"Scarlet Goddess" seems to be the first Sand Shocker and boy howdy is it a shocker. A lot of people compare Sand to Mike Hammer or the single-named (like Cher) Parker. I see the similarities but I wonder how much of the pulps Ennis Willie read. Hammer's famously considered the illegitimate son of Carroll John Daly's Race Williams and maybe Sand is too. Carroll John Daly like cowboy-action in an urban setting, thrill-a-minute stuff and so did Spillane and Willie. Its easy for this leap of logic when talking about these characters, since they throw logic down in the gutter and fill it with .45 caliber holes. I bring up Pulps for another reason (other then my obsession with them) "Scarlet Goddess" reads like a hot-and-heavy "Weird Menace" pulp, you know the kind where the supernatural is bleeding into the crime story. It's something that seems to be more common in this sleaze/proto-Men's Adventure books then I had thought, more on that when some books arrive in the mail. What can I say? I'm on a tear with these smut/proto-Men's adventure books of the 50's and 60's.
|Not my photo. Sorry.|
and suckered into "helping" (been there) a friend Sand gets tangled into a wild caper with cults,fire opal that may contain the devil and Sasquatches running amok. Sand's his usual flippant tough guy self and really barely bats an eye at the quasi-supernatural stuff going on. He may not fully believe it but he doesn't spend a lot of time dwelling on it. Though I can't say Sand spends a lot of time dwelling on much, the pace wouldn't allow it. I talk about pace and speed a lot on the blog, it's fairly obvious that I probably prefer a rapid-fire story to a intricate well-thought out one. TV killed the radio star AND the junk-food novel, but there's still a few of us banded together in pursuit of a relaxing high-octane pulp read. Sand is the perfect example of a pulp-story just a few years newer then the heyday. Sand's on a course of bloody vengeance which keeps getting interrupted by willing-saucy-dames plus plenty of opportunity to show how much of an utter-badass he is and the supernatural stuff is something that seems very fresh within the formula. It's not a perfect book, the "surprise" at the end is fairly obvious but hey, who cares when it's been this much fun getting to it. Max Allan Collins spoke of the supernatural stuff in his foreword of the Ramble House edition and I avoided the book for a bit because of it. I wasn't sure how it would mesh together. I was stupid because it's an Ennis Willie book and the man could write an entertaining book in his sleep. It rides the line with the fantastic and makes you wonder if it was going to pull a "Scooby Doo" ending or double down. I won't spoil it, but I'm happy with how it went down. Plus it's got the coolest cover of the Sand books.
Ennis Willie recently passed away at 81, I'm glad he got to see a resurgence of his work and the impact that his novels had on people, something that sadly a lot of the guy toiling away in the low-rent publishing world never experience in their life-time. You really can't have more fun with a book than you can with a Sand Shocker. It's a shame that all the stories and novel with the big guy aren't reprinted. I wonder if Ramble House is going to do another book, they'd have my money. But I'll be happy with the two awesome collections "Sand's Game" and "Sand's War" and the eternal
hunt for the original printings.