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What "Pulp" have you read lately ?

st barbara

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Pulp reading list through the end of June 2018:


The Crime Master & The Day of Doom & In the Grip of the Griffin: The Complete battles of Gordon Manning and the Griffin - three volume set. Pretty pulpy, with a madman scientist going head-to-head with a hero who can't *quite* stop the bad guy time after time. Surprising for that, if nothing else, since the hero loses more than he wins until the end of the series. Notable bad guy plans, a succession of villain henchmen that last three or four stories before Manning does them in, and a few interesting twists along the way.


The Devil's Rosary & The Dark Angel: Volumes 2 and 3 of the complete tales of Jules de Grandin by Seabury Quinn. Some stories are better than others, but this series was like a blueprint on how to run a 'pulp adventurers vs. the occult' campaign. Worth the read just for the endless mine of ideas to lift for games, but many of these stories are pretty darned good on their own.


Karl Edward Wagner's Kane series: written in more modern mes, these are dark fantasy with an antihero protagonist, prehuman civilizations, sorcery, alien intelligences that might be close to gods, ancient technology approaching magic, and more just dripping off the pages. If Wagner had been born years earlier, he might well have given Robert Howear a run for his money.


The Green Llama: The Complete Pulp Adventures - Vols 3 & 4. As I said earlier, these have a more modern writing stu;e than any pulps, and unlike most of the serialized pulps, things change. Character die, marry, break up, villains who were henchmen in earlier stories return as henchmen in later ones. A good solid read.


The Complete Casebook of Max Latin - Latin is a former soldier who was discovered to be color-blind and, hence, removed from service. He performs "enquiries"; he does not identify himself as a private investigator. He works out of a restaurant putatively owned by a hard case (but great chef) named Guiterrez, who serves Latin brandy in his favorite booth (one with a secret microphone). Latin himself actually owns the restaurant which he uses as an office. No fantastical villains here, but some interesting stories.


Zarkon, Lord of the Unknown: The Invisible Death & The Volcano Ogre -  More of Lin Carter's pastiche/homage to Doc Savage. Interesting for the update to the 1970's and the way it changes the kinds of stories youcan tell.Actually some of Carter's better work for my money.


Lance Star, Sky Ranger, Vol. 1 -  Modern written stories using a public domain character from the old aviation pulps. A bit of a mixed bag, with some authors 'getting it' and one who notably didn't.


Black Drums Talking & Blood and Steel : Volumes 3 & 4 of the Complete Adventures of Kingi Bwana - Still interesting reads, with no actual supernatural elements (plenty of references to supposedly actual powers here and there, though). The author treats the natives with a better touch than most in the era, and 'Kingi' is an interesting character to follow.


Dr. Death vs. The secret 12, Vol. 1 - Brilliant scientist goes mad, turns to mysticism, and decides to destroy all technology and return man to his blessed 'primal state.' Obviously, people object. Conflict ensues. This one's a bit of a slog for me due to the pacing and writing style. There are good ideas, but you have to do some wading to get to them.


The New Adventures of the Griffon - Modern stories about another air war pulp character fallen into public domain. Private adventurer becomes the Griffin to battle aerial-based villains while thought to be one himself. Most of these are pretty good, although there's a lack of a broad villain base that becomes apparent after a while.


The Complete Cases of Captain Satan, Vols. 1 & 2 - Takes a twist to the usual gentleman adventurer premise: Satan and is ever-changing crew are private citizens that wipe out criminal mobs, return the identifiable portions of their loot and resources, and split the rest up among themselves as profit for their public service. Some of the stories are very good, and all have ideas worth stealing.


The Spider Strikes: The Spider #1 - You know that guy, right? Fright wig, 'The Master of Men,' blazing .45s, cape, "Die, die! The Spider bids you die!'? This isn't him. At least not yet. The first two novels were written by Reginald Thomas Maitland Scott, but they were slow-paced (ver, ver slow-paced), so another author  - the wildly imaginative and florid Novell Page - was brought in. I'd never read a Spider novel that wasn' after Pge's renovation of the character, and having now done s, I know why Scott ws shown the door.


The Savage Diaries: The collected Doc Savage essays of Dafydd Neal Dyar, Vol. 1 - Interesting amateur scholarship and speculation on Doc Savage and topic related to him. Wortha read, and plenty of ideas to mine.


The New Adventures of Richard Knight - Another set of modern stories about a public domain air war pulp character. Ostensibly working for the government as an agent, Knight and his sidekick act more like classic vigilantes, just targeting enemies of the government as opposed to common criminals. Again, some good, some not so good. Plenty of air-themed ideas, though.


The Millenium Bug, Doc Brazen #1 - Author Jeff Deischer' pastiche of Doc Savage, updated to the modern day. Brazen isn't as fast or strong as he used to be, but thanks to gene therapy, he's still in better shape than most men a third of his actual age. An old enemy is making a comeback in the modern day, and Brazen has to come out of retirement to deal with hm, assembling a group of new cohorts on the way. Worth a read for ideas on updating the concept to the modern day. I'll buy the sequel.


The Complete Cases of the Marquis of Broadway, Vol. 1 - I liked this one. The 'Marquis' is a cop, and he keeps a lid on the NYC entertainment district by being tougher than the guys that try o commit crimes there. Not a clean cop by any means, he's a bit more complex than the average pulp detective, and it's refreshing to see him set bad guys up to take a fall - or catch a bullet - in the name of justice and keeping Broadway quiet and safe for the masses.


The Green Ghost Declassified - Win Scott Eckert and a group of other writers produce new tales about a minor pulp figure - the Green Ghost - who fought crime with a phosphorescent green skull mask on. Some interesting ideas, and stories, but could have used a bit more of an overhaul to make him more unique.


Dare Devlin: Supreme Adventurer: Brain Wreck - Dafydd Neal Dyar's homage to Doc Savage. Set in the Pulp Era, it's an interesting look at teh 'central hero and sidekicks' theme, with a lot of good ideas. Neal tries a little too hard in places to get things into the narrative, but all in all a good read. I'll by the next one.


The New Adventures of Foster Fade, the Crime Specacularist - Lester Dent is well known for being the creator and main writer of Doc Savage. But he also wrote various “gadget heroes” like Fade, who solves grimes with gadgets he invents as part of a deal with a major metropolitan newspaper. Like all modern-author collections, some stories are good and some not so good, but there's plenty to like (and steal) for a pulp game in here.


The Complete Adventures of Thibault Corday of the Foreign Legion, Vol. 1: Better Than Bullets - The Foreign Legion story was a hot seller for the pulps and Theodore Roscoe got some mileage out of Thibault. Interesting ideas, some clues on how to run a campaign where the PCs are in the military, and a pretty good read.


The Complete Tales of Koropok, Vols. 1 & 2 - Welsh-ancestry American in behind the lines action in Japan during WW2, made interesting by his continuing impersonation of an Ainu. The treatment of the Japanese is less awful than I expected (which why I read both volumes), and approaches some degree of reasonability at times. Good variety of story ideas, although the threat of discovery theme does get a bit thin towards the end. Notable that the last few sories take place after the war and deal with the Occupation and the Nationalist War in China.


The Crime at Black Dudley, Mystery Mile, and Look to the Lady - The first three volumes of Margery Allingham's 20-novel Campion series. I got onto these after watching the BBC Campion series on Amazon (the wife loves her some British crime shows, so we have Acorn and BritBox). Black Dudley is almost a different series, since Campion id a secondary character in it, but he comes to his own in Mystery Mile, going up against crime syndicates, criminal masterminds, homicidal horses, London gangsters, and small-town British folk. I recommend watching the series first, and if it works for you (it's taken close to scene-for-scene from the books) hen go back and read the books.





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On 7/22/2018 at 9:09 PM, st barbara said:

I got some more books via the internet recently , including a" WPA Guide To New Orleans". This gives me four of these guides, New York, Washington,San Francisco and New Orleans. Interesting thing is that a previous owner of the New Orleans book has included a hand written note about "Storyville".,


Holy cow! I never thought of the WPA guides. That's brilliant!

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I'm rereading the Raymond Chandler Philip Marlowe novels - I just finished the 1st, The Big Sleep, and I'm half-way through the 2nd, Farewell, My Lovely.


Every few years I read a few Robert E. Howard stories: Conan, Kull, Steve Costigan, Solomon Kane, et al. REH's writing is filled with action in every sentence and just jumps off the page. Very pulpy!


I also enjoy Karl Edward Wagner's Conan pastiche, Kane.

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Pulp reading list through the end of July 2018:


Flowers For The Judge, Sweet Danger, Death of a Ghost, The Case of the Late Pig, Police at the Funeral, and The Allingham Casebook - The next books in the Campion series by Margery Allingham  and a collection of short stories by the author that frequently have Campion in them. All enjoyable, but you have to enjoy this style of mystery/adventure writing to get the most from it.


The Complete Cases of Vee Brown, Vol. 1 - John Carroll Daly wrote these back in the day. Vivian "Vee" Brown leads two lives. Delicate-looking and small in stature, he lacks physical strength and endurance. But that doesn't prevent him from being an effective special operative to the Manhattan District Attorney. In this capacity he often ignores the legal niceties of due process, shooting first and asking questions later. Many citizens view him as a hair-trigger gunman whose promiscuous killings make him little better than the vicious criminals he hunts. In his other life, Brown lives in a luxurious Park Avenue penthouse, paid for not with his modest civil-servant salary, but with the royalties he earns as a phenomenally successful composer of sentimental songs-a sideline he keeps secret. Both the police and the underworld refer to him as a "Killer of Men." But the denizens of Tin Pan Alley know him as "Master of Melodies," the prince of pop music. It's an interesting dichotomy, but Daly doesn't always live up to the premise's possibilities.


The Complete Cases of Inspector Allhoff, Vol. 1 - These are part of the 'defective detective' subgenre. They're also some of the most painful reading I've done from the period. Not due to quality, or racist screed, but because Allhoff is a sadist and quite likely insane, and his treatment of the secondary characters was so abusive as to be criminal in and of itself. Deputy Inspector Allhoff was the NYPD’s ace detective until bullets from a mobster’s machine gun robbed him of his legs, his career, and—in the opinion of an associate—his sanity. Yet Allhoff was too good a man to be put out to pasture, so New York’s police commissioner found a way to keep him employed and refer to him such cases as the department couldn’t or wouldn’t handle. Confined to a wheelchair and operating from a seedy tenement flat, Allhoff is assisted by two cops: Battersly, the rookie patrolman whose brief moment of cowardice cost the inspector his legs, and Simmons, the bitter career cop who detests Allhoff but sticks with the embittered cripple to protect his own pension. Created by D.L. Champion, Inspector Allhoff denied most conventions of detective-pulp fiction. He could never be confused for one of Raymond Chandler’s knights errant, trudging down those mean streets. Allhoff was no Rover Boy in trench coat and fedora. With 30 entries published between 1938 and 1946, the Allhoff series was among the most popular and long-lived (for the life of me I do not understand why) to appear in Dime Detective, the prestigious crime pulp second only to the legendary Black Mask in its impact on the genre. I'm on he fence about reading more of these.


Ki-Gor, The Complete Series Vol. 1 - A jungle adventure series/Tarzan homage, Ki-got is unusual in that at least the stories in this collection are sequential storytelling, with recurring characters and repeat villains. Not the equal of ERB's writing, John Peter Drummond still turned out a pretty good set of stories.


The Complete Cabalistic Cases of Semi-Dual, the Occult Detector Vol. 1 (1912) - Despite the name, there's not much - if any - occult action going on in this series. Semi-Dual is an astrologer-detective, not a magician, and really the author uses he astrology angle for color and to have Semi whip out knowledge that couldn't be gained through detective legwork and study. Not unenjoyable, but fair warning that the mysticism is low in this volume. Worth a read just for the plots alone.


Super-Detective Jim Anthony, The Complete Series Vol. 3 - I'm still enjoying these; all of them are a big step up from many of the Doc Savage homage characters out there. Anthony needs to do some serious thinking about his secret HQ's though, because pretty much anyone that wants to seems able to find them with little effort.


The Complete Adventures of the Griffon, Vol. 2 - More air war goodness from Arch Whitehouse. In this set of stories, the Griffon actually starts taking steps to seriously obfuscate his identity, loses his signature plane, commissions another plane - unknowingly from a villain - and has dogfights with zeppelins, enemy planes, and criminals.


Seekers of the Glittering Fetish: The Complete Adventures of Armless O'Neill, Vol. 1 - Another 'defective hero,' this time with a hook for a hand (no explanation so far as to how this happened). Not bad stories, but his sidekick, Tommy, needs to catch a bullet and exit the series. All set in Africa, but revolving more around native issues, plantations, and such than the typical big game hunting.


The Complete Cases of Cass Blue, Vol. 1 - New York-based private investigator Cass Blue is a morally flexible tough guy who backs up his hard-boiled rhetoric with frequent applications of the blackjack he carries in a hip pocket. No case is too seedy or sordid for him to take, and he’s capable of taking as much as he dishes out when it’s necessary. The cops don’t trust him much more than they do the criminals, but that doesn’t keep him from giving clients full value for their retainers. With the dubious assistance of speakeasy owner Al Lascoine, Cass sasses and slugs his way through a succession of Depression-era adventures. Written by John Lawrence. Not great, but solid entertaining reads.







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Not currently reading any pulp fiction, but a useful book for any pulp gm that I have started is "Last Talons Of The Eagle" by Gary Hyland and Anton Gill. It is about the various Nazi experimental (and some not so experimental) aircraft that were developed during (and sometimes before) World War ll  Certainly the helicopters developed by Flettner  (some of which were used during the war) could be of use in a pulp campaign. I have just reached the section on the Horten Brothers and their "flying wings'. Lots more to come I am sure !

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Since July 2018 was the last time I did one of these, this may take a bit….



The Complete Northwoods Stories of Frederick Nebel – This was an impulse read to be honest, since I’ve never been a huge ‘Canadian Wilderness/Mounties’ guy, but I was pleasantly surprised. The stories are all well-crafted and most of them are engaging. If you like the genre, or want to try something different, give it a try.


Captain Hawklin and the Jade Dragon by Charles F. Millhouse – This is the fifth in a ‘New Pulp’ series which may or may not bee a stopper for you depending on your opinions of the New Pulp movement (I’m squarely in the ‘some is good, some is not good, most is average’ category). For me, this was an ‘average’ novel. If I’d read the first four volumes I might have been invested more. Your mileage may vary.


When Tigers Are Hunting by W. Wirt – Post WWI mercenaries in the Far East. The writing is undeniably dated, but readable, and the stories have an unusually high degree of continuity in both character and setting.


The Complete Adventures of Thibault Corday of the Foreign Legion, Vol. 1 by Theodore Roscoe – There was a whole sub-genre devoted to Foreign Legion stories, and Roscoe’s were among the most prolific and popular. They’re all stories narrated by Coray, spanning his very long career in the Legion. Some good, some with very surprising elements.


Doan and Carstairs, Their Complete Cases by Norbert Davis – A private investigator and his Great Dane companion. Written with a lighter touch, these stories make interesting reading (Davis was a good writer) but I kept waiting for more material related to the Great Dane.


The Fashion In Shrouds, Cargo of Eagles, The Dancers In Mourning, The Beckoning Lady, The China Governess, The Traitor’s Purse, and The Mind Readers by Marjory Allingham – More novels in the Campion Series by Marjorie Allingham. The Mind Readers especially has a pulpy nugget: the Magoffin is a mind-reading machine that will only work if the user is a child under 12 or so.


The Way They Were by Jeff Deischer – Unofficial histories for a number of characters from adventure fiction. Lots of scenario-mining ideas even if you don’t agree with Jeff’s theories.


Between East And West by R.D. Charques – History of Russia and how it got from the Napoleonic period to the Soviet era. Good for mining pulp data from but pretty dry by modern standards.


Cat of Many Tails and The Adventures of Ellery Queen by Ellery Queen – Classic Ellery Queen material. Aside from just being good, there’s plenty of scenario fodder here.


Secret Agent X: The Complete Series Vol. 1 & 2 by Paul Chadwick – The first four Secret Agent X novels in one collection. They have a formula, as master of disguise, X pits his wits against weird menace threats all over the country. Scenarios are begging to be made of these stories, folks.


Dusty Ayres 1: Invasion of the Black Lightning by Robert  Sidney Brown – air war with  a weird menace twist. America is under siege by a master villain that has taken over most of the rest of the globe and only Dusty can foil his plans. This is the first of 14 volumes, so there will be plenty more invasion hijinks before they’re done and the US is safe again.


The Secret 6 Classics: The Suicide Squad Vol. 1 by Emile Tepperman – No, not the one with Deadshot in it, the one with three problem-child FBI agents who are assigned to ‘suicide’ cases again and again and again. Some good plotting in these makes them worth a read.


All 14 of the The Daisy Gumm Majesty Mysteries by Alice Duncan – A modern series with an interesting premise: It's the 1920s and Daisy Gum Majesty is doing her part to support her family as a medium by holding séances and interpreting tarot cards for the rich and famous. The twist is that Daisy has no psychic powers; she’s a fake who uses psychology, a good relationship with serving staffs, and some common sense psychology to try and help her clients. These are positively dripping in 1920’s setting information on Sacramento, California, fashion, and more. The writing is good, but they’re less suspense and more ‘cozy’ in tone.


Murder She Reported by Peg Cochrane – a New York society girl gets a job as a news photographer. Crime ensues. Well written and the first in a series.


Horror Wears Blue and The Earth Shaker, by Lin Carter – Two more in the ‘Zarkon, Lord of the Unknown’ series. You either like Carter or you don’t but the man definitely knew how to put pastiches out.


The Complete Cases of the Crime Magnet by Sax Rohmer - Best known for his tales of Dr. Fu Manchu, author Sax Rohmer also penned the adventures of the resourceful Major Bernard de Treville, known better as "The Crime Magnet," a roving adventurer who encounters intrigue in every corner of the globe. With his companion, Digger, he follows in the footsteps of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, as he proves his oft-repeated quote that ‘I can’t walk out the door without adventure finding me.”


The Hunters, The Forbidden Tomb, and The Prisoner's Gold by Chris Kuzneski – Modern-day treasure hunters (this is a big genre in the self-published world and Kuzneski has done very well with it. Definitely scenario ideas here.


All 10 of the Sean Wyatt novels by Ernest Dempsey – More modern treasure hunters, but the sheer variety of stuff he sends his characters off after is a campaign gold mine for story ideas.


Hazzard: The Complete Series by Frederic C. Davis – Interesting take on the ‘crusading DA’ theme, with he DA secretly being an escaped (wrongfully) convicted murderer who is determined to bring real criminals to justice at the risk of his own freedom and life.


The Complete Adventures of Eric Trent, Vol. 1 by Donald Keyhoe – Keyhoe wrote a lot of air war/pilot related material, and the Eric Trent stories belong to the ‘super-spy’ slant.


King of Fang and Claw: The Complete Pulp Magazine Adventures by Bob Byrd – Jungle action with a white guy in a loincloth. This time it; Ka-Zar who would go on to jump to Marvel Comics as their Tarzan stand in.


A Rival From The Grave, the Jules deGrandin stories, Vol. 4 by Seabury Quinn – The stories keep rolling and the bad guys keep falling. I’m still entertained by these and Quinn’s often original spins of classic tropes like zombies, ghosts, and more.


In Deep Water, The Complete adventures of the Major, Vol. 1 by L. Patrick Greene – More African adventure with Aubrey St. John Major—AKA the Major—and his faithful companion, Jim the Hottentot. The Major is less obnoxiously racist than many heroes in Africa from the era and I found the stories easy reading.


Warlord of Many Swordsmen by W. Wirt – More mercenaries in Asia after WW1, with some interesting setups and continuity. Worth a read for the lost city settings alone.


The Complete Adventures of the Griffin, Vol. 3 by Arch Whitehouse – By this point, the Gman that has chased the Griffin for two previous collections has more or less given up and just makes motins towards chasing him when he wants the Griffin to go and stop some bad guy. Still interesting, but something you have to be in the mood for.


Doc Ardan: City of Gold and Lepers by Guy d’Armen – I’ve heard about this one for years and finally broke down and read it. The much-hyped Doc Savage similarities are pretty thin on the vine to me; Ardan is an incredibly passive character in many ways (Doc, whatever else may be said by detractors, cannot be said to have been ‘passive’). The villain is more interesting than Ardan, the female companion more active. I’m not certain I’ll read another one of these.


The Complete Adventures of Richard Knight, Vol. 2 by Donald Keyhoe – More serial air war adventures, including a gem of a story where Knight’s lost valley girlfriend is revealed to be the rightful heir to the Spanish throne.


Think Fast, Mr. Moto; Your Turn, Mr. Moto; and Thank You, Mr. Moto by John P. Marquand – How do you make a series about a man working for Japanese intelligence before WW2 something that thousands of readers will buy into? You have your spy by the linking character in all the books, but the main characters in each be different people that are caught up in the turmoil of pre-WW2 Japan and the far east. All good, but something you’re going to have to want to read before picking up.


The Complete Casebook of Cardigan, Vol. 2 and 3 by Frederick Nebel – More in the series, chronicling a hard-boiled private investigator and the secondary cast female investigator that probably wants to be his girlfriend. Cardigan is kind of an ass, even when he doesn’t need to be, and sometimes comes across as a parody of the hard-boiled character he was, but the writing I good and the stories interesting.


George Chance: The Ghost Omnibus, Vol. 1 by by G.T. Fleming-Roberts – Chance is a professional magician, perhaps the best in the world, but solving crimes at the request of the police commissioner is more exciting, so…. Lots of pulp gems, including a lookalike body double that pretends to be Chance so the Ghost can do his thing.


Masie Dobbs by Jacqueline Windspear – First in the Dobbs series, about a WWI battlefield nurse turned confidential investigator in 1920’s London. Great atmosphere, interesting investigations and good characters.


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Doc Savage: Mad Mesa by Kenneth Robeson (Lester Dent) - The most interesting thing about the story is that the 'Mad Mesa' was inspired by the Devil's Tower in Wyoming, not too far from where Lester Dent grew up. Other than that, no interesting details to mine for scenario ideas, the crime, the criminals, the mcguffin were pretty banal by pulp standards.


Hollow Earth Expeditions, Revelations of Mars by Exile Game Studio - This book is gorgeous.  Expands on some of the history in the core Hollow Earth Expeditions book, this is a complete setting for Lost World Romance style pulp adventure on the red planet.  I found it on ebay, and it is also on drive thru rpg.

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