I'd been thinking about this post for a while ... as a response to comments I've heard here and there to the effect that there's no market anymore for classic pulp adventure. My own, admittedly somewhat arbitrary perspective is this: if classic pulp adventure is dead, if no one cares about these characters and series anymore, if there's really no market for this old stuff ... then how come I can walk into my local bookstore, either the local chain B&N or Borders -- or even better, the independent Tattered Cover -- and buy this old stuff right off the shelves?
So this is an overview of what the bookstore buyers have decided I can just walk in and get off the shelf, without special ordering it in, or turning to online bookstores, etc. (This is not meant to be a dig at, or utterly dismissive of, publishers with non-traditional distribution models -- heck, anything but, because some of them publish me. I'm trying to make a point about the market viability of this genre, and let's face it, bookstore distribution is still very important.)
Nostalgia Ventures reprints of the Doc Savage and The Shadow pulp novels, two novels each coming out each month in very nice reproduction volumes, are available at online bookstores, via the Diamond catalog which mainly serves direct-market comic shops, and mail order services. But better than that, imagine one of the most thrilling pulp-buying experiences of all, that of walking into a B&N and seeing this shelved cover out in the sf section:
I haven't had the pleasure of that experience since buying the many of the Bantam Books Doc Savage reprints from my local strip mall B. Dalton when I was a kid. And the local B&N didn't just have the book pictured to the left. There was half a shelf devoted to many in the series, right up there with the Doctor Who, Torchwood, Star Trek and Star Wars books.
Paizo's Planet Stories line also deserves special mention; it was, amazingly, launched just a year ago and is putting out an impressive one book a month. R.E. Howard, C.L. Moore, Michael Moorcock, Henry Kuttner, etc., what's not to love?
Baen Books is putting out omnibus editions of The Spider novels. The first trade did well enough to warrant a mass market reprint and a second trade.
- The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps
- Tarzan of the Apes (B&N Classics)
- The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril (Simon & Schuster; to be fair, a fiction adventure of two pulp classic pulp writers rather than a revival of older pulp characters ... but still...)
- The Indiana Jones series (Bantam Books & Del Rey; again, the character did not originate in the 1930s, but is an homage to the pulps and serials)
- The hardboiled and noirish mysteries from Hard Case Crime (a mix of rare and classic reprints and new novels ... and check out those beautifully lurid covers)
- The Mark of Zorro (Tor Books)
- Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammet remain constantly in print (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard)
- Robert E. Howard's Conan, King Kull, Solomon Kane, Bran Mak Morn, etc. (Del Rey/Ballantine/Random House, Wildside, Dark Horse Comics, Paizo, Subterranean)
- H.P. Lovecraft (Penguin, Del Rey/Ballantine/Random House, etc.)
- New stories of classic pulp heroes The Spider, The Avenger, The Domino Lady, Zorro, and Lost Radio Scripts of Doc Savage (Moonstone Books; and in the interests of fair and full disclosure, I'm privileged to be a contributor to the Avenger book)
- A Princess of Mars (Penguin, Dover)
- Fantomas (Penguin, Dover)
- Arsene Lupin (Penguin)
Also, the definition I used for "pulp fiction" was strictly narrow (tales actually and literally published in pulp magazines from the 1910s-1940s, and I noted where I deviated from the strict definition), whereas my own definition for my personal reading is much more wide-ranging, to include the Sherlock Holmes stories, the James Bond novels, and so on.
There's other great stuff to be had and -- let's admit it -- some not so great, both in reprinted pulp fiction and in "neo-pulp," that doesn't fall into the "buy-it-in-a-bookstore" category. You can check out Bill Thom's weekly updates to his Coming Attractions site for the latest in pulp-related news in books, comics, and movies. There's a lot to digest at Thom's site. I'll save some of my favorite high-quality non-brick-and-mortar recommendations for a later post, but one thing is certain: pulp is not dead.