I live in Canada. Canada, for those of you who do not know, is divided into provinces. British Columbia is the Westernmost province and today is our day!
The first Monday of August is known as British Columbia Day, BC Day or B.C. Day, in the province of British Columbia. It is a statutory holiday and gives Canadians in the province the chance to celebrate their achievements or relax with friends and family members.
I achieved little today. I mowed the lawn. I helped water the flowers. I spent the day relaxing with my wife until it came time for her to go to work.
Because of his association with Monty Python most people don’t take Neil Innes seriously. That’s a mistake because Innes was one of the most talented, brilliant and innovative songwriters.
Most people only know him from Monty Python and the Holy Grail where he played the leader of Sir Robin’s minstrels, but Innes had a long career as a songwriter, a performer and lead singer of The Bonzo Dog (Doo-dah) Band.
His music found expression mostly in British comedy shows but his lyrics were always clever plays on words. On the surface they would induce a giggle but if you really thought about them you would marvel at their brilliance.
And his tunes were catchy, like the lyrics to Cezanne Says Anne which reveals a comfortable familiarity with Post-Impressionist painters and keen insights into human nature. Innes never clubbed listeners over the head with his messages, so you could be forgiven for thinking they were just simple wordplay. Really listen, though, and the the man’s depth is surprising.
Sadly, Innes died of a heart attack in December of last year at his home in Toulouse.
It’s the first of August and it’s a Saturday so I spent most of the day running errands, some of which involved driving my daughter around with a cake that she had made for a friend’s birthday. Everyone and every cake arrived at their destination safely.
Plus it was stinking hot today and I’m feeling a bit damp.
So it’s only now that I’ve had a chance to change my calendars over. I have two in my office, one to the left of me, a Boris and Julie calendar and one to the right, a Frank Frazetta calendar.
To the left I have dragons being fed by a young woman and to the right I have a couple of cannibals doing what cannibals do.
So there’s a kerfuffle going on right now. (I know. what else is new?) But this one has to do with the sword and sorcery anthology FLASHING SWORDS. You can get all the details about the controversy here, but here’s my two cents about the whole thing.
When a writer sells a story to an anthology you usually don’t give much thought to what the editor of the anthology is going to say in the introduction. Nor should you. The whole point of an anthology is to present stories to the readers. If the stories are to support a certain social or political view, then that should be evident in the submission guidelines for the anthology. That gives the writers the choice to support that viewpoint or not.
If an editor is approaching writers directly and not pointing out his or her hope that your story supports a certain social and/or political agenda then an author has a right to be upset that his/her story is included in what amounts to a political screed with supporting arguments.
I’m not sure what happened with Flashing Swords 6. I’m really not sure that editor (and Lin Carter’s literary executor) Robert. M. Price really planned to have the anthology support his particular anti-feminist bent, but using the introduction as a forum for such incendiary remarks is either unaccountably tone-deaf or deliberate asshattery.
So I feel for the authors who are appalled that their hard work is now being packaged alongside a virulently anti-feminist, men’s rights-type screed and I do not blame them for trying to get their stories pulled from the collection.
For an author to actually have to take the step of getting their story UN-published… well… you know things are pretty bad.
I’m sure that this isn’t the first time an anthology editor has made statements in an introduction that the authors might find egregious. That is the kind of things that literary disputes and feuds are made on, and those kinds of contretemps are myriad.
This has, obviously, gone a step too far, particularly for author Cliff Biggers whose story “Godkiller” was included in the anthology. He has even offered to reimburse any readers who cannot cancel their order with Amazon.
Lin Carter’s Flashing Swords anthologies are the gold standard when it comes to sword and sorcery collections. It is most unfortunate that its triumphant return to bookstores has been so badly marred by this controversy. The anthology’s publisher, Bob McClain has chosen to delist the book and made it unavailable for purchase, due to Robert M. Price’s introduction
However, there are alternatives. Rage Machine Books has a collection of sword and sorcery tales called Swords of Fire. This is not an unbiased recommendation as the collection includes my own Ka Sirtago and Poet tale “Pieces in a Game”, as well as stories by C. J. Burch, David A. Hardy and G. W. Thomas.
I may have a problem. Everyone knows I love old pulp magazines, especially the cover art, but I REALLY love the old spicy pulps!
What were the spicy pulps? While most pulp magazines could be read by younger readers despite the lurid cover art and the promise of salacious titillation within, most of the general pulps were pretty harmless in that regard.
But not the Spicy Pulps. Those delivered stories of two fisted heroes faced with deadly decisions and surrounded by beautiful, scantily clad women hanging in the balance for the victor. Although tame by today’s standards, this sub genre of the pulp era was considered to be most risque. Pulp magazines like Spicy Detective, Spicy Mystery and Spicy Adventure provided some of the most eye-catching covers, many of which contributed to the pulps’ bad reputation in many circles
Though the contents of the magazines may be tame by today’s standards the covers were lurid, risque and, above all tasteless! These were the NSFW images from back in the day. And a perusal of any selection of these spicy covers are bound to turn up something to offend from the casual racism of the soft, alabaster skinned heroine being menaced by various POC’s to depictions of violence that verge on the worst kind of torture porn.
Well, there’s your trigger warning, folks. What follows is a slightly curated selection of some of the best (and by that I mean, some of the worst) of the spicy pulp covers. Avert your eyes, you faint of heart! For these images are only for those with the strongest of constitutions!
It was a goal that I set for myself and it was almost completely arbitrary.
I told myself I wasn’t going to start working on another WILD INCORPORATED book until the first one passed a certain economic milestone. I told myself I wasn’t going to write one more damned word until the first book turned this particular corner.
Well, today it happened. This little book earned itself enough revenue that I felt it was worth putting the work into the sequel, THE DEADLY MISTER PUNCH.
So to all you magnificent bastards who laid down your hard earned cash on a copy of this book, be it e-book or paperback, you have helped to earn a sequel. I owe you a debt of gratitude. That includes anyone who is reading this post on this day who knows they have bought a copy of THE SHATTERED MEN.
Now, if you buy a copy after this date I am no less grateful to you and I can happily assure you that there will be a second book and, quite probably, a third and a fourth and a fifth and maybe even a sixth novel in the series.
But that’s on all you wonderful readers who have purchased a copy on or before the date of this post. So pat yourselves on the back. And those of you who come afterwards, you all owe these guys, ladies, trans, non-binary, what have you people a drink!
I recently read a review of my novel WILD INCORPORATED: THE SHATTERED MEN at the Doc Savage Clubgroup page on Facebook. (It’s a private group, so you’ll have to join up if you want to see anything.) The review was by a member named Henry Lopez and the review was very thorough, though somewhat less than positive.
Lopez is a fan of the hero pulps, Doc Savage, The Shadow, The Spider, etc. And he was very excited to read THE SHATTERED MEN. However…
“Perhaps I set my hopes too high. I really wanted to like this book, but unfortunately, it fell short.“
The review is almost 1300 words and Lopez covers the plot points and does an overview of all the main characters, which is nice. Unfortunately he was expecting the book’s main character, Harry Calhoun to fade into the background so that the heroes can take over. He was disappointed that Harry remains the main main character throughout the book.
Now, to be fair, he’s not wrong. In an actual hero pulp a character like Harry Calhoun would do just that. You read a hero pulp for the heroes, not for some schlep who gets caught up in the adventure.
Thing is, I based Harry Calhoun on Harry Vincent, the point of view character from the first Shadow novel THE LIVING SHADOW. In that first Shadow adventure The Shadow himself remains an extremely nebulous character. We only get to know who he is through the reactions of other characters when they encounter them. I wanted kind of the same thing for THE SHATTERED MEN. The viewpoint characters are Harry, Phil Parksville and Chelsea Cobbler. It’s only through their eyes that we see the larger than life characters.
It was an oblique approach to the traditional hero pulp, to be sure, but not one without precedent. The Shadow takes centre stage in later books, but in that first one it’s all Harry Vincent.
Obviously that didn’t work for the reviewer, which is fine. It’s not an approach that most would take when creating a pastiche of a traditional hero pulp.
And, honestly, Lopez is kind of correct when he wants to re-title the book “The Shattered Men: A Harry Calhoun adventure, with Wild Incorporated”. That’s a valid criticism. I do spend too much time with Harry, but that’s because, honestly, I love Harry Calhoun. I can hear his voice in my head. When I tell him to go right he goes left. He argues with me. He makes these smartass comments when he should shut up. He makes all kinds of bad decisions but he makes up for it in the end.
Which is why (SPOILER) he joins Wild Incorporated at the end of the book(/SPOILER).
He’s not the traditional hero. He is a smart-ass young Punjabi man from the streets of Toronto. He’s not anyone’s idea of a pulp hero. And I guess somewhere along the way I decided that it was more important to find the ways that someone like Harry could make it into a group of heroes like Wild Incorporated.
I introduce all the members of Wild Incorporated. We see them mainly through Harry’s eyes. As the adventures continue (and they will) readers will learn more about Morrigan Wild and the others. I’m not going to show my hand right away. I’ll play the cards as they need to be played and maybe I’ll even win the game. Either way, readers will eventually learn more about Wild, Bulldog, Fergus, Genesis, Eagle and Chaplin.
Each has their own special area of expertise and that will come to light in subsequent adventures, particularly for Bulldog. The next adventure is called THE DEADLY MISTER PUNCH and a lot of it takes place in London, which is Bulldog’s home town. In that adventure we will discover much more about Bulldog’s expertise, the reasons why he is part of the crew and we will even get a glimpse into his personal life.
Now, Lopez’s review isn’t all bad. At one point he says: “…the author knows how to keep the story going. I can honestly say that I was never bored, the action was well written, and it did compel me to turn the page to see what happened next. The author does attempt to end most chapters with a cliffhanger. For a pulp novel, you really can’t ask for better pacing. In this respect, the novel shines.“
So… I’m quite chuffed about that. Thank you!
He also points out some technical flaws with the Kindle e-book that he purchased. Editing issues which are my fault and mine alone. Mea Culpa, Henry. What can I say? I’ll do a better job next time.
I can’t argue with the the review, mixed though it is. Nevertheless, as Oscar Wilde says “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” So, thank you, Henry Lopez, for talking about my book. I hope you’ll like the next one better and that you will want to stick around for the rest, because there will be more.
The only issue I have with Lopez’s review is one point. He characterizes THE SHATTERED MEN as a 50k word book. I’ll have you know that the final word count is 51,366. Maybe I’m splitting hairs, but I worked hard at those 1,366 words and I will have them acknowledged!
If you have a review of WILD INCORPORATED: THE SHATTERED MEN or if you know of one, good bad or indifferent, let me know!
You can leave a full review or just a link to one in the comments. I’d appreciate that greatly!
Once he hit the street, Harry stopped running, forcing himself to adopt an easy walk. He slowly headed back the way he and Sarah had come originally. He gritted his teeth as he walked, trying to look nonchalant. It wasn’t easy. After what he’d just seen Harry wanted nothing more than to run away screaming.
The scarred man with the knife had seen him, He’d looked right at him. He’d seen Harry’s face and knew that he had witnessed what had gone down in the alley. Harry’s heart was pounding and his head felt hot. He was witness to a crime and in his experience a witness was not a safe thing to be.
But what exactly had he witnessed?
He shook his head and pushed away the vision of the big gunman turning into so much black powder. He also had to forcibly push the image of Sarah staring up into the sky with sightless eyes, He had to calm himself. He had to think about the situation at hand.
First things first, he thought. Have to try to look casual and blend in. That shouldn’t be too difficult. A young, brown-skinned, okay-looking East Indian man would not look out of place wandering the streets of the Big Apple.
The only problem was his tee shirt
It was bright blue with a lemon yellow logo on the breast. The logo was designed specifically for the Ontario New Hope Evangelical Church’s Mission to the Homeless and it showed a dove with a twig in its mouth winging its way over a cross with the sun rising behind. Harry’s jeans and sneakers were nondescript enough but the godawful ugly tee-shirt was as distinctive as a neon sign and it had to go.
Harry had cash. It wasn’t his.
It had been collected from the good parishioners of the New Hope Church for the express purpose of helping the homeless on the streets of New York. Sarah had it in a leather belt pack. Before he’d scampered out of the alley he’d unzipped the pack and pulled out the cash, trying not to look at the pool of blood that had been growing from underneath the back of her head onto the alley’s dirty concrete. He stuffed the cash into his front pocket and ran.
He had felt a twinge of guilt at that. Not about taking the money (he’d already justified that with the fact that he was now one of New York’s homeless and needed help getting off the streets) but about leaving Sarah’s body in the alley. He tried not to think how long it would take for her to be discovered or how many rodents would be gnawing on her remains by nightfall.
Harry spied a store with an open front that sold candy bars, gum and scarves. He saw a rack with tee shirts. Bingo.
Harry stepped up to the rack and grabbed a black tee-shirt with a Megadeth logo printed on the front. It would do.
As he made his way towards the cash register his foot kicked something on the floor. It was a black leather wallet with a logo he didn’t recognize – a stylized red ‘W’ – on the floor below a wire mesh tray filled with faux leather wallets.
He’d need a wallet for the cash. He picked it up off the floor, then grabbed a pack of Beeman’s gum before cashing out.
The man behind the cash register was an older Asian man. The man scanned the tee shirt and the gum but couldn’t find a price tag on the wallet. “Five bucks,” he shrugged.
Harry handed over the cash and walked out. He ducked into an alley, exchanged the New Hope Church for Megadeath, stuffed the cash into the wallet and popped a stick of gum into his mouth. He stuffed the old tee shirt into a garbage can on the street and kept moving.
As he walked Harry heard sirens wailing in the distance. Some sort of emergency was still going on north of where he was. He could see the occasional fire truck making its way up distant streets. He decided to head South.
He needed to find a bus depot. He had enough cash to buy a Greyhound ticket back to Toronto. The only problem would be what story to tell about what happened and why.
Harry had joined the church mission as part of his community service. The community service was a condition of his parole. The Church group had gone to a lot of trouble to include him in the mission, filling out forms and consulting with his parole officer. Harry was determined to stay out of trouble.
Being witness to a murder wasn’t staying out of trouble. Particularly when one of the murderers knew what you looked like.
Hauling his ass back home was clearly the right thing to do from a survival standpoint, but he’d have to be careful how he sold it to his parole officer.
His parole officer was a plain looking woman with a bleeding heart. Harry had learned quickly that she was a sucker for the right kind of sob story. He could sell his flight back to Toronto as blind panic. It wouldn’t be too far from the truth.
The only problem was the money he’d stolen from Sarah’s corpse – the money he’d stolen from the church. That was a bit of a problem. He could hear her asking the question: “If you were that scared then why did you stop long enough to take the money?”
Harry’s stomach rumbled. He needed a quiet place to think.
The hero Pulp was a product of the 1930s and the Great Depression. In a time when all seemed doom and gloom, it was exciting and inspiring to read about heroes who always beat the odds. With names like The Shadow, Doc Savage, The Avenger, The Spider, Operator #5, Captain Future and The Phantom Detective, you knew these weren’t your run-of-the-mill do-gooders.
The character-lead series is far older than 1930. The dime novels of America featured heroes like Buffalo Bill, Kit Carson, Frank Reade Jr. and Nick Carter. It was this last one that transitioned into a Mystery pulp called Detective Story Magazine. Pulp publishers were always looking for that quick name recognition that had sold dime novels by the thousands.
Probably the most successful of all the hero Pulps was The Shadow. He began as a mysterious voice (provided by Orson Welles) on a radio show. Slowly over time, he developed into an actual character and finally into a Pulp magazine lead in Lamont Cranston. Street & Smith was the company that got the property and hired magician Walter B. Gibson to write those hundreds of novels, sold every two weeks.
Later S&S tried to duplicate the formula with Doc Savage, written by Missourian telegraph operator and inventor, Lester Dent. The publishers found Doc sold differently, well over the month, not in crackling hot two weeks spurts. Still, Dent and his host of ghost writers, put out 181 of the short novels. Later, in the paperback era, Doc Savage would be the top dog when it came to reprint sales. Other heroes tried to duplicate Doc’s paperback appeal but failed.