If you’re among those who saw BLACK PANTHER and loved it…
…and if you didn’t love it I’m not sure we can still be friends. But I digress…
…you’re probably salivating and looking forward to more adventures of King T’Challa and wondering how you’re going to fill your entertainment hours with more of the same. You desperately crave for more fantastic tales of black heroes and heroines to feed your stimulated imagination now that your creative juices are flowing and your soul seeks to enrich itself with legends and stories of heroes and heroines who can stand shoulder to shoulder with T’Challa, Princess Shuri, Nakia, Okoye and M’Baku.
Look no more.
There’s a legion of staggeringly creative black writers and artists that have been working like gubmint mules for years producing just those kinds of stories. Some of their names you know. Charles Saunders. Milton Davis. Balogun Ojetade. Gerald L. Coleman. Valjeanne Jeffers. Jeff Carroll. Nicole Givens Kurtz. Toi Thomas. Alicia MCalla. Thaddeus Howze. Brian W. Parker. Ronald T. Jones. Mshindo Kuumba. Jarvis Sheffield.
Some names you don’t. But that’s okay. There’s two places you should start to learn the names you’re not familiar with.
So now you don’t have to wait. Because there is more wonder and adventure out there than I think you didn’t know existed. And I envy you the discovery. Wakanda is not just a country. It is not just a warrior spirit and code. It is not just a technology. Although it embraces and celebrates all of these.
Wakanda is also a family of imagination. Because we can dream our future into reality.
And in this…we are all this day and forevermore citizens of Wakanda.
“Wakanda will no longer watch from the shadows. We cannot. We must not. We will work to be an example of how we, as brothers and sisters on this earth, should treat each other. Now, more than ever, the illusions of division threaten our very existence. We all know the truth: more connects us than separates us. But in times of crisis the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another, as if we were one single tribe.”
If the daytime Soap Opera ever makes a comeback, Bobby Nash could give up writing thrillers, New Pulp action adventures, science fiction and make a good living writing for them. Before you laugh yourself into a heart attack, let me explain. Soap Operas were excellent at making sure their characters were constantly miserable and unhappy with their lot in life. If anybody in a Soap Opera had so much as a minute of happiness, you knew it wasn’t going to last long.
Now, I don’t mean to call BAREFOOT BONES a Soap Opera at all. But what I am saying is that Bobby Nash (writing as Jack Tunney) does an outstanding job of making his hero miserable. Matter of fact, the first half of the book the protagonist is hit with one emotional sucker punch after another. This is a guy who’s life is so bad that it actually gets better when he enlists to fight in the Korean War.
James Mason is a broomstick thin kid living on the wrong side of the tracks in a small Georgia town. He and his mama are so poor he can’t even afford shoes. That and his painfully thin appearance earns him the nickname of “Barefoot Bones” and it’s a name the town bullies love to yell in his ears as they’re beating the living daylights out of him.
Things change when James is taken under the wing of Old Man Winters who teaches him how to box and control his temper, make it work for him in a fight. Previously to this, James had thought of Old Man Winters as being just the town recluse who kept to himself. But James soon learns that there is far more to him. James and Old Man Winters even become friends and since James is now able to successfully defend himself against the bullies, his life starts to look a little better.
But that’s before James experiences several devastating tragedies and is forced to go on the run, living as best he can by stealing and begging until making his way to Chicago. And it’s when he meets Father Tim Brophy, the Battling Priest of St. Vincent’s Asylum For Boys that his story really gets going.
Bobby spends a considerable amount of wordage dealing with the sad childhood of James Mason and that might disappoint those who want to see more action in the ring. Oh, there’s plenty of that, don’t worry that you won’t get your share of boxing action in the ring. This is a Fight Card book after all and when it comes to depicting fight scenes in the ring, Bobby Nash delivers the goods. But what I think he’s going for here is telling the story of a young man whose real opponent is the crummy life he’s been given, a life that he fights every day. Compared to that, stepping into the ring with a flesh and blood opponent is gravy.
And to tell this story, Bobby does it in simple, uncomplicated prose. Since BAREFOOT BONES is told in first person, Bobby tells it in simple sentences, using simple words. It’s a very appropriate storytelling technique as our narrator is a boy/young man of limited education.
So should you read BAREFOOT BONES? Sure you should. If you’ve been reading the Fight Card series of books then you don’t have to be sold on this one. If you’ve never read a FightCard book, this is a good one to start with. If you’re a fan of Bobby Nash who has read his other books then by all means read this. One of the pleasures of reading a Fight Card book is that you get to read a story by a writer like Bobby Nash who might never have written a boxing novel, or even thought about writing one. It’s a win-win situation all the way around for both the writer and the reader. He gets to stretch his creative muscles in a new direction and we get to read the results. Enjoy!
Jack Tunney is the unifying pen name for authors of the FIGHT CARD series – created by Mel Odom and Paul Bishop. Up-and-coming new authors, such as Eric Beetner, David Foster, Kevin Michaels, and Heath Lowrance have all penned entries in the series alongside more established names in the field such as Wayne D. Dundee, Robert Randisi, Bishop, and Odom. Also included in the Fight Card series are two spin-off brands, Fight Card MMA and Fight Card Romance.
The books in the Fight Card series are 25,000 word novelettes, designed to be read in one or two sittings, and are inspired by the fight pulps of the ’30s and ’40s – such as Fight Stories Magazine – and Robert E. Howard’s two-fisted boxing tales featuring Sailor Steve Costigan.
I’m gonna start this off with trying to explain to you the main problem us New Pulp writers have when we’re trying to explain New Pulp to folks who have no idea what Pulp is. Much less New Pulp. See, we go on and on with our explanations of Pulp and what it means to us as writers and what it is as a genre and as a style of writing…
…and then we’ll get the Classic Pulp crowd chiming in with; “Pulp isn’t a genre! It’s the paper the original magazines were printed on!”
Well, you Classic Pulp guys just hold on. I’ll get to you another time. Believe me. But right now, I’ve got more interesting fish to sauté.
Anyway, we try to explain to The Average Reader Who Is Just Looking For Something Good To Read what New Pulp is. And they will listen most earnestly and patiently and attentively and they will then say; “Okay, I get what you’re saying…but why and how is New Pulp different from just plain ol’ Action Adventure? Or Horror? Or Science Fiction? Why can’t you guys just label what you do as that and get it over with?”
And The Average Reader Who Is Just Looking For Something Good To Read does have a valid point. And before you start with that tired old felgercarb about how you don’t like labels and you don’t see why anything has to be labeled…tell you what we’re gonna do. We’re going to take all the labels off the canned foods in your local supermarket and let you guess what’s inside those cans the next time you go shopping.
Because much as you would like to think otherwise, labelling does have its place. And my feeling is that one reason why it’s so hard to label New Pulp is because over the years there have been so many TV shows, comic books and movies that have adopted the tropes of Classic Pulp that it’s become so ingrained in Pop Culture that most folks don’t even realize they’re watching Pulp. Still don’t believe me? Sit back while I hit you with three examples of New Pulp you watched and enjoyed and didn’t even know was New Pulp. Ready? Okay:
24 (2001-2010): For 8 Seasons we watched Counter Terrorist Unit Special Agent Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) defend Our Country against supervillains, terrorist attacks and shadow government conspiracies. Each season followed Jack Bauer on a Really Bad Day, each episode taking place in Real Time over the course of one hour. Before each commercial break, a clock would appear on screen to show us how much time had passed and each episode would end with Jack Bauer or another member of the cast in dire peril. You had to come back next week to find out how Jack or whoever got out of whatever death trap they had gotten into.
24 is one of the primary examples of New Pulp I love to hold up as it’s the Ultimate Saturday Morning Serial. A Serial was an extended movie broken up into chapter plays which enjoyed their major popularity during the 1930’s and 1940’s. The chapters were shown in movie theaters in 10 or 15 minutes segments before the main double feature. They ended with a Cliffhanger in which the hero or another member of the cast found themselves in dire peril. Sound familiar? 24 quite successfully adapted the Saturday Morning Serial in an innovative way. Sure, the episodes were now an hour long instead of 15 minutes but thanks to terrific writing and acting, they kept us on the end of our seats. And as a character, Jack Bauer has a whole lot in common with both Jimmy Christopher aka Operator #5 and The Spider.
Hudson Hawk: Is the most blatantly Pulp of my three examples and maybe that’s why it was the least successful. I dunno. All I know is that the very first time I saw it in the theater, I think I knew what director Michael Lehmann and screenplay writers Steven E. de Souza and Daniel Waters (based on a story by Bruce Willis and Robert Kraft) were going for. Eddie Hawkins is a master thief known professionally as Hudson Hawk. Upon being released from prison he attempts to go straight but is blackmailed by the CIA, The Mafia, the psychotic Mayflower twins (Richard E. Grant, Sandra Bernhard) and even his own partner-in-crime Tommy Five-Tone (Danny Aiello) into a complicated series of heists to steal the components of the La Machinnia dell’Oro, the greatest invention of Leonardo da Vinci, a machine that can convert lead into gold. The scene where Bruce Willis and Danny Aiello pull off a heist that is perfectly timed to their singing “Swinging on A Star” is one of my favorites in the movie. You can read my review of Hudson Hawk here at The Ferguson Theater.
The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (2004): Wes Anderson is not a director that anybody by any stretch of the imagination would associate with Pulp New or Classic. But I’ve watched TheLife Aquatic With Steve Zissou four times now and the more I see it, the more I’m convinced it’s a New Pulp Adventure. Bill Murray plays Steve Zissou, an oceanographer/adventurer who sees his best friend and partner eater by a Jaguar Shark, a species of shark that had been previously considered to be mythical. Steve Zissou vows to hunt down and destroy the shark.
Aboard his massive research vessel/home, The Belafonte, Zissou and his eccentric crew, which includes a Brazilian musician who sings David Bowie songs in Portuguese, Anne-Marie Sakowitz who insists on walking around topless and a bunch of college interns from the University of North Alaska he sets out on what may be his last and greatest adventure. The adventure is flavored by Steve having to deal with Ned Plimpton (Owen Wilson) who just may be his illegitimate son and the tagalong reporter Jane-Winslette Richardson (Cate Blanchett) who is attracted to both Steve and Ned.
It’s a movie that I consider New Pulp because of Steve Zissou, an aging adventurer who is trying to hold onto his life of adventure even though everybody and everything is telling him he has to conform to the modern world. But Steve believes in a different world. Halfway through the movie it turns into an almost straight out action adventure where Steve and his crew have to dig back into the day when they were badasses in order to track down and take out a band of pirates that have attacked The Belafonte and taken some of the interns hostages.
Steve Zissou’s crew are just as talented, skilled and eccentric as Doc Savage’s Iron Crew or Buckaroo Banzai’s Hong Kong Cavaliers. And if you have any more doubts about the intention of this movie, check out the end credit scene where Steve Zissou and his crew march to their boat. Wes Anderson himself has said that is a deliberate homage to the Banzai Strut done during the closing credits of “Buckaroo Banzai”
The thing all these movies (and TV show) have in common is that there are various elements of Classic Pulp that the creators adapted successfully for modern audiences. Matter of fact, they did them so well that modern audiences have no idea that they’re watching Pulp.
And don’t get me started on how Scandal is a modern-day version of The Avenger and Justice, Inc or how Person of Interest is in a lot of ways like The Shadow…we’ll leave that for next time…