The Twilight Patrol #1: Drones of the Ravaging Wind

Stuart Hopen. Bold Venture, $14.95 trade paper (132p) ISBN 978-1-5426-7585-7
Presented as “the rarest and most obscure of the Depression era pulps,” this spry pastiche of the hero pulp magazines that dominated newsstands in the first half of the 20th century calls to mind an era when genres were malleable and writers readily manipulated their tropes to craft entertaining popular fiction hybrids. Its series character, Hollister Congrieve, is a Spad-flying Air Force captain cut from the same cloth as pulp aviation aces G-8 and Dusty Ayres and dyed in the heroic hues that colored the exploits of Doc Savage, Secret Service Operator 5, and their ilk. While serving the Allied forces in Europe, Congrieve runs afoul of the titular weird menace, a massive cloud of ravenous vermin that strips flesh from bone and turns biplanes into tattered wrecks. His attempts to stop this formidable weapon lead him to Cassiopeia, “a country in the Carpathians,” where he combats agents of an ancient occult order known variously as the Archons of Qliphoth and the Mysteriarchs of the Abyss, who are in cahoots with the German-led Central Powers. Hopen sets his tale in an alternate 1917 in which the deaths of President Woodrow Wilson and his successor, William Jennings Bryan, were followed by the invasion of the American mainland by the German navy, adding an intriguing level of complications to the chaos unfolding in Congrieve’s European adventures. He also casts it with the usual suspects one expects in pulp fiction—femmes fatales, double-crossing double agents, amiable sidekicks for the hero—and lards it with colorfully descriptive passages (“casings on the belted bullets passed in a blur of coppery incandescence”). The package is rounded out with poems by Orville Wootin (an aviator spy whose metaphysical maunderings are now de rigueur from the mouths of mystics in contemporary superhero comics), a short story, illustrations, and reproductions of the cheesy ads that cluttered the back pages of the original pulp magazines. Readers nostalgic for the flash and dazzle of pulp derring-do will find this adventure tale a fitting homage. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/20/2017
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