Saturday, November 26, 2016

The creator of Zorro tells the truth!

Old game shows like To Tell the Truth have a classic charm, perhaps because they're antiquated by today's standard. Three guys stand in a police line-up and claim, "My name is Johnston McCulley." Were a program like this broadcast today, people would searches for McCulley's Facebook page or related artiles, then claim they "knew it was him all along."

McCulley's segment doesn't begin until the 17:00 mark, after the mandatory Geritol commercial. You may kick back and enjoy the episode in its entirety. It's only 25:24 of your life.

This is the closest I've found to a television or radio interview with Johnston McCulley. It's a good excuse to remind everyone that December marks the volume four release of Zorro: The Complete Pulp Adventures. The next volume features The Sign of Zorro, a 1941 novel never reprinted since its original publication in Argosy. No need to thank us ... that's what Bold Venture Press does ...

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Zorro's bold venture!

Zorro rides again in new editions from Bold Venture Press!

In cooperation with Zorro Productions, Bold Venture Press will release the complete adventures of Zorro, the iconic hero created by Johnston McCulley. Some of these stories have remained out of print since their initial appearance.

The masked swordsman debuted in The Curse of Capistrano, a novel serialized in The All-Story Weekly. From 1919 until 1959, McCulley's sixty-one Zorro short stories and novels were featured prominently in pulp magazines of the day, often while Zorro was appearing in movie theaters.

Bold Venture will publish Zorro: The Complete Pulp Adventures in six volumes beginning in 2016.

Zorro ® & © 2016 Zorro Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Pulp Adventures TM & © 2016 Bold Venture Press. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Nemesis Returns ...

Bold Venture Press has released The Nemesis Chronicles, a collection of short stories featuring Gary Lovisi's "New Pulp" vigilante. The Nemesis cuts pieces from the same cloths as The Spider and The Executioner, stitched into a new pattern for the 21st century. He's an urban hero based in New York City, birthed at the dawn of David Dinkins' mayoral administration, making his comeback during the twilight of Bill de Blasio's run. Ineptitude must inspire masked vigilantes.

The Nemesis made his world debut in 1988 in a saddle-stitched digest-sized fanzine, titled The Nemesis, with a green paper cover. A trio of stories -- "The Kingdom of Crime," "The Season of Darkness," and "Destiny With a Gun" -- launched his career. The character is crafted to capture the excitement of past heroes like The Whisperer and The Shadow, with a modern approach.

Gary Lovisi was an early practitioner of "New Pulp," long before the phrase was bestowed upon the movement. He edited and published Hardboiled, which became the Black Mask and Manhunt of the 1990s. Gary continues to publish Paperback Parade, a beloved journal on the post-pulp format. He published new and classic fiction, under the Gryphon Books imprint, and sponsored the New York Pulp and Paperback Expo. Today he devotes his efforts to authoring new fiction.

The Brooklynite captures in vivid detail the attitudes, colors and smells of New York. (Try visiting Manhattan during a garbage strike.) His patience exhausted with drug dealers, pimps, and mobsters, New Yorker Harry Turner resorts to time-honored vigilantism to solve the problems overwhelming police and a corrupt administration:

"Turner checked his weapons and other equipment for the final time in the secluded shadows of the old tenement doorway. Two Uzi sub-machine pistols, loaded and ready. Safety’s off. One large Bowie-type knife, serrated edge, stainless steel blade, sheathed to his outer right thigh, the guard loosened allowing his hand quick access to the weapon at a moment’s notice. A tough nylon cord with grapple was wrapped around his waist, while his belts held two smoke grenades on the right side, two standard fragmentation grenades on the left, and a dozen 15 and 25-load clips for the Uzis. He was ready for anything — he hoped." (from "The Kingdom of Crime" by Gary Lovisi)

The prose eschews the florid melodrama Norvell Page brought to The Spider. Readers are quickly reminded that Harry Turner, the Nemesis, is a working man's crimefighter:

“Okay, Rico, you got me! Now what you gonna do with me?” Turner shouted defiantly.“You cause me a lot of trouble, my man!” the rasping voice blared in answer over the sound system of the disco. “You’re dead, man! Real dead!”“Eat me!” Turner barked, then quickly blasted out the three TV cameras pointed down at him. “Now you can’t see either!”

Turner lacks the refinement of Richard Wentworth (The Spider), or Lamont Cranston (The Shadow), but his methods produce the same results -- lots of dead bad guys, and more safety in the streets.

The original stories were published sporadically between 1988 and 1999, an period not drastically different from the Pulp Era. The Nemesis embarked on his career during the corrupt Dinkins mayoral administration, then hung up his Uzis while Rudolph Giuliani presided over New York City. Thus, readers may (or may not) notice the lack of cell phones, computers, and "world wide web." Surveillance cameras weren't very common, and innocent bystanders usually ran for cover instead of streaming video to YouTube.

Readers may feel a pang of nostalgia (or something more somber) when a scene utilizes the World Trade Center.

Another anachronism from that period? I was barely twenty years old when The Nemesis debuted in green-cover fanzine. I can't remember where or when I purchased it -- one day it was just lurking on my bookcase -- but the publication was new and exciting. I began collecting pulp magazines in 1984, while still a teenager, so everything was "new" and came attached with an automatic "gosh-gee-whiz" quality. But The Nemesis earned my admiration with his wild and unpredictable exploits.

So, flash forward to 2015 ... The old excitement and wonder has returned! Nearly thirty years later, Gary Lovisi approached us about The Nemesis Chronicles, including a new, contemporary Harry Turner adventure. The opportunity to bring his crime-fighting career full-circle (and to give it a fresh push) was irresistible. We diligently worked to create a book worthy of this noble "New Pulp" hero, and we're looking forward to Gary's new Nemesis stories.

Authors don't always successfully revive a character. Keep the character in the same time period? Bring the character forward in time and preserve his youth? Gary now writes about a Nemesis sixteen years later both in chronology and age.

In "The Nemesis Returns," Harry Turner is a little older and grouchier, settled into a life with family and friends, when Vic Powers (the protagonist of The Last Goodbye, also by Lovisi) comes a-knockin'. A visit from Powers usually isn't prompted by anything resembling "good news." When Turner learns plans are afoot to unleash the "Satan Plague," a virulent chemical weapon he believed he destroyed years earlier, he doesn't need persuasion to bring The Nemesis out of retirement.

In many respects, the world hasn't changed all that much, so Harry Turner has vigilante work cut out for him. The rules of adventure pulp fiction haven't changed much, either ... Find a good character, embroiled in a dramatic situation, develop the personality as the plot moves along. Make it entertaining.

Welcome back, Harry Turner, a.k.a. The Nemesis!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

"Parker: The Hunter"

The Hunter is the first in a series of books by Donald Westlake (writing as Richard Stark), featuring the exploits of Parker, a laconic, unrepentant criminal. The novel’s plot seems
straightforward enough – a double-crossed man wants his money, his wife, and his revenge – although the plot jumps from present to past, filling in details leading up to the novel’s beginning while hurtling toward its violent conclusion.

The Hunter was adapted as a graphic novel by Darwyn Cooke, whose background included Batman: The Animated Series and The New Frontier for DC Comics. Cooke remained faithful to Westlake/Stark’s plot, admirably illustrating some of the novel's more “abstract” moments. Of course, there are slight differences as the story segues from prose to the comics medium.

The Hunter by Richard Stark (aka Donald Westlake)
University of Chicago Press edition (2008)
Originally published in 1962 by Pocket Books.

Parker arrives in New York. Short of cash and patience, he connives his way into a bank account and promptly bounces checks all over town. He hocks his gathered loot for quick cash, and then gets down to the business of tracking Mal Resnick, the man who left him for dead.

And so begins The Hunter and the odyssey of Parker through the seedy underbelly and perfumed boudoirs of Manhattan. First, he locates Lynn, his estranged wife who betrayed him. She lives comfortably in a posh apartment paid for by Mal Resnick, the greasy mastermind who contrived the arms deal that went awry.

Lynn is remorseful ... Resnick, we learn in flashback, forced Lynn to betray Parker under the threat of death. Though he nets one-hundred percent of the cash, his victory is as hollow as Lynn’s response to his touch. His debt to the Outfit repaid, and his standing returned, Resnick provides for her – through a different courier each month, keeping her at arms length.

While searching for Resnick, Parker confronts Lynn, the courier, the middle man Stegman, the madam of an escort service, and various other lowlifes. A used-car dealership serves as a front, and Parker must seek out his prey in what is essentially a criminal’s coop.

Learning of Parker's return through the grapevine, Resnick goes into hiding with a variety of beautiful hookers to distract him. He reaches out through telephone and telegram, spreading the word to be watchful for his nemesis. Having repaid a debt to The Outfit, using Parker's money, Resnick fears losing his position almost as much as he fears losing his life.

Parker’s background fills in gradually, seen through the eyes and reactions of others. The first thing that becomes painfully apparent is that everyone fears Parker.
“His hands, swinging curve-fingered at his sides, looked like they were molded of brown clay by a sculptor who thought big and liked veins. His hair was brown and dry and dead, blowing around his head like a poor toupee about to fly loose. His face was a chipped chunk of concrete, with eyes of flawed onyx. His mouth was a quick stroke, bloodless. His suit coat fluttered behind him, and his arms swung easily as he walked.”
The prose is lean, and the momentum rarely lets up. It’s a style befitting Parker, a character who rarely reflects on the past, unless it’s connected to his quest for revenge. Theft is his line of work, and murder is an occupational hazard – like real-life criminals, he lives in the moment with regard only for himself.

Parker’s laconic, snarling presence predates Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name (in A Fistful of Dollars) by two years -- the public’s love affair with the anti-hero had begun. Most of Parker’s thoughts and feelings can be summarized by a glare or a tightening of the jaw. Perhaps it’s the lead character’s lack of spiritual depth that makes him an ideal character for a graphic novel or motion picture.

The Hunter (adapted by Darwyn Cooke),
IDW Publishing (2009)

Comic books (a.k.a graphic novels) are a visual medium, and as the years fall off the calendar, they become increasingly visual. Influenced by outside media, more comics have demonstrated “decompressed” story-telling – the use of multiple issues to tell a story which could have been told in one or two. Video games, television, music-video style action films, and endless hours of millions of web-pages have contributed to the erosion of vocabulary. Every comic book writer’s dream of breaking into Hollywood doesn’t help.

Publishers emphasize the “cinematic” quality of comics, the use of visuals over “verbose” dialogue and narration. The end result is usually a cheap comic making an obvious pitch to be the Next Big Thing in the local multiplex theaters. Therefore, it’s refreshing when a major talent uses the graphic novel medium to introduce hardboiled material like The Hunter to a new generation of readers.

Darwyn Cooke is one of the few professionals in comic books, these days, that can walk the tightrope between narrative and visuals. There are moments in The Hunter (IDW Publishing, 2009) which are cinematic – like the best visual moments in Will Eisner’s The Spirit – but Cooke approaches Westlake/Stark’s prose as a challenge rather than a nuisance. After establishing the graphic novel’s setting as “New York City 1962” with a double-page Manhattan skyline, Cooke starts the proverbial ball rolling with Parker on the George Washington Bridge.

Cooke uses nineteen pages of visual narrative, practically devoid of any words, to recap Parker’s Chapter One escapades -- The diner, the bank, the amassing of loot and then cash. Beginning with Chapter Two, when he confronts his duplicitous ex-wife, entire passages of dialogue and narrative are lifted from Westlake’s prose.
“You ought to kill me,” she said hopelessly.“Maybe I will.”
Her head sagged down toward her chest. Her voice was almost inaudible. “I keep taking pills,” she murmured. “Every night. If I don’t take the pills, I don’t sleep. I think about you.”
“And how I’m coming for you?”
“No, and how you’re dead. And I wish it was me.”
“Take too many pills,” he suggested. 

As with any adaptation, changes will arise from one medium to another. Some dialogue is truncated, while other passages are tossed off the lifeboat. Certain long blocks of narrative are quoted faithfully, but Cooke employs visual devices to supplement the scene. While the prose describes Resnick’s hijacking plan, Cooke illustrates it with a map of North America, dotted with motion lines, scrawled notes, and cigarette butts.

In reading the graphic novel one week after the Stark paperback, the only major difference I noticed was in the story’s conclusion. Frustrated in his grab for the loot, Parker confronts the Top Man for the New York branch of “The Outfit.” There ensues yet another struggle, a cat-and-mouse game with the Mob as his opponent, before a drop point is pre-determined in Brooklyn, NY.

Darwyn Cooke brings the graphic novel – and Parker’s journey – to a violent, successful conclusion. But Donald Westlake novel's includes an epilogue that cold-cocks both the reader and Parker. I’ve read my share of hardboiled fiction, and I didn’t see this ending coming. The graphic novel successfully adapts the source material more faithfully than Parker fans have any right to expect. Darwyn Cooke has done for The Hunter, with sequential art, what John Houston did for The Maltese Falcon in cinema.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Illegal Time Immigration!

Click here to purchase "Highway J" by Charles Eric Maine in Pulp Adventures #21

The more things change, as the saying goes, the more they stay the same. Illegal immigration into the United States of America is the topic that may decide our next presidential election. Concerns over immigration arose in the 1940s, as people fled from Nazi Germany, seeking a better life in America. But what about concerns over illegal immigration in the future?

That's the twist in "Highway J" by Charles Eric Maine in Pulp Adventures #21-- when scientists harness the power of time travel, a mass exodus begins, much to the chagrin of people living in better times. Has your world been devastated by disease or nuclear war? No problem! Just fire up your way-back machine (or way-forward machine) and leave behind those pandemics.

Of course, world leaders in the 24th Century raise the same concerns -- lacks of resources and jobs, limited living space, immigrants carrying diseases, antiquated customs and refusing to assimilate into society. The solution is an invisible motion barrier -- a time wall -- that stops people in their time-streaming tracks. Soon, the very inventor of time travel finds himself on trial for crime against humanity.

"Highway J" features a good dollop of "rubber science," but it is an imaginative fiction story that remains timeless (no pun intended), just as unchecked immigration the world over will remain of paramount concern.

Click here to purchase "Highway J" by Charles Eric Maine in Pulp Adventures #21

Launching the blog ...

Bold Venture Press has been publishing new and classic pulp fiction for over two years, and we're branching out into new genres. Our humble website was two half-hearted pages, with several broken links. Now Bold Venture has over fifty titles in print, and we're expanding the line-up with three new additional titles every month.

So, we herewith launch our official Bold Venture Press blog, so we can keep everyone abreast of our new releases, and our observations on the pop culture landscape.