Category Archives: Pulp Heroes

THE ADVENTURES OF AN ENGINEER (1898): ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION

Adventures of an engineerTHE ADVENTURES OF AN ENGINEER (1898) – Written by Weatherby Chesney, better known as C.J. Cutcliffe Hyne. This is a collection of short stories about the scientific adventurer Richard Felton.

Part pulp hero and part proto-Quatermass, Felton’s escapades also put one in mind of Quentin E Deverill from the cult show Q.E.D. aka Mastermind. Seventeen stories are featured in this collection, among them:

THE RULER OF THE WORLD – Felton is persuaded by his old friend Braithwaite to construct a super-scientific aircraft for him. Richard does so, and after a test-flight with Braithwaite to demonstrate how deadly the flying machine is, the latter reveals his megalomaniacal plans to use the aircraft in a Roburesque plan to conquer the world. Our hero must try to stop him, even if it means destroying his own creation. Continue reading

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ALEXANDRE DUMAS’ THE BLACK TULIP AS A SWASHBUCKLER

black tulip 2Regular readers of Balladeer’s Blog will remember my review of three neglected swashbuckler novels by Alexandre Dumas. (For those three – Georges, Captain Pamphile and La Dame de Monsoreau click HERE )

Regular readers will also recall my look at the way Dumas’ The Corsican Brothers is NOT really a swashbuckler story in the spirit of The Three Musketeers, The Count of Monte Cristo or The Man in the Iron Mask, but because it’s a Dumas tale it often gets adapted AS IF it’s an action-oriented sword and pistol saga. 

And that brings us to Dumas’ novel The Black Tulip set in the Netherlands’ city of Haarlem in the 1670s.

black tulip 3When I was a little boy thrilled with the Musketeers, Monte Cristo and Iron Mask I excitedly grabbed The Black Tulip to read, assuming it, too would feature derring-do and swordplay. Much to my disappointment the novel instead dealt with attempts to cultivate a black tulip, the mob-slaying of Netherlands politicians Johan and Cornelis (sic) de Witt, romance and the redemption of personal honor.

Using the approach of the adaptors of The Corsican Brothers, let’s MAKE The Black Tulip a rousing swashbuckler just because it’s by Dumas.

THE BLACK TULIP (1850) – I would make it so that “the Black Tulip” was a masked and costumed identity adopted by the novel’s hero Dr Cornelius Van Baerle in order to pursue his crusade to redeem his family honor, tainted from the scandal following the grisly slaying of the de Witts (Insert your own Joyce de Witt joke here). Continue reading

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HAMMETT (1982)

HammettHAMMETT (1982) – Directed by Wim Wenders and produced by Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope Studios, Hammett is a criminally neglected valentine to Hard-Boiled Detective Stories and Film Noir. The flick is based on the novel by Joe Gores. 

The stories about the behind the scenes chaos and conflicts surrounding the production of this movie are legion. Pre-production work began in 1975 and by the time it was released in 1982 multiple cast and story changes had taken place and Coppola himself re-shot more than a third of the film.

In the way that Time After Time presented a whimsical “what if” adventure featuring H.G. Wells having a real time machine, Hammett serves up iconic detective novelist Dashiell Hammett getting caught up in solving a real-life mystery.

The timing is excellent, with the story being set in the late 1920s, after Hammett was no longer working for the Pinkerton Detective Agency but before he became a successful author. The tale begins with our hero – played by Frederic Forrest – typing out one of his penny-a-word Pulp stories for Black Mask Magazine, which was to detective fiction what Weird Tales was to horror and sci-fi.

hammett 2Booze and coughing fits figure prominently in the movie, as you would expect given a protagonist who was an alcoholic with tuberculosis. For the sake of convenience the story that Hammett just finished before blacking out was one featuring his character the Continental Op (as in an operative for the fictional Continental Detective Agency).  

Hammett awakens to find his most recent work being read by Jimmy Ryan (Peter Boyle), his old mentor from his Pinkerton days. Ryan jokes with “Sam” (Samuel Dashiell Hammett was his full name if you’re new to all things Hammett) that the “man with no name” in the story seems to be based on him (Ryan) and the way he operates.

Eventually Jimmy gets to the point: he saved Hammett’s life when our hero was new at detective work, and Ryan is finally calling in the debt that Sam owes him for that. The former colleague thus lures Hammett back into detective work for one last case. Continue reading

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FRONTIERADO FLASHMAN: FLASHMAN AND THE REDSKINS (1982)

Frontierado is fast approaching! Friday, August 2nd is the big day! Here’s my January review of Flashman and the Redskins again since it’s appropriate to the holiday. 

Alan Bates -better Flashman than MalcolmFor Balladeer’s Blog’s Number One Harry Flashman Novel click HERE  . 

For background info on George MacDonald Fraser’s infamous anti-hero Harry Paget Flashman you can also click that link.

 

flashman and the redskins 27. FLASHMAN AND THE REDSKINS (1982)

Time Period: Part One – 1849-1850, Part Two – 1875-1876

The Flashman novels jump around to different periods of the fictional Harry Flashman’s life. This book covers his adventures with the Forty-Niners on the way to the California gold fields as well as his much later involvement in the Sioux Uprising.

Favorite Book Blurb: “The West is just wild about Harry!” (It came long before “See what I did there?” was a thing, but the sentiment still applies.) 

NOTE: Once again Fraser used the structure of a swashbuckling, guns-blazing adventure story to cast his critical eye on some of the Great Names and Great Events of the 19th Century. Get ready for another generous helping of “History Noir” as only George could write it: by blending fact, fiction and satirical subtext in a way which scandalizes BOTH the political right AND the left.

And as always when viewed against the backdrop of history’s major atrocities the amoral carnal and monetary pursuits of that British blackguard Harry Paget Flashman look almost harmless by comparison.  

flashman and the redskinsSynopsis: The plot of Flashman and the Redskins picks up immediately after the end of Flash For Freedom (1971). Still stranded without funds in 1849 America our antihero returns to the welcoming arms – and bed – of brothel madam Susie Willink. That voluptuous MILF has been bitten by the Gold Bug and invites Harry to join her and her stable of prostitutes as part of a wagon train headed to California.

Soon the expatriate British Cavalry Officer is traipsing across the continent alongside the young Kit Carson himself. Harry, Kit, Susie and their wagon train wind up negotiating with and/or fighting Pawnee, Arapaho and other assorted tribes of Native Americans as well as combating cholera, thirst and hunger along the way.

Since Fraser can never resist slipping Flashman into tantalizingly unresolved historical footnotes we get Harry’s account of the mysterious final days at the original Bent’s Fort. Tossed in for good measure we learn that our favorite British scoundrel was the man who supposedly taught the young Crazy Horse how to wink, which was reportedly a very UN-Oglala-like thing to do.  Continue reading

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PRETTY PIERRE: GAMBLER-GUNSLINGER OF CANADA

The Frontierado Holiday coming up on Friday August 2nd is all about the myth of the Old West, not the grinding reality.

Gilbert ParkerPRETTY PIERRE – Created by Canadian author Gilbert Parker, Pretty Pierre was a Canadian version of fictional American Western Pulp Heroes like Deadwood Dick and many others. Pierre was a smuggler and gambler/gunslinger whose adventures took place in Canada and Alaska in the late 1800s. 

The very first Pretty Pierre story, The Patrol of the Cypress Hills, was published in The Independent in 1890. Many stories followed and were published in two collections: Pierre and His People (1892) and Pierre, A Romany of the Snows (1896).

That second collection was published in England under the title An Adventurer of the North in 1898, often leading to the mistaken belief that there are actually three separate collections of Pierre short stories but this is not the case.  

Pierre was the son of a Canadian woman and a Native American of no specific designation. The Pretty One was raised by his father’s people for a time then began moving in white Canadian circles. His good looks and elegant clothing earned him his nickname but he made his living as a gambler/gunslinger and as a smuggler (Think of the real-life Montana Kid, covered previously here at Balladeer’s Blog). Continue reading

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LOST FLASHMAN PAPERS

After my 9th anniversary post for Balladeer’s Blog on the 21st I got reader requests to centralize some links for the Lost Flashman Papers blog posts that I’ve done. So here we go:

Lee Horsley good Flashman

Lee Horsley: If British, the perfect Flashman.

FLASHMAN DOWN UNDER – Time Period: 1850-1852. Features Harry’s adventures during the early days of the Australian Gold Rush. CLICK HERE

FLASHMAN IN THE OPIUM WAR – Time Period: 1859-1860. Covers Flashman’s escapades in China during the Second Opium War, ending just before Flashman and the Dragon would begin. CLICK HERE 

FLASHMAN AND THE KINGS – Time Period: 1860-1861. Phoebe Carpenter and her husband drag Harry into the Taranaki War in New Zealand. CLICK HERE

crossed sabresTHE BATTLE CRY OF FLASHMAN – Time Period: 1862-1863. How Flashman – for entirely selfish reasons while being blackmailed by President Abraham Lincoln and Alan Pinkerton – secretly prevented Great Britain from recognizing the Confederate States of America. CLICK HERE 

FLASHMAN ON THE GOLD COAST – Time Period: 1873-1874. Chronicles Sir Harry’s exploits during the Third Ashanti War, serving under General Garnet Wolseley. CLICK HERE

Arabian PeninsulaFLASHMAN OF ARABIA – Time Period: 1852-1854. Harry’s exotic adventures after getting separated from Richard Burton, the famous explorer, during Burton’s covert journey to Mecca and Medina while disguised as a Muslim pilgrim. CLICK HERE 

FLASHMAN’S GUIANA – Time Period: 1876-1877. Sir Harry and his wife Elspeth leave America behind them, only to get caught up in a search for gold in the region of British Guiana being fought over by Venezuela and Great Britain. CLICK HERE  

 

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FLASHMAN’S GUIANA: LOST FLASHMAN PAPERS

Flashman faceFor Flashman Down Under, Flashman in the Opium War & Flashman and the Kings click HERE   For Flashman on the Gold Coast click HERE  For Flashman of Arabia click HERE 

Balladeer’s Blog now moves on to another Harry Flashman adventure never completed before George MacDonald Fraser’s death.

Lee Horsley Flashman

IF HE WAS BRITISH, LEE HORSLEY WOULD HAVE MADE A PERFECT HARRY FLASHMAN.

Projected Title: FLASHMAN’S GUIANA

Time Period: 1876-1877

NOTE: The title Flashman’s Guiana is a play on “Booker’s Guiana,” as the colony of British Guiana (19th century spelling) was often sardonically referred to in the 1800s. That reference came about from the way the Booker business empire virtually ran the colony. From a 21st Century standpoint we might look on it in a sinister Weyland-Yutani way.

… Strictly for storytelling purposes, of course, if you’re a lawyer representing the Booker Group. Honest. Really. (Although after this latest merger I don’t know if anybody would still care.) Anyway, as you readers have requested, this time I’ll establish the action then go back to detail the setup.

crossed sabresThe Action: Sir Harry Flashman and his wife Elspeth visit British Guiana right after their American Tour ended in August, 1876. A combination of Her Majesty’s Government’s interests and Flashman’s own hunger for large amounts of filthy luchre to sustain his and Elspeth’s grand new lifestyle wind up launching the British blackguard into his latest adventure.

Sword and pistols in hand, Harry leaves Elspeth back in the capital city of Georgetown while he takes part in a covert search for gold in the jungle region disputed by Great Britain and Venezuela. Continue reading

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