Okay, so I’ll admit it. I have a thing for paranormal detectives and their ilk. I love a suspenseful yarn about an erstwhile gumshoe on the hunt for things that go bump in the night. I’m beginning to see a pattern in my reading habits to attest to this: Dresden, Canderous, William Meikle’s Derrick Adams, R.P. Steeve’s Misty Johnson, Carnacki, and last week’s featured detective of the arcane…Craddock. So, when I saw the book cover for Frank Schildiner’s new book (he’s one of four authors to contribute in this book) Ravenwood–Stepson of Darkness, I know I wanted to know more. And I also knew I wanted to talk about it this week (Don’t worry…next week I’ll try to have something a little more down to earth. lol).
Ravenwood…what can I say about this title? Well, let me share with you what the publisher, Airship 27 has to say about it on its Facebook page:
Airship 27 Productions & Cornerstone Book Publishers bring back another classic pulp hero from the 1930s in an all new collection of fast paced, macabre adventures of the supernatural. Meet Ravenwood – Stepson of Mystery!
He is an orphan raised by a Tibetan mystic known only as the Nameless One. As an Occult Detective he has no equal and is called upon by the authorities when they are challenged by supernatural mysteries. One of the more obscure pulp characters, Ravenwood – The Stepson of Mystery appeared as a back-up feature in the pages of Secret Agent X magazine. There were only five Ravenwood stories ever written, all by his creator, the prolific pulp veteran, Frederick C. Davis.
Now he returns in this brand new series of weird adventures, beginning with this volume in which he combats Sun Koh, a lost prince of Atlantis, battles with monstrous Yetis in Manhattan and deals with murderous ghosts and zombie assassins. Four of today’s finest pulp storytellers Frank Schildiner, B.C. Bell, Bill Gladman and Bobby Nash offer up a quartet of fast paced, bizarre thrillers that rekindle the excitement and wonder that were the pulps.
If you like pulp fiction…or are just a fan of really cool paranormal mysteries…this book might just be right up your alley! I know it is mine and I can’t wait to read it.
Recently, I had the great fortune of being to ask Frank some questions about his writing, pulp fiction, and his plans for the future. Here’s what he had to say:
1) Your newest book “Ravenwood: Stepson of Mystery” is a collection of four stories written by yourself and three other writers featuring a very obscure pulp hero from the 1930s. Tell us a bit about Ravenwood the character and the types of adventures he has. Who is Ravenwood? What distinguishes him from other pulp heroes of the period?
Ravenwood: Stepson of Mystery was created by a giant in the field of pulp writing, Frederick C. Davis. Davis wrote characters such as Operator #5, Secret Agent X, the Moon Man as well as many mystery novels under various pseudonyms. Ravenwood was a backup feature in the Secret Agent X pulp and was a unique character for the period. He was an occult investigator who actually used magic to fight his enemies. This was unusual, the common practice was that only villains used mystic powers and the square jawed heroes defeated said wizards by good old-fashioned guts and a mean right cross. Also Ravenwood’s teacher, an elderly Asian mystic called “The Nameless One” was treated with decency and respect, a rarity for the time.
2) What can you tell us about the stories that are presented in this book? Are they short stories or novellas? What are some of the plot elements that readers can expect?
Each story in this current volume are approximately 15,000 words, so I guess that makes them short stories. In my tale Ravenwood is forced to take on another renowned pulp character, Sun Koh the Prince of Atlantis. Sun Koh, for those who don’t know of him, is best remembered as the Nazi equivalent of Doc Savage. Horrific character in my opinion, so I enjoyed making him the stooge of Lovecraftian plots. In other tales in the book, my fellow writers forced the Stepson of Mystery to contend with Yetis, murderous ghosts and zombie assassins. You can expect amazing stories in each!
3) There seems to be a resurgence of sorts in regards to pulp fiction. A number of authors, including Seven Realms’ very own Sean Ellis, are entering the world of pulp with gusto and people are eating it up. What do you think is pulps appeal to people? Why, in such sophisticated times, are pulps becoming popular again?
I think pulp is returning to the minds of readers because it represents a simplicity that we rarely find in today’s fast-paced world. Through pulp one can escape to worlds where the heroes are upright and decent and the villains are twisted and horrible monsters. Today’s books, movies and comics seem to delight in creating a gray area in which hero and villain are similar and are both psychologically damaged. Like many, I’ve grown to dislike this cynical view of the world and have stopped purchasing many writers who promote this point-of-view.
4) A follow up question to that one…if someone has never read pulp and have no interest in it, what would be your number one reason to convince them to give it a try?
I would ask them if they’re tired of reading about how horrible the world is and how heroes are just pathological cases who take the law in their own hands. If so, pulp is the best means to escape that negative direction books, movies and comics endorse these days. The world has enough depressing elements, why would anyone wish to continue these issues in what should be their pleasurable down time?
5) Besides Ravenwood, what are some of the other books and projects you’ve been involved with? Tell us about some of these.
I’m a regular contributor to Black Coat Press’s “Tales of the Shadowmen” series; which is true honor considering the writers who appear in that series each year. My first official pulp was “The Mask of Medusa”, a Secret Agent X tale (volume 3, Airship27) and I also wrote a Black Bat Mystery story for Airship27. One of my proudest works was being chosen by Jay Piscopo to write Commander X in his yearly Commander Xmas online Christmas tales for 2009 and 2010. If you don’t know Jay’s work, I advise all pulp fans to seek him out fast! Also I have an Avenger tale in the forthcoming volume by Moonstone’s pulp line.
6) Who are some of your favorite pulp heroes and why?
Well, that’s a toughie since I have so many, HA! Anyway, Tarzan is one of the greatest pulp heroes of all times and his original tales still thrill me almost 40 years after I first read my first story. Doc Savage and the Avenger are, to me, the truest and most impressive of the hero pulps and I treasure every story they’ve appeared in. Secret Agent X is a joy, a spy styled hero who doesn’t see his job as a tragic and horrible burden, unlike most modern spies. I’d also add newspaper strip heroes that are really pulps in most minds, the Phantom, Flash Gordon, the Spirit and Prince Valiant.
7) You might have already answered this question to some degree in the previous question, but who/what are some of your greatest influences in your writing (in regards to other authors, books, movies, etc.)? Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I draw my inspiration from everything around me. A line from a passerby has been known to supply me with an idea that leads to a full story. It’s an on-going process, one that happens 24/7 to me. As to writers, that’s another huge list; Joseph Conrad, Jack London, Mary Shelly, Bram Stoker, Lester Dent, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert Howard…I could be here days listing authors I grew up reading who changed my world. Current writers I admire and influence me include, Harlan Ellison, Ray Bradbury, Martin Powell, Jim Butcher, Simon R. Green, JM Loffcier, Howard Hopkins, Win Scott Eckart, Jay Piscopo, Ron Fortier, Patrick O’Brian…the list goes on and on…
8) What projects might we be looking for in the future? Are you working on anything now?
Forthcoming works are an occult gangster story which will be printed by Tommy Hancock’s Pro Se Productions and a comic universe I’m co-creating with Jay Piscopo called “The Last Dominion”. That world is filled with obscure and forgotten public domain comic heroes from Centaur and Nedor and will be a real joy to those who aren’t enjoying the current comic worlds.There’s also a few stories out there awaiting publication, Pulp Tone has a mystic tale set at the time of Henry V’s England and I have feelers out in a few other areas.
9) And finally, the question I always ask of all the authors I feature…if you could give just one piece of advice for aspiring writers, what would it be?
Be open to advice and help! New writers often develop what I call “Harlan Ellison Disease” in that they throw a tantrum if anyone wants to edit their work. Well, there’s only one Harlan Ellison and he’s a genius. The rest of us need to be open to editors and learn from those already in the business. I learned my best writing lessons from Ron Fortier, Joe Gentile, Howard Hopkins and Jay Piscopo, all of whom edited works of mine and taught me how to be a better writer. I’m grateful to all of these gentlemen and made it clear to each I appreciated the time they invested to teach me the craft of writing. It’s the best lesson I can give anyone who wants to be a writer!
Thanks Frank, for the great interview! I wish you the very best of luck with Ravenwood and with all of your writing endeavors!
And to my reader friends, if you want to check out Ravenwood for yourself, click on this link and help support the pulp writing community! http://stores.lulu.com/airship27