A few months back, I ploughed through Jungle Street by Don Elliott. Elliott (the pseudonym of SF master Robert Silverberg) wrote numerous smutty novels (such as Escape To Sindom, Sex Gang and Party Girl), the kind which once flooded the market with their lurid pulp covers of half-naked buxotics either frolicking with strapping young men or running from them.
Having only read Jungle Street, I am only marginally informed as to the levels of sex in his work, but I found the book to be tamer than expected, particularly as this vintage ‘70s edition came with a label from the Victorian Government on the front warning me about the lascivious and possibly moral-corrupting content within. I enjoyed the hell out of it, I must say, in a real guilty-pleasure kind of way, and got to wondering what happened to this kind of fiction, this kind of tough guy pulp softcore, where boobs bounce mightily under tight sweaters and amoral male protagonists get as much action, literally and figuratively, as possible.
Anthony Neil Smith (All The Young Warriors) just put up a great blog at the Blasted Heathens site, where he likens his e-reader to a Pulp Machine. Discussing the good ol’ days of classic pulp novels and comparing them to now, he says:
“Those books made reading feel subversive and dangerous, even if it was just the packaging in some cases. And I’m getting that feeling now, I’m sure. Ebooks have tapped into that same energy. The critics can rage, call it a fad, call it non-serious, call it an affront to literature, call it all sorts of vile shit, but the readers don’t give one flying juicy fuck about any of that. They like reading this way.”
Neil’s a smart guy. He’s also on to something. I’ve got my sandwich board painted up already:
The New Pulp Onslaught Is Coming.
Johnny (Dove Season) Shaw’s got Blood & Tacos about to debut, a quarterly pulp homage to tough-guy fiction of the ‘70s and ‘80s, for example. And then Christa Faust (Money Shot, Choke Hold, Hoodtown) sends me her new e-book, Butch Fatale, Dyke Dick: Double-D Double Cross and, hallelujah, the Pulp Machine theory is in full bloom.
It would be really easy to dismiss Butch Fatale as just some silly piece of smut after the first chapter. Roberta “Butch” Fatale gets a saucy new client, a flame from her past (appropriately named Diversity), and before you know it, the strap-on is strapped on and here we go. It’s pretty much a primer for what’s to come: this butch dyke fucking lots of chicks, a cornucopia of female flesh that Faust (noted fetishist herself) has built for, one suspects, her own amusement as much as her readers’, in ways that would likely make Don Elliott turn beet red. But don’t be fooled — each one of these characters in this female-dominated fuck-fest is different from the last, is well-drawn, well-rounded (pardon the pun), and with her own personality. There’s a remarkably large supporting cast at work in this book and one wonders how Faust found the time to cram them all in between the sex. Aged film noir starlets, high class call girls, cops, ex-army chicks, each finds a home in the book and each is her own person.
Truly though, come for the sex and the fascinating dames and stay for the plot. We are dealing with an author nominated for the holy trinity of The Edgar, Anthony and Barry Awards, after all. Christa Faust knows her shit. There’s way more going on there than sex toys and massive expanses of cleavage. Butch, investigating the disappearance of her ex-lover’s new lover is drawn into a neat little web of a plot that features not only the characters listed above but also a very dangerous Armenian watch maker and his goons. Sure, it’s silly but it’s a lot of fun and it’s funny and that’s pretty much the point.
And then there’s Butch herself – daughter of an ex-boxer, herself an ex-cop, she walks around with a swagger and a giant libido but also a big heart and a loyalty to her friends and lovers. The argument could be made, I suppose, that with Butch being so butch, it defeats the purpose of having a lesbian PI as a lead as we are in many ways dealing with a male headspace. But with the scrapes she gets into, no lipstick lesbian would really be up to the task. Butch must be tough, fearless and eager to fuck – there’s no other way a book like this could work. If you took out all the sex, maybe, but the Pulp Machine needs sex. Plus if you did take it all out, it would just be yet another PI novel, and we have enough of those as it is, thanks very much. This is an updating of the Don Elliott model by way of Supervixens, just with the sex upped to 2012 levels and a female with a ravenous appetite for pussy in the lead instead of a male.
If you’ve ever heard Christa talk at an event, she’s often roped into discussions of sex in books and how much she hates what she calls the “cut to the billowing curtains,” where we have all the mushy build-up to the sex, but then we cut to the next scene before we see anybody get penetrated. I’m not sure if Butch Fatale was created in reaction to this, but the book is no piece of self-indulgence. It’s well-crafted, populated with a dizzying array of characters, has an intriguing mystery built into it and delivers exactly what it promises – more in fact – and I hope we get more adventures of Butch and her flesh-filled world in the future.
+Cameron Ashley lives and works in Brunswick, Australia. Aside from the local bar staff who know him too well, he toils away in obscurity on numerous pulpy projects, including Crime Factory. He lived in Japan from 2003-2006 and still works through his bizarre bi-polar love/hate (mainly love these days) for the place through his column at this site. Join him as he works it all out.