Blowback: late 1960s and 1970s pulp and popular fiction about the Vietnam War

If you are still on the fence about purchasing a copy of my new book, Sticking it to the Man: Revolution and the Counterculture in Pulp and Popular Fiction, 1950 to 1980, the site CrimeReads is running a couple of extracts from the book. The first is my piece, ‘Blowback: late 1960s and 1970s pulp and popular fiction about the Vietnam War’.

The conflict in Vietnam cast a long shadow over pulp and popular fiction in the late 1960s and the 1970s. Vietnam veterans were hunted by small town redneck police in David Morrell’s 1972 novel, First Blood, dealt drugs in Vern E Smith’s The Jones Men, and staged an abortive bank heist in Dog Day Afternoon, both published in 1974. In the Lone Wolf series ex-New York cop and Vietnam veteran, Burt Wulff mounted a fourteen-book battle from 1973 to 1975 against the drug dealing criminal organisation, ‘The Network’, in which he treated the streets of America’s major cities as an extension of jungles of Southeast Asia. Vietnam was the training ground for many of the characters that populated men’s adventure and crime pulp in the 1970s. More broadly, Vietnam’s traumatic impact on American society would become a cypher through which pulp and popular fiction name checked cultural fragmentation, growing disillusionment with the American dream, dishonest and unaccountable government and corporations, and the power of the military industrial complex.… Read more

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Book review: Thailand’s Movie Theatres – Relics, Ruins and the Romance of Escape

I can’t remember when I first stumbled across Philip Jablon’s wonderful website chronicling the decline of the stand-alone movie theatre in Thailand, The Southeast Asia Movie Theatre Project. I think it was soon after I arrived back in Melbourne after a year in Cambodia, during which I spent my own fair share of time tracking down and photographing crumbling Khmer movie theatres (I also nearly broke my neck photographing the inside of an abandoned cinema in the Lao capital, Vientiane, but that’s another story).

My efforts, however, pale in comparison to Jablon’s painstaking work. His book, Thailand’s Movie Theatres: Relics, Ruins and the Romance of Escape, which emerged from his website, is a detailed, perceptive, beautifully rendered examination not only of the rise and fall of Thailand’s stand-alone cinema industry, but of a once powerful part of the country’s public culture which has now almost completely disappeared. As Jablon writes, ‘In Thailand, the standalone movie theatre represents a form of public entertainment that has all but slipped through the cracks of memory into the abyss of time.’

The first stand-alone cinema was established in Thailand in 1905. They proliferated rapidly, with the country boasting as many as 700 at the industry’s peak. Often established by local entrepreneurs, these movie theatres were usually a dynamic part of their community and deeply enmeshed in their economic and social life.… Read more

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Melbourne launch details for Sticking it to the Man: Revolution and Counterculture in Pulp and Popular Fiction, 1950-1980

Melbourne folk, please join myself and my coeditor, Iain McIntyre, on Tuesday, December 3 for the Melbourne launch of Sticking it to the Man: Revolution and Counterculture in Pulp and Popular Fiction, 1950-1980. Entry is free and the event will kick off at 6.30pm at the Old Bar, 74-76 Johnson Street, Fitzroy.

The book will be launched by Melbourne literary historian and pulp fiction fan, Stuart Kells. There will be readings from some of the novels featured in Sticking it to the Man, music from DJ Bruce Milne, and copies of the book will be available at a reduced price. We’ll also throw in a free pulp novel with every purchase. Kids are welcome.

I hope to see some of you there.

This is the second pulp and popular fiction related history book that Iain and me have done and it is a glorious, full colour volume. From Civil Rights and Black Power to the New Left and Gay Liberation, the 1960s and 1970s saw a host of movements shake the status quo. With social strictures and political structures challenged at every level, pulp and popular fiction could hardly remain unaffected. Feminist, gay, and black authors broke into areas of crime, porn, and other paperback genres previously dominated by conservative, straight, white males.

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Pulp Friday: Cruising

While many would be familiar with William Friedkin’s 1980 film Cruising, and the controversy that surrounded its making and reception, less well known is the 1970 source novel of the same name, written by New York Times reporter, Gerald Walker. The book was published just over a year after a series of demonstrations by members of the gay and lesbian community in response to a police raid at the Stonewall Inn in New York’s Greenwich Village, seen by many as the start of the modern gay liberation movement.

Policeman Jack Lynch – Al Pacino’s character of Steve Burns in the film – is called to a meeting by his boss, Edelson (played by Paul Sorvino in the film), and offered a job to go undercover to catch a serial killer targeting members of Manhattan’s gay community. The killer’s MO is that he brutally stabs his victims – the most recent one nearly seventy times. According to Edelson, the city authorities are concerned the murders, which the police have managed to keep out of the newspapers, will wreck “the homosexual tourist trade” if word of them gets out. Lynch, who has a vague physical resemblance to a number of the victims, is promised a detective’s shield if he takes the job.… Read more

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“The Horror Never Leaves My Mind”: Ian Sharp’s ‘Who Dares Wins’

I have just contributed my debut piece for the amazing site, We Are The Mutants. It’s on nuclear nightmares & the amazingly contradictory contradictory politics of Ian Sharp’s 1982 film, Who Dares Wins. A sledgehammer of the 1980s political thriller, influenced by real events and with an avowedly conservative agenda, the film was a favourite of US President Ronald Reagan. But is also accurately captures much of the zeitgeist of the peace movement, which I was active in, of the time.

You can check out my piece in full here.

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