“I don’t inhabit the real world. I live in a universe of mummies, vampires, werewolves, monsters, femme fatales, private detectives, mysterious women, demons from abyssal regions and beyond. I am accompanied by four cats and a crow, with whom I talk at length. In my world it is always night and the streets are dark alleys covered by an eternal mist. In my world, every corner hides a mystery.” – R. F. Lucchetti
R. F. Lucchetti may be the most criminally underrated writer in the world. A Brazilian pulp and horror fictionist who wrote 1547 published books, 300 comics and 25 filmed scrips – including movies from Coffin Joe like “The Strange World of Coffin Joe” and “Awakening of the Beast”. The NY Times defined him in 2014 as a “human pulp fiction factory”, and it is hard to disagree. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/18/world/americas/a-one-man-pulp-fiction-factory-keeps-his-motors-running-in-brazil.html?_r=0 Lucchetti writes about as much as you and I breathe.
Rubens Francisco Lucchetti began writing fiction at the age of 12, when he had a short story published in a local newspaper in Sao Paulo. Now he is 85 and is still going. Most of his books are fun, short detective or horror stories, sometimes written in a single weekend during his most prolific years, like the 1960’s. But despite his 70-year career and the success of his titles – many fondly remembered by Brazilian readers – two years ago Lucchetti thought he was finished. Since the 1990’s he was ignored by publishers, but continued nevertheless to write every day on his faithfull typewriter and tuck his texts into his drawer. Lucchetti is quiet and shy even by writer’s standards, and most of his books were signed under several foreign-sounding pseudonyms because local editors argued that a Brazilian author wouldn’t sell.
Lucchetti’s “exile” ended in 2014. He didn’t even know what Facebook was as he and his son created a profile after a small publisher agreed to sell a collection of ten of his books. He was stunned when he began to receive hundreds of friendship solicitations each day, as well as warm messages from longtime fans. The internet showed Lucchetti that he was far from forgotten, and he began to publish his books again. I interviewed him at the time for Brazilian site UOL, and he told me: “I am scared, grateful and wondered. I feel young again.” (Lucchetti faced some Facebook woes since then. They deleted his profile without notice – twice! – probably because he was using his pen name other than real name… He recreated the profile, but several thousands of fans were lost, unfortunately).
I wrote an essay about a visit to his house. Also, Mr. Lucchetti was kind enough to answer some questions for the blog.
1. How did you start writing?
I began writing very early on, but not exactly creating short stories or novellas. I tried to exercise my imagination after listening to radio serials (which were different than radio soap operas), transcribing in a notebook what I had heard. I wrote most of the dialogs and described the sounds. This was the best way to learn the art of writing. At this stage of my life I could barely build a sentence, I had to stay with what I heard.
2. What was your most prolific period? How was your schedule then and how is it today?
My most prolific period was in the 1960s. I wrote books, film scripts, comics, fotonovelas, television scripts and created (along with my partner Nico Rosso) several comics magazines. I also created some pulp magazines, that were mostly written by me (I wrote under several pseudonyms to make it look like they were written by more authors). I write in the mornings and afternoons. I never write at night.
Today, my schedule remains the same. I am writing a new book series published by Editorial Corvo in the R. F. Lucchetti collection.
3. What do you like so much about pulp literature? What are your favorite authors?
I guess what attracts me the most is the simplicity, direct language and frenetic rhythm of the narrative (actions happen faster than the reader can think). In a pulp story, you need, above else, to avoid that the reader stop and look back, like he didn’t understand something. The story must flow, seamless.
As for my favorite pulp authors, they are: Edmond Hamilton, H. Bedford Jones, William G. Bogart, E. Hoffmann Price, Ray Bradbury, Fredric Brown, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Lester Dent, Paul Ernst, L. Ron Hubbard, Henry Kuttner, John D. MacDonald, Seabury Quinn, Steve Fisher, George Surdez, Jim Thompson, August Derleth, Arthur Leo Zagat, Norvell W. Page (he used th pen name Grant Stockbridge as he wrote the Spider stories), G. Wayman Jones, Robert Wallace e Hugh B. Cave. But I think my favorite one of all was Walter Brown Gibson, who wrote most of the Shadow stories. This author influenced me a lot. The incredible scenes he created are to this day stuck in my mind. As I don’t read in English, I only read translations of his stories.
4. You wrote several books under different pseudonyms because publishers argued a Brazilian author wouldn’t sell. What were the main ones? Did you write differently in each one?
I never had pseudonyms, but rather heteronyms and I wrote biographies and even drew their portraits. My main heteronyms were: Theodore Field, Terence Gray, Christine Gray, R. Bava, Helen Barton, Frank Luke e Vincent Lugosi. For each of these “authors” I had to create a different writing style, I wrote as a character. It was a lot of fun, because from time to time I had to try and think as a woman, for instance. That was a challenge! I created a fantasy to myself. And these books were published as if they were translated, so I had also to create a translator.
5. How do you see the prejudice against pulp books from people who say it isn’t Real Literature?
Only people with no imagination label books as this or that. What is real literature? I confess I do not know. I’d like that someone explained it to me. What we actually have are well written or badly written texts. Oscar Wilde, in the preface of The Picture of Dorian Gray says the following: “There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.”
6. What is your biggest dream?
To answer part of this question, I will transcribe a snippet from my autobiography: “It all began when I was twelve years old. In a morning, my teacher, Miss Tomásia Bruni, asked the class what everyone wanted to be when they grew up. I remember that most of the students answered lawyer, engineer, doctor, dentist, teacher, soccer player… I was the only out of tune note in that orchestra, as I said I wanted to write to radio, cinema, to comic and detective magazines – I didn’t mention pocket books because I didn’t know they existed; and didn’t mention television, because it didn’t arrive yet in Brazil. As my colleagues laughed at my answer, Miss Tomásia looked at me through her golden glasses and, with a slight condescending smile, said: ‘Very well. But isn’t that too much to do? Just one of them would be a victory!’ and I promptly answered: ‘No Miss! I want to do all this! And I know I will!'” And I kept my word. I did everything, in this order: I wrote, to newspapers and magazines, short stories and novellas; I wrote, for the radio, serials, soap operas and comedy sketches; I wrote scrips for television, 1.547 books (signed mostly under different pen names), three hundred comic scripts and about thirty movie scripts. So, I went well beyond what I told my teacher. And today, when I am about to be 86 years of age, a publisher is editing a collection of books with my name. These books are being rewritten, and some are brand new.
As for my greatest dream, is having the script of O Escorpião Escarlate (“The Scarlet Scorpion”), in which I pay tribute to all the pulp masked heroes, filmed in Hollywood.
7. What are the favorite books you have written in your career?
I highlight two: the first is a book that wasn’t even published in it’s compete form. It is called Música Secreta (“The Secret Music”). Only an excerpt of it was published in 1952, and it is composed of several prose poems. Poems that were originally published in Diário da Manhã, in Ribeirão Preto, and all dedicated to my wife, Tereza. The second is Fantasmagorias, published in 2013 by Editora Devaneio, from Rio de Janeiro. This book brings short stories I wrote since the 1940s. It was illustrated by Emir Ribeiro.
8. You spent almost 20 years without being published. Why did you keep writing?
I started writing very early on, in the beginning of the 1940s. And, since then, published or not, writing has become a need. Every day I have to write, even if it is just a letter. I have to write in my typewriter. I can’t think writing by hand or in the computer.
9. You have a very close relation with cats. Why do you like them? Why you think a lot of writers like cats?
I always loved cats. When I was a boy I always had at least one. My wife liked dogs, so after we married we agreed: she wouldn’t have a dog and I wouldn’t have a cat. But then in the 1990s I found an abandoned car on the street. I brought her home at once and, to my surprise, my wife got close to her too. Since then I have had cats again. When my wife was still alive we had four cats and today I have four again: Goteira (the mother) and her offspring Branquinho, Pretinha and Cinza (these last two ones are very wary of strangers).
It is hard to answer why I like cats. I was born liking them. I think authors like cats because they are silent, mysterious and independent. Cats are men’s best friend. The proof is that you never heard of a cat killing a man.
10. What suggestions could you give to new authors to write more and better?
To become a writer, one needs to read a lot. And, to write well, one must read good authors and avoid cliches. A cliche in a text can destroy everything.