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For years, I only purchased nice trade paperback or hardcover works of literature for my collection. I'd often gaze upon my shelves of treasured volumes, twirling my waxed mustachio and enjoying the contents of my brandy snifter. But things change, and people change; now I prop my faux-leather slippered feet up on the end of my couch and down corn chips while I read pulpy fantasy novels. "He's really let himself go," all of my old friends say as they adjust their monocles and pass around the cigar box. "He reads, well, those sorts of books."

And I do, really. I still read books on worldview and Kuyper's view of the Holy Spirit for fun, and I still love digging through well-regarded 'literature fiction' as well. But I'm also learning to see the good things in more frowned-upon genres, like fantasy, sci-fi and so on. And I don't mean the celebrated folks like Raymond Chandler or Neal Stephenson (both of whom I like a lot). But some of the more pulpy stuff, like Jim Butcher's Dresdon Files series, or (gulp) Dungeons & Dragons novels. I've read some dreck, sure, but have found a lot of admirable things too. They're fun, too. That's a big plus.

Anyone else with me here?

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But I'm also learning to see the good things in more frowned-upon genres, like fantasy, sci-fi and so on. And I don't mean the celebrated folks like Raymond Chandler or Neal Stephenson (both of whom I like a lot). But some of the more pulpy stuff ... Anyone else with me here?

Most fantasy and sci-fi make me sleepy, and I don't really consider Raymond Chandler as a "pulp fiction" writer. His writing seems a little too classically educated for that. But I do highly enjoy the occasional Jonathan Latimer, Brett Halliday, Ross Macdonald, James M. Cain, Joe Gores or Mickey Spillane ("Those big-shot writers could never dig the fact that there are more salted peanuts consumed than caviar.")

See also: G.K. Chesterton's essay entitled A Defence of Penny Dreadfuls -

... It is the modern literature of the educated, not of the uneducated, which is avowedly and aggressively criminal. Books recommending profligacy and pessimism, at which the high-souled errand-boy would shudder, lie upon all our drawing-room tables. If the dirtiest old owner of the dirtiest old book stall in Whitechapel dared to display works really recommending polygamy or suicide, his stock would be seized by the police. These things are our luxuries. And with a hypocrisy so ludicrous as to be almost unparalleled in history, we rate the gutter-boys for their immorality at the very time that we are discussing (with equivocal German professors) whether morality is valid at all. At the very instant that we curse the Penny Dreadful for encouraging thefts upon property, we canvass the proposition that all property is theft. At the very instant we accuse it (quite unjustly) of lubricity and indecency, we are cheerfully reading philosophies which glory in lubricity and indecency. At the very instant that we charge it with encouraging the young to destroy life, we are placidly discussing whether life is worth preserving.

But it is we who are the morbid exceptions; it is we who are the criminal class. This should be our great comfort. The vast mass of humanity, with their vast mass of idle books and idle words, have never doubted and never will doubt that courage is splendid, that fidelity is noble, that distressed ladies should be rescued, and vanquished enemies spared. There are a large number of cultivated persons who doubt these maxims of daily life, just as there are a large number of persons who believe they are the Prince of Wales; and I am told that both classes of people are entertaining conversationalists. But the average man or boy writes daily in these great gaudy diaries of his soul, which we call Penny Dreadfuls, a plainer and better gospel than any of those iridescent ethical paradoxes that the fashionable change as often as their bonnets ...

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It's been years, but I was once enamored of the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs. The Princess of Mars, Thuvia, Maid of Mars, the Pellucidar books. I read most of them on Project Gutenberg, but every once and again I would stumble across a hardly-cohesive paperback with a lurid cover and I would blush (being the good child that I was) and snap it right up. I've still got a couple laying around. I don't blush anymore, but I still glance at them occasionally with a fond smile. One day I'm going to actually revisit them.

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Most fantasy and sci-fi make me sleepy, and I don't really consider Raymond Chandler as a "pulp fiction" writer. His writing seems a little too classically educated for that. But I do highly enjoy the occasional Jonathan Latimer, Brett Halliday, Ross Macdonald, James M. Cain, Joe Gores or Mickey Spillane ("Those big-shot writers could never dig the fact that there are more salted peanuts consumed than caviar.")

Well, regarding Chandler, he was classically trained...but a good number of his stories were published in Black Mask, which was THE pulp magazine in that era. Pulp and good writing aren't mutually exclusive, especially when you're putting Cain in your list. He's the least pulpy of them all.

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I may need some more pulp fiction in my life. Do the novels of Richard Stark count? As I noted in the Donald E. Westlake thread, I've heard the Stark novels are good (a blogger friend says their "dark," and that Westlake is at his best when he's dark). The news that the novels are being reissued has stoked new interest in these titles.

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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I may need some more pulp fiction in my life. Do the novels of Richard Stark count? As I noted in the Donald E. Westlake thread, I've heard the Stark novels are good (a blogger friend says their "dark," and that Westlake is at his best when he's dark). The news that the novels are being reissued has stoked new interest in these titles.

I'd say they count. In regards to the this thread, I'd say there's more 'pulpy' fiction out there than most realize. Still, I should've just called the thread "Genre goodness" or something. :)

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I just found an old copy of Bulldog Drummond. I'm hoping it's every bit as offensive to contemporary sensibilities as I've heard.

More or less. I never quite made it through the book, but yeah; it's either offensive or endearingly naive. Or both.

If we're talking genre as opposed to the more restrictive pulp, I'm gonna have to admit that most days I had rather read a good detective novel than a "serious" novel. Ellery Queen, Agatha Christie, P.D. James. Of course, a detective novel with literary connections is the best of both worlds; hence my affection for Graham Greene.

Edited by NBooth
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I love fiction classified in the crime genre and think that much of it is among the strongest fiction published these days.

My favorite contemporary writers off the top of my head are James Sallis, George Pelecanos, Daniel Woodrell, Richard Price, Ken Bruen, Walter Mosley, Don Winslow, Lawrence Block, Thomas H. Cook, Loren D. Estleman and dozens more. Going further back, the list includes Charles Willeford, James Crumley and Jim Thompson.

There are highs and lows in the output from all of the above writers, but the highs belong alongside my favorite literary novels from the past decade. If I could only read one novel from the Aughts, I'd make it Gilead. But beyond that, there are so many great novels in the crime genre that I could never read all that I want to in a given year.

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