Friday, January 23, 2015

FIGHT CARD UPDATE ~ JANUARY 2015

FIGHT CARD UPDATE ~ JANUARY 2015

Our latest Fight Card MMA title, Blood Feud, features Tim Tresslar masquerading as Jack Tunney. Tim has a strong background writing men’s action adventure novels and, in Blood Feud, he gives us a wonderful idea of what a Mack Bolan/ Fight Card mash up might look like.

FIGHT CARD MMA: BLOOD FEUD

Dubai, 2015…David Garrett never could walk away from a fight. Even when a covert mission to nab a terrorist went wrong, leaving fellow CIA agents dead and Garrett holding the bag, he had to be forced to stand down.

Angry and disillusioned, he returned to his native Chicago where he engaged in off-the-books bouts for money, settled scores and made new enemies. Still, the unfinished business eats at him. Then Melissa, his former lover and fellow CIA agent, surfaces. She tells him one of the men responsible for the debacle in Iraq has surfaced. Like Garrett, the man is a fighter and on the card for an exhibition bout in Dubai. Would Garrett come back for one last mission? Garrett never could walk away from a fight. Even one that could kill him… 

"This one-two punch from Tim Tresslar has a power not seen since Ali beat Frazier. Blood Feud is a smoking-hot thriller guaranteed to hit so hard you'll see stars the next day still. Go get it – and prepare to stay up all night reading. Yeah, it's that good." Bestselling author Shane Gericke, The Fury

As Fight Card enters 2015 our schedule, due to books on hand, will more than likely be changing to publication every two months. We do have a third Fight Card Sherlock Holmes coming from Andrew Salmon, Job Girl – the sequel to Monster Man – from Jason Chirevas, a yet to be titled outing from Walt Lang, and several other irons heating in the fire.

Thanks to everyone for all you do for Fight Card…

Till next time…Keep punching…


PULP NOW: ESCAPE FROM PRISON BASE LUNA

PULP NOW: ESCAPE FROM PRISON BASE LUNA

FIGHT CARD ALUM TERRENCE MCCAULEY TURNS HIS PRODIGIOUS WRITING SKILLS TO A NEW PULPCENTRIC SCI-FI SERIES ... THE GATE KEEPER CHRONICLES ...

A Publisher of cutting edge New Pulp and Genre Fiction, Pro Se Productions releases the latest series in its Pro Se Single Shot Signature digital single line. Award winning author Terrence McCauley joins the Signature line up with his first Science Fiction story- The Gate Keeper Chronicles and its debut tale- Escape from Prison Base Luna.

“Terrence McCauley,” states Tommy Hancock, Editor in Chief of and Partner in Pro Se Productions, “writes with a ferocity and a singular passion that very few authors seem to have today. That aspect of his talent fits very well for the crime and noir sort of fiction he has become known for, but it also adds a whole new dimension to Science Fiction as well. Terrence not only creates a totally believable world of spacecraft and lunar prisons, but each of his characters, even the ones who are voices on a speaker in the story, leave their individual marks and have their own things to say. That makes Escape from Prison Base Luna both a fantastic sci fi yarn and just a well written tale all around.”

A hijacked star freighter…A lunar prison under siege…A Space Marshall sent to face it all alone.

In his first foray into science fiction, Terrence McCauley (winner of three New Pulp Awards in 2014) crafts a fast-paced, exciting story for the debut of The Gate Keeper Chronicles, McCauley’s Pro Se Single Shot Signature Series of digital singles.

Space Marshall Kyle Mackey is a Gate Keeper - one of the members of the Space Marshall Service to watch for unauthorized entry through the portal that allows near-instantaneous travel between Earth and Mars. But when his ship is attacked by a hijacked star freighter, Mackey feels something’s not right. And when he’s sent to investigate a downed transmitter at the moon’s Prison Base Luna, he’s absolutely sure of it. The only question: can he find the answers he needs before he loses his life?

“I’ve been writing pulp fiction for the past few years,” says McCauley, “so I’m excited to be trying my hand at science fiction. I’m glad to be part of the Pro Se Productions team and I appreciate Tommy giving me the opportunity to tackle a new genre. I hope people will enjoy reading this series as much as I enjoyed writing it.”

The Gate Keeper Chronicles: Escape from Prison Base Luna is the first entry in McCauley’s thrilling Gatekeeper Trilogy and the newest Pro Se Single Shot Signature Series!



PULP NOW: CUTTER'S LAW!

PULP NOW: CUTTER'S LAW!

FIGHT CARD ALUM DAVID FOSTER, WRITING AS JAMES HOPWOOD, BREAKS OUT A TERRIFIC NEW ACTION SERIES ... VENGEANCE ...

Pro Se Productions, a leader in Genre Fiction, announces the debut of yet another action packed series as a part of its Pro Se Single Shot Signature imprint. The Single Shot Signatures are recurring series or writers’ imprints that focus on digitl single short stories released on a set schedule. Author David Hopwood takes readers back to the adrenaline fueled, pulpy tales of adventure and danger with his series, Vengeance and the debut tale- Cutter’s Law!

Scribed by James Hopwood (pen name of rising pulp adventure writer David J. Foster), the series features Nathan Cutter, an Australian soldier whose life is turned upside down when his family become innocent victims in a gangland war. Written in the style of the men’s action-adventure stories of the 1970s and ’80s, such as The Executioner, these fast-paced stories ratchet mayhem and excitement to new levels.

“The Men’s Adventure novels of the 1970s and ’80s have a special place in my heart,” Hopwood said from Melbourne, Australia. “I know some of the imprints were verging on ultra right-ring fanaticism, but in their favor, they were always fast-paced with over-the-top situations and characters. Where else could you find stories about gun-toting heroes battling dirty Commies who plan to bring the west to its knees by firing atomic missiles from the turrets of 16th century European castles?”

“Of course, times have changed – enemies have changed (or have they?) – and story-telling has changed. Consequently the Men’s Adventure novels have waned in popularity. But I don’t think the genre has to go the way of the dodo bird. As a reader, the appeal for me was always traveling along with a hero who would never say die – no matter how heavily the odds were stacked against him. I think that trait is something that today’s readers can relate to. That’s where Nathan Cutter come in – he’s from that old-school tradition of never giving in.”

Cutter was first launched on the unsuspecting public in Matt Hilton’s Action: Pulse Pounding Tales in 2012 and 2013. Now he is back, in new expanded editions of the original tales, plus an explosive new story – never before published.

“I am excited to be able to re-invent these stories for a new audience, packed with new twists and turns and overflowing with gun-smoking action.”

“The Pro Se Single Shot series is a fantastic vehicle for stories such as this, and I am proud to be a part of the initiative. Before it came along, short stories such as these only existed in anthologies. And hey, that’s great too – I mean, that’s where I got my start, but now there’s an opportunity to expand on the universe created in those shorts. Readers can now follow a series, or a character like Cutter, and can be updated with regular instalments. It’s great from writers, and great for readers.”



COP WRITERS ~ JOHN WAINWRIGHT

COP WRITERS ~ JOHN WAINWRIGHT

For many people, examples of cops-turned-writers begin and end with Joe Wambaugh. There is no doubt the impact Wambaugh’s The New Centurions, The Blue Knight, and his non-fiction opus, The Onion Field, had not just on mystery fiction, but on literature in general – as have his many other novels. However, while Wambaugh is the star in the constellation, there have been a great number of cops-turned-writers both before and since Wambaugh’s star began to rise – including my own contributions to the genre.
 
One of the most prolific and best is now sadly out of print and almost forgotten. In 1947, after serving in the RAF as a rear-gunner in Number Five Bomber Command, John Wainwright join the West Riding Constabulary in northern England (near Harrogate). His career as a police constable and a detective spanned twenty years and six murder inquiries. The first of his eighty crime novels was published in 1965. He retired from the police two years later to write full time.
 
I’ve long been a fan of Wainwright, owning most of his novels and both of his autobiographies. Recently, I took down and read his last novel, The Life and Times of Christmas Calvert Assassin, published in 1995 shortly before his death. I was suddenly captivated by the immediacy of his writing and the humanity of his characters and realized anew how good a storyteller Wainwright was. As soon as I finished, I went back and reread two of my favorite Wainwright novels, Blayde R.I.P and The Ride, and found they still had all the power and readability I remembered.
 
In the sixties, the Mecca of aspiring British mystery writers was a tiny London office hidden away in the former palace of St. James. To get to it, you were forced to climb a steep, rickety, staircase before opening the door with a knob likely to remain in your hand. However, inside the unassuming walls, the editor of the Collins Crime Club, Lord Hardinge, oversaw the massively popular monthly publication of two yellow jacketed novels from the likes of mystery mainstays such as Agatha Christie, Julian Symons, Ngaio Marsh, Rex Stout, and occasionally the debut of a new talent.
 
It was here Wainwright’s first novel, Death in a Sleeping City, found a home after literary agent John McLaughlin insisted Hardinge read it. Hardinge was entranced not just by the sheer storytelling power of the story (regarding a Mafia hitman sent to the English provinces to kill a traitor), but particularly by Wainwright’s ability to utilize his knowledge of real police and their methods.
 
 
Wainwright had kept busy writing at night, often sleeping only four hours before returning to duty, and had almost finished a second novel, Death in a Sleeping City, before his first novel was published. Hardinge championed Wainwright for many years, eventually taking the author’s output with him from Collins to MacMillan because, as Hardinge stated about Wainwright’s novels, “…they all contain a strong ethical component, sincere, deeply felt and just as addictive." 
 
Joe Wambaugh classically turned the censure of his writing career by the LAPD into a cause célèbre, bringing incalculable publicity to the beginnings of his bestseller status. Like Wambaugh, Wainwright was also boycotted by his superiors in the police force. Already in difficulties for his refusal to let a County Councilor off on a dangerous driving charge, Wainwright was told he had to stop writing after his first novel appeared in bookstores. 
 
As Wainwright tells it, “[The deputy police chief] told me that I had to stop writing. I replied he could not order me to stop, because there was nothing in police regulations prohibiting me. In any case, I had already signed a contract for three books, so I continued to write and to be a cop.” 
 
By the time he was on his fourth novel, the stress of the two professions took its toll and Wainwright was forced to make a choice. “I had no hesitation and took off the uniform. Then, Avis [Wainwright’s wife] and I bought a small bungalow in Flamborough [on England’s east coast] and the enormity of what I had done struck me and I realized I now had to write for a living.”
 
And write he did, averaging two thousand words a day, seven days a week, producing six books a year. Despite this amazing production, there was nothing cookie-cutter about his output. He wrote straight police procedurals, thrillers, espionage tales, man on the run stories, courtroom stories, and even pioneered a number of noirish tales with unreliable narrators, which are particularly fun.
 
His agent, John McLaughlin stated, "Wainwright’s novels are always different. Every time I read a new one, I expect to be in for a predictable story, and invariably I'm wrong. I am constantly surprised by their freshness and imaginative power."
 
It a rare interview with an Italian magazine, Wainwright gives his own explanation for his success. "I have written sixty novels,” he said at the time, “but I threw away the equivalent of sixty more. My thing is not the traditional mystery of who-done-it. I do not care about mysterious footprints in the flower beds, or the Lord found dead on the floor of the library because someone has launched a poisoned dart through the keyhole. I write suspense, I deal with the why-did-it. That's what fascinates me, always has fascinated me since I was a cop.”
 
Finding Wainwright’s books today takes a few keystrokes to navigate the Internet’s used bookstore sites, but they are well worth the effort for those looking for well written stories based in the reality of gritty, real life, procedures.

ANNE PERRY ~ THE REIGNING QUEEN OF LITERARY OF MYSTERIES


ANNE PERRY ~ THE REIGNING QUEEN OF LITERARY OF MYSTERIES

I often use this column to expound on books in the pulp or hardboiled genres, however, my reading tastes are actually wide, varied, and eclectic. When I want a literary mystery with both depth and strong characterization, I never hesitate to pull an Anne Perry novel off the shelf.
 
There are plenty to choose from as Perry’s output is prodigious. Her Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series started with 1979’s The Cater Street Hangman and now runs to thirty titles. Her William and Hester (Latterly) Monk series began in 1990 with The Face of a Stranger, and saw its twentieth title, Blood on the Water, recently published. Her shorter Christmas novels started being published in 2003 with A Christmas Journey and have continued yearly through the most recent, A New York Christmas. In between all of these words, she has also produced five novels in a separate series – Reavley – set during WWI, two complex and lengthy fantasy novels, four novels in her young adult Timepiece series, a number of standalone novels, and has contributed award winning short stories to numerous anthologies. Whew!  
 
What is even more astonishing than her output is the consistent quality and the amount of research involved in each effort. Perry is a true master of the mystery genre, yet this is not what sets her apart from other writers who also wear that mantle. Perry has no equal when it comes to an understanding of the many sides of social issues and the complexities of human nature and interaction. Often, her historical situations mirror modern counterparts, showing how little true social progress has been made – what affected society in the Victorian era, WWI, and today are too frequently little different. 
 
Perry’s novels do not shy away from the harshest of subject matters, exploring them without prurient focus, yet still laying them bare in an emotionally gripping manner. Perry’s gift goes beyond the concoction of a Gordian knot of mystery to a much more important dissection of humanity. Actions have consequences in Perry’s novels, often far reaching and disastrous for her characters, yet redemption is also possible.
 
While I’m partial to her William and Hester Monk novels, I also always enjoy her Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series, and her Christmas tales – which often put secondary or minor characters from those other two series front and center. 
 
The Monk mysteries are set early in the Victorian era (1850s – 1860s) and the Pitt books twenty to thirty years later (1880s – 1890s), but the true difference between the series is Perry’s consummate skill in creating two similar sets of sleuths, yet imbuing them with completely different voices. If they ever crossed paths, Pitt and Monk would recognize each other as kindred spirits – as would Hester and Charlotte – yet the reader would never confuse the individual voices of the four characters.
 
We first meet Thomas Pitt as a detective with the London Metropolitan police. Through thirty books, we follow his career through the police and on to the creation of Special Branch, responsible for the investigation of treason and anarchy and threats to the Crown. In the first book in the series, The Cater Street Hangman, Pitt investigates the murders of several young women in the streets near the wealthy Ellison family home. His investigation leads him into the sphere of Charlotte, the Ellison’s progressive, strong-willed daughter, who longs to break free of stifling convention. 
 
While educated, Pitt is the son of a gamekeeper and a cook – hardly a likely match for a high society daughter of a wealthy family. However, Pitt’s ability to engage Charlotte in useful and interesting discussions binds her to him. Despite the convention of the times, the duo go on in the series to marry, have children (who grow and progress with the series), and find themselves bringing their individual gifts and circumstances into the solving of the mysteries. Somehow, Perry manages to keep Charlotte’s involvement in the stories pivotal while also believable, a feat few mystery writers can accomplish.
 
In William Monk, Perry has created an enigma. Monk is a man without a past, or at least one he can remember. A coach accident in 1856, causes Monk to lose his memory - a fact he keeps secret to save his job as a policeman. The issue, however, is more than memory. Monk has also lost his original ruthless personality. He is a man who has made many enemies on his way up the promotional ladder, and now he no longer knows friend from foe.
 
In coming to terms with the, hopefully better, man he has now become, and dealing with the harsh realities of a past haunting his every step, Monk meets Hester Latterly, a Crimean War nurse returned to London. Despite their initial irritation with each other, they became close, with her being the only one who knows about Monk's memory issues. Hester is an amazing character, her background on the battlefield giving her quite a different world view than that of Charlotte Pitt. Her work with Monk comes into even greater play when Monk is fired from the police and is forced to become a private investigator. The series, however, comes into its own when Monk takes advantage of an opportunity to return to police work as head of the (Thames) River Police.
 
Monk, Pitt, Hester, and Charlotte are fully realized characters, who I would recognize in an instant were I to meet them on the street. However, the added charm and complexity of the worlds Perry has created in these series are the many secondary characters – the lawyer Sir Oliver Rathbone, Monk’s second in command Orme, Pitt’s second in command Stoker, the river orphan Scuff, and the wonderful Lady Vespasia Cumming-Gould to name but a few. 
 
To spend time with these characters is to be taken on a thinking readers’ journey. While driven by intense dialogue, the novels are dense with atmosphere and challenge, drawing willing readers to get lost in the pages. I have also found the audio versions of Perry’s books to be among the best available, brilliantly performed by talented and engaging readers who bring Perry’s words and characters to fully realized life.
 
To butcher a cliché, I admit to wearing my admiration for Anne Perry on my sleeve. Her difficult early life experiences appear to have produced a writer who has thought long and hard about the world and humanities’ place in it. For me, she is a joy to read and a writer with qualities to which I aspire.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

AVAILABLE NOW ~ FIGHT CARD MMA: BLOOD FEUD

AVAILABLE NOW ~ FIGHT CARD MMA: BLOOD FEUD

TIM TRESSLAR WRITING AS JACK TUNNEY ...

FIGHT CARD MMA: BLOOD FEUD
 
Dubai, 2015…David Garrett never could walk away from a fight. Even when a covert mission to nab a terrorist went wrong, leaving fellow CIA agents dead and Garrett holding the bag, he had to be forced to stand down. 
 
Angry and disillusioned, he returned to his native Chicago where he engaged in off-the-books bouts for money, settled scores and made new enemies. Still, the unfinished business eats at him. Then Melissa, his former lover and fellow CIA agent, surfaces. She tells him one of the men responsible for the debacle in Iraq has surfaced. Like Garrett, the man is a fighter and on the card for an exhibition bout in Dubai. Would Garrett come back for one last mission? Garrett never could walk away from a fight. Even one that could kill him…

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

COMING SOON ~ FIGHT CARD MMA: BLOOD FEUD!

COMING SOON ~ FIGHT CARD MMA: BLOOD FEUD!

TIM TRESSLAR WRITING AS JACK TUNNEY ...

FIGHT CARD MMA: BLOOD FEUD
 
Dubai, 2015…David Garrett never could walk away from a fight. Even when a covert mission to nab a terrorist went wrong, leaving fellow CIA agents dead and Garrett holding the bag, he had to be forced to stand down. 
 
Angry and disillusioned, he returned to his native Chicago where he engaged in off-the-books bouts for money, settled scores and made new enemies. Still, the unfinished business eats at him. Then Melissa, his former lover and fellow CIA agent, surfaces. She tells him one of the men responsible for the debacle in Iraq has surfaced. Like Garrett, the man is a fighter and on the card for an exhibition bout in Dubai. Would Garrett come back for one last mission? Garrett never could walk away from a fight. Even one that could kill him…

THE EXECUTIONER INTERVIEW PART II

THE EXECUTIONER INTERVIEW PART II

Last week, I began my interview with the widow of Don Pendleton, who created The Executioner: Mack Bolan series. It bridged the gap between the hard-hitting pulp magazines of a prior generation and the paperback original format of a more modern – et still story hungry – audience.

Linda Pendleton has masterminded the first e-book release (via Open Road Media) of the original thirty-seven titles in The Executioner: Mack Bolan series. Originally published from 1969 to 1980, these books are the beating heart of The Executioner canon, which spawned uncountable imitators in the men’s action adventure genre.

Reflecting on his creation in 1973, Don Pendleton – now universally acknowledged as the father of the modern action/adventure novel – stated, “…styling of the Mack Bolan stories requires a structure for carrying fast-paced hard-hitting action sequences. The writing is punchy, declarative, stirringly graphic. The reach is toward the reader’s belly, designed to evoke visceral response and rousing empathy. This is heroic fiction.”

Here is the conclusion of our interview:

THERE IS A STRONG MORAL THREAD RUNNING THROUGH THE ORIGINAL EXECUTIONER BOOKS. HOW MUCH DID THIS REFLECT DON’S OWN WORLD VIEW?

It very much reflected his world view. Readers often wonder how much of the author, himself, moves onto the pages of his book. A part of us always does. Don had this to say, “Every writer is always working from his own individual world view, and that can become as characteristic as a fingerprint, whatever the subject, so an honest writer cannot conceal himself in the work no matter how hard he may try to do so. So in essence, Mack Bolan is me, operating from the same world view.”

IN SOME OF HIS OTHER WRITINGS, DON DISPLAYED A STRONG SPIRITUAL SIDE. HOW IMPORTANT TO HIM WAS THE EXAMINATION OF THE METAPHYSICAL SIDE OF LIFE?

He considered himself a life-long metaphysical scholar. He loved the wedding of scientific understanding and mystical thought. He explored philosophy, science, the paranormal, including spirit communication, which is the subject of our book, To Dance With Angels. His Ashton Ford Psychic Detective series gave him the opportunity to explore the paranormal in a fictional way. The flip-side of that, is his nonfiction book, A Search for Meaning From the Surface of a Small Planet.
Don even considered his Executioner novels a study in metaphysics. He said, “Some people may say that these books are not examples of metaphysical thought, but they are. Metaphysics grapples with the nature of reality and the Executioner books undertake an examination of the essentially violent nature of nature.”
Personally, I’ve always felt it is the underlying metaphysical theme of Mack Bolan that has kept the readers following Bolan’s war.

THIS IS AN EXCITING TIME FOR THE EXECUTIONER SERIES. HOW LONG HAD YOU BEEN WORKING TOWARD THE E-BOOK RELEASE OF THE FIRST THIRTY-SEVEN BOOKS?

I know how much Don’s work meant to him, so we are very excited to have the original series available as e-books. The last print editions of the original series were done in 1988-1990. For several years, I had wanted to do e-books of the series. Early this year, I had decided to do e-books myself, even knowing it would be a lot of work and time consuming. Open Road Media had been interested in the series for some time, and in July when they inquired again of my publishing attorney, Frank Curtis, and with the idea they would bring them all out at once by year’s end, we went for it. Open Road has been great to work with, and within a short time they had all 37 books ready to go, as promised. I discussed with Open Road cover designer, Mauricio Diaz, what I hoped for with a branded cover, and I’m pleased with his cover designs.

OVER THE YEARS, THERE HAVE BEEN OTHER ATTEMPTS TO BRING THE EXECUTIONER TO THE BIG SCREEN. WHAT IS DIFFERENT THIS TIME?

In the past, twice, Writers Guild strikes interfered with progress and it was shelved and options not renewed. About a decade ago, one deal that sounded good on the surface, was not, and after preliminary negotiation we walked away. Then screenwriter, producer, Shane Salerno came along, not only with a nice deal, but just as importantly from my point of view, with enthusiasm and determination. It was the right deal from the beginning. Salerno also has been a fan of the Bolan books since he was a teenager, and had this dream to one day do Mack Bolan films. He’s now had a lot of Hollywood success as a screenwriter, and a producer, and I also saw his determination in doing the J.D. Salinger project, in which he had a similar long-held dream.

We were also surprised how fast after Shane Salerno’s August announcement that Bradley Cooper, Todd Phillips, and Warner Bros, jumped on it.

IF THERE WAS ONE THING DON WANTED HIS READERS TO TAKE AWAY FROM HIS BOOKS, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

I believe when you read Don Pendleton you feel his multilayer reach for his reader’s mind. That was his goal, his hope, that when a reader finished the last page and closed one of his books not only would the reader feel entertained, but would be left with something to think about, some new idea to ponder. A meeting of the minds: a meeting of his, the author, with each and every one of his millions of readers all around the world.

He said, “I try to entertain myself with the adventures of my characters, hoping that what entertains me may also entertain others. I am simply a storyteller, an entertainer who hopes to enthrall with visions of the reader’s own incipient greatness.”

Paul, thank you for your interest in Don’s work, and for this opportunity to do this interview.
Thank you, Linda, for taking time from your busy schedule.

For more information on The Executioner, and his creator Don Pendleton, check out the websites below…

http://www.executionerseries.com

http://www.donpendleton.com

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

DON PENDLETON: GODFATHER OF THE MODERN ACTION ADVENTURE NOVEL


DON PENDLETON: GODFATHER OF THE MODERN ACTION ADVENTURE NOVEL

PART 1 (OF 2)

THE EXECUTIONER RETURNS

Forty-five years ago, author Don Pendleton's War Against the Mafia, the first novel in what would become the international best-selling The Executioner: Mack Bolan series, was published. The novel hit a nerve with the reading public, bridging the gulf between the hard-hitting pulp magazines of a prior generation and the paperback original format of a more modern – yet still story hungry – audience.

Earlier in December, 2014, Don Pendleton’s widow, Linda Pendleton, masterminded the first e-book release (via Open Road Media) of the original thirty-seven titles in The Executioner: Mack Bolan series. Originally published from 1969 to 1980, these books are the beating heart of The Executioner canon, which spawned uncountable imitators in the men’s action adventure genre.

As a series, The Executioner moved from the pen of one man, Don Pendleton, to numerous other scribes for a total of over 425 titles and spawned numerous spinoff series published under the Gold Eagle banner – an imprint of Harlequin Publishing, perhaps better known for their strong presence in the romance genre.

Reflecting on his creation in 1973, Don Pendleton – now universally acknowledged as the father of the modern action/adventure novel – stated, "…styling of the Mack Bolan stories requires a structure for carrying fast-paced hard-hitting action sequences.  The writing is punchy, declarative, stirringly graphic. The reach is toward the reader’s belly, designed to evoke visceral response and rousing empathy. This is heroic fiction."

In her blog, Drops of Ink Upon the Page, Linda Pendleton explains, “Don wrote the first novel in the series, War Against the Mafia, out of his desire to express his discomfort with the reaction of many Americans to our soldiers who were dying for our country in the jungles of Vietnam and those coming home to outrageous verbal and physical abuse. So Mack Bolan became Don's symbolic statement. He also became every soldier's voice. Don created a heroic character in Bolan, a true hero who was dedicated to justice. The enemy that Bolan had to fight was no longer on the battlefields of Vietnam but right here on American soil, and that enemy was the Mafia.”

As his guiding principal of writing stories with strong values and an underlying theme of a higher morality, Pendleton explained, "My biggest job throughout writing the series was to keep faith with Bolan–that what he is doing is right. I wanted an enemy beyond redemption–an enemy that all civilized procedures had failed to put down. The Mafia was ready-made. They embodied all the evils of mankind."

Since 1980, under the auspices of Gold Eagle, The Executioner moved on from fighting the mafia to a new enemy – terrorism. Including several spinoff series – Phoenix Force, Able Team, Stony Man, Mack Bolan, and The Executioner – close to 1,000 books have been published, based on Don Pendleton's original Mack Bolan character. 

Recently, The Executioner series has been back in the news. Gold Eagle, which published the monthly adventures of The Executioner and its numerous spinoff series, was closed down due to a publishing merger. However, there was also good news – very good news. In August of 2014, it was announced that Hollywood screenwriter and producer, Shane Salerno had acquired the film rights and a film franchise is planned. And soon after, Warner Brothers announced Bradley Cooper to star. The movie is currently fast-tracked for production.

The movie news, coupled with the e-book release of Pendleton’s first thirty-seven Executioner novels featuring Mack Bolan, assure the enduring hero will be with us for a long time to come. 

Through the wonders of Facebook, I recently was able to talk with Linda Pendleton about her efforts to get the e-books released, the upcoming movie, and Don Pendleton’s legacy.

First, please tell us a little about Don himself both as an individual and as the author behind the books. 

Don Pendleton was, like Mack Bolan, a man who could command himself.  He was a true gentleman, compassionate and caring, a wonderful and near-perfect blend of the warrior/lover.  Don considered life to be a joyous adventure and lived life with enthusiasm and excitement right up to the moment he died.  I believe his enthusiasm and excitement for life came across in his writing.  A self-educated man, he received his GED while still in the Navy at the end of World War II.  That was the extent of his formal education.  He was an avid reader from childhood.  Even during the War, and later when he returned to duty during the Korean Conflict, he read every chance he had.  He once stated, "I have served many long and lonely years aboard ship in war zones, and the only thing that kept me sane during all that enforced loneliness was my access to a good library in which I read, literally, every book on the shelves, even textbooks, and which gave me access to other worlds no other way open to me."

I was fascinated with Don Pendleton, the man, from the first moment I met him, and soon became fascinated with the writer.  Out of the hidden crevices of his mind would come multidimensional characters, and as with every writer, bits and pieces of him would come forward to find their place on the written page.  I often marveled at his intelligence and his ability to read and absorb so much, whether it be a newspaper article or a scientific journal.  He loved people and loved to study them, and often his fictional characters would be composites of persons he had met. 

As a writer yourself, did you have any input into the original series or other books Don wrote?

Don and I met and married not long after he had finished writing The Executioner, but we did adapt and script the graphic comic together, War Against the Mafia.  Shortly following his death, I adapted and scripted the second graphic comic, Death Squad.  I enjoyed working with Mack Bolan. 

In 1987, we co-wrote our nonfiction book, To Dance With Angels, and it was published in 1990.  We followed that with Whispers From the Soul: The Divine Dance of Consciousness.  About that same time, we collaborated on our crime novel, Roulette, the Search for the Sunrise Killer.  We enjoyed writing together.  I had been married for twenty-five years to a California police officer, who retired out as a Captain, so writing about cops seemed the natural thing to do.

I had little input into Don's Joe Copp, Private Eye or Ashton Ford Psychic Detective series except to read each chapter as it came off the printer, and then to answer his question when he reached about page 75, "Do I have a story?" followed by my question at page 175, "Okay who's the bad guy. It looks like it could be one of several."  Then he'd tell me, "I don't know yet."  We had a lot of fun with writing. 
 
His last Joe Copp novel, Copp in Shock, was a different story, though.  It was the sixth book of his Donald I. Fine hardcover publishing contract.  He had finished the fifth book and it was about time to start the last book, when, in February, 1991, Don suffered a heart attack.  The clot buster he was given resulted in a serious brain hemorrhage.  He nearly died, spent weeks in the hospital and had extensive physical and occupational therapy.  Two months after he came home, we started writing Copp in Shock.  He had already fired his speech therapist as our therapy methods were much better.  He was still suffering from dyslexia, peripheral vision loss, and short-term memory problems.  I sat at the computer and he told me what to write, often a guessing game to find the right word or phrase.  We laughed a lot.  By chapter five, he was ready to take over at the computer.  I would record each chapter so he could listen to it before starting the next chapter.  I was amazed how Don knew all the details needed to wrap up the book, a couple that I had forgotten.  You just never know how the brain works.  I know his recovery amazed his speech therapist.  He took her a copy of several chapters he'd written and she couldn't believe how fast he had recovered.  Not only did our humor help his healing, but our determination, and Don's love of writing. 
 
END OF PART 1      

Friday, December 19, 2014

GOT PULP!

GOT PULP?

I was asked the other day to explain what makes pulp storytelling different from other types of fiction. My kneejerk reaction was to claim, it’s hard to define, but I know it when I read it – which does little to answer the question. I’ve since thought a lot about what constitutes the pulp style of storytelling, which engenders both excoriating scorn from critics and fanatical devotion from acolytes.

By now, most readers know the term pulp was coined in reference to the thousands of inexpensive fiction magazines whose heyday spanned the 1920s through the 1950s. Printed on cheap wood pulp paper, the pulps were typically 7 inches by 10 inches in size, 128 pages long, and sported eye grabbing, luridly colored covers, and ragged, untrimmed edges. Today, the original pulps are more often collected for their gaudy covers than for the fluctuating quality of the words in between. 

At the height of their popularity there were hundreds of pulp magazine titles gracing the newsstands each week. The demand for stories was as voracious as the pay per word was cheap. To make a living, a writer selling stories to the pulps had to be a word machine, churning out prose for a quarter to a half cent per word. The result of this constant demand was a straightforward, often formulatic, style of writing designed to entertain a vast audience of everyday, hardworking, folks looking for vicarious thrills and chills to escape the humdrum of their daily lives.

The pulps were also a refiner’s fire for many writers who are household names today – Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Louis L’Amour, John D. MacDonald, and others. To these men belonged the battered typewriters and hard drinking tropes, which themselves have become a cliché within the public conscious.

There were also giants of the pulp writing field whose names are not as familiar, but whose characters have gone on to become iconic examples of pop culture – Robert E. Howard’s Conan The Barbarian, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan, Walter B. Gibson’s The Shadow, Lester Dent’s Doc Savage, to name just a few, all started in the pulps. We all know their famous creations, but most would look blank if asked who the creators were.

The downside of the insatiable demand for stories to fill the pages of pulp magazines was it also guaranteed much of what was published was slapdash gruel of little to no lasting impact. It is this explosion of dross that gives pulp dismissing critics a place to hang their clichéd hats. However, the beating heart of the true pulps – the best of the stories and characters born within their pages – has shined for almost a century of popular culture. 

Pulp has experienced a number of waxings and wanings over the decades, all leading to the current eruption of the New Pulp movement. Pulp in this new millennium encompasses not only a resurgence in reprints of the best of the original pulp tales, but new characters and stories, created in the pulp style, by some of the best up and coming scribes, developing their writing chops in the same way as their counterparts once did in the original pulps – check out Barry Reese’s Lazarus Gray or The Rook series, Derrick Ferguson’s Dillon tales, or my own Fight Card series for just a few examples.

So, what is this pulp style of writing? What makes literature snobs turn up their noses at the mention of pulp? 

First and foremost, pulp storytelling is for the masses. It is accessible, not particularly deep or thought provoking, and gets to the heart of a tale with simple, descriptive, action filled words. It is storytelling at its purest, capturing the imagination, taking the reader outside of themselves and dropping them into a world of fantastic slightly larger than life characters.

A lot of what passes for thriller writing today, even those on the bestseller list, are pulp inspired, yet for me they miss the point, consisting of bloated filler designed to turn books into 400 – 700 page doorstops under the false assumption more is better.  If you’re like me, you don’t have the time or patience to plow through 700 pages to read a story better served in 300 pages – or far less.

The writers who wrote for the pulp magazines back in the day understood this.  Their audience wanted stripped down yarns filled with action, twists and turns, all with the point of providing reader satisfaction.

In the 1930s, Lester Dent, creator of Doc Savage and The Avenger, famously shared his Master Fiction Plot formula for a 6,000 word pulp tale, which he claimed had never failed him. If studied in depth (http://tinyurl.com/94vtmh), it provides a concise insight into what makes a successful pulp-style story.  To break it down, I refer to iconic author Michael Moorcock, who summarized Dent’s formula to aspiring authors stating, "Split your six-thousand-word story up into four fifteen hundred word parts. Part one, hit your hero with a heap of trouble. Part two, double it. Part three, put him in so much trouble there's no way he could ever possibly get out of it...All your main characters have to be in the first third. All your main themes and everything else has to be established in the first third, developed in the second third, and resolved in the last third."

I love the lyricism of Jane Austen and Dickens, the thought provoking works of Thoreau, Asimov, and Neville Shute, and the expansive panoramas painted by Larry McMurtry and Hammond Innes. My reading vistas are as wide as they are eclectic, but pulp always provides the spice and zest that keeps my readers synapsis firing on all cylinders. Pulp is fiction stripped to its essentials, storytelling in its most raw and powerful form. It is engaging, enigmatic, and always entertaining.  

Have you been pulped lately?

PULP TRACKS!

PULP TRACKS!

With the explosion and growing popularity of the New Pulp movement, the vast changes in the world of publishing have also made it possible – and profitable – to reprint collections of many of the original pulp series, which once graced the newsstands behind lurid, eye-catching covers.

Revered pulp historian Ed Hulse has stated there were over 1,100 individual pulp magazines published during the pulp heyday from the ‘20s through the ‘50s, with each of those titles published either weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly, with each containing ten to a dozen stories in each issue. I’d need a calculator and a slide rule to do the math, but let’s just say that’s a lot of pulp…

For the new reader curious as to what the fuss is all about, it can be hard to know where to start.  The problem with the hug mass of original pulp and even the large number of current reprints is much of it is dross – forgettable filler published simply to feed the voracious demand.  There is also a lot of average tales – readable, but not strong enough to explain the lasting legacy of pulp.

However, there are also – certainly – enough stories and characters with the spark of brilliance to justify that lasting legacy. The problem for the discerning pulp neophyte is to be able to pluck it from the current swirling pulp whirlwind.

While other pulpsters will wax eloquently about the justifiable popularity of the hero pulps – featuring such characters as The Shadow, Doc Savage, The Avenger, Tarzan, and more – my own expertise and enjoyment comes from those pulps featuring stories from the high adventure genre. The reigning pulp titles in the field were Argosy, Adventure, and Short-Story. Collections of tales from these magazines highlight the best of the best in both authors and characters. For a reader looking to escape into thrilling adventures set in faraway locals, here are a few solid starting points.

Black Dog Books, one of the premiere publishers of pulp reprints in beautifully bound trade-paperbacks, has produced two volumes (with more to follow) featuring The Best of Adventure magazine. Edited by Doug Ellis, these collections include stories by the best of the best – Talbot Mundy, H. Bedford-Jones, Rafael Sabatini, and many other writer who were once household names. Volume 1 contains one of the single greatest pulp adventure yarns, Talbot Mundy’s, The Soul of a Regiment, which never fails to give me chills every time I read it. 

The second volume of The Best of Adventure includes The Getting of Boh Na-Ghee, a cracking story set in Burma by Gordon MacCreah. Known for the verisimilitude of his African set stories, MacCreah’s expertise has been captured by another top notch pulp-centric publisher, Altus Books, who have reprinted a two volume collection featuring MacCreah’s most popular character Kingi Bwana. 

The Lost End of Nowhere: The Complete Tales of Kingi Bwana Volume 1 and Unprofitable Ivory: The Complete Tales of Kingi Bwana Volume 2 unleash the magic behind the words, “Anything can happen in Africa!” Big game hunter, trader and safari guide King, known all over the Dark Continent as Kingi Bwana, together with his two loyal companions – the deadly Masai warrior Barounggo and the wizened, cunning Hottentot Kaffa – battle slave traders, ivory poachers, gold smugglers, arms traffickers, evil witch doctors, and secret societies in the savanna and jungle of Central East Africa. These stories, tempered by the author’s firsthand knowledge of Africa transport the reader to a world long vanished.

I’ve only just discovered the tales of Kingi Bwana myself, but I enjoyed and was fascinated by every tale. I also found them surprisingly modern in the main character’s attitude and treatment of indigenous Africans and scorn for the trappings of the British overlords. 

Some of my personal pulp favorites are the Foreign Legion stories from the battered typewriter of Theodore Roscoe.  Altus Press has produced four volumes to give us The Complete Adventures of Thibaut Corday and the Foreign Legion. The stories in Better than Bullets (volume 1), Toughest in the Legion (volume 2), The Heads of Sergeant Baptiste (volume 3), and The Kid and the Cutthroats (volume 4) are all narrated by the ancient and querulous Foreign Legion campaigner Thibaut Corday. Corday spends his days smoking and drinking in small French cafes until he is nudged into spinning another fantastical yarn about his life as a Legionnaire. One of my favorites is The Wonderful Lamp of Thibaut Corday, a variation on the story of Aladdin’s lamp which had me on the edge of my seat.

There are many other pulp reading choices out there, but the above titles will give anyone a feel for the genre along with a quickening of their pulse and a longing for adventures of their own.

WHIPLASH WRITING!

WHIPLASH WRITING!

I’ll get this clear upfront – I saw the movie Whiplash recently and thought it was brilliant. The story of Andrew (Miles Teller), a budding jazz drummer at a prestigious New York music school and his sadistic mentor, Terrence Fletcher (an amazing J. K. Simmons), was a riveting, disturbing, rollercoaster ride coming off the rails to the beat of persistent percussion. By the final explosive twist and amazing musical finale, I came away emotionally rung out and in awe.

My column today, however, is not about the brilliance of the film or even to convince you to see it, but to talk about the pervasive use of the F-bomb and a raft of other explicatives and sexually explicit references, which almost undermined the power of Whiplash’s story.  There are so many people to whom I would like to recommend this film, but can’t do so in good conscious.

This isn’t about me being a prude. I was able to get beyond the language and take away from the film a poignant experience. Still, every time J.K. Simmons’ character Terence Fletcher began another explicative laden rant, the writer in me wanted to scream because the profanity was stealing away the destructive power of the screed.

Anyone who ever attended an Eddie Murphy concert in the eighties came away realizing that by the time Eddie had dropped the 800th F-bomb, the word itself held no power – it had become innocuous and weak. Profanity used in public at the top of the lungs became the go-to escape for every standup comedian whose funny lines were falling on deaf ears. Apparently the theory of the times was even a lame joke is funnier if you use the F-bomb three times.

What I believe is profanity is lazy writing. It is camouflage for the weak expression of thought, grist, and point. I’m not standing on my soapbox here without experience. I was once as guilty of anyone else of using a cacophony of explicatives in my writing.

My argument for using profanity was it was the way people talked. An F-bomb was a shorthand way of showing somebody was upset. How could you be sure the reader got your point if you didn’t make it clear by exploding an explicative?

Frankly, all of those arguments are bull****, er, excuse me, invalid. Dialogue in a novel or a screenplay, no matter how natural it sounds, has nothing in common with how we speak in real life. Everyday dialogue is filled with broken sentences, filler words, ers, uhhms, and inconsistencies…all made whole via physical gestures, tone and intonation. All of which goes out the window when writing tight, meaningful, dialogue in a screenplay or novel.

If you can’t convey emphasis or emotional upset in your writing without resorting to profanity, you are shortchanging your reader. You are also losing the opportunity to enrich and deepen your characters, to layer the narrative of your writing. By not relying on easy, pervasive, profanity to hide lame dialogue, you are forced to find better, more creative ways for your characters to interact, making your pages come alive.

When I had the opportunity twenty years later to rewrite the manuscript of my profanity sprinkled first published novel, Citadel Run, in preparation for republication as an e-book – under the title Hot Pursuit – I made a conscious effort to excise the explicatives.  In doing so, I found my skills as a writer had sharpened over the intervening years. It was easy to dump the F-bombs, and other emotionally blunting profane words, in favor of incisive cutting phrases, which gave a new sparkle and ingenuity to my dialogue.

I am not maintaining there is no place for profanity in your work. In Whiplash there is a seminal scene where the young drummer, Andrew, is emotionally forced over the edge and attacks his mentor. As he is dragged away, Andrew’s mental and physical state is such that cogent thought is almost impossible. As Andrew throws the only two words he can conjure – F*** you! F*** you! – at his nemesis, the audience feels the pain behind those words and instinctively understands they would be screaming the exact same thing under the circumstances. The explicatives hit like a one two punch, which would have been even more devastating had the F-bomb not been launched over and over throughout the film’s earlier scenes.

Bottom line: Less is more. When you are tempted to cheat yourself and your reader by using profanity as a crutch, dig down and find the real voice of your characters. Save those explosive words as if they were the very last grenades in your arsenal. Use them only when they will have the devastating effect of an atom bomb and not the wasted effort of a wildly sprayed machinegun.