Personal blog - and temporary home page until new website is finished - of writer, editor and graphic artist Christopher Mills

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Joy of Paperback Pulp

So, I was talking to my pal Martin Powell – a prolific and talented writer of long acquaintance – last week, and our meandering, long distance conversation was passing the first hour mark when we wandered into the realm of 70's paperback pulp fiction.

It was then that Martin brought up a series that I had been vaguely aware of – mostly through intriguing Captain Company ads in the back of Warren's Eerie and Creepy magazines – the "Dracula Horror Series" by Robert Lory.

Published by Pinnacle Books, legendary home of such 70's paperback pulp "aggressors" as Don Pendelton's The Executioner, Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir's The Destroyer, and a well-armed militia of lesser heroes (The Butcher, The Death Merchant, Nazi Hunter, The Penetrator), the Dracula Horror Series hearkened back to the more bizarre pulp fiction of the Thirties – but with a decidedly Seventies' flavor.

The premise was insane.

A wheelchair-bound scientist and his Puerto Rican ex-New York cop assistant travel to Transylvania, where they revive Count Dracula with the intention of using the Lord of Vampires as their agent in a war against evil. They figure to control the Count by surgically placing a mechanical implant into Dracula's chest that, should the fiend defy them, will drive a sliver of wood into his heart. The scientist has an implant of his own – if his heart should stop beating, it will send a signal to activate Dracula's.

They succeed, and over the course of the series Dracula is pitted against giant vampire bats, voodoo masters, satanic cults, Elizabeth Bathory(!) and other forces of evil, while constantly scheming to free himself and take his revenge upon the crazy crime fighters.

Well, before Martin had even finished expressing his enthusiasm for the series, I'd already ordered copies of the first two volumes from online used book dealers.

I received the first book, Dracula Returns!, yesterday and finished it this evening. It's utterly ludicrous, but incredibly entertaining. "Robert Lory" (or whatever his real name was) is a solid wordsmith, who manages to keep the pace brisk, the characters interesting, and the wild, left-field story elements coming one after another. His handling of Dracula is interesting – thousands of years old (not just a few hundred), physically imposing, and despite his predicament, imperious, arrogant and commanding.

It's cool stuff, and although reminiscent of some of the odder hero pulps of the 30's, very much a product of the early 1970's, with the overriding theme that it takes evil to battle evil, and the danger of that evil turning against the ones controlling it.

The books aren't easy to find, and kind of pricey (especially with shipping costs added on), but I think I'll probably try to collect all nine books in the series. It's not often that I find pulp fiction as bugnuts fun as this.


Charles Gramlich said...

I've not even heard of this series but it sounds right down my alley. I'm gonna check it out.

Michael May said...

A) I'm getting these. That sounds AMAZING.

B) It totally makes sense that you know Martin, but I didn't know that. I don't know him well, but I see him at all the local conventions and try to chat with him whenever I do.

Bill Spangler said...

FWIW, this series was one of the ones packaged/promoted by Lyle Kenyon Engel. I just googled the name and I can tell you for sure that he packaged the John Jakes Kent Family books. I'm not sure about these other ones, but I think he packaged The Baroness, a Modesty Blaise rip-off, and the Richard Blood books, which, despite the name, was a sword & planet series, I think.

Bill Spangler said...

Now that I've thought about it for a few minutes, I think the sword and planet guy was Richard Blade, which makes a bit more sense, FWIW.

NoelCT said...

"Robert Lory" (or whatever his real name was) ...

In a time of rampant house names, Bob Lory was not only a real person, but he's still alive and well and has his own blog.

Glen said...

This is actually a very fun series. I have several books in it, and while they're trash, they are at least fun trash.

Curt Purcell reviews the whole series over at Groovy Age of Horror.

Ian Sokoliwski said...

You know, if you are going to do some sorta Dracula as a crime fighter concept, the crazier that you make it, the better!

I should look around and try to snag some of these!