Edited by Nigel Bird and Chris Rhatigan — Pulp Ink is a collection of short stories with an interesting connection. Each writer was given a line from the movie Pulp Fiction, or the title of a song from the soundtrack. From there, the fertile mind of the author was free to roam. Combined, these stories form a tapestry that is cohesive and yet varied.
There are 24 tales within this anthology, each one exploring something from the seedy side of life. There are hit men, vengeful priests, femme fatales, fetishes, body art, incest and mercy killings. The characters show anger, rage, cold-blooded calm, sociopathic tendencies, greed and lust. For example, in You Never Can Tell, Matthew C Funk crafts a dirty, sweaty story that oozes with setting, anger, and deceit. The author wraps up the tale in slick fashion, giving the reader full knowledge, but never letting his characters off the hook.
Threshold Woman by Richard Godwin is a dirty and sexual story with a thin veneer that draws you into the heat of the players. The entire story is a mood, a feeling, and as such, though it doesn’t resolve, is satisfying. In Jungle Boogie, Kate Horsley weaves a tale of museum theft and ancient gods. The supernatural seeps into the story through imagery, song and dreams in a way that leaves a very real, very gritty story in its wake. Meanwhile, Misirlou by Jimmy Callaway is the shortest novel I have ever read. Each chapter just bursting to action, character and a fair bit of humour. Bronson, Mal and Funk make it all seem to work out – kind of. Sure, it’s not for everyone.
Combined, the collection is riveting, compelling, violent, frightening in places, and touching in others. There are characters to love, hate, fear and root for. Some of the beloved characters come out on top, others don’t do so well. Some villains, or anti-heroes succeed, others meet their fate. These tales roam over the full scope of crime and noir fiction.
In the end, the writers within take inspiring source material, and range far beyond its confines to create a new touchstone of pulp. Anyone looking to understand what’s so great about the current state of pulp, crime and noir fiction should check this out. Questions will be answered.
CFL Rating: 5 stars