Dick Enos has proven himself one of the most prolific New Pulp writers since he emerged five years ago.
What sets Dick apart from many of his contemporaries is his unwavering vision to create original pulp characters. Until recently, I was only familiar with Rick Steele, the adventurous 1950s test pilot who has appeared in seven novels thus far. Rick is cut very much from the mold of the classic newspaper strip, Steve Canyon and OTR and Golden Age of Television favorite, Sky King.
I was vaguely aware that Dick had launched a second series featuring an original character, a female private eye called Lara Destiny. I immediately thought of Max Allan Collins’ Ms. Tree and Sara Paretsky’s V. I. Warshawski. Female private eyes were a rarity in hardboiled circles thirty years ago, but what could Enos offer in the way of a new twist? The fact that Lara Destiny was born Lawrence Destiny is a good starting point.
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Mike Shayne, the redheaded tough guy private eye, was introduced in the decidedly more lighthearted detective novel, Dividend on Death penned by the pseudonymous Brett Halliday in 1939. The character was an instant success and Michael Shayne (as he was initially known) quickly became a cottage industry leading to another 77 (mostly hardboiled) detective novels through the mid-1970s, over 300 short stories through the mid-1980s, 11 B-movies in the 1940s, a radio drama series that lasted nearly a decade, an early 1960s television series that made it for a full season, a TV tie-in Dell comic book that lasted three issues, and his own magazine digest that ran for nearly 30 years. The character may seem like just another clichéd private eye today, but over the years a number of very talented authors hid behind the fedora and turned-up collar of “Brett Halliday” – Bill Pronzini, Dennis Lynds, James Reasoner, Frank Belknap Long, and the ubiquitous Michael Avallone among them.
The reason we have turned our attention to this particular ginger with the mean disposition is a trilogy of stories that appeared in Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine in 1981 and 1982 featuring a character known as the Black Lotus. As the storyline developed “Brett Halliday,” in this instance James Reasoner, strongly suggested the Black Lotus was the granddaughter of Fu Manchu. Mr. Reasoner was cautious and did not name names, of course, but elements of the three stories read like a Sax Rohmer tribute – including the Black Lotus’ real identity, Leiko Smith sharing the surname of the protagonist of the Fu Manchu stories, Nayland Smith. The character’s first name (which is Japanese, rather than Chinese) was likely borrowed from Leiko Wu, the love interest from Marvel Comics’ contemporaneous Master of Kung Fu series (1973-1983) which licensed the Fu Manchu characters from Rohmer’s literary estate. I first learned of the Black Lotus storyline from Win Scott Eckert’s very useful Fu Manchu chronology. My friend, Don O’Malley was kind enough to send me scanned copies of the three issues in question in order that I finally have a chance to read them.
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The paperback original (PBO to collectors) was the immediate successor to the pulp magazine as the home of pulp fiction. Marvin Albert was one of the bright lights of the paperback original market for detective fiction.
Albert’s work is revered in France, where he is considered a master of the hardboiled form, but he is largely forgotten stateside since his work lacks the literary polish of Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler and was never shocking like Mickey Spillane. Albert may not have broken new ground, but he did excel at crafting hardboiled private eye stories in the classic tradition from the 1950s through the 1980s.
Much like Max Allan Collins or Michael Avallone, he also supplemented his income by adapting screenplays as movie tie-in novels for the paperback original market. Oddly enough, Albert specialized in bedroom farces for his movie tie-in assignments, in sharp contrast to his tough guy crime novels and westerns.
Albert utilized a number of pseudonyms during his career (although many of these titles were reprinted under his real name towards the end of his life). He published three hardboiled mysteries featuring a tough private eye called Tony Rome in the early 1960s. The books were published under the byline of Anthony Rome, as if to suggest the tales being told were real cases.
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