Writers: Joe R. Landsdale, Gary Phillips, Charles S. Saunders, Derrick Ferguson, D. Alan Lewis, Christopher Chambers, Mel Odom, Kimberely Richardson, Ron Fortier, Michael A. Gonzales, Gar Anthony Haywood, Tommy Hancock, with an introduction by Walter Mosley.
Editors: Tommy Hancock, Gary Phillips, and Morgan Minor
Genre: Pulp fiction
Publisher: Pro Se Press
Release Date: 2013
Review by Stacy Dooks
One of the earliest movies I remember seeing on VHS was Raiders of the Lost Ark, and I became a gigantic fan of Indiana Jones and the pulp milieu shortly thereafter. Through Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, I discovered Doc Savage, The Shadow, The Spider, and many of the pulp heroes of that time period. Years later I encountered Dave Stevens’ incredible love letter to adventure serials, The Rocketeer, and what was once a passing infatuation was cemented into true fan love. I’d grown up reading comics like Roy Thomas and Jerry Ordway’s stellar run on All-Star Squadron, so adventure tales set in the 1930s and 40s soon became coveted reading material.
But, as I delved deeper into the adventures of these classic characters of fiction, I began to notice just how problematic the material could be. Much like steampunk and its infatuation with the 19th century, pulp adventure fiction set in the era of the period’s heyday has to deal with a great many ‘isms’: specifically sexism, imperialism, but most especially racism. However, as times have changed, so to has the pulp adventure genre with anthologies like Black Pulp, which takes the adventure story format of yesteryear and shoots it through an African-American prism.
After an introduction by Walter Mosley (author of the Easy Rawlins mysteries), we’re introduced to a variety of stories that span the gamut of pulp adventure fiction: mystery stories, crime stories, a tale of a lord of the jungle, air adventure stories, occult investigator stories, a hip-hop themed story about a pair of urban vigilantes that wouldn’t be out of place on a season of The Get Down, boxing stories, and more. The beauty of an anthology is that you’re never quite sure what’s next, and with titles like “Decimator Smith and the Fangs of the Fire Serpent”, “Agnes Viridian and the Search for the Scales,” “Rocket Crockett and the Jade Dragon,” and “The Hammer of Norgill”, you know you’re in for something special.
The stories are all brisk page-turners, and they range from matters historical to folklore to the outright fantastical. There’s a lot to enjoy here, and it’s a pleasantly hefty anthology at 288 pages. The cover art by Adam Shaw and the overall design of the book by Sean E. Ali make the book a thing of beauty: a piece of the world of the pulps not as they were but as they could have been. All of the authors involved bring their A-game, and each story is just as entertaining as the one before it. The book is available for e-readers, and is in print on Amazon as of the time of this writing.
The Verdict: Buy it!
Black Pulp is the kind of adventure fiction we need right now: exciting, inclusive, and above all fun. If you’re a fan of short story adventure prose, it deserves a place on your shelf. Recommended.