A Review of Tommy Hancock’s Yesteryear by Andrew Salmon
Disclaimer: Tommy Hancock is one of the creators of the New Pulp website.
One of New Pulp’s claims to fame is that time is no longer a factor when it comes to crafting pulp tales. Back in the Golden Age, writers typed until their fingers bled, racing the clock with deadlines looming. Today, New Pulp authors have the freedom to craft stories that are a little more complex than those written in a white heat and on the fly. There’s a chance to explore pulp worlds and characters and you’ll seldom find it done better than in Tommy Hancock’s YESTERYEAR.
The novel is a compelling read and one you won’t soon forget. Its episodic structure of pulp and superhero origin and adventure tales set around a unifying tell-all book makes the novel a standout in the burgeoning New Pulp field.
Yes, you heard that right, superheroes. Now some pulp fans might wonder what superheroes are doing in a pulp novel and while reading the book one might get the impression that this is more of a superhero prose work than a straight up pulp thriller. The point is a valid one but considering that the classic pulp characters of the Golden Age gave birth to the superheroes that came after, the novel’s historic sweep allows it to fall neatly into both categories, bridging the gap between pulp prose and comics.
As the novel deals with the main plot: the lengths some of these adventurers are willing to take to prevent the book’s publication, Hancock also treats us to numerous excerpts from the controversial work. Heroes rise and fall, alliances are formed and broken while drastic, deadly measures are taken to keep the manuscript from the public eye.
Some might find the jumping around from different time periods to the present day distracting or confusing but a careful read will smooth out these rough spots. Also, Hancock uses different fonts and writing styles to convey the shifts and this reader thought these worked very well. My only knock about this aspect of the novel is that there are a few too many time jumps and that some can be jarring. It’s a great narrative technique but occasionally it is overused here and the whole lacks an overlying cohesion. As this is Hancock’s first novel, one expects these odd rough spots, and occasional wordiness, will be smoothed out in future works.
While on the topic of criticism, this reader found the interior illustrations by Peter Cooper amateurish. With apologies to Mr. Cooper, the art is weak at best and does not measure up to the level of the writing. The cover by Jay Piscopo is striking although it, too, is out of place, seeming better suited to a graphic novel than a prose work, which could confuse readers new to the work.
Criticisms aside, YESTERYEAR is one of the best New Pulp releases of the year and I urge readers to give the book a try. It not only provides an atypical reading experience but also brings a fresh look at classic pulp fiction and superheroes. Hancock has crafted an engaging, refreshing work chock full of ideas, well drawn characters, and action galore. Pick it up, it is well worth your time.