I know that at the moment the comics blogosphere is all about Iceman, but there were a couple of OTHER books that came out this week. One of them that was sent to me for review is very cool, but unlikely to be on most fans' radar... so I thought I would call your attention to it.
If you've read this column regularly -- or at all, really-- you'd know that I'm a big fan of Moonstone's prose anthology collections featuring new stories of classic pulp heroes.
I'm also usually in the tank for anything that features a crossover tale of those pulp heroes.
Well, Moonstone's got a new pulp-hero anthology out, and it's a crossover. I'd have been all over it even if Joe Gentile at Moonstone Books hadn't sent me one to review.
It's called Day of the Destroyers, and it's a theme anthology like the others-- but this one has a twist. Here's the blurb:
Based on a real historical event during the Roosevelt administration! Guest starring pulp heroes The Green Lama, The Phantom Detective, and The Black Bat! Day of the Destroyers is an all-original, linked-prose anthology; each story is part of a larger arc wherein Jimmie Flint, Secret Agent X-11 of the Intelligence Service Command, battles to prevent the seditionist Medusa Council from engineering a bloody coup overthrowing our democracy.
The contributors to this mosaic novel are practically a who's who of the whole New Pulp thing. Tommy Hancock, Adam Garcia, Ron Fortier, Gary Phillips, and an introduction by Bobby Nash. There's also stories from one-time Marvel writer Eric Fein and former LAPD detective and Fight Card co-creator Paul Bishop.
I read the book and loved it. My problem was that I've gotten to know some of these folks personally over the last few years and consider them friends; worse, I even have "new pulp" work of my own in to a couple of the editorial types among them. So to just do a good review seemed too much like logrolling, even though I've said nice things about their books before in this space.
So I decided to do what I've done in the past when this situation crops up-- I set up an interview instead. Several of the guys were kind enough to take the time to answer my questions-- Adam Garcia, Ron Fortier, Joe Gentile, Tommy Hancock, and the guiding light behind the whole project, Gary Phillips.
Here's what they had to say.
The book is practically a who's who of the "new pulp" movement. For readers who may not know what that is, can you each tell us a little about what you think 'new pulp' means and your work in that area?
JOE: Well, here at Moonstone we like to tell NEW stories of classic pulp characters, as well as upcoming projects with new “pulp-like” characters in the present day.
Plus… it's more than characters… it's about mood… roller-coaster action… desperation… odds-stacked-against-you kind of stuff.
GARY: To me “New Pulp” is an extension, or I guess branch is a better word, of my existing work. I’m a crime fiction-slash-mystery writer and as some know, back in the day it was pulps like Black Mask and Thrilling Detective where magazines that saw the first work of the likes of Dashiell Hammett and Cornell Woolrich. New Pulp for me, then, has been a way to use the established tropes of classic pulp characters such as the Avenger, or the Spider in Moonstone’s The Spider: Extreme Prejudice anthology, utilizing the elements of pulp storytelling – plot-driven, fast-paced, staccato dialogue- but also putting my stamp on them too.
RON: New Pulp is simply today's action/adventure writers producing new stories with he sensibilities of the classic pulp. Beside being a New Pulp writer myself, I am the Managing Editor of Airship 27 Productions, one of the first, pioneer, publishers of this new literary movement that pays homage with every title to the glorious pulps of old.
TOMMY: New Pulp is a continuation of the style created by multiple authors in the original pulp magazines. The style moved on into other media after the end of the pulp magazine era, including comics, television, and film, and of course into books. New Pulp is probably the most expressive style that a writer can apply to genre fiction, one that evokes passionate responses and paints wildly-colored images in the mind of the reader. As for me, I am a partner in and Editor in Chief of Pro Se Productions, a publisher of New Pulp and genre fiction. I am also a writer for various companies, a Pulp podcaster, and one of the organizers of a group of publishers and writers focused on solidifying the New Pulp Movement.
ADAM: I’ve heard New Pulp described kinda like pornography; you know it when you see it. A lot of other authors have essentially described it as action-packed, plot-oriented stories with larger-than-life characters that try to recapture that sense of adventure. Good is good, bad is bad. The heroes win. Basically, it’s Indiana Jones in prose form, stories that are made to recapture a sense of old school fun but with a modern spin.
I’m mostly known for my licensed GREEN LAMA stories where I tend to push the boundaries of the “New Pulp” definition, sprinkling in a lot of grey into the mix.
My heroes’ victories are often met with tragedy, and sometimes those victories come back to haunt them.
Tell us about the project itself, DAY OF THE DESTROYERS. What's the book about and where did it come from? How did a real-life incident end up getting transformed into this giant adventure?
RON: Obviously our editors are better geared to answer that question. What I will say is I'm a real history buff, another reason why writing pulp appeals to me. With this project, researching the post-World War One era and its politics really helped inspire my own story in the collection.
TOMMY: That's a question for Gary.
GARY: In November 1934, before the House of Representatives Special Committee on
Un-American Activities, retired and much-decorated Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler – who described himself as a Republican but who nonetheless supported the Bonus Marchers (WWI vets who marched on Washington for their rightly deserved benefits that had been denied them) -- testified that certain business interests had approached him to be part of the leadership of a plot to create a fascist veteran’s organization and use this as a stalking horse to overthrow the Roosevelt Administration. The New York Times denounced this supposed coup as a hoax, as hogwash.
But what if the Business Plot, as it came to be known, was for real? Wouldn’t that make for a grand adventure battling those forces?
JOE: I LOVE using real history in fiction! For me, it brings a certain resonance… a heavier meaning to what we are trying to entertain with. We get a chance, from a hindsight perspective, to kind of make a statement about history… perhaps shed a light on some not-so-common historical tidbits.
How it happened… I believe it was all Gary Phillips… and it was also his idea to do an homage to the classic Operator 5 “Purple Wars” saga, that was one big story that ran through many issues of the pulp mag.
Moonstone's done lots of themed anthologies, but this is definitely a change since it all makes one large story, it's more like a mosaic novel than an anthology. How did the division of labor get worked out as to who was going to do what? Can each of you talk about your particular story and the characters in it, and how you approached them?
JOE: Well… Gary was the one who talked it over with each writer, to kind of make sure the big characters and story beats were hit. He also tied up any loose ends of the umbrella story in his own tales in the volume.
My story has the Black Bat…and although I did read a bunch of Black Bat tales… I colored it with much darker tones than those tales. I definitely wanted to highlight some of the Black Bat’s abilities… but wanted to narrow focus on his sheer guts and determination to see something through. I wanted to REALLy stack as many obstacles as I could against him…and he was relentless in breaking them down. Plus, if I could push him to his physical limit… REALLY where he could barely move… how would he react? How deep do his convictions go?
As for the overall umbrella story, I wanted to show the Council “in action," kind of peeking under their hood, to show how ugly an ideal can transform. I wanted the Council to have a strong female involved. I wanted to share some quick anti-Roosevelt leanings, so the reader can more clearly “get” where the Council is coming from.
And as to our man Jimmie Flint …I wanted to show off his intel-gathering skills… and flesh out his sister’s character some.
GARY: Once I had the idea, Joe and I discussed it and it seemed the best way to proceed was for me as the editor to develop an overall plot, as well as write a mini-bible of who are the main characters and their relationship to one another. That it should feature an espionage figure in the vein of Secret Agent X, Lynn Vickers, Agent G-77 or Dan Fowler, G-Man. This kind of character seemed a natural fit as with other “types,” the super spy was first heralded in the pulps. And why not in some of the chapters team up Jimmie Flint, Agent X-11 and his gadgets (we had plans to use a licensed 1930s character but that fell through, yet we pressed on and I re-created the archetype as X-11) with a few of pulpdom’s stars and so we have the Black Bat, the Green Lama and the Phantom Detective in the mix… as well as the real life Devil Dog, Smedley Butler and war correspondent Martha Gellhorm who was married to Ernest Hemingway at one point.
The particulars were given to each writer, figuring to each could set their story in a different part of the country as Jimmie Flint takes the fight to the would-be overthrowers of FDR, the Medusa Council. To set the tone, I wrote the first two story/chapters and made that available of the writers as well. Everybody did a bang up job and I mostly edited their stories for flow and consistency details one to another as the book builds to its conclusion in Los Angeles – a city not often rendered in the old pulps save for detective yarns.
TOMMY: Gary handled the division of labor. As for my story, it definitely includes Jimmie Flint, as they all do. "Animals of War" has Jimmie following a mystery of murdered agents to the hills of Arkansas and to one of his old Army buddies, who is now Sheriff of his county. Nothing at all is as it seems to be and adding in a panther and a pack of wolves to boot, and Flint faces foes unlike any others he’s ever dealt with before.
RON: I learned about the Bonus Marches several years ago. World War One veterans had been promised a money bonus upon their return to civilian life. Washington initially did not keep that promise and after several years of frustrations, thousands of veterans marched on the capital, only to have the President turn the National Guard on them, labeling them communist agitators. It was a disgraceful moment in our country's history, how our own government treated our veterans.
In reading about this event, I realized it would not have been impossible for a former military hero to have appealed to these poorly-treated vets to band together in his coup attempt to overthrow a government they had every right to be angry with.
ADAM: My story takes Jimmie to New York where he faces off against the combined forces of the Medusa Council and a mad scientist known as the Crimson Hand. His efforts get a bit complicated when he encounters a young vigilante known as the Green Lama.
Due to the overall story’s time period I was able tell a tale set a few weeks before the Green Lama’s first published story, giving me the chance to show some heretofore unseen back-story for the character, as well as establish several plot points that pay off in the original Green Lama stories and will eventually play a major role in my upcoming novel, Crimson Circle.
What was the most fun about this story was having two very different heroes meet and not necessarily get along.
And finally... Do you all have any other projects out there that you want to let CBR readers know about?
TOMMY: That could probably be an article all its own. Pro Se has a whole ton of stuff coming that would interest readers of all sorts . I am working on stories for Moonstone as well as Pro Se and other publishers.
RON: My love of aviation history always finds its ways into my pulp work. In a few weeks Moonstone will be releasing my new paperback featuring new character, Nighthawk, the Flying Spy...it takes place in World War One. I hope my pulp pals enjoy it.
JOE: Oh lordy…always! We have our new novel series of THE AVENGER starting…and are getting ready to announce our NOIR INTIATIVE project with a lot of familiar comic creators…
ADAM: Moonstone recently released my novel GREEN LAMA: UNBOUND, along with two additionally GREEN LAMA novellas, HORROR IN CLAY and SCIONS. You can buy all three books for only $19.99 directly from Moonstone here. And for those modern minded reaqders, you can pick up UNBOUND in ebook form here. We’re also aiming to have my next Green Lama novel, CRIMSON CIRCLE, out in September!
I also have a series of shared-universe short stories coming out from Pro Se Productions under the unifying title “SMOKE WITHOUT FLAME.”
GARY: Check out Hollis, P.I., a collection out now of six new prose stories featuring my modern hardboiled private eye Nate Hollis who first began in a comics mini-series I did for DC/Vertigo (Angeltown).
There's also Astonishing Heroes which one reviewer stated,”It’s a book for anyone who remains nostalgic for the golden age of Toei films, blaxploitation movies, and lusty grindhouse cinema.” And an upcoming crime mini-series from Titan Comics.
So there you go. Thanks again to the guys fior taking the time, and I hope you all will give Day of the Destroyers a look-- it's a lot of fun. Amazon link here. Or you can ask your comics retailer to order it from Diamond.
See you next week.