The pleasure of pulp

Here's an interesting article from Bookforum about the nigh-forgotten genre of pulp. (Plus, you gotta love the illustrations.)

For example, did you know pulp fiction was written by men while almost all the classic English crime writers were middle-class women? It's interesting to observe how the crime genre of dainty Agatha Christie and dire Dorothy Sayers stowawayed across the Atlantic and morphed into the gritty American pulp of Raymond Chandler and James M. Cain. And why and how did crime and pulp hold sway over readers from the 20s through the 60s? Author John Banville speculates that:

Crime fiction flourishes in hard times. The fiction reflects the times, and the times color the fiction. There is a rawness in the pulp stories, even those by “literary” writers such as Chandler and Hammett, that is not due entirely to the exigencies of the marketplace. At their best, and even, perhaps, at their worst, these yarns express something of the unforgiving harshness and dauntless optimism of life in America in the decades between the wars. Of course, the plots are almost uniformly absurd.

There is some sort of grim fascination for me with scar-faced criminals and brooding detectives and loose women with felt hats and guns in their purses (tucked right next to the bold red lipstick). I can't get enough of James Cain, for instance: do yourself a favor and when you're in the mood for a martini, read Mildred Pierce and then rent the movie with Joan Crawford.

The anthology, The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps, sounds tantalizing. Do you suppose I'd shock Santa if I asked him to leave a copy of The Book of Pulps in my fishnet stocking?


Rebecca H. said...

You know, this hasn't exactly been my kind of thing, but it would be fun to check it out ... we've got a copy of Mildred Pierce lying around somewhere.

Literary Feline said...

This is on my husband's Christmas list and he just might get it this year. :-) Shh! Don't tell!

J.S. Peyton said...

I just bought BIG BOOK OF PULPS book myself a few weeks ago. For such a large collection it's surprisingly cheap - $20. So far, I've read all of two stories, but I loved them. I so love visiting my cynical detectives who drink only as much as they smoke and always take a punch to the gut. Those are my kind of guys. ;)

Iliana said...

I really want this book too! And, yes those book covers are great.