Laguna Beach author, journalist and surfer Craig Lockwood is set to make waves with the release of the first volume of his new publication, “Hard-boiled Surf Pulp Fiction,” bringing back a genre that had all but disappeared from news stands and adding a new element to the growing body of surf fiction.
Pulp fiction, so called because of the cheap, wood pulp paper it was printed on, as opposed to the more expensive “glossies,” was popular from the late 19th century through the mid 20th century. The pulp magazines were known for their often lurid, fast-paced plots in genres involving detectives, mysteries, action-adventure, science fiction, westerns and romances. Not surfing.
Lockwood’s 9.5 inch by 7-inch, 100-page volume echoes the earlier era’s pulp fiction with its sensationalized cover graphics, including a scantily-clad female and gun-toting thug, and luring readers with six “action packed adventures.”
“ ‘Surf Pulp’ is very cool,” claimed Joe Tabler, who is selling copies of the pulp revival on his web site www.surfbooks.com, which, in addition to selling surf-related books and magazines, hosts “Surf Blurb,” where visitors post tidbits about surf-related art and events.
Tabler described Lockwood’s publication as distinctive. Besides bringing back “an old genre that has not seen the light of day in print for some time,” said Tabler, “no pulps from the golden age of pulps ever had any surfing, as far as I know.”
Despite its lowbrow nature, a number of great American novelists humbly started in pulp fiction, including Raymond Chandler, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ring Lardner, and Dashiell Hammett. Lockwood’s “The Big Deep” pays homage to Chandler’s novel, later made into a classic film, “The Big Sleep.”
A seasoned writer today, Lockwood got his start as a journalist at the now defunct Laguna Beach Post. He went on to work as a war correspondent for wire services Associated Press and Reuters. More recently, his book “Peanuts: Exploring Legend, Myth, and Archetype in California Surf Culture,” (Croul Foundation) was published in 2009.
Lockwood said writing surfing fiction was appealing because it’s fun to write as well as read. “I figured if you don’t sew your fantasy daisy fields yourself, no one else will sew them for you.”
The dream started to gain traction when he connected with veteran surf artist Rick Rietveld, a co-founder of Maui and Sons, at a book-signing event in 2009. Lockwood discovered that Rietveld shared his fascination with the pulps and the art that characterized the magazine covers from the ‘20s through the ‘50s. Last July, the duo’s first issue began. Lockwood said he had “a few dollars” to invest, as well as a novella that he’d written 12 years before. So he “sweet-talked” Rietveld into mocking up a cover, as well as some illustrations for “The Big Deep.”
Rietveld, who started translating his own imagined stories into images as a boy, greatly admired the best pulp fiction illustrators in their day. He was enthused about the chance to finally illustrate in a traditional style the sort of stories that initially inspired him.
Indeed, his hand-drawn cover art and illustrations for “Surf Pulp” both visually and technically recapture the original genre, though Rietveld said they actually made them even more dramatic than the originals to keep pace with “a new society that craves fast and furious info quickly.” “The cover is a marvel in action,” said Lockwood, who used his contacts to elicit contributions from other surf writers. Of the six stories, two are dark, while the others are humorous, he said.
Lockwood describes the main character, Sam Sand, in “The Big Deep,” as his literary allusion to Hammett’s Sam Spade, Chandler’s Philip Marlowe and Robert B. Parker’s Spenser. Sand serves as the classical anti-hero, a down on his luck surfer and former deputy sheriff turned private investigator with two prized possessions: a 1948 Mercury “woody” station wagon and a .45 Colt automatic. In the 30-page story, Sand tackles an impossible job, to find out why the surf’s been missing for three months and get it back.
Lockwood and Rietveld’s Pacific-Noir Pulp Press, based in Laguna Beach, published a run of 2,000 volumes and the first shipment arrived earlier this month. “You know what it’s going to look like,” Lockwood admitted, “but seeing it in boxes and seeing how pulp-like it actually looked was really thrilling.”
So far, they’ve sold 500 copies, available locally at Thalia Surf Shop and Laguna Beach Books, as well as on Tabler’s web site.
Back in the day, most pulp titles were monthly, some bi-monthly and some quarterly. According to its masthead, “Surf Pulp” is to be “published occasionally.”
But Lockwood and Rietveld aren’t stopping with “Surf Pulp.” They figured they might as well try some others. So the first volume of “Hard-boiled Hot Rod” should make its debut by year’s end, followed by the second volume of “Surf Pulp” and first volume of “Black Wave,” noir fiction.
Lockwood purposely went with a limited edition geared toward a collector’s market. So far he’s done little in the way of marketing, beyond the physical presence of the copies at the two Laguna shops and the SurfBooks web site.
“We’re excited to have it in here,” said Thalia Surf Shop manager Josh Tully. Lockwood’s last book “Peanuts” sold very well, he said.
“It’s off to a nice little start,” said Lockwood.