The term ‘pulp’ comes from the cheap wood pulp used to print the inexpensive fiction magazines first popularized between 1896 through to the 1950’s. During this time a typical pulp magazine consisted of 128 pages on paper 7 inches wide by 10 inches high with raged, untrimmed edges.
The term pulp fiction became synonymous with run-of-the-mill, low-quality literature. They were the successors of the penny dreadfuls and dime novels, known for their lurid, exploitative and sensational subject matter. Many contained stories of superheroes, such as The Shadow, Flash Gordon and Doc Savage.
Frank Munsey’s Argosy Magazine of 1896 is seen as the first pulp fiction publication with 192 pages and no illustrations, even on the cover. It combined cheap printing, cheap paper and cheap authors in a package that provided affordable entertainment to young working-class people. In six years, Argosy went from a few thousand copies per month to over half a million.
Next on the market was Street and Smith, a dime novel and boy’s weekly publisher with The Popular Magazine in 1903, boosting 194 pages. It’s success was increased when they serialized Ayesha by H. Rider Haggard in 1905. His Lost World genre influenced many key pulp writers including Robert E. Howard, Talbot Mundy and Edgar Rice Burroughs. In 1907, 30 pages were added to each issue, the price increased by 15 cents and a stable of established writers proved successful. The next innovation was introducing specialized genre pulps within each issue. Popular titles were monthly, many were bimonthly and some were quarterly.
The peak of popularity was in the 1920’s and 1930’s with the most successful pulps selling up to one million copies per issue. Although, by that time there were some 150 pulp titles, the most successful were Argosy, Adventure, Blue Book and Short Stories., collectively known as “The Big Four”.
Primarily and American publication there were also a number of British pulp magazines published between the Edwardian era and World War II. These included the Pall Mall Magazine, The Novel Magazine and The Story-Teller.
Pulp magazines began to decline in the 1940’s, due to paper shortages during the Second World War, when smaller and thicker magazine publishers began publishing paperbacks, comics and digest-sized novels and the heavy competition from comic books, television, and the paperback novel.
When the primary distributor of pulp magazines, American New Company liquidation it was seen as the end of the pulp era. By that time many of the famous pulps were defunct, leaving a few specializing in science fiction or mystery in the digest size format.
Today’s prompt is two-fold. Firstly, a theme: A Fall Walk and secondly, words to include: bird, wheel, envelope.
Here is my response:
Gerald replaced the letter into the envelope, folded it in half and pushed into his jacket pocket. With a scarf wrapped tightly around his neck to keep the fall chill from creeping in, he pulled on gloves and his heavy hiking boots.
“I’m just popping out for some fresh air, Martha.”
“All right, dear, the soup will take about two hours, so don’t go too far.”
Gerald tutted under his breath. Martha always had a schedule and woe betide you if you didn’t keep to it. He called back as he exited the warmth of the house and entered the golden hued avenue.
“I’ll be on time, Martha.”
With determined steps, he walked along the treed avenue focused on his destination. Turning a corner a bird flew upward from its foraging in the leaf litter startling him.
“Silly bird!” he turned to follow the bird’s flight path and tripped. Stumbling with hands outstretched to save himself. One hand became entangled in the wheel of a bicycle and Gerald and the rider crumpled into a heap on the verge.
“Oh my God! I’m so sorry. I tried to stop when I saw you falling but wasn’t quick enough. Are you okay?” The young man’s voice was tense with worry.
“Just a bit shocked. Although, I think I may have hurt my hand.”
“Let me see. Can you take off the glove?”
Gerald pulled at the woollen material and winched.
“Oh, that doesn’t look good. I’m going to call an ambulance.”
“It’s just bruised, an ice pack will suffice, I’m sure.”
“Well you will have to do that quickly. I should come with you to make sure it is not more serious. I’m a doctor.”
Gerald looked at the young man- how can you be a doctor? You look as though you’re in high school. Not wanting to be rude, Gerald kept his thoughts to himself.
“I live just up here. It’s not necessary to come – really.”
Gerald let the doctor accompany him home. Martha, of course, made a huge fuss. The envelope’s content would have to wait another day.
Mystery literature deals with the solution of a crime or the unraveling of secrets. Any scenario that is kept secret or remains unexplained or unknown.
The most common scenario for this genreusually involves a mysterious death or a crime to be solved. It focuses on a closed circle of suspects, with each suspect having a credible motive and also reasonable opportunity for committing the crime. A detective is the main character, who will eventually solve the mystery by logical deduction from facts fairly presented to the reader. However, sometimes mystery books are non-fictional. “mystery fiction” can be detective stories but the emphasis is on the actual puzzle or suspense element with its logical solution revealed later, such as in whodunit’s.
Due, in part, to the lack of true police forces prior to the 1800’s, mystery fiction was unheard of. Many towns only had constables or a night watchman at best. As populations grew in towns and cities, police forces were institutionalized, and detectives employed – thus formulating the mystery novel.
The most famous mystery sleuth was of course Sherlock Holmes. The novels and subsequent movies and TV shows have delighted audiences for generations.
Do you write mystery novels?
What or who is your favorite mystery sleuth story?
I’m too excited to wait so I’m posting this event now! My fellow author pal, Eva Blaskovic and I are having a joint book signing on 8th July at Audrey’s Books, Jasper Avenue, Edmonton 12:00 – 1:00 pm. Everyone is welcome!
Come and see our new and improved novels, get your book signed and ask us questions on the stories or our writing process.
On today’s post I am reflecting the post I put onto the above group with the added bonus of an excerpt. The novella is actually two stories in one, the story of Guillem’s adventure and the tale he relays to the King’s court.
Bio: Mandy Eve-Barnett resides in Alberta, Canada but is originally from England. She is a multi-genre author and freelance writer and lives and breathes the written word and creativity in all its forms. She is the Secretary of her local writing group, the Writers Foundation of Strathcona County, and President of the Arts and Culture Council of Strathcona County.
Mandy publishes regularly on her blog – http://www.mandyevebarnett.com – where she has built a thriving writing community – sharing tips, news, interviews, and excerpts. She has published three children’s books and her adult novella, set in medieval England, The Rython Kingdom. She has also co-written a guide to memoir writing. Currently working on four manuscripts Mandy is never happier than writing and creating imaginary worlds.
Link to excerpt of The Rython Kingdom https://mandyevebarnett.com/my-adult-books/
The Rython Kingdom – Chapter One
“He’s coming! He’s coming! Guillem Ruet is here!”
Guillem smiled at the group of children running beside his horse as he rode toward the castle’s drawbridge. Dirty and barefooted, these youngsters would not be lucky enough to hear his newest tale, first hand. That pleasure would be for the inner court alone. It was a strange and most complex tale and all the more mysterious for being made of a dream.
Shouts of his approach preceded him, thrown from one person to the next across the dirt track and woven among the shacks lining it. The summer heat had denuded the earth of moisture; dust swirled around his mount’s hooves, creating a cloak of fine grains behind them, shrouding rider and horse. Ahead, the King’s standards lay limp against their poles high above on the castle turrets; thin strips of coloured cloth obscuring the lion head emblem of the king. More children, and some adults, ran beside him, eager to witness this famed troubadour first hand. The talk among the courtiers and peasants alike had been of his arrival and little else for many weeks.
As Guillem entered under the portcullis, it brought back memories of returning from battle years previously. Conquering heroes were showered with flowers and rewarded with grand feasts and warmed by many a maid. Serving as a knight in his younger days, Guillem had been admired for his prowess in battle, but now he was even more revered as a troubadour. His tales of battles and faraway lands held audiences spell bound as he punctuated them with displays of swordsmanship and the exhibiting of combat scars. So popular was Guillem that a feast or festival without his presence was considered incomplete. Fierce competition between lords kept Guillem’s purse and belly full as he traveled from one borough to the next, shamelessly attending whomever paid the highest fee. His new life fulfilled his wander-lust. Being confined to one place filled him with dread as did faithfulness to just one maid. Why restrict yourself to one when there were so many to pick from – all willing to bed the famous knight and troubadour?
Word had reached him a month prior notifying him the king himself requested Guillem’s presence at court. It was an honor to be bestowed with such a command and Guillem did not hesitate to comply. Not dallying at Lord Suffolk’s seat; as was his usual habit. Normally, he would take advantage of the many benefits afforded him but, this time, he packed his saddlebags the very same night and set off toward the king’s domain at daybreak. Several requests for his presence had made it to his ears as he traveled but each was declined in favor of an audience at the king’s court. Once it was common knowledge the king had requested Guillem to speak, Guillem knew he would be able to use it to increase his fee.
Ahead of him now was the sovereign’s castle keep with sentries standing at both sides of a stairway leading up to massive oak doors. The excited crowd jostled for position to get closer to Guillem and perchance to touch him or his fine mount. A herald sounded his trumpet as Guillem dismounted. The shouts died away as all eyes centered on the keep’s massive doors. They slowly opened. All knees bent and heads bowed as the regal figure of King Henry was revealed, resplendent in deep purple robe and golden crown. With measured steps, King Henry descended the stone stairs.
“Welcome, Guillem Ruet, your reputation precedes you. My courtiers and subjects have talked of little else but your arrival for these many weeks. Come and drink ale with me. You must be weary from your journey.”
Guillem bowed deeply again then handed his horse’s reins to a saddle hand, who was fidgeting beside him. As the boy led his mount away, Guillem could hear the lad’s excited whisper to the surrounding crowd.
“Look, look, I have his horse to care for.”
Careful to remain a step behind, Guillem followed his King into the castle’s dark interior. The huge stone blocks prevented the heat of the outside world from entering. Guillem shivered involuntarily. I should have taken my cloak out of the saddlebag before releasing my horse into the care of the boy. Then another thought struck him and he turned to see his horse being led away on the far side of the courtyard – he had not secured the small box. He had promised a mysterious old man he would not let it leave his possession and now it was in the hands of a young stable lad.
“The fire will warm your bones, Guillem. Is something amiss? You seem anxious?”
“Thank you, Sire. I relinquished my cloak without thinking but I also forgot to retrieve a certain object.”
“Do not worry, Guillem. I will have your saddlebags brought to your room presently. If there is anything missing I shall deal with the culprit myself. But for now….” The King raised a hand to summon a serf, “Stephen, a robe for our guest.”
A young man appeared from the shadow of a stone column and presented Guillem with a thick woolen robe. Its heavy warmth felt pleasing. Serfs opened an inner door as the King approached and allowed the two men to enter the great hall. Long oak tables flanked the centre aisle below a raised platform where the King’s ornately carved table and throne stood. Following his sovereign’s lead, Guillem walked toward the roaring fire at the far side of the huge room. Its radiant heat was welcome in the cool interior of the castle.
“Sit with me, Guillem, you will soon warm. Bring ale, Stephen.”
“As you command, your majesty.”
The serf had moved so silently that Guillem jumped when he responded to his master’s command.
“Guillem, why do you start so?”
“Sorry, Sire – I was unaware of your serf’s presence; gave me a bit of a shock when he spoke.”
“Not so surprising, Guillem, we call him Silent Stephen. He seems to glide instead of walk, although to watch him you cannot see any difference from any other man’s stride.”
“Strange indeed, my Lord, is he born of a witch?”
“Actually no, Guillem, his mother was a maid to my mother. He has grown up within these walls and knows no other life than to live and serve here.”
The Rython Kingdom is available as a print book at http://www.dreamwritepublishing.ca/retail/books/rython-kingdom
Also available as an ebook from all Amazon, Smashwords and Barnes and Noble.