Saturday, November 17, 2012

Tales of the Bagman by B.C. Bell

B.C. Bell’s Tales of the Bagman is another great title from Airship 27, one of the pre-eminent publishers of New Pulp Fiction. Bell is a Chicago writer and this book is a real winner. Set in the mid 30s in Chicago, Frank “Mac” McCullough works for Chicago’s mob and breaks legs for a living. But when he has to rough up his uncle he has second thoughts. He takes action of a different type as The Bagman – a vigilante with a bag over his face to conceal his identity. Now he’s working for the underdog; guys like his uncle. Labeled “The Bagman” by the press, McCullough commences with a campaign to rid Chicago of lawlessness, and that’s when this book really kicks into high gear. B.C. (Byron Christopher or “Chris” to his friends) Bell has written an incredibly entertaining novel. The setting, characters and plot all flow seamlessly. Bell is an imaginative, imagistic writer which is the style I’ve always favored. He slips in this deft characterizations and images with the slippery ease of a boxing pro: “Coco blew smoke out of perfect, cupid bow lips.”(p.47). Indeed, Miss Coco Blue is but one of numerous characters that come alive with Bell’s vivid prose. And there are Crankshaft, an auto salesman and suddenly willing ally for The Bagman; Slots Lurie, Wheezy, Sammy the Scar and many others. Also of note is Bell’s knowledge and research about Chicago. The city plays a character, too, albeit as a stage setting, but vital nonetheless. This is Capone’s town and its Capone’s era, or at least the tail end of it. Those familiar with Chicago will recognize places like The Green Mill which during this period catered to an entirely different clientele. Tales of the Bagman is loaded with historical details and locations which made it all the more fun to read. I’m tagging B.C. Bell’s Tales of the Bagman as one of the top New Pulp Fiction titles I read this past year. I suggest you put this title at the top of your Christmas shopping list. B.C. Bell’s Tales of the Bagman is a keeper!

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