Sunday, April 29, 2012

Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention 2012

They were all here just as I remembered them: Boxes of heroes, villains, monsters, femme fatales and a cowboy or two. For a second year I set-up a table at the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention and hawked my books, most of which are westerns. People keep telling me the western is dead, and yet….I sold a few. In fact, I sold a lot of books this year for which I am grateful. My newest book, Werewolves!, a brief history of lycanthropes, sold like hotcakes. The Errol Flynn biography was also a hot commodity, followed by Trail of the Burned Man. I even sold a few copies of Wind Rider and Showdown at Snakebite Creek. I’m grateful to sell any book I wrote, but especially grateful when I sell a western. Frankly, I made a lot of money at this convention and recouped my expenses and then some.
It was a pleasure hanging out with some of the best “New Pulp” writers in the business: William Patrick Maynard (The Terror of Fu Manchu), Joe Bonadonna (Mad Shadows), Ron Fortier (Cavemen of New York), David C. Smith (Call of Shadows), B. C. Bell (Tales of the Bagman), Wayne Reinagel (Viktoriana), and Van Allan Plexico (Sentinels). All highly talented writers and nice guys. I’ll be reviewing and profiling many of their books in the coming months. Artists in attendance included Rob Davis, Kurt Mitchell, and Randy Broeker, among others. I’m always impressed by the array of original artwork on display at the Windy City Convention. It’s a visual treat just walking through the convention hall.
 Above: William Patrick Maynard and (below) authors Joe Bonadonna 
and David C. Smith
Naturally, I treated myself to some “items of interest” including some Robert Lory Dracula paperbacks, and the Haffner Press Terror in the House by Henry Kuttner, a deluxe and mammoth collection of early pulp classics. Tom Roberts and Black Dog Books had many new titles for sale and I’m currently reading The Adventurers
 Above: Authors Wayne Reinagel and Van Allan Plexico

This year the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention celebrated the 100th Anniversary of Tarzan’s first appearance in the 1912 issue of All-Story magazine. There were plenty of Edgar Rice Burroughs pulp and paperbacks available for the canny shopper. 
Congratulations to Doug Ellis and company for another great convention! I’m looking forward to next year! Meanwhile, I have a lot of reading to do!
 Above: Author Ron Fortier and (below) author/artist Kurt Mitchell

To learn more about the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention click HERE!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Road to Shiloh


The Road to Shiloh
Thomas McNulty

The mist hung in the hills early on the morning of April 22, 2012 as I drove down Route 57 from Memphis toward Shiloh. Just a few weeks past the one-hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Battle of Shiloh I cold imagine the hardship of life in 1862 when traveling through the sun-dappled hills of Tennessee offered equally as beautiful a sight but with greater hardship. Traveling on foot, on horseback or by wagon was obviously much harder than tooling down a bright highway in a Chevy truck with a GPS system to guide me.

In some ways the road to Shiloh is unchanged from that fateful day. The forests are thick and when the morning sun burns off the dew and fog there is perhaps no more beautiful sight than the grandeur of the Tennessee River Valley. Equestrian farms and small towns line the road from Memphis. Hawks and eagles circle in the air. The sun finally burns off the traces of winter ice that still linger on the morning breeze.


There are ghosts here in the Tennessee hills. Because there is a resonance to mankind’s actions we have made note of such places as Shiloh where the peach blossoms drifted on the morning breeze as the muskets began to fire and the screams of the dying began to drift up from the gunsmoke shrouded battlefield that would become one of the legendary military actions of the Civil War. The names of the principal players are well known to Civil War aficionados who still debate the details of this great battle where one-hundred thousand men engaged in two days of vicious fighting: Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman, Don Carlos Buell, Albert Sidney Johnston, P.G.T. Beauregard, Stephen A. Hurlbut, Nathan Bedford Forrest. 


I carried with me the recently published Shiloh, 1862 by Winston Groom and the National Park Service map as I slowly surveyed the principal battle points. There are many other books, of course, but Groom is an excellent historian and a fine writer. The publication of Groom’s book was a fortunate coincidence as I made my way to Shiloh church. Today, a modern Methodist church stands next to the restored church and the sight of dozens of Nissans, Chevrolets and a Honda or two makes for a jarring juxtaposition. Such modern landmarks seem intrusive. And the nearly 400 monuments and battle placards scattered throughout the park are nearly suffocating. 

Shiloh Church

Not being one to cater to the experts one finds in every crowd, I avoided any dialogue with historians, armchair and academic alike (accepting that I clearly belong to the armchair variety), and simply followed the map to visit various crucial locations. My purpose wasn’t to re-live a moment-by-moment re-enactment as so many are prone to do, but rather to get a feel for the essence of the location.


Pittsburg Landing on the bank of the Tennessee River offers a breathtaking view of the waterway where the gunboat the U.S.S. Lexington provided artillery support for the Federals when the rebels sought to turn the tide. This location, like all of those at Shiloh today, is serene and lovely. Only our knowledge of history and the travails of men can intrude on that tranquility and offer to us a scene of carnage.

   Looking north up the Tennessee River from Pittsburg Landing

Grant made his headquarters over the hill where today the military graveyard, which includes modern graves, is nestled across a manicured lawn near the Park Service Office and bookstore. The small museum is a delight and Park Service staff were helpful and knowledgeable, as I expected. 


For most historians the immediate focus of a battlefield visit involves a widespread area known as the Peach Orchard, the Sunken Road, The Hornet’s Nest and the Bloody Pond. It was at the Peach Orchard that General Hurlbut’s division turned back the charging rebels. My first view of the location came as I looked north from the Hamburg-Purdy Road. The long field between tree-lines has been well-depicted in dozens of films and documentaries. In the distance I could see the reconstructed W. Manse George cabin. I walked across that field with my wife. Occasionally, we spotted freshly turned soil where visitors with metal detectors have dug for musket balls or other artifacts. By now the sun was high and the morning was beginning to wan as we trekked to the Bloody Pond just a short distance from the cabin.

 The Manse cabin

The Bloody Pond is tranquil and green, the trees resonating with bird calls. It was here that wounded and dying men on both sides cleaned their wounds and slaked their thirst, their blood turning the water red. Only the morning shadows and reflections of trees hint at the brutality that resulted in thousands of casualties.

 The Manse cabin and Peach Orchard

The thicket that became known as the Hornet’s Nest is still a tangled mass of trees and brush. The ferocity of the fighting here and at nearby Duncan’s Field gave the place its nickname. The green shadows waver in the morning sun and the gentle call of birds belies the history of a land that was stained by the blood of its protectors.

There is much to consider about Shiloh. There are lessons here in military tactics, egotism, heroism, cowardice and the destructive nature of politics, racism and madness. Scholars and students debate the details with particular glee. Grant’s blunders, brilliance, and good luck; Beauregard’s missed opportunity for victory; Sherman’s taciturn machismo; Lew Wallace and the missing division; and finally, the trenches of dead Confederates after the Federal victory. This, in addition to the mythology and trivia that refuses to die itself. The figures of legend who manifest themselves time and again in other arenas: John Clem, the little drummer boy of Shiloh; the observations of Ambrose Bierce, himself later a subject of speculation after his disappearance in Mexico during Pancho Villa’s rebellion; Lew Wallace’s literary redemption after writing Ben-Hur, a beloved novel from the time of its publication; Henry Morton Stanley, later a great African game hunter but best remembered as the man who found Dr. Livingstone; and Grant’s ascension to the Presidency of the United States.

 The Bloody Pond

Perhaps the relevance is found in the cause of the war, which is succinctly summarized as the abolition of slavery. Naturally, the cause of the Civil War was complicated beyond the slavery issue, but it ultimately has relevance today because those identical issues exist in the United States in 2012. We live in an era where racist rock stars like Ted Nugent threaten Barack Obama’s life based upon Nugent’s unfounded fear that somehow the first black American President is a threat to his multi-million dollar lifestyle. Nugent’s ignorance is as large as the elephant’s backside, warts and all. 

The issues of secession, prejudice, states’ rights and the long reach of government into our daily lives are just as relevant today as they were one-hundred and fifty years ago. Ultimately, the south wanted to be left alone, but Abraham Lincoln recognized that without unity the nation would crumble. They called it The Union for a reason. Lincoln set out to preserve and protect the Constitution of the United States but without a Union there was no viability to the Constitution.

The great failure of all modern political parties, of course, is the lack of reasonable dialogue. The Socratic principals of debate followed by informed voting have given way to an “Us Against Them” mentality. Finger pointing and flag waving are not reasonable substitutes for intelligent discussion.

 Another view of the Bloody Pond

Shiloh continues to fascinate us long after the last trumpet sounded, and perhaps that is as it should be. There are lessons here that should not be ignored, and a wealth of human interest tales that are at once exciting and repugnant. It’s difficult to turn away from the hypnotic allure of a flame.

As I made my way that April morning across the Shiloh battlefield I was struck by he contrast of tranquility and the horror of war that occurred here on April 6th and 7th, 1862. The road to Shiloh can be long or short, depending on the circumstances. But the act of war has only one outcome. You can see it in the rows of marble markers at the military graveyard, several thousand bearing only numbers. These are the graves of the unknown. As I walked across the field that morning I encountered a bronze plaque gleaming in the sun and its simple verse serves as a stark reminder to war’s conclusion.

On flame’s eternal camping-ground
Their silent tents are spread,
And glory guards with solemn round
The bivouac of the dead.

*

RECOMMENDED READING:

Shiloh, 1862 by Winston Groom
Shiloh – In Hell Before Night by James Lee McDonough
Shiloh: The Battle That Changed the Civil War by Larry J. Daniel
Shiloh by Shelby Foote (novel)
             
Images and text copyright © 2012 by Thomas McNulty
**

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Celebrating National Poetry Month with Anthropoets

To celebrate National Poetry Month I offer the following:

What is Anthropoets?

I was at an Art Fair one August afternoon under a blistering sky and wandering the aisles looking at the crafts and photographs and paintings. At each booth I knew there was one object each vendor prized among all others because it held secrets only they understood. It wasn’t important to fathom those secrets but perhaps it was important to appreciate them. So I choose one craft or photograph or painting or sculpting and commented on it. Sometimes my comments elicited a smile, sometimes they elicited a frown. Only occasionally did I manage to spark an enthusiastic conversation. Of course it was impossible to guess which object held value, so I learned to apply a value myself. Only then was I able to engage these people in conversation. I had to understand them. And one day the sky purpled and it drizzled for awhile and the wind was cold. The aisles were vacant and for a while the vendors sat under their canopied tents and sold nothing, their tables and boxes full of crafts and photographs and paintings, and even the ceramic frogs seemed ready to jump into the wet grass. And when I blinked one day I sat there with a table full of books and they were all sincere, well-intentioned books; and then there was this book, but the rain had driven the customers away. But I liked the book because it had value for me, and so it became like one of those sketches or a small painting that gets pushed back into a corner or lost in the bottom of a box. If you find it there might be value to it, but first you have to understand it.

Here are three selections from ANTHROPOETS

Highway Notes on the Elegiac Mourning Prairie
Thomas McNulty, from Anthropoets

Far back from the road a farmhouse
leans in the air, lost in the tall grass,
sunlight rolling in waves off the torn shingles.
A row of waiting sparrows on the dead telephone line.

Ghost of a girl in an orange dress
waiting on the porch, waiting for
a painter to find the hue of her calico, waiting
for a poet to scratch five lines about her green eyes
and soft upturned lips. Dust and more dust.

On a bright and windy day the corn and wheat
waves, old housewives calling for their husbands,
wondering where they’ve gone to: what corner
tap and sandwich parlor, what bingo hall?
A widow’s liver-spotted hand waves at passing cars.

Ink Drawing of A Man Swallowing a Dragon
Thomas McNulty, from Anthropoets

In the distance a line of trees pierce a sky
studded with exaggerated stars and it might be autumn
because it is always autumn in Celtic folklore, and there is
always a sense of beauty in the shadowy mottled blur of leaves
swaying, a delicate stroke of ink, and we might begin to think
the gaseous pools of night are offering messages from some darker
Gods than those we are accustomed to, and then this man with
an elongated jawline forcing the ascendant Wyvern into his mouth;
already the writhing coils of dragon, the flapping wings, beating
against his ribs, tearing the moral nature of his soul.

He is frozen midway in his effort to consume the dragon, to spare
the sleepy village, barely visible in the corner, from this pestilence
of ancient evil threatening maidens in their eiderdown beds – their
dreams are fearful, fevered with anxiety; they whisper
songs in their dreams; chants and invocations; magic protections
against the dragon in every man that sometimes slithers up the
throat to see through man’s eyes, to peer out of the mouth,
to survey the world, waiting.

Mrs. Clause and Her Spider
Thomas McNulty, from Anthropoets

Motherless child, she was
orphaned at three weeks;
war widow at twenty,
keeping company with a spider
at eighty.

In the afternoon she naps.
She dreams swift blue rivers,
the rolling fertile farmland of Belgium
where the air itself tasted clean, but these
are images on a faded tapestry in a monastery
turned to rubble by the Luftwaffe.
She pulls at the tapestry fabric, organizing threads, trying to recall
the fresh scent of lakes –

On Sunday morning the false promise of bells
awakens her.
She takes a glass jar to the playground, sprinkles in sugar,
watches the ants march in, spins back
the lid, brushes away the soot and sand
of another Chicago landfill.
“It’s Mrs. Clause!” the urchins spellbound;
and regal in her red blouse
she walks the Queen of Marquette Park,
the jar undulating with furious life.

After supper, she sits near her desk,
opens the jar and plucks at the flinching mass.
One by one, day by day she drops an ant
onto the cobweb; then a strike too swift
to see as one movement, the spider feeds.

The traffic hums outside, disembodied voices
catch the wind and flee –
Now, with the sun nearly down, the sky like an unhealed wound,
the freezing wind comes off Lake Michigan,
whips and plummets with the speed of a knife to cut bone,
and this cold wind, unhappy, relentless, sounds
to her like children crying; a distant wail,
rising and falling.

Copyright © 2012 by Thomas McNulty. All rights reserved.

You can order your copy of ANTHROPOETS by clicking HERE!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Get Ready for the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention!

I’ll have a table at the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention for the second year of pulp fun. This year the convention celebrates the 100 Anniversary of Tarzan’s first appearance in the 1912 issue of All-Story magazine. To make it all even more exciting they’ve announced a special screening of JOHN CARTER exclusively for con goers the evening of Thursday, April 26 at 10:00 pm. For details visit the convention website HERE!
I’ll be selling my non-fiction titles Errol Flynn and Werewolves! Along with copies of Trail of the Burned Man, Wind Rider, Death Rides a Palomino, and Showdown at Snakebite Creek. A full roster of artists, publishers and writers will be on hand to entrance you with amazing stories and astounding feats of heroism. Some titles are in limited supply. First come, first serve, so get ‘em while they’re hot!
I’ll offer a full report when it’s all over. Meanwhile, enjoy these Edgar Rice Burroughs images from my overflowing paperback collection!