This article originally appeared at New Pulp.
Few names are as synonymous with the New Pulp movement as Barry Reese. Reese started writing new pulp way back in 2006 with Conquerors of Shadow.
It wasn’t until two years later that he’s created arguably the most famous of the New Pulp heroes: The Rook.
The Rook Volume One is a strange little book. Its design seems to be a facsimile of the recent Shadow and Doc Savage collections, i.e. about the size of a conventional graphic novel. Inside, the book is formatted in to two columns, again it seems to imitate the pulps.
Despite those odd stylistic choices, the words are pretty dang good. The first volume contains five stories of Max Davies, a young man literally haunted by his dead father. As the Rook, he is compelled to fight crime, often with the help of his fiancée/wife Evelyn.
While the stories are all self-contained, they are linked by a common threat (either in full force or lurking behind the scenes). The stories span a few years, even stretching in to a strange version of modern day London. The first four give a full pulp adventure from start to finish, always with fiendish villains with a supernatural twist. Reese peppers the stories with allusions to other pulp characters and even has one public domain hero, the Moon Man, guest star in one tale. Each story builds upon the last; this helps the stories never to feel repetitive.
I found only one bit of the writing irksome, and that was Barry’s need to fill in the back story of the Rook in almost every tale. These stories may have been presented in other forms before their collection by Wild Cat Books (though no note is made of it on the copyright page) Even so, when put together it seems clear that some introductory exposition in the later stories could be left on the cutting room floor.
That one minor snafu isn’t nearly enough to bring the collections of stories down. This isn’t just good new pulp. It’s straight up good storytelling, well worth a read by anyone that enjoys adventure fiction.
The Rook Volume One comes Highly Recommended.