The Major was a prolific, creative writer, visionary, editor and publisher. In the process of putting together his story I am continually amazed at the scope and amount of work he produced in different genres over the course of his life. Everything from low-brow comic strips to graphic representations of classic works and in the pulp genres—adventure stories with heroes of every kind–soldiers, spies, medieval knights and cowboys not to mention the serious non-fiction. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a writer and the writing life as I’ve been putting the pieces of his life together.
The romantic picture of the lone author struggling in the garret to get the words out is a cliché but bears an element of truth as evidenced by some of the writers featured in John Locke’s artful and witty book Pulpwood Days, Vol II. However, there is also an ongoing exchange among all the writers I know and it’s not anything new. Of course there are always the petty jealousies and contretemps here and there but that’s all part of the fun in my opinion. You can’t have consistent kumbaya moments with creative egos but for the most part people support one another’s work, encourage, give advice and open doors. One of the pleasures I have in this work is the friends and colleagues who have supported me throughout in very genuine ways. Every single one of the writers I’m featuring in this post have encouraged me and provided me with a lot of information and help in my journey to bring to life the story of my grandfather, Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson. I’m pleased to present some of their latest works.
It’s fitting and I’m sure not a coincidence that Brad Ricca’s book on Siegel and Shuster arrives on the scene at the same time as Man of Steel. Obviously someone knew what they were doing and thank goodness for that. Brad’s book, Super Boys is a well-researched and well-written book on Siegel and Shuster and the creation of Superman. I first met Brad when he contacted me about 5 years ago after the Major was inducted into the Eisner Hall of Fame. Brad teaches at Case Western in Cleveland and had recently completed a documentary on Siegel and Shuster called Last Son. We had an immediate rapport and decided to work on a project for San Diego Comic Con with a panel on Siegel and Shuster. I respect Brad’s academic understanding and methods of research besides his being a good pal and a very creative guy. He knows his stuff and he tells a good story. I especially appreciated the time he took to include the Major as part of the story and made sure it was accurate. You can find the book on Amazon here.
William Patrick Murray or Will is renowned in the Pulp world as well as comics. He’s been researching and writing about and for popular culture for beaucoup years and doing it well. Everyone I spoke to about the pulps kept telling me to get in touch with him and when I finally mustered up the courage I found him enormously helpful and generous with his research. Will is an expert in many pulp genres especially Doc Savage, The Shadow and so much more, there are just too many books to name so here’s a link to his page on Amazon. His Doc Savage audio books with Radioarchives are very popular and can be found here. Altus Press who does a beautiful job with their books under the able direction of Matt Moring is publishing Will’s latest book Wordslingers: An Epitaph for the Western. Matt by the way, carried away the Munsey Award last year at Pulpfest 2012 in Columbus, Ohio. Matt is a smart, enthusiastic guy and just the person you would want as your publisher. Knowing Will and Matt’s work I’m really looking forward to reading this book.
I can’t quite remember how Kirk Taylor and I came across one another. He’s a lovely man and has such a passion for his work. He introduced me to the legendary Jay Lynch and the two of them with the Wesley Morse family along with the Topps Company and Abrams as publisher have put out a really fun book, Bazooka Joe and his Gang. The cover of the book is a genuine wax wrapper just like the bubble gum! You can find it here on Amazon. Jay is an amazing artist with a long career in underground comics like the famous Bijou Funnies and he illustrated for Topps as well. Kirk was naturally drawn to this world through his design work and he has a fascinating connection with Wesley Morse, the original artist of Bazooka Joe that will soon be its own book. We’ve spoken often about our respective projects and I’m excited for him and looking forward to what comes next.
I’ve mentioned Tom DeHaven quite a few times prior to this as he is one of those writers other writers speak about with a slight tinge of envy. His writing is so sharp and clean and evocative. Everyone who knows his work raves about it. He has many books to his credit which you can find here on Amazon. He interviewed me for his book on Superman, Our Hero: Superman on Earth, a terrific book that you might want to get to go with your Man of Steel adventure. His latest project is a blog, Cafe Pinfold and knowing Tom it’s going to be consistently wonderful. I encourage you to check in.
I began with John Locke’s book at the beginning of this piece and I’ll end with it. I had a tiny bit to play in doing a final proof of the manuscript and I fell in love with the book. It is such an evocative portrait of the writing life on “grub street.” John has an independent press, Off-Trail Publications and I finally got the double entrende through reading Pulpwood Days Vol II. He has published a number of beautifully executed reprints of the pulps with his meticulous and apparently boundless research. You can find some of them here on Amazon and also on the Off-Trail Publications page on Facebook. He has been one of my best resources for everything pulpish and I couldn’t have gotten as far as I did without his able assistance. More importantly John is a such a good writer with a wonderful droll wit. Pulpwood Days Vol II is a collection of autobiographical writings by pulp writers of various genres with John’s additional histories of their lives and careers. There’s nothing else like it out there and if you’re interested in what John calls “hardboiled writing stories” this is the perfect book for you. I love the cover, which contains a mystery. It appears to be an innocent setting for the writer’s work. However, revealed inside the volume we learn of the dangers of the pulp writing life and how this specific setting plays a part. It sets the tone for the unexpectedly dramatic stories in the rest of the book. See why I love the pulps? The piece as a whole is incredibly inspiring in spite of much of the difficulties of the writing life that are a part of the picture. It’s a great read and anyone who loves writing and the writing life will enjoy it.
In spite of the cold water garret–and my grandfather had his share of those moments, which unfortunately his family often shared–he continued to write every single day. Ultimately, I think if you’re a writer, you just can’t help yourself and we are all the lucky recipients of these wonderful writers’ labors. Enjoy.