Tommy Hancock

By Jeanni Brosius Published April 15, 2012 at 2:58 a.m.
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— There’s a certain bit of style about a man in a snap brim fedora, and Tommy Hancock wears his to show his affection for the days of pulp fiction.

Hancock’s passion for writing began in the third grade when Hancock wrote a story in which his friends were the main characters. By the time he was 14, he was working as a reporter for a local newspaper. It wasn’t until April 2010 that his first piece of pulp fiction was published. It was a Western novella featuring his favorite Earp brother, Virgil, as the hero.

Hancock, now 39, said pulp fiction is all he ever really wanted to write, and he now holds two awards for his pulp work.

“I first discovered pulp fiction the way most people my age did - by finding a Doc Savage Omnibus on a book rack at a Kmart,” said Hancock of Melbourne. “This classic character from the 1930s and ’40s found his way into a handful of reprints over the years, the one I first encountered being three Doc novels in one volume. From there I learned of The Shadow, Tarzan, The Lone Ranger and so many other characters that either had their origins in the pulp-fiction magazines of the 1930s and ’40s or definitely had been influenced by those heroes.”

Hancock has always been a fan of things from the past, particularly from the early 20th century.

“Old-time radio shows, classic television, golden-age comic books and more,” he said. “Add that to the fact that I’ve always been fascinated by stories dealing with the basic concept of good and evil, focused on the hero versus-villain idea; then pulp fiction being something that interested me was a foregone conclusion.”

Pulp fiction gained popularity during the Great Depression and had a resurgence in the 1960s, then again in the 1980s. Hancock said the country’s newly found fascination with pulp fiction stems from financial, political and social unrest.

“Pulp became popular initially for the same reasons it’s remained popular for decades,” Hancock said. “It’s fast-paced, a quick read, full of turns, twists and tension. Pulp is plot-oriented, yet filled with wonderfully colorful over-the-top characters, and it goes somewhere - really quickly. It also, for the most part, appeals to the basic interests of its readers. Conflict. Heroism. Fear.Terror. Strength. Those things and so much more make pulp fiction that appeals to all readers, regardless of background or other factors.”

With Hancock’s pulp career on the fast track, he has been instrumental in organizing Pulp Ark, which he said is the only pulp convention of its kind in the South, and the event draws participants from nationwide. The first Pulp Ark convention was held in May 2011 on Main Street in Batesville. Twenty-eight writers and publishers were there, and panel discussions and breakout classes were held. This year, the convention is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. April 20-22 at the Independence County Fairgrounds.

“We have over 60 guests and nearly 30 panels and classrooms,” Hancock said about the lineup. “There are several new additions this year, including various re-enactment and hobby groups being a part of the event. The Clockwork Mechanalists is a group dedicated to the genre of steampunk, the idea that modern devices might have developed from the available technology of the Victorian era. Also, the Society of Creative Anachronism, which is dedicated to recreating the skills and arts of Europe prior to the 17th century, will be represented.”

Hancock said that with the advent of print-on-demand publishing and e-books, many writers and artists who have been ignored by mainstream publishers are getting a venue for their work.

“The idea for Pulp Ark came from a meeting with staff from Main Street Batesville in 2010 after my first story was published,” he said.

“What started as a discussion about me doing some readings grew into an idea about possibly gathering a few of these new pulp writers together in Batesville for a conference. I checked with a few of my writing cohorts, and within days, more than 25 planned to attend this event that I literally invented in a few hours, initially.”

Although Pulp Ark follows in the style of comic-book conventions, Hancock said it is also a creator’s conference that focuses on writers and artists. And the best part is, it’s free.

It was really Hancock’s hobby that has become a career in pulp fiction for him. He is a writer, publisher, editor, podcaster and reviewer of pulp fiction.

“Reading is my primary hobby,” he said. “I also enjoy a good exploring trip, going places I’ve never been - anything from a new city to a strange old house or a hole in the ground. I’m also an actor and have directed, as well as written, plays. And Chinese food - that’s a hobby I pursue regularly.”

His love of acting is what prompted him to start the Izard County Family Community Theater in 2006. He ran the theater until 2010, when his pulp career began to emerge.

“Pulp was something that quickly became more than enough for me to handle and focused on what I loved most - writing,” he said. “Although the community theater was a fantastic, fun experience, it was time for me to put my fedora on and get focused on what mattered most to me.”

Another hat he wears is with a publishing company, Pro Se Productions, in which he is a partner and editor-in-chief. Pro Se publishes an award-winning monthly pulp magazine called Pro Se Presents and a variety of novels and story collections featuring new pulp.

“We are, on an average, now producing three books a month and should have by the end of 2012 published 30 to 40 titles in this year alone,” Hancock said. “And 2013 shows no sign of slowing down, as most of our calendar for the next year is already full with works by new writers, as well as well known authors contributing to our lineup.”

Last year, out of 100 nominees, Hancock was voted Best New Writer by Pulp Ark. This year, his novel Yester Year won the Best Pulp Novel honor, and he will receive his award at the Pulp Ark convention this month.

He does remove that fedora when he goes to his day job as community communications coordinator for Health Resources of Arkansas. Prior to that, he worked in the juvenile court system as a juvenile officer and program developer with HRA.

Hancock lives in Melbourne, but he grew up in Batesville.

After graduating from Southside High School, he earned a bachelor’s degree from Lyon College (then Arkansas College) and a master’s degree in history from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.

“While getting my master’s, I met and married Lisa, my wonderful wife and the mother of three of the best kids in the world - Braeden, age 14, Alex, age 12, and Kailee, age 6,” he said. “Each one of my kids has interests that fall into my interest in pulp fiction, so it’s really nice that they all can in some way relate to what their dad does.”

Hancock doesn’t have any plans to hang up his hat. In fact, he just keeps adding to the collection of hats he wears.

For more information on Pulp Ark 2012, call (870) 834-4022 or visit pulpark.blogspot.com.

Staff writer Jeanni Brosius can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or jbrosius@arkansasonline.com.

up close

getting to know Tommy Hancock

Occupation: Community communications coordinator for Health Resources of Arkansas, writer and editor

Birth date: June 9, 1972

Hometown: Born in Greenville, Miss, but Batesville has been home most of my life.

Something on your bucket list: I don’t keep one. I don’t have time to keep adding all the cool things I discover I want to do every day to it.

Favorite comfort food: Chinese

Hobbies: Reading and hiking

Something most people don’t know: I was a spelling-bee champ several times as a kid.

Someone who has influenced you most and how: I learn so much from my kids every day.

My miracle, Braeden; my gift, Alex; and my angel, Kailee, make me a better man every single day.

Favorite pulp-fiction author: That’s a hard choice. If you’re looking at classic authors, Lester Dent and Walter Gibson, as well as Edgar Rice Burroughs fit that bill. There’s quite a few new pulp authors on that list, too: Paul Bishop, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, Robert B. Parker, Barry Reese and Derrick Ferguson.

Three Rivers Edition Writer Jeanni Brosius can be reached at 501-244-4307 or jbrosius@arkansasonline.com.

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