Spenser: A Pulp Hero?

There is no better writer for you to take your pulp inspiration from than Robert B. Parker. I found his Spenser novels only recently, and have been reading them at the rate of two a week this winter. They’re not long, but they are gripping. Why am I suggesting you take notes from Parker?

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The first thing to note is that Parker consciously followed in the footsteps of his three heroes: Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Ross Macdonald. There is nothing original about the high level summary of Parker’s Spenser novels. Spenser is a private detective with military experience and


Why do people use pen names? More specifically: why do crime writers have so many each? I know the answer, and it’s complicated.

John le Carré does not exist. It is a fictional name created by the spy, David Cornwell. Ian Fleming did exist. The man was the writer, the writer the man. Why the difference? David’s novels were not permitted by his employers, at various times both MI5 and MI6. So he sent his books off, not expecting to get published, and conjured up the name John the Square as professional cover. Years later, after leaving the service, he was stuck with the name.

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Fleming was always a writer, once he left the military and had a ‘good war’. He had no…


I can tell you what my definition of pulp crime is. It might work for you. You might object to bits of my definition, and I might object to bits of yours. As with most genres, this is universally true: I’ll know what it is when I see it. But this is just as true: you and I might disagree about a particular story or writer fitting our innate definition. Never mind. It’s all part of the fun.

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My American pulp crime writers would include: Raymond Chandler first of all, then Dashiell Hammett. Robert B. Parker, Erle Stanley Gardner (also…


I’m trying something new this year. Writing a novel in 8 weeks. True, it’s a short novel, only two hundred pages. That’s around 60,000 words. It’s perfectly possible to write a first draft at around 1,000 words an hour. That’s sixty hours. Too many numbers for you?

I have two big plans in mind. I’ve been a professional trainer for 13 years or so, but I have never taught writers. Yet I started writing for fun aged 10, sold a short story at 18, and got some really, really, really positive rejections from HarperCollins and Macmillan. …


It’s hard being a musician in a band. It might be harder to go solo, but not in all ways. The problem with bands is that the good ones last five to ten years. Think about that. You spend your early life trying to get good and get noticed, and then it’s over before you hit 30.

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The front man (or woman) have a higher profile and usually find it easier, though not easy, to start again. We have unashamedly focused our first season on Paul Heaton as the driving force of both the Housemartins and the Beautiful South. Although…


For American listeners, perhaps Thomas McGuane requires no introduction. A successful novelist and screenwriter, he is also a regular contributor to the New Yorker. However, part of my motivation in featuring his work here is that he is virtually unknown in Britain.

This episode looks at Tom’s successful move, Missouri Breaks, which starred Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando, plus we cover the novel Panama in addition to 92.

For British ears, a “break” is a national monument, or national park, famous for the Lewis and Clark expedition. Also famous for being the route taken by land to discover the Northwest…


I did a story on WhatsApp earlier this week, and it’s all blown up since then. It turns out the whole world ‘misunderstood’ the new privacy rules on WhatsApp. They’re not actually changing, oh no, and we now have until May instead of February to accept them. But hang on, says the world, if they’re not changing, then why do we need to re-approve them?

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I remain convinced that Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram are run by a man-child whose sole aim in life is to get girls. It’s how it all started, this societal f**k-up, and it continues today. …


I started writing these diaries on LinkedIn as an antidote to all the self-obsessed selling that was happening on that platform. Look at me! Look at how my company can fix your Coronavirus issues! It was naked marketing done by rank amateurs. After a few raised eyebrows, my counter-pieces got some great feedback which encouraged me to continue to the end. I wrote daily at first, and sometimes more often, but it gradually fades out towards June. Rather like lockdown itself…

Early March 2020

At the beginning of March 2020 it was not clear that Britain would go into lockdown, as some other…


I’ve written before about deleting Facebook and WhatsApp. They are two of my most popular articles here on Medium. But today, as WhatsApp unveils new measures to help them share your information with the Facebook HQ which has owned it since 2014, we consider the grim reality: is there actually any alternative? Yes and no.

I still believe that for normal 1-to-1 text messages, the old SMS system is still the best. It is not run by a single company, so has no single point of failure. It is not run commercially except by your mobile phone network, and you…


I loved this book by Carol Ann Lee. I know a fair bit about the Moors Murders, but only recently did I drag the famous Topping book out of the library. It was an account of a policeman’s re-opening of the Moors case back in the 1980s. It’s gripping, but more than one person had some issues with it. Whenever anyone writes a book or makes some money out of the case, especially amongst the public servants who were involved, it attracts negative comments.

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Carol’s book has no such connections or troubles: she is a proper journalist, a proper writer…

Paul Dettmann

Writer. London, England.

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