The literary equivalent to the Hollywood ‘B’ movie would probably be the pulps, or ‘pulp fiction.’ We don’t see a lot of pulp fiction today, but I’d say that author Dan Hanks is still writing in the pulp fiction style.
In Swashbucklers, our hero is Cisco Collins. And ‘hero’ is the correct term. As a child, Cisco was one of a few people who saved the world by defeating a pirate known as Deadman’s Grin. Grin had been able to animate inanimate objects and turn them into killing machines.
Now a down-on-his-luck adult (his wife has left him for her fitness instructor), Cisco returns to his hometown (with his son George). He’s first stunned that no one seems to remember the world-saving battle – not even his old friends with whom he fought! Cisco works to help his friends remember what they once went through.
The other thing that Cisco notes is that there are some inanimate objects are coming to life and attacking the town. Is it possible that Deadman’s Grin was not truly defeated? It becomes urgent for Cisco to get his friends to remember how they defeated Deadman’s Grin the first time so that they have a frame of reference for their inevitable next battle.
Hanks delivers a classic pulp adventure story in the vein of Green Lama and Domino Lady and Captain Hazard. If these aren’t familiar pulp hero names to you, that’s kind of my point. While the pulps may have brought us Conan and Tarzan and Doc Savage and the Green Hornet (characters many readers are familiar with), they also saw a lot of characters who’ve been forgotten over time. … Because the stories and characters generally aren’t worth remembering except by those ardent pulp fans who reminisce about the glory days of pulps in online chat rooms (um…yes, I do lurk in some of those).
Such is Swashbucklers.
Hanks infuses the story with a big sense of history (an attitude of: ‘we did all this other stuff … remember when we did this…remember?!’). It’s quite strong and at times I felt maybe I should put the book down and go read that first book in the series. Except, oh wait, there is no other book in the series. But … I’m a little more interested in that story because in this one, our hero spends a good deal of time complaining about getting old and how much harder it is to fight a villain now and frankly I found it not funny (as I assume it was meant to be) and more than just a little bit whiny.
This is my second Dan Hanks novel and it seems pretty clear that he likes that low-budget, pulpy, B-movie feel which is pretty specific, and it’s the sort of story I actually seek out in used books stores while bemoaning – “why doesn’t anyone write campy stuff like this any more?” So I should really like this, but it just never engages.
Looking for a good book? If cheap pulp adventure is your reading interest, you might enjoy Dan Hanks’ Swashbucklers.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.
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author: Dan Hanks
publisher: Angry Robot
paperback, 310 pages