Mike Chinn is the editor of The Alchemy Press Book of Pulp Heroes 3 and Nick Nightmare Investigates, the latter a collection of Adrian Cole’s pulp detective stories, both published this autumn. Nightmare also includes a collaborative story by Adrian and Mike, where their pulp characters meet up to tackle some nasty villains. Here they answer a few questions about their latest ventures
Are you old-school pulp or new-pulp? Is there a difference and if so, what?
Adrian: It depends on the mood of the day, the weather, the tide, what I’m reading, how my cat behaves towards me … I’m very eclectic. I write in a number of genres and styles and sometimes the crossovers and mixes are slightly outside normal definitions. I’m not a great respecter of boundaries. I’d always want to slip over the wall and investigate what’s beyond. Nick Nightmare is mainly a tribute to some of the older fashions, but really anything goes…
Mike: No idea what I am, and I’ve always resisted being pigeonholed. I’m not even sure what New Pulp is (I’m always suspicious of anything with ‘New’ stuck in front of it). I imagine it’s something of a catch-all term used to cover contemporary authors who are deliberately aping the styles of fiction which have become labelled ‘Pulp’ – that’s to say hard-boiled detective fiction, mystery men, certain forms of fantasy and science fiction, etc. Straightforward, naïve, uncomplicated – and decidedly not ‘literary.’ There may even be a certain camp element to it. Pulp was named for the cheap paper which the pre-WW2 magazines used; now it’s a style of storytelling (although because of the inherent of variety of fiction, I don’t think it’s ever likely to become labelled a genre).
Adrian, do you think that the Cthulhu Mythos is the ideal arena for your stories, or are you considering exploring other areas of the supernatural in future stories? Mike, your stories have already touched on the Mythos and elsewhere; so what next for Damian Paladin?
Adrian: The Nightmare/Mythos stories sparked off by accident, when I was commissioned to do a hard-boiled detective versus Cthulhu’s minions story for an anthology that ultimately didn’t get off the ground. I did eventually sell the yarn and on the strength of it was asked for another NN story for Jon Harvey’s Cthulhu magazine. I decided then to make the first arc of stories all Mythos based, to give them a common theme and thus Nick Nightmare Investigates was born. But the next arc of stories has a different theme – black magic, Satanism, witchcraft and so forth. The thing I enjoy about writing the stories is that they can encompass anything.
Mike: I’m putting the finishing touches to a portmanteau novel, Walkers in Shadow, which comprises eight related tales – spanning the year 1935 – and features such delights as vast, aerial (vaguely Lovecraftian) creatures, zombies (real ones), a vampire (and not some broody, sparkly one, either), Templar treasures, a far dimension crawling with more tentacled nasties, and a man-eating Christmas tree. Along the way Paladin and Leigh Oswin bump shoulders with a genuine mad scientist, Nazi-invoked demons, Count Saint-Germain, and Paladin’s old man.
Nick Nightmare Investigates includes collaboration between your two famous (or infamous) pulp heroes. How did this come about? What was the process like and did you come to blows? Are there any further mash-ups between Nightmare and Paladin on the horizon?
Mike: Somewhere during the editing process it was suggested that we should do a special team-up for the limited hardback edition. For myself, it sounded like a no-brainer: despite their differences in time-periods (not to mention universes), temperament and degree of mortality (it’s no secret that Paladin isn’t entirely human, with an incredibly extended lifespan), the characters probably have more in common than they’d like to admit. I’d never written a collaboration before but since I’d known Ade for many years, I thought we could probably manage it without too many bust-ups. In the end it was incredibly easy: Ade dreamed up the plot, wrote what became the first half or so – which I went through and tweaked before taking up the reins for the section featuring Paladin. Ade polished that (re-tweaking my tweaks), and that was pretty much it. Apart from the characters’ dialogue – where, due to long familiarity, each of us was obviously in the best position to know how their creations sounded – I defy anyone to pick out which bits I wrote and which are Ade’s. As for further collaborations between the two, I never say no; though I think Nightmare may have a few conditions of his own (no aeroplanes, for one).
Adrian: I can’t add much to Mike’s precise summation of what happened. It was a very natural symbiosis, even to the point where we were able to splice together the peculiar worlds/environments of our two characters. As for future team-ups, I’m with Mike – there’s no reason why not. There will be references to Paladin in some of the new Nightmare yarns and Mike knows he can do the same with NN if he wants to in the Paladin saga. I can’t imagine Mike and me ever coming to blows. Life’s too short and we’re too fond of a tipple or two.
Tell us a little about Nick Nightmare and Damian Paladin – their genesis and nemesis (or nemeses)?
Adrian: Digging deep down into my subconscious … whew, no maybe not that deep, that’s ghastly … I read a few Peter Cheyney (Lemmy Caution) books as a kid and later some Mickey Spillane and I loved TV/movie stuff with Lee Marvin and Robert Mitchum and a lot of that must have rubbed off. I’d written a few humorous stories, mostly for children, and ‘performed’ some so-called extracts from works in progress at FantasyCons and the like (e.g. Revenge of the Heavy Metal Vampires). Add to that a mountain of books, movies, comics etc and stir well and, following that commission I spoke of, Nick Nightmare was born. I have a very detailed mental biography of Nick and will reveal his past as we go along. There will be some surprises along the way, even for me. As for a Nemesis or two (see how neatly I sidestepped defining the plural of the word?) there is Spiderhead, who will return in the second arc, a new one called Lucien da Sangreville and the horrible Pumpkin King, to name but a few. And as Mike says, I very much doubt if we’ve seen the last of Wolfgang Rottwanger.
Mike: Ever since I was knee-high to a chitterling I had a vague idea that I wanted to write some sort of Noirish, 1930s-set character. Howard Chaykin had taken his short-run The Scorpion from Atlas/Seaboard comics to Marvel where, with a few changes the character was reborn as Dominic Fortune. That was the springboard, but I couldn’t develop the idea. Then one day I had a phone call from David Sutton telling me that Italian editor Francesco Cova was looking for submissions to an occult detective themed issue of his English language Small Press zine, Kadath. The idea was crystallised in a few minutes: two-fisted, gun-toting ghost hunter Damian Paladin was born in the story ‘The Death Wish Mandate’ (renamed ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’ for the collection The Paladin Mandates).
I’ve never provided Paladin with a sworn enemy as such (though his relationships with his father and Saint-Germain skate perilously close at times). Maybe Wolfgang Rottwanger will reappear – as all decent villains must – to plague him in the future.
Who should direct the movie versions of your characters and who should play the lead roles? I assume you would want to write the scripts yourselves.
Adrian: Guillermo del Toro might be fun. Ariadne? Kate Beckinsale maybe, or Scarlet Johanson as she seems to be kicking everything to bits these days. As for Nick himself, it would have been perfect for Robert Mitchum if we could get a time machine. Given the opportunity I’d write a script, but I’d be kidding myself if I thought they would stick to it!
Mike: I rather think Joss Whedon would be a grand choice – especially given the expanding company hanging around Paladin: he’s excellent at putting a diverse group on screen whilst retaining the characters’ individual voices. I’ve long thought Amy Adams would be perfect as Leigh Oswin; and for Damy himself – why not Hugh Jackman?
But no – I have no ambition to write the script; I have no intention of being driven mad by the Hollywood meat-grinder. I might work on a treatment (I did adapt The Paladin Mandates into a three act treatment some years ago), but otherwise I’m happy to sell options on the stories and let them do their worst.
Since you’ve already written one cross-over story, which other fictional detectives would you like to feature in a Nightmare/Paladin story?
Adrian: I used a character called Palgrave Reverence in my novel Night of the Heroes and he’s a Sherlock Holmes type – he will be back. And there’s a new one, Reverend Aaron Belasco, due in the new story arc. We have to watch out for copyrights, etc. I tend to use variations on a theme, which is how Pulpworld was born.
Mike: The ultimate detective. I’ve long hankered for a crossover with the Batman. It’ll never happen – but I can dream.
A brief change of topic: Have I Got News for You or Mock the Week? Strictly Come Dancing or Britain’s Got Talent? Jethro Tull or Jay-Z? Steak well done or rare?
Adrian: HIGNFY is one I dip in to now and then, especially like the extended repeats with all the rude bits. MTW has a couple of amusing guys (I love Andy Parsons) but most of them are shit. My kids like Strictly so I see it sometimes – Brucie is proof that there really are zombies – but I’ve never seen, or wanted to see BGT.
I used to go and see Jethro Tull in their early days (in Brum) and there were audiences of about 30 of us! Same era as Black Sabbath when they were Earth – they were the warm up (resident) band for the bigger bands (like Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac) and everyone cleared out while Earth played. Jay-Z … no, not for me. Stick him on MTW and he’d be in good company. Steak – well done, but I can eat medium if I’m hungry, which is most of the time.
Mike: Have I Got News for You just edges out Mock the Week for me. Never heard of the other two things – are you sure you aren’t hallucinating? I’m listening to Tull at the moment (Thick As a Brick, since you ask) and even though I’ve heard of Jay-Z, I couldn’t pick him out in a line-up (some sort of crap artist, is he? The C being silent, I believe…). Prefer my steak well done (thought I was going to get lynched in New York once because of that. I believe it’s a hanging offense in Texas).
What one thing from Fantasy (from the whole spectrum of the genre) should be banished to Room 101?
Mike: Flesh-eating zombies. It’s an overdone, played-out meme; ridiculous, and about as scary as a Simpson’s Tree-House of Horror episode. Besides, they’re not even zombies.
Adrian: Questionnaires. No, only kidding. Difficult to say – someone will always come up with a new twist. I’ve got this amazing idea involving flesh-eating zombies…
Mike, you’ve now edited three volumes of The Alchemy Press Book of Pulp Heroes. Have you enjoyed the process and are you up for volume 4? (Don’t worry, you can always back out later.) Adrian, long ago you edited the BFS’ Dark Horizons; do you fancy another stint in the editor’s chair?
Adrian: I did edit my first ever volume a few years ago – recently released as Young Thongor, all the collected Lin Carter Thongor stories, with a couple of extras by Robert Price thrown in. It was fun to do it, but hard work. When I edited Dark Horizon, I was young and naïve and I’m sure it shows (embarrassingly so) in those issues! Part of the learning curve. Now I’m much older and naïve, so I’d be better at it, it says here. But I have no plans.
Mike: Editing’s hard work (I’ve said in the past anyone who thinks otherwise isn’t doing it right) and I occasionally begrudge the time it’s taking away from my own writing, but I know perfectly well that in the wake of volume three I’ll get buoyed up and ready for the next one. Enjoyed it? Yes – but I’m not sure all of my authors have J
Finally, what’s next, what goodies do you have in store for us?
Mike: There’s a Steampunk Sherlock Holmes, Vallis Timoris (based around The Valley of Fear) that’s been awaiting publication for almost two years and I’m assured will soon see print. We’ll see. Otherwise, apart from the Paladin book and a couple of short stories (‘Where the Long White Roadway Lies’ in Kneeling in the Silver Light [The Alchemy Press], ‘E is for Ecophobia’ in Phobophobias [Western Legends Press] – both edited by Dean M Drinkel – and ‘Chasing the Dragon’ in Emby Press’s Superhero Monster Hunter: The Good Fight) it’s all up in the air at the moment. I have a masked mystery man, the Black Tarot, who I want to introduce via a Damian Paladin story – a backdoor pilot, as it were. I’m planning a novel introducing Jonathon Syphre, a criminal investigator with magical powers who operates in Britain’s mid 1960s (Darkness, My Old Friend) if I can think of a proper storyline; and also Corsairs of the Deep, set in an alternative 1940 on board a large underwater cruiser (it’s not just old biplanes – I have a thing about big submarines as well. Make of that what you will, Sigmund).
Adrian: I’m in the middle of writing Wait for the Ricochet, a supernatural novella, starring Nick Nightmare, Oil-Gun Eddy and Ariadne Carnadine. Watch this space. Also planning In the Court of the Pumpkin King, another NN story. A huge on-going project is my three volume saga about Romano-Celtic Europe, starring the German warlord, Arminius, Germanicus and Boudicca – set in an alternative world where history diverges from our own. My earlier fantasy series, The Omaran Saga and Star Requiem quartet are both being turned into (eight) audio books with Audible, to follow on from the audio version of The Shadow Academy. Due out at FantasyCon is a new magazine from Jon Harvey’s Spectre Press, featuring Elak of Atlantis, Henry Kuttner’s creation, in a tale called Witch Queen of Doom Island, another pulp tribute. I also have novel outlines for a new SF novel and a NN novel, so I’ve got enough to keep me going for a few years yet, provided I’d don’t slope off to the beach too often. Oh, look, the tide’s high in another hour and a half. Time to sign off and find my trunks/trolleys…