Saturday, 11 February 2017

Greatest pulp stories ever (from the blog of author P. J. Thorndyke)

Thought you might enjoy this series of blog posts on greatest pulp stories ever (from the blog of author P. J. Thorndyke) :

What's your ranking of the top 3? Leave a note in the comments.


  1. Greatest pulp stories ever? He may have a point since I've read all eight! Here is my ranking taking into consideration over all influence and quality:

    1--Call of Cthulhu by Lovecraft. Readers either love or hate this story. The Cthulhu Mythos is still being written today but by other writers.

    2--Tarzan of the Apes by Burroughs. Iconic character that still lives today and this issue of ALL STORY is the Holy Grail of Pulp collecting. Worth far more than any other pulp issue.

    3--Red Harvest by Hammett. The hard boiled style in full flower!

    4--Under the Moons of Mars by Burroughs again. The beginning of the scientific romance movement in the pulps.

    5--Twelve Peers by Faust. He was WESTERN STORY for 14 years and on a weekly basis!

    6--People of the Black Circle by Howard. Conan is another iconic character and Howard one of the 3 greats in WEIRD TALES of the 1920's and 1930's.

    7--Curse of Capistrano by McCulley. Zorro is another iconic character!

    8--Man of Bronze. Doc Savage had a great influence on the hero pulps.

    The above are just my subjective comments made as of Feb 2017. I'll feel different next month. I would be interested in other opinions by readers.

  2. I was going to ask what's so special about "Twelve Peers" but I checked before I wrote -- it's Destry Rides Again. I've read 1-3 and 6 and the top three definitely belong for historic reasons alone, though some might ask why not Maltese Falcon for the Hammett? If the list were extended to a top ten it should probably include two out of these three: a representative Shadow novel, something by Raymond Chandler, or "Who Goes There?" by Campbell.

    1. I'm going to support the choice of Red Harvest over the Maltese Falcon. Though the Maltese Falcon is better written, Red Harvest has me rooting for it because good triumphs over evil where Falcon is starkly depressing.

      I would add a Talbot Mundy tale to the list, and if i knew anything about the love pulps, a story from them. Other than that, I think it's a pretty good list.

  3. I certainly agree Raymond Chandler should be on a top 10 list because of his enormous influence and literary hardboiled style. Instead of Talbot Mundy, who I like a lot, I would recommend Harold Lamb, who may have written the best adventure fiction in the pulps. I still remember being stunned in the 1960's when the big collection of Khlit stories came out.

    1. I had a hard time choosing between Mundy and Lamb, and in the end i picked Mundy because i think he demonstrates that adventure fiction can be literary. Harold Lamb wrote better adventure, but his style is much simpler. Anyway, we can keep both of them in.

      What's your pick for best story by Lamb and Mundy? I haven't read all of Mundy's oeuvre yet, so won't venture an opinion. With Lamb i'm going to cheat, and recommend four of his Cossack stories -

      The Mighty Manslayer (collected in Wolf of the Steppes)
      The Curved Sword (collected in Warriors of the Steppes)
      White Falcon (collected in Riders of the Steppes)
      The Wolf Master (collected in Swords of the Steppes)

    2. I like Harold Lamb so much that it's hard to pick one story over another. They are just about all excellent but I like the Cossack stories also especially the ones starring Khlit, who is not your typical good looking young hero.

      Talbot Mundy's best story as far as I'm concerned is the 1923 ADVENTURE serial, THE NINE UNKNOWN. The one serial I don't care for is OM, which everyone seems to like. The first time I read it I disliked it a lot but on a recent rereading I upgraded the rating. I still don't think it's his best work.