“Mr. Hancock knows his history, and the richness with which he paints the times adds much to the book’s plot and appeal. So on a purely literary basis, this book is highly recommended—it was tons of fun to read.”
One of the most widely recognized facts regarding American comic book heroes is that they actually evolved out of the Depression Era pulp magazines. Fans of both media are well aware that the likes of Batman and Superman were the literary children of characters such as The Shadow and Doc Savage. Tommy Hancock employs this historical theory against which to set his first novel, Yesteryear.
Mr. Hancock, the winner of this year’s Pulp Ark Award for Best New Writer, has earned that title based on his short fiction. Now, with this novel length drama, he soundly cements that position with a deft work of immeasurable imagination heralding past days of American glory.
J. C. Smithernson is a one-time crime fighting boy detective who has grown up to become a writer and publisher. He has put his hero days behind him, though his good friend, Detective Donovan Bradley, suspects he still harbors longings to get back into the fray.
Then one day a mysterious package is left on Smitherson’s steps. It contains the journal of newspaperman Ramsey Long, who was part of the Golden Age of Heroes back in the 30s and 40s. The heroes are all thought of as old-fashioned myths, but it is said that the musings in Ramsey’s journal comprise a tell-all book that rips aside the veil of public relations mumbo-jumbo to honestly detail the factual history and true exploits of those early and mysterious men and women.
Which is why when it is learned that Smitherson possesses the book, factions both political and private begin targeting him and his loved ones to guarantee that the journal never sees the light of day. For J. C., it is an eye-opening revelation that some of the people he once admired are flawed enough to want to destroy him rather then have their human failings publicly exposed. Still, he is determined that the truth will be told regardless of the consequences.
Yesteryear is a marvelous homage to all those great pulp characters and the Golden Age comic heroes who followed in their footsteps; it is both wonderfully told and reflects a true sense of time and place. Mr. Hancock knows his history, and the richness with which he paints the times adds much to the book’s plot and appeal. So on a purely literary basis, this book is highly recommended—it was tons of fun to read.
But there is one criticism, and it deals with the book’s presentation and design—not the story. I don’t often make mention of actual production values, but in this case felt compelled to do so because in the end, they did lessen my overall enjoyment of Yesteryear. Also functioning as the book’s producer, Mr. Hancock has filled many of its pages with some truly fantastic drawings of many of the fabulous characters described in the text. That’s all well and good. Alas, that’s where his design efforts should have stopped.
Instead, author Hancock also chose to change the fonts and styling of the text throughout the entire book so that the reader is confronted with bold type, cursive scribbles, lighter thin fonts—all constantly changing—and many difficult to adjust to after finishing a chapter presented in an entirely different way. I understand that he was trying to achieve something unique with this mashup, but it does not work, instead creating a real, physical flaw in an otherwise stellar offering. Hopefully his next book will have a more conservative presentation in reprint.