The Pulp Stories Your Gramps Read Were Hardcore, And We Can Prove It
How Come No One Writes Pulp Anymore?
I’m just going to put this out there: Pulp fiction needs to make a comeback.
No, not the Tarantino flick. I’m talking about the genre. I’m talking about those old sci-fi/horror short stories printed in magazines like Weird Tales and True Detective filled with blood, guts, and mostly-naked women. The stuff the PC crowd would run crying for a safe space over today.
Stories With An Edge
Yeah, that’s the stuff. Too many books, comics/movies/whatever now are just racing to the middle. They take the easy way out. There’s just no grit; no teeth to storytelling anymore.
But pulp authors weren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. The work is exploitative and sensational, and I mean that as a sincere compliment. When you read these old stories, they are absolutely thrilling. Refreshing. It’s hard to explain, so we’ll just show you.
There's Tons Of It
Pulp is where we got dark, violent antiheroes like The Shadow or Conan the Barbarian. These stories had edge. But those are just the famous examples. There are thousands of pulp stories that never got their day in the sun.
A lot of these stories are in the public domain now, and online libraries have been set up like hallowed museums of timeless classics you never heard of. And we wanted to do something about that.
Do These Stories Still Hold Up?
We’re starting a new series where we open up the pulp vault and dust off some of this great American literature. We’re looking at stories from classic pulp books like Argosy, Black Mask, Horror Stories, Spicy Detective, Weird Tales and more.
If it’s pulp, we’re gonna check it out and see if it holds up. Obviously we’ll keep only the greatest but so far we have enough for a few lifetimes so go ahead, grab a seat and get some hot chocolate because this will tasty.
We Got A Gem For Ya
We’re starting with this crazy story we found in Weird Tales called “Werewolf of the Sahara” written by G.G. Pendarves. G.G. was an absolutely prolific pulp writer. “Werewolf” was published in 1936, just two years before she kicked it at age 53.
The fun thing about reading these is trying to figure out if the writer was intoxicated in the creation process. Not sure yet about this one we’re border line thinking hallucinogenics were involved. Let’s key the story up and see what we’re getting ourselves into.
That's A Killer Setup
Here’s the story’s teaser:
“A tremendous tale, depicted against the background of the great desert, about the evil Arab sheykh El Shabur, and dreadful occult forces that were unleashed in a desperate struggle for the soul of a beautiful girl.”
Listen, Avengers: Endgame was cool, but this is the movie I want to see. Let’s continue.
Let's Meet The Cast
I’m gonna tl;dr the intro a little bit so we can get to the good stuff faster. The tale begins with three characters hanging out at a campsite in North Africa: Merle Anthony (that’s a girl, despite having your racist uncle’s first name), Dale Fleming, her wimpy, conservative cousin, and Gunnar Sven, an Icelandic tough guy who’s working Han Solo moves on Merle.
If you think you’ve seen “adult movies” with similar setups, you’re probably right. But as we all know, all great things come from the adult industry so we won’t judge a book by its cover
Get Ready To Cringe
They’re on their way to a place called the Siwa Oasis, but have been delayed. In that time, they’ve all gotten to know each other. Gunnar thinks Merle is hot, and has been flirting with her. Problem is, Dale also thinks Merle — his cousin — is hot, and is trying to warn her away from Gunnar.
“Ever since his parents had adopted her—an orphan of six—she had come first in Dale’s affections. His love was far from Platonic. Gunnar Sven was a fine creature, but there was something wrong. Some mystery shadowed his life. What it was, Dale was determined to discover.
‘Truth will out, my child! The natives are in terror of him. You know it as well as I do! They’re all against helping you and me because he’s our friend.’ “
What's Up With Gunnar?
Gunnar acts like Matthew McConaughey in a Lincoln commercial. Chubby, intellectual Dale knows he can’t compete with that finger-rubbing panty-dropper. Hard to say if he’s bullshitting about Gunnar or not, but Merle sure isn’t buying it.
“Stop being an idiot. No one could be afraid of Gunnar. And he’s particularly good with natives.” Dale insists something ain’t right.
“There’s something queer about him. These Arabs know it. We know it.” Now, this next bit is important to the plot.
“He works for an Arab. A sheykh. A man notorious from Morocco to Cairo. His nickname’s Sheykh El Afrit. The Magician! His real name is Sheykh Zura El Shabur. He’s a very—bad—hat! Black Magic’s no joke in this country. This Sheykh El Shabur’s gone far. Too far.”
He's Sweet, But A Little Bit Psycho
They go to confront Gunnar about it, and he loses all of his McConaughey cool.
“The man looked as if he’d had a tremendous shock. He stood peering across the wastelands stretching eastward, frozen into an attitude of utmost horror.
Dale ran across to Merle. She broke from his detaining hand and rushed to Gunnar’s side.
‘What is it? What do you see? Gunnar! Answer me, Gunnar!’
His tense muscles relaxed. He sighed, and brushed a hand across his eyes and wet forehead.
‘He’s found me. He’s coming. I had hoped never——’
‘Who? What are you talking about?’
She shook his arm in terror at his wild look and words.
‘He said I was free! Free! I wouldn’t have come near you if I’d known he lied. Now I’ve brought him into your life. Merle! Forgive me!’
He took her hands, kissed them frantically, then turned to Dale with burning haste and fairly pushed him away.
‘Go! Go! Go! Now—before he comes. Leave everything! Ride for your lives. He’ll force me to… go! Go!’