San Francisco based crime writer Domenic Stansberry recently sent me a copy of a book he has just put out through his very cool looking small publisher, Molotov Editions. The book is a re-released edition ofThe Syndicate by a little known Black crime writer, Clarence Cooper Jr.
I hope to write about the Molotov Editions reprint of The Syndicate, the cover of which is included below, in a future post. For now, however, I want to talk about the Cooper novel I have read, The Scene, also published in 1960. And if The Scene is any guide I am pretty sure I will dig The Syndicate.
The book set in a nameless US city, and deals with the bleak, dead end lives of the junkies, prostitutes and criminals who populate an area of it, known as ‘the Scene’.
A myriad of characters shift in and out of the story: there’s Rudy Black, a ruthless, showy pimp and up and coming pusher, part of a network of dealers working for a mysterious criminal called ‘the Man’, who controls the flow of narcotics in the Scene: Black Bertha, who also deals to support her and her daughters but doesn’t use herself; and Miss Dalton, the Man’s loyal secretary.
In late 2017, LA based author, Eric Beetner and I discussed doing a crime reading reading on YouTube to mark the release of novels we both had coming out earlier this year through the same publisher, Down and Out Books. The idea sort of grew from there to encompass an author either based in or who had written fiction from at least one country in continent on the earth (with the exception of Antartica).
For reasons which are obvious in retrospect, but didn’t seem so at the time, putting this together was not as easy as we thought it would be and took a long longer than we planned. In particularly, my take home lesson is crime fiction from Latin and South American is really underexposed outside that region.
Anyway we decided to call our YouTube reading Continental Crime. Hopefully you find a new voice you like and get exposed to the wonderful world of reading books from different cultures. A big thanks to Eric’s editing skills for pulling the final product together.
An aspect of pulp culture I don’t cover very often on this site is the world of men’s pulp magazines. While the late 1940s saw the pulp novel take over from the pulp magazine as the most successful and overt manifestation of pulp culture, the magazines did not die out completely. Quite the opposite. The pulp magazine morphed into the true crime magazine, a phenomenally successful format that continued until the very early 1990s. Another successful manifestation was the men’s pulp magazine, titles such as Men, Stag and Swank.
Men’s pulp magazines combined hard hitting fiction with over the top ‘non-fiction’ exposes of various mid century obsessions – sex in suburbia, white slavery, black magic, crime, out of control youth, etc – and lavish, high sexualised illustrations. A large number of these magazines appeared in the 1950s, when the format was at its height, and they continued to be published until well into the 1970s before they died out.
I am not sure how many Pulp Curry readers I have in Gippsland. In the event there are some, just a heads up that I’m appearing at the Latrobe City Literary Festival, in Traralgon, this coming Sunday, May 27. As part of a panel of talented folks, I’ll be talking about the history of Australian pulp fiction and the book I have co-edited, Girl Gangs, Biker Boys and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950-1980. I’ll also have copies of the book for sale.
Let’s make one thing clear. I don’t own a gun. Never have and never will. Indeed, the only guns I want to see are in film or on the cover of books like the ones featured in today’s Pulp Friday post.
For a while now I have been obsessed with the cover above of the 1964 Panther edition of Len Deignton’s The Ipcress File. The cover, done by influential English graphic designer, Ray Hawkey, who would go onto to do a number of paperback covers, exudes a style and tone I could never imagine being used today except as a deliberate retro homage.
It speaks to the everyday grime, drudgery and unglamorous boredom of the Cold War spy racket, which the Deighton novels featuring the working class spy, Harry Palmer, evoke so well. There is also the mess that comes with the trade: a cold cup of tea (probably cold); cigarettes, because in the sixties every fictional spy smoked; paperclips for the paperwork; and, a gun and bullets, because sometimes you have to kill someone.
It is a gritty, cluttered layout I associate with mass paperback novels of the type that were largely targeted at men in the 1960s and 1970s. As it turns out, a bit of a dig around reveals it was a style that was widely used in those two decades – but it also bled over into the 1980s – by mass market paperback publishers in the crime, mystery and espionage thriller categories.… Read more