The above illustration, "Blowing Bubbles," has been adapted for use here by generous permission from the artist, Cyril Rolando.

October 31, 2010


The heart of pulp – the cheap paper and glue product, the boiler-room atmosphere of authors cranking out novels on a weekly basis – may be dead, but the soul, ah, the soul – those fantastic stories of action, adventure, mystery – lives on. And not solely at events such as PulpFest, where past pulp glory is continually redistributed.

In Beat to a Pulp: Round 1, David Cranmer and Elaine Ash have made a dedicated and informed effort to keep flowing a font of new stories in the finest pulp tradition. Kudos to them, for in this tasty and tasteful collection are stories of crime, mystery, noir, nautical adventure, western action, SF, horror, and even – are you ready for this? – an intergalactic western. So true to the soul of pulp is this anthology there is even a previously unpublished western (The Strange Death of Ambrose Bierce) by the late Paul S. Powers, a notable pulp writer during the 1930s and '40s. (And this story is even more intriguing when set alongside Craig McDonald's short story, Colt, and Ambrose Bierce's own short story, Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, neither of which is in this book, but would be worth your while to read.)

The collection is so huge, 27 stories plus a history of pulp, that the book could very well be used to do what the title suggests. A few of the stories, like the very fine Hard Bite, by Anonymous-9, were originally published by Cranmer and Ash at the Beat to a Pulp webzine, while many others were written just for this "round." The credentials of the authors known to many fans of crime fiction: Charles Ardai, Robert J. Randisi, Hilary Davidson, Sophie Littlefield, Patricia Abbott, Jedidiah Ayres, James Reasoner, Stephen D. Rogers,  lends deserved credence to names that may not be quite so familiar to readers who don't regularly visit short-fiction webzines and anthologies: Nolan Knight, Chris F. Holm, Jake Hinkson, Kieran Shea, Andy Henion, and the man with a brand new book deal, Frank Bill.

Here's an anthology that really does offer something for every one, from Nazis to vampire fish, from shoot-outs to smuggling. I loved Ed Gorman's Killing Kate, about a man who could never bring himself to harm his unfaithful wife; and the Paul S. Powers story, which I've already mentioned. Then there's Chap O'Keefe's The Unreal Jesse James, about a time-traveler who robs trains in the Old West. And Charles Ardai's A Free Man, about where mid-life crisis can lead a man, is brilliant; as is the creepy little tale of wedded bliss in Sophie Littlefield's Fangataufa. And Cullen Gallagher's A History of Pulp is not to be missed. Pripet Marsh, Stephen D. Roger's story about a World War II soldier who just follows orders.There are just so, so many excellent stories here. I know I'm hardly the first to say it, but Beat to a Pulp: Round 1 is an absolute knock-out. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Foreword: Bill Crider
1. Maker’s and Coke Jake Hinkson
2. A Free Man Charles Ardai
3. Fangataufa Sophie Littlefield
4. You Don’t Get Three Mistakes Scott D. Parker
5. Insatiable Hilary Davidson
6. Boots on the Ground Matthew Quinn Martin
7. Studio Dick Garnett Elliott
8. Killing Kate Ed Gorman
9. The Ghost Ship Evan Lewis
10. The Strange Death of Ambrose Bierce Paul S. Powers
11. Heliotrope James Reasoner
12. The Wind Scorpion Edward A. Grainger
13. Hard Bite Anonymous-9
14. Crap is King Robert J. Randisi
15. The All-Weather Phantom Mike Sheeter
16. Pripet Marsh Stephen D. Rogers
17. Ghostscapes Patricia Abbott
18. Off Rock Kieran Shea
19. At Long Last Nolan Knight
20. A Native Problem Chris F. Holm
21. Spend it Now, Pay Later Nik Morton
22. Spot Marks the X I.J. Parnham
23. Hoosier Daddy Jedidiah Ayres
24. Anarchy Among Friends: A Love Story Andy Henion
25. Cannulation Glenn Gray
26. The Unreal Jesse James Chap O’Keefe
27. Acting Out Frank Bill
A History of Pulp Cullen Gallagher


  1. There are so many great things to read right now I just bounce one to another!

  2. Boot's on the other foot, David. It's I who owe you and Elaine for maintaining such high standards. BTAP Rd 1 is an outstanding collection.

    I hear you, Patti! I go from room to room, reading a different title in each room it seems.

  3. Reviews are the lifeblood of books, so we really appreciate this support, Naomi. Thanks!
    Elaine Ash

  4. I love pulp fiction! Thanks Naomi for this great list.