GUEST COLUMN-WHIMSY IS ALIVE AND WELL IN PULP!
We are all serious about our Pulp, be we writers, artists, publishers, or fans. The goal of ALL PULP is to make sure you as a reader have all the insight and news we can provide you about All Things Pulp! That includes, although not frequently, whimsy. Yes, whimsy can exist within the stark black and white right and wrong world of Pulp. And the best whimsy of all is that which brings Pulp authors and Pulp style to the forefront. Enjoy the following whimsical, yet extremely valid Pulp post, wont you?
FROM DOC HERMES via DERRICK FERGUSON
I posted this a few years ago, when I was plowing through pulp stories as if they were going to be taken away any minute. Finishing a Nero Wolfe story right after a Solomon Kane one gave me a whimsical idea.
These are fun to write, please feel free to add a few.
WHAT IF… Robert E Howard wrote a Nero Wolfe mystery?
It was ten o’clock on a dreary winter morning, and as Wolfe lowered his immense bulk behind his desk and rang for the first of his unending series of beers, I couldn’t take it any longer. “Another exciting day, I suppose. It’s fine for you. You’ve got those filthy orchids and pouring beer into your gut while you pretend to read some 700 page book on Hungarian politics. But what about me?”
Wolfe raised one eyebrow, which for him was a dramatic reaction and I exploded, venting all my long pent up rage. “I’m not a bloated product of civilization!” I snapped. “I’m six feet of lean muscle and rawhide, wide shouldered and narrow hipped. I burn to smash my fist into Inspector Cramer`s sneering mug, feeling his teeth splinter under my knuckles. By God, I`m tempted to go down to Centre Street and litter that place with bleeding cops.”
“Archie, cease this flummery,” Wolfe said with that insufferable smugness that made a red haze of fury pass over my eyes. “Have you been reading those so-callled pulp magazines again? Every month when WEIRD TALES comes out, it has a deleterious effect on your demeanor.”
“Well, what of it!” I roared, leaping up with the speed of a starving panther. “When are we going to get a case where I can sink my blade deep in my enemy`s heart and carry off some buxom wench? A case with the stolen eye from some heathen idol or a death cult of slant eyed killers? I’m sick of these sissy cases where only one person gets killed!” Beneath my heavy black brows, my volcanic blue eyes burned hotly.
“Pfui,” said Wolfe, marking his place with a bookmarker. “First, Archie, I must remind you that your eyes are dark brown and you are not Irish on either side. As we have discussed before, you are English and Dutch, with some Cherokee on your paternal grandmother’s side. This Celtomania is fatuous, coming from a man who resembles Humphrey Bogart.”
I barely restrained myself from pouncing upon him in a blur of savage motion. That accursed paycheck held my hand.
“Furthermore,” Wolfe went on as calmly as if I were not poised to leap at him, my iron fists clenched, “Fritz is preparing lamb kidneys with dumplings, and blueberry tarts for lunch and you wouldn`t want to miss that.”
He had me there. Fritz made dumplings with chopped beef marrow, duck eggs and lemon rind. I could easily keep up with Wolfe as far as dumplings went. And faint vapors of the blueberry variety were teasingly drifting into the office.
“Fine”, I gave in with ill grace, and returned to my desk where my copy of WEIRD TALES sat. Wolfe glanced at me and snorted almost inaudibly. “I should be grateful, I suppose, that you don’t read THE SPIDER”, he muttered.
WHAT IF… Don Pendleton Wrote a Nancy Drew Story?
Stepping away from her sporty red roadster with its running boards and rumble seat, Nancy felt the breeze stir her golden hair. Yeah, it was a good day to be sixteen and a little princess. It was just too darn bad that for Carmine it would be his last day on God`s earth.
She had parked high on the hill overlooking Makeout Point, where teenagers had been parking under the summer moon for years. Nancy remembered that moon and her face flushed red as she gazed coldly down at the figure waiting for her below.
How had she ever thought that Carmine Salvucci could help her in her solving of mysteries? And what was an Italian family doing in Bayport anyway? Nancy`s lovely eyes narrowed into slits as she saw Carmine leaning against the fender of his own jalopy, cigarette hanging from the corner of his mouth. Enjoy it, she thought, you darned little ruffian.
For a second, she touched the tiny hole where a button was missing from her pure white blouse with the blue collar, and her adorable mouth tightened. Then she turned and from the rumble seat she drew the thing she had taken from the closet of her father, noted detective Carson Drew. The Scheissekopf 374 (with the folding stock and chrome lined barrel) was a heavy weapon, and it took all her strength to lift it, much less hold it steady. But a girl had to do what was right in a world that was going to heck, no matter what the consquences. Yeah, she was determined to live large and stay firm. Soft but firm.
Carmine seemed to sense his danger for he suddenly flicked his butt to the ground and jerked his head up to look right at her. His eyes bugged out with raw terror and his jaw dropped so hard she heard the thump it made. Then she gently squeezed the trigger and a huge copper jacketed slug sizzled through the summer air to plow through Carmine`s face as it it wasn`t there. And in fact, it wasn`t there any longer.
Her shoulder ached from the recoil of the massive Scheissekopf but she didn`t even feel it. She looked down grimly at the cold clay that a minute ago had been a high school student. “No one cops a feel off Nancy Drew,” she whispered.
WHAT IF… H.P. Lovecraft Wrote a Lone Ranger Story?
THE UNPLEASANT KIVA
Despite the irridescent luminosity of the Arizona sun, which rivalled Hyperion in the late summer afternoon, the air around the Kiva had somehow a cold, clammy chill which carried a faint odious vapor with it. Even the scrub grass which grows sparsely in that land was absent around the foreboding area; the ground was black and barren, and they seen no sign of any living thing for nearly a mile.
Seated astride their splendid mounts, the masked man and his aboriginal comrade regarded the bleak structure with misgivings. Unlike the typical Kiva, religious structures used by the Indians of the American Southwest for their ancient heathen rituals, this structure stood by itself, far from the cliff dwelings. Its opening, surounded by a low adobe rim, resembled nothing so much as the phantasmagorical maw of some antedilivuian beast, the bones of which normally are only seen in museums.
“Can`t recollect I`ve ever laid eyes on a Kiva like that,” mused the Lone Ranger in a hushed tone.
“How old would you say it is, Tonto?”
“Ugh, me not know,” replied his stoic coppery countenanced companion.
“Confound it!” the masked rider vented angrily. “I know you speak English, Spanish and half a dozen Indian dialects. How is it you cannot manage correct pronouns?”
As his friend turned his head in grieved silence, the Ranger regretted his outburst. Before moving to the wilderness of Texas, his family had been among the oldest and most prominent of the gentry in New England and his innate breeding should have given him the tact to avoid giving offense. “Walll”, he said after a silence, “Since three townsfolk have been missing after they expressed interest in the treasure allegedly buried in this pagan structure, it is our duty to investigate.”
Alighting from his steed, the Ranger uncoiled his trusty lariat from its hook on his saddle and fastened one end securely to a projection on the outer ring of the Kiva. As he placed one polished boot on the rim, he turned and said, “Tonto, perhaps you had best secure our steeds in the shadow of those rather withered and unhealthy trees, since the direct sunlight cannot be good for their health. Then wait for me to climb back up.”
The Indian brave took the reins of the great white stallion which was most appropriately named Silver, but there was apprehension on his lined face. By that, I mean Tonto`s face, not Silver`s. “Kemo sabe, me think there is bad medicine in that hole. Me hear tales of the Old Ones who lived here in the long ago time, before even the red man. Maybe best you wait for me”.
“Balderdash,” scoffed the noble champion of justice, flashing his brilliant smile. “What evil spirit can stand against silver bullets fired by one whose heart is pure?”
With obvious reluctance, the redman rode his painted pony to the shade, towing the magnificent argent beast with him, as behind him the masked man clambered lithely down the foreboding opening. Even as Tonto secured the reins to the trees, which did indeed look as if they had long been exposed to a malign influence, he heard the crisp retorts of two Colt revolvers being fired.
Faster than he would have thought possible, the agitiated brave raced back to the Kiva and thrust his weathered face over the opening, In his hand was his own weapon, drawing without his realized it. For only a second, he listened and then he whirled in fled in a dire panic dreadful to see in a man of such proven courage. The horse Silver he abandoned where it stood, later to be taken by wandering Navajo.
Tonto himself was a broken man after that, losing much weight and babbling dementedly, taking to strong drink and staying behind locked doors the remainder of his life. When asked what could have wrought such a change in his formerly heroic constitution, he would only mumble, “Chewing….me heard CHEWING!”
WHAT IF… Norvell Page Wrote an Oz Story?
RED PAIN SLAVES OF THE BLOOD DEATH KING
Dorothy reeled back in horror against the door of the summer palace. The Emerald City was in flames, crimson tongues of fire roaring upward but not drowning out the screams of pain. All around her,, hundreds of Munchkins were staggering in agony as red blood poured from their mouths and noses. As the Kansan gasped in disbelief, a dying Munchkin collapsed against her, life`s blood spewing from his face onto her blue gingham dress. “Ewww, gross,” she said and pushed him off.
Horrified beyond words, the young girl turned back to where her best friends in Oz stood in the doorway behind her. The Tin Woodsman`s cold
metallic face was unreadable, but Glinda……! On Glinda`s lovely ageless countenance was a scowl of pure hatred.
“These mishaps never happened in Oz before your arrival,` she hissed at Dorothy. `You must be responsible, Kansan! Kill her, Woodman!”
Even as the unliving horror drew back his mighty axe, Dorothy reacted. Her exploits in Oz had sharpened her wits and toughened her body, and for an eight year old, she was extremely dangerous. She knew Nick Chopper`s weakness. Even as he drew his axe high overhead, the Kansan leaped forward and shoved him hard in the chest with both hands. Taken off balance, the Woodman fell with a loud metallic clang and she knew from their past adventures together that he could not rise quickly.
Whirling toward Glinda, Dorothy cried out. “Have you gone mad? The city`s on fire! Your people are dying from this strange affliction. Now is when we must work together to make things right.” But there was a strange evil glitter in the Good Witch`s eyes, and as she raised her star tipped wand, lurid red sparkles danced around it. In another instant, Dorothy would have been blasted into charcoal but quick as a litttle cat, the Kansan seized the Woodman`s axe. The short tool was surprisingly light (it was made of tin after all) and she whirled it to smash the wand from Glinda`s hand. Even in her desperation, Dorothy was careful to use the flat of the blade, not the edge.
As the magic wand went flying, Dorothy spun to flee. She had to find out what was behind this. Could the Nome King have somehow cast a spell on Glinda?
Dorothy knew there was a farm just down the road with a scarecrow in its field. If she could reach it, she could disguise herself as her friend, the famous living Scarecrow, and be able to move around freely while she found out what was going on.
“Stop!” commanded Glinda`s icy voice. “Have you forgotten….Toto?”
Freezing where she was, Dorothy turned with reluctance to see Glinda`s servants wheeling out a large circus cage which was seperated into two compartments. In the smaller section was her beloved Toto, cringing in the corner, eyes rolling wildly. And in the other compartment, roaring and foaming at the mouth, was the Cowardly Lion. The great beast was too enraged to speak, its bloodshot eyes fixed on the tiny little pitiful beast
almost within its reach.
“Hah hahhh” laughed Glinda in hideous triumph. “The Lion has not been fed in three days and he is not Cowardly anymore only Ravenous. If I give the word, the barrier between him and your miserable little mutt will be lifted. Well, Kansan, wlll you surrender?”
In a few second, the young girl suffered terribly as she realized her awful decision. But Dorothy Gale came from tough pioneer stock and had never been one to give up. Quick as a bunny, she raced to the cage and brought the axe down as hard as her skinny little arms could weild it to snap off the lock on the cage holding the Lion. Even as she dropped flat, the great brute leaped over her to pounce full upon Glinda.
The hideous scene that followed does not bear describing (the editor said no). As Glinda met her fate at those leonine fangs, her spell broke. The Munchkins stopped spewing blood and the burning city began to return to normal.
Casting a wary eye on the feasting lion, the Kansan bent to pluck up the star tipped wand where its late owner had dropped it. A wry smile was on Dorothy`s lips. Killing witches was getting to be a habit with her.
WHAT IF… Shakespeare Wrote a Mike Hammer Story?
That very breath which inspires warmth and animation into this mortal clay fled her lips as doth mist off ice in the noonday sun. Still she found the will to speak.
“How couldst thou?” spake the virago and I in turn rushed to answer ere flesh and spirit were forever sundered.
“With ease,” I spake to ears which, alas, would never hear aught more.