All Pulp Interviews Author Howard Hopkins
|Cover art: Douglas Klauba|
Howard Hopkins is a prolific writer of novels, comic books, and short stories as well as an editor and musician. It was recently announced that Howard would be writing the first new Lone Ranger novel of the 21st Century, which will certainly be a future Trivial Pursuit question. All Pulp sat down to discuss the new novel, Lone Ranger: Vendetta as well as Howard’s other writing and editing projects.
AP: Tell us a little about yourself and your pulp interests.
HH: I’m a horror, western, kids’ horror, pulp, comics writer who lives in Maine, in a small seaside community haunted by sea captains’ ghosts and tourists. It’s a very mysterious place of snaking mist and strange happenings, most of which occur on beer night, which is basically every night in these parts! I’m not sure I can really label myself a “pulp” fan, but I am a huge fan of certain pulp characters, such as Doc Savage, The Avenger and The Shadow, maybe a handful of others to a lesser degree. I grew up on the Doc Savage paperback reprints with their gorgeous Bama covers, as well as The Avenger with their Caras and Gross covers. As a kid I didn’t know what a pulp was, only that there was the occasional odd reference in the books to running boards and wire recorders. It was only in my 20s I got my hands on an actual, honest-to-goodness-crumble-my-hands-as-tried-to-read-it pulp and learned of some of the other characters, like The Spider, Captain Future and The Moon Man.
AP: It was recently announced that your next novel will be The Lone Ranger: Vendetta from Moonstone Books. With your history writing western novels, this seems like a perfect fit. What can we expect from the first Lone Ranger novel of the 21st century?
HH: You can expect the true Lone Ranger, no re-imaging and political correctness. Set in a more realistic and gritty West, dealing with authentic issues and vicious villains. The original Lone Ranger series on the radio and TV—which, make no mistake, I love dearly—was largely intended for a younger audience. Moonstone’s series is not aimed at kids, but it is aimed at Lone Ranger fans and Western readers, as well as adventure readers and folks who just enjoy a thrilling story. The Lone Ranger and Tonto—I don’t like to use the term Blood Brothers because it was a term not used by the Native Americans, but that’s what they really are—are equal parts of a whole, dealing with a West full of prejudice, sudden death and human corruption. Yet The Ranger also stands above that. He is The Lone Ranger and I have taken great pains to keep the soul and spirit of the character intact. I have a great love and respect for this character and have done my best to make sure to respect Rangers fans in writing the book. There’s nothing I hate more than seeing a cherished character so totally redone as to be not only unrecognizable but alienating. These are great, iconic characters. They were popular and loved for a reason. I see no need to screw with that. At the same time, the Old West is a violent, vast and even lonely place, and The Lone Ranger and Tonto are operating within it. Basically I have done my durndest to preserve everything that makes The Ranger The Ranger, and set it against a backdrop of a Deadwood styled West (without the cussing). I believe fans as well as many non-Western readers will like it. I am hoping there will be a few of those goosebump moments we all look for in our favorite characters when they appear in new books or movies.
You can also expect a pretty vicious villain seeking revenge. The story is called Vendetta and the lead villain has a hell of a score to settle. Unfortunately this means bad news for some of the Masked Rider of the Plains’ acquaintances.
HH: Yes, indeed. A Honey West anthology too, in fact. The Sherlock Holmes antho is called Sherlock Holmes: The Crossovers Casebook, and involves the Great Detective working with some of history’s fictional and real characters, solving a crime. My own story, called The Haunted Manor, teams Sherlock with Calamity Jane. He teams with Arsene Lupin, The Great and Powerful OZ, Lawrence of Arabia and many others. We have some truly excellent writers involved with the project and an awesome cover. I believe Holmes fans will enjoy it and if I may say so myself it’s going to be one kick ass anthology. I have also been co-editor with Joe Gentile on three Avenger anthologies, the first two of which are out now and available from comic shops and Amazon.com. These are labors of love for me, since The Avenger is one of my all time favorite characters, second (or perhaps even tied with) Doc Savage. I’ve done stories for all three volumes, and the second volume, titled The Justice, Inc. Files, includes, in the special hardcover edition, the first three of six vignettes focusing on the original Man of Steel’s aides. In this case, Nellie, Mac and Cole Wilson. The next will spotlight Smitty, Josh and Rosabel. And of course this is THE Richard Benson, not somebody named Benny or a drastic updating of characters.
AP: What is The Chloe Files?
HH: The Chloe Files is my paranormal horror series focusing on Chloe Everson, a dancer at The Red Lagoon who gets herself into all sorts of supernatural problems. She’s not a wizard like Harry Dresden, but she does take on others’ ghostly problems and something quite special about her will be revealed as the series progresses. Two books are now available on Kindle, Nook and in paperback. The action takes place in the cursed seaside town of New Salem, Maine, and this is not your sparkly vampire lovefest. The monsters Chloe faces are classic style and mean as hell. She’s Kolchak with boobs. She’s also going to find out some rather dark and startling revelations about her past and the reasons the supernatural is after her. In the meantime, she’s kicking Evil’s ass—one demon at a time.
AP: Your books have spanned multiple genres including westerns, horror, mystery, pulp adventure, and more. Do you have a favorite genre to write? What appeals to you about switching genres?
HH: The spooky genes are probably my favorite. I love things that go bump in the night and I love to scare readers. But I enjoy all genres I write in because it all boils down to the same thing–I read to escape…I write to help others escape. I like working in genres that take folks away from their worries and day to day problems, at least for a couple hours. I do not strive to be literary, though I do strive to make my characters live and drive the story. I am an entertainer and that’s just fine with me. It’s all about the escape. When I was a kid, I went through some tough times—and if not for some of the heroes and books I love, honestly, I might not have made it. They saved me from at least some addictions that might have proved destructive. I owe the writers of those stories more than I can repay and I owe my readers what I was given.
AP: Is there a genre you’ve not written that you would like to try your hand at some point?
HH: Well, actually there’s one I am just now getting a chance to write in I haven’t done much with before and that’s 50s noir. I will be writing a 15,000 word novella (novelette?) for a brand new anthology based on the old radio show Nightbeat, about a reporter who stumbles into serious crime. And the best part is I am getting to be in it with some super talents. What more can a writer ask? It will be a lot of fun slipping into that noir world.
AP: There seem to be many different opinions about what can be defined as pulp. How do you define pulp and what do you look for in a pulp story as a writer and a reader?
HH: Oh, man, this may get me into some trouble, but I don’t define pulp. Pulp was a type of paper novels and stories were printed on, in magazine format. In every genre. Now stories are printed in paperbacks and in ebooks. It was cheap fiction, but still just fiction, often written hastily and for the specific reason of entertaining its audience. Escapism, again. I don’t write pulp, because pulp does not really exist as a genre, in my opinion. I write about some characters who appeared in pulp magazines, but I make no deliberate attempt to write in the same style or emulate the technical mistakes they made. I believe the authors, had they been paid better and given the opportunity, would have polished their stories more. But they weren’t and didn’t have time. When I write about those characters, I do my best to flesh them out and present as highly a polished story as my ability allows. Some are hero stories, some horror, some adventure. I think the modern audience expects more from authors now. While I think it’s a huge mistake to reinvent the wheel with these characters—I do my damnedest to maintain the core and soul of the characters and let’s face it, these characters have cult followings because there was something special that didn’t need changing—I do feel writers handling them have to give them more depth, along with slicker writing and better plot. I love reading these characters’ original adventures, but I accept them for what they are and when they were written. I won’t accept that from modern writers who have the time and talent to avoid the things the original writers would have avoided had they gotten the time for rewrites. If you look at The Avenger Chronicles and Justice, Inc. Files, you won’t see “pulp” stories; you’ll see very talented authors telling great stories. I don’t label anything “pulp.” I label them good stories using pulp characters. They are adventure, hero stories in genre. They cross into mystery, horror, western, etc.
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That said, anyone who wants to call it pulp or call me a pulp writer is certainly free to do so and it bothers me not in the least. I just don’t feel it’s even an argument and worth the time debating, to be honest. I’d rather read and write the stories!
AP: Where can readers find information on you and your books?
AP: What upcoming projects do you have coming up that you can tell us about at this time?
HH: Well, The Lone Ranger novel, of course, and a Lone Ranger short story for an anthology, along with another story for The Green Hornet 3, the novella for Nightbeat, a new Chloe Files novel in the works, an Avenger story, Honey West story, a new Western novel, a comic book called Threesome that involves my own—dare I now say “pulp”?—heroine called The Veil and the return of the Golden Amazon (with The Domino Lady and co-written with NY Times bestselling author, the lovely and talented Nancy Holder), A Golden Amazon novel called Ripper, Burning Bright, three Spider widescreen graphic novels from Moonstone, new Golden Amazon short stories, a YA series novel, and some other stuff. Two upcoming Westerns called Hell of Hoofs and Twilight Trail. Then a kidnapping of myself by Jennifer Love Hewitt, but shhhh on that…
AP: Do you have any shows, signings, or conventions coming up where your fans can meet you?
HH: Nothing scheduled at present. I haven’t done many shows, but I’m hoping to change that soon.
AP: And finally, what does Howard Hopkins do when he’s not writing?
HH: Um, what do you mean by that? What is this not writing thing of which you speak? My ass is superglued to the office chair. Well, ok, I am a musician—mandolin, keyboards, guitar, singing—so when I have time I do that, read, of course, collect comic books and DVDs of old TV shows such as UFO, Hulk, Dark Shadows, etc. Sometimes I sleep, but try not to let that get in the way.
AP: Thanks, Howard.
HH: Thank you, All Pulp Potentates!s
About The Lone Ranger – Vendetta:
The Masked Man in a brand-new adventure! From out of the past comes a mysterious killer systematically murdering anyone with a connection to the Masked Rider of the Pains former identity. When all signs point to Butch Cavendish, a man long dead, The Lone Ranger finds himself trapped in a deadly game of cat and mouse with the life of his faithful Indian companion hanging in the balance!