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“We kick off this issue with an all-too appropriate tale of life after the apocalypse. We move from there to a crime tale puncturing civility’s thin veneer. We head into the future after that and then return to the past for a good vs. evil struggle in the American Southwest. Two nasty little crime stories follow before we launch into another tale of good and evil and redemption. We close out this issue with a pair of quiet, refined crime stories. “-Alec Cizak “From the Editor”
Pulp Modern includes a great range of pulp genres as evidenced by the editor’s overview of the stories included in this issue (see quotation above). Besides these fun bite-sized pieces of prose, the issue includes three comics by Bob Vojko and each story is illustrated by Ran Scott. I am a huge fan of Scott’s work and his fantastic illustrations always beautifully complement the reading experience. I also dig Richard Krauss’s cover, which makes me think of the Clue board game gone extra noir. I enjoyed the multiple genres represented in this issue. Each of the story made for an entertaining read. The following stories and illustrations resonated with me most.
In “The Bowie Knife” by Peter W. J. Hayes, a one of a kind treasure comes between an antique shop owner and his former-felon assistant. The voice of the protagonist, with his multiple digressions in telling his tale, was especially fun. The colorful characters came alive in my mind. My favorite line from the story: “Her eyes were the Kansas-sky blue I remembered, her blouse unbuttoned all the way to Mexico.”
“Burnin’ Love” by Timothy Friend involves a bounty hunter-type hired to collect an arsonist. The assignment complicates when the firebug crosses state lines for a hookup and the object of his affection happens to be one tough cookie. I’ve been a fan of Friend since reading his story “Bad Dog” in Switchblade Magazine Issue five. My favorite quotes all had profanity in them, which says a lot about the kind of wild ride this story delivers.
“How to Make a Boulevardier” by Nils Gilbertson is a study in family dynamics, shifting favors, and problem solving using violence. The family relies on son Joe to act as bartender and provide comic relief, while pushing his moral bounties. Joe not only knows everyone’s drink of choice, he has a handle on their dirty deeds. By the end of the story, I was craving the perfectly crafted Boulevardier. Favorite lines: “Bill was the sort of guy that thought if you’re good at one thing, you’re good at everything. And if you get away with one crime, you’re bulletproof. He was that special sort of stupid.”
“These Violent Delights” by Mandi Jourdan is shown through the eyes of Isis, one of seven androids created by the government, named after Egyptian deities, and programmed to kill. I liked how the androids came across as sympathetic as well as the details like how they were programmed to be dependent on humans for survival. Favorite line: “Now that she knew she wasn’t destined to blend into human society someday, to have a life of her own, she supposed it didn’t matter how far she took the deadly gifts she’d been given.”
As always, Ran Scott’s interior artwork is stunning both in black and white in the paperback version and cooler in the ebook version. My favorites accompany the following stories: Jayne’s “Necessary Evils,” Friend’s “Burnin’ Love,” Jourdan’s “These Violent Delights,” and Gilbertson’s “How to Make a Boulevardier.”
For me, this collection is a four and a half star read, rounded up to five.
My first thoughts on Rick McCollum’s cover was that it looked like an aging Travis Bickle with a pair of Colt Peacemakers, holed up inside Miskatonic University. Turns out the issue’s cover well represents the stories inside it. Managing Editor Alec Cizak, with the help of graphic designer Richard Krauss have put together a good looking issue, with some very sharp interior art from Ran Scott. There are nine short stories in this issue. Here’s the breakdown:
Companion by Andrew Bourelle: A boy and his dog. A girl, a post-apocalyptic setting. Think Harlan Ellison meets Cormac McCarthy. This was a standout for me.
The Bowie Knife by Peter W. J. Hayes: A tale centered around a rare antiquities shop. And all its politics, and bizarre clientele. Another standout. Rife with specificity and detail, this is a story that applies today’s mandatory storytelling twist, and does it right. Better on the second read.
These Violent Delights by Mandi Jourdan: I, Robot with shades of Blade Runner. Big government. Corporate greed. Ethical questions about AI consciousness.
Ghost Town by Doc Clancy: A mysterious town halfway to death, a preacher, the lord of the flies. Brimstone, reanimation, and guns—in wild west Arizona.
Burnin’ Love by Timothy Friend: A skip tracer follows an arsonist to New Mexico. Supposedly an easy bounty, until he finds out the firebug is hooked up with the cruiserweight version of Gina Carano.
Necessary Evils by Serena Jayne: Being called “Jewel” might sound endearing, until you realize anything referred to as such is someone’s possession. A woman in search of freedom leverages her options in a dysfunctional marriage, as she navigates a social network of dysfunctional relationships. This one is a standout.
Intercession by Adam S. Furman: A fantasy tale about a bounty hunter tracking black blooded demons. Seasoned with soul saving, a devil’s deal, the smell of sulfur, and cicadas chirping. This one synchs up to our reality when Furman’s protagonist navigates the legal system—as Furman is an attorney by trade.
The Unbroken Circle by Victoria Weisfeld: A family story, but not for kids. A family bible with family secrets. A murder investigation, a tenacious sheriff, and two families with a long standing feud frame this tale.
How to Make a Boulevardier by Nils Gilbertson: A family drama—that isn’t family-friendly. More akin to The Sopranos, than The Hallmark channel. A tale of family politics and morality within the confines of organized crime.
The latest issue of Pulp Modern opens with “Companion” by Andrew Bourelle, a gruesome tale of survival in a post-apocalyptic world. Powerfully done.
“Bowie Knife,” by Peter W. J. Hayes, is a mysterious tale involving collectors and artifacts. It’s full of twists and turns.
Other highlights were “Burnin’ Love” by Timothy Friend, a hard boiled tale of a man tracking down an arsonist. Things go a little haywire when he runs across the firebug’s powerful female companion. And the collection closes with two stories of powerful family ties. Similar, yet completely different. “The Unbroken Circle” by Victoria Weisfield, is set in the late eighteen hundreds and involves family reunions and family feuds. “How to Make a Boulevardier” by Nils Gilbertson, deals with a bartender who is not quite a perfect fit with his gangster family.
I also enjoyed the artwork by Ran Scott who has an illustration for each story. Well done.