Pulp City

No, Mack figured, he'd go right into the good stuff. Becky Smith had helped him uncover the roots of South Florida pulp, and Mack was surprised to learn that it predated Miami itself. Beadle's Dime Library (New York) was painting purplish portraits of gals and intrigue as far back as 1879, when Beadle's was biweekly and really cost ten cents per copy, or $2.50 per year. Included in Becky's collection was the issue The White Wizard or, The Great Prophet of the Seminoles by Ned Buntline. The definition of pulp - dialect-riddled dialogue, tough men with rough attitudes, violence to spare, and women described thusly: "She was tall, raven-haired, lovely in feature, and perfect in form."

Mack smiled again as Paris, who fit that very description, poured him another double. As she rushed off to take care of a stuck record in the jukebox, he returned to his thoughts. The scenery in The White Wizard was depressing to Mack: "Along the whole southern and western coast of Florida, from the ancient fort of St. Marks to Key West, there were no settlements..." Christ, Mack thought as he took a swig, not a condo in sight! "...and only a few Spanish fishing stations at Tampa Bay, Manitee, Boca Grande, and Sanibel, at the date when we draw the curtain of the drama, which we offer to the reader, nearly forty years ago."

Beadle's returned to the area in the summer of 1883, with Alligator Ike; or, The Secret of the Everglade by Captain Fred Whittaker. Mack's thoughts wandered to savage Seminoles, killer gators, lush tropical jungle unscathed by progress. He imagined himself walking a short distance from sandy Atlantic shores to shrouded, living Everglade. Where did the s come from, and when? Were the Injuns so bad, or did they just make for handy villains? Panthers, snakes, otters, bass as big as Buicks...and the rugged individuals who'd eventually kill off most of these beasts...the mosquitoes must have been deadly...no pavement or subdivisions or automobiles tearing down the Tamiami Trail, squashing anything unfortunate enough to cross the road.... Suddenly Mack was startled by a tap on his left shoulder. "Fix?" he said, turning around.

"How's ya doin' dere?" It was Sneaky Pittoon, a petty thug who took on dirty little jobs for The Fixer. Mack had once pummeled Sneaky at the Flagler dog track after catching the punk stealing tips from the downstairs bar.

"What the hell you want, Snake - I mean, Sneaky."
"Seen da Fixer? Owes me some cash. Shoulda been here by now. Gotta find that bastard."

Mack ignored him. He was curious about the whereabouts of Charles Phixture, but not particularly bothered by his absence. He returned to his drink and his thoughts. Caroline Washburn Rockwood had written a couple of fascinating books, In Biscayne Bay (1891) and An East Florida Romance (1897), but they were more concerned with yachts than bullets and babes. After the dime novels of the late 1800s, there seemed to be a dearth of Miami-based pulp. It wasn't until the end of 1940 that Cosmopolitan published Leslie Charteris's The Saint in Miami, a Simon Templar visit to the sunny climes. That was about the time that the great Brett Halliday and his Michael Shayne entered the game, but it wasn't until after World War II that William Lindsay Gresham chimed in with Nightmare Alley. Hell, Mack thought, no wonder Halliday chose Miami - he had a damn monopoly on South Florida pulp.

"They weren't all series like Mike Shayne, you know." Sam waved his hand over the glass case as he spoke. The cool air of the library soothed Mack's hangover.

"I know," Mack said agreeably. "But Shayne is the only one I'm familiar with." He paused and glanced down at the case stocked with paperbacks whose covers depicted enticingly clad beauties or scenes of manly violence, or both. "Oh, yeah, and there was that guy in the Eighties, um, T.J. MacGregor."

"Yes, that's correct," Sam said eruditely. "And William Fuller wrote a couple, including one entitled Miami Manhunt, published in 1958. And Gerald Green - The Lotus Eaters - and then, in the Seventies, there was Elsa Gutierrez's Operation Leprechaun and Don Pendleton's The Executioner, Miami Massacre."

"Still and all," Mack interrupted, "I think it's safe to say Halliday and his Mike Shayne dominated."

"Oh, absolutely," Sam agreed happily. "But no series came to the fore after 1980. Not at all. In the Eighties, Miami pulp novels became a growth industry. Robert Coram, Kristy Daniels, Stephen Grave, David A. Kaufelt, John Maccabee, Dick Stivers...there's quite a number of them here."

"Yeah. I guess a lot of it is how you define pulp. I mean, the dictionary just says lurid books and magazines. But you know, I think a hardboiled private dick as the protagonist is part of it, too. And a cheap price - paperbacks, of course. And the dialogue: women are gals and women's legs are gams and guns are gats. Didn't Damon Runyon base some of his stuff here, like at the horse track? And Elmore Leonard, the guy whose books make such terrible movies. He had the private eye, or investigators of some sort, and snappy dialogue, and violence. Violence is important."

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