THE EDUCATION OF A PULP WRITER & OTHER STORIES (2014)
by David Cranmer
Reviewed by Barry Ergang
Besides editing and publishing Beat to a Pulp, David Cranmer is a skilled and versatile writer. This e-book presents five stories to give readers a very brief but entertaining sampler of his work. The stories are generally dark in tone and content, and readers who dislike explicit sexuality, street language, and raw violence should avoid them. Those who like sharp-edged noir, on the other hand, will probably find them quite appealing.
The nameless young college student who prostitutes herself via the Internet to pay for her education can’t have anticipated a client who looks like an enormously obese slab of “Blubber” the way this one does. She can’t possibly anticipate the outcome of their meeting, either.
A case of “Clouds in a Bunker,” Ian Spaulding suffers from dementia but is still reasonably functional. His wife is not. Spaulding has both of them locked up inside an underground fallout shelter behind their home, and plans to take both of their lives once he’s had a chance to talk to their daughter Anna, who’s outside with the police. Both the police chief and the hostage negotiator wonder why Spaulding keeps interrupting their phone conversations to deal with a whistling tea kettle in this poignant—and potent— story.
When his sister tells Lars that his ex-wife Danielle is eight months pregnant, “the wiring in Lars’s brain short-circuited.” Still bitter about Danielle’s decision to abort a child he conceived with her and their subsequent divorce, a “Cold Gray Dawn” descends upon him as he determines to eventually have his revenge in a particularly vicious manner. The results will likely repel some readers and relieve others—or possibly do both.
Wanting to please editors with the kind of descriptive prose exemplified by Raymond Chandler while at the same time delivering the kind of forensic realism modern audiences seem to demand “(T)hanks to crime and medical television,” Kirby MacGregor, for the sake of “The Education of a Pulp Writer,” and contending with nosy neighbor Marta Knolls, may or may not be able to deliver, despite his studies of different types of death.
Edward Morash, who prefers to be known as “Kid Eddie,” is wanted for a number of particularly vicious crimes. He’s in jail in Vermillion, and Marshal Cash Laramie is assigned the task of bringing him back to Cheyenne to stand trial. When he meets the young man who looks and comports himself as anything but murderous, Laramie begins to wonder if he’s indeed as innocent as he claims to be. An incident on the trip back to Cheyenne proves revelatory. Readers old enough to recognize the references, as well as those who watch the Encore western channel on cable TV as of the time of this writing, will appreciate references to a bounty hunter named Randall who “had a sawed-off Winchester” and to a Reverend McQueen.* Western noir, the story is one in a series Cranmer has written under the pseudonym Edward A. Grainger.
As mentioned at the outset, this e-book is a fast-paced, vividly-written “teaser” that should tempt fans of this kind of fiction to seek out other titles from David Cranmer/Edward A. Grainger, and is emphatically recommended.
*“Wanted: Dead or Alive” starring Steve McQueen as Josh Randall
© 2015 Barry Ergang