Friday, February 22, 2013

Who was that masked man?

. . . A question that has rung down through the ages. Or at least through a few generations, starting with that youthful audience who hung onto every trumpet fanfare and galloping hoof strike and word that reverberated from the monaural speaker of the radio cabinet when those thrilling days of yesteryear were recalled on The Lone Ranger Show.

The masked man of present concern is El Tigre Azul, luchador hero of my 25 thousand-word adventure story, Three Witches.

More than one person has asked me, "Why would you write a story about something you know so little about?"

My question back: "Do you mean fighting cocks?"

"No, masked Mexican wrestlers."

My reply: "Why not?"

The luchadores who are heroes in my story aren't necessarily the sort of luchadores one sees on TV wrestling matches. My luchadores were inspired by the heroic luchadores who battled vampires, witches, Aztec mummies, werewolves, and all kinds of bad evil critters in a series of Mexican films produced from the late 1950s through the 1970s. Many of these appeared in badly dubbed versions produced for the U.S. drive-in market, and later were shown on cable television stations during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The dubbed versions have a camp quality that initially difficult to see past. But at the heart of these movies are daring heroes slugging their ways through dire situations.

And really, on any given day, slogging through another day of drudgery, do you feel so different from that? (Okay, maybe you don't wear a mask.)

The private eye of countless crime novels has been described as the evolution to the contemporary mean streets of the archetypal cowboy from literature, a romantic knight errant of the prairies and Wild West.

The luchador might be said to be an amalgam of both.

Why not? Hammett's Continental Op in Red Harvest plays the role of a lone-riding cowboy -- not so different from Clint Eastwood's Man with No Name -- pitting two rival gangs/cattle ranches/antagonists against one another. And hasn't more than one critic pointed out that Kurosawa's samurai film Yojimbo owes quite a bit to Red Harvest? Thus, for me, it really isn't so far to see El Tigre and his fellow luchadores as ronin, wandering samurai warriors, tackling horrors in a terrorized town in Mexico. (If you still doubt, let me remind you that The Magnificent Seven was a Wild West translation of Kurosawa's earlier film, Seven Samuari.)

I play up a bit this cowboy connection for the luchadores in Three Witches: While the three heroes -- El Tigre Azul (The Blue Tiger), El Puño de Bronce (The Fist of Bronze), and Doctor Zaius -- await the arrival of the criminals who are trying to kill them (a gang known as The Criminal Body), the luchadores talk about how they feel they are in a John Wayne movie . . . either Rio Bravo or El Dorado. They can't recall which is which, because the two movies are very similar:

“Sarah Winchester's unending house!” Dr. Zaius exclaimed. “I feel like I'm in Rio Bravo. Or El Dorado. I don't remember which.”

El Puño de Bronce dropped into a chair. “What are you talking about, Doctor?”

“A John Wayne movie. John Wayne and his buddies are under siege in a western town, waiting for the gang of bad guys to attack.”

“Ah. Which movie was that? Rio Bravo or El Dorado?”

“Well, both of them, really.”

Later, the characters resume their conversation about the movies:


Beside the hotel on the left was a tailor. Its door and shutters remained closed. To the right of the hotel was a funeraria. The mortician stepped out his door. He was dressed in black from head to toe. He looked at the men sitting in the street around a small table, nodded, smiled, rubbed his hands together, and disappeared inside his business.

El Tigre chuckled. “Maybe this is a western.” He looked at El Puño. “Do you feel like John Wayne?”

The man in bronze tapped ash from his Gran Corona. “I feel more like Gabby Hayes.”

Back to the original question: Who was that masked man? He's the hero who moves us all to find that bit of hero in ourselves, each day, to deal with major problems and even the small aggravations that, piled together, and sometimes feel like a mountain on one's shoulders at the end of the day.

And to return to the second question -- "Why would you write a story about something you know so little about?" -- I'll say that Johnston McCulley wrote about Zorro, O. Henry wrote about the Cisco Kid, Fran Striker created The Lone Ranger, Willliam S. Gibson wrote millions of words about The Shadow. And I'll bet none of them brandished pistols or swords from the back of a flashing steed or the running board of a 1930s roadster, and probably none of them wore a mask for anything except a costume party.

But they wrote roaring good tales that keep readers coming back to their words, generation after generation.

That answer is good enough for me.

Saturday, February 9, 2013


Thought I'd take a moment to let folks know about some updates.

New at The Pulp Rack: "The Scientific Sherlock Holmes by James O’Brien" . . .

You'll find it here:

Relatively new at The Spur & Lock: "Clay Randall's Amos Flagg--High Gun" . . .

You'll find it here:

And before that, there's this post: "Strong stuff: Edge and the Piccadilly Western" . . .

You'll find it here:

And over at the newly relaunched Amazing Stories Magazine site, you'll find my first two contributions:

 . . . and . . .

Something for everyone!


Friday, February 1, 2013

Inoculate Against the Lurids: Language Is A Virus

If that title looks confusing, I can only recommend that you visit the new Amazing Stories Magazine site and read my first contribution posted there. That is its title. Read on past that, and clarity should follow. (That's the intent, any way.)

You can find it here.

While you're there, be sure to check out the contributions from some of the many other fine writers. Lots of pop culture and genre-history brains gathered on the flight deck of a single star ship. It's a pleasure to be part of the ride.