Pulp Friday: biker pulp

“Lusting females with sadism and sex on their mind.”

Bikers were one of the major themes of pulp fiction in the late sixties and seventies.

Society’s fascination with bikers obviously dates back much further than this, but by the late sixties it had well and truly seeped into popular culture, thanks to the well publicised violence at Aldamont, movies like Easy Rider (1969) and the success of Hunter S Thompson’s 1965 gonzo journalism classic, Hells Angels.

Australia was no exception to this trend, with concerns about law and order arising from the growth of the counter culture and the popularity of movies like Stone (1974) and Mad Max (1979) resulting in our own fascination with bikie culture.

The result was wave of pulp novels focusing on the exploits of outlaw biker gangs and the cops trying to break them. The books mirrored mainstream society’s fascination/loathing of bikie culture, real and imagined, mixed with lashings of gratuitous sex and hard-core violence.

Wheels of Death (1975) and Bikie Birds (1973) are two Australian examples of biker pulp fiction. Both were written by Stuart Hall, who penned approximately 45 pulp novels between 1970 and 1980, including a number of biker pulps for Scripts, the adults-only inprint of Sydney-based pulp publisher Horwitz Publications.

In addition to writing about the denim clad male members of these bikie gangs, Hall devoted considerable attention to the women (or ‘birds’ as women were often referred to in popular working class Australian slang) who rode with them, characters every bit as sexually loose and violent as their male counterparts.

Other biker titles by Hall included Wheelie (1973), Bikie Rumble (1975), Birds of Destruction (1976) and Vengeance is a Woman (1980).

Blood Circus was written by Thomas K. Fitzpatrick and published by Fawcett Gold Medal Books in 1968. Trying cash in on the success of Thompson’s Hells Angels, it concerns a rookie LAPD officer given the job of infiltrating a sadistic Californian biker gang known as “the Beasts”.

UK pulp publisher New English Library published a popular series of pulps in the early seventies.

Published in 1973, Alex R Stuart’s The Devils Rider fused outlaw bikers with supernatural themes against the backdrop a Great Britain on the brink of complete social collapse. The key characters are Sam, the Satanic leader of a biker gang called the Sons of Baal, and Johnny, a young drop out who joins the them.

The blurb on the back of The Devil’s Rider reads: “The moon gleams ivory through the wisps of cloud. Shovels and pickaxes are strapped to the bikes, like Sam insisted. For what? Digging their own graves? Sam wouldn’t say. The whole trip’s weird.”

Angels on My Mind (1974), also published by New English Library, was the final in a series of four books by Mick Norman about the exploits of the “Hell’s Angels”, a biker gang that “delight in perverting the ‘normal’ way of life and turn their backs on the rest of society… But for those who get in their way, and won’t let them have what they want, they have only one answer – violence.”

John Harrison’s Hip Pocket Sleaze, a book I’ve mentioned several times on this site and one of the best guides I’ve found pulp fiction in the sixties and seventies, contains a lot more information about biker pulp, including an interview with J.D. Norman son of the late NEL editor and bike paperback author, Mick Norman.

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