We recently had a chat with writer James Mullaney, who among other things worked on the classic men's action series The Destroyer (he is currently working with Shane Black on a proposed Destroyer film). We caught up with him and asked about some of the different modern Pulp characters whose adventures he has written -- these include Crag Banyon (a detective whose adventures include mythological characters) and the Red Menace (an old-school masked vigilante).
Where did you get the idea for the premise behind the Crag Banyon mysteries?
I'd written a short story a thousand years ago called Accidental Death Claus, about a reporter investigating something at the North Pole. It wasn't very good. For one thing, I took it way too seriously. I think it was written third person, unlike the first person of the Banyon novels. But I thought there was something there, so I filed it away. Years later, when I was looking to plug a gap with a short ebook, I remembered that story. I don't recall the reporter's name, but he became Crag Banyon. Banyon is a drunk Humphrey Bogart who claims he doesn't give a crap, but still goes all-out for his clients in his lazy, disinterested way. They're comedies, so I started dumping everything I thought was funny into them. The Banyon books are The Producers, Get Smart, Groucho Marx, Monty Python, Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker. That first book, One Horse Open Slay, was supposed to be a one-off, but I loved that world too much. Now those books will probably be the best things I ever do. I'm fine with that. I'm writing the tenth one now, and I still laugh out loud when I'm writing them. As long as I keep doing that, I'll keep writing them.
The Red Menace seems like a sort of mix of men's action paperbacks and old school Pulps. Is there a direct inspiration for this character?
Not exactly. I'd done a Green Hornet short story for an anthology put out by the good folks at Moonstone. This was after I'd written a bunch of books in The Destroyer series. The Green Hornet was of an age when the good guys wore masks. The men's adventure heroes of the 1970s didn't. I decided it might be fun to do a character who survived the masked hero age of the fifties, retires, then comes back in the 1970s. So half the time he's James Bond, and the other half he's Zorro. The Red Menace sort of bridges the gap between those two eras.
Could you describe how you became involved with the Destroyer series?
My dad. If he hadn't brought those old Sapir-Murphy books home when I was a kid, I probably never would have discovered them on my own. There's boring stuff that happened after that, but I've simplified this in my head as I've gotten older, and it really comes down to a great father who loved to read