Full Disclosure: Tommy Hancock is a member of the New Pulp Fiction site and a major driving force behind the New Pulp movement. Hancock is Editor in Chief for Pro Se Productions, Promotions and Marketing Coordinator for Moonstone Entertainment, Editor in Chief of ALL PULP and also the Coordinator for PULP ARK, a New Pulp convention/creator's conference in Batesville, AR.
Sometimes the Greatest Mystery of Tomorrow Happened Yesterday!
At the heart of it all is a book, a notorious and mysterious lost manuscript from 1955, the journal of one Ramsey Long, a journalist turned masked adventurer who knew too much for anyone's good.
Ramsey Long's journal is not just any old kiss-and-tell memoir about the glory days of some masked vigilantes and their sordid personal escapades and peccadilloes before the government began to officially sanction specific defenders of Democracy, it exposes a host of dirty secrets that could destroy quite a few careers, provides proof regarding long buried clandestine government projects and details on long-denied black ops, the truth behind various controversial government policies and more. Conspiracies are mapped-out and proven. Corruption is identified and called to task. Secret Identities are revealed along with a good deal more. Much more. There are things in that manuscript that could end careers, upset the delicate balance of power and threaten the national defense. If that book ever did come out, even decades after it was first written, it could very likely bring about the end of the world as we know it. It's a real doomsday book. Ramsey Long connected the dots and followed the leads like a good reporter until he knew too much to be allowed to go any further.
Long's announcement in 1955 that he was publishing his journal was the last straw. What had been a smoldering powder-keg before was an atomic bomb about to detonate. Something had to be done.
Officially, the manuscript, like Long himself, disappeared in April, 1955. Everyone connected with it has died under mysterious circumstances that have been covered up by someone with a lot of clout--including the suspicious deaths of J. C. Smithenson's parents who were the ones planning to publish Ramsey Long's book. Smithenson, the former world famous boy detective Kid Kop, has spent most of his life obsessed with uncovering who killed his parents in connection with the missing manuscript, ruining his one-time career as a real cop and leaving him out of step with the whole Hero and Villain movement. Reluctantly, J. C. has himself become a publisher and some-time consultant for the police, just like his parents before him.
But no sooner does Smithenson help his old partner Detective Donovan nail crooked councilman and deranged serial killer Martin George (codename: Antibody) than someone leaves a mysterious package for J. C. Smithenson. It's not the Grail, nor is it Sam Spade's Black Bird, but instead it is Ramsey Long's ultra-dangerous manuscript itself. J. C. is left holding the manuscript—the very same manuscript that his parents were killed to prevent them from publishing years ago.
Things go into overdrive then.
J. C. finds himself very much a marked man because quite a few people have been tipped off that he has Long's manuscript. Government-controlled superheroes, the military and the obligatory unnameable alphabet agencies, elements of super-covert ultra-black ops units, an assassin with serious standards, and a shape-shifting victim of bizarre government-sanctioned super-power experiments all come out of the proverbial woodwork to voice their concerns over Long's manuscript, to talk J. C. out of publishing it, or to make sure that he never gets a chance to use it against any of them.
Smithenson is faced with a lot of hard choices. The danger quickly escalates as word of the manuscript's resurfacing spreads like wildfire. People have been getting killed over this manuscript for decades. Everyone out there has secrets they don't want exposed. Several of them are more than willing to kill to keep their secrets from being revealed or used against them.
Within mere hours of his receiving the manuscript, Government agents show up and harangue him about National Security while not-so-subtly threatening him should he even consider publishing; and a rogue superheroine practically burns down his publishing company and ruthlessly murders his fiancee before his very eyes. It is then that Smithenson knows that his old life is over and done with once and for all. Possession of Long's manuscript will get him killed sooner or later, by the mask-and-cape set, or the government, or someone else
So J. C. Smithenson does what any red blooded young man raised to know right from wrong (and to give a damn about it) would do – he takes on the mask, costume, and cause of The Freelancer, Ramsey Long's own long-dormant masked identity. He becomes the new Freelancer.
If anyone was ever born to be some sort of masked crime-fighter, it is J. C. Smithenson. He grew up around reporters, writers, and his grandparent's recollections and scrap-books from the earliest days of the Heroic Age. Even before gaining access to Long's journal, J. C. was a world-reknowned expert and consultant on the Hero-and-Villain movement. As the new Freelancer he probably knows more secrets than anyone else out there, and what he doesn't know, he knows how to find out. This is an intriguing new character who combines some of the more cerebral aspects of a Sherlock Holmes or even a touch of Carl Kolchak, but with the rugged physicality and so forth that evokes Daredevil or his predecessor the Black Bat, and yet none of that really does the character justice.
This isn't just some schmuck in a mask who'll brain-punch the bad guys or sling hot lead indiscriminately into hordes of gangsters. This is a thinking man's New Pulp hero. He knows things. Lot's of things. He is privy to loads of secrets -- many of them the kind of stuff no one else is supposed to know – and that makes The Freelancer not just fresh, but unique and bursting with incredible story-potential. Hancock could easily do a whole series of thrilling adventures in the mold of Warren Ellis's seminal Planetary just in terms of J.C.'s first few attempts to investigate some of the obscure references or incomplete notes from Long's Journal. The consequences of his publishing some version of that same Journal could also lead to all sorts of complications, conflicts and intense drama that could, would and should play out across this New Pulp universe.
All the skullduggery and action surrounding Long's Journal and the passing of the torch from Long to J. C. and the rise of the new Freelancer is the central theme of Yesteryear, but Smithenson isn't alone in his journey of self discovery and personal re-invention. We also witness the tragic origin of the dark hero The Night from out of a sweltering hot-bed of police corruption revealed in the wake of the brutal murder of a good cop whose twin sons face off in a showdown of good versus evil that leaves one dead and the other a haunted avenger who prowls the darkness.
The Night is somewhere between the Spider, The Green Hornet and the Shadow in terms of his Pulp pedigree, but just as he did with The Freelancer, Hancock doesn't stop at just concocting a derivative cocktail of a character, he brings this two-fisted New Pulp nemesis of evil to life and reveals the very poignant personal turmoil, torment and terrible loss that made him take up his mask, defines him as an implacable scourge of the underworld, and drives him onwards in his one-man crusade against organized crime and police corruption. He's not rich, doesn't have a fancy cave or swanky hide-out – he's the son of a murdered cop. He doesn't leap over tall buildings and he probably won't spend much time doing interviews – he packs heat and isn't afraid to use it. The Night will be cleaning up the streets, alleys and neighborhoods of his city and he isn't afraid to take on crooked cops, politicians on the take, the mob or anyone else. The Night is intense and it will be great fun seeing where Hancock takes this character next.
The much more light-hearted Blue Genie also makes his debut in Yesteryear. We get tantalizing glimpses of the Bootlegger, The Starlet, The Hero, Public Defender, Doctor Caduceus, and a host of other heroes. We learn about the stymied and confused villain Doc Shock; the insane genius The Music; the pyrotechnic ballerina-assassin from hell known as Firedancer; the mystic master Caul Kain who saw all of this coming; Peter Poseidon, the conflicted leader of the First Team; the deadly and creepy Personas who take over their victim's lives; and the ultra-dangerous meta-assassin Patch Tatters—who isn't the bumbling clown Ramsey Long's journal pokes fun at, not by a long shot.
All in all Yesteryear is an incredible tour de force of the amazing new universe that Tommy Hancock has built and the novel is packed with an immense amount of detail without ever once bogging down or going flat. In fact, the book reads like an action-packed roller coaster ride through the author's imagination. It's one heck of a ride and it'll leave you wanting more. Thankfully, Mr. Hancock is hard at work on the next installment: Nomorrow.
After reading Yesteryear, you'll know why Tommy Hancock won the Best New Writer of 2011 award at the recent Pulp Ark convention.
YesterYear by Tommy Hancock
Published by Pro Se Press.
Cover Art by Jay Piscopo, Interior art by Peter Cooper, Format and Design by Sean Ali.
Publication Date: Apr 12 2011
ISBN/EAN13: 1461061598 / 9781461061595
$12.00, 190 pages, Black & White (Illustrations)
$3.99 eBook via: http://www.pulpmachine.blogspot.com/
Yesteryear is available at Createspace and Amazon.