by Charles Bukowski
In Pulp, we join Nick Belane, private eye “extraordinaire”––the best dick in L.A., by his own account––as he attempts to solve several cases, which quite often entails sitting there, drinking, and musing on how he should be solving cases. He meets Lady Death, who wants him to investigate a man who looks uncannily like an author who supposedly passed away long ago, to determine if it is, in fact, the same man who happened to evade her grasp. He also is tasked at finding the Red Sparrow, with nothing more to go on than its name; to get a real-life alien from space off another client’s back; and to catch a client’s wife––thought to be having an affair––in the act. (He’s very quick to assure the last client that he’ll “nail her ass” every chance he gets.)
Being written in short chapters with concise prose and frequent, punchy action, Pulp is a veritable breeze to get through. I often found myself beside myself with laughter due to absurdities in dialogue and plot, often stemming from snippy comments Belane made to one of the many bartenders who grew to loathe him by the end of the story, only to cringe at some of the gritty violence that hits with minimal warning. The only real complaint I have toward Bukowski’s final story is how heavy-handed the author can be with his bleak world view. Perhaps he could sense his end, or perhaps he was looking back on his life with regret or bitterness; no matter the reason, it gives Pulp its only tiresome passages.
Luckily, however, such passages are few and far between; all in all, Pulp was a joy to get through. I most definitely am looking forward to checking out some of his other, better-received works, like Ham on Rye.