How Books and Movies Relate and the story of B. Chris Bell and his fantastic Tales.
- C. Bell (My friends call me Chris) Crime, Horror, Science, Pulp!
- Chris Bell is the author and creator of the series TALES OF THE BAGMAN, the story of a 1930’s Chicago racketeer turned Robin Hood. Volume three, THE BUTCHER BACK O’ THE YARDS is the latest. Bell has written over a dozen pulp hero adventures, ranging from THE AVENGER to SECRET AGENT X. His book BIPOLAR EXPRESS, the story of a madman trapped in a post-apocalyptic Chicago, made the Horror Writer’s Association reading list for 2012. Bell lives with his wife in Chicago and is currently shopping a novel-length Weird Tale around.
* I deal in Crime, Horror, Science, and Pulp Fiction.
I had a background in journalism, placed second in a writing contest over at SFReader.com in 2007, and, since “nothing’s less than second best,” I kept writing. I wrote a short story for a magazine that quickly folded, and I had a manuscript on my hands. While I was looking for a market, I ran across Ron Fortier who was really just beginning Airship 27, a “new pulp” publisher. I think they had three or four books at that time, now I think they may have around a hundred. I knew Ron’s work from his stint writing THE GREEN HORNET, and that was my introduction into the world of New Pulp. Since then, I self-published BIPOLAR EXPRESS, an SF story featuring the mentally ill. I’ve worked with a few different publishers, and been lucky enough to learn while I earned. When I was a kid, I remember reading DOC SAVAGE adventures and thinking, “Wow, wouldn’t that be cool to be a pulp writer, but I’ll never have the chance because the pulps don’t exist anymore.” Strangely enough, I got the opportunity to do it. I write genre stuff that’s not necessarily pulp, but that pulp influence is always going to be there.
(This is a vintage PD cover)
BU: So, Chris, what’s new in your world? In other words, what is your current project?
BCB: That Weird Tale I’m currently shopping around is called THE WATCHDOG ON THE BORDERLAND and is inspired by William Hope Hodgson’s classic horror novel THE HOUSE ON THE BORDERLAND. It’s a world with more than one dimension, where every conspiracy theory is true, and ancient ways prove to sometimes be more effective than modern science, because we’re dealing with the physics of time, space, and a bunch of misfit precogs.
I’ve also just finished a modern version of THE PHANTOM DETECTIVE for PRO SE PRESS I’m excited about, and I hope readers can enjoy that. I just felt like he was the perfect pulp character to bring into the modern age, what with our present- day boredom mixed existential angst. And, he had a Bat-signal before Batman! (*Take that, Batman!).
BU: Wow! That is quite the impressive resume. Writing is not easy, and becoming published even more so! How do you do it?
What has been the thing that drives you?
I would love to know what your process for working that out in your head is? Or could I be snuffed if you told me? *smiles?
BCB: The writing is the thing. “Through it, through it, always through it,” like Conrad said. I hope I can offer original thoughts on old subjects, and write pulp with some history in it, too, but I also want to do things that are new. I think that’s the mission for a writer. To keep writing, and improve on every project.
BU: As a once inspired writer, I would completely agree with that. It’s not always easy to, however.
So, what are you working on now?
CB: Right now, I’m editing a piece, but it looks like I may start writing a Texas Terror Tale in the next few months, before the next Bagman book. Meanwhile, there are notes for four different short stories sitting right next to me, so there’s always something to be working on.
BU: But, Why Pulp?
CB: I could write essays on this question and have been thinking about it for my own blog. There are a lot of reasons. Back in those ancient days when comics were 20 or 25 cents, I was one of those kids who rode his bike to the 7-11 every Saturday with his allowance. I started reading about comics, the history, learning about the forties, then the thirties. That, and the reboots of Doc Savage and The Shadow led me to the library and the bookstore where I discovered the early history of genre fiction. Being fascinated by pulp heroes led me to hard boiled crime, horror, weird tales, science fiction, and even the history of the western.
Pulp was always exciting. You drop a bomb on the floor, send your character running, and define him on the way, or you start mild until a universe cracks. Everything is bigger and more powerful, and the things that don’t stand out like Supermen are never mundane, they’re insidious and deadly. Pull the reader in, keep him hanging till the end. The was fast and by no means polished, but it ranged from minimalist hard boiled to over the top bug-eyed monsters. But, yeah, it all started with comics.
So, I started out collecting comics, paperback books began collecting themselves and I can’t resist picking up old, original pulps when I can. Needless to say, while my collection’s not that large, you hang onto things long enough and they become worth something. So, yeah, I use your paperback book bags, and could have used a lot of comic book bags back in the day. And, any pulp magazine out there should be bagged and well-preserved.
BU: What influence did the old films have on your writing? (Not everyone writes PULP stories these days).
CB: When I was a kid and cartoons were over in the summertime, the dialing for Dollars movie came on in the afternoon, and I was a committed viewer. So, as a kid in the seventies, I was already learning about the first thirty years of sound films. From that I learned about giant eyeball monsters, Spy Smasher, Sam Spade, Zorro, for a kid like me it was educational. I’ll never forget as a kid walking into the room and my big brother was watching White Heat on TV. I walked into the room and said, “What are you watching?” He didn’t answer he just said, “Watch this.” Next thing I know Cagney is locking a guy in the trunk of his car. The guys says, “I can’t get any air.” So, Cagney starts shooting holes in the car. I knew that was wrong. I knew Cagney’s character was evil. But, damn, how can you not be interested by that!”
BU: HA! I LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I wish everyone was as easy to work with, but I suppose that comes with your writing abilities as well as your personality.
I hope you keep writing and the makers of films use one of your stories to make a movie! You have all the ingredients necessary.
BU: Pulp has a deep and rich history. It’s not as well known by those born after the 1980’s but prior babies are fairly familiar with it.
BU: I once asked the question “What is Pulp?” and I received a deluge of answers that went on for about 3 days. *It also incited a few heated debates, so I now refer to it as the “Dirty P Word”.
I think what people love about Pulp fiction is, as Chris said, it brings up memories of the old GANGSTER MOVIES about racketeering and the mob. I mean, who can forget The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre? It was a blood bath and I think one of our first real glimpses in to what crime was in the day. This stuff wasn’t made up, but it certainly became the thing some movies were made of!
Pulp Fiction has always been meant to incite an emotional response. A big one. The more recent movie PULP FICTION certainly did exactly that. But it’s different from other detective, murder mayhem type movies…. its almost got its own scripted details written in by proxy.
The Ingredient list might go something like this:
Mysterious, seductive female
Old School Detective
- Chris Bell: Seems to be able to add those and then some. A 21st century old school, fresh content Pulp Fiction Writer.
“…be there, or miss out on the invention of the greatest new American pulp imagination at work in decades!!!!”
–Keith Allan Deutsch, Publisher Black Mask Magazine
Click here to purchase from his Amazon Author Page.
Pulp Fiction Books clearly influenced both writers and movie directors. Here is a small list of some of the Pulp Fiction classics that have influenced film makers, including Quentin Taratino.
- Pulp Fiction was provisionally titled Black Mask in homage to the pulp magazine launched by H. L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan in the 1920s.
- In a 1994 interview with David Wild, Tarantino spoke on how J. D. Salinger influenced the anthology format of Pulp Fiction, “When you read his Glass family stories, they all add up to one big story. That was the biggest example for me.”
- Charles Willeford, best known for his hardboiled novels featuring Hoke Moseley, is another influence Tarantino has gone on record to acknowledge. In a 1994 interview with Manohla Dargis he said of Pulp Fiction, “It’s not noir. I don’t do neo-noir. I see Pulp Fiction as closer to modern-day crime fiction, a little closer to Charles Willeford, though I don’t know if that describes it either. What’s similar is that Willeford is doing his own thing with his own characters, creating a whole environment and a whole family. The thing that is so great is that those f***** characters become so real to you that when you read each new book and you find out what’s going on with his daughters and his old partner, they’re almost like members of your own family.”