Keeping it Pulpy

I’ve made a conscious effort over the last year or so to keep much of my reading grounded in what is typically labeled as “literary” fiction, something I’ve avoided over the years. When I was reading a ton of short stories last year I realized more literary work was getting the job done for me than the genre stuff was. I hit a patch where I was reading so much crime fiction that I was getting pretty burned out on it. It all started feeling interchangeable to me. So I backed off. I’ve also made an effort to get back to reading more nonfiction (something I went several years reading almost exclusively).

I still like a healthy dose of the stuff I love most, though: pulp. Action/adventure stories. Blood. Guts. Mayhem. To that end I usually have one or two books going at the same time, just to keep the enthusiasm up. This weekend I finished a couple great reads in time to make room for a couple more. I figured I’d mention them here.

Under the Ember Star by Charles Allen Gramlich

Charles is a friend of mine who you will see comment here now and again. He almost single-handedly led me back to reading Sword & Sorcery stuff after I read his story collection, Bitter Steel, a couple years ago. Ember Star is science fiction. This is the review I wrote on Amazon for this book:

There is a lot packed into this Gramlich novella. The world building is excellent; much depth of history, interesting cultures, and an intriguing premise. It is a fast-paced pulp sci-fi romp of the highest order. The book is very cinematic, and I mean that as a high compliment. I’d love to see more stories written here. Hell, I’d play this setting as a video game or RPG. There just seems a ton of stuff that could be done on the world of Kelmer. Here’s to hoping we’ll get to see more, particularly featuring our heroine, Ginn Hollis!

Commando: Operation Bedlam by Jack Badelaire

Another one from a guy you’ll see comment here now and again. This is the follow-up to Jack’s first Commando novel, Operation Arrowhead. I’ve read them both, and really enjoyed them. These are WWII adventure novels, something I had essentially no history of reading. Here are the reviews I threw up on Amazon for the two of them:

As I was reading this book, I realized that, outside of some flashbacks in Captain America comics, I hadn’t read any WWII fiction since reading THE GUNS OF NAVARONE back in high school. I had a great time reading this, and I’ll certainly be back for more. This is guns blazing, never-a-dull-moment action adventure stuff that I love to spend time with on those occasions when I simply want to be entertained. A couple strong characters take it above the usual fare, and I’m eager to read more adventures from this crew. (Arrowhead)

I thoroughly enjoyed Badelaire’s first COMMANDO novel, so much so that when the opportunity to read this one came along it vaulted to the top of the TBR pile. I wasn’t disappointed. I’m no scholar of WWII, certainly, but these books read like Baudelaire has certainly done his homework. The detail on the weapons, the settings, the equipment . . . they all contribute to putting the reader right in the thick of the action without feeling like the author is pulling one of those, “Hey, look at me and how much research I did!”-style information dumps. I appreciate that. The stories are fast-paced, no BS, all-out action. Which is exactly what I want from a pulp novel. The fact that I get more than an average amount of character development doesn’t hurt. Nice work. Can’t wait for the next one. (Bedlam)

What’s next? I’ve had In the Clear, Black Fields of Night by Chad Eagleton queued up for a while. I really enjoyed the original A Rip Through Time story that David Cranmer (yes, another commenter here; see a theme going, by chance?) from Beat to a Pulp put out, and I just haven’t gotten to this follow-up yet. That’s about to change. Hell, I’ve read a bunch of the stuff Cranmer has put out, and there is a bunch I have yet to read as well. All well worth checking out.

Finally, Blood & Tacos #4 is out. This is a must-read, folks. You can get it for free from the official website, or buy it from Amazon. Lots of cool stuff happening in the B&T world as well; I urge you to check it out. And I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you that it’s never too late to get B&T #3, which includes my story, “Blood and Sweetgrass In: This Rez is Mine.”


Author: Chris

Chris La Tray is a writer, a walker, and a photographer. He is an enrolled member of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians and lives in Missoula, MT.

11 thoughts on “Keeping it Pulpy”

  1. I know what you mean by burning out and stories becoming interchangeable. Believe me I know! I usually read a lot of non-fiction memoir pieces to keep the palate revved. Stuff recently has been Josh Stallings, Charles Bukowski, and Hunter S. Thompson.

    1. I have that Josh Stallings memoir. I’m eager to dig into it. Have a couple other great NF things looming on my immediate horizon as well. Never a dull moment . . . that is what makes reading so friggin’ awesome, eh?

  2. I am not much of a fantasy reader, but the little bit I’ve read by Charles, I’ve enjoyed. I also liked the instragram photo on the side of the BNSF train, nice!

    1. Thanks. In recent years I haven’t read a lot of fantasy or sci-fi either, but I am rectifying that lately. There are just a ton of great stories out there.

  3. I’m a little more than halfway through Ember Star. Excellent novel. All your comments are spot on, and I’m really enjoying it so far. If Ed doesn’t check back here, Chris, have him drop me an email some time if he’s so inclined.

          1. Thanks for checking it out, and reviewing it. Gramlich deserves the attention. You’ve barely scratched the surface of the guy’s output too.

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