where we first meet him and his outrageous posse when they take in “Enter The Dragon” at the same 42end Street theater where Leroy Green is watching the movie while eating his popcorn with chopsticks is downright hilarious.

And Vanity is nothing less than stunningly gorgeous. As well as talented in both singing and acting. She and Taimak have a genuine chemistry that lights up the screen and they sell their characters and the story. If I don’t stop now I’ll easily write another 1000 words just about THE LAST DRAGON because it’s one of my favorite movies of all time and a movie I consider a solid example of New Pulp. Besides, if I write everything I want to write about it now, I’ll have nothing left for the other essay. Just let me say that if you haven’t yet seen it, I highly recommend you stop what you’re doing right now and hunt up the Blu-Ray. There’s a 30th Anniversary Edition available on Amazon. Enjoy.

And that wraps this entry up. When I think of three more examples of New Pulp, you’ll be the first to know. Peace!