Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Kickin' The Willy Bobo With...JAMES HOPWOOD

Derrick Ferguson: Who is James Hopwood?
James Hopwood: James Hopwood is my pen name. I have also been Jack Tunney three times. But in the real world I am David James Foster.



I assumed a pen name to separate myself from three successful artists, albeit in different disciplines, who have published under the name David Foster. Firstly there is an excellent award winning Australian author; then a world champion woodchopper; and finally a successful musician and music producer. Then there's David Foster Wallace, of course. Adding another ‘David Foster’ to the marketplace, would not only detract from their achievements – as well as my own – but would also create confusion for the reading public.

DF: Where do you live and what do you do to keep the bill collectors, away?
JH: I live in Melbourne, Australia, in a little seaside suburb called Seaford. Near the pier that featured in the original Mad Max with Mel Gibson.


Yeah, those bill collectors, can't outrun those guys. I mainly work in graphic design and typesetting – small scale stuff, my illustration skills aren't too crash hot these days. But I get by, no complaints.

DF: Tell us something about your background.
JH: I grew up in rural Australia, about 2.5 hours north of Melbourne on the Murray River. It was a small town called Echuca. They filmed a TV mini-series there in the early 80s called All The Rivers Run, which starred Sigrid Thornton and John Waters. I only mention it, because those who've seen it will have a pretty good idea about my old home town. I got out of there pretty early though, in my late teens, to study art and design. Finally made my way to the big smoke, and have lived here ever since.

DF: How long have you been writing?
JH: I guess I've toyed around with writing since I was in my twenties, but I was one of those guys who kept it all hidden away in a bottom drawer. But the internet changed all that. I corresponded with like minded people from all around the globe, people who were into the same kind of books and stories as I was, and I thought if they're giving it a go, then I should too. Five years ago, I broke the shackles when I penned a novella for the Fight Card series, called KING OF THE OUTBACK. The reaction to it was pretty positive, which gave me the confidence to keep going.


DF: What's your philosophy of writing?
JH: I'm pretty loose with my approach, and I keep changing to suit my circumstances. I write pretty much every day because I enjoy it, but I am not too concerned if I miss a day or even a week. The thing for me is to be at least thinking about my work, and how I will use the time when I do get in front of a computer. I hate sitting in front of a blank screen waiting for inspiration to strike.

I am also a big believer in research. Like any writer, I hit road-blocks and snags along the way. But I have found the harder I work researching, the more likely I am to find that nugget that will get the story back on course. That's not to say my stories are based on fact, or some kind of concrete truth, but it's from there I find ideas spring forth.

DF: How did you get involved with HOLLYWOOD MYSTERY? Whose idea was it?
JH: Pro Se Productions put out an open call a couple of years ago for the anthology, and at the time I was tied up with a few other projects, so I reluctantly let it slide. However, when my schedule opened up, I was surprised to find there were still a spot open and decided to pounce. My idea was for a THIN MAN type of story, featuring William Powell and Myrna Loy.

I presented a proposal for a 10,000 word story that featured Myrna Loy being stalked by a taxi driver at the premiere of her latest movie. However, corresponding with Tommy Hancock, Pro Se's Editor-in-chief, I lamented that with such few words, I couldn't really do a traditional 'cozy' ending – you know the type, where all the suspects are gathered in one room, and the detective announces who the killer is. To create that kind of ending, I suggested I'd need more words to define each of the individual suspects. Much to my surprise and delight, Tommy got back to me and said, if I needed more words, take them. So I did, and a new story arose.

The idea for the anthology was Tommy's – he appears to be as much of a fan of classic mystery movies as I am. The other authors on board the project are Mark Squirek, Christofer Nigro, Wayne Carey and Gordon Dymowski. Admittedly, I am biased, but I think we've put together a damn good package.



DF: Judging by the story you wrote for HOLLYWOOD MYSTERY; “The Poison Pen” You're quite the fan of William Powell and Myrna Loy and the work they did in the classic THIN MAN series. What was the first THIN MAN movie you saw and how old were you when he saw it?
JH:I was in my early 20s (about 25+ years ago) when I first caught THE THIN MAN on late night television, and I loved it. I don't think it was ever released on VHS or DVD in Australia (but am happy to be proven wrong). It was many years later once online shopping became available that I was able to pick up the series from England, and they have remained a regular part of my movie diet ever since (along with the Michael Shayne movies, with Lloyd Nolan).



DF: What's your favorite THIN MAN movie and why?
JH: Undoubtedly the first one. While all the movies are good, as the series progressed a little bit of what we'd now call 'political correctness' seeped in. When Nick and Nora Charles had a son, the boozy comedic antics were toned back, and they were gently transformed into more respectable role models – albeit with their flaws and nuances.

DF: I was impressed by how you captured the style and elegance that was the hallmark of both William Powell and Myrna Loy. How much research into the background of their relationship did you do?
JH: Thanks, Derrick. Of course, I watched all the films in the series repeatedly – and a documentary or two, about Powell and Loy. But I did stay away from Dashiell Hammett's original story. I wanted 'The Poison Pen' to reflect the breezy style of the movies, rather than the source material.

DF: You planning on writing any more stories about Powell & Loy?
JH: I have no plans at the moment, but if there's demand for more, sure, I'd be happy to oblige.


DF: Do you have any dreams of writing a THIN MAN story and/or novel for Pro Se?
JH: That would be fantastic, but I am sure the Estate of Dashiell Hammett would have a thing or two to say. Into that mix throw whoever holds the rights to the film series, and I'm guessing it would be a potential minefield. But it is a nice dream. Hey, if a deal can be arranged, sign me up!

DF: You and Paul Bishop collaborated on creating a character: Mace Bullard of the Foreign Legion. How did that work out? How'd you guys come up with the character?
JH: Paul Bishop actually came up with the idea for Mace Bullard for a project he was putting together with Tommy Hancock, called Bishop & Hancock's Pulse Fiction. Pulse Fiction featured a whole swag of new characters, and when I first heard about the project I was interested in an American Indian character who'd washed up on a shore in Africa. But Paul pulled me aside, and said that he wanted me to take a look at Bullard. I hadn't really read any Foreign Legion pulps at that time, but he hooked me up with some Robert Carse Legion tales, which I devoured, and realized it was a genre I could sink my teeth into. Paul had Bullard's backstory all mapped out. All I had to do was plonk him in the middle of an adventure. Paul loved what I came up with, and basically said, 'Kid, the character's all yours now. Do with him what you will.' Of course, I run all my Bullard stories past Paul for approval. So far, it's been a blast.


DF: Where has he appeared so far and what future plans do you have for him?
JH: As hinted at above, he first appeared in Bishop & Hancock's Pulse Fiction: Volume 1, in a tale called Honor of the Legion. He returned in The Pirate King for Airship 27's mammoth Legends of New Pulp Fiction. Hopefully Bullard will re-appear before the end of the year in Sahara Six, a novella length tale, which sees our intrepid hero transferred to the most remote outpost in Morocco. Then, ssshhhh, this is a little secret, I have plans for a novel length story, called Dead Man's Key. It's a little way off at the moment, but it's coming.

DF: What's a typical Day In The Life of James Hopwood like?
JH: Ah, I'm an early riser, so I'll usually have the computer on around 6:00am, and start working on a few projects before breakfast. Then I head to the beach for a spot of snorkling, then return home for my first martini of the day. Sorry, that last sentence is a bare-faced lie – just pretending to live out an Ian Fleming fantasy life. After breakfast I squeeze whatever tasks the day has in store for me, the usual working-stiff drudgery. But it gets me out of the house. However, I carry multiple notepads around with me at all times, and I'm always scribbling notes. At night, if I'm not drawn to the 'idiot box', I'll try to convert some of those scrawled notes into something cohesive.

These days, I hate to admit I don't read as much as I used to. My work consists of sitting in front of computers for most of the day, and it can strain my eyes. The sad offshoot is I read less. However, I have really taken to audio books, and find they are a great way to close the day. I have been listening to some of the Robert Stark (Donald Westlake) Parker novels lately, and they are fantastic. Currently I am on The Rare Coin Score.

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know?
James Hopwood: For anyone who's interested in my work, I can be found at:

And on occasion I shoot my mouth off about films and books at my blog:

Cheers, Derrick, thanks for your time, and continued support for your fellow writers in the New Pulp community.




Thursday, April 27, 2017

I Saw The Future At Windy City Pulp Con by Len Levinson

Born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, Len Levinson served on active duty in the U.S. Army from 1954-1957, and graduated from Michigan State University with a BA in Social Science. He relocated to NYC that year and worked as an advertising copywriter and public relations executive before becoming a full-time novelist. 

Len created and wrote a number of series, including the Apache Wars Saga, The Pecos Kid, and The Rat Bastards. He has had over 80 titles published.

After many years in NYC, he moved to a small town (pop. 3100) in rural Illinois, surrounded by corn and soybean fields, a peaceful, ideal location for a writer.



I live in a small town (population 3000) way out here on the great American prairie. Therefore I have little contact with the wider world of publishing although I’ve written 83 published novels to date.
Last Sunday (4/23) I attended the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention in a Chicago suburb called Lombard, and became aware of the future of fiction publishing. Many of you probably have come to this awareness already, but it was a major revelation for me.
I realized that there is a huge, growing indie publishing movement fully underway, and has come into being because traditional publishing has narrowly focused on conventional “safe” fiction, and tends to reject anything new, weird, crazy or bizarre.
This policy has left a huge vacuum now being filled by the new indie press which operates under a different business model. They don’t have offices in Rockefeller Centre in NYC like Simon and Shuster. They operate out of home offices, barns, or other low-cost spaces. Everything is handled over the internet. And they don’t pay advanced. Authors receive royalties only, as in the early days of publishing. And they produce GREAT eye-catching covers that are works of art on their own.
During the convention I spoke with Ron Fortier, publisher and editor-in-chief of one of the larger indie publishers, Airship 27. He said that famous authors sometimes call him about books of theirs that were rejected by their usual publishers, because those books were considered too far out. But nothing is too far out for today’s indie publishers who market, among other items, novels about vampire cowboys, lesbian werewolves from Mars, hard boiled crime-fiction, other action-adventure novels including traditional Westerns, and all kinds of sci-fi, fantasy and sword and sandal fiction. They also publish new novels about characters in the public domain such as Sherlock Holmes. It’s called “the New Pulp Movement.”
I also spoke with Tommy Hancock, Editor in Chief of Pro Se Productions, which is also a major indie publisher marketing hundreds of titles. He told me that the big five publishers are buying up some indie publishers, because they can see where the business is going. But Tommy isn’t interested in selling out. His main interest is exciting new fiction.
Evidently there’s a whole new publishing world out there of which I was unaware, although some of my old books have been republished by indie publishers such as Piccadilly, Destroyer and Blackstone. But I never realized how important this New Pulp Movement is becoming. It is wildly creative, fully energized and intensely ambitious, the new kid on the block fighting for a bigger slice of the pie. The welcome result is more choices for readers and hopefully more income for writers.


50 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 see what it's all about? What writers should I be reading?”

I can understand the confusion. More than you know. There is a whole lot of New Pulp out there. Some of it is excellent. Some of it is downright astonishing. Some of it is good, some of it okay and a seriously depressing amount of it just plain flat out no good at all. And those of us who write/read and/or review New Pulp feel the crush of recommending books and writers to those of you unfamiliar with the genre but are desperately eager 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, a lot more New Pulp books have been written and I saw the need to add more books to the list and so I did, continuing to add to the list each succeeding year, with assistance from my Advisory Board consisting of Lucas Garrett, Barry Reese and Andrew Salmon. My intention is to keep adding to the list 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 where to start reading New Pulp. And if there is a New Pulp book that you feel should be on the list feel free to contact me at DerrickFerguson@gmail.com and what I'll do is hold onto your suggestion until this time of year in 2018 when it is once again time for me to add to the list.

Okay? We clear on that? Good. Then 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 50 NEW PULP BOOKS TO GET YOU STARTED:





HELMET HEAD by Mike Baron
SGT JANUS, SPIRIT BREAKER by Jim Beard
FIGHT CARD: FELONY FISTS by Paul Bishop (writing as Jack Tunney)
LIE CATCHERS by Paul Bishop
THE REVENGE OF THE MASKED GHOST by Kevin Paul Shaw Broden
ADONIS MORGAN (NOBODY SPECIAL) by Frank Byrnes
NICK NOMAD AND THE HAMMER OF LEMURIA by Myles Campbell
THE MYTH HUNTER: THE LOST CONTINENT by Percival Constantine
DOC ARDAN: CITY OF GOLD AND LEPERS by Guy d'Armen. Adapted by Jean-Marc Lofficier and Randy Lofficier
DILLON AND THE VOICE OF ODIN by Derrick Ferguson
BROTHER BONES by Ron Fortier
TAURUS MOON by Keith Gaston
GREEN LAMA UNBOUND by Adam Garcia
THE GREEN LAMA: CRIMSON CIRCLE by Adam Garcia
YESTERYEAR by Tommy Hancock
TALES OF THE VAGABOND BARDS by Nancy Hansen
TO BATTLE BEYOND by C. J. Henderson
HUGH MONN-PRIVATE DETECTIVE by Lee Houston, Jr.
DIRE PLANET by Joel Jenkins
THE BONE QUEEN by Andrea Judy
SILENCED by Nicole Kurtz
SIX DAYS OF THE DRAGON by Roman Leary
GHOSTS OF MANHATTAN by George Mann
MYTHICAL: HEART OF STONE by C.E. Martin
PROHIBITION by Terrence McCauley
CREEPING DAWN: THE RISE OF THE BLACK CENTIPEDE by Chuck Miller
SNOW FALLS by Bobby Nash
FIGHT CARD: THE CUTMAN by Mel Odom (writing as Jack Tunney)
ONCE UPON A TIME IN AFRICA by Balogun Ojetade
THE STEIN AND CANDLE DETECTIVE AGENCY Vol. I by Michael Panush
HAWK: HAND OF THE MACHINE by Van Allen Plexico
SENTINELS I: WHEN STRIKES THE WARLORD by Van Allen Plexico
THE OLD MAN Series by William Preston
THE PEREGRINE OMNIBUS VOL. I by Barry Reese
RABBIT HEART by Barry Reese
PULP HEROES: MORE THAN MORTAL by Wayne Reinagle
THE VRIL AGENDA by Joshua Reynolds and Derrick Ferguson
THE WHITECHAPEL DEMON by Joshua Reynolds
THE LIGHT OF MEN by Andrew Salmon
DAMBALLAH by Charles Saunders
IMARO by Charles Saunders
SUN-KOH, HEIR OF ATLANTIS by Arthur Sippo
THE AUSLANDER FILES by Michael Patrick Sullivan
BASS REEVES, FRONTIER MARSHAL VOL. I by Various Authors
BLACK PULP by Various Authors
DOCTOR OMEGA AND THE SHADOWMEN by Various Authors
HOW THE WEST WAS WEIRD by Various Authors
LEGENDS OF NEW PULP FICTION by Various Authors
ROCOCOA by Various Authors
THE RUBY FILES by Various Authors



Monday, March 13, 2017

The Secret Origin of Diamondback: It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time

This may take us a while so if you want to go get yourself a snack and a nice cold beverage before we start, go right on ahead. I'll wait. Matter of fact, think I'll go grab myself a Coke and a sandwich as well. See you back here in ten.



You back? Solid. Get comfy and we'll get started.

The Secret Origin of Diamondback begins with my desire to write what I have since come to describe as an “Urban Western.” Which simply means that everybody drives cars and uses automatic weapons instead of riding nags and firing six-shooters. But with some industrious rewriting, “It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time” could be told as a straight-up western. Matter of fact, there's a lot of Sergio Leone's “A Fistful of Dollars” in the DNA of my story. But the concept of a mysterious stranger who comes to a town ruled by warring criminal gangs and by pitting the gangs against each other through cunning, ruthless manipulation comes out the winner goes back further than that. There's Akira Kurosawa's “Yojimbo” from 1961 which many believe was inspired by Dashiell Hammett's classic “Red Harvest” written in 1929. “Red Harvest” also generally considered to have inspired Walter Hill's “Last Man Standing” which is basically “Yojimbo” set during Prohibition. “Lucky Number Slevin” and “Sukiyaki Western Django.”




Okay, so you get the basic idea, right? I had this idea to tell a western in modern-day drag. Not a terribly original idea, I agree, but one that I wanted to do and that's all I need to get me going. The only criteria I have for any project I take on is that it excites and intrigues me. I have to live with the characters and invest a lot of time in them and the story I'm telling and life is too short to spend it writing about about characters I don't care about. So, I conceived the story of Diamondback as one spanning three novels that was intended to be a further homage to Sergio Leone's “Dollars” Trilogy:

Diamondback I: It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time
Diamondback II: And The Devil Will Drag You Under
Diamondback III: Once Upon A Time In Denbrook

Only one novel got published, the first one:


It sold about as well as ice makers in Norway. Which kinda left me bummed out. I dunno why it didn't sell. Maybe because Diamondback Vogel was a completely different protagonist from Dillon, which is the character that most people associated me with. The philosophy of the concept behind the Diamondback character is simple and can be summed up in these lyrics from Billy Preston's “Will It Go Round In Circles?”:

I've got a story ain't got no moral,
Let the bad guy win every once in a while

Which is exactly what Diamondback Vogel is and I make it very clear: he is a bad guy, a right proper villain. In fact, it can be said that everybody in that first novel is a bad guy. I did that on purpose as I wanted to see if I could write a novel where every single character was a low-down, no-good unrepentant, unapologetic mean-ass bastard or bitch and still make the story entertaining and fun. The (very) few people who did read It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time let me know that I did succeed in that as they enjoyed it tremendously. But at that time (we're talking around 2008 or '09) I considered the book to be a failure, put away my ideas for the trilogy and moved on.

So why am I now revisiting Diamondback and rewriting the first book with an eye to completing the trilogy at last? Ten more years of experience and confidence helps, lemme tell you. I recently re-read the book in one sitting and saw where I could improve upon the story, expand some scenes, increase the level of characterization and action. It short, I could write a better book.

And I did write a book where every single character it was a low-down, no-good unrepentant, unapologetic mean-ass bastard or bitch and that one sold a bit better and everybody who's read it has indeed described it as entertaining and fun. I'm talking about my homage (some would say outright theft) to Hammer horror films:


I could also restore some stuff I had originally written but was persuaded to take out. The original version of It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time had a lot more violence, some pretty racy sex scenes and harsher, rougher language. But by taking all that out it meant that it wasn't the story it wanted to be. It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time wanted to be raunchy, profane, deliriously violent and madcap in its exploitation sleaze and I had taken all that away from the book and on that level, it deserved to fail. Because it wasn't the story it was supposed to be.

But if we're good and faithful, we sometimes get a second chance and so I'm going to take another crack at Diamondback: It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time. And you'll be able to accompany me on the rewrite as I intend to present the story in serialized form, just as it was originally presented long ago on the much beloved Frontier original fiction website. Details will be on my Patreon page if you're interested (and I hope you are) but if you're not, that's okay as well. We'll still be friends.

As always, I thank you for your kind attention and your tolerance in putting up with my ramblings and as always I urge you to keep track of what I'm doing both here and over at Usimi Dero which I where I spend much of my Facebook time. You can also friend me at my personal Facebook page. I'm a pretty friendly guy.


Peace!