Recommend me some Pulp Adventure!


#1

I need some underground temples, some lost cities, some ancient treasures guarded by crazed cultists. I need some bodacious dames with mouths to match their hips, stalwart heroes in over their heads, and wacky ethnic sidekicks with odd quirks and poor dentition. I need some Pulp Adventure!

I'm not terribly interested in old dime-store adventure novels, as the writing is so sub-standard I'd probably kill myself in despair, so anything relatively modern or at least written with verve and competence will be welcome. Also I'm more into stories than novels. With that ridiculously specific set of qualifiers, anyone got any great stories I need to read?

Anything like a book version of Crimson Skies? :)


#2

The publishers of Hard Case Crime have a relatively new line of books, Hunt for Adventure. About three paperbacks come out every year (3 so far) and they have the same protagonist, Gabriel Hunt.
From the website:

From the towers of Manhattan to the jungles of South America, from the sands of the Sahara to the frozen crags of Antarctica, one man finds adventure everywhere he goes: GABRIEL HUNT.
Backed by the resources of the $100 million Hunt Foundation and armed with his trusty Colt revolver, Gabriel Hunt has always been ready for anything—but is he prepared for the adventures that lie in wait for him?

And...are you?

The reviews are good, the books are cheap ($7 paperbacks, $5 Kindle), and I like the idea. And it is exactly, what you said you were looking for. I'll check em out soon as well.
Covers of the three released books and the next one:


#3

I know I'm veering off-topic already, but I can't resist the chance to say that I really, really love what Hard Case Crime is doing, even though I haven't read any of their books. Their covers alone are masterpieces.


#4

Well, as someone who has read some of their books, I can say I also love what they're doing.

I've read a couple of the Gabriel Hunt books, purely because I like Charles Ardai's writing. He wrote a great HCC novel under his own name called 50 to One, and he also writes as Richard Aleas, whose two novels are among the best HCC have ever published. Ardai wrote Hunt Through The Cradle of Fear, which meets at least half of the original poster's requirements. It has a few flaws, but I enjoyed it despite an ending I didn't quite buy.

That lead me to pick up the first book in the series, Hunt At The Well Of Eternity, which was written by John Gardiner. I thought the writing was sloppy, both in terms of the basic prose and in description of events - to avoid spoilers it opens with a fairly poorly choreographed fight scene.

Really, the best writer for this sort of thing is, as you'd expect, Robert E. Howard. There are a few necessary caveats here: many of his stories were written to pay the bills, and this really shows; he also has a fondness for certain turns of phrase that recurr over and over in his stories, which isn't a problem unless you sit down and read through a whole book of them at once; there is some casual racism. That said, he writes adventure fiction with incredible pace and verve. If I can recommend a few stories, instead of books:

Red Nails is pretty much exactly the story you're describing. It's widely regarded as one of the best Conan stories, though it isn't my favourite.

Rogues in the House and Tower of the Elephant are also well-regarded and well enough known that I don't feel I need to describe them.

Beyond the Black River is my favourite Conan story. It's set in a frontier town in conflict with tribes of Picts who they are displacing. In my opinion, it's the best thing Howard ever wrote, most clearly delineating his recurring themes of civilization (not the game) and barbarism, while still being vividly written, incredibly exciting and convincing in the depiction of its world.

Del Rey published two Best ofs that contain these stories and other good stuff if you're interested.

Sticking with Southern writers, Joe Lansdale is perhaps worth a look. He writes in many genres, generally very well. Many of his stories, while not being pulp adventures, hit the same buttons - broad characters, weird situations, sass.

Also, when recommending adventure fiction, even though its not pulp, exactly, I kind of have to mention Dumas.


#5

check out Adventure!, McSweeny's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales (and its sequel Chamber of Astonishing Stories), Chinatown Death Cloud Peril, Sex Slaves of the Dragon Tong, and though you're against the original stories, perhaps some context would be good, so give a read to Pulp Heroes which is a history of some of more famous creators and creations within the genre (yet still wildly unknown by the general populace).


#6

I absolutely second the recommendation of "Chinatown Death Cloud Peril". Though it's more pulp inspired that pulp itself- the book's protagonists are the authors of The Shadow and Doc Savage and they are investigating HP Lovecraft's death. A young L. Ron Hubbard and another famous SF novelist I won't name are major supporting characters.

I'll throw out a recommendation for two others:

Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding. This is more SFF however since you mentioned Crimson Skies this book is basically Crimson Skies meets Firefly. Not out in the US just yet but you can get the UK edition from Book Depository with free shipping.

The other one is Unnatural History. The first in the Pax Brittania series that is very steampunk influenced. Not particularly well written but it is pure pulp and and fun in a trashy way.

You might also want to check out some novels by Matthew Reilly. I've read Ice Station from him and while my intelligence was continually assaulted, I couldn't stop reading the book. The action scenes in it would make Michael Bay envious.


#7

Matt Reilly was such a disappointment after Ice Station. Go read it, by all means, the opening firefight takes up 120 pages. But after that the books get sillier, and he just can't stop using italics! He's writing a sentence that vaguely refers to some action taking place, and then he hits the italics key and puts an exclamation point at the end!

Reading the next few books was like reading a friend's novel out loud while he constantly elbows you, saying, "Huh? Huh? How about that part? Didja like that one?"

H.


#8

Yeah I had so much fun with Ice Station I immediately moved on to Temple and put it down after about 50 pages.


#9

also check out Michael Moorcock's Nomad of the Time Streams which is an attempt to tilt adventure fiction to the left as opposed to the typical imperialist right. doesn't always work, but it's well worth a read. it's probably the closes to your desire for Crimson Skies style swashbuckling.

Sticking with Southern writers, Joe Lansdale is perhaps worth a look. He writes in many genres, generally very well. Many of his stories, while not being pulp adventures, hit the same buttons - broad characters, weird situations, sass.

be careful because if you pick up something like High Cotton or some best of you'll end up reading The Night They Missed The Horror Show or By Bizarre Hands, which is not what you're looking for at all. Absolutely amazing and awesome, but not what you want.


#10

Also the old standby, Clive Cussler, if you haven't read the Dirk Pitt books. Avoid the later stuff, but the first seven or so (up through Sahara, more or less) are good. He has a number of spinoff authors, Jack DuBrul being most notable.

Try David Morrell's Creepers and Scavengers, fun little "oh no we're trapped by a madman with a twisted game we have to play" books.

H.


#11

I like Doc Savage, myself. There is some terribly formulaic writing in there, as the books were written to amazingly tight deadlines, but there are some surprisingly insightful sci-fi concepts (for the 30s) mixed in, too. Some of the books are weak, others are actually pretty good. Lester Dent was really the god of hack writing.


#12

I will second the recommendation for Howard (I've read the Conan and Solomon Kane collections published recently - really nicely put together books) and offer my own: Tales of the Dying Earth by Jack Vance. Very pulpy in setting and action, but I find his prose is actually quite unique and slightly more literary than the norm for pulp.


#13

Half-price books has a lot of the recent Nostalgia Ventures reprints of Doc Savage and The Shadow, which kind of nice.


#14

I reaaalllyyy hate to recommend them because i think they help fund evil as well as kill brain cells, but L. Ron Hubbard's Golden Age Stories are pretty much exactly what you're looking for. Listening to "Spy Killer" audio book on XM radio, whose production values were flawless with excellent narrators, if the text itself was written for a teenager, you got 1) strong, rough cut American sailor 2) blonde bombshell merchant's daughter 3) slavic sex kitten super spy 4) evil chinese kingpin whose skin drips with scabs and pus as well as 5) hordes of evil chinese flunkies.

Those books are interesting from a sort of anthropological perspective because they reveal how immersed in unreality Hubbard was, and how he seemed to gravitate to a kind of childish manliness and to the superficial when his own manliness seemed wanting (having been, according to wikipedia, a very unsuccessful and disorderly sub captain kept off the front lines and eventually relieved of command, in WW2).


#15

It's not exactly what you're asking for, but you might enjoy the Flashman books.


#16

Prior to his dramatic realization that conning people makes more money than pulp, Hubbard was an OK hack writer.


#17

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#18

So I'm guessing you either agree or disagree with me?


#19

Flashman is definitely something different, but very much worth reading.


#20

This. Cussler's books have a good mix of history and adventure sprinkled with a little James Bond feel to them that make for great light reading.