Remember audio cassettes and back when you used to make mix-tapes for all your friends? It was more than slapping your favourite songs on to a BASF C-90. It was walking a tight-rope; an intricate balancing act that took planning and patience. Did you start with a kick-ass rocker, or was it a soulful ballad that set the tone? If the song was too slow you’d kill the mood, or if you went too hard and fast early, the rest of the mix would seem flat. And what did you follow it with? Placement was equally as important as song selection. It was always about balance.
I have found that anthologies are a lot like mix-tapes. There are many anthologies out there in the marketplace, covering all genres – and I am guessing for the editors, balancing the stories within is a tough act. Even though the individual tales themselves maybe fantastic, placing them in the wrong order, or even in the wrong book, can make the reading experience a bit of a stop / start affair.
And that brings me to one of the reasons I am so proud to be a part of Bishop & Hancock’s Pulse Fiction. Having read it from cover to cover, I can say the balance is perfect. Not one of these six stories is out of place – and even though they are different genres they hang together cohesively, united by one common theme; that being – they are rattling good pulp adventure tales told with pace and flare.
The first story in Bishop & Hancock’s Pulse Fiction is The Insanitors by Barry Reese. Reese, the creator of the Rook and Lazarus Gray, is one of the shining lights of the New Pulp movement, and his action packed tale, The Insanitors provides more proof of his story-telling prowess. From first word to last the tale is a roller-coaster ride – taking the reader from Machu Picchu in Peru to the corridors of power in the White House. The hero of the piece is a man who calls himself Dr. Darkness, and aided by his daughter Lilly, he has to thwart the Insanitors, a group of half-breed demons intent on unleashing hell on earth.
The next story is The Honor of the Legion, by yours truly. I have talked about it quite a bit, both here and on social media, so I won’t rehash all that again, but as the title would imply it is a Foreign Legion adventure. The hero of the piece is Legionnaire, Mace Bullard – and since we’re all friends here, I’ll let you in on a little secret … Mace Bullard will return in a new blood-curdling action adventure called Sahara Six. I don’t know when it will be released, but I’ll let you know when details come to hand.
The third story in Bishop & Hancock’s Pulse Fiction Volume 1 is Never Enough Corpses by my Fight Card colleague, Brian Drake. This story is another cracking tale – harking back to The Saint, and other champagne heroes of the past. The hero of the piece is Daniel Redd, known as the Last Ace. Redd is a successful gambler with a taste for the finer things in life. But Redd is not a foppish dilettante. On the side, he also lends his assistance to those less fortunate than himself. In this instance, the damsel in distress who needs his help is Tori Heneghan – a woman caught in the middle of a blackmail scheme – and who has two goons on her tail trying to kill her.
Diamonds Are a Girl’s Worst Friend by Eric Beetner is the fourth tale. Set in Paris, in the early 1960s, and featuring Holly Lake – a slinky cat burglar – as the title may suggest, this tale is a classic diamond heist caper. I have read a few of Beetner’s other works, and generally they have been gritty and tough – often with a pitch black sense of humour. Diamonds shows another side of Beetner’s writing – delivering a sophisticated fast-paced romp that is equally entertaining as his darker work.
From the pen of one of Pulse Fiction’s creators, Tommy Hancock comes the western mystery The Man From Shadow Limb. The township of Shadow Limb is a hive of villainy and vice, that is, until a masked avenger arrives on the scene to clean up the town his way. This tense western tale is part whodunnit, so I won’t give too much away, but to say the story drips with atmosphere and I look forward to more adventures of the Man From Shadow Limb.
Last but not least, the final tale, Cry Blood, by D. Alan Lewis, features battered and bruised hard drinking P.I. Thomas Gunn – a Mike Hammer type character – who comes to the aid of a young woman whose family have been killed, and now mobsters are after her. Gunn sobers up and does his best to protect her as the body count around them rises. I reckon a lot of people are gonna love this one – it’s a great note to go out on.
As I have a story in this anthology, naturally I cannot be totally subjective, but in a collection like this, a story is only as good as the stories around it, and I’ve got to say the tales in Pulse Fiction are top rate. As you’ve probably gathered from the mini reviews above, the mandate for Pulse Fiction was to put together old fashioned tales in a new fashioned way. And to that end, I believe the individual authors, and editors Paul Bishop and Tommy Hancock, have succeeded admirably. Check this one out. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.