PULP! Two-Pawed Tales of Adventure – book review by Fred Patten.
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
PULP! Two-Pawed Tales of Adventure, edited by Ianus J. Wolf
Las Vegas, NV, Rabbit Valley Books, September 2014, trade paperback $20.00 (255 pages).
“The Pulps” were the rough-edged inexpensive, popular fiction magazines that were published from the late 1890s through the early 1950s, on the cheapest wood-pulp paper available. There were general-fiction magazines like All-Story and Argosy, and specialized magazines like Black Mask (mystery), Exciting Western (Western), Fight Stories (sports), G-8 and His Battle Aces (aerial warfare), Love and Romance (romance), Railroad Stories (railroad adventure), Ranch Romances (romantic Western), South Sea Stories (sea adventure), Thrilling Wonder Stories (science fiction), Weird Tales (horror), and many others. The 1920s to the ‘50s was also a period of similar weekly radio adventure-fiction dramatizations.
Now Rabbit Valley Books has recreated that era, but with anthro animal casts. Editor Ianus J. Wolf presents eight stories as though they were episodes of “The RVO Radio Evening of Adventure”.
PULP! Two-Pawed Tales of Adventure is a very mixed bag. Some of the stories are just standard adventure stories with funny-animal casts. (Boring.) Some seem to be standard adventures with funny animals, but the animal natures of the characters turn out to be pertinent. (Clever.) And some present a new kind of adventure designed for a furry world. (Admirably imaginative!) But it would be a spoiler to say which is which.
“The Ruins” by Tym Greene is an Indiana Jones-type Amazonian adventure. Liam Felton, an experienced explorer (zebra), and Stewart Brace (Dalmatian dog), an inexperienced youth but the son of the company president who ordered the expedition, search through the South American jungle for the ancient Indian temple that holds the Secret of the Gods. An unscrupulous rival, Maicon Klauss (magpie), and his hulking henchman Bernard (Clysdale horse) are ahead of them.
“Prey” by Ocean Tigrox is a Western. A nameless grizzled badger bounty hunter comes into a dusty Nevada town looking for a rabbit outlaw. “The rabbit could run but he couldn’t hide.” (p. 23) He finds that the whole town is hiding a more deadly secret. There are a vulture saloonkeeper, a bobcat mayor, an eagle sheriff and his hyena deputy, a cougar callgirl, a jackal clergyman, and more.
“Continuing down the road, he passed by the hotel and saloon. Leaning against the building, a busty cougar in a frilly red dress with black lace watched the people pass by. As the badger walked past, she blew him a kiss and stretched out her form, letting her tight clothing outline her curves.” (p. 26)
I am bugged by stories that use the terms “rabbit” and “hare” interchangeably.
“Rocket Canyon” by Bill “Hafoc” Rogers is a combination of a Western and a World War I adventure in which the Central Powers used a bioengineered plague that turned people into anthro animals, instead of poison gas. Or that’s what it seems to be at the beginning of the story. U.S. Marshals ‘Sharpears’ Chuck Blue (stallion) and ‘Alkali Creek’ Jim Smith (bear) find that the true situation takes on a World War II aspect as well. Kudos to Rogers for writing a German accent for Doctor Doctor [sic.] von Oberth that’s thick but not too thick for the reader to easily understand.
“The Bouncer and the Didgeridoo of Awakening” by T. S. McNally is, as the title should indicate, an Australian adventure. Very Australian. The Bouncer is a female kangaroo who is after the magic didgeridoo that can reanimate the dead. Mix in World War II secret agents, and this adventure has lots of action that never slows down.
“Tesla Mae and the Lost Tribe” by Renee Carter Hall features an English foxhound equivalent of Amelia Earhart, an adventurous 1930s aviatrix (but her airship is a zeppelin) who discovers an uncharted island inhabited by a tribe of feathered lizards. (Evolved dinosaurs?) What she finds there is not as interesting as the way that Hall tells it. This is definitely the best story in the anthology for fine writing, and I am not ashamed to admit that it almost left me in tears. Most of the genuine pulps never had a story this good.
“Jericho Tanner and the Ebon Star” by Tarl “Voice” Hoch isn’t as beautifully written as the preceding story, but its mystery about Jericho Tanner, the narrator, an apparently immortal cat, will keep the reader wrapped in an eldritch Lovecraftian atmosphere with more hard-boiled action than Lovecraft ever put into his stories.
“I was moving before my name had passed her teeth. The next sound out of her pretty little white muzzle was a scream.
Although I will admit that it wasn’t everyday one saw the yellow feline that they had hired rise up from the dead. Even if he was trying to save her life.” (p. 147)
L. Sprague de Camp warned aspiring s-f writers in the 1940s to avoid creating unpronounceable names. Hoch’s “Kilij of Vla’ktr” surely qualifies, although I suppose that this comes with the Lovecraftian territory. Cthulhu fhtagn, and all that.
“Savior” by Roland Jovaik starts out as another Western, but quickly turns into another Indiana Jones-type adventure.
“Regis flicked an oversized ear to shoo the flies away, tipping his hat towards the ground to shield his eyes from the sun. The sun was beginning to set and the day was drawing to a close. Cattle had been herded into the barn for the night, and the drink from his flask was giving him a warm, bodily glow.” (p. 185)
Regis is an old fennec homesteader. When the cats of a scar-faced leopard kidnap his granddaughter, Regis goes after them to find … but that’s the story.
“Flight of the Fire Dragon” by Huskyteer flies into Dr. Fu Manchu territory. Rooi Randall (basenji) and Felicity Blake (caracal), two South Africans in the British Secret Service (South Africa was a British Dominion), are assigned in their red biplane to find a dragon that has attacked London. As they suspect, it’s a mechanical monster created by an old enemy.
“As they neared, they could see a double set of wings, with four engines apiece, and the wheels hidden behind the dragon’s claws. Felicity readied her machine gun, mounting it on the rim of the cockpit, while Randall shot a short burst to warm his own gun, which fired forward through the propeller.” (p. 235)
Despite which story being the “best” being a personal choice, I’ll confidently state that “Tesla Mae and the Lost Tribe” by Renee Carter Hall is definitely the top in quality here. Several others are enjoyable reading, and, as usual in any anthology, there are a couple that are very forgettable. The attractive cover by Robbye “Quel” Nicholson fits the theme but does not illustrate any particular story.