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21st Century Pulp
Eric Turowski
Scarlet Letter Press, 171 pages

Art: Eric Turowski
21st Century Pulp
Eric Turowski
Eric Turowski began publishing genre art work and fiction in the early 90s in small press magazines such as Eulogy, Spellbound, and Double Danger Tales in the U.S. and The Zone in the U.K. In 1993, he formed the Sirius Fiction partnership with Richard W. Blair II and Michael Andre-Driussi, which purchased and published Aberrations Magazine from 1993-1997. Concurrently, Turowski pursued a career in journalism at Hills Newspapers and the Contra Costa Times in the San Francisco Bay Area, rising to the position of Special Sections Editor in 2001. He then left the Times to co-found the Alameda Sun newspaper in September of that year. Turowski also formed the punk trio, The Hard-boiled Dicks, a loud musical combo with a stylistic tip of the hat to pulp fiction. The Dicks periodically play around the Bay Area, and released a CD, Real Bullets, in 2000.

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Kit O'Connell

In the glory days of the pulp magazines, the masked adventurer righting wrongs could be found just as commonly in story as he could in his more familiar modern home, sequential art. Apart from the rare modern-day revival à la Kavalier and Clay, costumed hero fiction is largely limited to tie-ins with the major superhero publishers. Fortunately, for the genre's fans there are a few stalwart enthusiasts like author Eric Turowski. In "The Face of Chu-Jung," he takes us on a vivid journey to Prohibition-era San Francisco and introduces us to Raymond Siu. By day, Siu tries to broaden Western cultural notions as a curator of a museum, but at night he dons armor and a mask to become the living embodiment of an ancient Chinese fire god. The story gives the era's 'yellow peril' cliché a nice reversal as Siu struggles to defend Chinatown from two competing white gangsters. "Chu-Jung" otherwise feels just like a classic pulp yarn, from the campy opening tagline ("From out of the mists of time to the fog of San Francisco streets ...") to Siu's love interest, archaeologist Lilly Wong, who daily expresses innocent concern as he limps into the museum with the night's brawling injuries.

The other noteworthy entry in 21st Century Pulp, Eric Turowski's debut collection, is the short story "The Bugboys," in which highly evolved bats fly the open range, herding over-sized grasshoppers and fighting off their savage, blood-sucking lesser evolved cousins. Turowski obviously spent a lot of time researching bats and creating a believable society for his shrieking creations. Just as in "Chu-Jung," the action sequences are well plotted, exciting, fast-paced, and here, quite frightening. If anything, I thought this story was too short and I was sorry to leave the setting behind.

The book features another caped adventurer tale, "Scavengers," but it suffers because Turowski does not breathe as much life into its modern setting. The story is redeemed by the introduction of the only North American center for the study of "feral children" (in California, where else?) of which the story's heroine is a recent graduate. After her parents are killed by members of organized crime she is raised by raccoons until her eventual rescue and rehabilitation. Now she is a private eye who occasionally dresses up as procyon lotor when no one is looking; the mask hides night vision gear and the costume hides her guns.

If only the other stories in this collection had as much going for them. The opening, "The Eye Of Meiji," is an artifact-robbing fantasy adventure with a surfeit of clumsy metaphors and imagery and a rather startling number of typos; this story and the one that follows it almost made me set the book aside before I even reached the first caped hero. Likewise, if you have seen a single episode of The X-Files, you will spot the bloody conclusion to "Hunting Strategy," Turowski's Big Foot yarn, long before the savage beasts ever put in their first appearance. "The Minion Cycle," attempts to present some new wrinkles on the difficulties a vampire would face in the modern world but it lingers far too briefly in the mind after the last sentence to be called successful horror.

In the book's afterword, the author claims to write with those who don't normally read many books in mind as his primary audience. While Turowski has a good feel for action and creating quirky, interesting characters, his prose is too rough around the edges to recommend wholeheartedly. 21st Century Pulp is illustrated by the author and Mimi Marte, but apart from the cover and the great illustration to "The Face of Chu-Jung," they feel more like amateurish horror 'zine illustrations than pictures from a classic pulp. More than anything else, the volume could have used the help of a ruthless editor before publication. Unless you are a compulsive collector of masked hero fiction, you may find the book an unsatisfying purchase.

Copyright © 2004 Kit O'Connell

Kit O'Connell is a writer and bookseller from Austin, Texas. His reviews have also appeared on and his poetry has appeared on Storyhouse coffee cans, amongst other places. He is hard at work on short fiction which he won't tell you anything about, but you can read his sporadically updated journal at

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