In March, Airship 27 launched its 45th title (the 4th of 2012) about a 1930’s pulp detective named Rick Ruby. All Pulp sat down with co-creators/writers Bobby Nash and Sean Taylor, writers Andrew Salmon and William Patrick Maynard, and editor/publisher Ron Fortier to delve into The Ruby Files.
AP: Tell us a little about yourself.
Ron: I’ve been a professional writer of comics and genre fiction for over thirty five years now. Created Airship 27 Productions seven years ago with my pal, artist Rob Davis. This book is the 45th title in our current catalog of New Pulp fiction.
Andrew: My name is Andrew Salmon and I live and write in Vancouver, BC, Canada. I discovered Classic Pulp back in 2000 with Doc Savage and have been hooked ever since. When the New Pulp movement began in earnest 4 or 5 years ago, I had the great good fortune to write pulp stories of my own featuring classic, public domain characters like Sherlock Holmes, Secret Agent X, Dan Fowler and Jim Anthony as well as new creations like the Ghost Squad (with Ron Fortier) and Rick Ruby to name a few.
My short stories and novellas have since been nominated twice for the Pulp Factory Award (winning once for “The Adventure of the Locked Room” in Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective Volume One from Airship 27), three times for a Pulp Ark Award and once for the Ellis Award, which is the Canadian equivalent of the Edgar.
Writing pulp has been very rewarding, an experience I wouldn’t have missed for the world. I love writing pulp and have BIG plans for the future.
William: Hi, I’m William Patrick Maynard. I have the honor to be authorized by Sax Rohmer’s Literary Estate to continue the Fu Manchu thrillers for Black Coat Press. I am fortunate to have been nominated for both a Rondo and a Pulp Factory Award. I also contribute an article on all things pulp each week for The Black Gate. My short fiction has appeared in GASLIGHT GROTESQUE and TALES OF THE SHADOWMEN. THE RUBY FILES is my first work for Airship 27.
Sean: I write stories. I write them in comic books, graphic novels, magazines, book anthologies and novels. I write them for money, and I write them for fun — both at the same time. I’m fortunate like that.
Bobby: I’m Bobby Nash. I write stories for novels, comic books, short stories, novellas, graphic novels, and have been dabbling with screenplays of late as well. I started writing pulp stories back when Airship 27 launched with its first title, Lance Star: Sky Ranger.
AP: What attracted you to The Ruby Files anthology?
Ron: I’ve always been a sucker for old fashion private tales whether it was Sam Spade or Mike Hammer, I love the tough guy heroes of fiction. We’d done some different genres in our line-up at Airship 27 but never a private eye series.
Andrew: I was a huge fan of hardboiled fiction long before I stumbled across classic pulp heroes like The Shadow and Doc Savage. I’m steeped in Cornell Woolrich, Raymond Chandler, Mickey Spillane, Ross Macdonald, Donald Hamilton, Dan J. Marlowe, John D. MacDonald, Ed McBain, Edwards S. Aarons, Richard Prather, Brett Halliday and so many others.
So when I got wind of Rick Ruby and discovered that an invite to race down the dark alleys of Ruby’s world was out there, I jumped, baby! Writing classic pulp characters has been a blast but I realized immediately that I hadn’t used my hardboiled voice in far too long. Well, with Ruby I’d have a chance to cut loose. No way was I going to miss it.
Added to that was the level of talent associated with the project. With Bobby Nash and Sean Taylor at the helm, the book couldn’t miss. Throw in brilliant artwork from Mark Wheatley (cover) and stunning interiors courtesy of Rob Moran along with the top New Pulp writing talent and a first-rate publishing outfit like Airship 27 and I could see right off that the book was going to be one for the ages. It was a perfect storm. I dove in with both feet and had a blast!
William: Hammett and Chandler and Ross Macdonald are a part of my essential appetite for fiction. I feel the same way about JOHNNY DOLLAR, SAM SPADE, and RICHARD DIAMOND for Old Time Radio and PETER GUNN and RICHARD DIAMOND for Golden Age TV. This was a natural fit. I’m very grateful to Ron Fortier for giving me a shot at demonstrating I could do something other than Yellow Peril thrillers. One of Airship 27’s strengths is the fact that they don’t try to pigeonhole talent. Encouraging versatility and believing in giving new voices a chance to be heard is definitely part of what helps Airship 27 make its mark alongside those stunning covers.
Sean: Noir detectives? Duh. Next question.
Seriously, I’m a sucker for the noir P.I. One off my favorite series of a books at the moment is the Hard Case Crime line of books. Both the classic ones and the brand new stuff written in that style. Some of my favorite films are noir films, and the characters really resonate with me. The emotionally tortured, morally conflicted leading Private Dick, the femme fatale with legs up to where she hides the revolver, the dirty cops, the gangsters… what’s not to love?
And on top of all that, getting to do the book meant renewed life for the dead concept Bobby and I had originally conceived to tell stories of Richard Diamond. And let’s be honest, I much prefer Rick Ruby to Richard Diamond now anyway.
William Patrick Maynard
Bobby: I blame Sean Taylor. No. Really. I was slowly digging myself out of a backlog of stories under the weight of that old dreaded deadline doom when I noticed the discussion on The Pulp Factory Yahoo Group about detectives. I was intrigued, but was way too busy to add more to my plate at that time. Then Sean goes and throws down the gauntlet by suggesting that he and I co-create the character that became Rick Ruby. How could I refuse? So, yeah, it’s all Sean Taylor’s fault. (grins)
AP: The characters that fill the pages of The Ruby Files are classic archetypes from pulp and noir detective stories. What attracts you to these types of characters and stories as a writer and a reader?
Ron: Growing up watching those classic black and white gangster and noire films with actors like James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart, I loved the edge gray world they existed in. Not so much shiny white knights as tarnished souls in search of redemption.
Andrew: They’re real. It’s as simple as that. Often in hero fiction we forget that our stalwart defenders against injustice stare long and hard into the abyss. This affects them, how they think, how they act and their attitudes towards the world they inhabit. Sure, they can often be buried in cliches and stereotypes when written poorly, but they provide a wealth of great opportunities when handled properly.
As a writer, these are characters you can sink your teeth into. You can explore what makes them tick, how they survive what the world has thrown at them. Also the detective tale allows you to shine the spotlight on aspects of the human condition that we all experience in our daily lives to one extent or another.
As a reader, hardboiled fiction works as a kind of ‘what if’ morality tale. We’ve all got that boss we’d like to strangle or that co-worker who screwed us out of that promotion. But we don’t murder them and try to get away with it, do we? Or, maybe we do… why are their sirens outside my door just now?
Also, one does not have to look too long to see injustice in the real world and, sadly, a lot of the time the bad guys get away with it. Hardboiled detective fiction reminds us, in the fictional world, that there are people out there who will catch crooks, find kidnapped loved ones, bring murderers to justice and so on. Hardboiled fiction is great escapist fiction and we all need that sometimes.
William: It’s a simpler world without DNA testing and political correctness, but it’s still modern enough to turn an honest critical eye on capitalism and human nature at its worst. Chandler really laid it all out in black and white in his “Simple Art of Murder” essay – it’s all about the knight errant who rises above the dark streets he walks. That moral complexity hooks you every time. For me, hardboiled detective fiction or noir thrillers are pulp fiction at its purest.
Sean: I still remember with gusto the first time I saw Bogey as Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep and as Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon. Just one cocky line to the coppers, one snarky come-on to the femme fatale, one left hook to a crook’s glass jaw, and I knew I was hooked. (I learned how to whistle too, for the record, thanks to Bogey’s costar, but that’s another tale for the telling.) The addiction only grew stronger when I discovered Stacey Keach as Mike Hammer (in both TV versions, thank you very much), and later, the old radio show and television show featuring Richard Diamond.
There was something about these renegade men that appealed to the kid in me who needed someone not only to root for but to try to emulate. Sure, we all knew that smoking was bad for you and that you shouldn’t treat a lady like sexual property, but when the private dicks did it, it seemed somehow… innocent… as if a mere throwback to an era when it was all okay and kind of, well, expected.
Of course, looking back, I know now it was pure fantasy.
In reality, private detectives seldom got the girl, more often than not got stuck photographing cheating lovers, and rarely got to beat the cops out of any famous murder cases. And they never, ever, ever had leggy dames with curves like the coast of Florida lining up outside their offices for double entendres, sultry seductions and hard-boiled adventures.
Bobby: There’s something so exciting about watching the harried p.i. get in over his head and take his lumps while trying to solve a case he would rather not have taken in the first place, but only did so because he couldn’t resist a damsel in distress, even though every instinct he had told him that she couldn’t be trusted. As a reader, those stories are fun to read. I also love seeing them in TV and movies. Writing them was simply too much fun.
AP: Tell us a bit about your Ruby Files story and some of the challenges or unexpected surprises you encountered in Rick Ruby’s world? Ron, can you give us some insights about editing and publishing this volume?
Ron: I knew going in this was going to be a fun job for me. As each of the four writers were old pros, I had no anxieties their stories wouldn’t be great. It was the range of themes that took me by surprise, from Andrew’s delving into Rick’s past concerning his father’s death in WW I to Bill taking him to Hollywood in the heyday of movie making. Each story was, as cover Mark Wheatley so aptly put it on the cover, a real gem!
Andrew: My entry is called “WOUNDS” and it was an honor to learn that the story would kick off the anthology. It explores to some extent what I was talking about earlier. The characters inhabiting hardboiled tales are often broken but most, if not all, have been wounded in some way. I wanted to explore that in my tale. The character bible sketched out that Ruby’s father had died in WWI and I hit on a way to touch on this in the tale as Ruby tries to hunt down the people responsible for a cop’s murder.
It was a challenge getting into Rick’s head as he was not a character of my own creation. I wanted to do justice to what Bobby and Sean created and stick to their guidelines to the best of my ability. The hardboiled world was one I was very familiar with so I had no trouble slipping into that however.
When I hit my stride on the tale, I was surprised at how easily I was able to tweak some of the hardboiled tropes we all know and love. The result is a tale I hope will feel familiar to fans of this wonderful genre but will also bring something new to the table. Also the ending of the tale is not what readers would call typical for the genre. I wanted my story to hit and hit hard. I pulled no punches. That to me is what good hardboiled fiction is all about. Only readers can decide if I succeeded or not.
One of the big surprises of writing the tale was how many pop culture easter eggs simply dropped into Ruby’s world. They were not intentional but just fell into place while I was writing the first draft. Savvy readers will be able to spot them. Sorry, no hints. But, hey, Easter isn’t that far away. What better time for a little easter egg hunt? Can you spot them all? Happy hunting!
William: My story, “Tulsa Blackie’s Last Dive” is a fish out of water story. We take Rick out of his comfort zone of New York and drop him into the artificial utopia of 1930s Hollywood. We get to see the glitz and the grime underneath. Rick has enough trouble being underestimated at the best of times, it’s even worse out among Tinsel Town sharks.
No real challenges fleshing out the story. I was working with a great character bible and I immediately felt I knew Rick so it was easy enough to drop him into a case in a town where everyone is a fish out of water (whether they’re immigrants or small town dreamers) trying to act like they belong. This was pure pleasure to write. I love THE RUBY FILES and hope the series takes off big for Airship 27.
Sean: My story formed in my head the minute Bobby and I finished fleshing out the character. I saw the tawdry love quadrangle (love square?), the leggy jazz crooning dame to mix up Rick’s thinking, and the way that a man in that kind of situation just needed one little match to set off one heck of an explosion. I couldn’t help but make sure she carried a full box of matches, just in case.
But if you’re asking for specifics, my tale puts Rick in the middle of a defecting German scientist, a worried niece, and a lethal level of inheritance. And that’s never a safe place to be.
Bobby: My story for The Ruby Files volume 1 is called “The Case of the Wayward Brother.” On the surface, the case seemed simple enough. All Rick Ruby had to do was track down the runaway brother of the sexy socialite from California then collect his fee. Of course, in Rick Ruby’s world, even the simplest case is never that simple.
AP: Where can readers find and learn more about you and your work?
Ron: We have a brand new website for all things Airship 27 Productions and we hope our readers, old and new will check it out. Not only that, but register as well. That way they can keep abreast of each new book we release during the year. http://robmdavis.com/Airship27Hangar/airship27hangar.html
William: Well, I have a blog, http://www.setisays.blogspot.com/ that cross-posts my articles for http://blackgate.com/ and archives the articles I wrote for http://thecimmerian.com/ I use Facebook as a free marketing tool rather than social networking so anyone is welcome to befriend me there. Outside of my work, I’m a husband and father and keep that side of my life private from my writing.
AP: And finally, Ron, Bobby, and Sean, what are the future plans for Rick Ruby and his companions? Can we expect a return visit to Belle’s Bar?
Ron: Alan Porter has already turned in a wild and wacky Rick Ruby tale for Volume Two, so yeah, we’re rolling again. Going to be interesting to see what kind of new trouble old Rick gets himself into next time.
Sean: Oh, hell yeah! I’m already hard at work plotting a new adventure to see which sultry dame will turn Rick’s head next and get him in a world of trouble. Readers of the book already know that one of Rick’s regular affairs doesn’t sit well in 1930s society, and succumbing to racial “experimentation” can be the kind of thing than can get a man and his girl killed in two shakes of a lamb’s tale. So yeah, we’re definitely heading back to Belle’s for good times, strong drinks, and fast bullets.
Bobby: I’ve already plotted a new Rick Ruby story called “The Life” that has Rick running afoul of a high-end prostitute who may or may not be more than she appears. It should be a fun time.
THE RUBY FILES PRESS RELEASE: GANGSTERS & GUNMOLLS
Airship 27 Productions dons its tough-guy mantle, as it premiers its newest pulp star in THE RUBY FILES. It was the 1930s and America was locked in the grip of the Great Depression. Gangsters controlled the major cities while outlaws roamed the rural back country. It was a time of Speak Easy gin-joints, Tommy-guns, fast cars and even faster dames. This is the world of New York based Private Investigator Rick Ruby, a world he is all too familiar with. From the back alleys of Gotham to the gold laden boulevards of Hollywood, Ruby is the shamus with a nose for trouble and an insatiable appetite for justice. So if you’ve got a taste for hot lead and knuckle sandwiches, tug your cuffs, adjust your fedora and light up a Lucky, a brand new pulp detective is coming your way.
Created by pulp masters, Bobby Nash & Sean Taylor, Rick Ruby echoes the tales of Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe while offering up his own brand of two-fisted action. Joined by fellow pulp smiths Andrew Salmon & William Patrick Maynard, these modern scribes of purple prose present a quartet of tales to delight any true lover of private eye fiction. This instant classic features a gorgeous Mark Wheatley cover and eight evocative black and white illustrations by Rob Moran.
This is a book that harkens back to the classic black and white Warner Brothers gangster movies that featured James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart and Edward G. Robinson to name a few. The atmosphere is gritty with a no-nonsense hero pulp fans are going to applaud from the first story to the last. And when that last tale comes to a close, you can bet we haven’t seen the last of Rick Ruby, Private Eye.
Airship 27 Productions dons its tough-guy mantle, as it premiers its newest pulp star in THE RUBY FILES.
It was the 1930s and America was locked in the grip of the Great Depression.Gangsters controlled the major cities while outlaws roamed the rural back country.It was a time of Speak Easy gin-joints, Tommy-guns, fast cars and even faster dames.This is the world of New York based Private Investigator Rick Ruby, a world he is all too familiar with.From the back alleys of Gotham to the gold laden boulevards of Hollywood, Ruby is the shamus with a nose for trouble and an insatiable appetite for justice.So if you’ve got a taste for hot lead and knuckle sandwiches, tug your cuffs, adjust your fedora and light up a Lucky, a brand new pulp detective is coming your way.
Created by pulp masters, Bobby Nash & Sean Taylor, Rick Ruby echoes the tales of Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe while offering up his own brand of two-fisted action.Joined by fellow pulp smiths Andrew Salmon & William Patrick Maynard, these modern scribes of purple prose present a quartet of tales to delight any true lover of private eye fiction. This instant classic features a gorgeous Mark Wheatley cover and eight evocative black and white illustrations by Rob Moran.
This is a book that harkens back to the classic black and white Warner Brothers gangster movies that featured James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart and Edward G. Robinson to name a few.The atmosphere is gritty with a no-nonsense hero pulp fans are going to applaud from the first story to the last.And when that last tale comes to a close, you can bet we haven’t seen the last of Rick Ruby, Private Eye.
AIRHSIP 27 PRODUCTIONS – PULP FICTION FOR A NEW GENERATION!
Joe Nazare, author and professor, has begun a celebration of original pulpster Manly Wade Wellman’s JOHN THE BALLADEER stories by posting a series of mini-ballads on his blog Macabre Republic under the title “On the Road with Silver John”!