Professor Hex pointed out something to me recently: "The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril: A Novel." Now, for that name alone, the novel should be interesting. But the fascinating part comes in the description of the novel:
Ravaged by the devastation of the Great Depression, America turned to the pulp novels for relief, for hope, for heroes.
And the pulps delivered in spades.
The science fiction story, the hard-boiled detective, the superhero were all born on these cheap yellow pages, found behind blood-drenched covers dripping with sex and violence. Return now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, enter at your own risk into the dark and dank lair known as The White Horse Tavern, and meet Walter Gibson, the mind behind The Shadow, and Lester Dent, creator of Doc Savage, as they challenge one another to discover what is real and what is pulp.
For Gibson, writing a new novel about The Shadow every month is a way to evade his own dark past. For his rival, Lester Dent, creating Doc Savage is an attempt to bring the light of better days to desperate millions. In their lives and loves Gibson and Dent are as different from one another as the heroes they’ve created. But now the hideous murder of the fringe pulp writer H.P. Lovecraft — victim of a mysterious death that literally makes the skin crawl — will set these two men on a collision course with each other, and face to face with a terrifying and very real evil that could have sprung from the pages of their own pulps.
From the palaces and battlefields of warlord-plagued China to the seedy waterfronts of Providence; from frozen seas and cursed islands to the labyrinthine tunnels and secret temples of New York’s Chinatown, Dent and Gibson will find themselves in a dangerous race to stop a madman destined to create a new empire of pure evil. Together with the young pulp writer L. Ron Hubbard, a mysterious stranger, and a sexy psychic with a chicken, they will finally step out from behind their creations to take part in a heroic journey far greater than any story they have imagined. Their quest will force Gibson to look beyond the shadows and discover the true evil that lurks in the hearts of men, while Dent will learn that the nature of a true hero is not found in a fictional superman, but in the faith of the woman who challenges death itself to love him.
A novel that features pulp writers as heroes. Perfect! This is going on my "to buy soon" list. (The novel comes out in May.) In the meantime, check out PaulMalmont.com, where the author offers a lost chapter (though you'll have to crack a code first) and a nice collection of links about pulps and writers of the time. Also, if you hae a podcast, no matter how small, Malmont would like to be involved. Check out his Web site for details.
This seems to be the latest in a trend that may even become a genre unto itself: Novels featuring authors as characters fighting fictional menaces. Off the top of my head, similar books include Move Underground by Nick Mamatas and The List of 7 by Mark Frost. I know there was also a novel that featured H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith fighting an ancient evil. Can anyone think of any others?