In The Alchemy Press Book of Pulp Heroes, editor Mike Chinn has collected seventeen stories that explore the world of pulp fiction with tall tales of daring do, of heroes and heroines and their villains.
Stories in the tradition of The Shadow, The Bat, Doc Savage, The Spider; Dashiell Hammett’s Continental Detective Agency; Dusty Ayers & His Battle Birds; Sheena and K-Zar. Hard-boiled detectives, sinister vigilantes, bizarre villains: the staples of the Pulp tradition. Two-fisted heroes – and heroines – fighting for right and justice in the midnight city, foetid jungles or exotic, far-flung lands. Deranged villains for whom the world is never enough.
Cover painting by Bob Covington
- Mike Resnick – Origins
- Robert William Iveniuk – House Name
- Anne Nicholls – Eyes of Day, Eyes of Night
- William Meikle – Ripples in the Ether
- Chris Iovenko – The Perfect Murder
- Bracken N MacLeod – Ivy’s Secret Origin
- Joshua Wolf – Crossing the Line
- James Hartley – Jean Marie
- Ian Gregory – Currier Dread and the Hair of Destruction
- Amber L Husbands – The Going Rate
- Michael Haynes – No Way but the Hard Way
- Adrian Cole – The Vogue Prince
- Joel Lane – Upon a Granite Wind
- Milo James Fowler – The Last Laugh
- Allen Ashley – In the Margins
- Peter Crowther – Heroes and Villains
- Peter Atkins – The Return of Boy Justice
“An amazing collection of original pulp hero stories, this is a perfect book for a genre fan who has yet to discover the delights of the more traditional genre heroes. Imagine a comic book superhero in prose form. That’s what you get here with the seventeen stories included in this collection. Vigilantes, larger-than-life villains, hard-boiled detectives, and loads more. These short stories will give you a pulp fix, but I wanted more.
Stories by Mike Resnick, William Meikle, Joel Lane, Peter Crowther, Allen Ashley, Peter Atkins, and many more, write short stories in the pulp vein. Sparkling with enthusiasm and knowledge, these stories are immensely exciting, over the top, and brilliant. All pulp fans should read this book, and for those unfamiliar with Doc Savage, Tarzan, The Spider, Fu Manchu, and others, this is a great place to start. Pulp brilliance. Genre fiction at its comic best.” — Adrian Brady / Morpheus Tales Supplement 22
“Back in the day, I don’t know if the pulps came with that intoxicating newly printed smell that accompanies the latest issue of Interzone or Black Static, but I suspect reading them might have left you with ink-stained fingers. No such worries with The Alchemy Press Book of Pulp Heroes edited by Mike Chinn, but some of the stories might leave a lasting stain or impression on your mind. For a book with a blurb that mentions that it is following in the tradition of The Bat, Doc Savage, The Shadow, etc, etc, you know what you are in for behind an impressive cover from Bob Covington. The pulps, of course, covered many genres, and Chinn has gathered a collection of stories that are spread across crime, amazing adventures, noir, science fiction, superheroes, occult adventures, and even wacky westerns.
I’m not going to go through the collection story by story, but I thought strongest of the bunch were Joel Lane’s “Upon a Granite Wind”, dedicated to Robert E Howard, and Mike Resnick’s “Origin”, which cleverly might just tell the story of how a pulp legend was born. It’s all very well living in the heart of Metropolis – what do you do when you live in the suburbs a long way from where the “capes” do their stuff? Well, Bracken N MacLeod’s “Ivy’s Secret Origin” tells a story of a housewife rising to the occasion. Heroes also feature in two stories that end the anthology, namely Peter Crowther’s “Heroes and Villains” and Peter Atkins “The Return of Kid Justice”, and in both stories you are in the safe, steady hands of two consummate wordsmiths. Crowther knows his comics and his story is a touching tale of when the stuff of life and death interrupts the shenanigans; while Atkins story involves a pensioner who played the teenage sidekick of a hero a long, long time ago on television who must come to the rescue of a boy, and possibly himself.
But not all the pulps were about heroes, and Chris Iovenko’s “The Perfect Murder” is a great, noir-ish tale of an author who has written about the perfect murder who gets hired by the beautiful wife of a tycoon to carry it out for real. As a fan of Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer novels, this rattling tale read like a collection of the blurbs at the back of those books.
Iovenko’s story wore the garish cloak of pulpdom well, as did Anne Nicholls’ exotic adventure “Eyes of Day, Eyes of Night” and Adrian Cole’s occult romp “The Vogue Prince”, and as a Scot it was nice to see a fellow Scot, Willie Meikle, write about a fictional Scot, one Professor Challenger, who gets involved in a tale involving yet another real-life Scot (no spoilers here) who has released beasties from other dimension. Where’s Quatermass when you need him? Well, he might be in volume two, which I hope will be just as enjoyable as this first one.” — Ian Hunter / Interzone
“To some people Pulp is a four letter word, that invokes feelings of disdain, and shouts of “you’re not worthy”. To these people I say boo, hisss. I love pulp, but I hate the term. I think it does a great disservice to a style of story telling that has held a special place in my heart since my first tentative steps into the world of reading. So when a book wears its colours as brazenly on its cover as the The Alchemy Press Book of Pulp Heroes, then it had better be good.
If there was one person who would be up to this task, then it would be Mike Chinn, author of the fantastic The Paladin Mandates the brilliant Robot Kid. Over the course of the stories held within the pages of this hugely entertaining volume, Mike Chinn covers practically every single base of pulp fiction. From the opening story Origins by Mike Resnick, which in true Pulp fashion tells the origin story of one of the genres greatest heroes.
Eyes of Day, Eyes of Night perfectly captures the feel of those classic Saturday Matinee films, bursting to the seams with scoundrelous villains, square jawed heroes, piranhas and the search for some ancient relic, this story cannot help but be fabulous.
Ripples In The Ether by William Meikle, is another one of his excellent Professor Challenger stories. This time our intrepid hero is tackling an otherworldly menace that is drawn to our plane of existence by the power of broadcasting. Meikle perfectly captures the essence of Challanger in this fast paced short story.
Ivy’s Secret Origin by Bracken Macleod is a refreshing take on the super hero origin story. Where Ivy’s rise to her own personal super hero is told in wonderful style. Currier Dread and The Hair of Destruction by Ian Gregory is a brilliantly funny tale about a special kind of super villain and there slightly crazy plan.
What anthology about pulp would be complete with out a tale about a down beat fighter trying to make good. No Way, But The Hard Way by Michael Haynes, takes this genre standard and transports it to a gritty future world, where off world miner Leon is just trying to make enough money for the return trip home. Haynes captures the fight scenes and the motivation of Haynes perfectly, transforming this well used story into a one, two three, knockout punch.
The Vogue Prince by Adrian Cole is perhaps my favourite story in this excellent collection, with shades of Dr Strange, The Shadow, and Sam Spade. Cole’s story in my opinion captures the true essence of pulp, shady streets, shady gangsters, and the supernatural all mix together to create a truly satisfying read.
The final honorable mention must go to Joel Lane’s Upon a Granite Wind. This story is the perfect example of why Pulp is not a four letter word, while the story remains true to the genre, Joel’s brilliant writing shows that Pulp is a genre and not a indication of the standard of writing involved.
The Alchemy Press Book of Pulp Heroes is a spectacularly brilliant read, Mike Chinn, has brought together some great writers in this anthology. He has also shown that the Pulp genre can be as diverse, satisfying and just as well written as any other genre out there. Don’t be ashamed folks, go out and get yourself a copy of this book, and prepare to be entertained to the max.” — Jim McLeod / Ginger Nuts of Horror
“Pulp is not a genre! Pulp is a style. The word was coined to describe the format in which it was originally publishedâ€”that being thick magazines, printed on really cheap (wood pulp) paper. Pretty much every/any genre can be pulp. Pulp stories are fast-paced, thrilling, action orientated, and for the most part, not at all concerned with subtexts, or examining the human condition. If any of that occurred, it was accidental.
One might expect a book of â€œPulp Heroesâ€ to be primarily concerned with the superhero-like characters of the Hero Pulps (The Shadow, The Spider, Doc Savage etc.)
This collection certainly does contain such elements, but it covers a wider range of pulp fiction and often strays into stories that are more about pulps than actual pulp.
Mike Resnick’s ‘Origins’ is an interesting way to open a book dedicated to classic pulp heroes. It doesn’t feature a hero as such, not in the normal sense of the word. Instead, we have a story which tells us how a cartoonist might have been inspired to create one of the most famous comic-strip detectives of all time. Pedants may gripe that it’s not even a pulp character, but I doubt you’d find a more pulpy detective in the funny papers than this guy.
‘House Name’ by Robert William Iveniuk is another story about a writer. Kent Rockland is the creator of ‘Titan Bradshaw’, a hero in the Doc Savage mould. Kent is planning on ending the series, and his character, with one final story. His editor, however, has other plans. The character is popular. The fans love him, although they haven’t been so keen on Kent’s last few efforts. Plans are afoot to bring in new writers to take over. Things do not go well.
‘Eyes of Day, Eyes of Night’ by Anne Nicholls has all the classic hallmarks of a pulp jungle adventure. Fiesty heroine, greedy villains, ancient tribal magic. Much as I hate being overly negative in reviews, I have to admit that I simply didn’t like it much. It’s not badly written, or even a bad idea for a story. It just failed to appeal to me.
I knew I was in safe hands with William Meikle. His contribution, ‘Ripples in the Ether’, is one of his new Professor Challenger stories, building on the original canon of Arthur Conan Doyle. In this story, the experiments of a well-known Scottish inventor attract the attention of something from outside our dimension. It’s very much science fiction/horror in the vein of Quatermass.
The Perfect Murder by Chris Iovenko takes us firmly into noir territory. The unnamed protagonist is a best-selling, if not financially secure, author, and Marion White would like to hire him to actually commit the perfect murderâ€”that of her abusive husband.
In a world where super-heroes and villains exist, they are so busy dealing with the bigger issues (and each other) that they have no time for the ordinary people. In ‘Ivy’s Secret Origin’, Bracken N. McLeod shows us that ordinary people can sometimes take care of themselves.
Pirates meet monsters, meet steampunk in Josh Wolf’s ‘Crossing the Line’. It doesn’t get much more pulp than this! It’s a tale of greed, betrayal and poetic justice, with a neat twist at the end.
‘Jean Marie’ by James Hartley tells us of a young woman, with superhuman abilities. She doesn’t put on a mask and become a vigilante, though. Instead, she disappears, only to reappear once the NATO planetary missions were declassified.
Next, Ian Gregory gives us an absolute geek-fest of a story. Jim Harris is a staff-writer at Riverside publishing. Those British readers old enough to have been brought up on the weekly comics of the 60s and 70s will be able to spot the real-world basis for the publisher and many of their creations. There’s a major difference here though. In this world, the stories are all based on the adventures of heroes who actually exist. In ‘Currier Dread and the Hair of Destruction’, Jim is in a bind. The latest Currier Dread story is due and the hero hasn’t shown up yet with the details. When the subject of his work does finally show, Jim discovers some major differences between his work and its real-life basis.
Bjorn Entgam doesn’t have much of worth in his life. He owns a little newspaper stand, from which he runs an illegal bookmaking operation. The highlight of his week is a visit from one of his regulars, Lydea Fairchild. In the chilling tale, ‘The Going Rate’ by Amberle L. Husbands, we learn just how important she is to him.
Michael Haynes manages to combine two classic pulp genres in ‘No Way But the Hard way’. There were many pulp magazines dedicated to sports stories, but ‘Fight Stories’ was the first to be dedicated to a single sport, that being boxing. This is very much a fight story, but in a science fiction setting.
In ‘The Vogue Prince’, Adrian Cole introduces us to an occult detective. There have been many of them over the decades, going back to Carnacki and before, and the sub-genre seems to be particularly popular now. Nick Nightmare is different from most, in that he’s a classic hard-boiled P.I. Type, who just happens to deal with occult threats. Think of a Raymond Chandler story that might have been published in Weird Tales, and you’ll get the idea. I sincerely hope it’s the first of a series.
Joel Lane’s excellent ‘Upon a Granite Wind’ is dedicated to Robert E. Howard, and is very much a tribute to that master’s horror tales. The idea of dreaming of past heroic lives is one that Howard employed in some of his own stories.
I was pleased to see a western in this collection, but ‘The Last Laugh’, by Milo James Fowler, is written in a knowing, â€œlook we’re in a pulp storyâ€ style, which I found a little annoying. I’m sure it was intended as an affectionate tribute, but for me it came over with an air of, â€œOK, this pulp stuff is pretty rubbish really, but we can have a little fun at its expense (wink,wink).â€ Sometimes tongue in cheek works, but for me, this time it didn’t.
It took me a little while to cotton on to what was going on in Allen Ashley’s strange little story, ‘In the Margins’. I don’t want to give too much away, so all I’ll say is this… All the stories feature fictional characters, but not quite in the same manner as this clever tale.
My favourite story in the book is ‘Heroes and Villains’ by Peter Crowther. Like a couple of the others, it’s more influenced by the superhero comics boom of the 60s than the actual pulps. It plays on the oft-stated theory that the heroes couldn’t exist without the villains and vice versa.
The hero of Peter Atkins’ ‘The Return of Boy Justice’ is not a pulp hero. He’s an elderly has-been actor who played a pulp hero’s sidekick on TVâ€”a sidekick who didn’t even appear in the original pulps, none-the-less! Old, bitter and miserable, his life is changed by a young boy who believes Boy Justice can save him.
It’s a mixed bunch. There seem to be more stories influenced by pulp fiction than there are actual pulp stories, although a couple manage to be both. While there were a couple of stories I didn’t like as much as the others, this was down to personal tastes, rather than bad writing. I’m sure many will disagree with me. I’ve read a lot in the genre that has come to be known as â€œNew Pulpâ€ recently. About half of this collection seems more of an outsider’s view of pulp than new pulp, but it’s no less interesting for that.” — Dave Brzeski / BFS
“I was born in the late forties and inherited a bookshelf full of pulp fiction from my mother. Raymond Chandler, Rex Stout and Ellery Queen were the authors I grew up with. I never missed an installment of Dick Tracey so I was hooked on this anthology from the first story. It is escapist literature at its best with bad guys who are really bad and good guys who get the job done with few words and always a cigarette. Although the science fiction end was not my favorite genre back then, the new improved SF in the Alchemy Press anthology suited me very well. There are cowboys, action heroes, evil villains, super heroes and hard boiled detectives all in one bound volume. I felt like a kid in a candy store with a dollar bill in my pocket. I had two favorite stories in the collection. “Ivy’s Secret Origin” spoke to me as an older woman who has become almost invisible. Our culture tends to disgard the elderly as non-essential, relegating them to almost inhuman status. As a human, female, housewife and mother, Ivy had almost achieved the same status. She was left-overs to be used and tossed away at a whim. But Ivy is more, because at her core she is WOMAN and all that implies. I read Ivy’s origins to be Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, Gloria Steinham and every woman who has risked her life metaphorically or otherwise to save her family. My other favorite was “The Return of Boy Justice,” for obvious reasons. We all have something to give, no matter how old or irrelevant others may see us. The paper is nicer in this anthology but the stories are the stories of my youth, filled with adventure, justice, and a world that makes some sort of sense, even if it is as simple as the bad guy going down and the good woman twisting the knife.” — CJ McCoy
“This is a very enjoyable selection of short stories that harken back to the adventure stories of the pulp magazines. Some refer to the stories and authors of those days directly, others are written in the style of the pulp era with either a past or modern setting, while some take some aspect of those great stories of Robert E. Howard, etc, and make them their own. There is great variety from story to story which kept the anthology fresh, while at the same time providing a satisfying anthology. I really enjoyed reading this anthology and found after I finished each story I would think ‘I’ll just read one more’. Highly recommended.” — Zombie Inkpot
“The short stories in this book run the full gamut of pulpy fun. I found each better than the last, but I guarantee there is something for every fan of pulp.” — Amazon
“This book is a complete joy to read. I didn’t expect it to be so consistently good, but the stories really hit the mark. Many marks. There’s a little of everything from the halcyon days of pulp publishing: heroes–super and otherwise–swashbuckling, detective, adventurers–you name it. This is a great collection and something highly entertaining because you can pick it up and put it down, the stories are just the right length with the kind of varied impact that’s inspiring. I think this is a totally underrated anthology and I believe it’s the cover. What I see evoked is the 1970s pulp when Conan took off on the illustrated page. The anthology itself, however, is more evocative of the heroes and villains from pulp’s beginnings: super-scientist explorers, two-fisted masked men, and the machinations of career villains. A thoroughly enjoyable read and not at all Flash Gordon or John Carpenter of Mars–which seems to be the promise of the cover.” — Errick A. Nunnally