The Alchemy Press Book of Pulp Heroes edited by Mike Chinn
Reviewed by Ian Hunter
Back in the day, I don’t know if the pulps came with that intoxicating newly printed smell that accompanies the latest issue of Interzone or Black Static, but I suspect reading them might have left you with ink-stained fingers. No such worries with The Alchemy Press Book of Pulp Heroes edited by Mike Chinn, but some of the stories might leave a lasting stain or impression on your mind. For a book with a blurb that mentions that it is following in the tradition of The Bat, Doc Savage, The Shadow, etc, etc, you know what you are in for behind an impressive cover from Bob Covington. The pulps, of course, covered many genres, and Chinn has gathered a collection of stories that are spread across crime, amazing adventures, noir, science fiction, superheroes, occult adventures, and even wacky westerns.
I’m not going to go through the collection story by story, but I thought strongest of the bunch were Joel Lane’s “Upon a Granite Wind”, dedicated to Robert E Howard, and Mike Resnick’s “Origin” which cleverly might just tell the story of how a pulp legend was born.
It’s all very well living in the heart of Metropolis – what do you do when you live in the suburbs a long way from where the “capes” do their stuff? Well, Bracken N MacLeod’s “Ivy’s Secret Origin” tells a story of a housewife rising to the occasion. Heroes also feature in two stories that end the anthology, namely Peter Crowther’s “Heroes and Villains” and Peter Atkins “The Return of Kid Justice”, and in both stories you are in the safe, steady hands of two consummate wordsmiths. Crowther knows his comics and his story is a touching tale of when the stuff of life and death interrupts the shenanigans; while Atkins story involves a pensioner who played the teenage sidekick of a hero a long, long time ago on television who must come to the rescue of a boy, and possibly himself.
But not all the pulps were about heroes, and Chris Iovenko’s “The Perfect Murder” is a great, noir-ish tale of an author who has written about the perfect murder who gets hired by the beautiful wife of a tycoon to carry it out for real. As a fan of Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer novels, this rattling tale read like a
collection of the blurbs at the back of those books.
Iovenko’s story wore the garish cloak of pulpdom well, as did Anne Nicholls’ exotic adventure “Eyes of Day, Eyes of Night” and Adrian Cole’s occult romp “The Vogue Prince”, and as a Scot it was nice to see a fellow Scot, Willie Meikle, write about a fictional Scot, one Professor Challenger, who gets involved in a tale involving yet another real-life Scot (no spoilers here) which has released beasties from other dimension. Where’s Quatermass when you need him? Well, he might be in volume two, which I hope will be just as enjoyable as this first one.
[This review originally appeared in the excellent Interzone (issue 245). Reprinted with permission of the reviewer]