Tuesday, June 21, 2011


First, some housekeeping.  Yes, it's been a while since I debuted this column and due to a variety of reasons, this is the first one in awhile.  Do not worry, pulpsters, there will be one a week after this ad infinitum!  Audio Pulp is not only an important part of Pulp history that many are not aware of, but its a growing facet of the genre even today, as you will see in this column today and weeks to come.

You'll notice an addition to our logo.  Yes, its true, Radio Archives has stepped forward, noticing the trend toward Audio Pulp and entered into an arrangement with All Pulp to sponsor this column.  RA produces top of the line audio material bringing old time classic radio of all varieties to a modern audience.  Fantastic sound quality, tremendous effort to not only preserve material, but also provide new and interesting information on material, and awesome packaging make RA's offerings top notch.  RA as well is readying itself to be one of the leaders in New Audio Pulp with its foray into audiobooks based on Pulp characters starring in new stories, just like the one I'm about to leap into the middle of.  I will continue to cover all aspects of New Pulp Audio, not simply RA's contributions, but I do want to thank Harlan Zinck and RA for the support and material and willingness to see the importance of this column enough to sponsor it.

PYTHON ISLE-A Doc Savage Audiobook
Written by Will Murray based on a concept By Lester Dent
Narrated by Michael McConnohie
Directed and Produced by Roger Rittner
Published by Radio Archives (

Not only has Radio Archives decided to move into New Pulp audio, They have done it by taking giant steps.  The first RA offering in their Pulp Audiobook lineup is not only no lightweight when it comes to Pulp, but instead it is probably the top of the heap, the primo of premium pulp.  And, not to telegraph this review or anything, Radio Archives meets that challenge just the way Doc Savage would have.

PYTHON ISLE is an audiobook version of the novel written in 1991 by Will Murray, based on a concept by Lester Dent.  Directed and produced by Roger Rittner for RA and narrated by Michael Mcconnohie.  The story opens with diamond smugglers catching sight of a plane they believe to be the authorities.  Once the plane is downed, the smugglers discover that not only are there two strangely garbed people aboard, but the plane, once damaged, had been patched and repaired with what appears to be soft, pure gold.  One of the plane passengers, a man who can speak English, is desperate to protect a bamboo tube he has and to make contact with only one man-Doc Savage!

Author Will Murray
 What ensues from this tense, in your face opening is the stuff pulp dreams are made of.  From fist fights and gun battles to harrowing chases in various locales all the way to a ride and epic conflict aboard a Zeppelin, PYTHON ISLE delivers all the thrills and chills anyone could want.  Add into that that this is a Doc Savage tale complete with Doc's stoic presence, supreme intelligence, and skills honed finer than any blade as well as three of the five aides in their finest form ever and what you have in PYTHON ISLE is more than a treat, better than a nice surprise.  It is simply New Pulp storytelling at its best. 

Narrator Michael McConnohie
 With material like this, one would think that it would be difficult for an audiobook version to add anything at all to it.  Boy, one would be wrong.  PYTHON ISLE from Radio Archives takes this story from the pinnacle it already reaches in prose to an unbelievable high mark as an audiobook.  Michael McConnohie is more than the 'reader' or 'narrator' of this adventure.  He brings the exact intensity and passion to this story that any well crafted Doc tale would command.  His mastery of his own voice is phenomenal, switching back and forth from Monk's high pitched affectation to Renny's thunderous rumblings and then to Bull Pizano's gravelly retort.  McConnohie makes this feel like a full cast audio drama and that brings the listener completely into the folds of the story.

Director/Producer Roger Rittner
 One issue many audiobooks have, and this is in part due to the fact that they are based on written prose, not scripts, is pacing.  At times, audiobooks lag in the middle and whatever gait had been set previously is lost.  This is definitely an issue with Pulp stories due to the naturally frenetic pacing good Pulp should have.  PYTHON ISLE does not fall victim to this.  Due to McConnohie's voicing as well as Roger Rittner's directing, this tale moves along at a good clip from beginning to end.  There are points that I, being both an avid Pulp reader and an audio fan, predicted were going to be those spots where things started to plod and slow down, but every single time due to either a musical sting or a change in inflection or even the speed at which the words were delivered, that plodding never came, nothing slowed down.  Rittner produced a fine piece of roller coaster up and down drama, probably the finest I've ever listened to.

Could PYTHON ISLE be better?  Usually I would say that any audiobook could be improved by adding voices and sound effects and changing the leopard's spots, so to speak, from audiobook to full cast drama.  And don't get me wrong, I would love to hear this story given that treatment.  Having said that, though, I think that in this case, it would not improve what has been done to make it a full cast drama. I feel like that this audiobook would sit on a shelf right alongside the best possible version of this story as a full drama and still hold its own.   The feeling I got from listening to PYTHON ISLE was much akin to what it must have felt like sitting in a darkened theater in the 1940s waiting to see what Captain Marvel or Gene Autry would do in the next chapter of the latest serial.  It was nail biting, cliff hanging, and inspiring.

Radio Archives has announced that this is only the first of their Pulp Audio books and that future volumes would not only include Doc, but cover other characters as well.  If that's the case, then I'm one heckuva happy Pulpster.