Black Gate: Bold Venture Press is, in many ways, the unsung hero of the pulp world of the 21st Century. You’ve an impressive catalog of new titles and classic reprints, but let’s start at the beginning and tell readers about Bold Venture Press’ history and accomplishments.
Bold Venture Press: Rich Harvey was working in the newspaper field, and founded Pulp Adventures Press in 1992, which eventually became Bold Venture Press. The Bold Venture imprint published The Spider and Pulp Adventures magazine, went on hiatus for a few years, then returned in 2014, reviving Pulp Adventures.
Audrey Parente was an investigative reporter and pulp historian who put her pulp connections on hiatus as her reporting career went into high gear. She rejoined the pulp fold after taking early retirement by attending Rich’s Pulp AdventureCon in New Jersey in 2012. Meeting at other pulp conventions, Rich and Audrey became reacquainted.
A fictionalized version of their romance, Pulp Noir was published by Bold Venture Press. They joined forces in Florida in 2014. Bold Venture has been cranking out several books every month, first focusing on pulp reprints and then adding new pulp and mainstream authors. Rich’s connections with Zorro Productions has led to the biggest and most exciting projects they have tackled.
That’s terrific. I think giving the world not only the first matched set of Zorro adventures by his creator, but in many cases, the first time many of these stories have ever been published in book form is worthy of tremendous acclaim. It was quite an accomplishment for the property’s centennial. The set features stunning artwork and the property connects the tradition of the swashbuckling champion against injustice that was The Scarlet Pimpernel and brings it to the New World with Mexicans fighting against tyranny and imperialism. It was relevant as a western one hundred years ago and it is relevant today when many people are holding the entertainment of the past up to a critical eye and questioning the values that were being espoused. For once, with Zorro, pulp finds itself on the right side of history.
The timing was really good, since the Zorro centennial was coming up and the six volumes were done by 2019. Bold Venture was profiled in Alter Ego, The Washington Post, and other places. As for McCulley, he may have drawn inspiration from the California landscape, which in 1919 probably didn’t look much different from Zorro’s era — dirt roads in rural areas, Spanish missions, and architecture reflecting the Spanish heritage.
You’ve also published related works by Zorro’s creator distinct from the series, but would likely appeal to readers looking for a shared universe. Can you tell us about your Tales of Zorro’s Old California series?
Bold Venture Press didn’t quit with the six volumes of Zorro. McCulley wrote tales before and after Zorro appeared using the same period and locale. Johnston McCulley published a few “Old California” stories prior to The Curse of Capistrano, the first Zorro novel. Captain Fly-By-Night, for instance, appeared in All-Story Magazine in 1916.
In some respects, Zorro is a result of McCulley’s Old California stories, but later Old California tales in Argosy were promoted as Tales from Zorro Land. These adventure stories have all the same qualities as Zorro — adventure, humor, romance — and occasionally feature cameos by characters like Bernardo, Don Diego’s mute servant and confidant. Another character, Bardoso, the one-eyed pirate, a recurring character in the Zorro series, is a major player in Senor Vulture which has been reprinted by Bold Venture Press.
You’ve also added to the canon with a newly licensed Zorro novel and anthology. Tell us a little bit about working with award-winning and bestselling author and Marvel Comics legend Peter David.
We met Peter David at Florida Supercon. He was very enthusiastic about the Zorro series. Audrey decided to approach him about writing a new Zorro novel. He did a wonderful job of incorporating elements of style from the original novels and the Disney series — and he offered reasonable explanations for certain continuity discrepancies. Then came a surprise discovery from Peter David, in the form of a short story prequel, “Diego and the Baron,” an absolutely true short story by Baron Munchausen! What a delight.
Now, elaborate about the the pool of writers, artists, and celebrities you drew upon for Zorro: The Daring Escapades, your new Zorro anthology.
Initially, our hope was Richard Lupoff, known for his Edgar Rice Burroughs work and a ton of other things (including some books Bold Venture Press had published), would be able to create a short story, if not a novel. Bold Venture was rolling along with Zorro and the new book by Peter David when a writer of swashbuckling tales, Bret Bouriseau asked if he could send a short Zorro tale.
He had created a gem of a short-short in his own voice with every facet of the character as close to accurate as could be. Audrey said she’d like to hold on to the story, even though there was no home for it. This edged Audrey and Rich into talking about getting more new stories to join Richard Lupoff and Bret Bouriseau, possibly for an anthology.
Zorro’s licensors were willing. The invitation to participate began with solicitation of some of the best new pulp writers: Will Murray, John L. French, Joseph Lovece, William Patrick Maynard, and Robert Scott Cranford. Amazingly, the response was good. Word started getting around. A very talented fellow, Daryl McCullough who has written and produced Zorro audio and other materials, had worked with some of the Zorro fanfiction writers. He agreed to write an introduction and a story, and suggested a few fan writers who might fit the project. Daryl’s knowledge and skills became so valuable, he was conscripted as co-editor of the anthology.
In between all the deadlines, creating and editing, artists were found, with the highest of luck — Daniel Horne who painted the cover, true to pulp fiction style. The beauty of the project–few restrictions on style and story, but rules on content and character. The results were phenomenal.
You really have an entire factory dedicated to classic pulp. Are there other publications you think Black Gate readers should be aware of?
From Domino Lady to Homicide Highball, and from Masked Rider Western to Railroad Stories, finding pulps to reprint is fulfilling. From working with Charles and Patti Boeckman, while Charles was still alive, on Pulp Jazz, his biography, and reprinting some of his pulp work to creating the biography of Once a Pulp Man, Judson Philips’ story along with several of his reprints as Hugh Pentecost; Bold Venture Press has created some rich pulp history. The work has brought others to us.
Rich was thrilled to publish a new edition of Primal Spillane — an anthology of Mickey Spillane’s earliest published fiction. These “flash fiction” stories appeared as two-page filler in early comic books, to meet an odd postal requirement. This was Spillane’s fiction-writing boot camp — he learned to tell compelling stories, with fast characterization, in less than 2,000 words. Best of all, Rich tracked additional stories and one that had never been published — so the new edition is considerably revised and expanded.
Primal Spillane wasn’t the only comic book-related project. One year, at Pulp AdventureCon in Florida, we had the late Captain America artist Allen Bellman who lived near us. He and his wife drew a good audience. He was such a character too. If someone walked by his table without stopping, he would jump up and say, “Don’t you want to meet a living legend?”
After the show was over, Audrey asked him if he had ever written an autobiography. His response: “I would like to, but I’d need help with that…” After spending a year with Allen and his wife, Roslyn, his “Wonder Woman,” Bold Venture published Timely Confidential: When the Golden Age of Comics Was Young.
We have also partnered with Cosmos Literary Agency to present hard boiled novels by Bruce Cassiday, who served as fiction editor for the legendary Argosy magazine, and E.C. Tubb, an author of the famous Dumarest novels. And, of course, we’re releasing hardboiled Larry Kent, P.I. (Australia’s answer to Mike Hammer). These are just the tip of the iceberg. You can see everything at boldventurepress.com and sign up for our emails to learn what is coming out each month.
One final question, Bold Venture Press also organizes and hosts Pulp AdventureCon, usually two shows each year in New Jersey and Florida. This year has been a tough time for everyone and certainly pulp fans with quite literally every pulp con from Windy City to PulpFest to Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Con having to cancel due to the pandemic. At this juncture, it looks like Pulp AdventureCon might be the only pulp con left with a chance of going forward later this year. Can you tell us about this year’s show?
Fingers crossed we’ll have a show on November 7 at the Clarion Hotel in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, if the stars align. More than half the tables are sold (and maybe that’s all we can have for social distancing). The bills are paid, the rooms are booked. All we can do now is take any newcomers, hope folks will attend, and do what is required to safely put on a show. Table fees will be refunded immediately if cancelled.
Keep up to date by checking out the Pulp AdventureCon website.
Rich and Audrey, thank you for your time and thank you to everyone at Bold Venture Press for the amazing job you do year after year. You truly produce some of the finest pulp titles available and have definitely earned your place among the most important keepers of the pulp flame. Long may you reign!
William Patrick Maynard is a writer and film historian. His commentaries have appeared on releases from MGM, Shout Factory, and Kino-Lorber. He is the authorized continuation writer for the Sax Rohmer Literary Estate and is the author of new Fu Manchu thrillers for Black Coat Press