Saturday, April 7, 2012

Being Distracted, Or Pretty things! Pretty things

As I said in my last post, my reading is driven by "programs" I create for myself (I think of them as "bouts" as in "A bout of the flu" or "A bout of westerns"). It wouldn't be right, though, to think of me as blindly or mechanically driving through a set of books--I get distracted. For instance, I belong to a book club where, to maintain membership, I buy four books a year. Those are stacked up in the living room right now, intermixed with the last of my bout of young adult books (which may yet be extended by buying "13 Reasons Why").

I also maintain an interest in Canadian books, both older, well-known books and current books (and, since I was born in Regina and grew up in Winnipeg, in authors from the prairies). So sitting beside the (diminishing) stack of books by Irish authors--which might be extended by another book by John Banville--I have a stack of books by Canadian authors I'd like to read in the near future.

My family also gives me books to read. I just got a copy of "Racing in the Rain" because Jan recommended it, "On a Cold Road" because Christopher did, and "Stiff" because Jason did (I just finished reading Jamie's copy of "Scott Pilgrim").

And I get...distracted. I picked up a copy of "Incognito" by Ed Brubaker. In that book, he uses several ideas/motifs/tropes from the pulps. Now this re-awakened some old memories. Back in the sixties, Bantam books started re-issuing the old Doc Savage pulp stories as paperbacks. I loved them. The Doc Savage success led to re-issues of some of the other pulps: Operator No. 5 (which I also liked), The Spider, The Avenger, Secret Agent X, and all three issues of a short-lived pulp called Doctor Death (which I really liked). None of these re-issues were anywhere near as successful as the Doc Savage series (all of the Savage stories were re-issued--Operator No. 5 got only 9 issues). Interestingly, as near as I can tell, the Shadow (the undisputed king of the pulps) was never part of this revival (though, a few years ago, reproductions of the magazines were published). One of my favourite science fiction authors, Philip Jose Farmer did his variations on Tarzan and Doc Savage, creating his Wold Newton family where virtually every hero born after 1800 (mostly, but not all, fictional) were descendants of 16 people in two carriages that were near the meteorite strike in Wold Newton, England.

So, thanks to Mr. Brubaker, I'm fleshing out the library with some pulp and Farmer books. I already have a Shadow book and a Spider book in the library. I just picked up a Doc Savage book and Farmer's fictionalized biography of Tarzan ("Tarzan Alive"). I'm looking forward to reading those on our bus trip to Toronto to see "War Horse." Coming through AbeBooks are two more of Farmer's 're-imaginings' of Savage and Tarzan ("A Savage Feast" and "Lord of the Tree/Mad Goblin") plus a Secret Agent X paperback reprint from ebay--they'll go away with me on our trip to Rockville/Philadelphia. After that I'd like to pick up a one of the paperback re-prints of Operator No. 5, G-8 and his Battling Aces and The Phantom Detective (never read either of the last two).

That will probably keep me happy, except....The pulps were organized around single stories with very few exceptions. The big name here is the thirteen story Operator No. 5 arc that involved the United States being invaded by a thinly disguised Germany ("The Purple Empire Invasion"). That's almost certainly more pulp than I want to read and, besides, would be very difficult/expensive to collect. However, the Spider did a three series arc about the American Nazi party taking over the government of the New York State and the Spider overthrowing them. That's been collected into one, reasonably priced volume. All of the Doctor Death stories (including two that were never published) have also been collected into two volumes. Those would be fun, also...

Reading or read

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