There is no way for me to prove it, but I am comfortable saying it is the source that encouraged millions of kids to read, write, draw, and imagine and when they grew up, they kept at it. I have no doubt it gave to untold numbers hope and respite from lives that were brutal, impoverished, and lackluster. It could rightly be labeled the original material for reluctant readers and it came in a multitude of guises. Who is this ink-heavy paper super hero?
Pulp fiction. Don’t agree? Shame on you! Keep reading.
|Who wouldn't want to read what is behind covers like these?|
Technically, pulp fiction was fiction printed on cheap “pulp” paper. Two other factors contributed to what has come to be called “the pulps”. The steam powered printing press (steam = early electricity😋) was one and the other was publishing cheap, I mean unknown, authors. When these three factors were combined it provided inexpensive entertainment for the masses. Pulp is not a genre but included many. Some popular genres/themes associated with pulp are:
Science fiction Westerns War Detective/Mystery
Gangster Romance Fantasy Adventure
Aviation Sports Railroad Spicy
“The pulps” usually refers to magazines. The one which sort of started the ball rolling was Argosy Magazine, published by Jack Munsey beginning in 1896. By the 1930’s there were around 150 titles. Some of the titles will ring a bell for some: Amazing Stories, Black Mask, Dime Detective, Flying Aces, Love Story Magazine, Marvel Tales, Spicy Detective, Startling Stories, Unknown, Weird Tales and Western Story Magazine.
In the early days the term pulp fiction came to include paperback books, ‘dime novels’. Mass market paperbacks published from 1950 can also be referred to as pulp fiction but they are not pulps.
Because of the inexpensive nature of the pulps and some of the favorite themes, pulps were often looked down on by self-labeled sophisticates (aka highbrows). Boy did they miss out. The writers who penned early pulp is like a who’s who of awesome authors.
Mickey Spillane Mark Twain Robert Silverberg Poul Anderson
Isaac Asimov Zane Grey Jack London H. Rider Haggard
Agatha Christie Ray Bradbury Dashiell Hammett Edgar Rice Burroughs
Ellery Queen H. G. Wells Rudyard Kipling Stephen Crane
This tiny lists doesn’t scratch the surface. For a list of about a hundred pulp authors go here
Vic Challenger is billed as the Queen of New Pulp Action Adventure.
In spite of the negative connotation given the term “pulp” in early days, and by some yet today, I have no qualms whatsoever about being associated with pulp and the awesome authors represented. If I can light a candle beside their bonfires I will be a happy camper!
Mention must be given to house names since three of my obvious influences were written under house names. A house writer was an author who was an employee of a publisher and wrote under a pen name with no rights to what they wrote. Many series were written by several writers under the single pseudonym.
The Nancy Drew series was created by the Stratemeyer Syndicate and began in 1930 with The Secret of the Old Clock. Listed author was house name Carolyn Keene and many authors wrote under that pseudonym, but the original writer and the one considered primary Nancy Drew author was Mildred Wirt Benson. Next in order of involvement was probably Harriet Adams (Stratemeyer's daughter) who began to update the novels in 1959. Nancy was a normal girl who studied hard, took responsibility seriously, and loved learning. She enjoyed solving mysteries and never hesitated to help someone.
Kenneth Robeson was a pseudonym used for two awesome heroes - Doc Savage and The Avenger. Of 181 Doc Savage novels all but 20 were written by Lester Dent. All 24 Avenger novels were written by Paul Ernst. Neither of these heroes had super powers. They were extraordinary because they exercised, studied and trained. You and I can aspire to what they did - if we are ready to do a LOT of the aforementioned exercise, study and training.
Know something about pulp? Let me leave you with a quiz. Match column a with column b. Answers below. Use each number with only one letter.
1 Edgar Rice Burroughs A Charlie Chan
2 Robert E Howard B Nellie Gray
3 H. Rider Haggard C The Domino Lady
4 Earl Stanley Gardner D Conan
5 Earl derr Biggers E Dune
6 The Avenger F Cthulhu
7 Jane Porter G Alan Quatermain
8 Wilma Deering H Land of Hidden Men
9 H. P. Lovecraft I The Curse of Capistrano
10 Frank Herbert J Buck Rogers
11 Ellen Patrick K Tarzan
12 Don Diego de la Vega L Perry Mason
Good news. Pulp is alive and well, though more difficult to find than it once was. Here are a few pulp sites you will enjoy.
Answers to Quiz
1 Edgar Rice Burroughs author of H Land of Hidden Men
2 Robert E Howard author of D Conan
3 H. Rider Haggard creator of character G Alan Quatermain
4 Earl Stanley Gardner author of L Perry Mason novels
5 Earl derr Biggers author of A Charlie Chan novels
6 The Avenger one of his assistants is B Nellie Gray
7 Jane Porter wife of K Tarzan
8 Wilma Deering female protagonist in J Buck Rogers
9 H. P. Lovecraft creator of F Cthulhu
10 Frank Herbert author of E Dune
11 Ellen Patrick name of the avenging C The Domino Lady
12 Don Diego de la Vega aka Zorro I The Curse of Capistrano
I hope you enjoyed this fast excursion to yesteryear. Were you a pulp fan? What was your favorite?
If your appetite for pulp was awakened, try some Vic Challenger. http://www.vicplanet.com
Thanks for reading.
|Book 2 in the Vic Challenger series|