Thursday, June 26, 2008

Tome Talk Thursday: Guilty Pleasures

Anyone who knows me (or who's managed to sneak a look at my Amazon account) knows I'm a voracious reader. Non-fiction: history, current events, science; fiction: mid- to late-19th Century literature, early 20th Century literature, pulp fiction, science-fiction, mysteries, westerns, legal suspense, modern thrillers, Salman Rushdie, Thomas Pynchon, Roger Zelazny, David Brin, Larry Niven, Ross MacDonald, John D. MacDonald, James Rollins, Clive Cussler, Dashiell Hammett, and Neil Gaiman -- I like to think of it as an eclectic set of interests, but "undisciplined" may be a fairer description.

Admittedly, my tastes run more to trash than to tragedy -- I'd rather curl up with a Victorian middle-class angst potboiler by Anthony Trollope than a modern middle-class angst potboiler by John Updike -- but for the most part, I feel no guilt for enjoying a fast-paced thrill ride by James Rollins or a wry, formulaic piece of pulp by John D. MacDonald.

But, lately, I have been feeling just a tad guilty for the pleasure I've derived from reading a class of fiction that makes almost no attempt at achieving literary merit. It's the modern-day equivalent of mid-century pulp: fiction based on games and comic books, such as the Dragonlance novels of Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman; the "legend of Drizzit" series by R.A. Salvatore; and the books based on comic book series, like The Ultimates and Justice League novels by various authors. Oh, yeah, I also enjoy the "Rogue Angel" series published by Gold Eagle, and, of course, the Mack Bolan and Executioner novels.

I make no apologies for enjoying this stuff -- though like I said, I feel a tad guilty -- because for the most part, these books are written professionally, by writers who clearly enjoy what they're doing, and who take it seriously enough to do the best job they can. As someone who made a living writing characters created by other writers (along with a number I created myself, of course), I can appreciate the love these folks have for the characters and worlds over which they've taken temporary custodianship. Quite a few of these authors began their careers writing these shared-world novels, and have gone on to make their mark with wholly original works of their own; yet most of them return, again and again, to the shared worlds that gave them their start. That tells me they write what they write not just to earn a living, but because they have a passion for the material.

What they turn out may not be great literature, but it's entertaining pulp, and sometimes that's just what I'm in the mood for.

If you're interested in checking out some of the best of the bunch, try some of these:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a fun list, but it's not appearing for me. I understand how you feel about these books by relating it to how I feel about various horror or genre movies versus more generally approved films.