Pulp Friday: mercenary pulp

This week’s Pulp Friday is a selection of covers from the seething, sweaty, bloody, intrigue laden world of mercenary pulp.

I picked them celebrate the fact that I have a story in issue 2 of Blood and Tacos, which launches today, called ‘Bastard Mercenary: Operation Scorpion Sting’. Well, it’s not my story. It was written by a guy called Arch Saxon, one of the mainstays of the local pulp fiction scene in the seventies and eighties.

I discovered Saxon living in a down at heel rooming house in Brunswick, while researching a piece for this site. After he’d drunk his own body weight in beer and caged a hundred dollars off me, he agreed to let me submit a story of his featuring his little known creation Bruce ‘Boomer’ Kelly to Johnny Shaw’s Blood and Tacos series.

Kelly aka Bastard Mercenary is hard-bitten Bangkok-based Australian mercenary who’ll undertake any job so long as the beer is cold and the money right. Much like Saxon himself.

The rest as they say is history.

Blood and Tacos is an affectionate homage to the crazy, over the top world of late seventies, eighties pulp fiction. A time when titles such as Penetrator, The Liquidator, Death Merchant, Black Samurai and The Executioner rubbed muscular shoulders with each other on the pulp paperback rack of the local newsagency. Rampant crime, post-apocalyptic society, communist invasions of America and secret organisations dedicated to overthrowing Western civilisation were the order of the day.

While these characters and stories may seem almost impossible to parody, the mission was grimly accepted by myself and the other hard-bitten souls in Blood and Tacos issue 2.

You can download issue two for free here. The Kindle version will be live on Amazon in the next couple of days for the low seventies price of 99 cents.

The character of Kelly was blatant rip-off of the Soldier of Fortune paperbacks by Peter McCurtin in the seventies and eighties. The central figure in these was a rabidly anti-communist (remember this is the time of Reagan and Thatcher) mercenary called Rainey who undertook deadly missions across the glove for the highest bidder.

But Kelly could just as easily have been based on any of the following titles. Night of the Thuggee is one of the nearly 50 or so books featuring a group of mercenaries called Phoenix Force. Stars and Swastikas focuses on S-Com, “the mercenary band that dares to deliver”. An American Nightmare comprises “five military misfits known as the Hard Corps. “Their fighting skills were forged in the steaming jungles of Vietnam. Now they’re the world most lethal combat force – the absolute best – and they’re for hire.”

A more vintage take on the mercenary theme is provided by Congo Mercenary Major, published by Horwitz Press, Australia’s premier pulp publisher, in 1965.

Congo Mercenary Major concerns Major Michael Cosgrave, known as the “Scarlet Pimpernel of the Congo” because of his jungle exploits. His mission is to “track down not the rebels but those who supplied them with guns – and in doing so jeopardised the lives of two beautiful women who were held hostage by his venomous opponents.”


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  1. Pingback: Bookish News and Publishing Tidbits 1 June 2012 | Read in a Single Sitting - Book reviews and new books

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