Just across the Montana-Idaho border on I-90, you’ll see a billboard for a bookstore in Alberton, MT. Alberton is pretty typical of the roadside town that dot this stretch of highway—a stretch of houses, one street, a post office, maybe a pair of gas stations, a “museum” filled with bits of local history, and a couple of bars. Alberton, though, also has a bookstore. One that advertises with thirty-foot tall billboards: “100,000 books!”
Naturally, we stopped and checked it out. And, like the sort of bookstore you’d suspect to find at the side of the highway in an area barely populated by squirrels much less people, it catered to a lot of the forgettable and the mundane. Though, in a rickety bookshelf against the wall of the narrow steps down into the basement, was a shelf of pulps. We were on our way out when I found it, and I only had time to grab one book, but what a book it was.
London Bloody London by Michael Avallone. An Ed Noon adventure.
From the back cover: “When Ed Noon groggily opened his eyes, the first thing he saw was Christine. That was all he had to see. Christine was a prime example of a beautiful British bird, every luscious naked inch of her. When she saw Ed awake, she liked her lips. Noon didn’t have to try the door to know it was locked. He didn’t have to ask Christine what she wanted. Ed Noon had become a sexual toy, and if his battery ran down, he’d be broken to bits and thrown away . . . ”
A Google search nets me ’Welcome to Nooniverse!’, a summary of Avallone’s Noon books, and they apparently get very strange as they go on. Avallone also wrote a great many of the Man from U.N.C.L.E. tie-in novels.
From the inside page: “Grand Tour of Big Trouble. To the casual eye, Ed Noon might have looked like a typical American tourist, wandering through London with his eyes wide open, peering in all directions. But the sights Noon wanted to see didn’t include Big Ben, Carnaby Street, or the swinging sin-spots of Soho. Noon was hunting an aging master scientist, a wizard child prodigy, a queer little man named Malvolio, a sinister secret agent named O’Connell, a super sex-bomb named Christine, a few other assorted lads and lasses with wanton wiles and lethal ways. And if Ed Noon didn’t succeed in this mission, the only souvenir he would wind up with would be a great big tombstone for the entire world . . . ”
The cast of characters is listed “according to their favorite London sights” (with the postscript that “some of them become sights themselves.”
And it is every bit as pulpy and delicious as it suggests. It certainly seems like there was a period (1968-1973 or so) where the pulps became tinged with SFnal elements and a little whiff of the surreal. So, while I missed out on the fun when it happened (focusing, as I was, on some of the more basic skills: crawling, drooling, shitting my pants), I wonder what is its equivalent today? Where is the 21st century Gonzo Pulp? (Comic books, notwithstanding. You can argue that they are the equivalent, and I’ll agree with you, but I’m looking for books here.)
And if no one is writing it, then who wants to start an imprint? If I can’t read it, I’ll write it.