Last weekend I visited my local second hand bookshop, the Two Way Exchange in Brighton’s North Laines area, in my search for pulps. As usual this meant perusing the crime section and heavily scrutinising the Science Fiction wall. I found very little apart from an sf number entitled Ginger Star which I bought for novelty reasons. I was on my way out when I caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of my eye. It was a glint of light hitting the barrel of a Colt .45. Wielding this oldschool piece was righteously mean looking cowboy in full fig. The battered Stetson with the rim curled at the sides, denim jacket, batwing chaps, the lot. At his aft was naught more than a sage bushed desert and bright blue sky. He was Marshall McCoy’s Nevada Jim and he was planning on bringing justice to a lynch happy town according to a small piece of blurb. Thus, tucked away in a small corner of the shop that was practically obscured by the custodian’s counter, I discovered the Westerns section. Nobody had been by this way in a long while. I blew the dust off of the dog eared tomes shoved into Gaffer tapped racks and found stacks of pulp westerns in all their garish glory. Although I would count MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman and the Redskins as one of the best stories I have read so far, I wasn’t sure about westerns as a genre. I had read a few Zane Greys and I did not like the pace of them, so I bought two just to try them out. They were Gun Flash – A Nevada Jim Western by Marshall McCoy and McGee by Alex Hawke. The latter attracted me because of the blurb on the font cover: “McGee had nothing he could call his own – except a lust for vengeance.” Yeah, simple language, job’s a good’un.
I took them home and totally devoured them. Where had this stuff been my whole life, I asked myself. Apart from the punchy language, and great dialogue I realised instantly the attraction they held. They were the perfect antidote to today’s living. Pure escapism. They’re set in frontier lands, unpredictable and dangerous. Little town’s where living is simplified and everything is cut down to the bear essentials. You have a saloon or two, a store, a hotel and of course the court house, which is usually run by a hopelessly inept dullard, or a corrupt bastard (like real life I suppose). There’s no having to meet targets and deadlines, no 78 emails – not including junk – on a Monday morning and no god forsaken mobile phones. They are peopled by dastardly villains and their idiot henchmen and feisty ladies who are nobody’s fools. The protagonists are usually quiet loners, quick with their fists and fast on the draw. They always have the best lines which are kept to as few words as possible; something that any student of fiction should take a look at.
If people do read this and then go out and buy up all the Westerns then I feel a bit like I’m shooting myself in the foot. Because of their current lack of popularity the Westerns section is a sure fire way to find original pulps. They tend to go as quick as you please in the crime and sf sections. I had to knock someone the fuck out over an original Mickey Spillane, last time I found one. So if you do go out and buy a load of Western’s be sure to leave a few copies for Ol’Danny, d’ya hear?
Bio: Danny Hogan is the founder of Pulp Press http://www.pulppress.co.uk/ and the author of Killer Tease. He was brought up by thieves and bandits in West London, and led a life of crime in Paris. He currently resides in Brighton where he reads and writes and deals with other peoples problems.