Jail breaks, prison life, men and woman wrongly convicted and languishing in hell hole jails, all these were popular themes in cinema in the fifties, sixties and early seventies. They were also popular topics for pulp fiction.
Exhibit A is this selection of prison pulps from my collection.
Between them, these books cover off on all the main themes associated with prison pulp.
There are tension filled jail breaks in Billy Braggs and The Ninth Hour (“Three desperate prisoners, armed with smuggled .45’s, were holed up in the Isolation Cell Block, with two guards as hostages”).
Wrongfully convicted men feature in The Fall of the Sparrow, Headed For the Hearse (“His address was Death Row and his lease was up in six days…”), and Patricia Highsmith’s The Glass Cell.
The travails of women behind bars, particularly their sensationalised sexual exploits, are the subject of the two Australian pulps represented below, The Lights of Skaro and Queen Rat (“From behind bars Dawn Arness ruled the lives of prisoners and guards alike. She was Queen Rat”).
Prison was particularly suited to my favourite sub-genre of pulp fiction, tabloid-style reporting dressed up as serious sociological inquiry.
There’s The Scottsboro’ Boy (“…the frank, brutal story of life in an Alabama prison.”). Inside by Helen Bryan purports to show the reality ‘inside’, “the drug addicts, car thieves, boot-leggers, kidnappers, under-age ‘call girls'”. Not Guilty describes “Thirty-six men… tried for murder, bank robbery, forgery, rape, drug peddling and other crimes; each found guilty and sentenced; yet each one INNOCENT”.
As usual, if you like this post, you’ll find a lot more covers on my Pinterest site.