Want to write a commercially successful novel? Here are certain guidelines to help you achieve your goal:

1. The title of the book should carry a woman’s name – and it should be a sexy one, like ‘Miss Leela Mohini’ or ‘Mosdhar Vallibai’.

2. Don’t worry about the storyline.(!) All you have to do is creatively adapt (love this phrase) the stories of [British penny dreadful author G.W.M.] Reynolds and the rest. Yet your story absolutely must include a minimum of half a dozen lovers and prostitutes, preferably ten dozen murders, and a few sundry thieves and detectives.

3. The story should begin with a murder. Sprinkle in a few thefts. Some arson will also help. These are the necessary ingredients of a modern novel.

4. You can make money only if you are able to titillate. If you try to bring in any social message, like Madhaviah’s The Story of Padhmavathi or Rajam Iyer’s The Story of Kamalbal, forget it. Beware! You are not going to lure your women readers.

These guidelines first published in 1933 by Sudhandhira Sangu are reproduced by Pritham K. Chakravarthy in her selection of Tamil pulp stories.

 Peopled by Mad Scientists, Hard-Boiled detectives, Vengeful Goddesses, Murderous Robots, Scandalous Starlets, Pathetic Prostitutes, and Drug addicted Lovers, this is a fun filled roller coaster ride in an attempt to claim the status of ‘literature’ for a huge body of writing that has rarely if ever made it into an academic library, despite having been produced for nearly a century.

Pulp in the Western Literature too has a long lineage. This year, I read Steve Harrison: Detective of the Occult by American author Robert E. Howard.

 Comprising of three stories – all published between 1934-26 – Fangs of Gold (People of the Serpent); Names in the Black Book; and Graveyard Rats, they put Harrison in strange, sinister situations where some supernatural force seems to be at work. However, Harrison’s ingenuity reveals the human hand behind the supernatural smoke-screen.

In Fangs of Gold, Harrison follows a Chinese murderer to a swamp land where he finds worshippers of a Dark God. However, it is human ambition and lust for power that is really the culprit.

Is it Perry Mason between these covers?

In Names in the Black Book, a dead man apparently comes back to life and starts killing the people who were responsible for ‘killing’ him. Harrison’s name is also in the list.

 In Graveyard Rats, the head of a man recently buried reappears in his house putting his brothers in terror and panic.

These were different kind of stories, a little too grisly for my taste.


First Line: THE AUTOMATIC DOORS closed behind Narendran as he entered the airport lounge.

Title: The Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction

Translator: Pritham K. Chakravarthy

Editor: Rakesh Khanna

Publication Details: Chennai: Tranquebar Press, 2011

First Published: 2008

Pages: 412

Source: M.C. Library [894.8113 C349B]


Opening Lines: “THIS is the only trail into the swamp, mister.” Steve Harrison’s guide pointed a long finger down the narrow path which wound in and out among the live-oaks and cypresses. Harrison shrugged his massive shoulders. The surroundings were not inviting, with the long shadows of the late afternoon sun reaching dusky fingers into the dim recesses among the moss-hung trees.

Title: Steve Harrison: Detective of the Occult
Author: Robert E. Howard
Publication Details: E-book
Pages: n.pag.
Source: PGA
Other books read of the same author: None

2 thoughts on “Pulp

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