29 August 2009

Pulp Lives On: Review of Havana Nocturne

I'm a fan of Pulp. Not hugely the original Pulp stories, but of the larger genre and time period.

So when is the Pulp Era?

Some folks have it pegged to the Roaring Twenties with Prohibition, gangsters, barnstorming pilots, and Lovecraftian horrors. I'm more of a fan of the 1930s, with nefarious Nazis, flying boats, and a touch of desperation.

However, I was pretty sure when the Pulp Era ended, August 6, 1945. In one moment, the world of super-science became very real, the mysteries of magic were surpassed, something of the raw adventure of the world passed away.

Except it didn't.

T.J. English makes a very good case for the survival of Pulp in the streets of 1950s Havana. Fabulous show-girls, mobsters, corrupt politicians, partisans in the hills, con-men...it's all still there, without the freeze of the Cold War insinuating itself. The place feels like it would've been a perfect setting for a 'two-fisted' adventurer to continue his adventuring ways after a stint with the OSS.

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09 August 2009

More Heroic Poles: Review of The Polish Officer

The Polish Officer The Polish Officer by Alan Furst

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I had read one Furst novel before, The Foreign Correspondent. I was happy to find this volume as good as that one.

Furst's style is the most noticeable part of his work. Many scenes feel more like an impressionist painting than a photograph of historical events. A times this works very well, as in a scene describing a duel between a British Beaufighter and German anti-aircraft gunners over a Belgian port. At other times it feels a bit overly lyrical, like the repeated invocation of the blue-painted streetlights of wartime Paris. On at least on occasion, I found myself completely lost as to the meaning of a scene because of Furst's elliptical prose.

I've always been interested in WWII, but for the past few years, I've found myself increasingly drawn to the plight of Poland and her soldiers in the war. This has even gone so far as portraying one such character in a role-playing game. I'm not sure what this says about me, but I now wish I had read about Furst's Captain DeMilja before I had tried to portray a character with much the same background.

Interestingly enough, both my 'Captain Poland' and Furst's Captain DeMilja faced the same literary threat. What end can a hero have when facing such unsurmountable odds as Poland faced throughout WWII? Furst leaves the question unanswered, leaving his character adrift in a hostile world on the borders of Poland, Ukraine, and Byelorussia still fighting what we can only hope is the good fight.

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