“She pressed a couple of 38s against my chest…

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?

…and then she pulled out some guns.”*

*I heard this joke years ago and still find it extremely hilarious. To commemorate Mickey Spillane’s birthday, I once used it at the end of a traffic report on a public radio station. The program director was not amused.

With company coming, I was forced to finally get around to unloading some more boxes from our semi-recent move. These just happened to hold books I’d amassed over the years. Many of which could be classified under the category of ‘the pulps’.

It’s been a long time since I read any of them. If you’ve never experienced the sensation of immersing yourself in a world of tough guys, brassy dames, femme fatales and itchy trigger fingers, then you’re really denying yourself one of life’s simpler pleasures.

There’s a definite charm to this kind of storytelling. Since the writers got paid by the word, not only did they have to be prolific, they had to also make sure the writing was strong enough that you’d want to keep coming back for more.

I also love how even though the stories are from the 30s, 40s and 50s, once you get past the time capsule aspect, they still read as fresh and exciting.

But I’m positively ecstatic when it comes to ‘men of mystery’ stories like The Shadow, The Spider and Doc Savage.  Give me a stack of those, a comfy chair, and maybe a properly-made gin and tonic, and I am one happy guy.

I never really made the connection before, but I suppose the scripts I like to write could kinda-sorta be considered variations on pulp stories. Or at least leaning in the direction of the fantastic.

A rip-roaring adventure involving flying pirate ships. A revenge-seeking woman in the Old West. A scientist battling monsters to literally save the world.  They all sound pretty pulp-y to me.

At first it seems too challenging. “I’ll never compare to those guys!”  But if you take the aspects of what you like in those stories, put your own personal spin on them, and let your imagination run wild… voila!

A pulp story all your own. In my case, one in screenplay form.

Remember the old adage: Write what you know.  You probably know more than you realize.

One thought on ““She pressed a couple of 38s against my chest…

  1. That program director, if it’s the same one I know, is not known for his sense of humor. I’m not sure he even has one.

    There’s a lot of good pulp writing from the old days, but a lot of it was bad too. I’ve had the opportunity to sample other writers than the more popular ones that are still in print today, and there’s a reason those other guys didn’t last.

    I think the reason those books and stories still have life in them today is that the authors weren’t necessarily writing about action, even though they were, but they were also chronicling the world of their time. The best, like John D. MacDonald, made you *feel* the time. If you have not read his DEAD, LOW TIDE go and get it and memorize it. Hammett was another. Forget the Prohibition you read about in history books; RED HARVEST and his short stories cover it better. Ditto Paul Cain’s work, and I think Cain did it better than Hammett.

    It’s easy to see that what they dealt with in their lives isn’t far from what we deal with today.

    As far as Spillane goes, I dare anybody to write a better opening than the first chapter of ONE LONELY NIGHT. It is the perfect description of a nightmare and sets the tone for the rest of the book, which carries on in an otherworldly state yet remains firmly planted in our world.

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