Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Pulp Fiction Megapack, edited by Wildside Press

The good, the bad, and the offensive
The Pulp Fiction Megapack, published in 2013 by Wildside Press, is an ebook collection of short stories and novellas gleaned from the pages of vintage pulp magazines like Mystery Tales, Astounding Stories of Super-Science, and Action Novels. The original publication dates of the 25 selections in the book range from 1919 to 1947. I consider myself a casual pulp fiction enthusiast and have enjoyed several of Wildside’s megapacks, including The Adventure Megapack, The Mummy Megapack, and The Time Travel Megapacks 1, 2, and 3. Editor John Gregory Betancourt explains that the two criteria uniting the stories in this volume are their bizarre, sensationalist titles and their lack of political correctness. The former requirement has definitely been met by titles like “Death Mates for the Lust-Lost,” “When Super Apes Plot,” and “Satan Drives the Bus.”

As for political incorrectness, I was prepared for the usual racial stereotypes and misogyny one finds in early 20th-century American popular fiction. There isn’t much of the former, thankfully, but in the latter category I got way more than I bargained for. Some of these stories go far beyond mere male chauvinism. The absolute rock bottom is Russell Gray’s “Fiances for the Devil’s Daughter.” Though it delivers a clever variation on the familiar “The Most Dangerous Game” plot scenario, this story is basically a piece of torture porn, with scenes of violence against women that would be at home in one of Eli Roth’s Hostel films. Though by far the worst, it isn’t the only offender in this area. Some of the stories make you feel sick just thinking some creepy dude from your grandparents’ generation must have been turned on by this stuff.

Most of the stories do not inspire discomfort or embarrassment, but many make you regret wasting your time reading them. Catchy titles don’t always translate into great storytelling. Several of the stories follow the typical formula of a Scooby-Doo mystery. The inhabitants of a secluded manor are threatened by a supernatural phenomenon that turns out to be a thief in disguise, when it really would have made a better story if the monsters turned out to be real. Another oft-repeated set-up is that of the car breaking down in the woods. The driver has to walk for miles through swamp or forest before arriving at a secluded old house where he discovers the nefarious plans of a murderous psycho or mad scientist. These aren’t all bad, one of the best being “Black Pool for Hell Maidens” by Hal K. Wells, in which a villainous biologist turns men into crayfish.

There is some wheat to be found among the chaff, particularly towards the end of the volume. “The Ray of Madness” by Captain S. P. Meek is a good proto-CSI-style scientific detective story. “The Terrible Tentacles of L-472” is a mystery-in-space science fiction tale featuring the Space Patrol, a sort of precursor to Star Trek’s United Federation of Planets. David R. Sparks’s novel “The Ape-Men of Xlotli,” the longest entry in the book, is a pretty good knockoff of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s lost world novels. To cap things off, Hugh B. Cave, one of the few names I recognized in the table of contents, delivers a solid horror story with “The Corpse on the Grating.”

I’m a fan of Wildside Press, and I’m thankful for their efforts to revive pulp fiction, but this is the worst of their Megapacks that I’ve read. For the most part, the quality of the stories is not that good, and though I’m not a reader who’s easily offended, a few of these stories left even me feeling uncomfortable. Pulp fiction fans would do better to select one of the many other Megapacks from Wildside’s extensive catalog.

The Kindle file has a lot of typographical errors; not enough to hinder understanding, but enough to annoy. One of the shortest stories was pasted twice, so it appears duplicated in its entirety. The copy I downloaded even had the wrong cover image. Wildside publishes good stuff, but they should pay more attention to quality control.

Stories in this collection
(Some novella-length works have been reviewed individually. Click on titles below.)
Blood for the Vampire Dead by Robert Leslie Bellem
Mistress of Snarling Death by Paul Chadwick 
Fiances for the Devil’s Daughter by Russell Gray
The Shrieking Pool by G. T. Fleming-Roberts 
Death Mates for the Lust-Lost by Hugh J. Gallagher 
The Dogs of Purgatory by Hugh Pendexter 
When Manhattan Sank by George S. Brooks 
Bride of the Ape by Harold Ward 
Blood-Bait for Hungry Mermaids by John Wallace 
Ship of the Golden Ghoul by Lazar Levi 
Black Pool for Hell Maidens by Hal K. Wells 
Death Flight by Robert Wallace 
The Scalpel of Doom by Ray Cummings 
Satan Drives the Bus by Wyatt Blassingame 
Servant of the Beast by L. Patrick Greene 
The Dead Book by Howard Hersey

When Super-Apes Plot by Anthony Wilder 

The Yellow Curse by Lars Anderson 

The Brain of Many Bodies by E. A. Grosser 

Tong Torture by Emil C. Tepperman 

The Ray of Madness by Captain S. P. Meek 

The Terrible Tentacles of L-472 by Sewell Peaslee Wright 

The Ape-Men of Xlotli by David R. Sparks 

The Floating Island of Madness by Jason Kirby 

The Corpse on the Grating by Hugh B. Cave 

If you liked this review, please follow the link below to and give me a “helpful” vote. Thank you.

No comments:

Post a Comment