And you know what? It’s good stuff. I mean really good stuff. In fact, there are so many talented authors out there it can sometimes seem overwhelming figuring out where to jump in, which is why these collections are so great; they’re one stop shopping for a smorgasbord of talent.
Pulp Modern is such a collection, and editor Alec Cizak has distinguished Pulp Modern by expanding the spectrum of its roster to include not only crime fiction, but stories with Western and fantasy themes as well. It makes for a pleasant change of pace, and exposed me to a couple of authors I may otherwise not have come across in the wild. A few standouts…
“Legacy of Brutality” by Thomas Pluck features man-mountain Denny, previously seen in the short “Rain Dog” (Crimespree Magazine, Issue #43). Having come up hard – If there was a God, I’d beat his ass for making this hateful world. – Denny learned early it’s better to listen than talk, and that you have to set things right yourself if you want justice in this life. Brutally good stuff.
“Mosquito Bites” by David James Keaton is my teacher’s pet of the collection. When I contacted Keaton to tell him how much I liked the story, he told me it had been something of “an ugly stepchild” before it found a home in Pulp Modern. Yeah, well, it’s carrying that chip around on its shoulder in a big way. As is the story’s narrator, a recently paroled con whose determination to stay straight is immediately derailed by a betrayal. I read a lot of pulp/noir so it’s hard for someone to write something that makes me do a double-take, yet Keaton has a passage so descriptively disgusting – and I mean that in a good way – that it still makes me shudder when I think about it. Packed with dark humor and even darker violence, “Mosquito Bites” definitely marks Keaton as one to watch.
“Romo Samson and the Grandmother Spider” by Chris LaTray packs a novel’s worth of adventure into twelve fast-paced pages. Though there’s undeniably an Indiana Jones-esque flavor to the story, I don’t recall Indy ever getting shot in the face as Romo Samson does, and on page one no less! Combining vivid descriptions of Arizona’s Canyon de Chelly National Monument, henchmen and double-crosses, and a powerful ancient legend, “Romo Samson and the Grandmother Spider” is a rip-roaring good read. La Tray is so good I didn’t even mind the spiders…and if you know me, that’s saying something.
“Disintegration” by Glenn Gray chronicles the rapid and unfortunate breakdown of Doctor Douglas Brenner. At a cabin in upstate New York waiting for his girlfriend to arrive for what’s supposed to be a romantic getaway, Brenner discovers he has an alarming reaction to bites from the tiny bugs living under the floorboards. Gray makes watery eyes, itchy rashes, and swollen throats desirable in comparison.
“The Wicked” by Edward A. Grainger is another excellent outing for US Marshall Cash Laramie. Used to seeing a younger Cash, Grainger gives the reader a glimpse of what the grizzled lawman is up to in 1911 New Orleans. Even in his mid-50s and with his back against the wall, or tied to a chair as the case may be, Cash is still unwilling to compromise his principles or betray a loyalty. And one way or another, he will make sure “The Wicked” have their judgement day.
Pulp Modern intends to publish as a quarterly, and you can learn more about it, including submission guidelines, at their website. The complete lineup for the Autumn 2011 issue includes stories from Jimmy Callaway, James Duncan, C.J. Edwards, Garnett Elliott, Melissa Embry, Edward A. Grainger, Glenn Gray, David James Keaton, John Kenyon, Chris La Tray, Yarrow Paisley, Matthew Pizzolato, Thomas Pluck, Stephen D. Rogers, Sandra Seamans, Copper Smith and Lawrence Block.
Pulp Modern is available from Uncle B. Publications (ISBN: 978-1466300651).