Being in my thirties, the word pulp has always cast a positive shadow. For my life, pulp has been funny stories with monsters and luck. Stories told by men and women that look back and laugh at themselves through an eye of the current.
These pulp stories are different.
Joe R. Lansdale takes a stab at the authentic pulp he knew growing up. Uncanny abilities, high-flying antics and furious action litter these pages. Unfortunately, unless you have nostalgic ribs near to your heart, many of these themes and tendencies are just too much. Huge luck, barrel chests, indefatigable abilities, these can leave a reader wondering who cares, it’s not as if Tarzan’s finally gonna bite the big one.
That bitchy bit out of the way, there’s redeeming qualities throughout. Firstly, the explanation is a fascinating one. Revealing life as it pertains to the entertainment around you is always endearing. Entertainment is something we all seek, know and demand, and yet, we engage differently. The history of it shed real light on how this came about and why it will work for many.
There were three stories in this collection that could play anywhere and do well, pulp or not. The Gruesome Affair of the Electric Blue Lightning has a Sherlock Holmes meets Lovecraft feel and while there is uncanny power involved, it is of the mind. Something more reasonable than endless strength and certainty.
King of the Cheap Romance wears shades of excellent Bradbury. Fast, with big monsters and incredible scenery. The hero is a hero without birthright, just a young woman looking to keep on keepin' on. Perhaps this is where I enjoyed it more than many of the others. The human was human and, justly, potentially fallible.
The story Dead on the Bones takes place on in and around characters demanding an emotional response. The idea of boxing the dead, that's absolutely fantastic. A touch predictable, but if it played out much differently, it would surely be a letdown.
Dead on the Bones, Pulp on Fire is an action packed sampler of the many shades of pulp, told with the familiar, slightly dark shade of writing. Endearing prose and vast spaces, Joe R. Lansdale pushed for the original vibes and qualities, childish as many of them are, and succeeded.