Thursday, June 28, 2007


Thanks to an entertaining Behind the Black Mask podcast interview with first-time author Paul Malmont last summer, his Chinatown Death Cloud Peril lurked in the darkest corners of my mind until the trade paper caught my attention at Borders two weeks ago. It’s a dandy book. Not perfect, but much greater than you’d expect from a first novel.

Here’s what makes Death Cloud Peril so much fun: its set in New York, 1937, and its characters are all real-life people, folks unfamiliar to most but whose names have drifted through my life for some 40 years. You meet Lester Dent (aka Kenneth Robeson), creator of Doc Savage. Walter Gibson (aka Maxwell Grant), father of The Shadow, is one of the leads. H.P. Lovecraft makes an absolutely shocking but oh-so-perfect appearance in the novel. L. Ron Hubbard is a major player. Doc Smith is here. The whole “pulp” world populates the book, and even the comic book realm pokes its head up a few times. But as gimmicky as that may sound, Malmont pulls it off terribly well.

Readers unacquainted with the old pulps will probably find The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril slow going at first. And that’s fair. It does dawdle a bit before building up to full speed. But fans of The Shadow and Doc Savage should be thoroughly engrossed from the first page. And at its midpoint, the story becomes a rip-roaring, page-turning adventure, as exotic as anything ever written by Gibson and as apocalyptic as anything penned by Dent. My summer reading has started with a bang.

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