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The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril: A Novel Hardcover – May 23, 2006

4.1 out of 5 stars 63 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Malmont's debut thriller reads like pages torn from the pulp magazines to which it pays nostalgic homage. It's 1937, and the nation's two top pulp writers—William Gibson, author of novels featuring caped crime fighter "The Shadow," and Lester Dent, the creator of do-gooder hero Doc Savage—are trying to solve real-life mysteries that each hopes will give him bragging rights as the world's best yarn spinner. Gibson follows rumors that pulp colleague H.P. Lovecraft was murdered to the fog-shrouded Providence, R.I., waterfront. Dent tracks clues to an impossible killing through the bowels of New York's Chinatown. As the two adventures dovetail, they spawn sinuous subplots involving tong wars, secret chemical warfare, pirate mercenaries, kidnappings, revolution in China and weird science run amok. Lovecraft, L. Ron Hubbard, Louis L'Amour and Chester Himes all play prominent supporting roles and offer piquant observations on the penny-a-word writing life that conjure a colorful sense of time and place. Like the pulpsters he reveres, Malmont doesn't let the facts get in the way of his storytelling, and the result is a fun, if wildly improbable, pulp joyride.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Fortified by a deep love for the pulps and a flair for storytelling, Malmont delivers this summer's answer to The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. (The author even tips his hat to Michael Chabon with a mention of Joe Kavalier.) Malmont sets the pulp era's biggest stars--Shadow scribe Walter Gibson and Doc Savage writer Lester Dent--on intersecting adventures rivaling anything their signature creations ever encountered. With an annoying L. Ron Hubbard in tow, Gibson sets out for H. P. Lovecraft's funeral only to discover that the horror writer may have been murdered while working on an antidote to a military nerve gas prized by a vengeful Chinese warlord. Meanwhile, Dent and his wife stumble on a dangerous thread from the same story while exploring an abandoned theater in Manhattan's Chinatown. But what's real and what's pulp? As Gibson's pal Orson Welles puts it, "It's all about the lie. The big lie. . . . Our audiences want the big stories about the great things." While it's more a gripping yarn than a literary masterpiece, Malmont's story certainly delivers on Welles' dictum. Frank Sennett
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 371 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (May 23, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743287851
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743287852
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.7 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #864,836 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
In the 1930s, the heyday of the pulp era, magazines like "Thrilling Detective," "Amazing Stories" and the like kicked [...], took names, and shaped the morals of millions of American readers. At its height, as a pre-Scientology L. Ron Hubbard reminds us in "The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril," 30,000,000 pulps were bought every month. It took the paper shortages of World War II to knock them down, and they were finished off by television in the `50s, but they left us a legacy of heroes that include Doc Savage, The Shadow, Conan and Tarzan, cult favorite H.P. Lovecraft, and provided the seed that spawned science-fiction and fantasy.

Return with me, now, to those thrilling days of yesteryear, with the help of Paul Malmont, who, according to his bio, works in advertising and lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two kids.

I'm firmly convinced that, at night, he slips out of his brownstone in Park Slope and roams the wilds of Manhattan, battling the forces of evil with mad crimefighting skillz he learned in the mountain fastnesses of Bhutan.

Either that, or he's a pulp fiction fan who did a wonderful job of researching the era, and clever enough to cast as his heroes the writers Walter Gibson, Lester Dent, Hubbard (known as "The Flash" because he was quick at the typewriter), with guest appearances by Lovecraft (oh, how I want to tell you how he appears. It's so appropriate!), E.E. "Doc" Smith and Orson Welles.

As for the story, I'm not going to say more. If you're going to read this, it would just spoil the fun. But if you're still on the bubble, I'll say this:

* Malmont writes about the pulp fiction world, but the story is told straight. Neat. No purple prose.

* The plot makes sense.
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Format: Hardcover
How could you NOT like a novel featuring the likes of Walter Gibson and Lester Dent (chief scribes of The Shadow and Doc Savage, respectively), a pre-Dianetics L. Ron Hubbard, Robert Heinlein, Louis L'Amour, Chester Himes and the re-animated corpse of H. P. Lovecraft? The answer is, you CAN'T. An affectionate, well-crafted tribute to these masters of pulp fiction, The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril is a book that wears its heart on its sleeve, a crackling good yarn brimming with non-stop action, warm humor and casual mayhem.

The year is 1937. The aforementioned authors travel to Providence, RI, to attend the funeral of fellow writer Howard Philip Lovecraft. Their presence at that somber affair marks the beginning of a perilous adventure for the group, as they become embroiled in a deadly scheme that involves Chinese warlords and a mysterious toxic gas, developed by the United States at the end of World War I. Exhibiting many of the traits they attribute to their heroes, they risk their lives to prevent tragedy, simultaneously gathering useful fodder for future stories.

You don't need to be a fan of the pulps to enjoy this one, but it sure enhances the experience. Fans of high adventure will also delight in cameos by, among others, the fictional Joe Kavelier, and the very real Jack Kirby and Stan Lee. Malmont expertly blends fact with fiction, recalling the outstanding work that Max Allan Collins has done recently in his series of historical disaster novels, one of which, The War of the Worlds Murder, also featured Walter Gibson.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
What’s the point of pulp fiction? In this fascinating and original novel, pulp writer Walter Gibson proposes that it is: “selling daydreams at wholesale prices to soda jerks in Boise and schoolboys in Kansas City. “ That’s a fine definition and the inspiration behind this most-American of art forms. I found Paul Malmont’s novel to be the most original idea in noir-fiction I’ve ever run into: the authors themselves are participants in a pulp-type mystery. It’s an excellent story, asking the question, is it real or is it pulp? The readers and the characters, many of the famous pulp writers of the 1930s, find themselves caught up in the world of oriental villains, mysterious shadows, cliff hangers, and miraculous escapes.

Malmont knows the publishing industry of the 30s at an historian’s level, and he manages to make it engrossing and enjoyable for die-hard fans and novices alike. This novel is an homage surely, but you don’t have to know who Walter Gibson or Lester Dent were to join in this rollicking adventure. The reader is a voyeur into this literary history; you’ll follow the personalities and rivalries among the pulp authors while they set out to solve a mystery stranger than most pulps. The novel’s atmosphere is terrific; it conjures the palpable feeling both The Shadow and Doc Savage emitted. This novel is a triumph; the pulp era long ago faded into obscurity, but Malmont rescues it-at least its memory
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Format: Paperback
THE CHINATOWN DEATH CLOUD PERIL is extremely well written. The characterizations of the pulp authors sounds authentic and well-researched--to a point, of course. In fact, you could forget that this was an homage to the pulp era until more action and intrigue kicks in. So many details about each writer's life sound so real that you end up wondering where the reality ends and the pulp story begins.

If I have any complaint about the novel, it's that it doesn't read "pulpy" enough. The over-the-top action and overblown descriptions usually associated with pulp stories might have given the straight-faced set-up a more humorous (and less believable) angle.

But the novel might read too literary for some. Famous names come and go but they may not be famous enough for younger readers. Still, anyone who remembers the era of pulp magazines and radio shows will have fun. The author does a great job of portraying a New York City that doesn't exist anymore.

Still, the book is a cool idea and expertly pulled off. I just wish it had really jumped whole-heartedly into...pulp.
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