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Beat to a Pulp: Round 1 Paperback – October 8, 2010
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The precise balance and quality of these ingredients are what really makes this anthology stand out. Too often the term "pulp" has been applied only to the mystery/detective/crime genre. This is due primarily to the popularity of BLACK MASK Magazine in the early 1920s and the lasting impact it had on American crime and mystery fiction, not to mention enduring names such as Hammett and Chandler who grew out of it. But the true scope of pulp fiction, which began more than two decades prior to BLACK MASK (as detailed in a terrific afterword to the anthology -- "A History of Pulp" -- by Cullen Gallagher)embraced a wide range of genres: Adventure, fantasy, sci-fi, pirate stories, horror, Westerns, and of course detective mysteries. All of that, plus a couple of tales that don't quite fit any niche, are included here.
The variety and vitality of the writing (some stories are reprints from the BEAT TO A PULP webzine, some are originals for this collection) are sure to provide something to please every reader, no matter his or her taste. And any reader willing to explore a bit beyond their "normal" fare is very likely to find enjoyment where they might not have expected it.
The only problem I found with this book was having to make the choice: Do I sit down and devour all of the stories at once ... or do I keep it on the nightstand and slowly savor one morsel at a time? I devoured it all, damn it, and now I wish I would've saved some. I'll try to control myself a little better when ROUND 2 comes out ... which I hope is soon.
Many of the writers gracing its pages were familiar to me already, and they didn't disappoint. Charles Ardai, Hilary Davidson, Ed Gorman, Patricia Abbott, and Jedidiah Ayres all turn in stories every bit as good as you'd expect from writers of their caliber.
But there were others that I didn't know as well that had me jotting their names down to look up more by them. I was particularly impressed by Mike Sheeter ("The All-Weather Phantom") and Andy Henion ("Anarchy Among Friends: a Love Story")--writers after my own black and twisted little heart.
The coup de grace of this terrific collection, however, is the closing essay by noir/pulp historian Cullen Gallagher. In less than sixteen pages he gives us a concise and entertaining history of Pulp, both as a commercial venture and as an artistic endeavor. I came away with a much better understanding of the genre, and I'm grateful for that.
And I'm grateful to Crammer and Ash for putting out this superior collection.
The writers are among the best to be found today reviving the old energy and cheap thrills of the pulp era. Among the bunch is one old-timer appearing posthumously, Paul Powers, whose stories appeared regularly in the pulps of the 30s and 40s. Each one packs a punch that keeps you wanting more.