cover image Dead on the Bones: Pulp on Fire

Dead on the Bones: Pulp on Fire

Joe R. Lansdale. Subterranean, $40 (296p) ISBN 978-1-59606-747-9

Needing to “dig directly into that pulp well in my head,” Lansdale (the Hap and Leonard series) unleashes eight tales of two-fisted action that invoke the spirits of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard. Heroes (“determined”) and villains (“evil-faced”) square off in exotic locales (Venus, Mars, east Texas). One is pursued by an ice shark through a lost Martian city while on a humanitarian mission (“King of the Cheap Romance”); another reenacts the revenge plot of Hamlet, this time with zombies (“Dead on the Bone”). Estate-authorized pastiches (“Tarzan and the Land That Time Forgot”) nestle next to authentic genre mash-ups that pit Poe’s detective Dupin against Lovecraft’s cosmic horror (“The Gruesome Affair of the Electric Blue Lightning”) or put murder victims literally on ice (“Naked Angel”). Lansdale downplays (but can’t entirely escape) the blatant racism and sexism of the original pulps, so the weeping heroines can be powerful warriors too. Readers who succumb to the adolescent charms of straightforward storytelling with a twist of noir will be entertained, but despite or because of Lansdale’s fondness for the pulps, his voice is muted here, and even his fans may not be enthralled. (Dec.)