Tuesday, August 25, 2015

African American Men's Adventure

Men's Adventure paperbacks cashed in on the Blaxploitation craze just like James Bond did with Live and Let Die and Marvel did with Luke Cage.  Most of these books fed directly off this trend, and a few fed back into it.

First, here's what I'm not going to talk about -

I'm purposely leaving out some masters in AA crime fiction, such as Chester Himes, Iceberg Slim, and Donald Goines.  These are the class acts, the Ian Flemings and Mickey Spillanes to the Nick Carters and Don Pendletons.

I'm also leaving out some more straightforward detective and cop fiction.

Several of the series below have AA authors, some most definitely don't.  This is more about the genre, not the creators.

Superspade by BB Johnson
6 books 1970-1

This one seems to predate the Blaxploitation film craze, but seems to have the same vibe.

Shaft by Ernest Tidyman
7 books 1971-5

Yeah, that Shaft.  The one that started (or at least popularized) it all.  Too bad they didn't make a movie out of "Shaft Among the Jews".

Iceman by Joseph Nazel
7 books 1973-5

A pimp and casino owner that fought the mob.  Gotta get me some of these.

Nazel also wrote several stand-alone books that would fit here - I'll have to do some more research to give him justice.  Some appear to be novelizations of films such as Black Gestapo and Black Exorcist - I think the movies came first, Nazel doesn't have any screen credits in IMDB.

Murder Master by Joseph Rosenberger
3 books 1973-4

Haven't read these, but I desperately want to.  I'm sure they handle race relations and dialogue in the sensitivity and respectful manner we've come to expect from Rosenberger.  I kid - he's a horrible racist and I'm sure these are horrible.  Still want to read them.

Black Samurai by Marc Olden
8 books 1974-5

American GI Robert Sand gets trained by Japanese Samurai and becomes a secret agent.  Made into an Al Adamson film with Jim Kelly in 1977.  This is the only series here available in ebook.

Black Angel by James D. Laurence
4 books 1975

The only female AA Men's Adventure character I know of.  I have no idea if she's like Pam Grier, but I'm hoping yes.

Aubrey Knight by Stephen Barnes
3 books 1983-93

Outside the genre, but I wanted to mention it.  This is a scifi action series about a null-gravity boxer in the future or something.

Am I missing anything?

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The In-World

The In-World
by Lionel & Patricia Fanthorpe as Lionel Roberts
1960? Badger Books

I ignored the warnings at my own peril.  Lionel Fanthorpe is the coolest guy to be the most horrible writer there ever was.

I've seen writers described as Pantsers (just writing by the seat of their pants) or Plotters (developing a detailed outline and gradually adding detail and dialogue until they have a book).  Fanthorpe is so much of a Pantser that he doesn't know what to write until the book is already over.

The first 10% of the book establishes rural England as our setting.  At this point he decides it's really future year 1980 rural England, which is exactly like 1960 rural England.  Then he goes on and on about pre-modern UFO phenomena - Charles Fort, airship sightings, blah blah blah.  This is because UFOs are attacking!

Not attacking rural England, mind you, we don't go back there again.  They attack Holland or something (I'm not going back to check, you can't make me), and they are immune to missile attacks and planes.  Maybe we can use our space rockets, because we have those now in 1980.

A journalist that might have been mentioned in the rural England stuff is aboard a rocket ship that rams into the UFO.  The journo space walks into the other ship and shoots a couple of aliens with a pistol.  The aliens are very briefly described as half-toad, half-chair, which would be interesting, so let's not spoil it by going into any detail.

The journo hides in the ship, which flies down to a hole in Antarctica to an underground cavern.  The aliens didn't come from Mars or Venus, so they must have come from the hollow earth.  Journo walks through a tunnel or something, falls asleep, and is awakened by a bearded man.

Beardy belongs to an offshoot of the human race that lives underground and uses magic instead of technology.  They are the Yeti and Bigfoot and fairies, too.  Don't know what the guy looks like aside from the "Beaver" on his face, which I'm guessing meant something different in the 60s.

The aliens are aliens after all.  The come from outer space to visit the underground people every 100 years and for some reason they're being mean now.  Beardy uses magic to teleport Journo onto their ship.  Journo shoots one of them, and he saved the world, hurray!

But it's so, so much worse than this.  Fanthorpe's writing style was to dictate his story while hiding under a blanket to block off the outside world.  He clearly had no idea what he was writing about for a good chunk of the story, and instead of fleshing out a bare bones outline, he LITERALLY REPEATED EVERY SENTENCE THREE TIMES WITH SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT WORDS.

We've got spaceships, frog chair aliens, underground labyrinths, and a splinter race of humanity - and I have no idea what any of them look like.  Want to fill out page length, Fanthorpe?  How about you tell me what a frog chair alien looks like?  Or have some characters.  Maybe have them talk to each other.  Or have them do stuff.  It took a good 80% of the story to have anything resembling a scene.

Honestly, I think it takes a lot of effort to write this badly.  This is sci fi pulp, just throw in more monsters and spaceships and cities being blown up.  Takes a lot less effort than figuring out three ways of typing the same sentence.  It would sure take less effort to read.

Friday, August 21, 2015

On Padding

Sometimes outside forces require a page length that exceed the story's natural life.  This happened a lot in classic television, where a popular show would be extended from a half to a full hour.  Sometimes there were growing pains while the producers and writers got used to the new format, sometimes they gave up and went back to a half hour, and sometimes they just kept sucking until they went off the air.

Market forces have affected page length of pulp works as well.  For instance, the 80s saw an increase in page length, with writers coping in various ways.

The best way is to have more stuff happen.  CADS benefits from this.  Twice as many pages?  Twice as many mechsuits blowing up twice as many rape gangs.

Some write in more detail, or otherwise manage to naturally fill out the space.  The Mystic Warrior and Body Smasher series do ok here.

Or you could write in absurd level of detail, like giving a four page history of a bridge or describe buying a fridge for a chapter - I'm looking at you, Crime Minister.

Most of the pulp writes were very concise, but some of them knew they were writing per word and had their thesaurus next to them.  Every noun gets an adjective, and every verb an adverb.  I have problems getting through Arthur Leo Zagat for this reason - I swear he once wrote "the fiery flames of the fire".

While they say writers got paid by the word, they really got paid by the page - the word count was estimated by page length, not actually counted out like computers do now.  Dialogue is a relatively easy and harmless way to inflate estimated word count - the lines tend to end sooner.  This is especially true of snappy banter.
"You don't say."
"I just did."

Don Pendleton was guilty of a little of this later in the Executioner series, as well as using dialogue to recycle the same content.
"Boss ain't going to like it if Bolan hits the arms shipment."
Bolan: "I'm going to hit the arms shipment."
[Bolan hits the arms shipment]
"Boss ain't going to like it that Bolan hit the arms shipment."
"I don't like it that Bolan hit the arms shipment."
"The boss sure doesn't like that Bolan hit the arms shipment."

With Joseph Rosenberger you get this, with meticulous planning to boot.  This works in heist films because there's some tension in the plan going wrong.  Rosenberger just wants to write the same scene two or three times.

Getting into character backstory and side-drama is ok to an extent.  John Russo rambles on a bit, but it's within the confines of the story.  I gave up on a Rex Miller novel after a hundred pages of hearing about someone's divorce or something.

Not the writer's choice, but sometimes they just jack up the font and squeeze in the margins.  Some of Shaun Hutson's books were originally twice the pages of more recent reprints.

Or you could just repeat every sentence three times.  Three times you would use the same sentence.  The same sentence could be repeated thrice.  By just swapping out words for their synonyms.  Replacing words with other words that mean the same.  Changing out one word with another with the same meaning.

Yeah, so I read some Lionel Fanthorpe.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Doctor Death by Herb Fisher

Doctor Death
by Herb Fisher
Doctor Death 1
1988 Berkley

A Vietnam vet rancher accidentally kills a mob boss' son in a fight.  After a botched hit, the mob sends a whole crew to his house, and Doctor Death has to protect his family from the siege like he fought off the VC years ago.

Fairly well written, but in kind of a serious, literary style which doesn't quite fit with the cliche subject matter.  It was originally a screenplay, and it shows.  I'm also guessing it took a long time to see daylight, as the "Vietnam vet faces violence back home" thing was long played out by 1988.  The story itself references that one of his kids was born while he was in the service, which dates the setting to more like 1980.

The siege was competently handled, and it was well written enough that the text didn't drag even though precious little actually happens, but nothing here especially thrilled me.  There are three more in the series.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Festering by Guy N Smith

The Festering
by Guy N Smith
1989 Arrow

Some people say "write what you know".  Guy Smith has evidently moved to the country and had a well installed.

In medieval times a man comes back from London to the country with the titular condition.  He's buried deep underground until this ancient evil is awakened centuries later.

But first, wells.  A good third of the book is nothing a city couple getting a well dug in their new country property.  From there, only most of the book is about wells, with occasional asides to people dying of puss-oozing boils.

Since this is Guy Smith, any fatal disease is accompanied by frantic prostitute killing, though he confines himself to "slags" and hallucinated prostitutes.

Nasty, sleazy, and gross, though not quite nasty, sleazy, and gross enough.  He really needed to go somewhere, other than repetitions of "Oh, yet another worker on the well has died a horrible festering death.  I guess I'll wait for the water tests to come back."

Monday, August 10, 2015

Monday, August 3, 2015

Disney's Most Dated - Enchanted Tiki Room Under New Management

You knew this was coming.

In one of Todd McFarlane's insufferable brags, he talked about how dated Spider-Man and Peter Parker were, and how he brought the comic up to date by giving Mary Jane giant hair that filled up every panel.

As someone who's sat down and read every Spider-Man comic from start to around 2011 I can say, with the exception of a couple of disco scenes in the 70s, the only comics that look embarrassingly dated are his.  Of course, this was a man that said that it was the nature of collectibles to go down in value from the moment their purchased.

The only way to cause something to be dated more than purposely trying to be hip and modern is to constantly remind the audience that's what you're doing.

So, yeah, this thing -

I won't pick on this too much except to point out that their song choices to update the show were all Cuban inspired pop songs from the mid to late 80s.  Because all the cool kids were into Buster Poindexter and Gloria Estefan in 1998.  Hell, Martin Denny was cooler in 1998 than Miami Sound Machine.

This show was so horrible that God herself struck it down with fire, and the original version has returned (kinda).