I am in the middle of editing a manuscript that I really like. It's fast-paced, with a good lead character, some well-defined supporting people, and plenty of twists and turns. It's a mystery, but it's pushing into the thriller category.
I just hit the halfway mark and it hit me: I'm editing pulp, and I'm loving it.
I can't say I've ever made a study of pulp. A quick scan of the Internet shows me that there are sites devoted to worshipping it. Just from some fast reading, I think the term originated with magazines and short stories (alas, a dying art due to lack of a market, or marketing), but I think we can safely say that some of the mystery greats proudly and unapologetically wrote pulp.
The thing is, pulp is fun. The in-your-face hero(ine), the exotic setting (often of the seamy underbelly variety), the plot turns, betrayals, and dramatic deaths: These elements combine to tell a good story that keeps the reader turning the pages.
I've heard the term "pulp" used dismissively, but I think that's a mistake. Maybe the stories (novels) are a little over the top, but the pulp I like is well written and nicely executed. There's a spareness to pulp that prevents a book from seeming padded or overstaying its welcome. In the manuscript I'm editing, I'm marveling at the way the writer has kept the pace going, chapter after chapter, with no flights of fancy, no self-indulgence (well, maybe a little, but that's getting edited out), no literary aspiration. And I'm having a lot of fun with it.
I realize that a lot of the writers I've recommended here on Mysterious Matters in recent months, including people like Wallace Stroby, are a bit pulpy, in the best way. Of course, when this particular book gets published, I doubt we'll use the word "pulp" anywhere in the publicity. The connotations, I think, are just too old-fashioned and would cause the mass market to dismiss it with condescension.
But I'm having a renewed appreciation for pulp... and wanted to share it.