Friday, March 10, 2017

Friday's Forgotten Books, March 10, 2017

(from the archives: Bill Peschel)

The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril. By Paul Malmont
In the 1930s, the heyday of the pulp era, magazines like "Thrilling Detective," "Amazing Stories" and the like kicked ass, took names, and shaped the morals of millions of American readers. The writers who created the heroes like Doc Savage and The Shadow worked under impossible deadlines for pennies a word to give us tales of the fantastic, of Oriental criminal gangs, dens of vice and iniquity, weird villains, two-fisted heroes and dames to be ornamental and rescued. At its height, as a pre-Scientology L. Ron Hubbard reminds us in "The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril," 30,000,000 pulps were bought every month. It took the paper shortages of World War II to knock them down, and they were finished off by television in the ‘50s, but they left us a legacy of heroes that include Conan and Tarzan, cult favorite H.P. Lovecraft, and provided the seed that spawned science-fiction and fantasy.Return with me, now, to those thrilling days of yesteryear, with the help of Paul Malmont, who, according to his bio, works in advertising and lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two kids.I'm firmly convinced that, at night, he slips out of his brownstone in Park Slope and roams the wilds of Manhattan, battling the forces of evil with mad crimefighting skillz he learned in the mountain fastnesses of Bhutan.Either that, or he's a pulp fiction fan who did a wonderful job of researching the era, and clever enough to cast as his heroes the writers Walter Gibson, Lester Dent, Hubbard (known as "The Flash" because he was quick at the typewriter), with guest appearances by Lovecraft (oh, how I want to tell you how he appears. It's so appropriate!), E.E. "Doc" Smith and Orson Welles.As for the story, well, the title gives it away, and I'm not going to say more. If you're going to read this, it would just spoil the fun. But if you're still on the bubble, I'll say this:
Malmont writes about the pulp fiction world, but the story is told straight. Neat. No purple prose.
The plot makes sense. It's creepy and scary, but doesn't rely on the supernatural.
The writers may have created two-fisted heroes, but they aren't. That's part of the fun.
Malmont plays fair with Hubbard. I'm no fan of Scientology, but I was glad that Hubbard is presented just as you would expect him to be at the beginning of his career. He's ambitious, proud, something of a blowhard, but great sidekick material.
To say more would give away the fun, so let me just say that, if you have any affection for the pulp era, if you smile at the thought of a "GalaxyQuest"-type story set in New York of the Depression-era, or just want a rousing tale without the literary baggage, check out "The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril."UPDATE: Thanks to Kaja Foglio, the co-creator of the fabulous "Girl Genius" comic, I found out that Lester Dent's Zeppelin tales are being republished.

Sergio Angelini, THE DEMON OF DARTMOOR, Paul Halter
Joe Barone, NO SHRED OF EVIDENCE, Charles Todd
Elgin Bleecker, SIX DAYS OF THE CONDOR, James Grady
Brian Busby, WIVES AND LOVERS: Margaret Millar
Bill Crider, THE DEATH RIDE, Neil McNeil
Martin Edwards, A TWIST OF THE ROPE, John Bude
Richard Horton, SHE PAINTED HER FACE, DornfordYates
Nick Jones, "THE TERRORISTS", a story by Michael Gilbert
George Kelley, SISTERS OF TOMORROW, Yaszek and Sharp
Margot Kinberg, THE COLD LIGHT OF MOURNING, Elizabeth J. Duncan
Rob Kitchin, THE DETOUR, Andromeda Romano Sax
B.V. Lawson, TRENT'S OWN CASE, E.C. Bentley
Dave Lewis, ANGEL'S FLIGHT, Lou Cameron
Steve Lewis, THE SCORPION SIGNAL, Adam Hall
Todd Mason, A CASE OF RAPE, Chester Himes
Matt Paust, PLAINSONG, Kent Haruff
Reactions to Reading, WILDE LAKE, Laura Lippman
James Reasoner, OWL-HOOT HORDE, Clint Douglas
Richard Robinson, LET IT BLEED, Ian Rankin
Gerard Saylor, QUARRY'S CHOICE, Max Allan Collins
TomCat, THE SLIVERED CAGE, John Russell Fearn
TracyK, A LONELY PLACE TO DIE, Wessel Ebersohn


Todd Mason said...

Cool...thanks for return to assembly. Pulps still didn't spawn either fantasy nor sf, even if the term "science fiction" was popularized by Hugo Gernsback in his second set of magazines (he was calling it "scientifiction" when publishing AMAZING STORIES, whie WEIRD TALES called their sf stories "weird-scientific" stories, and H.G. Wells's stories were often referred to in the pre-pulp years as "scientific romances").

And paperbacks had more to do with mopping up pulps than tv would...and plenty of pulp fiction was lean and free of purple prose.

Love the assortment!

Graham Powell said...

The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril is an absolutely delightful book. Even if you know nothing about the writers you will still enjoy it, and if you are familiar with that era it's much better. There are several others who weren't mentioned above, such as the cowboy "Lou" and a tubercular former naval officer. And yes, Hubbard is a comic bumbling sidekick, but he manages some heroics in the end.

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

Thanks for the roundup Patti. I have the Maidment and am greatly looking forward to it, though I know some are quite critical of it too ...

Rich Horton said...

Thanks as ever for doing this.

The link to my post is slightly messed up (I think Jerry's name is appended).

Anonymous said...

The Chinatown Death Cloud sounds really intriguing. Thanks for sharing, and thanks for including my post in the links!

Kevin R. Tipple said...

Thank you again for doing this. I apologize for missing last week. I will be back this week--one way or another.

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