Here’s an interesting article from Bookforum about the nigh-forgotten genre of pulp. (Plus, you gotta love the illustrations.)
For example, did you know pulp fiction was written by men while almost all the classic English crime writers were middle-class women? It’s interesting to observe how the crime genre of dainty Agatha Christie and dire Dorothy Sayers stowawayed across the Atlantic and morphed into the gritty American pulp of Raymond Chandler and James M. Cain. And why and how did crime and pulp hold sway over readers from the 20s through the 60s? Author John Banville speculates that:
Crime fiction flourishes in hard times. The fiction reflects the times, and the times color the fiction. There is a rawness in the pulp stories, even those by “literary” writers such as Chandler and Hammett, that is not due entirely to the exigencies of the marketplace. At their best, and even, perhaps, at their worst, these yarns express something of the unforgiving harshness and dauntless optimism of life in America in the decades between the wars. Of course, the plots are almost uniformly absurd.
There is some sort of grim fascination for me with scar-faced criminals and brooding detectives and loose women with felt hats and guns in their purses (tucked right next to the bold red lipstick). I can’t get enough of James Cain, for instance: do yourself a favor and when you’re in the mood for a martini, read Mildred Pierce and then rent the movie with Joan Crawford.
The anthology, The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps, sounds tantalizing. Do you suppose I’d shock Santa if I asked him to leave a copy of The Book of Pulps in my fishnet stocking?