ON THE FIGHT CARD!
A Special All Pulp Report and Release from Paul Bishop (www.bishsbeat.blogspot.com)
I’ve been a pulp fanatic for as long as I can remember, but not just for the hero pulps. The aviation pulps and the western pulps also caught my imagination along with the sports pulps . . . Wait? Sports pulps?
Yes! Sports pulps! While hero, adventure, weird menace, western, and aviation pulps are still hot collecting commodities, the sports pulps, like the romance pulps are mostly forgotten.
In my typical walking to the beat of a different drummer way, the sports pulps have become my passion. Street and Smiths Sport Story Magazine, Sports Novels, Fifteen Sports Stories, Dime Sports, and Thrilling Sports were among the best of the many sports pulps that proliferated between the late ‘20s and the mid ‘50s.
Baseball, track, and basketball strories dominated the early years of sports pulps. As football caught the American imagination, it too became a fertile source for the sports pulps. Horseracing, hockey, car racing also had their popular place in the sports pulps. Eventually, as the sports pulps proliferated, stories of almost any sporting contest – from log rolling to canoeing to powerboat racing – found their way between the pages. Even stories of soccer, rugby, and cricket can be found if one looks hard enough.
Pride of place in my collection of sports pulps, however, goes to Fight Stories Magazine. During the pulp era, boxing was even more popular than baseball both in the actual arena of sports and in the fictional creation of endless fisticuff dust-ups. There remains something elemental about one man pitted against another that continues to capture the imagination.
The history of fight fiction both on the page and on film is crowded with tales both filled with the desperation of noir and the triumph of the underdog. Even today, as mixed martial arts (MMA) fighting becomes popular, fight films and fiction have accepted the transition and continue to tell stories of fighters.
Started in 1928, Fight Stories Magazine – subtitled, Fact And Fiction Of The Ring – was the first of the sports pulps dedicated to a single athletic endeavor. While most of it’s fiction took place in the pro ring, there was also room for tales set in military outposts, carnivals, and anywhere else two men could find room to square off.
Reading Fight Stories Magazine today is still a joy. Both the fiction and non-fiction pieces were a cut above the rest of the pack and hold up better than most pulp tales. In particular, the retro-fight examinations and fighter profiles by Jack Kofeod could be reprinted word for word today in any fight interest zine; and fisticuff tales from the likes of Robert E. Howard (most often featuring his slugger Sailor Steve Costigan) remain brilliant storytelling.
So, imagine my delight last year when I came across a gem of a new novella, Smoker, by Mel Odom when cruising the virtual boxing fiction titles for my Kindle. Smoker was a cool fight tale, set in the ‘50s, with a supernatural twist – but it read like it could have been the lead tale in Fight Stories Magazine or Knockout Magazine – the other all boxing stories pulp.
Mel Odom is a prolific writer, but while I was familiar with his work, our paths had somehow not crossed over the years on the conference / organization / convention circuits. Undaunted by this, I tracked Mel down by email. Before long we were yacking on the phone like we’d known each other for years.
We had tons of stuff in common from comic books to favorite authors to television shows, but we we’re in total sync with our love of the tough guys who populated the pages of Fight Stories Magazine and the many other boxing stories from the sports pulps.
While we agreed we liked modern bozxing tales, we lamented the fact nobody was writing fight stories anymore like those from the pulps: two-fisted tales zipping along with lots of ring action and heroes fighting for more than just a championship or a monetary purse.
One thing led to another, as things do when writers talk, and we decided we were the perfect guys to write those tales. We also believed we could reach our niche audience by through using the new e-publishing platforms, which have reinvented the publishing market and have made the 25,000 word pulp style novellete, an endangered speicies, viable again.
Thus our Fight Card series was born – two-fisted pulp-style tales to thrill and chill . . .
We decided to set the tales in the ‘50s because it was an era we both loved and felt comfortable writing about. We wanted to emulate the tales from back in the day by striking the same tone and atmosphere existing then.
While Mel’s writing style and mine are different, we embraced this as a way to distiguish each of the novels. We decided to make the main characters from each of our efforts brothers. Mel’s character, Mickey Flynn, is a merchant marine sailor who’s tough as nails. My character is Mickey’s younger brother Patrick Flynn, an LAPD detective on Chief Parker’s infamous Hat Squad. The brothers grew up in an orphanage in Chicago where they were taught the “sweet science” by Father Tim, a tough ex-cop turned fighting priest.
We were surprised, when we talked about the project with other writers, by their response – they wanted in on the action. They remembered and loved these stories as much as we did and couldn’t wait to put on their virtual gloves and get in the ring with us – apparently there are going to be a lot of orphans trained by Father Tim at Our Lady Of the Glass Jaw, the nickname of the orphange. As a result, we have some top notch tales from top notch writers scheduled to appear over the coming months.
Fight Card debuted this past weekend with the publication of Felony Fists from me and The Cutman from Mel. In an effort to unify the series on the various e-platforms, we have published the novels under the pseudonym Jack Tunney as an homage to Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney – two of the great heavyweight champions.
Next up in December is Eric Beetner’s Split Decision, a gem of a noir tale that would have been snapped up as a Gold Medal original back in the day.
Mel and I had a blast with our first entries in the series, and we’re already planning the next round for our characters.