Thoughts on Beverly Cleary

By Jonathan W. Sweet

She lived a good long life, but I’m still sad to hear of the death yesterday of Beverly Cleary at 104.

I was asked for a recent virtual appearance to name five authors that inspired me, and she was one of the five. On its face that might have seemed surprising as the others were closer to what I write: Lawrence Block, Robert B. Parker, Max Allan Collins and Stephen King.

But when I started writing as a kid, it was Beverly Cleary who I first tried to mimic. I still remember reading Mouse & the Motorcycle, the first “red spine” book I read from the school library. (Books in our library at Windsor Elementary were sorted by color with red being the most difficult.)

I thrilled to the further adventures of Ralph S. Mouse, eagerly devoured the tales of Ribsy and Henry Huggins, laughed at the stories of Beezus and Ramona. She wrote about kids like me and the kids I grew up with and made me want to write about them.

As a parent, I got to read them to my kids, some of the first chapter books we read together. I can remember reading Ribsy to my daughter and her being afraid to finish it because she was worried Henry’s dog wouldn’t make it home.

It’s a testament to her skill as a writer that I didn’t even realize until I was an adult that some of those books had been written 30 years before I was reading them myself and more than 50 years before I was reading them to my kids.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I feel like it might be time to break out that battered copy of Dear Mr. Henshaw.

Dead Ball garners Pulp Factory nomination

We’re proud to announce that “Dead Ball” by Jonathan W. Sweet has been nominated for Best Short Story in the 2021 Pulp Factory awards honoring the best new pulp.

“Dead Ball” is the first story featuring the Red Jackal, a new pulp hero. It was originally published in Minnesota Not-So-Nice in 2020 and is also included in the 2021 collection, Enter the Jackal.

While nominations come from the members of the Pulp Factory, a professional association of pulp writers, artists, editors and publishers, final voting is open to anyone at this link.

Pulp Fiction Reviews on Enter the Jackal

Ron Fortier, via his Pulp Fiction Reviews website, has given Enter the Jackal a rave review. Enter the Jackal is the first book in a planned series featuring The Red Jackal.

This is New Pulp scribe Jonathan Sweet’s plunge into the wonderful world of masked avengers and with this first volume he lands a perfect ten. Not only is the Red Jackal done in the classic hero style, Sweet’s stories move at the appropriate speed keeping the action moving super fast from page to page.

Read the full review here.

Zorro creator Johnston McCulley 1883-1958

February 2

Zorro creator Johnston McCulley was born on today’s date in 1883 in Ottawa, Illinois. McCulley was the author of hundreds of stories for the pulps and the creator of numerous masked characters.

McCulley is one of the many writers featured in The Beginner’s Guide to Pulp Fiction.

McCulley introduced Zorro in The Curse of Capistrano, serialized beginning in the August 9, 1919, All-Story Weekly. McCulley would write dozens of stories, serials and novels about the hero through the 1940s. Zorro would inspire movies, television shows, radio dramas and more.  

One of his most long-lived characters was Thubway Tham, a pickpocket with a lisp (yes, really), who appeared in more than 100 stories from 1918 to 1960 in various publications. Mostly played for humorous effect, the stories find Tham stumbling into larger criminal enterprises as he tries to go about his lesser criminal business.

Another of McCulley’s series characters was “The Black Star,” a gentleman criminal who first appeared in “Rogue for a Day” in the March 5, 1916, Detective Story Magazine. He is always seen in a black cloak and a black hood. The Black Star appeared in 16 stories or serials over the next 15 years.

McCulley created numerous other characters as well. The Spider (not to be confused with the later hero of the same name) was a master criminal featured in a series of stories in Detective Story Magazine in 1918 and 1919. This Spider was a chair-bound cripple, running his criminal empire from his “Spider’s Den” in a large mansion.

The Crimson Clown was a modern-day Robin Hood in the 1920s and ‘30s that dressed in a red clown suit, appearing in Detective Story Magazine. He also created The Man in Purple, another short-lived Robin Hood-type character, this time dressed all in purple.

McCulley lived to see his most famous creation conquer multiple media, including the iconic 1957 Disney TV series. McCulley died in Los Angeles in 1958 at the age of 75.

January 1940: The Green Ghost Detective Debuts

The Green Ghost Detective made his debut with the January 1940 issue, of The Ghost Super-Detective 81 years ago.

The Green Ghost is one of the many hero pulps included in The Beginner’s Guide to Pulp Fiction, Volume 1.

The Green Ghost Detective magazine lasted just seven issues, but went through three name changes in its short life.

Better Publications (better known as Thrilling) launched the magazine in January 1940 as The Ghost Super-Detective. It held that name for just three issues before spending one issue as The Ghost Detective. The magazine was known as The Green Ghost Detective for its final three issues.

The Ghost/Green Ghost was George Chance, a magician who used his skills to fight crime. As The Ghost, he dons a mask with a pale white (or green) face, dead teeth and lifeless eyes. The early stories are recounted in first person, a rare choice for the hero pulps, and are credited to Chance as the author.

The Ghost was created by G.T. Fleming-Roberts, who wrote all of the novels and short stories. (There was also an unrelated “Green Ghost” written by Zorro creator Johnston McCulley in Thrilling Detective in 1934-35.)

After The Green Ghost Detective was cancelled in the summer of 1941, the character appeared in six additional stories in Thrilling Mystery.

Some of the stories have been reprinted by Altus Press and Adventure House, while Airship 27 has printed new adventures of George Chance.