Pro Se Press, producers of Black Pulp, have another entertaining anthology, Asian Pulp, featuring characters of Asian descent.
I love the fast pace, gritty realism, and surprising characters of pulp fiction, but most of the classics from the 20s, 30s, and 40s are so racist, misogynist, and homophobic, they're hard to read.
Pro Se Press is on a mission to correct this with their “New Pulp” short-story collections.
Most of the stories in Asian Pulp are enjoyable. They’re fun, suspenseful, and have added depth from incorporating characters and elements of Asian culture.
- “The Celestial,” by Naomi Hirahara, features a young woman brought to America as a bride who now works in a brothel. Her fortunes change when she rescues a Chinese customer from thugs. The story was grounded in history, full of interesting characters, and plenty of suspense.
- Gary Phillips’ story is a fun spy thriller, “Bret Khodo, Agent of C.O.D.E.” The title character is a devastatingly handsome six-foot Hawaiian-Chinese man. He teams up with an equally beautiful East Asian Indian-German female agent with a PH.D. in quantum physics. There’s plenty of action and fun banter as our two heroes handily defeat the bad guys.
- “Bones of the Rebellion” by Mark Finn tells the story of two Chinese siblings working together with the help of the local benevolent society to defeat Rasputin and an army of ghouls in 1920s El Paso, Texas. The tension between the brother and sister adds depth to the tale.
- Dale Furutani gives us a Japanese private eye in “Dead Weight: A Ken Tanaka Mystery Story.” When his friend, a Sumo wrestler, is accused of killing a rival, Ken puts his own life on the line to solve the locked-room mystery.
- “Filial Daughter” by Steph Cha explores historic tensions between Koreans and Blacks in Los Angeles through family secrets. When her mother is shot in the family furniture store, Grace starts following clues to find the shooter. She discovers more than she expected, and has to decide what, if anything, to reveal.
- Gigi Pandian’s “The Curse of Cloud Castle: A Hindi Houdini Locked Room Mystery,” has a fascinating cast and compelling mystery. The title character is a magician who travels with friends old and new to an isolated island. When one of the party is found dead, he must solve the mystery before anyone else gets hurt.
- “The Opium Dragon” by David C. Smith features amateur boxer Nick Wong, who unravels a nest of corruption when his cop friend asks him to help solve a murder on the border of Chinatown. With the help of his uncle he solves the mystery, defeats the bad guys, and gets the girl!
For me, this story is a good example of the responsibility of authors and editors to be mindful of what we put into the world. We want to entertain, yes. But we should also ask if our stories are adding to the world’s joy or contributing to ugliness.
The ugliness in “Ghosts of August” far outweighed any redeeming qualities for this reader.
With the exception of that story, the rest of the anthology was a fun read.