Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pulp Audition Sample

This is a two-page "Doc Savage" sample I wrote to audition for a company that publishes new adventures of public domain pulp characters from the 1930s and 40s. Doc Savage is absolutely NOT int he public domain and is copyright and trademark to his owners. This sample is purely that - to show that I could write in the pulp style tradition. I got the gig, btw.

Chapter XVI
The Iron Fortress

AT the wheel of the old truck, Doc Savage turned to the others. “Hold onto something,” he said.

Monk fidgeted with his pack. He was agitated.

“Gosh, Doc,” he yelped. “Maybe we want to rethink this?” His homely face wore a worried expression. The desert heat was magnified in the truck, making him sweat profusely.

Ham sneered. “Quiet, you hairy misanthrope! I want you to hear me laughing once Doc proves you wrong—again!”

If the bronze man was distracted by their banter, he didn’t show it. Small gold flecks twirled in his eyes as he focused on the gigantic wooden gate ahead of them. He put the truck into gear and poised his foot over the gas pedal.

Doc pushed down on the pedal. Hard.

The dilapidated truck lurched forward and began picking up speed. It creaked and groaned but did not fall apart. It was sound, despite Monk’s fears. If anything, they should make it to the gate in one piece. After that, no one among them knew.

The truck hit the wooden gate and the barrier came down in pieces around them. Then, the truck died several feet into the compound beyond.

“Everyone out!” said Doc. “Move swiftly, brothers.”

Monk, Ham, and Long Tom leapt from the truck. Suddenly, they could taste the excitement in the air; this is what they lived for. If there was danger, Doc’s men were there, asking for it.

Doc’s keen eras picked up far-off yelling. He surveyed the scene in front of him—it was worse than he had hoped. Lina Larson’s estimates were a bit off. The distance from the gate to the fortress itself was a hundred yards, easily. The girl was wrong by at least fifty yards.

The fortress was made of iron and steel. There was no doubt on that score. It rose from the desert floor like an armored beetle, exuding strength and fortitude. If Doc was the kind of man to swear, he would have sworn at the sight of it.

A loud cranking sound drew Doc’s attention. A lone turret high up on the fortress’ walls swiveled to face them. It produced the muzzle of a heavy machine gun. The gun opened up and spewed lead at them.

Doc crouched and tensed his muscles. “Go!” he shouted to his partners. “Cover Long Tom!”

They went.

Monk and Ham grabbed at Long Tom and began running towards the fortress. The machine gunners—presumably hired thugs—were slow to draw a bead on them and for a few seconds only the ground behind them felt hot lead. Then, the gunners caught up.

Ham swore as machine gun fire nipped at his heels and tore at the pack on his back. He was reminded of what the pack held and ran faster. Long Tom, sickly-looking and pale, ran as fast as the others despite the larger pack he carried—and the spool of wire that connected him with the truck. With the dust kicked up from the bullets, the gunners hadn’t seen the electrical wizard’s tether. Yet.

As Ham struggled to keep his own pack on his back, Monk swung his off his broad shoulders and dug inside it. He produced a grenade in his hairy hand and grinned wickedly at it. Kissing the grenade he pulled its pin with his ape-like teeth.

“Pineapple pie, boys!” he squeaked. “Heads up!”

He threw the grenade. It arced through the heavy, arid air and into the turret above. Came a loud noise. Then fire. Screams tore through the air.

Closer now to the fortress’ wall, Doc Savage spied the junction box Lina Larson had described to him the night before. He increased his speed, wary of machine gun fire from other quarters. Hands flat and slicing the air around him, legs pumping like pistons, he ran like an Olympic athlete. The sand below his feet barely showed Doc’s progress.

The bronze giant pulled up short of the junction box and quickly observed its size, placement and lack of features. If it wasn’t what Doc suspected it was, was hoping it was, he and his men were most likely trapped like rats. They would be very, very dead rats very soon.

Doc’s hands reached out and felt along the box’s edge. Finding a minute seam he dug into it and exerted pressure. There was an angry sound of metal bending and tearing and the junction box’s cover was off and on the ground. Doc’s keen eyes surveyed his prize.

“Long Tom! Here!”

The pasty scientist was nearly there. Running up to Doc with Ham and Monk just steps behind him, he smiled grimly at his run’s end. The he jerked backwards and fell down hard.

His tether was too short. He cursed the luck.

Monk drew up and leaped to Long Tom’s aid. Ham came up alongside. His sharp eyes, used mainly to intimidate rival attorneys, scanned the surroundings for enemies. For some reason, everything was quiet, save for the sound of the hot flames licking out of the machine gun turret. There may also have been soft moaning. Ham wasn’t sure.

“Get up, you idiot!” screeched Monk in his little-girl voice. “You got more line than tha—“

Doc Savage didn’t allow him to finish. He grabbed Long Tom and jerked him upright. Grasping the heavy bundling of wires extending from Long Tom’s pack, he gave a sharp tug.

There was more line.

Long Tom didn’t waste time. Pulling two rods from his pack, which were also wired, he leapt over to the exposed insides of the junction box and jabbed the rods into its works.

Sparks exploded from the box. A bright flash tore at their eyeballs. Long Tom jumped back.

From somewhere, Doc and his men heard a muffled explosion and then a hum. The iron wall of the fortress next to the box lifted up from the sand.

Then it stopped, only six inches from the desert floor.

Doc Savage reached into the space between the ground and the wall. Monk, Ham and Long Tom could see the muscles rippling across the bronze man’s back, could see the corded bands stretching and flexing in Doc’s arms.

Then, Doc lifted the wall.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Spitfire 3 – “…something that was going on somewhere…”

We finished shooting the pilot today. Thank God.

Don’t get me wrong; it was fun and all and I liked the challenge but sometimes things go on for a bit too long. What do they say? “Familiarity breeds contempt”? Yeah, there were a few people on that set I would have liked to murder. The director, the producers, the stagehands, the prop guy, the script girl, all of my co-stars, the writers, the gaffer and the key grip – just to name a few. There’s more. Trust me.

But all of that’s in the past, far as I’m concerned. It’s done, in the can as they say and I’m looking at what’s next. Oh sure, this thing could get picked up, I realize that, but a good actor can’t just wait around for the applause – he needs to work.

There was a little party after we wrapped but it wasn’t well-attended, what with so many of the crew still out sick. Some kind of flu, I guess. Lots of throwing up, chills, the works. I was there, of course, and most of the main actors and the director and the producers. Kind of a somber affair, like everyone knew the pilot wasn’t going to fly.

“Dee…I gotta talk to…you,” said Freddy as he pulled me aside at the party. “As your…agent I have to be honest…I don’t have…anything lined up…for you.”

“Not to worry, old chum,” I told him, with a kind of joie de vie I didn’t really feel at the moment. “You’ve always come through for me before, eh? I mean, right?”

Freddy gave me his sure-sure look and shuffled off to the food table, his eye on the producers. I let him go, hoping he had some sort of plan and wondering whether I should take a more active role in my immediate future as an actor – no, wait; Freddy was good, very good. He’d get me something.

Some idiot had the radio on and there was some bit about something that was going on somewhere, something bad. Something in another country that I didn’t want to give a damn about right then and there. It harshed my mellow and I contemplated drop-kicking the damn radio across the room – but I didn’t. Probably’d hit someone.

As I left I noticed the script girl was in the corner, puking into a prop vase. Jesus, what the hell was that all about? The prop guy would drop a brick if he saw that.

I looked back at the food table and for the first time saw the flies that were buzzing around the cold cut tray. Huh.

Outside, in the fresh air, I began to feel a bit better. I thought about the work I had done on the pilot, the silly dressing-up thing, the humor in the script, the really imaginative sets, and, yes, I’ll admit it, the fairly good directing. It all was good, I thought. Wasn’t it? The script had moments I perceived as almost brilliant – there was nothing else like it that I knew of, but - what did I know, really?

Did I have enough experience to really judge what I saw? No, Freddy thought it was good, too. Didn’t he?

Oh…crap. What did I just do? What did I just spend weeks of my life on? Bloody hell, did I just waste my time? Am I going to be a laughing stock? God, that costume! No, no, it’s a well loved character, millions of fans, been around for decades – oh Christ, I’m sunk. What, what, what did I do?

A big, fat raindrop hit me in the forehead so hard it shattered me. I nearly fell down. I looked up and another hit me square in the eye. The wind started blowing and I ran. I ran to my car, one eye blinded, and got inside and started the engine. I wasn’t going to just stand there and get soaked. Wasn’t going to stand there and wonder about what I just did with my life for the past however many weeks and want to cut my throat.

I didn’t want to turn my head and look out the car window and see the trees move again.

To be continued – on or about June 21st.

(c) 2008 Jim Beard

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Spitfire 2 – “They say it looks fantastic on film.”

We’ve been shooting this pilot for two whole weeks now, and the director says we’ve got about three or four more days to go. Pretty standard from what I’ve heard.

I like it; I think its going to be good. Never really read the comic books but I know about the character, of course -- still, that hasn’t stood in my way while we’ve filmed. I don’t really care about why he fights crime or runs around in a costume or this and that – I just want to work. I’m funny that way.

Freddy got me the job fairly easily, or so he says. Don’t take that as I’m a big star or anything – I mean, before I got this pilot, right before getting this pilot, I had only done three commercials, a bit as an extra on “Madiana’s Man” (fourth eunuch from the left), and three months reading novels for the blind. Then, Freddy calls me up, tells me to get down to the studio, and to be quiet until he tells me not to be quiet. Producer looks my headshot over, asks how physical I am, has me take my shirt off (I’m getting pretty weirded out by that time), and we’re off to a screen test. I half expected him to ask me to bend over and cough.

They were looking for an “unknown” – and that’s what they got. Me. Captain Unknown.

The script was good, very good, and a helluva lot of fun. I had hoped for something fun and this thing damn near dropped into my lap. I have to wear tights, and the gloves are pretty stupid, but I’m working and if it’s picked up we go straight into shooting the episodes. That could keep me busy for several months.

This afternoon had to have been one of the hardest days since we started. Bunch of the crew are sick, really sick, from what the script girl told me. Probably that damn lunch wagon that comes around every day at 11:30. So that in itself slowed things down but the director insisted on “trudging forward” and here we are, only a half-page in the can since 6:00am.

I got fed up and walked outside to grab a smoke. There’s a little overhang right over the side door on Stage 4 and semi-secluded is what I’d call it. I go there every now and then – quite a lot lately, actually. Standing there today I watched the hustle and bustle of the studio, sort of clearing my mind. I ran a few bass lines in the air, eager to have my baby in my hands again, musing over the album, musing over asking Chet and Tony about somehow fitting the band in the show – God, that’d be great. Hot damn, that’d be great. Can you imagine?

That gate girl was on duty and I watched her a while, the smoke of my cig floating around her form. She’s cute. Not a knock-out but pretty – she gives me one of those smiles when I drive in and she’s working and those smiles play around in your head for a few minutes after you drive through. Doesn’t seem to wear makeup, doesn’t seem to need to. Told me two days ago she was trying to make perfume from tomatoes and that she would give me some when she perfected it. Takes all kinds – but she’s cute.

Then I started…drifting? I do this a lot, kind of free myself up from the ground. I’m not on drugs, nope, but it’s a kind of…meditation. Involuntary meditation. My mom used to point it out every time I did and I didn’t realize it. I used to be a pretty nervous kid, always something to scare me. That one shrink I had about two years ago said I was “strangely attracted” to things that I can’t understand…and those things terrified me.

Then, well, I dunno. I shouldn’t bother with it, I guess, but --

There was something coming towards me. I swear. A form. A…a…form. Only way I could describe it. Not real, but heavy, still. I couldn’t blink. My cig fell out of my mouth. The air was moving. The form shaped the air in front of me, like it was a curtain of water I was looking right at and it filled in the air around the form…

I couldn’t breathe. My collarbone started hurting. My eardrums popped with pressure. Dammit, dammit!

Then it was raining and I was standing half under the overhang and half…not under it. One arm and one leg were drenched and I watched everyone scurry from the fire and –

The prop guy pulled me back in and asked me what the hell I was doing. He meant my costume and the crap that hangs on the belt. Little pieces of wood painted to look like different things. They say it looks fantastic on film. This idiot’s one of those lifers, you know what I mean; been with the studio forever, practically lives at the studio, would die for the studio, union man, etc., etc. About a week ago we were filming and he was crouched below me, handing me up props that I was supposedly pulling from my belt and I ended a line with a clever, hip ad-lib. It was funny, I swear. Everything stopped dead. Everybody just stared at me. Tough room. Then this idiot says to the director, “Ain’t that wrong?” So, he’s an idiot.

I didn’t even answer him when he asked me what the hell I was doing. I turned on my heel and stepped back inside, my cape flapping into his face. He sped up and passed me, muttering, and I turned and looked back through the door. That wonderful storm air, that great rain smell, assaulted me. The wind was cool. I charged up off the negative ions and went back to the set.

If I had kept looking, it would have scared the crap out of me.

To be continued – on or about June 7th

© 2008 by Jim Beard

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Spitfire 1 - "...might just finish this thing..."

The little village, surrounded by the sea, burned to the ground within fifteen minutes. That included the villagers.

Afterwards, information was maddeningly corrupt but rescue workers – no, disaster witnesses – told of piles of slag, indistinct mounds of what they could only guess were houses and vehicles and crops and…and people.

Sea water had already made a mess of the bigger mess by the time that anyone from the outside realized that something had happened to the village and gotten out there. It was pretty remote. Scraps of this and that floated out to greet the first wave of workers and they hadn’t even come within a mile of the shore before they knew that the little collection of lives was gone. Poof.

The fire, or fires, must have been intense. Details were shoddy, but supposedly at first, experts couldn’t trace the source of the blaze’s beginnings; whether or not that was true the fact remained that initial explanations didn’t fit the puzzle.

Thousands of people, millions even, across the planet, once they heard the news imagined what it would have been like that night. Were most of them sleeping? Did the animals react first? Did anybody try to get away? The screams, the flickering tongues, the screams, the smell – oh God, the smell.


His fist whfft'd past me and I felt the air move in front of my face. Missed me by a mile, of course, but I acted like he’d connected and jerked my head back, grimacing. I even staggered backwards a step or two, just to make it look convincing. A lot depended on this.

Another guy ran up behind me and taking advantage of my mock-disorientation got me in a headlock. He was applying a bit too much pressure for my tastes and I struggled against the hold. The one in front of me threw another punch and it too sailed across my bow, inches from my jaw, making a kind of whistling sound to my ears. I jerked my head back again, this time giving a little vocal to it. Inside I smiled.

Then someone hit me. Really hit me.

Everything stopped dead. They all realized something happened that wasn’t supposed to happen. Everyone froze, wide-eyed, looking around at each other like kids caught doing something naughty.

“Dammit, let me go!” I yelled, struggling against the headlock the dummy behind me insisted on maintaining. “Jock – what the hell?!?”

The director gave a feeble “Cut!” and Dummy let me go. My collarbone smarting from where I was hit I turned to the goon on my left, a guy I hadn’t even seen join the fight, and was about ready to pounce on him. My agent stopped me.

“Why don’t…we all…break for…lunch?” Freddy talked like that. I don’t know why. He wasn’t sick that I could tell of, and he wasn’t fat, and he wasn’t an overly dramatic person; he just talked in pauses. Whatever the case, he defused me and Jock looked away sheepishly and turned to go. I pushed past Freddy and grabbed Jock’s arm and punched him as hard as I could in the delt. I was rewarded with a grunt.

“That’s for bad aim,” I told him, then gave him the twirling-finger motion to turn around. I gave his other delt another solid pop. “And that’s for hitting the star.”

Jock grinned and alternately rubbing each arm he shuffled off the set, looking idiotic in his schoolboy costume. I turned back to Freddy, massaging my clavicle.

“If these guys can avoid actually laying any more on me for another week and a half, we might just finish this thing without me ending up in the hospital.”

“Dee,” said Freddy. “I…think this is going to…work. You want some lunch?”

Knowing full well that in about three hours I’d be in a booth at Unkle’s and ordering anything I damn well pleased, I shook my head in the negative.

“Nope. I want to be hungry later. And I’ve got that recording session in…” I checked the clock on the wall, a prop that really worked and kept good time. “Cripes, one hour!”

I pulled off my gloves, unhooked my cape, and doffed my mask, plopping it all into Freddy’s outstretched hands and made a hasty retreat to my so-called dressing room.

To Be Continued (on or around May 31st)

© 2008 by Jim Beard