Thursday, December 08, 2011

McLevy The Edinburgh Detective Series 8

The latest season of McLevy came out last month. I missed some of it, but it looks like BBC Radio 4 is currently rerunning their McLevy catalog. I don't know if they will be running all 8 seasons, but they are right now on season 1.

Click here to do a search for the latest episodes. 

Don't know about McLevy?  Check out the Pulp Reader's McLevy subsite to learn about Edinburgh's 19th Century beat detective.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Pulp Holiday Gift Guide

There has been a lot going on in the retail world of the pulps this year and I would like to offer some suggestions for holiday gift giving:

First off, pulp historian and fictioneer Will Murray has been full steam ahead in his new Doc Savage novel writing and pulp audio adaptations.  Radio Archives has been adapting several pulp classics to audio this year. You will find THE SPIDER: PRINCE OF THE RED LOOTERS, THE BLACK BAT: BRAND OF THE BLACK BAT, DOCTOR DEATH: 12 WILL DIE and of course DOC SAVAGE in THE JADE OGRE, PYTHON ISLE, WHITE EYES plus a digitally restored CD of the Doc Savage radio dramas FEAR CAY and THE THOUSAND HEADED MAN. All of these can be bought as CDs or digital downloads from RADIO ARCHIVES.

Also in the aural zone is film director Larry Fessenden's new horror audiodrama label Tales From Beyond the Pale.  These are tales of horror inspired by the classic Old Time Radio shows and star the voice talents of many genre favorites such as Vincent D'Onofrio, Ron Perleman and Doug Jones.  The full season 1 (10 episodes) is available as DVD packs, a complete boxed set or digital downloads. For more info and samples please check out their website at
In the visual landscape there are a few DVDs to take note of.  One is the nutty mashup of Raymond Chandler's FAREWELL, MY LOVELY and apocalyptic mad scientist genre, The BIG BANG, directed by Tony Krantz and starring Antonio Banderas.  Probably an either love it or hate it movie, it has a daring and brazen edge to it that keeps it visually and plot-wise quirky. I thought it was a lot of fun.

I have to mention one of my favorite modern hard-boiled flicks, GIVE 'EM HELL MALONE which is an over the top action mystery that is part Will Eisner's THE SPIRIT and part fevered action romp as seen in the writings of The Spider's author Norvell Page. This is a really fun movie that doesn't take itself seriously but hits all the right buttons for super pulpy action.

And finally for DVDs, as I mentioned on Facebook, what I consider the must have movie of the year for the Weird Menace pulp aficionado is Vincent Cortez's The HUSH.   This is an indie movie made on $8000. But don't let that fool you into thinking it is not a quality production.  The Hush has everything hitting the right marks. It is a dark, brooding, supernatural hard-boiled neo-Noir with loads of action, drama and phantasmagorical effects.  I have a full review here.  You can now buy a signed DVD for $15 straight from the director.  If you want to have a really interesting stocking stuffer for your pulpy friends this year, I highly recommend this film!

A late breaking entry for DVD is the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society's latest film THE WHISPERER IN DARKNESS. Previously the HPLHS produced the silent short movie THE CALL OF CTHULHU and they have now produced a feature length "talkie" adaptation of Whisperer.  It is now on sale at their website.

And then we have the books and magazines!  First off, we have the holiday issue of The STRAND magazine which is printing a lost Cornell Woolrich story "Never Kick a Dick" which is set in a hotel overlooking Biscayne Bay. The STRAND also rediscovered a lost Dashiell Hammett story "So I Shot Him" published in the Feb 28th 2011 issue.

As mentioned above, Will Murray has a new line of Doc Savage novels being published. These can be found at Adventures in Bronze.

Also, earlier this year I talked about Donald Keyhoe's Philip Strange, WWI flying ace. Strange fought demons and dinosaurs on the European battlefront. How can you not love biplanes vs pterodactyls!

There is also a whole world of pulp reprints and new material being published these days. The best place to keep track of it all is at Coming Attractions.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Tang Dynasty's Judge Dread

van Gulik illustrated his own books.
I was going to write a big article on the historical figure Di Ren Jie.  He was a magistrate during Tang Dynasty (7th Century via Western calender) China. But I keep coming across articles and blogs that have already covered the territory I was going to cover. So I have a brief review of two books and then for the more curious, a few links at the bottom of the page to the most enlightening articles.

Just briefly: Di Ren Jie was a judge who it turns out like most judges of the time, were more like Judge Dread than Judge Judy. They were out in the field doing detective work and police procedurals with investigating, interrogating, torturing and convicting criminals.  The only thing they didn't do by hand was the physical act of torturing or capital punishment.There is apparently a long history in China of these judges being written about in fictionalized accounts.  Sort of like epic pulp fiction, as the cast of characters ranged into the hundreds along with an even higher number of chapters, with each chapter being hundreds of pages. These books were huge and full of intricate information.

This is something that went by the Western world without anyone ever noticing.  But then, enter Robert Hans van Gulik.  He was a mid-20th Century Dutch diplomat whose work brought him to Japan and China where he became an expert on Chinese history. He stumbled across an anonymously written 1800s pulp story about one of these judges from the 600s.  Because of the brevity of this story, being shorter than thousands of pages with much less than hundreds of characters (so being more close to what the modern world would consider a book), he felt it would be great material to translate for a modern audience.

The result was THE CELEBRATED CASES OF JUDGE DEE (Dee Goong An 1949). In this book three crimes are unfolded. Each case is completely separate from the other but completely intertwined in the telling of the story.  Again, I'll let someone else speak for me, in this case wikipedia, about the plot:
There are three cases in this book. The first might be called The Double Murder at Dawn. The case describes the hazardous life of the traveling silk merchant and the murder which is committed to gain wealth.
The second is The Strange Corpse which takes place in a small village, a crime of passion which proves hard to solve. The criminal is a very determined woman.
The third case The Poisoned Bride contains the murder of the daughter of a local scholar who marries the son of the former administrator of the district. This case contains a surprising twist in its solution.
All three cases are solved by Judge Dee, the district magistrate - Detective, prosecutor, judge, and jury all wrapped up into one person.
First edition of Celebrated Cases.
I found this book to be really grippingly intriguing all the way through. The way the plot elements intertwine and van Gulik's knack for writing very clear prose is highly enjoyable and very easy to digest. The penchant for torture being pretty much the answer for everything was a bit unnerving. But then that was the way of things at that time and van Gulik did not whitewash the original prose.  A very in-depth and fascinating introduction puts the torture, the way of life of Magistrates and how the Chinese legal system itself worked into historical perspective.  All in all, if you want to maximize your experience with Judge Dee on a historical and fictional level, this first book is definitely the one to read.

van Gulik went on to write 17 original novels and collections about Judge Dee. Since CELEBRATED CASES was a direct translation of another author's work I wanted to try one of van Gulik's original titles and jumped on JUDGE DEE AND THE HAUNTED MONASTERY (1961).  This is from about mid-way through van Gulik's Judge Dee series. It seems to have its basis in the "Old Dark House" mysteries of the 1920s-50s, where a group of people typically become trapped in a single maze-like location and as bodies pile up, the hero has to figure out whodunnit. This book definitely has that feel.

For the plot this is again from wikipedia:
Judge Dee and his three wives are on their way back from a visit to family in the capital accompanied by the Judge's aid Tao Gan when a terrible storm forces the party to take shelter for the night in an isolated Taoist monastery of sinister repute. The wives go directly to bed but the Judge is required to pay a courtesy visit to the Abbot. Thus begins an endless night of murder, mayhem and madness as the Judge, suffering from the beginnings of a head cold, solves the mysterious deaths, punishes the guilty and brings two star-crossed young couples together.
This book, a completely original tale, has no torture to speak of and Judge Dee comes off more as an everyman detective as you might find in contemporary (1950s) fiction than as the high and mighty Magistrate portrayed in CELEBRATED CASES.  Though there is no problem with the first book and it is completely enjoyable, this shift in focus on Dee's personality makes it less troublesome to get through.  Judge Dee is fairly likable in this. I just have to admit that anyone who uses torture is probably not going to seem that amiable or likable, so the character has a one-up in HAUNTED MONASTERY.  Though these two books are different animals, they are both eminently readable.  I will absolutely continue reading further Judge Dee adventures. Next will be THE CHINESE MAZE MURDERS.

I have to admit I'd never heard of Judge Dee until a movie about him came out last year. DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME is an original story by Lin Quinyu and filmed by the legendary director Tsui Hark (Chinese Ghost Story-1987, Once Upon a Time in China -1991).  This big budget epic intrigued me about the character and the more I researched the more I realized how much Judge Dee there was out there to read and learn about!

Reference materials:
The movie DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME is out in various DVD formats but I believe the valid Region 1 DVD comes out in December (2011).  It is also currently touring the US at art house theaters.  Roger Ebert's review is here. There is also a movie from 1974 that is an adaptation of THE HAUNTED MONASTERY, called JUDGE DEE AND THE MONASTERY MURDERS which you can find a review here.

There is a chronology of the stories along with lots of background data here.

And there is an excellent and in-depth essay on van Gulik and Judge Dee here.

If all of this fires your sparkplugs and you can't get enough, then be advised that a Chinese TV series on Judge Dee will be available on DVD with English subtitles starting in November.

Another nice overview of the character is at this blog.

And here I thought this was going to be a brief article.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Arsene Lupin in: The Crystal Stopper

As promised on Facebook, The Pulp Reader is presenting Maurice LeBlanc's Arsene Lupin thriller THE CRYSTAL STOPPER.  After watching the first episode of the French 1971 television series starring Georges Descrieres, which is an adaptation of this story, I felt compelled to see how different it is from the book.  The TV adaptation was surprisingly good and imagine the novel to be even better.

Information from Wikipedia: The Crystal Stopper is a mystery novel by Maurice Leblanc featuring the adventures of the gentleman thief Arsène Lupin. The novel appeared in serial form in the French newspaper Le Journal from September to November 1912 and was released as a novel subsequently. Maurice Leblanc was inspired by the infamous Panama scandals of 1892 and 1893. The novel borrows from Edgar Allan Poe's short story The Purloined Letter the idea of hiding an object in plain sight.

Plot Summary: 
During a burglary at the home of Deputy Daubrecq a crime is committed and two accomplices of Arsène Lupin were arrested by the police. One is guilty of the crime, the other innocent but both will be sentenced to death. Lupin seeks to deliver the victim of a miscarriage of justice, but struggles against Deputy Daubrecq's ruthless blackmailer, who has an incriminating document hidden in a crystal stopper.

Monday, August 01, 2011

The Phantom Ace

When I first started The Pulp Reader there were what I considered a top handful of interesting pulp heroes; Doc Savage, The Shadow, The Spider, Secret Agent X and G-8 and his Battle Aces.  Sure there's hundreds of pulp heroes out there, but those were the ones I was most interested in. 

G8 seemed to be one of the more oddball characters as he was a WWI ace pilot who was also a top spy and happened to fight giant bats, flying tentacled behemoths, panther men, animated skeletons, intelligent apes and a whole menagerie of bizarre and supernatural creatures conjured up by the madmen employed by the Kaiser.

The ideas were over the top and crazy and a lot of fun. The only hindrance to the reading experience was that though creator Robert Hogan had a fertile and unfettered imagination, his writing skills were pedestrian, suffering IMO mainly from direly wooden dialog and sometimes vague descriptions of action.

The story setup was so sweet but the execution was unexceptional.

Well, there's a lot of pulp history that I just don't know about. But I'm always happily discovering new information!  What I've discovered this week is that 2 years before the creation of G-8 there was another author writing about a pilot fighting the same type of Weird War...

The pulp reprinting publisher AGE OF ACES specializes in WWI aviation. They've been around for a few years now, putting out high quality collections that you just weren't likely to see anywhere else.  They've culled the stories of The Red Falcon (also written by Hogan and existing in G-8's universe), Captain Combat, The Three Mosquitoes, The Iron Ace, Smoke Wade and others.  

I was recently made aware that they would have a new book premiering at Pulpfest 2011 called Captain Philip Strange: Strange War written by Donald Keyhoe.  If you are into Ufology you may have heard of Keyhoe as he wrote a few books about and was heavily into the UFO phenomena scene.

Well before the UFOs he was a Major in the USMC as a fighter pilot.  And drawing from that experience he entered the pulp world, writing for magazines such as WEIRD TALES and notably FLYING ACES with stories of heroic pilots who fought weird menaces at the WWI Front lines.

AGE of ACES describes Captain Strange as such:
Welcome to a Strange War! In Donald E. Keyhoe’s imaginings, the stormy skies of World War I are filled with giant pterodactyls, mystic fireballs and demon aces. But America has it’s own unnatural secret weapon: Captain Philip Strange. A mental marvel from birth, he was so terrifyingly effective that the Allies referred to him as “The Phantom Ace of G-2.” But to the Germans he was “The Brain-Devil,” whose penetrating green eyes were both a legend and a nightmare. Keyhoe’s Philip Strange stories ran for nine years—from 1931 through 1939—in the pages of Flying Aces magazine. This first volume in our new series contains six exciting tales of terror skies! It also features an introduction by Sid Bradd and is beautifully wrapped up in an exciting new design by Chris Kalb!
Having my interest piqued I started roaming around the 'net and found a few of these Strange tales online. The one I'm reading right now is the short story The Skeleton From the Sky.  I have to tell you that having that true life experience in the deadly skies really set's Keyhoe's writing apart from Hogan's and probably most everyone else's.  Like Dashiell Hammett who was employed by the Pinkerton's before embarking on writing about The Continental Op and Sam Spade, Keyhoe's working knowledge of his subject matter comes through especially in the air combat.  His character studies are quick and concise but let you know each person remarkably well. This was somebody doing what Hogan got famous for with G-8, but doing it much better.

Captain Philip Strange: Strange War should be out at the regular online bookstores any time now.  I know I'm ready and waiting!

To whet your appetite, instead of an audiobook, I'm going to point you to The Skeleton From the Sky in PDF and HTML form.

Hop Harrigan

And for the aural aerial experience, the comic book turned Radio show turned cliffhanger serial Hop Harrigan can be found at my neighbor,  This is a surprisingly good show that reminds me a lot of a cross between these weird aerial pulp adventures and the early adventures of Steve Canyon. The files at are a bit out of order, but it's the only place I've seen them around lately.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Of Charm and Violence

You've probably heard the tag line at some point in your life. And if you grew up in the U.S. and are over 35 and had a radio or TV, you certainly heard it used and paraphrased a lot in the 60s, 70s & 80s.

"There are eight million stories in the Naked City, and this has been one of them."

I heard it a lot and got to know it well. The phrase that is, but not the show it comes from. 

In 1945 a photographer known as "Weegee" put out a book of sensationalistic photos. He cruised the night life of New York City and captured in stark black and white the life and death of it's denizens. The book is still in print today.  This tome of lurid images became the basis for the Film Noir classic with the same name as the book: THE NAKED CITY (1948).  Shot in a semi documentary form, the film revolves around two cops trying to solve the case of a female fashion model murdered in her apartment. 

The opening narration to the film does not introduce the story itself but instead talks about how it was created. Eschewing Hollywood back lots and studios, it was filmed on the streets and in the apartment and office buildings of NYC itself. Thus defining the city as a part of the overarching character of the movie.  This type of show-casing of the environment in a police drama was put to good use 30+ years later in The Streets of San Francisco.
Fraciscus and McIntire in
a Naked City publicity photo.

Ten years after the movie came out, a spin off television series went into production.  It used the same foundation of the streets of New York City as its true life backdrop.  In its first season it was a half hour action show starring James Franciscus (Det. Halloran) and John McIntire (Lt. Muldoon).  McIntire burned out on all the location shooting about halfway through the first season and when he left the show, his character was murdered in a flaming car crash, ran off the road by an assassin. 

Writer Stirling Silliphant had gone out of his way in the 30 minute opening season to engage in a lack of plot in order to get a concise, action packed story out and done with.  It was full of shootouts and tense situations with vignettes of personal pathos.  There was some focus on the criminals themselves, hinting at what was to come later. Though full of terse action and drama, it failed to garner high ratings and at the end of the season it went on hiatus for a year.

Paul Burke and Nancy Malone
When it returned in 1960 it had been retooled into an hour long show focusing less on action and more on drama with a new lead; the unconceitedly charismatic Paul Burke as "Det. Flint".  What really began to stand out with NAKED CITY as different from other crime dramas was this greater focus on the criminals.  Almost all of the shows spend more air-time looking at the lives of the criminals than on the police procedural itself.

The criminals in this show turned out to be humans. Not just brief character sketches to push the plot along.  Some are normal people thrown into unfortunate circumstances that force them into crime, some are born bad and show it through and through. Others straddle the fence, some eventually falling on the side of the law but usually on the side of villainy.

There was still plenty of violence though. I imagine there must have been a directive from the studio execs requiring a certain amount of violence in each episode. There was a lot of shoot 'em up in almost every episode.  The only episode I've seen so far that did not have some type of explosive amount of lead poisoning is the Dennis Hopper starring episode "Shoes for Vinnie Winford", which though it has a car chase, does not have any gunplay.

Bruce Dern and Alvin Epstein
in "The Fault of Our Stars"

Though this interesting and different angle of centering on the criminal elements made it unique, what made it shine was the writing.  Every episode I've seen so far has been perfectly written. There is always a balance between drama, horror and comedy. Comedy?  Yes, there tends to be a lot of funny and cute moments amidst the turmoil. The dialog especially for the heroes tends to be very witty and charming. Something that with the modern focus on verity method acting and method writing seems to have all but disappeared from television and movies. Too bad, I say, as contemporary entertainment could use a lot more charm and wit.

Some episodes are very funny throughout (The Virtues of Madame Douvay), some are heart-warming journeys to redemption (Debt of Honor), and others deal with irredeemable and uncompromising evil (A Death of Princes).  Each story whether being about horror, action, love, comedy or equilibrium, they have, in my opinion, all been successful.

Dustin Hoffman in
"Barefoot on a Bed of Coals"
Another interesting thing about this show is the staggering amount of up coming actors who guest-starred in the series who went on to very successful careers. Forgive me for cribbing from wikipedia, but here is a small list of actors seen on NAKED CITY; Rip Torn, Tuesday Weld, Jack Klugman, Peter Falk, Robert Duvall, Carroll O'Connor, Jean Stapleton, Suzanne Pleshette, George Segal, Martin Sheen, Robert Redford, Sylvia Miles, Jon Voight, Sandy Dennis, William Shatner, Christopher Walken and Dustin Hoffman.

The show also featured such established performers as Kim Hunter, Eileen Heckart, Nehemiah Persoff, Betty Field, Luther Adler, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Jan Sterling, Mildred Natwick, Walter Matthau, Viveca Lindfors, Claude Rains, Jack Warden, Eli Wallach, Burgess Meredith, Mickey Rooney, and Aldo Ray.

Well, at the beginning of this post I mentioned not actually seeing the show. That is until recently.  Retro Television Network started rerunning the series in July. RTV shows the half-hour episodes on the weekend and the hour shows during the week.  Watching it on RTV got me hooked and am very happy about the discovery of this television relic.  It may be over 50 years old now, but the writing, acting and overall production still have a moxie and life that makes it very entertaining and engaging today.

If you do not have RTV, there were 3 box sets of the "best of" episodes put out by Image Entertainment. They are out of print but easily findable at online retail outlets and on Netflix.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Lurking Shadows

The new visitor to The Pulp Reader may not realize that this blog started out as a repository for Text to Speech generated audiobooks. If you look at the mission statement at the very bottom of this page you will see where this all started.

As time has gone by there has been some evolution in the content. The Pulp Reader covers pulp, Noir, cliffhanger and classic movie reviews, news of what is going on in video and audio related media and anything else of a general interest to a pulp book, audio and movie fan.

But once in a while I still have a book I'd like to share. And this is somewhat exciting, at least for me, that today I'm experimenting with a new TTS reader. I'm always looking for the latest in technology so that the TTS audiobooks can sound as natural as possible.  I stumbled across a nice British voice that seems to pronounce most words very well without the hitches and sometimes garbled sounds that come with machine driven audio. 

Today's experiment is from the man who is considered the father of the "Hard-Boiled" genre, Carroll John Daly. Though his writing can be a little creaky, it is for the most part a truly pulpy thrill ride that is full of tough good guys and even tougher bad guys.  Outside of my acute admiration for both his Race Williams and Satan Hall stories, there is not much I can tell you that has not been told by more capable hands than mine.

Therefore I leave you with some links for further edification and finally the book Lurking Shadows.  I would be interested in knowing what you think of this new TTS voice. Is it easy to listen to? Is it a better voice than the traditional TTS voice that I use? Let me know.

listen to LURKING SHADOWS at!
Direct Download the zip file here
Play the stream in your media player.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Vincent Cortez is a man on a mission.

And a man of many talents.

Zachary Gossett as The Hush
He is an artist, a writer, a director, a producer. He even mixes his own audio and records Foley in a closet-sized audio studio in his home. Cortez's ingenuity and resourcefulness shows how an indie movie can be brought to life with a budget of $8000 and still compete with anything coming of Hollywood.

Cortez also garners a lot of loyalty and admiration from his actors, co-workers and family.  I found out why when I attended a screening of his haunting, supernatural Noir adventure The HUSH.  For the proof is in the puddin'. Outside of a brief synopsis and the trailer, I didn't know what exactly to expect.  But what I got was an amazing journey into darkness, into a haunted realm of memory, sorrow, loneliness and regret. All are prime elements that go into the making of the best films Noir.

An extra ingredient that is rare in the genre is the supernatural.  It is an ingredient that is well-added and takes this movie far beyond the norms of Noir.

"The Hush" is hit man Freddy Burnett who as a child was indoctrinated into a world of violence and death, making him a hardened one man killing machine. Zachary Gossett plays The Hush with a quiet intensity and verve that is unsettling.  The calm and assured way of dispatching his victims and his opponents lets you know who's side you want him on in a fight. Gossett pulls this vibe off without a hitch.

Melody Gomez and Zachary Gossett
The beginning of the film finds The Hush, who works for a mysterious group known as "The Horsemen", dispatching a local, crooked judge for them.  But as the judge is killed, an unforeseen complication arises when his mistress, Lillian, walks out of a bathroom, witnessing the hit.  A struggle ensues and she is killed. Lillian is played by Melody Gomez, who is appropriately haunting. A spectral presence who's death changes the direction of The Hush's life.  For soon after she is killed her ghost follows her killer around.  Taking an innocent life has changed him and now he has to work towards some type of atonement for his victims.

As the story progresses, another inadvertent death and more ghosts to follow The Hush around. Each with their own story, history and their own mission for The Hush. Each mission a stair step towards redemption.  But doing so will turn his employers against him and he starts to discover the true, dark nature of The Horsemen.  Now The Hush is in a one night race against time and a fight for his own life, and soul.

The Horsemen on The Hush's trail
Cortez has created a moody and feverish nightmare.  A phantasmagoria of death and specters all pushing and pulling against The Hush and against each other.  It is a delirious ride that seats itself in deep introspection and accented with hot blasts of action.

Visually the colors are muted, almost black and white, with shifting fields of focal depth that keep the viewer in a blurred off-balance stupor living in the same night-land of the dead that The Hush is surrounded by.  We are not just viewers, but participants. Watching from the backseat of his car, from under a table in the midst of a firefight or as he runs through a deserted train yard.  To be clear, this is not "cinéma vérité" with shaky cams jostling the viewer around, this is your personal entrance into Morpheus' Underworld.

Jeremiah Turner gets into makeup
Like La Pantera Negra, another indie title I reviewed recently, this is a solid film with solid acting, directing, visual effects, audio and a great soundtrack. It is the sort of story that lovers of Noir, hardcore pulp fiction and lovers of ghost stories will appreciate.  The Hush is being shown locally in the SF Bay Area, but will be hitting DVD and other digital distribution channels in the near future. Find this movie when you can, you won't regret it. Cortez and crew will rock your ghost-haunted world.

Did I mention that Vincent Cortez also composed the background music?

Keep up to date with The Hush at the Mitchell Street website and their facebook page.

UPDATE: The Hush is trying to make its way into the digital media circuit (Hulu, Netflix, etc) and they could use your help at IndieGoGo. Go check it out as it's a project worth backing!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Comics - Audio - Film!

Another catch up day here at the Pulp Reader.  There's some interesting things going on in various media that should be of interest to the pulp and noir aficionados.  Enough has built up that I felt I should pass some of this on here at the blog.  If you are a Pulp Reader facebook fan you already know about these events, plus even more news and trivia not covered in the blog. If you aren't yet, then go try it, you might like it!

Jaques Tardi's Adele Blanc-Sec comics

I've been eagerly awaiting several books to be published by Fantagraphics. I just found out that two of them (both by Jacques Tardi) are now out. One is two stories of Adele Blanc-Sec adventures (Pterror over Paris and Eiffel Tower Demon) the other is The Arctic Marauder. Here's a glimps at the latter at COMICSBEAT.   Fantagraphics was originally putting Adele Blanc-Sec out in conjunction with Luc Besson's new movie. Since the movie doesn't seem to be getting a roadshow in the US, the publisher has decided to start releasing the newly translated books now.

Audio Adventures of Doc Savage, The Spider & Secret Agent X!
Radio Archives will start producing audiobooks based on pulp historian Will Murray's 7 Doc Savage novels, and from there record The Spider and Secret Agent X.  From Radio Archives' press release:
"Radio Archives today announced a new series of audiobooks, based on favorite pulp novels of the 1930s and 1940s. The audiobooks will begin Radio Archives' new line of original audio productions based on classic pulp fiction.

The first series of audiobooks will be the seven Doc Savage novels penned by pulp author and Doc Savage authority Will Murray, featuring cover art by Joe DeVito. Future series will include the exploits of pulp heroes The Spider and Secret Agent "X", as well as other pulp fiction properties. The new audio productions will utilize the talents of some of the top voice actors and recording talents in the United States. The first audiobook release is scheduled for June 2011.

"We're thrilled to have Will Murray's excellent Doc Savage novels as the lead-off offerings in this
exciting new series," said Harlan Zinck, president of Radio Archives. "The audiobooks and other new audio productions will nicely complement our classic radio and pulp reprint offerings."

Murray's Doc Savage stories were published in the 1990's and were the first new Doc Savage stories in more than 40 years. "Creating audiobooks of these extensions of the Doc Savage canon brings a new dimension to this classic pulp character," Murray said.

The new audiobook line, which will be recorded and released in digital stereo, will be produced and directed by audio producer Roger Rittner, who created The Adventures of Doc Savage full-cast radio series, available in a deluxe CD set from Radio Archives. "I'm delighted to be able to bring the superb quality of Radio Archives productions to these exciting stories," said Rittner, who has a 30-year history of both recorded and live classic radio and audio productions.
More info and listening samples at RA.

covers the new rise of old pulps
NPR takes a look at several selections of pulps that are currently being reprinted. From their article:

After the dawn of the 20th century, popular fiction could be found at the corner newsstand by a nation eager for the tales. Each issue was printed on cheap, pulpy paper that was soon synonymous with the lurid style typical of the contents. The pulps have a well-earned reputation for purple prose, but there was gold among the dross.

Fine adventure stories from other genres were printed in pulps like Adventure, Weird Tales and Planet Stories, but unfortunately, many of these authors remain neglected or marginalized. Today's readers might expect to find nothing but legions of square-jawed heroes, wilting damsels and tentacled monsters in the old magazines, but there were also skilled, inventive writers plying their trade, evoking thrills and chills without formulaic plotting.
Check out their rundown here.

THE HUSH Screening and Event
Freddy 'the Hush' Burnett is a hitman with his own code of justice. In one night, a simple job gets out of control as he takes an innocent life. Now, as mysterious forces threaten his life, his only chance for survival and redemption rests in the ghosts of a troubled young woman and a sadistic psychopath.

"The Hush" is the the first feature film of Oakland CA born-and-based Writer/Director Vincent Cortez. The film is a spiritual journey featuring supernatural and action elements, done in film noir style, that deals with fear, violence and change.
If you are in the SF Bay Area and are into supernatural detective fiction and film noir, you might want to try and check out this new indie feature. From the writer, director and editors' blog we get this info:
"The Hush", will be showing at the Historic Bal Theatre in San Leandro CA on Saturday night, June 11th 2011, followed by an exclusive in depth retrospective about indie filmmaking and tackling high concepts on a low budget. The cast and crew will be in attendance.

Time and Location:
7PM @ The Historic Bal Theatre
14808 East 14th Street
San Leandro CA 94578
Box Office: 510.614.1224

Tickets: $12
NOTE: Check Facebook Deals for discounted tickets.

*The retrospective will include a 10 minute behind the scenes video exclusive, as well as a Q&A and discussion with the cast/crew.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011


Just a reminder that the 100 Years of FANTOMAS event is this week in San Francisco.
Details can be found here and hereI'll be there!

At City Lights it was Standing Room Only.
So packed I could not make it to the absinth bar.
Fantomas makes an appearance to spread fear and paranoia!

Jill Tracy
and Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket)
as musical duet

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Studies in Cornell Woolrich

Cornell Woolrich
I've been on a Cornell Woolrich bender lately, mainly fueled by many episodes of the radio series SUSPENSE.

Today's average pulp reader or watcher of mystery/noir/horror films might not have heard of Woolrich, it seems a lot of people haven't. According to Harlan Ellison's intro to the Woolrich short story collection ANGELS OF DARKNESS, it seems he was becoming obscure even by the early 1970s.

Certainly he's not as well-known today as Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler. But ironically even though you may not know him or his works intimately, you've probably bumped into an episode of a TV show that uses one of his stories as its basis, or seen a movie adapted from his books. In fact he's probably the most directly-adapted pulp mystery writer out there.

Some examples are (most famously) Alfred Hitchcock's REAR WINDOW and (most recently) Antonio Banderas and Angelina Jolie's ORIGINAL SIN. IMDB lists 93 adaptations in various forms, not including radio plays.

Jimmy Stewart in Hitchcock's REAR WINDOW
We get a very concise and terse overview of his life from the description of the biography written by Francis M. Nevins, FIRST YOU DREAM, THEN YOU DIE:

Cornell Woolrich was called the Poe of the 20th century and the poet of its shadows. He lived a life of such deep despair and terror that he could do nothing with its experiences but put them between the covers of some of the century's finest novels of suspense.

Born the child of a broken marriage in 1903, Woolrich spent his childhood in revolutionary Mexico, coming to New York in his teens. While still a student at Columbia, he sold the first of several mainstream novels, which led critics to compare him with F. Scott Fitzgerald.

During the 1930s and '40s, when he was acclaimed as the preeminent author of American suspense fiction, Woolrich lived with his mother in an apartment-hotel near Harlem. After her death in 1957, Woolrich became a self-imposed prisoner in a series of lonely hotel rooms until his death in 1968. Few attended his funeral, and his million-dollar fortune was left to Columbia University to establish a scholarship fund.

Though he perceived himself as a failure, Woolrich's work was a critical and financial success. His novels, such as 'The Bride Wore black,' 'Phantom Lady' and 'Deadline at Dawn,' inspired the French roman noir and film noir. His novella 'Rear Window' became one of Alfred Hitchcock's most acclaimed films.
 Sounds like someone living out his own stories, which is quite sad but very fascinating.

Adapted as The Leopard Man 1943
Since he is fascinating and his writing so amazing, what I have for you today is a load of information from various sources to pull you further into his work. These links all contain some type of synopsis or overview for many of theWoolrich adaptations.


First up is the Woolrich page at  Here we find a comprehensive cache of Woolrich adapted to radio. Mainly in episodes of Suspense but also in other programs.  Webmeister Christine gives a good overview of each episode and when possible other background or behind the scenes info which is presented along with downloadable MP3s.

Jonathan Rosenbaum

Reviewer for The Chicago Reader, Jonathan has a richly illustrated essay on Woolrich film adaptations originally printed in Film Comment, Sept 1984.

Black Gate

Recently reprinted by Hard Case Crime
Black Gate online magazine has an article on the Weird Fiction bent of some Woolrich tales and focusing on the Frankensteinian tale "Jane Brown's Body".  Writer Ryan Harvey puts succinctly what I also feel about Woolrich's prose:
His specialty was the “emotional thriller,” harrowing trips into fear and paranoia with suspense set pieces that no author has equaled. Often called by admirers and critics “the literary Hitchcock” and “the twentieth-century Edgar Allan Poe,” Woolrich could wring more palpitating dread out of everyday life than any writer I’ve encountered. His style is defining of noir, the existential crime tale.
Noir of the Week

This blog does an in-depth review of a Film Noir every week. Writer Steve-O has submitted a review every week since 2005.  He has a selection of Woolrich to read about. Keep in mind these are not glib summaries, but well researched articles with plenty of background info on the films and writings.

This site has a ton of pics of book covers, movie posters and lists of currently available books and films. Also presented are scans and reprints of Woolrich articles from a plethora of sources such as TWILIGHT ZONE Magazine, Francis Nevins column from Mystery File, and scans of some of Woolrich's actual letters and notes.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Mysteries of London

Sometimes the most innocent turn in your travels lead down darker paths.  

This might sum up the Penny Dreadful The Mysteries of London and also my experience in finding such a story.

I had my curiosity piqued when following a link from a newspaper comic strip archive to John Adcock's Yesterday's Papers. The post displayed covers painted by Robert Prowse Jr for a Spring-Heeled Jack series. I found this to be very interesting. When looking into the print history of this well known boogieman I started reading up on some of the Victorian English Penny Dreadfuls which made Jack a household name.  

The history of Spring-Heeled Jack in print starts in the 1830s with accounts of  his accosting lone travelers. In the early publications readers had to wonder if he was man, beast or demon? Whatever he was, he wasn't a nice guy. But by the 1860s, in the Penny Dreadfuls this started to turn around and Jack was reinterpreted as a hero. 

Spring-Heeled Jack became possibly the very first prototype for Batman;  A rich young man loses his parents to a tragedy at sea. When trying to claim his ancestral home he finds the estate and even his family name stolen from him by his villainous cousin. When fleeing for his life after a murder attempt Jack decides to create a costume and his Springed Heel apparatus in order to start a new life as a vigilante. 

You can read this account here.

As someone so into hero and horror pulps I found a natural affinity for this style of writing.  It has lead to further reading. And in the case of The Mysteries of London, further listening. Though The Mysteries of London can be read online, right now my reading stand is full. 

This is exactly how The Pulp Reader first came into existence; too many books and too little time. I was going to make a digital TTS edition of Mysteries but first thought I'd see if anyone had already made an audiobook of it.  And yes, there is one... in progress

Cori Samuel is an etext / digital book maven. She has proofread and assembled a large amount of material for Project Gutenberg and has also gotten into the audiobook realm at Librivox.  I have to tell you honestly that I'm not always a fan of Librivox. While there is the rare reader who is a delight to listen to, some of which I've mentioned in the past,  mostly I find the quality to be painful.  Cori falls into the first category and is an excellent and riveting storyteller with great delivery and cadence. 

Here's the thing though, Cori has been stuck for a while and has possibly not felt inspired to get past whatever hurdles are preventing her from continuing the reading.  What about you head over to her page and give a listen to the first chapter, then if you like what you hear, drop her a line in the comments section and let her know you would love to see her finish this epic story. I know I would!

In the meantime, you can find a few other Penny Dreadful audiobooks at Librivox and Here is a quick list:
The String of Pearls (the first appearance of Sweeny Todd)
The Old Man in the Corner (Sherlock Holmes-ish)
G. K. Chesterton's Defense of Penny Dreadfuls

Thursday, March 17, 2011

McLevy Season 7

The Ides of March also bring new episodes of McLevy.
Who's McLevy?  Head to the Pulp Reader subsite to learn all about him!

Unfortunately I was caught off guard and we are already mid-way through the four episode season.  But as of right now you can listen to the current episode Prince of Darkness on the BBC Radio 4 iplayer!

Friday, February 25, 2011

100 Years of FANTOMAS Event

A three day celebration of 100 years of Fantomas is coming to San Francisco in April. But before getting to this big event, I'd like to point you to Tim Lucas at Video WatchBlog who has reprinted his essay from HORROR: ANOTHER 100 BEST BOOKS at his site. It gives a great recounting of the history of Fantomas. Tim starts by saying:

One hundred years ago today, the criminal genius known as Fantômas was first released into the world in the form of a fat paperback novel printed on uncut pulp paper. Written by Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain, it sent shock waves throughout popular culture which resonated in literature (with numerous knock-offs), silent films (the Feuillade serial adaptations, but also notably F.W. Murnau's FAUST, which quoted Gino Starace's striking cover painting), and which still resonate today. One of these still-rumbling shock waves we now know as the Anti-Hero.

City Lights Bookstore, Mechanics' Institute Library, and an Undisclosed Secret Location
City Lights Booksellers & Publishers in conjunction with the Cultural Services of the Consulate General of France & the Mechanics' Institute Library present:

A Centenary Celebration of the Literary Creation of Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain.
WHO IS FANTOMAS?? Arch-villain? Mad genius? Master of disguises? Agent of chaos? 

In 1911 the pulp fiction writers Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain introduced a fictional character to the French reading public that was to capture their imagination and keep them yearning for more. The ultimate anti-hero, as enigmatic as he was treacherous, Fantomas executed the most appalling crimes with ruthlessness and precision. He spread terror and chaos amidst the lives of a bourgeois society that he took pleasure in ridiculing. Souvestre and Allain were in tune with the pulse of the public's fascination with shadow-side of modernity. Fantomas was to become one of the most popular serials in the history of French crime fiction anticipating the future arrival of Fritz Lang's Dr. Mabuse and the master villains of Ian Fleming's James Bond novels. On the occasion of the one hundred year anniversary of the creation of the FANTOMAS series, City Lights Booksellers and Publishers joins centenary celebrations in Paris to commemorate this extraordinary literary event.

FANTOMAS BY-THE-BAY shall feature: readings, lectures, film screenings, art exhibitions, and performance art, featuring Robin Walz, Dominique Kalifa, Daniel Handler, Mel Gordon, Marc Ellis, Howard Rodman, Jonathan P. Eburne, Janaki Ranpura, Jill Tracy, and more.
Date & Time: Wednesday, April 6, 2011, 7:00 P.M.
Location: City Lights Booksellers & Publishers, 261 Columbus Avenue, S.F., CA 94133 (admission free)
Reception and Absinthe tasting followed by an evening of readings, diatribes, and manifestos – accompanied by a display of FANTOMAS book covers & artwork
Opening Statements by Peter Maravelis & Robin Walz
Readings and performances by Jonathan P. Eburne, Marc Ellis, Andrew Joron, Daniel Handler in a musical duet with chantuese Jill Tracy, Dominique Kalifa, Brian LucasJoseph Noble, Howard Rodman, and Robin Walz, and more tba.
An exploration of the origins of Pulp Surrealism
Date & Time: Thursday, April 7, 2011, 6:00 P.M.
Location: Mechanics' Institute Library, 57 Post Street, San Francisco, CA 94104 (admission charge $12.00, members free)
Join four erudite cultural explorers as they delve into the history and lore of one of the most notorious literary creations ever. Fantomas was the ultimate anti-hero who was adopted by the surrealists as a cultural mascot. On the occasion of the centenary celebration of Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain's pulp serial, the roots of pulp literary history will be exhumed in evening of lively discussion.
-Opening Statement: Peter Maravelis/ City Lights
-Session 1: The Genealogy of Fantômas - From Lacenaire to Ravachol via Rocambole (Robin Walz)
-Session 2: From the Hills of Montmartre to the Bay of San Francisco : One Century of Fantômas's Friends (Dominique Kalifa)
-Session 3: The Shudder of History (Jonathan P. Eburne)
-Session 4: The Origin of Fantomas: Why there isn't one (Howard Rodman)
A performance piece and soiree by Janaki Ranpura
with a special musical appearance by The Slow Poisoner
Location: Undisclosed & Secret (admission free)
Date & Time: Friday, April 8, 2011, 8:00 P.M.
Engage in crimes of love, where visiting crime scenes is the dating game. Interactive environments and puppets take you on a noir journey to the human heart, which is made of candy. The spector of Fantomas looms in the shadows.
(This event is by invitation only. Admission is free, but on a first come first serve basis. Invitations become available at the front counter of City Lights on 4/6/2011)
Location: Mechanics' Institiute Library, 57 Post Street, San Francisco, CA 94104 Date & Time: Saturday, April 9, 2011, 7:00 P.M. (admission $10.00, members free)
A screening of selected excerpts from the Fantômas films over the course of the last century. We shall visit the work of such directors as Louis Feuillade, Paul Fejos, Andre Hunebelle, Jean Sacha, and Robert Vernay. Also included in the program will be a special focus on the Fantômas inspired films (i.e. Judex, Les Vampires, and more.)
-Opening Statement: Peter Maravelis/City Lights
-Commentary by Howard Rodman & Robin Walz
-Special presentation by Mel Gordon (Fantomas in French Musical & Brothel Culture)
(Films for this evening were curated by David King and Peter Maravelis)