The Smack: An Interview with Bobby Nash
May 16, 2016
A TERM IS GETTING TOSSED AROUND quite a bit lately in the world of Genre Fiction by writers of such. Everyone from Stephen King to James Patterson has used a particular descriptive appellation in the last few years to define certain stories and novels that have a particular style, a quick pacing, a rough and raw delivery combined with creative usage of language, all peopled with larger than life, sometimes over the top characters.
Yes, a week hardly goes by that someone doesn’t refer to some tale as being ‘Pulpy,’ harkening back to the fiction made popular in cheap pulp paper magazines of the early 20th Century. And it’s also becoming increasing popular for creators and companies to refer to what they are doing as ‘New Pulp,” as if it is something they simply decided to do and might be the sole proprietors of, the singular source of a resurgence, a revitalization in a style of writing that was simultaneously adored by millions while being ridiculed as ‘lower class’ and ‘crude’ and ‘poorly written’ by a literary elite functioning out of an imagined superiority. And even though usage of these terms makes my heart happy, being a fan and creator of such things, myself, there’s a couple of things to discuss.
First, Pulp never went away. The way that such greats as Hammett, Asimov, Heinlein, L’Amour, Dent, and many others wrote survived the end of the Pulp magazine itself in the mid 1950s and simply became something that many used in writing books, radio, TV, and films. The style has always been here, just under the radar, just under the surface, and largely, still the most popular style of storytelling amongst the aforementioned millions.
Secondly, New Pulp’s been around for quite a while, too. Some would say that it started just as the Classic Pulp era ended, that moment when Pulp moved from being a medium to being a style and people started turning out in not only other formats, but in their garages and basements in fanzines and in stories they continued submitting to the few fiction magazines that survived. Even if You use that date, however, New Pulp has come into its own, made its own mark in the last several years. And not simply from one or two organized origin points.
New Pulp is alive and well today in a variety of ways. Many authors and small press publishers united under the banner of ‘The New Pulp Movement’ about five years ago, giving a loose definition to what Pulp is as a style and cross promoting the work they were doing. Others simply started referring to themselves as writing New Pulp and carved their own niche. Regardless of how it came to be, New Pulp is most definitely a living thing, something that is growing and expanding, especially with writers of note hitching their stars to its wagon.
Welcome to The Smack, a weekly column devoted to introducing you to writers of Pulp today, both the individuals and the works they pen. Although, as stated previously, there are writers of great fame and notoriety that might qualify or even call themselves Pulp writers –and don’t get me wrong, if King, Patterson, Clive Cussler, or other such dropped me a line to be included here, I wouldn’t argue.
The Smack will focus primarily on the legion of writers who consider their work to be New Pulp that readers may or may not be aware of. Some will be names many recognize, others will be names whole crowds of fans have never heard of, but that will hopefully change because of their time under the single light bulb of The Smack.
A special thanks to author and friend Paul Bishop for the title of this column. According to Paul, The Smack was slang used by Los Angeles police in the 1940s for interrogation. Seems to fit really well for what we hope to do here.
And now, onto the first author to be subjected to The Smack: Bobby Nash.
Bobby Nash is a writer of definitely great talent, and perhaps one of the most humble creators one might ever meet. Approaching his career much as he seems to approach life, Bobby appears to enjoy writing wonderful tales of action and adventure as novels, short stories, comics, even web series, and tackles the crafting of high tension, fast paced fiction with an easy, laid back style.
“I’m Bobby Nash,” he opens with, “and I make stuff up for a living. Now, I wouldn’t call myself a compulsive liar or anything, just a writer. I write novels, comic books, short stories, graphic novels, screenplays, blog posts, you name it. I love creating stories. It’s one of my favorite things to do. I’ve sold a few of those stories to publishers over the past dozen years or so. Despite myself, I even managed to win a few awards along the way, gotten to travel, and met some incredibly amazing people as a result. I was born and raised in Georgia, where I still reside, although the wanderlust does claw at me from time to time. I’d love to live by the ocean, but I’m going to have to sell a whole lot more books to make that happen.
To list Bobby’s works to date would probably take an article all its own. “Here’s one,” says Bobby, “I hear about me a lot so I’ll use it. “Bobby Nash is a prolific writer.” Translated, that means I write a lot. I don’t have an accurate count at my fingertips, but I have somewhere around a hundred published, or soon to be published stories floating around out there. Some aren’t so easy to find these days, but they still count.”
Bobby is most definitely considered by many, including himself, to be a writer of New Pulp. So, with that in mind, he gets a question many such writers get, simply, ‘What is New Pulp?’
“New Pulp,” Bobby answers, “is one of those terms that has been debated and argued ad infinitum since the term was coined. I don’t claim to have the definitive answer, but to me, New Pulp tells me that I’m in for a pull no punches, take no prisoners story that will be action-packed. When I’m writing a New Pulp story, that’s what type of story I tend to tell so that works for me. Of course, we could probably easily point out a few exceptions to that that still fall under the New Pulp banner so, as a definition, it’s broad and open to interpretation, but this is what works for me. I like to jokingly say on panels at conventions that New Pulp is like porn. I know it when I see it.”
Like most, if not all writers of New Pulp, Bobby is very aware of the heritage behind the term. Millions of readers in the early 20th Century made Pulp Magazines the best selling periodicals for much of the era, and led to Pulp transitioning into a style of writing. And Bobby sees readers today finding New Pulp appealing for the same reasons as those original fans of Pulp.
“I think the same things that drew readers to pulp back in the day is the same thing that draws them now. They’re looking for an escape, a good read, not too long, not too short, but just right. Although it can, most pulp doesn’t try to deliver a moral lesson every time, unless you want to use “crime doesn’t pay” because pulp heroes usually take down the bad guys. If you put an interesting story, well-written, with a cool cover in the hands of a reader, you can transport them away from their everyday lives for a short time. That is an incredible power and responsibility to wield. When someone reads one of my stories, it is my job to keep them entertained, engaged, and sometimes infuriated during the reading of it.”
Being a writer who dances between genres like Fred Astaire, Bobby has had the opportunity to pen New Pulp tales featuring his own creations as well as classic characters from the original Pulp Magazines and other sources, including The Avenger, The Green Hornet, The Domino Lady, Sherlock Holmes, and characters from the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs among others. And as a writer, Bobby enjoys working with both types of concepts.
“I like writing both, for different reasons. Creating new characters and new series is fun and allows me to create something for me. Writing pre-existing characters is also fun because they have a history and, in most cases, a built in audience.”
That existing audience is something that many New Pulp writers are well aware of. Many are concerned about the target group for Pulp Fiction being too small to support any writers or publishers that exist, especially since writing New Pulp has grown in popularity in the last several years. Bobby is as aware of this as anyone, and believes that Pulp holds characters and stories that are just waiting for their day in the spotlight.
“Pulp is a niche market,” Bobby says, “in that those who know about it and follow it is a small group. I certainly think that many of the characters in the pulp vein could reach a wider audience, especially in today’s market thanks to genre books, comics, TV, and movies being as popular as they are right now. Domino Lady, The Spider, The Avenger, Secret Agent X, and their ilk are just as valid as characters like captain America, Superman, Batman, Black Widow, Agent Carter, and Wonder Woman. They just haven’t reached that wide audience appeal yet. Will it happen? I don’t know, but I think it could happen.”
One issue that seems to be prevalent among fans of Pulp Fiction, particularly of the classic tales and characters, is how modern writers handle characters originally debuting in the magazines of the early 20th Century. In the world of the internet today, many devotees of classic Pulp have expressed that New Pulp writers often take characters from the golden age of Pulp Fiction and completely change them, or at best, mishandle them in ways these readers just don’t care for. Even in a niche market like Pulp, there are those who believe that characters from the past should simply stay there, unless the new stories are completely and totally faithful to the existing canon.
Having written several New Pulp tales of many classic Pulp characters, Bobby has come to be identified as one of a few writers contributing substantially to the New Pulp legacy of a rather interesting classic character – The Domino Lady – who has been a center of controversy for some fans in her New Pulp appearances. Some fans have been quite public about their dissatisfaction with the overall treatment of the heroine by modern writers, some of them stating that some of the new stories simply feature the Domino Lady as a slut in a mask. Bobby takes issue with this generalization, as he is not only a writer of the character, but also a fan of The Domino Lady as well
“I fell in love with Domino Lady when I read the original stories as research for my first story that appeared in Moonstone’s Domino Lady: Sex As A Weapon anthology. In only speaking for my Domino Lady stories, I try very hard not to make her a slut in a mask. She has a lot more depth and character. Does she enjoy sex? Yes. Does she flirt to get things done? Yes. Is she above showing some leg or cleavage to keep her enemies off their guard? Not if it gets her closer to her prize. Is she a slut? Not in the least.
Domino Lady, as I see her, is a very intelligent, driven woman on a mission in a time when she was told she could not be an intelligent, driven woman. Instead of fighting that societal way of thinking, she found a way to use it to her advantage. Ellen Patrick played up the stereotype of the flighty socialite and she made it work for her. No one ever suspected the none too bright Ellen of ever being able to hurt anyone., but it did get her access to the best parties, which in 1930’s Hollywood, was where most of the criminals could be found. That access, along with the notes she would send to the bad guy of the story detailing exactly what she was going to do to them were ways she outsmarted these men who all believed they were smarter than “some girl.”
“I did not,” Bobby clarifies, “create Domino Lady. When I first wrote the character I used what had come before as a template. It is not my job to reinvent Domino Lady. I am there to tell new stories with the character so that’s how I approach writing her adventures. The sexuality was there from the beginning. It is a part of her character. Ellen Patrick’s drive to see criminals brought to justice also remains. Unable to save her father’s life at the hands of powerful men who thought they were above the law, untouchable, she has made it her mission to stamp out the corruption that has infected the city that she loves. The only avenue open to Ellen Patrick in 1930’s Hollywood was to put on a mask and skirt the law to see justice done. In many respects, she is no different than Batman or Spider-man and how many different romantic relationships did they have over the years? More than Domino Lady would be my guess. So, no, I do not write her as a slut in a mask.”
Bobby’s ability as a writer has definitely allowed him chances that many Pulp authors would be, and are likely envious of. In 2015, Bobby wrote a graphic novel adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ At The Earth’s Core, something that was definitely both a dream for him as well as an interesting challenge.
“Edgar Rice Burroughs,” Bobby says, “is a much beloved author and has a very loyal fan base who knows his work backwards, forwards, and sideways. It was very important to me and my partners, Jamie, Michael, and Patrick that we told the graphic novel adaptation of ERB’s At The Earth’s Core as respectfully as possible. After all, we were telling Edgar Rice Burroughs’ At The Earth’s Core, not Bobby Nash’s At The Earth’s Core. Cutting parts from the story for the adaptation is tricky because that part, which is cut for space, might be someone’s favorite part of the novel. I tried to be very respectful of the original novel, including using dialogue from the original as often as I could. Thankfully, the vast majority of the feedback we’ve received has been positive. ERB fans have enjoyed the book and I am very proud of it. Jamie and I are currently prepping a return for Pellucidar.”
Bobby Nash, simply put, owns being a New Pulp writer. Able to move from straight up thriller writer in such works as Evil Ways to a dyed in the wool Pulp scribe in something like The New Adventures of the Green Ghost, Bobby is at home in every Genre he dips a toe into. And even though the stories are different and the genres range across the spectrum, Bobby’s handle on story structure and ability to tell tales in a variety of ways stays consistent each time and makes him one of the most solid New Pulp writers out there.
As Bobby himself put it so eloquently, “If you would like to take a look at any of my work, please head on over to www.bobbynash.com and look around. No cover charge for anyone who reads this interview.”