Thursday, December 29, 2011


TIPPIN’ HANCOCK’S HAT-Reviews of All Things Pulp by Tommy Hancock

By Various Authors
Pacific-Noir Pulp Press

Pulp is known for being full of various genres and especially for mixing and mingling them, even before the now popular term ‘mash-up’ was in use.  If you’re a fan of Pulp, Classic, New, or both, even a little bit, then you of course know what I’m referring to.  Western, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Mystery, Crime, and so forth and yadda to the fourth power.   And the lines between all of those and other genres have been blurred multiple times by various Pulp types and to varying degrees of success. 

Now there is Surf Pulp.  And Hard Boiled Surf Pulp at that.

This first issue magazine from Pacific-Noir Pulp Press features six stories that blend surfing, a sport and pastime that has just as avid, if not more so, adherents and followers as Pulp does, and Pulp style storytelling.  Now, wait. I know what you’re thinking, that is, if you’ve had the exposure to surfing I have.   But don’t worry, this is not a collection of tales featuring Beach Boys type bands solving mysteries or Frankie and Annette finding lost treasures on Party Beach.  As a matter of fact, the mixing of Pulp and Surf is not fifty/fifty in every story, sometimes one outweighs the other more and I find that a good thing in mixed genre collections.  

Having said that though, something else that is mixed about HARD-BOILED SURF PULP FICTION #1 is my reaction.   As a whole, it’s a fun little read, running about 97 pages.  The book design is done well and the interior art is eye catching and overall does what art should do, effectively accompanies the story and adds to the reading experience.  So, presentation wise, this book is definitely a winner.

As far as the stories go, that’s where I get a little divided.  Six tales in the book and three of them I really liked and three of them left me wanting.  The lead story, THE BIG DEEP, is a private eye tale, my personal favorite type of tale, featuring PI Sam Sand, a surfer himself, on the trail of missing waves.  Interesting concept and the mystery starts out fairly solid, but then sort of gets very muddled in the middle and by the time we get to the resolution, it’s solved and everything works out, but it’s unclear how it got that way.  I really like the characterization in this story, especially Sam Sand himself, so would like to see more, but for an initial run, this one, though with good points, didn’t really ring my bell.

SORCEROR OF SIARGAO and CHIMERA are the other two that fall on the lesser side of mixed feelings.  Both are sort of quest tales, people seeking things, some abstract, some concrete, in their lives and in one way or another using the waves and surfing to do so.  And although they are different reads in a variety of ways, they both suffer from the same thing with me-murky storytelling and not a clear definition soon enough in the tales of where they’re heading to keep me hooked and interested.

Now, the other three tales in this thin tome definitely get my hopes up about future volumes.  SURFING ‘ROOTS’ is a futuristic tale of space pilots who surf strange landscapes when they get the chance, but it’s more than that.  It’s a cool other worldly tale of buddies who get into fun and out of trouble together and definitely shows the camaraderie that is so apparent in the popular culture notion of what surfing is.  Plus, the action is well paced and the setting is definitely a star in the tale.

TIGALAND is as far on the other side of the spectrum from ‘ROOTS’ as one can get, but is an A-1 Pulp tale.  Gritty, hard hitting, no holds barred Crime Pulp, this story delivers on a whole lot of levels, including engaging characters, from the two leads through the supporting cast, and a jerky sort of riding along with the story sort of pacing that works really well.

My favorite story in this book was a surprise as I expected it to be the PI tale.  RECKLESS SURFING looks at a period in the not so far future where the surf waves are patrolled by surf cops and the laws are very strict and almost basically too strict for real surfing to go on.  A really interesting character is introduced and carries this story well, that being a former surfer turned water cop, Sergeant Nelson of the Surf Enforcement Patrol.  The story is about a young surfer who gets himself in a spot with other surfers that draws the attention of Nelson.  Nelson identifies the young surfer as a good kid and basically points out what is the beginning of a relationship that will lead to adventure, crime, and hopefully good waves.   This is a very promising start to a great tale and is only the first part.  I really enjoyed the intensity that seemed to ripple throughout this particular tale, enough to tease and keep you interested, but not too much.  Yet.

So three out of six top tales, three out of six that needed a little something more.  Will I be back for future volumes and other works from Pacific-Noir Pulp Press? Sure, if they’ll have me.   This is definitely the start of something that I think has a lot of potential.

THREE OUT OF FIVE TIPS OF THE HAT-Enough to bring me back for a second round.