Cleveland author John C. Bruening brings vintage pulp fiction to life – on the page and in a talk this week
CLEVELAND, Ohio – CLEVELAND, Ohio – John C. Bruening is a child of the 60s, a teenager of the 70s.
But it wasn’t “Star Wars” or Atari that made the biggest impression on the Cleveland author growing up.
Thanks to his father, Bruening grew up reading the pulp fiction of the pre-WWII era, blacks and adventure tales and westerns and aviation tales that captivated previous generations.
“My father was born in 1929, six months before the stock market crash, his childhood was marked by the Great Depression and then the war,” says Bruening. “He’s read all the adventure classics, Kipling, Dumas, Edgar Rice Burroughs, cowboy stories. He was really in love with all this type of entertainment.
“Flash 40 years old and I’m a kid from the 70’s. I was in tune with my generation, but also plugged into the popular literature of the generation before me. At the age of 19 or 20, I knew so much more about this stuff than the kids of my generation, if they did. ”
So when writer South Euclid, who worked as a journalist and technical editor, in marketing and publishing, felt the urge to try his hand at fiction, it was the gripping tales of his childhood – and of that of his father – who inspired him.
“I’ve been writing for decades,” says Bruening. “I felt like fiction was the last frontier, the one thing I hadn’t done but really wanted to do.
“When I felt compelled to write fiction, I was really taken in by these adventure books and stories from my father’s time. … We were at a low point in the 1930s. This is the kind of global adversity that the heroes come from. It inspired me. It didn’t hurt to have grown up reading comics too.
Bruening’s first novel, “The Midnight Guardian: Hour of Darkness” was published in 2016. It’s the dashing tale of Jack Hunter, a promising Union City Deputy District Attorney who fights crime and corruption with superhuman help. It has found a national audience thanks to events such as the Pittsburgh PulpFest and very positive reviews from Amazon.
“He’s a lone hero facing impossible obstacles in life, where the stakes are incredibly high – that’s what I love about Pulp,” says Bruening.
It was published by Flinch Books, a freelance publisher that Bruening started with Toledo writer Jim Beard in 2015. In addition to publishing his own works, Flinch has helped keep pulp fiction alive with several science anthologies. fiction, horror and adventure.
Bruening’s second book, also located in Union City, was published by Flinch in July, “The Midnight Guardian: Annihilation Machine”. Set in 1936, the second in the series shows that Jack Hunter must once again appeal to his alter ego for help as the Nazis and other Fifth Columns settle in Union City.
Bruening will celebrate the release with a discussion of the Golden Age of Pulp Fiction at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, October 9 at The Bookshop in Lakewood, 15230 Madison Ave., 216-221-5222.
In addition to talking about his new book, Bruening plans to take guests back to the days of the “glory days of sleuths and ladies, secret agents and saboteurs, mad scientists and mysterious men” as he discusses magazines, books and authors who defined the pulp genre – and influenced modern popular culture so much.
“I plan to talk about the many genres that the literary form includes, crime and science fiction and westerns and adventure and aviation.
“At the time, it was mainstream popular fiction, published mainly in magazines printed on raw paper and aimed at a working-class audience. In the 1920s and 1930s, it was the main source of entertainment.
The appeal of pulp fiction is enduring, Bruening says.
“These stories were originally intended for an audience seeking escape, an audience of the Depression era struggling with difficult times. There wasn’t a lot of social analysis or commentary in these books.
“People are always on the lookout for escape stories like this. While we don’t have pulp magazines on newsstands today like 80 years ago, writers like Clive Cussler and James Patterson are the direct descendants of pulp fiction.
Bruening plans to return to Union City for a few extra pounds. “I think of three more in the series,” he says. “I want to go back to the days of WWII, so I don’t know what the next step is. But as long as people keep showing interest and buying, I’ll keep writing.
“The Midnight Guardian: Annihilation Machine” is available in The Bookshop, Mac’s Backs, Loganberry Books, The Learned Owl and Amazon.com. In addition to the October 9 event at The Bookshop, he will appear at the Indie Author Conference & Showcase on Saturday, October 12 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Cuyahoga County Public Library (Parma-Snow branch).
Ahead of his talk at The Bookshop, Cleveland author John C. Bruening shares some of the must read for more on the genre.
The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett
Dashiell Hammett’s third novel, initially serialized in five parts (September 1929 to February 1930) in Black mask, a popular monthly magazine specializing in detective fiction, then published in book form in 1930. The Maltese Falcon marked the first appearance of Sam Spade, the private investigator that Hammett went on to feature in some of his short stories. Spade is one of the earliest examples of what eventually came to be known as the hardened sleuth: wise, cynical, quick-witted, quick, gifted with a gun, and capable of throwing a punch (and d ‘take a few too). Some of the supporting characters are based on Hammett’s experiences as an agent for the Pinkerton National Detective Agency several years earlier (1915-1922).
Monkey Tarzan, Edgar Rice Burroughs
Monkey tarzan was originally published (in its entirety) in the October 1912 issue of All the story magazine, then published in book form in 1914. It is the story of a baby, John Clayton II, born to noble parents stranded in the jungle of West Africa following a shipwreck. When the parents are killed, the child is adopted by a mother monkey and raised in the wild. As he grew older, his combination of physical prowess and heightened intellect earned him respect for the animal kingdom and many human tribes on the African continent. Burroughs had virtually no formal training as a writer, but his natural sense of frame, rhythm, and overall storytelling make it Monkey tarzan one of the great adventure stories of the 20th century.
The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps: The Pulps’ best crime stories during their heyday in the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, edited by Otto Prenzler (2007)
A collection of short stories (and two feature films) from some of the best writers of the time: Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Erle Stanley Gardner, Cornell Woolrich, Carroll John Daley and many more. Organized and compiled by a New York-based publisher who is considered the world’s foremost authority on crime, mystery, and thriller, this massive volume is divided into three sections – The Crimefighters, The Villains, and The Dames – each. with its own introduction by the editor.
Fighting Crime One Penny at a Time: Pulp’s Great Heroes, Ed Hulse (2017)
An informative compilation of articles from the pages of Blood ‘n’ Thunder, a long-standing quarterly magazine published by Ed Hulse, veteran journalist, pop culture historian and avid pulp collector. This volume focuses on the great “mysterious men” of the original pulp era: Doc Savage, The Shadow, The Spider, The Avenger, The Black Bat and other swashbuckling vigilantes who fought crime outside the conventional parameters of law and served their own distinct brand of righteousness. In addition to analyzes of the key characters and stories in which they appeared, the articles also give a behind-the-scenes look at the writers and editors who brought them to life during the Depression and WWII.
Pulp Culture: The Art of Fiction Magazines, Frank M. Robinson and Lawrence Davidson (2001)
There’s a fair amount of historical text here, but the biggest selling point with this oversized book is the excellent pulp magazine cover art reproductions. The images are colorful, dramatic, kinetic and yes, at times a bit sinister, but all of them evoke an era of high-energy escape fiction. This will appeal not only to readers and writers, but also to artists and illustrators.