Pulp Echoes (Pulp Thriller)
By Tom Johnson
This short story collection consists of seven stories of varying lengths. Each pits a heroic figure against some evil mastermind out to do some dastardly deed. In the first entry, we have a story between novelette and short novel featuring the costumed crime fighter known as The Black Ghost. In this fast-paced yarn, “Carnival of Death”, a British intelligence operative is following a large drug shipment from India to somewhere in the States. The city is never named, but probably on the East Coast. Wounded, the operative seeks out The Black Ghost for help, and the city’s paladin learns that an old nemesis is protecting the drug shipment, and she’s determined to destroy The Black Ghost. This is a sequel to “The Spider’s Web”, published in 2010.
The second story, novelette in length, features an interesting heroine this time in her debut adventure, “A Cat Among Dogs”, and is set in the 1930s. Crime lords are extending their dirty hands across the city, and innocent people are victimized. Donning a strange costume with a Robin Hood hat, she raids the dens of iniquity, taking money from the pockets of the mob bosses. War is declared against her, and the mob and police alike are after the woman behind the mask of The Black Cat.
“Blind As A Bat” is an interesting short story about a character from the 1930s that was the forerunner of Bat Man. Framed by crooks on a murder charge, a famous detective is sent to death row. But honest men conspire to fake his execution, and in doing so The Bat was given life. In this story an insidious Chinaman is kidnapping young white women for white slavery. The Bat is quick to respond.
The fourth story, “Till Death Do Us Part”, is another character from the 1930s. Tough man, Nibs Holloway is assigned to safeguard the arrival of a famous necklace worth a fortune, but when he meets the ship he finds the carrier dead, and the jewels missing. Plus, it seems a notorious master crook called Doctor Death, is also after the necklace. People die during the hunt for the missing jewels, and Nibs Holloway plans for the evil doctor to meet his demise.
The next story is a debut adventure also, though it takes place in the mid 1940s. “Terror In The North Country” features Captain Anthony Adventure and his team of world adventurers. A Canadian girl seeks help from the Adventurers in finding her missing father in the wilds of Canada. After telling the girl to contact the authorities, they quickly change their mind when she tells them her father was kidnapped by a Sasquatch. It doesn’t take the team long to unravel this mystery!
“The Crimson Clown – Killer” features another gentleman thief from the 1930s who robs from dastardly crooks. The money goes to charities, except for a small operating fee that he pockets. However, this time the Crimson Clown is accused of murder, and must escape the law and find the real killers. It might take a real magician to pull the rabbit out of this hat!
The last story is an interesting tale of Old California. In late 1700s, with Spain ruling Mexico, Spanish soldiers kill a young girl’s husband and family, and take her land. A master with sword and bullwhip, she dons a mask and leads Mexican bandits against the Spaniards, taking their gold amidst a lot of swordplay. She is called Senora Scorpion by the Spaniards, and her sting is with whip or sword. Though the bandits she leads wishes only gold, her dream is to drive Spain out of California. This has similarities to Zorro.
I am selective in the books I review, and normally don’t read multiple author anthologies or short story collections. Seldom do you find either that will hold up, due to the variety of material, and different author contribution to the content. As an independent book reviewer, I have the option of selecting what I read, not what is pressed upon me. Being familiar with this author’s past work, I was willing to take a chance on PULP ECHOES, and I’m glad I did. The stories do hold up in this short story collection, and the author keeps the reader entertained throughout.
Originally titled ECHOES FROM THE PULPS, the author takes the reader back to the 1930s and ‘40s, when fantastic characters dominated the print media called “pulp magazines.” Added to the book is information on the history of pulps, and its current status among followers, with listings of research books and new stories of old characters. This is an intelligent overview of a little known print media that has influenced other medias over the years, and appears to be evolving into the electronic age today.
Entertaining And Highly Recommended.
Reviewer (SF, Etc.)