I finished another Gardner Fox historical earlier this week, and it was a cracking good one. Any of you who love a good Harold Lamb swashbuckler would have seen some familiar features, enough that I couldn’t help thinking that Fox must have read some Lamb. That’s fairly likely, actually, given that Lamb was one of the most popular writers in one of the two magazines best known for historical fiction (Adventure and Argosy — Lamb wrote primarily for Adventure).
As a matter of fact, the whole thing read rather like an R-rated version of a Harold Lamb Crusader story. So you get the gritty, tough, man-at-arms, but you also get some far racier moments that happen on-screen. That sword he’s holding, by the way… you don’t get much of that, because our protagonist’s preferred weapon is a spiked ball on the end of a chain with which he’s frighteningly proficient.
You’ll note that there’s a lovely blonde woman on the cover, and you don’t get much of THAT, either, because the romantic lead is a Persian Princess.
We finally slid away to catch Wonder Woman this weekend and it was far better than I expected. Some people talked about rough dialogue and others complained about special effects (I never understand that, really – how do those people get by when they’re seeing old movies, or attending the theatre?). Others said it wasn’t as good as the hype.
I figured I’d end up coming away in agreement with all three, because A.) most science fiction/fantasy shows end up with slavish devotees regardless of a show’s quality, and B.) people wanted to like it. But I found it an enjoyable and exhilarating and sometimes moving summer blockbuster. It achieved everything that the first Captain America managed occasionally to do (or, more fairly, throughout its first half and sporadically thereafter) and did it over the course of its entire run.
I finished Gardner Fox’s The Bastard of Orleans the other day. It sure started strong, and in the first 40-60 pages I thought I might be reading another one as strong as The Borgia Blade. It turns out that despite surface similarities (great action scenes and some old-style “spice”) that it was designed with different effects in mind.
As I contemplated this review I remembered to consider what I always wish other reviewers would do and thought about the novel on its own terms. I believe this book was intended to achieve a different effect than the one I enjoyed more. It was a historical intended to have great action scenes and titillating sex scenes, or scenes with sexy descriptions of women. Fox delivered these things very well, and if that’s what you went in looking for, you’d be very happy. Read More
Following up on my post about the strengths of hardboiled fiction I come to the strengths of some of these old historicals. I’m about halfway through Gardner Fox’s The Bastard of Orleans. Maybe the characterization isn’t anything for the ages, but man, am I being swept along by the pace and the surprising turns. Scenes of great color and action, lots of momentum, and plenty of lovely ladies. By page 40 more stuff had already happened than what often happens in a hundred pages or more of modern fantasy stuff. Will I love it as much as I loved The Borgia Blade? I’ll know by the end. Right now I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next.
I had it in mind as I was thinking about pacing. I’m always thinking about pacing, but I’ve found myself contemplating it even more in the last few weeks. I’m wrestling with the middle section of my novel and wondering why it’s not fast enough to please me.
I think one of the problems we’ve gotten into is, as I mentioned, a market demand for big fat novels. I tried to buck that trend but the market didn’t like it, so now I’m trying to write novels that, if not fat, are still longer. But I’m also trying to give them the only kind of pacing I can tolerate.
First, I’m overdue pointing you towards a fundraiser for Robert Zoltan’s Literary Wonder and Adventure Show. He and Edgar the Raven are seeking backers to keep bringing you interviews and information about your favorite writers and genres. Check it out! Robert’s a great guy and huge fan of the genre, and very supportive of his guests. And Edgar the Raven is a hoot. Or, rather, a caw.
Second, here’s a cool article written by someone who attended one of the woman-only showings of Wonder Woman. I’ve yet to get to the show (it was sold out BOTH times my wife and I took the kids to see it, this weekend AND last), but I hear good things. This article better made me appreciate how empowering it must feel to women viewers.
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