MEANWHILE … weird and wonderful things lurk over at Shawn Vogt’s weird and wonderful blog — Weird and Wonderful Reads: Rants and Reviews. Take a peak and you will discover great reviews of some marvelous books, comics, and graphic novels.
Recently Shawn reviewed TALL PULP. TALL PULP, an anthology from Pro Se Productions, features Tall Tale characters in Pulp-style adventures by authors D. Alan Lewis, Gordon Dymowski, Nancy A. Hansen, Phillip Drayer Duncan, David White, and, I am sure you know by now, me.
Shawn not only provides an outstanding 5-star review but he also shares background material on several of the characters. Check out what he has to say:
Well, I finished reading Tall Pulp the other night, and I was quite impressed! Published by Pro Se Productions, and clocking in at 172 pages, this short story collection was definitely a fun read. I’m from Texas, and I’ve been thrilled with tall tales since I was a small child. The stories contain a mix of historical and fictitious characters, each with their own unique exploits in American folklore. Six heroes. Six authors. Six tales of derring do, and of standing up for what is right. Tall tales filtered through the fast paced, action-packed style of the pulp genre. What more could you ask for? Thrill to the adventures of Mike Fink, King of the River! Fall victim to the charms of Anne Bonny, the Pirate Queen! Marvel at the feats of Joe Magarac, the Man of Living Steel! For fans of the original characters, this is a must have. For those of you who are new to these exceptional characters, you’re in for a treat. Sit back, relax, and lose yourself in the adventure(s). With that, let’s get to my review. As usual, I’ll concentrate on my three favorite stories from the collection. This isn’t meant as a slight to the other authors involved, as they all have wonderful entries in this collection, and choosing a top three was rather problematic on my part. These are the three stories that touched me the most. Here’s the synopsis of my favorite tales…
The collection hits the floor running, with the exciting tale Anne Bonny’s Revenge, by D. Alan Lewis. Anyone who’s not familiar with Anne, here’s a link that contains her known history, and some speculation. You don’t need to read it to enjoy the story, but it does add a bit of extra spice to the adventure, and gives you a clearer picture of her motivation. At the start of this tale, Anne has been incarcerated by the British, on charges of piracy. Her husband, Calico Jack Rackham, and most of the crew of the pirate sloop Revenge, have been sentenced to death, and the sentence has been carried out. Obviously, the pirates have been betrayed, and were rounded up while sleeping off a drunken revel. Only Anne and her friend Mary Read stood fast against the British, and were eventually overpowered. Both women escaped the hangman’s noose by ‘pleading their bellies’, but Mary has since perished in this hellhole of a prison. Anne decides to fight her way clear, and picking a new guard as her prey, comes close to freedom, utilizing her unconventional fighting style. Unfortunately for our heroine, an officer arrives unexpectedly, and puts the kibosh on her escape attempt. Things aren’t quite what they seem, as the two know each other in a rather intimate manner. Whisking Anne away to visit the Governor (of this particular hellhole), a new plan is hatched, which will bring the official a great deal of wealth, put an end to a threat to the British Empire, and gain Anne her freedom. Anne and her lover have a different plan in mind, and hope to win it all on one roll of the die. Fortune favors the bold, after all…
The second of my favorites is Crossing McCausland, by Gordon Dymowski. It features Joe Magarac, the steelworker’s hero who has sprung, fully formed, from a pool of molten steel (here’s a link for those who want to delve into the character’s history). Ever since, Joe has been traveling the highways and byways of America, righting wrongs, and swiftly moving on to his next task. Along the way, he has instructed malcontents on becoming true supporters of the idea, the ideology behind this great country. Mainly, that everyone is free and equal, and that any who cross this principle are treated accordingly. Everyone has to contribute to the greater good, and as such, there are certain people that are inherently unsuited for this role. In this story, Joe has been drawn to the small town of Appleton, Missouri. He’s saved a young child that has been trapped in the local sewer system. Approached by the Town Administrator of Appleton, who is very grateful for the legend’s heroics. Joe is looking for nothing more than a bit of rest, before he moves on to where he is needed next, but things take an unexpected turn. Joe is confronted by Don and Seamus MacKelly, and accused of being a Soviet super-spy, who most likely engineered the event of the lost child himself, to bring publicity and fame to his heroics (and promote the Commie cause, apparently). The absurdity of the situation is evidently lost on the MacKelly brothers, but anything involving independent thought doesn’t seem to be there strong suit. They are, of course, just mindless pawns in another man’s game. Said mastermind is revealed as Robert McCausland, Mayor of the nearby town of Pitchford. He’s got his fingers in quite a number of pies, and Joe’s presence is throwing a monkey-wrench into his well thought out plans. McCausland isn’t at all what he seems, and Joe needs to step lightly…
Last up is my absolute favorite of the collection, Mike Fink and the River Round Up, by Greg Daniel. Some of you may remember Mike appearing in the Davy Crockett miniseries by Disney, which is how I was first introduced to the character. Here’s a link for those of you who want to know more about the character’s history. Mike is the King of the River, a man who outfought, outworked, and pretty much outdid every man he came into contact with. Here’s one of Mike’s brags, which gives you lot of insight into the character (quote courtesy of Walter Blair and Franklin J. Meine, “Mike Fink, King of the Mississippi Keelboatmen” New York 1933).
“The redoubtable but semi-mythical Mike Fink, joker, fighter, and king of the boatmen, voiced the sentiments of his class when he bellowed his boast:
“Im a Salt River Roarer! Im a ring-tailed squealer! I’m a reg’lar screamer from the ol’ Massassip’! WHOOP! I’m the very infant that refused his milk before its eyes were open, and called out for a bottle of old Rye! I love the women an’ I’m chockful o’ fight! I’m half wild horse and half cockeyed-alligator and the rest o’ me is crooked snags an’ red hot snappin’ turtle. I can hit like fourth-proof lightnin’ an’ every lick I make in the woods lets in an acre o’ sunshine. I can out-run, out-jump, out-shoot, out-brag, out-drink, an’ out fight, rough-an’-tumble, no holts barred, ary man on both sides the river from Pittsburg to New Orleans an’ back again to St. Louiee. Come on, you flatters, you bargers, you milk-white mechanics, an’ see how tough I am to chaw! I ain’t had a fight for two days an’ I’m spilein’ for exercise. Cock-a-doodle-doo!”
He has sometimes been portrayed as a bully and a blowhard, but my favorite stories show him as a good-hearted man, highly loyal, a friend to the end. His rough and tumble nature, and competitive streak lead him astray, now and then. But if you need a friend who will never forget you, Mike’s your man. Greg Daniel begins the story in the 1960’s in a small riverside town in Kentucky, with a bunch of locals sitting down to their usual poker game. One of the men’s recent encounter with a local semi-legendary character (a man called Uncle Danny, remember the name) prompts them to start telling a number of their favorite tall tales. There’s a stranger sitting in at the poker game (a man that is eerily familiar to some of the old-timers) and when the talk turns to the likes of Davy Crockett and Mike Fink, and Mike’s apparent death, the man quietly objects. “That ain’t the way it happened,” he says. Not wanting to provoke the rather wild looking stranger, the men start talking about a more recent tale, one set at the beginning of WWII, in Memphis, where Mike apparently lives on…
When we first lay eyes upon Mike Fink, he’s a shell of his former self. Drunk, bedraggled, and homeless, the man is staggering down the streets of Memphis, apparently not knowing his own name. Until he accosted by four thugs, that is. After they try to teach the old bum a lesson, and knock Mike to the ground, the Salt River Roarer snaps back to his true self! Mike makes rather short work of the idiots, although with a great amount of style. After coming to his senses, and remembering that he is MIKE FINK, his first thought is to find his legendary keelboat, the Gullywhumper. The problem is, after spending a hundred years or so not being himself (and that’s an entirely different story, to be told at another time), Mike initially can’t remember where he has left his beauty. After a bit of a hard think, he hits on it… Cave-in-Rock, the hideout favored by river pirates since America was young. Mike takes to the trail, and after many long days in the wilderness, stops at a tavern in Cairo, Illinois. Looking forward to a something hard to cut the trail dust, Mike stumbles upon a major meeting of the German American Bund (yes, we get to see Mike whip some Nazi butts). After being insulted by one of the Bund members, Mike, true to self, wipes the floor with the entire room full. After the brawl, he makes a couple of new friends that seem to be cut from the same cloth. They both deal themselves in, and the trio sets out on the trail once more. Finding the Gullywhumper is one of their goals, but they also must stop the Bund’s sinister plot…
I want to say that I blazed through Tall Pulp; it was a release that I didn’t want to end, but yearned to find out what came next. I really needed to find out what happened to the characters, and as a result, I finished it in record time. The only drawback is that I’m left wanting more. I’ve told you a bit about my favorites above, but the other stories contained within this collection are top notch. This is my first experience with all the authors involved, and they really impressed me with the quality of their stories, and their readily apparent love for the characters. Some of these characters I was already familiar with, others are brand new experiences for me.
Kudos to all involved! D. Alan Lewis (Anne Bonny’s Revenge) gives us a rousing tale of blood and fire, romance and ultimately, second chances. Skillfully weaving in Anne Bonny’s history, while not letting off the throttle, what we are left with is an entirely satisfying adventure, on all levels.
Nancy Hansen (Freedom’s Road) gives us a story which speaks of inequality on many levels, and the lengths which racists and bigots of all stripes will go to both carry out, and justify their actions. The story both engaged me, and had me seething mad at many points, because of disgusting treatment of the two main characters by the general populace. There were good people in the story, but as in the real world, not enough of them. An excellent, thought provoking story and I truly appreciated the end, and laughed long and hard at the plight of the main antagonist.
Phillip Drayer Duncan (The Untold Legacy of the Bowie Knife) gives us an action packed tale chronicling the secret history of Jim Bowie, and the true reasons behind the legendary Sandbar Fight. A world that I would happily re-immerse myself in, if the author chose to revisit it.
Paul Bunyan in the 23rd Century by David White is a love note to old science fiction epics, such as Buck Rogers and the Lensman series. Paul and his blue ox, Babe, are not actually in the story. Except they are, and on that highly contradictory note, all I have to say is read the story. You’ll understand what I’m talking about after reading it. Salutations to David for coming up with such an outside the box re-imagining of Paul Bunyan!
Gordon Dymowski definitely delivers with Crossing McCausland, and his story is a mix of heroics, old style crime buster stories, and the more poignant examination of a man who is truly different, an outsider by his very nature, who still uses his powers for good. A man who wants to have a life, a real home, but is drawn to where he is truly needed, and consequently, never attains the ideal kept deep within… to be normal, and have a family. Concurrently, it examines the type of people that can have just that, but worry more about gaining wealth, power, and control. A VERY interesting story.
Finally, Greg Daniel‘s Mike Fink and the River Boat Round-Up was just pure, unadulterated FUN! I hung on every word, thrilled to every new adventure Mike and his friends stumbled into, and had a giant smile on my face throughout the story. Plus, Greg knows how to tell a story in style! The overall feel of the story is perfect. Highly recommended, and I absolutely love how he portrayed Mike, along with his two friends. The end of the story brought a tear to my eye, and also brought out a large burst of laughter. Friends to the end…
To sum up, these are some great tales. Regardless of your tastes, this collection contains any number of well written, engaging, and action packed stories. Plus, they’re FUN! Don’t be surprised if you come away from them with a big goofy grin on your face. I know I did! Take a look, you won’t regret it!
Here’s a link to the publisher’s site. Here’s the Amazon page for Tall Pulp. Head on over, take a look around. I’m sure you’ll find many great adventures to lose yourself in. With that, I’ll sign off. Happy reading, all!