From Publishers Weekly
Malmont's debut thriller reads like pages torn from the pulp magazines to which it pays nostalgic homage. It's 1937, and the nation's two top pulp writers—William Gibson, author of novels featuring caped crime fighter "The Shadow," and Lester Dent, the creator of do-gooder hero Doc Savage—are trying to solve real-life mysteries that each hopes will give him bragging rights as the world's best yarn spinner. Gibson follows rumors that pulp colleague H.P. Lovecraft was murdered to the fog-shrouded Providence, R.I., waterfront. Dent tracks clues to an impossible killing through the bowels of New York's Chinatown. As the two adventures dovetail, they spawn sinuous subplots involving tong wars, secret chemical warfare, pirate mercenaries, kidnappings, revolution in China and weird science run amok. Lovecraft, L. Ron Hubbard, Louis L'Amour and Chester Himes all play prominent supporting roles and offer piquant observations on the penny-a-word writing life that conjure a colorful sense of time and place. Like the pulpsters he reveres, Malmont doesn't let the facts get in the way of his storytelling, and the result is a fun, if wildly improbable, pulp joyride.
This book is the perfect example of why I like book clubs. Who knows how long it would have been before I would have ever been introduced to this gem of a novel. At 370 pages it was a quick read made even faster by the tempo of the action taking place.
I enjoy historical fiction novels that give me a new perspective on different eras. In this case its the 1930's when pulp fiction writers were entertaining America. Lafayette Ron Hubbard aka The Flash was the comic relief of the novel. Forever trying to gain the respect of his peers and vanquish them in the race to be #1. This created both amusement and annoyance from those around him. Lester Dent's wife Norma was my least favorite part of the book. She seemed to be a bored housewife that tried to replace not being able to have children with a search for treasure. The dramatic irony throughout the book was a bit heavy handed. Whether it was The Flash talking about religion or Orsen Welles talking about reinventing how movies are made if he had the chance to bring The Shadow onto the big screen I suppose one has to expect this kind of thing from a historian looking backwards on the era he's writing about.
For those that enjoyed this book I would highly recommend The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
by Michael Chabon. Instead of the 1930's pulp magazine backdrop you get the 1940's-1960's emerging comic book industry.