August 13, 2017

THE SPIDER VS THE EMPIRE STATE: Reading Pulp in the Age of Trump

In short, The Spider VS. The Empire State...reads like a great, action oriented, heavy firepower version of It Can't Happen Here. And that's the greatest compliment I can give it.
Sometimes, context is everything...I'm writing this in the aftermath of what went down in Charlottesville, VA....

...and for some reason, The Spider VS. The Empire State: The Complete Black Police Trilogy feels a bit too raw, too real, for me to process.

After all, the premise - a criminal gets elected to become governor of New York, and martial law ensues - has little to do with everything that happened in Charlottesville. Even before yesterday's events, The Spider Vs. The Empire State felt like it hit a little too close to home, even before the worst of the current presidential administration.

After all, before today, scenes of sick men being carted into trucks wearing signs that declare I Wouldn't Pay the Plague Tax seem out of line. Now, that scene is almost quaint...especially in light of a white supremacist running over several counter-protesters, and killing one of them. With minimal, if any, involvement from the police.

But there's something in the white heat of the prose, especially the idea that Richard Wentworth - a character known for an almost maniacal sense of justice and righteousness - chooses to be the leader of an army of rebels almost against his will. With some strange sense of inevitability, as if Norvell Page (the writer) knew at that point that, well, he needed to do something...

And yes, The Spider Vs The Empire State is slightly more forward-thinking that most pulp literature of the 1930s....but that's not saying much. Some of the racial stereotyping is downplayed, but there's something about this book that right now, feels like a raw nerve.

It's a combination of escapism and call to arms. And I've never felt prouder of being a pulp fan than right now.

Unfortunately, The Spider Vs. The Empire State is not available in Kindle form, but you can purchase the three novels that comprise it as ebooks. They are

And don't be surprised if the prose seems a little too familiar, despite being almost 80 years old...because we're living pulp fiction.

And not in a good way.

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