“Turn off the T.V. and discover fiction like it used to be”
For my money, one of the most exciting happenings in indie publishing is going down in England via a scorching DIY rock n’ roll operation that calls itself Pulp Press. Their books, pocket-sized blasts of hardcore mayhem meant to resurrect the dime pulp novels of yesteryear, are stripped lean of all excess. At roughly 23,000 words, these little bastards can be burned through in a sitting without any difficulty, and are one hell of a great time. When I was sent a pile of the suckers to review, I thought the best way to kick things off would be to get main man Danny Bowman, who has published two novels of his own in the series writing as Danny Hogan, to explain what Pulp Press is all about. Check it out. . . .
Pulp Press touts itself as producing “fiction like it used to be.” What do you mean by that, and what was the catalyst that made you decide fuck it, I’m going to start putting out books myself?
Absolutely, the whole thing about Pulp Press is making reading entertaining. I think the story game has become spoiled by writers trying to be too damned clever and publishers and booksellers being too snooty and conservative regarding what they take on. Pulp Press is all about bringing the story back to basics and make it an easy read rather than some existential brouhaha.
Pulp Press has already released seven titles in a relatively short time, with quite a flurry out recently. Do you have a schedule you are trying to work to? Do you have a certain goal for how many books you will put out in a given year?
I hope that over time I settle into some kind of schedule. I brought out a flurry of new books to do a kind of showcase at the London Book Fair this year. Why? I don’t rightly know, but I plan to take a bit more slow and steady in the future.
What has the response been like since you started putting these books out?
The response has been a little too good, you know. I am bracing myself for the negativity which I am sure is due to me sooner or later.
What elements do you think define “pulp” fiction?
Entertainment which is cheap, disposable appeals to our good old base instincts like lust and vengeance. Just what I like.
Who are the writers that inspired you to write the kinds of stories you do, as well as the ones you choose to publish?
I grew up on the old Skinhead pulps of Richard Allen but I would say it was Hunter Thompson that got me into writing. I would say though that it is the graphic novelist Garth Ennis who really got me into that economic, darkly humorous and revenge filled style of writing that I want to do. In terms of publishing I want people who can kick out a good old no hold barred story featuring an underdog doing good and coming out winning. They’re my favorite kind of stories.
Any plans for US distribution? What about eBooks?
When I think of ebook I remind myself of the Jack Horner character in the film Boogie Nights and his attitude to video. I can’t stand the idea of the damned things. Especially as reader costs £300 ($500 – $600). I don’t associate with people who have that kind of money to throw away on a gadget and I ain’t setting out to appeal to those kind of people either. And show me a person whose happy getting into a story on their mobile phone and I’ll show you a damned fool. However, I ain’t going to make the same mistake as old Jack did, so let’s just say I’m looking into it.
Will Pulp Press ever release more traditional, 50K+ word titles?
Mate, in this day and age where most people have the attention span of a retard with sunburn I believe that short, punchy and unpretentious novels are the way to go, trust me. But hey, never say never that’s what I say.
One of the best things about the Pulp Press titles is the uniformity of the packaging. Each book looks like a battered old paperback, featuring gritty cover art by Alex Young. How did this aesthetic come about, and what’s the story on this Alex Young guy anyway?
There’s a magazine going about Brighton called Impure and around the time the Grindhouse films came out they did a special to publicize the films and had the cover all manipulated and crusty looking. I asked talented artist, my long time friend and best man at my upcoming wedding Alex Young if he could do that with the cover design and he said, “sure, dude” and look what he done did. Regarding what’s the deal with this Alex Young guy? Check Twitter and Facebook blow up when I pose that very question.
Any plans to release any pulpy stuff with laser guns or boxers or barbarians hacking enemies apart with broadswords? Or do you plan to stick to a more modern, hardboiled style of pulp?
Sci-Fi – definitely, my next project will feature some that, Westerns for sure. Boxing? That’s an interesting one, but probably some MMA or bare-knuckled stuff. Sword and Sorcery kind of stuff I think is pretty much so much its own genre and kind of so removed from the stuff I want to put out, but hey, remember what I always say ‘never say never’.
Anything else in particular you’d like to say about Pulp Press and the books you’re publishing?
Pulp Press is doing a tour of the US in September of this year anybody who wants to meet for a drink and a laugh and maybe buy Pulp Press products off of me directly in Vienna, Virginia; Memphis; New Orleans; Houston; Austin; Truth or Consequences; Tucson; San Diego; Las Vegas and Oklahoma city give me a shout on Twitter.
In closing, here are reviews of the two Danny Bowman novels for Pulp Press, writing as Danny Hogan.
In the opening scene of this tight revenge story, burlesque-dancer-with-a-short-fuse Eloise Murphy smashes a glass of booze into the face of a would-be suitor, “grinding until she could feel bone and hear him squeal like the bitch he was,” after watching him attempt to sneak a little something into her drink. She is pulled away before she can finish the douchebag with a well-placed stiletto heel, and promptly loses her job. From there her life is set on a downward spiral that only a double helping of determination – and willingness to commit violence – can pull her out of.
Eloise’s journey takes her through some of the seedier streets of Brighton as she struggles to continue making her way as a dancer pushing thirty. After opening a show for a rock n’ roll band, and learning just how meager the earnings are in that particular world, she is blackmailed into taking a gig at a new club for “discerning gentlemen with very special tastes.” When she turns the tables and escapes the intended result of that gig, the brutal retribution brought against Eloise by her blackmailer would have been the end of most women. But Eloise isn’t like most women; not one to stay down when she’s kicked, her vengeance is swift, violent and deadly.
Killer Tease is a razor-edged tale that sets a no bullshit tone for what this imprint will be all about. Call it a Mission Statement of sorts, if you want; it reads more like a battle cry to me.
The Windowlicker Maker
Danny Hogan’s latest, and the most recent publication from Pulp Press, is another greasy serving of the dish best served cold. The book opens with our first-person narrator, Joe Tatum, down on the sidewalk outside a movie theater, “pissing blood from a big, fuck off stab wound” in his side. Tatum’s natural tendency to respond with violence is overcome when he remembers his promise to his wife, who is at his side, to abandon the criminal life he’d led previously. Instead, they plead with their four assailants to leave them alone, to run off before the cops arrive. Just as sirens are heard in the distance, one of the rogues pulls a pistol and kills Ava, Tatum’s wife, in cold blood.
From there our former hard man sinks into the depths of despair, wallowing in grief but holding to the promise to his late wife to live a peaceful life. He endures another beating at the hands of the same attackers when they recognize him in the neighborhood, but, when a third encounter sees the lives of others being threatened by the actions of the arrogant hoodlums, he finally snaps into action. Tatum’s revenge is swift and calculated, and the book’s body count explodes like the final showdown in a Sam Peckinpah film as he tracks his enemies’ path of destruction back to the source inspiring them.
What I appreciate most about The Windowlicker Maker is that Hogan doesn’t burden the proceedings with unnecessary back story on our narrator. The character’s inner musings hint that he left a career of dark, two-fisted-and-worse deeds, including time behind bars, to devote his life to Ava, but we don’t get the specifics. Instead, we see how capable he is when he finally takes matters into his own hands. This is effective, and keeps the story focused as the proceedings reach their grim, inevitable conclusion. Sharp eyes will notice a cameo appearance by Eloise from Killer Tease; this was also an excellent little touch by Hogan.
As a pocket-sized bundle of raw nerves and energy, The Windowlicker Maker is another fine offering from Pulp Press, and even includes a post-apocalyptic short story by Hogan called A Gun Called Comeuppance. If you’re wondering what a “windowlicker maker” actually is, though, you’ll have to read the book.
For people interested in buying Pulp Press titles, you may visit their Amazon UK store HERE. American distribution is being handled by Murder By the Book in Houston, TX, who offer a fantastic mail order option. Fans of quick, exciting reads that capture the look and feel of an era of fiction long past should make all kinds of haste to pick these titles up.