Post-Modern Pulps

Posted on: March 1, 2010

Short history lesson – from the late 1800s through about the 1950s, pulp fiction or the pulps referred to inexpensive magazines sold on newsstands. They featured short stories, often serialized, usually in the mystery, sci fi, western, or horror genres. Doc Savage, Buck Rogers, Nick Carter, and Solomon Kane are some of the more memorable characters, though there were dozens and dozens of them. The name pulp fiction derives from the type of paper used in these magazines. It was made from wood pulp and thus very cheap to use.

Post-Modern Pulps is a term coined by J.E. Badelaire to refer to the modern descendants of those magazines. Mass market paperback series such as Mack Bolan and Death Merchant paved the way for what is sometimes called “men’s adventure.” Lots of guns (often described in exquisite detail as to caliber, round capacity, and manufacturer) and often quite a bit of sex.

With the success of Jerry Ahern’s The Survivalist series came an onslaught of imitators. While these series varied in writing quality, I found most of them to be entertaining at the least. Here is just a handful of good, post-apocalyptic post-modern pulp goodness.

The Outrider – Richard Harding

Bonner was the first Outrider. The first to get an old car running well enough to travel the country. Gradually, people began to crawl from the rubble and rebuild their lives. However, it wasn’t long before a few of the Outriders started setting up their own empires. Leather based himself in what was the nation’s capital and created the Slave States. The Hot States and the Snow States followed. Chicago remained the last free city and while life wasn’t easy there, at least men were free. Populated with quite the cast of characters, The Outrider series lasted five books. Rumor has it there exists a sixth book but diligent research has found that to just be rumor. The series reads like a Mad Max movie on steroids. Great fun!

Doomsday Warrior – Ryder Stacy
A century after the Russians attacked the US with nuclear weapons, then took over the bombed out country, Ted Rockson leads the resistance. There exists a loose confederation of hidden Free Cities, where the citizens work tirelessly to vanquish the communist conquerors. Rockson is a legend known to all freedom fighters. With mutant strength, the skills of the old-time mountain men, and his automatic shotgun pistol, he will fight to his last breath. The series ran for nineteen books. Several of them are available on audio from

Endworld – David Robbins
Just before the world went up in nuclear holocaust, one man who’d spent considerable millions to build and stock a huge retreat complex brought together selected individuals and saved them from certain death. Their descendants became The Family. For decades, they lived within their retreat. Each person having their own role in society and each having named themselves once they were old enough to do so. Often, these names came from their history lessons – Hickok, Geronimo, Joan (from Joan of Arc). Finally, it came time to venture out beyond their walls and see what became of the world. The Warriors had been trained in firearms and battle tactics, but never could they have prepared for all they found outside their home. This series, which went for twenty-seven books (plus a recently released prequel), is interesting and somewhat different from others listed here. Robbins uses the series to examine various types of governing systems (democracy, oligarchy, communism, etc) and shows how those systems have affected the people in each society. In addition to the main series, there was also a spinoff series focusing on the character Blade.

The Warlord – Jason Frost
Somewhat different from the others listed here in that the disaster isn’t global, nationwide, or even as the result of warfare. Instead, an earthquake has separated California from the mainland. The quake also caused a chain reaction starting with nuclear power plants that resulted in an impenetrable dome of toxins and radiation to fall over what remains of California. Many survived the initial disaster but they are unable to be rescued. Among the survivors is Erik Ravensmith, partially raised by Native Americans and former Special Forces type veteran. At the time of the quake, he was teaching history at the local college. He finds himself relying upon his military experience when faced with battling Colonel Dirk Fallows, his former military commander who he had testified against in a military tribunal. Fallows, who is a great villain in this series and quotes Shakespeare as he fights, kidnaps Ravensmith’s wife and kids in revenge. What follows is a five book series with Ravensmith traveling up and down California, attempting to rescue his family, with varying degrees of success.

Deathlands – James Axler
Still going strong today, this series numbers into the 90s. Ryan Cawdor and his band of warriors travel the post-nuke world through the use of mat-trans (matter transport) units that teleport them from one location to another. Battling barons and mutants, Cawdor and friends constantly find themselves falling into one hot spot after another. This is another series that is available on audio from

Ashes series – William W Johnstone
Probably the only post-modern pulp series that ended up fostering its own militia movement. Ben Raines is a former spec ops soldier and mercenary who retired from combat duty and became a popular novelist. Unbeknownst to him, his former military commander placed him in charge of a militia prior to an all out nuclear war. An unwilling leader, he nevertheless helps create an almost utopian society in the area where Montana, Wyoming and Idaho come together – The Tri-States. This was not to last though and later books had Raines becoming President of the United States as well as leading Raines Rebels through adventures far and wide. Heavy on political opinions, the first few books were nevertheless exciting and enjoyable. Personally, I found the later books to be less entertaining. All told, the series has run for close to thirty-plus books, including a standalone guide to the Tri-States called From the Ashes: America Reborn as well as the first in a possible follow up series called The Last Rebel.

Traveler – DB Drumm
Very Mad Max in feel, this series portrays the adventures of Traveler, a survivor of the nuclear holocaust. He travels the wastelands in his Meat Wagon, sort of a tricked out SUV. A former soldier, he suffers from heightened senses as a result of exposure to chemicals during a brush war in Central America. While battling mutants and warlords, he is searching for the others who served in that unit with him, hoping to help alleviate their suffering with an antidote he found. This series stayed alive for thirteen books.

The Last Ranger – Craig Sargent
Probably one of the closest in plot to Ahern’s Survivalist series, this one stars Martin Stone, son of ex-Green Beret Major Clayton Stone. The Major had built a retreat in the mountains, complete with a fully stocked armory, enough blue jeans and combat boots to equip a small army, and a fully-functioning computer system. After the nuclear war, Martin spent years as a somewhat unwilling student of his father, learning weapons, tactics, and survival techniques. His father also created a very extensive database, inputting all of his military know how into the computer. After his father died, Martin and his sister decided to venture out into the world and see what remained. Sis is promptly kidnapped and Martin almost killed. Martin makes it back to the retreat and recuperates. He then heads back out on the trail of the gang that took his sister. Along the way, he befriends a pit bull who becomes his constant companion. Not bad overall as long as you can suspend your disbelief through all ten books.


6 thoughts on “Post-Modern Pulps

  1. OUTRIDER will always rank near the top of my guilty pleasures. Are the MUTANT HUNTER books going to be available in print as well at some point, for us Luddites who are still plodding along without an e-reader?

  2. Those old Gold Eagle books are semi-classics. And some are really bad. I even wrote a series for that publisher: HORN. I really liked THE OUTRIDER series (not a Gold Eagle book) and still have all five episodes on my shelf. They did sort of inspire my current series, MUTANT HUNTER. Please check out LEGENDS OF THE FALLOUT and THE SLICKS. Both are available on Amazon. The third book, SPLINTERLAND, has been drafted and will be released this fall (2012). Original Michael Whelan artwork on all the covers.

  3. I remember reading most of these titles in high school.My friends and I would swap out after finishing one.
    I do remember a title called”The Guardians”about a four man squad that worked for a war shattered America.But I think these books came out in the early 1990’s.

  4. Karen,

    Deathlands does indeed have something of a spinoff series called Outlanders. Created by Mark Ellis, who was one of the main writers of Deathlands, the story takes place many years after the events in the Deathlands series. Ellis wrote the vast majority of the Outlanders books before he parted company with the publisher, Gold Eagle. I’ve read the first ten or so and they aren’t bad. Very sci fi in that there is an overarching plot about aliens and alien hybrids. In fact, the nuclear holocaust the preceded Deathlands is later found to have been influenced by aliens.

    Like just about every other series put out by Gold Eagle (Mack Bolan, Stony Man, Deathlands, Rogue Angel, etc), there is a revolving group of writers doing the books. Thus, the quality tends to vary from book to book. I know Jon Merz and Joe Nassise have both written books for the Rogue Angel series. If you remember Skaramine from the Tomo board, he has written some of the Outlanders books, if I’m not mistaken. Mark Ellis though did write something like 80% of the Outlanders books published thus far.

    You can read more about the series on Wikipedia.

  5. This is pretty awesome, Jim. Unfortunately, I’m only familiar with Deathlands. I need to fix that one day.

    There was also a Deathlands spinoff series, was there not? I seem to recall something like that…

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