In the world of literary fandom, there are people who love H.P. Lovecraft, J.R.R. Tolkien, Isaac Asimov and the other greats. It’s because each of those authors contributed greatly to their respective genres that they are loved so dearly. They have built characters and concepts that have stuck with us for generations. They have set forth some simple ideas and rules that later authors have expounded upon, magnified and even warped.
Sometimes these new authors hit it big. And sometimes those authors toil along in relative obscurity. Sure, everyone would love to rake in piles of cash for their writing, but for most writers? Well, they don’t care about that. They just want to share their love of a particular setting or genre.
And it’s people like that who kick-started a genre that’s been dubbed “New Pulp.” This genre attempts to resurrect interest in stories of heroes and villains from the pulp era — Doc Savage, the Spider, Domino Lady and Fu Manchu — by creating brand new stories of brand new heroes and villains.
These new stories mimic the harsh tone of pulp stories. They have similarly lurid plot lines. The heroes are tough. The dames are gorgeous and the villains are down-right dastardly.
A few of the New Pulp producers snag characters in the public domain. Others offer really interesting work that tries something totally new. And then there are the ones who take interesting tidbits from their favorite pre-existing characters and assemble the parts into something of their own design.
In 2007’s The Adventures of the Scarlet Shroud,” creators Chris and William Carney, give us just that: A new hero based on older heroes.
Part Green Hornet and part Shadow, The Scarlet Shroud is really Alaxander Holt, an assistant district attorney in New York City. He takes the law into his own hands, righting wrongs that he feels are out of reach of the police and the court system. He’s assisted in his battle by his expert driver/pilot, Takeshi, and Miles Hawkins, a clever inventor and chemistry expert. The Scarlet Shroud is both wanted and respected by the police for his vigilante activities. He’s also hounded by reporter Hannah Salem and detective Michael Alphonse, both of whom always seem to be close to discovering his secret.
Inside this 174-page book are four stories containing three Scarlet Shroud adventures. The fourth story is different, offering a snapshot of the day-to-day activities of the main characters.
Each adventure in the Wild Cat Books tome pits the avenger against a different villian: One is the modern embodiment of Spring-Heeled Jack, another is a man wrapped in a lightning-throwing suit and the third features a madman eager to bend the city to his will.
Through it all, the stories of the Scarlet Shroud feature gobs of action. Barely a page goes by without someone getting punched, shot at, burned alive or tortured. In that sense, “The Adventures of the Scarlet Shroud” is a perfect embodiment of the New Pulp movement: Action, action and more action.
At the same time, the book exposes another weakness of some of the newest entrants into the genre. The writers struggle at times to use the right words in their prose. Elsewhere, they offer repetitive descriptions of action and settings that should always seem fresh. These are hallmarks of a writer who hasn’t the time, interest or expertise to spot their own failings and revise their work.
Still, the Carneys have a good grasp of dialogue and an impressive sense of pace. Readers will also come off with a good feel for the characters and the motivations that drive them.
Along with co-writing credits, William Carney offers a multitude of illustrations that set the scene for every story. While he’s not a perfect artist and needs to brush up on anatomy, he has some skill in his pen and certainly has an eye for composing a good shot.
In the end, “The Adventures of the Scarlet Shroud” manages to entertain and keep the action rolling along on every page. It has some flaws, but fans of the New Pulp genre don’t really seem to mind.
They just want to see some fists fly, and they sure do in “The Adventures of the Scarlet Shroud.”