The Chinatown Cloud Death Peril

Written by Paul Malmont
Review by Steve Lewis


In 1937, the United States was in the midst of the Great Depression. For entertainment there was no television, only radio, the movies and – the pulps. The newsstands were filled with magazines made of cheap paper with lurid covers. Two of the best of these were The Shadow and Doc Savage, written by Walter Gibson and Lester Dent, respectively, although the general public knew them only by their pseudonyms, Maxwell Grant and Kenneth Robeson.

What Paul Malmont proposes in this almost hoot of a novel is that Gibson, Dent, and a gent named L. Ron Hubbard combined forces to solve the murder of a fellow writer, one H. P. Lovecraft, and to track down at the same time a fellow from China trying to give his country a step up on Japan in those desperate days before World War II. Other real names which can be spotted in the narrative are Robert Heinlein, Chester Himes, Louis L’Amour, and more than a few others. There is only one problem. No pulp novel ever took more than 150 pages to get started, as this book does.

The author seems to feel that many readers will need a long expository history of the pulp magazines before he can begin, along with the life stories of each of the primary protagonists. Those who do not require this information will be bored, I fear – unless they enjoy quibbling about the details – expecting a faster pace by far. As for the uninitiated for whom the background would be useful, I wonder how many of them will ever get past the background.

But when the book finally does take off, it’s hang-on-to-your-seatbelt time, there’s no doubt about it!