So did you get my little joke I was doing. What do you mean you don’t get it. Well if you go back a few columns starting with ‘Mexicali Blues’ it might dawn on some. I had myself a little idea. To use Grateful Dead song titles as my column titles. Now I did give myself some rules. I could not use the super obvious ones – Truckin’ or Touch of Grey would have been Dead giveaways. Also as much as I would have loved to use certain titles they had to actually fit and work. So sadly there is no China Cat Sunflower, Sugaree or Stella Blue.
Finally they had to be originals no covers. You have no idea how much I wanted to use ‘Morning Dew’ and ‘It Hurts Me Too’. So that took another chunk out of the way. Now for you Deadheads out there thats truly one bizarre first set am I right. Still it will never be as cool as this set list.
Alright onto the column where really the first book was the inspiration to this little joke. And to quote that forgotten filmmaker Marty DiBergi, “But hey enough of my yakking. What do you say. Let’s Boogie.”
THE SECRET 6 CLASSICS: LEAGUE OF THE GRATEFUL DEAD (1939) – Emile C. Tepperman
Yes all because of one pulp cover did I start this ball rolling. Onto the issue at hand. Truly one of the huge benefits of being an ebook reader now. Is that collections like this are a whole lot cheaper then the actual reprints. This collection pulls together six stories all staring a group of G Men called the Suicide Squad. A group who go in a guns a blazing first and ask questions later. This is straight up action stories. The good guys are definitely good and seem to have a camradie like no other. The three leads are named Kerrigan, Murdoch and Klaw. They are bent on bring those rat bastards whoever they be to justice.
Each of the stories included are slam bang action from sentence one to the end. They go up against a criminal mastermind named Mr. Zero who seems to have more operatives then the actual FBI. Now this is the closet to true pulp villain that could have fit into other series of the age. The other baddies in this collection are bad but more run of the mill boos of the city variety nothing to ludicrous. Still that means they are no push overs as these G Men come to face with unexpected danger. Yes some of the stories seem to meld into one another once its all said and done. But there is still plenty in them to keep readers glued. Corrupt cities, Nazis, and a gun smuggling king of crime.
Now this is just stories there are no introductions or any sort of extras included. But trust me for the price and page count I was not bothered. I’ll definitely be grabbing more of these reissues over time. But my only gripe is that I was orally waiting for the tale where it turned out that Micky Hart was some sort of second coming of Fu Manchu. Well can’t win them all now can you.
THE ROOK VOLUME 1 (2012) – Barry Reese
That cover just screams read me Bruce. READ ME RIGHT NOW. Come on it has a masked man holding a dame who would make Christina Hendricks jealous. And plenty of guns. This collection is totally an homage to the likes of The Spider, The Shadow and coutless other pulp heroes. Throw in a little backstory that will remind some of a certain millionaire who dresses like a bat. And you sort of the get the idea of what you are getting into. Throw in a bit of mystical element and bam you got The Rook.
Max Davies has given up the crime fighting life or we are so to believe as we dropped right into it all. The book does not walk you down the garden path of giving the complete back story to the hero of this book. I for one could not be happier about that. Now later in the collection there is a brief little paragraph about The Rook’s back story but its more to catch readers up since in that story The Rook teams up with another retro pulp hero named The Moon Man. The Rook goes head to head with a rogues gallery of baddies. Not just your typical crime boss schtick here. How about some Lovecraft like monsters, vampires, and a Fu Manchu stand in.
The story are all well though out and have some great sense that this characters whole life has been thought out. As in the final part of the book is a giant time line. There is also a story in the collection which jumps to the future of The Rook during his final moments finding a new person who will be able to continue to fight the fight. The Rook itself is defiantly in the vien of The Spider more then any other pulp hero. But Reese throws a few change ups with the mystical angle and The Rook having premonition type powers. Just a blast of fun reading plain and simple. I’m ready for more oh what there is a vol 2 sitting on my kindle. Well you can expect that later on down the line so to speak.
THE COMPLETE ADVENTURES OF SENORITA SCORPION: VOLUME 1 (2012) – Les Savage
Having read Will Murray’s fantastic history of the western pulps ‘Wordslingers.” It provided a wealth of titles to look out for. Case in point the adventures of Señorita Scorpion. Elegra Douglas who became the legendary outlaw Señorita Scorpion to defend her land and legacy. The four stories included in this collection tie in nicely to one another. Thats not to say there is carry over. But they definitely build upon what has come before them. Elegra is a strong character who is not afraid to ruffle the feathers so to speak of readers. Sicne she is head strong type who is willing to take action on her own. And not just play the damsel in distress so to speak.
What also should be noted these are also pretty violent tales. With bullets doing some major damage to people who might come in contact with them. All four stories were written by Les Savage Jr between 1944 – 45. The first tale introduces our heroine where a bounty is put upon her head. The collection just builds from that point on. With the second story in the collection explaining the history of her family and explaining exactly how she came to defend her land and legacy. While the next two are just full out action tales.
Now as enjoyable as this collection is. Sadly my interest was waning by the end. Probably nothing to do with the stories itself. More to the fact this is the third collection of pulps I’ve read right in a row. But from my understanding Savage seemed to lose interest himself after the initial four stories he wrote. Still this is a different take in the Western genre. But what made me laugh was how Savage got away with using certain Spanish terms and got away with it. Nothing to blatant, but definitely some words would get you a slap or a punch in the face. Once I did finish up this collection he really made me want to watch Johnny Guitar once again. —Bruce Grossman