Customer Reviews: The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril: A Novel
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on May 31, 2006
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. It's creepy and scary, but doesn't rely on the supernatural.

* The writers may have created two-fisted heroes, but they aren't. They throw a punch, they get hurt. They aren't perfect. That's part of the fun.

* Malmont plays fair with Hubbard. I'm no fan of Scientology, but I was glad that Hubbard is presented just as you would expect him to be at the beginning of his career. He's ambitious, proud, something of a blowhard, but great sidekick material.

To say more would give away the fun. If you have any affection for the pulp era, if you smile at the thought of a "GalaxyQuest"-type story set in New York of the Depression-era, or just want a rousing tale without the literary baggage, check out "The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril."
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VINE VOICEon May 25, 2006
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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on December 15, 2014
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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on March 10, 2009
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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Paul Malmont took on a heck of a challenge: write a novel featuring several real-life people as the main characters. Moreover: put those people into a situation that reflects their world. In this case, Malmont sets authors of pulp fiction to resolve the murder of HP Lovecraft, in a plot that's just as pulpish as what they write (at 2 cents a word): statues from the mysterious east, secret agent men, dastardly plots, and inscrutable Chinamen.

And he did a damned fine job.

The two primary characters are the authors of Doc Savage and The Shadow, Lester Dent and Walter Gibson, with other authors who were active (or soon to be) in 1937, such as Ron "Flash" Hubbard and Robert Heinlein. If you know anything about the history of each of those authors, the pulp business, or much about 1937 New York, you'll giggle at some of the in-jokes. If you know nothing about these people or their era, you'll still like the book: it's very much the old style action novel in which heroes have rippling muscles and their women have beautiful legs. What's amusing is that they're all very self conscious about it.

Malmont could have written this with a sneer, but he didn't. Each of the authors is drawn with compassion; Malmont stays aware that these were real people with marital difficulties, personal ambition (usually to break into the "slicks"), and so on.

The book isn't perfect. It's definitely put-down-able. But it's also very pick-up-able. Damned fine effort for a first novel. I look forward to more from this author.
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on January 29, 2016
I've just finished reading Chinatown Death Cloud Peril, a book-length riff on pulp writing of the 30s. But despite the promise of its premise--not to mention a great title--it turns out to be a slack performance, approximately twice as long as it should have been. The writer, Paul Malmont, abetted by his editor, never uses a sentence where a paragraph will do, and the text includes such absurdities as "outthrusted" jaws, objects "forged" of gold, and people in danger of "being dismembered or losing a limb." The first half or two-thirds, which introduces the characters, barely moves at all, and only after a couple of hundred pages do we start running up to the slam-bang finish. Still, I did finish it, mostly because I wanted to know what happens next—and that's the experience of reading pulp fiction.
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on November 14, 2012
Is pulp fiction a genre, a style or something else? I tend to think of it as a style, one which can be applied to various genres, particularly mysteries and science fiction. But it could be argued it is a genre, one that focuses on adventure and action and merely uses other genres (sci-fi, etc.) as devices to move the story along.

It's a worthwhile question to ponder when reading Paul Malmont's fictionalized tale of the pulp era, The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril. Pulp fiction hit its heyday during the first half of the 20th century, the time of radio dramas and movie serials. In the 1930s, one of the most prominent pulp heroes was the Shadow, written by Walter Gibson. Another popular hero was Doc Savage, written by Lester Dent.

Dent and Gibson are the two main characters in Malmont's novel, and they get involved with a pulp-style mystery or two of their own. Gibson, accompanied by up-and-coming writer L. Ron Hubbard, will look into the death of H.P. Lovecraft, one that may not really have been of natural causes. Meanwhile, Dent will go into Chinatown to investigate the thirty-year-old mystery of a comedian killed during a Tong War. Eventually, these two plots will intersect.

For fans of that period, there are plenty of guest appearances by other authors including E.E. "Doc" Smith, Chester Himes and a few others who I won't spoil (some of only referred to tangentially, leaving it to the reader to know who's being discussed). This is a fun book that moves along well enough, but I sometimes found the plot to be rather sketchy or muddled in places. Overall, however, if you enjoy pulp fiction, you will enjoy this homage to the style, genre or whatever.
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on August 24, 2015
A roaring insight into the world of pulp fiction writers in the form of (what else?) pulp fiction. Cleverly rendered, a saturday afternoon serial of a novel as fun to read as the original Doc Savage, The Shadow and Conan novels. A fun look at Scientologist L. Ron Hubbard before he went bonkers.
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on April 27, 2013
Malmont celebrates the pulps with a brilliant cast of the characters who made them possible. Walter Gibson, the man who created The Shadow, Lester Dent who brought Doc Savage to life, H.P. Lovecraft who wrote about things that... well, we'll leave it there, Ron Hubbard, something of a weasel, and a few others who may surprise you ~~ all of them crackle through some of the most outlandish and thrilling "real-life" adventures I've enjoyed in a long time. Come to think of it, Michael Chabon's Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (yes, the boys make a cameo in this one) is the last time I can recall as wonderful a literary journey! I want to tell you more, but anything else would reveal way too much and take away from your own thrilling ride. Just buy it!
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on December 23, 2013
I purchased this book some time ago but when I read it I thoroughly enjoyed it and thought Paul Malmont did a very good job writing it. The book has real characters used fictionally. The heroes are Pulp Fiction icons -- Walter Gibson, Lester Dent being the main two. But also included are L. Ron Hubbard, H.P. Lovecraft and a surprise character that I don't want to give away. I have read quite a few of the pulps written by Hubbard and this book reminds me of them. The story content is imaginative and well thought out. The book reads like a pulp book although it is somewhat longer. I liked the book a lot.

I highly recommend it. Smart, humorous and imaginative.
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