Wednesday Mini Book Review: The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril


The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril, by Paul Malmont (Simon and Schuster, 2006). A fully delightful novel, simultaneously skilled and thrilling pulp adventure mixed with serious literary skill, meta-commentary on the nature and attraction of pulp fiction, and a full-on fan wallow in the pleasures of a bang-up narrative in which the corpse of H.P. Lovecraft tries to deliver a world-saving message to Robert Heinlein and L. Ron Hubbard in a New York bar (while, separate from the action across the room, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster plan their next move), where Stan Lee and Jack Kirby help Walter Gibson (the real "Maxwell Grant") keep on the trail of a sinister Chinese man with a mysterious and horrible plan all across Manhattan to a secret counterfeiting plant, where a chemist named Edward Elmer Smith helps save Manhattan from a poison gas attack.

This novel features some of the best fight scenes I've read in years, vivid sailing action, mysterious statues in abandoned theaters in the dark heart of Chinatown, and loads of believable and lovable characters (the love and exasperation and crisis and renewal in the relationship between Lester and Norma Dent is especially winning), most of them real people, fighting for love and vengeance and self-respect and a reason to live.

First-time novelist Paul Malmont is a second generation fanatic for the lost pop art of American pulp fiction, of the Shadow and Doc Savage and the shudder pulps and the science fiction rags, and says in his introduction that his goal is to "introduce you to some old friends of mine, and make their days come alive again. I will let their voices speak and let their hearts fill with life one more time." He succeeds, gloriously. This novel provides special depths of pleasure for those who have, like Malmont, romanticized and fantasized about pulp characters and creators; but it also stands apart from these fannish pleasures as a gripping novel exploring and explaining a fascinating and colorful Lost World.

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  1. Sounds very interesting, will have to check it out. BTW, if you like this sort of thing ie 30’s pulp reimagined for the 21st then you’ll probably enjoy “FEAR Agent”. It’s a mash of every pulp sci-fi theme imaginable ie Northwest Smith, jetpack, time-travel, alien invasion, classic spaceship etc joined with a contemporary feel for American politics and characters. Fun.

  2. I loved this one as well.

    I can’t wait to read the sequel set in the 80’s, in which Bret Easton Ellis and Jay Mcinerny team up to save Tama Janowitz from the evil depredations of P.J. o’Rourke.

  3. I just arranged to get my hands on a copy.

    Additional “modern pulp”, though it’s now 30 years old (!): Lin Carter’s Zarkon, Lord of The Unknown series. Prince Zarkon is a member of the Cobalt Club, and some of the members are experienced adventurers. The series wouldn’t have been out of place excerpted in the late Byron Preiss’ Weird Heroes magabook.


  4. Wow, for once I know all the names dropped in a Reason thread. I don’t read much fiction these days, but I’ve added this to my wishlist.

  5. This is a GREAT book! It was the talk of locals as well as us visitors to the first annual La Plata (Missouri) Doc Con, where Doc Savage and Lester Dent fans gathered in Dent’s hometown.
    As a long-time REASON subscriber and sometimes periodic poster and tipster to this blog, I might immodestly mention that Chinatown Death Cloud Peril author Paul Malmont mentions in his credits a book that my publishing company published: Lester Dent: The Man, His Craft and His Market.

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