Category Archives: Belmont Tower Books

Pulp Friday: Guns with plots

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

Pulp Friday: Mafia pulp fiction

The Mafia, Cosa Nostra, the Mob, the Family, the Outfit, the Syndicate, call them whatever you like, it’s hard to overstate the influence organised crime had over pulp fiction.

My post on the Andrew Dominik movie Killing Them Softly earlier this week, got me thinking about how the Mafia have been portrayed in popular fiction and film.

One of the aspects of Killing Me Softly I found so interesting was its depiction of organised crime in the traditional sense as being just a shadow of its former glory. For the most part, the gangsters were a bunch of clapped out old men and cautious time servers, clinging desperately to the last trappings of their power base.

It wasn’t always so. Stretching right back to the late forties, organised crime was one of the central pre-occupations of pulp writers. The phenomenal success of Mario Puzo’s book, The Godfather, published in 1969 and the subsequent movie version by Francis Ford Coppola in 1972, saw pulp’s fascination with the Mafia stretch well into the seventies.

In addition to novels examining every aspect of the Mafia’s rituals and existence, so all pervasive and powerful was the Mafia’s reach, pulp writers invented a series of characters that existed just to fight it.

Robert Briganti or ‘the Assassin’ as he is known, “lives only to destroy the Mafia.”

The Marksman, real name was Philip Magellan, was a man who “stalks the Mafia killers through the deadly jungle of the big city underworld”.… Read more

Pulp Friday: mercenary pulp

This week’s Pulp Friday is a selection of covers from the seething, sweaty, bloody, intrigue laden world of mercenary pulp.

I picked them celebrate the fact that I have a story in issue 2 of Blood and Tacos, which launches today, called ‘Bastard Mercenary: Operation Scorpion Sting’. Well, it’s not my story. It was written by a guy called Arch Saxon, one of the mainstays of the local pulp fiction scene in the seventies and eighties.

I discovered Saxon living in a down at heel rooming house in Brunswick, while researching a piece for this site. After he’d drunk his own body weight in beer and caged a hundred dollars off me, he agreed to let me submit a story of his featuring his little known creation Bruce ‘Boomer’ Kelly to Johnny Shaw’s Blood and Tacos series.

Kelly aka Bastard Mercenary is hard-bitten Bangkok-based Australian mercenary who’ll undertake any job so long as the beer is cold and the money right. Much like Saxon himself.

The rest as they say is history.

Blood and Tacos is an affectionate homage to the crazy, over the top world of late seventies, eighties pulp fiction. A time when titles such as Penetrator, The Liquidator, Death Merchant, Black Samurai and The Executioner rubbed muscular shoulders with each other on the pulp paperback rack of the local newsagency.… Read more