I just had a seriously creepy moment.
For years I've mentioned an old book I read back when I'd left university, a book about writing in the pulp style -- not consciously pulp, but the author was plainly an old pulp writer, and there was a great letter from one of his editors that he quoted at length. A book I read 20 odd years ago, with not a chance I'd ever recall the details. Just mentioned it again, as a matter of fact. A few days ago. Hadn't really thought of it for ages, before that post.
Now, stay with me. When one buys a book from the Writer's Store in Westwood, they often throw in some free CD's of writers' lectures. Freebies with the related books. I'd picked up a book maybe a year ago to review for this site, and promptly tossed the accompanying CD's into a drawer.
Doing a little cleaning today, I decided to put one of the CD's into the XBox 360, see if there was anything interesting. Didn't recognize the name on this particular seminar, kind of tuned out ...
The old guy on the CD was reading the letter.
The old guy on the CD wrote the goddam book.
And he's been dead for 16 years.
I cannot, in good conscience, recommend buying the book. It was written in 1965. The fictional writer he lampoons is nicknamed "Fred Friggenheimer." It's corny and simplistic and everything's stated with a broad enough brush to paint a barn in one stroke.
And yet ... but yet ...
An abridged version of letter from his editor, copied by hand as he reads it on the CD. It'll delight Bill and JDC to no end:
“... I’ve got an assignment for you, keed. I want 25,000 words a month - one story - that is ACTION! The type of yarn, for instance, where a group of people are marooned in, say, a hilltop castle with a violent storm raging and all the bridges out and the electric power gone and the roof threatening to cave in and corpses falling down the stairs and hanging in the attic and boards creaking under somebody’s weight in the dark and COULD THAT BE THE KILLER? and flashes of lightning illuminating the face of the murderer only the sonuvabitch is wearing a mask that makes him look even more horrible ... Do these stories in the style Burroughs, old Edgar Rice Burroughs of TARZAN fame, used to use. You know, take one set of characters, and carry them along for a chapter, putting them at the end of the chapter in such a position that nothing can save them. Then take another set of characters, rescue them from their dilemma, carry them to a helluva problem at the end of the chapter, then switch back to the first set of characters, rescue them from their deadly peril, carry them along to the end of the chapter, where once again they are seemingly doomed. Then rescue the second set of characters, and so on.
Don’t give the reader a chance to breathe. Keep him on the edge of his goddam chair all the way through! To hell with clues and smart dialogue and characterization! Don’t worry about corn! GIVE ME PACE AND BANG BANG! Make me breathless, bud!”
So in the spirit of good old Dwight Swain, a link to the fine fellows at Astonishing Adventures, who are now on the third issue of their great experiment.