Sunday, May 04, 2008
Every so often, I go back to pulp. Pulp fiction, a term which comes from the early part of the 1900's when most magazines were printed on cheap, pulpy paper, refers to those stories where the characters were often quickly drawn (they didn't have to be detailed; they often pulled from our identifications with archetypes), the action was fast, the locations often fanciful. Plots: good v. evil. And even if the main character was ambivalent, he was at least true to his own moral code.
Tarzan, Doc Savage, The Phantom...all pulp. Louis Lamour, Mickey Spillane. Dare I say Charles Gramlich and the Talera Cycle? And William Jones and "The Strange Cases of Rudolph Pearson".
This last book, just released by Chaosium, is set in the age of pulp and its character, Pearson, is classic. A thin, awkward professor at Columbia University who stumbles into several supernatural experiences, Pearson is an intellectual with little understanding of the opposite sex. He's a loner, a reluctant adventurer trying to overcome a traumatic experience suffered in the War To End All Wars. He's Cary Grant from "Bringing Up Baby". He's Jimmy Stewart.
The stories form an arc and toward the middle of the book, are cohesive enough to be considered a novel. Actually, reading this, I wished the book had been written as a novel. Still, the stories work in this format and offer tremendous fun. If I wanted to be obnoxious and pedantic, I could say that the story is about class struggle, with the main villain representing the corrupt decadence of inherited wealth and the main protagonists representing the best in working class American culture (self determination, humility, sacrifice, industry). But I've never been known to be long-winded or obnoxious, so I'll leave off this sort of analysis and suffice it to say that Jones' book is just good old fashioned Saturday afternoon fun, but the sort that is best read under the covers with a flash light while a storm is caterwauling outside.
One last point...while this book is from Chaosium and while it is definitely Lovecraftian in nature, it is wisely not weighted down by this. A person needs not be a tad familiar with the Mythos in order to enjoy the writing.
Posted by Stewart Sternberg at 1:19 PM