Summer reunion with good old pulps

No sentimental treasures unearthed at this summer’s record crop of garage sales quite match the old pulp magazines which resurface every year on so many front lawn card tables.

Remember them? The blood-and-thunders like Adventure magazine where C.S. Forester, Erle Stanley Gardner and Edgar Rice Burroughs got their starts?

And how about Argosy, Dime Western, Thrilling Adventure and Thrilling Detective on whose racy pages the L. Ron Hubbard by-line made its debut with such deathless prose as The Green God, Sea Fangs, Dead Men Kill and The Carnival of Death?

By 1934, 150 pulps were being published in New York City alone. Black Mark was the writers’ choice because of its high pay — a whopping nickel a word.

Then, in 1938, science-fiction pulps burst onto the scene. Who of our generation can forget them? Amazing, Wonder, Planet Stories, Startling and, creepiest of all, Astounding Science Fiction. They became Ron Hubbard’s signature pieces. He was our Stephen King.

To cap my ’97 summer reunion with old pulp friends, I asked my local librarian what she had on th guy Hubbard who always raised my hair when I was young enough to have some. She came up with Russell Miller’s Bare-Faced Messiah (Key Porter), a 1987 oldie but goldie.

“Bug-eyed monsters figured prominently,” Miller writes, “either invading the earth with the intention of enslaving the human race or carrying away our ‘fairest maidens’ for use as love-toys on some alien planet.

“Readers needed considerable faith to relish repeated workings of the same tedious themes, but then science-fiction fans were acknowledged to be particularly fanatical, if not particular.”

With that introduction, Miller embarks us on a wondrous odyssey launched by Hubbard’s first 1950 book Dianetics, The Modern Science of Mental Health and climaxed by his 1952 opening of the Hubbard Association of Scientologists in Phoenix, Arizona.

To tell you more about Messiah in this space would spoil a great read. It’s a classic flashback triggered by this year’s crop of garage sales. And it helps remind us there is life beyond the current best-seller lists.  

Meet another fictional hero publishers love for his sequel potential. Jon Cleary’s Detective Inspector Scobie Malone is HarperCollins’ current choice to test our wits in Endpeace.

If you’re a 50-plus admirer of fictional literacy free of leCarre’s tortured narrative mazes, ask your bookseller or librarian for a copy. Cleary is an Australian with more than 40 novels under his belt. His Endpeace is about homicide in the upper strata of Sydney’s newspaper industry.

An authority on both, he presents us with a summer time divertissement which beats travelogue tapes or brochures of “Down Under.”

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For retirees who hanker to write for fun or profit, Writer’s Digest Book Club is out with Roberta Allen’s Fast Fiction – Creating Fiction in Five Minutes.

I see a lot of newswriting on TV these days that’s fast fiction, but I don’t think that’s what Roberta Allen has in mind. Hers is real fiction. Your local library most likely keeps up-dated copies of Writer’s Digest handy.