Russel D McLean: Top 5 pulp novelists you (probably) haven’t read…but should
In our series of ‘5’ themed blogs celebrating Bloody Scotland’s fifth year, Russel D McLean reveals his top 5 pulp novelists that you probably haven’t read but should.
5 – Robert Bloch
Appearing at number 5 because chances are you’ll know his name, and you might even have read his classic, Psycho (far darker than the movie) – and until recently that was all I knew, too. But a 2008 re-release by Hard Case Crime of two of his novels back to back (Shooting Star and Spider Web) showed that Bloch was a master of the pulp novel, with a mean line in prose and an eye for the seedier side of life.
4 – Ernest Tidyman
Even if you don’t know Tidyman, you’ll know his most famous creation, the black private dick, who was a sex machine to all the chicks: John Shaft. As well as writing the screen adaptation of Shaft and its first sequel, Shaft’s Big Score, Tidyman also wrote the script for The French Connection, and one of Chuck Norris’s earliest films, A Force of One. He only wrote seven novels, but when one of them’s Shaft, you have to tip your pulp hat to the man.
3 – Elleston Trevor
A prolific British pulp novelist, screenwriter, playwright (and quite possibly insomniac), Trevor wrote under several pseudonyms, including Simon Rattray, Caesar Smith and Lesley Smith, but was best known for his spy thrillers written under the name Adam Hall. I’ve only read one of Trevor’s books so far – The Runaway Man (1958) – which, as the back cover promised, had a “strange end” in which the protagonist lies “prone and chilled on the rotting hulk of a barge”, and I’m definitely on the lookout for more!
2 – Wade Miller
Branded Woman by Wade Miller (1952) has one of my favourite femme fatales in the enticing smuggler Cat Morgan, seeking revenge on the man who branded her. Miller is the pen name for Robert Wade and Bill Miller, who wrote a number of novels together, including Badge of Evil, which eventually became better known in movie form as Touch of Evil (1956).
1 – Richard S Prather
Prather was the author who started me collecting pulp novels many years ago, when I first stumbled across the beautiful Gold Medal edition of Always Leave ‘Em Dying. “Gals, guns, guys go round and around as SHELL SCOTT spins the wheel!” yelled the strapline, and right there I was hooked. Although Prather did some brilliant standalone novels (1952’s The Peddler comes to mind), it was Shell Scott with his white-blonde hair, steely gaze and snappy one liners who really captured the reader’s imaginations.
Russel D McLean will be appearing at Bloody Scotland this year in Scotland the Grave on Saturday 10th September at 12:15pm.