HIDDEN SIXTIES SUMMER SPECIAL
WINDY CITY PULP AND PAPERBACK CONVENTION
I hope to see a few like-minded fans of good old escapist literature in Chicago at the Windy City Pulp and Paperback Convention, which runs from April 25th through the 27th. It’s a terrific convention full of, well, people who read, and tons of great reading material for sale, along with art (both for sale and on exhibit) and a film room run by Blood and Thunder publisher Ed Hulse who stocks it with pulp-related movies, many of them wonderfully obscure. (A year or two ago, for instance, I took in PRC’s Lady in the Death House there; an hour and change well-spent.)
On Saturday, Windy City’s head mukluk, Doug Ellis, has me moderating a panel on the legendary Black Mask pulp that features pulp scholars and writers like Robert Weinberg, Digges LaTouche, and the aforementioned Ed Hulse. Like Minnie Pearl used to say, I’m just proud to be there.
Plus, I’ll have a few copies of Hard Boiled Christmas Stories, now headed for a third printing, that I’ll be happy to part with for the cover price of 15 frogskins, in the autographed or rare un-autographed versions. Get ‘em while they last.
JOEY JUMPS IN
Now that the holidays are in the rear-view mirror, I want to publicly thank everyone who made the Hard-Boiled Christmas Stories signing at Dwelling Spaces in Tulsa such a great evening for John McMahan and me. Big thanks to my pal Mary Beth Babcock and her crackerjack Dwelling Spaces staff, and ditto to Jeff Martin of Book Smart Tulsa, who not only composed and read his own crowd-pleasing tough-guy version of “The Night Before Christmas,” but also served up shots of Old Crow to the delighted crowd, obviously made up of people after our own hearts. We sold dozens of books, talked at length with friends and writers (not to mention friendly writers and writerly friends), did a little bit of low-key lecturing on the hard-boiled genre, and just generally had a swell time. We are grateful.
HARD-BOILED CHRISTMAS STORIES!
To those looking for a holiday gift that’s a little off the obvious trails, may I humbly suggest our first offering from Reverse Karma Press, Hard-Boiled Christmas Stories.
Folks, this 10-story collection delivers the goods — gats, gals, and even a little gore, 1930s and ’40s style. My RKP partner, John McMahan, and I — with a little help from our pulp-fiction-loving friends — picked out the best holiday-themed tough-guy stories of the hard-boiled era, and then capped the collection off with a brand-new one of our own, “Santa’s Slay Ride,” the first new Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective tale in some 60 years.
Whether the person on your Christmas list is a fan of classic pulp literature, a lover of tough-guy movies, or just someone who likes good, swift, exciting reading, Hard-Boiled Christmas Stories will satisfy.
Check out these excerpts from two of our selections:
“Listen,” I said amiably. “I don’t know if anyone every called your attention to it, but Christmas is a period of good will and congeniality. Whole families gather for reunions. Enemies forget their hates and buy presents for each other. The world dedicates itself to joyfulness and cheer. It’s a period of happiness, of gladness and unselfishness.”
Allhoff swung around in his swivel chair. He stared at me over the rim of his coffee cup. There was an unholy expression in his yellow pupils.
“You’ve left out something,” he said. “It’s also a period when the storekeepers make a fortune by shilling the yokels into buying presents they can’t afford. When a million morons get drunk and go home to beat their wives. Christmas is a merry period during which the Nazis will undoubtedly blow thousands of British into little pieces, and give the concentration-camp boys an extra ration of arsenic for breakfast. When a couple of million people are on relief and fifteen percent of the kids in Georgia have rickets.
“Christmas!” He concluded with a grating laugh. “I’m glad you told me about it.”
— from “A Corpse for Christmas” by D.L. Champion
They shot round the corner from Ninth, slid to a stop before a row of drab, graystone-front houses, each identical with its neighbor. The Marquis was out of the car before it stopped, was halfway up the steps of the wrong house before he realized his error and ran down and up again to the doorway whose dingy numerals were on the slip in his hand. A toothless old hag, bald down the center of her head, was inside the dim-lit hallway, hanging a holly wreath in the grimy glass panel of the doorway.
She rasped: “Merry Ch – oh pshaw, a copper! Nuts.”
– from “Nothing for Christmas” by John Lawrence
And how about this one (he says modestly), from the new Dan Turner story I wrote in the style of the great old-time pulpster Robert Leslie Bellem:
Santa had me in his sights, his roscoe poised to perforate my giblets.
Technically, that’s not quite correct. I was the party about to be drilled to ell-hay, all right. Not by his gat, though.
They say when you’re about to be croaked, your whole life zips before your eyes like a triple-feature’s worth of flying tintypes. But the scenes pinwheeling through my noggin as I waited for the ka-chee that would mark my exit from this mortal coil didn’t start at the beginning. Instead, my cranial cinema was flashing events from just a few hours ago, when I’d started on the path that ended me up here, ferninst a killer in a red suit and long white beard, whose ho-ho stood for ho-ho-homicide . . .
– from “Santa’s Slay Ride”
Other authors include such shining stars of the tough-guy genre as John K. Butler, William G. Bogart, Steve Fisher (of I Wake up Screaming fame) and even Johnston McCulley, creator of Zorro! And to cap it off, there’s a brand-new cover and a couple of interior illustrations by David Saunders, the top-drawer artist and pulp aficionado who comes by his talent naturally – he’s the son of Norman Saunders, one of the best-known cover artists of the pulp-mag era.
At this writing, the Reverse Karma Press website is very close to being up and running. Until then, you can order Hard-Boiled Christmas Stories from John McMahan at email@example.com or from me at this address. The cost is $14.95, plus $2.66 for Media Mail in the United States and by arrangement overseas ($4.90 to Canada, $10 to the United Kingdom and most of Europe). Payment can be made by PayPal. Let us know if you want the book signed and/or personalized; you bet we’re happy to do it.
Two New Forgotten Horrors Books!
Yes, it’s been a long time since I “blogged,” as the “kids” say. But those who follow my radio show, Swing on This, know that I’ve been keeping up with the weekly playlists, so, despite appearances, this site is not abandoned.
What’s brought me back to write some new material? Well, evidence to the contrary, it’s not the eye-rolling that my webmaster son, Jonathan, does whenever I start talking about the website, giving everyone in the room the expression you’d give if your nutty old aunt started talking about picking up those radio broadcasts in her molars again.
No, the occasion is three new books, one of which I co-wrote, one of which I contributed to, and one I had nothing to do with, except for reading and enjoying it and promising its author I’d pass the word.
The writer is my good friend Will Murray. The book is his new Doc Savage novel, Skull Island. In it, a barely out-of-his-teens Doc joins his father and grandpa, Stormalong Savage, in a great adventure with King Kong on Kong’s own turf. It’s a much younger and far more violent Doc than we pulp fans are used to seeing. Time and again, first with the Bantam mass-market paperback series and now with the trade paperbacks for Altus Press, Will has shown himself to be a worthy successor to Lester Dent and the other Golden Age pulpsters who chronicled Doc’s life and times under the collective house name of Kenneth Robeson. Writing in the swift and artful style of those grand old fictioneers, Will has crafted a terrific and unusual tale. “Unsettling” isn’t a term you’d normally associate with Doc’s adventures, but you could sure use it here.
And then, thanks to the indefatigable Michael H. Price, there are now two more books in his acclaimed Forgotten Horrors series: Forgotten Horrors 6: Up from the Depths and Forgotten Horrors to the Nth Degree: Dispatches from a Collapsing Genre. Both come courtesy of his publishing house, Cremo Studios, through Amazon’s estore link at https://www.createspace.com/4132897
While I’ve been blessed with participation in the Forgotten Horrors series since No. 3 came along, and film historian and writer Jan Alan Henderson has joined the roster as well, these books all bear the unmistakable stamp of Mike Price. He and his late collaborator George Turner began them back in the ‘70s, and Michael has continued to be the guiding intelligence and force behind them ever since George’s death in June of 1999.
Michael does the yeoman’s work on these books. He does the covers and the layouts and the lion’s share of the text. He has the final edit, and even the contributions that Jan and I make are of a piece with his brilliant and often idiosyncratic vision. He’s a jewel, and, speaking for myself, I’m just happy to be a little part of the setting.
Volume 6 covers the great monster-kid years 1954 through ’57, which saw the death of the horror comics the beginnings of the monster-mag explosion, the first dissemination of Screen Gems’ Shock Theatre TV packages, and the success of such fear factories as American International and Allied Artists. Staying true to the original Forgotten Horrors concept of covering independent productions, as well as non-horror pictures with horrific elements, Vol. 6 examines such offbeat titles as Girl in Black Stockings and Up in Smoke along with taking fresh looks at the more usual suspects.
Nth Degree, on the other hand, is a kind of a special case, gathering and expanding on the series of “Forgotten Horrors” columns Mike and I did for Fangoria magazine for several years, and adding some essays that I believe are the high point of the book. Michael has a couple of great extended pieces on the martial-arts star Leo Fong and Texas auteur Larry Buchanan, both of them employing the filmmakers’ own words as well as Mike’s insights. I tried to do the same thing in my “Dave Friedman: My Favorite Johnson” (yes, I know — you’ll understand the title when you see the story), which covers my long association and friendship with this fascinating man and includes a couple of rare photos from Dave’s garage museum, I’m very proud of it, and I’m also deeply proud to be associated with my pal Michael Price’s Forgotten Horrors line. Collect ‘em all, kids.
Hey Kids! Comics!
The very first sale I made as a writer was a comic-book script bought by Warren Publications in 1970 for the sum of exactly twenty-five frogskins. It came out in Eerie No. 32, illustrated by the veteran illustrator Jack Sparling and edited by Archie Goodwin, who I was to find out was one of the truly good guys in the comics biz. I sold a couple more stories to Warren before Viet Nam intervened – I think I was up to fifty dollars with the third one – and when I returned home from active duty the editorial policy had changed, and I couldn’t have sold new editor Bill Dubay a snow cone in hell.
So my comics career, such as it was, didn’t really begin until the black-and-white tidal wave of the late ’80s – and pretty much ended when the seas again flattened and that ship sailed (not to beat a metaphor to death or anything). Like a lot of other comics creators, I ended up amassing a fairly decent body of work during that time – roughly 1986 through 1992 — and went on to other pursuits afterwards.
As I’ve said many times, though, once you get something out there, you never know what’s going to happen to it, and I’m happy to say that two of my favorite projects from those halcyon independent-comics days are back on the market.
The first is my fanciful pseudo-biography of horror heavyweight Tor Johnson, nicely illustrated by Bruce McCorkindale, which originally appeared under the banner of Monster Comics, a division of Fantagraphics, in 1991. The first, and so far only, comic book done in A-R Vision (which allegedly stands for alternate-reality, but could just as easily be anal-retentive), Tor Johnson, Hollywood Star makes up a proud portion of the brand-new Forgotten Horrors Comics & Stories, the latest production from my pal Michael H. Price’s Cremo Studios.
Available for 15 smackers from amazon.com and oldies.com, Forgotten Horrors Comics & Stories also reprints The Man from Planet X and Destination Moon comic books, given some new, very funny, and often near-Dadist dialogue by MHP (in the style of his highly recommended Comics from the Gone World series) that, remarkably, takes nothing away from the storylines. Michael also contributes more intriguing input from his dizzyingly prolific comics career, including a dandy fumetti illustrating Son of Ingagi and an Old Hollywood-related story of the Prowler – one of the best costumed characters to come out of the indie-comics boom — with art by Graham Nolan. Our cohort in the Forgotten Horrors series of film-history books, Jan Alan Henderson, weighs in with a fine piece concerning the ballyhoo for the movie Destination Moon – which, interestingly, included more than one comic-book adaptation.
Also, advance orders are now being taken for the first Miracle Squad graphic novel, reprinting the four-issue series artist Terry Tidwell and I did for Upshot Graphics – also a Fantagraphics imprint – back in 1986 and ’87, packaged with our introductory Miracle Squad story (from John Byrne’s 1986 Doomsday Squad), my four-part study of the B-movie studios that inspired the Squad, and – new to this collection – an annotated sketchbook from Terry, my original prose story that inspired the Squad, and – thanks to a suggestion from publisher Bill Cunningham, aka the Mad Pulp Bastard – my dream casting of a Miracle Squad movie with actual B-pic actors from the ’30s.
That, of course, is where we’re coming from with Miracle Squad. It’s an evocation of what life might have been like for those working in the shadows of the big studios during Hollywood’s Golden Age, grinding out their little pictures in a ghetto known as Poverty Row. We love this era, and these films, and I think it shows in Miracle Squad.
For more information, or to order, contact www.pulp2ohpress.com. Cost is $17.99, and postage is free on advance orders.
Big thanks to Bill Cunningham and Michael H. Price for making these stories once again available. Please check ‘em out.
Finally, if you’re in the mood to listen to some pretty lively and even insightful discussions of obscure and unheralded movies, check out our Forgotten Horrors podcasts. As I write this, in early November, Mike Price, producer Joey Hambrick, and I are about to log our fourth one, a look at the Coleman Francis-Anthony Cardoza opus, The Beast of Yucca Flats. Between us, Michael and I have logged a good eight or nine decades of writing about this stuff and interviewing the people involved with it, and we like to think that gives us a little bit of cred.
Comments are welcomed;
please address ‘em to this website.
And, as always, many thanks.
“FORGOTTEN HORRORS” PODCAST NOW AVAILABLE! FOR FREE!
Thanks to the crackerjack efforts of Jigglin’ Joey Hambrick, our producer and engineer, my good pal Michael H. Price and I are pleased to be able to announce the launch of the Forgotten Horrorspodcast. To get it, I’m told by webmaster Jonathan, all you have to do is click on this link:
That simple gesture transports you to a world of – well, I’m not quite sure what, but if you’re a fan of obscure, unheralded, and just plain off-trail movies, I think you’ll find some enjoyment there.
As the name suggests, we’re hoping these casts make more people aware of the Forgotten Horrors series of books, which Michael and the noted film historian George Turner started back in the late ‘70s. I came aboard for number three, and
Mike’s allowed me to ride that train ever since. (See below for info on our newest tome, Forgotten HorrorsVol. 5: The Atom Age, with Jan Alan Henderson.) In the course of each podcast, we’ll probably also plug some of the other salient work we’ve done over our careers, both individually and collectively. We’ll even give stuff away to those who email our special double-secret web address (which we give at the end of each cast).
The first film to get the Price-Wooley treatment is Ed Wood’s Orgy of the Dead (1965); that discussion is now available for downloading. Next (probably in early August) will come the gay-biker flick The Pink Angels (1976), followed by the jaw-dropping 1945 vehicle for radio comedian Bert “The Mad Russian” Gordon, How Doooo You Do!!!
A note: If you’re looking for snark, it’s best to keep right on going. To paraphrase Michael, perhaps the sleaziest act of all is belittlement, and this is no audio version of The Golden Turkey Awards. But we do love these films, we’ve written about them for years, and we continue to get a great deal of fun out of them. If you’re of a like mind, Joey, Michael, and I would sure be happy to have you check the cast out and let us know what you think.
As always, big thanks for reading. We look forward to hearing from you.
BREAKING BOOK NEWS . . .
While work on my new-look website continues – thanks to Jungle Jonathan Wooley, the hardest-working webmaster in the business – I have to take just a few paragraphs here to let you know that March 2011 has just become the biggest month ever for me in my writing career (such as it is).
– First, on March 15, John Wiley & Sons officially released my new biography: Wes Craven – the Man and His Nightmares. I was a fan of Craven even before he optioned (but, unfortunately, never filmed) my novel Old Fears, which Ron Wolfe and I co-wrote back in the early ‘80s, so getting to do this project was a real joy for me. As it unfolded, I found myself in a position to write about things that have been kicking around in my head for decades, ideas having to do with the connections between art and exploitation, for instance, as well as what youthful exposure to the concept of an endless, burning hell full of tortured souls might have on a writer or filmmaker. I’m proud of the book, proud of the exhaustive research I was able to utilize (unearthed mostly by one of the best researchers in the business, Rachelle Vaughan), proud of the fact that Wes Craven himself consented to a pretty thorough interview. Plus, it’s my first book to be available on Kindle!
–Next comes Shot in Oklahoma: A Century of Sooner State Cinema, my look at the history of Oklahoma filmmaking, from the University of Oklahoma Press. Beginning at the very first part of the 20th Century, when Edison’s boys headed down from New Jersey to get some authentic cowboys and Indians in front of their lenses, it wraps up with a look at several of the theatrical features that came along in the wake of the Movie That Changed Everything, the Tulsa-lensed Blood Cult. Acknowledging that picture’s rightful place in film history – it was actually the first made-for-home-video feature — was especially important to me. Of course, it was fun to write about as well, as were such off-trail movies as Just Between Us, This Stuff’ll Kill Ya, and the amazing Prince of Peace.
I was able to do lots of new interviews – with famed novelist S.E. Hinton, for instance, as well as Godfather of Gore Herschell Gordon Lewis – and those complement the great you-are-there stories I dug out of newspaper accounts stretching back to the 1910s. The good folks at the Tulsa World, my erstwhile place of employment, allowed me access to their extensive library (or morgue, in classic newspaper slang), which helped the book immensely.
– Finally, my longtime pal and collaborator Michael H. Price invited me aboard for the newest entry in his long-running and acclaimed Forgotten Horrors series of movie books. Forgotten Horrors Vol, 5: The Atom Age. Once again propelled by the Lovecraftian notion of horror being where you find it, and focusing as always on small-budget productions, volume 5 covers the years 1949 through 1954 and includes fresh takes on many of the usual suspects (Ghost Chasers, Robot Monster, and the cover-featured Man from Planet X) as well as the less-obvious likes of She’s Too Mean for Me, It’s A Small World, and Skipalong Rosenbloom.
Released in mid-March by Cremo Studios, it’s 300-plus pages of the good, the bad, and the exceedingly strange, bound together by Michael’s insight, wit, and intriguingly skewed vision, with assists by yours truly and Jan Alan Henderson, whose work I’ve long admired. It’s available on amazon.com, among other places.
As far as published output goes, I’ll probably never have another month like March 2011. I’m happy and thankful to have those three books out, and I hope that whoever reads this might find one – or more – to his or her liking.
As always, thanks for the support!