Beard unearths ‘Sgt. Janus’: TFP Star writer to sign new book at Tony Packo’sWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Toledo Free Press Star writer Jim Beard’s latest work is both a departure from and a return to a classic genre.
In his new book “Sgt. Janus: Spirit-Breaker,” Beard explores a new trend in writing that has its roots in the grand crime novels of yesteryear.
“There’s a movement right now in fiction writing called ‘new pulp,’” Beard said in an interview with Toledo Free Press Star. “What it is, is professional writers working today but writing in the style and feeling of the pulp era. So, basically, ’30s, ’40s, ’50s. And not just regurgitating it, but they literally try and get into that feeling, that action and adventure, that strip-down, machine gun-fire kind of fiction writing.”
Beard first immersed himself in the world of new pulp a year ago.
“I hooked up with a writer who became an editor and started his own company to publish these new pulp works. And I told him that I really wanted to get into it,” Beard said. “I actually had, like, a little audition, where I wrote two pages in pulp-style, and got that accepted.”
Beard pitched the idea of a new hero, a shadowy protagonist inspired by the earliest days of
“proto-pulp” — where detective stories mingled freely with elements of the supernatural. He had come to love this era through the work of Alan Moore, who referenced such heroes in his famous The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series. Beard was particularly taken by a ghost detective named Thomas Carnacki, created by William Hope Hodgson.
“I found that he had nine stories that were published in magazines over a short period of time, and he was called a ‘ghost finder,’ and set up a lot like Sherlock Holmes, where each story was a case of his, and he basically regaled his narrator about this case,” Beard said.
“I just love these stories. I just thought that was cool. And I started coming up with my own version of that,” Beard said. “Sgt. Janus is actually set in that same time period, kind of late-Edwardian. But not with as dense of prose, to try and liven it up a bit.”
The end result is a book that features eight individual stories, each one a case that paranormal investigator Sgt. Janus tackles in the course of his duties. Each piece is superficially a self-contained narrative, but Beard pointed out they all come together into one overarching story.
Beard said he worked to come up with a unique way to construct narrative.
“I’m not a fan of first-person prose as a reader,” Beard said. “I don’t know what it is about it, I just never cared for it. But I challenged myself, because each one of these stories is in the first person, but it’s eight different points of view.”
Each story is narrated not by Sgt. Janus, but by his clients, an approach which Beard said he hopes preserves a sense of mystery surrounding his protagonist.
“You get eight individual points of view about this character. He’s a very mysterious character, Sgt. Janus, and you’re gonna kind of get eight different takes on him,” Beard said.
To celebrate the release of the book, Beard’s employer, Tony Packo’s, will host a signing on June 16 from noon – 4 p.m. at the Original Packo’s, 1902 Front St. The event came about after one of the bartenders read “Sgt. Janus” and told Tony Packo III about it.
“He got all excited, and said, ‘You know, we oughta do a signing for you,’” Beard said. “Packo’s is really looking for different ways to celebrate the 80th anniversary this year. And Tony said, ‘Listen, I’m really excited about this, I think this is really cool. I want to honor one of our employees.’”
The book’s illustrator, Eric Johns, will also be present to sign copies.
At Packo’s suggestion, everyone who buys a copy of the book will also receive one of the restaurant’s world famous hot dogs for free.
Beard is tickled by the way so many parts of his life are coming together for the event.
“This is just the kind of pop culture smash up that I live for,” Beard said. “This is really fun.”