Book Review: Black Pulp

Book Reviewed by Robert Fleming

In his succinct introduction, award-winning novelist Walter Mosley, creator of the noted private eye Easy Rawlins, explains the appeal of fiction printed in the low-cost pulp mags, saying the stories grabbed the reader’s attention immediately, kept him turning pages, and gave him a variety of mental appetizers such as action, romance, magic, fantasy, and scientific illusion. Born as a diversion for the misery of war and the Great Depression, some of the finest writers produced by this country emerged from the pulps such as Hammett, Chandler, Lovecraft, and L’Amour.

The brain-child of mystery writer Gary Phillips and Tommy Hancock of Prose Press, this collection, Black Pulp, builds on that Yankee literary foundation by putting some soul into the mix, some funk in larger-than-life heroes other than Doc Savage or Conan the Barbarian. Whereas the fan base has dwindled for the various pulp genres through the years, there is a renewed interest among the high-tech youth for the vintage Marvel comic icons and other caped do-gooders such as Superman and Batman.

What a stellar lineup of contributors! Phillips and Hancock knew what they were doing in assembling this collection of dozen stories. The writers gathered between these covers are Gar Anthony Harwood, Christopher Chambers, Joe R. Lansdale, Gary Phillips, Charles R. Saunders, D. Alan Lewis, Kimberley Richardson, Ron Fortier, Michael A. Gonzales, Derrick Ferguson, and Tommy Hancock.

Strictly adult, with a stress on a fictional world where heroes of color take center stage, readers will love these yarns of mayhem and mischief, of right hooks and upper cuts, war tales, pirates, and sleuths looking for clues among stiffs. Check out the heroes of Ron Fortier’s U.S. Deputy Marshall Bass Reeves, Gary Phillips’ brash pug Decimator Smith, Charles R. Saunders’ bronze jungle man Mtimu with his fly-girl heartthrob Enid Brown, D. Alan Lewis’ Black Wolfe, Michael A. Gonzales’ hip hop troubleshooters Jaguar and Shep, Kimberley Richardson’s powerful Agnes Viridian, and Joe R. Lansdale’s hard-Six Finger Jack. It’s almost as if the plots of the tall tales are secondary because it’s the quality and pedigree of the heroes and heroines who capture our imagination.

The heroes are the thing as Gonzales writes in a tongue-in-cheek way in his story, Jaguar And The Jungleland Boogie: “Superheroes have super powers,” Coltrane corrected. “We’ll be just regular heroes, like Dick Tracy or Shaft. But, we can wear masks if you want. Like Batman.” (pp. 238).

Honestly, there is a long, rich tradition of Black writers who have toiled to great advantage in the pulp genre. Here, Black Pulp is gathered from the very best of the New Pulp scribes, with a genius for action and romance, drawing from the fantastic, grotesque, and magical. Read and become bewitched.

Read CreateSpace’s description of Black Pulp.

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