Kings Cross has always had a particular place in our popular imagination as Australia’s capital of sin, sleaze and crime.
The terrific 1995 television mini-series Blue Murder and the not-so-wonderful Underbelly: Razor and Underbelly: The Golden Mile all did their bit to maintain this unsavoury reputation.
In the sixties and early seventies, Kings Cross was also a favourite setting for locally published pulp novels.
As I have discussed many times on this site, pulp fiction is a warped reflection of mainstream society, its illicit desires, fears and fascinations. Thus it was with pulp’s depiction of the Cross as a virtual Sodom and Gomorrah of sex, gambling, crime and human depravity of every description.
Wild youth gangs, criminal syndicates, black magic, pulp took all of these and turned them into portable, pocket sized key pieces of key hole voyeurism. From a publishing perspective they sold a bomb to punters eager for vicarious thrills and a peek of the dark goings on in the Cross.
Nowra’s book didn’t touch on this this particular aspect of Kings Cross’s hold on our popular imagination. To make up for this, today’s Pulp Friday offering is a selection of Australian pulp novels I have collected set in the Kings Cross. Some of these I have posted on this site before, some are new.
The Deserters by Donald Hann is unusual in that it is set during World War II, a time when, according to the back of the book, the “Yank invasion” turned the Cross into “a tawdry hotbed of sex, sin, silk stockings and Scotch”. The rest are set during the mid to late sixties, when Kings Cross’s reputation as Australia’s vice capital was at its height.
In addition to fiction, Kings Cross was also the subject of a numerous pulp publications dressed up as semi serious investigations of pressing social issues, including drugs, sex workers, juvenile delinquency, etc.
All these books were published by Horwitz Publications, Australia’s premier pulp publisher in the sixties and seventies, or its racy offshoot, Scripts Publications.
The only exception is The Pink Pussycat, published by Melbourne’s Gold Star Publications in 1972, a crime novel purporting to be based “on the real life of Sydney’s blazing strip scene”. It’s dedicated to the girls of Sydney’s Pink Pussy Cat and Pink Panther strip clubs.