Category Archives: Black pulp fiction

M and my top 10 reads for 2019

It is no exaggeration to say I have been eagerly anticipating Samm Deighan’s monograph of Fritz Lang’s 1931 film. I love the film and I am a big fan of Deighan’s movie writing, so the combination is bound not to disappoint. And it didn’t.

As Deighan puts it in her introduction, M ‘exists in a liminal space between urban social drama, crime thriller, and horror film’. It was arguably the first serial killer film, long before the FBI coined the term in the early 1970s. Anchored by a superb performance by Peter Lorre as the paedophiliac child killer, Hans Beckert, it was certainly the first motion picture in which a serial killer was the central protagonist. Another crucial innovation was the way in which Lang depicted the character of Beckert in a not entirely unsympathetic light. This same sensibility would have a influence on some subsequent serial killer cinema, most notably in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 horror/thriller, Psycho.

Deighan discusses M’s broader social and political themes, including the film as a critique of modernity and a text for Germany on the brink of totalitarian control, appearing as it did a year before the Nazi’s assumed power and Lang had to flee the country.

Another fascinating aspect of the book is the discussion of how the themes in M would echo in Lang’s subsequent work, particular the threat of the lawless mob violence and what is perhaps the director’s most defining idea, how even the most noble individual is capable of brutal murderous thoughts and actions.… Read more

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

Street Players: Black Pulp Fiction and the Making of a Literary Underground

While many Pulp Curry readers will be familiar with names such as Iceberg Slim and Donald Goines, I’d wager far fewer know very much about them. Fewer still would be across the details of how they came to be published and their enormous influence. Filling in the gaps in this relatively little known but important aspect of mid-20th century pulp history is Kinohi Nishikawa’s Street Players: Black Pulp Fiction and the Making of a Literary Underground.

Street Players is the story of the now defunct Los Angeles based publishing company, Holloway House. Founded by two white men, Bentley Morriss and Ralph Weinstock, throughout the 1960s it published run of the mill smut paperbacks, mainly sexology and spicy confessional stories, as well as the pin-up magazines Adam and Knight, all written by white writers and aimed at white readers.

The company’s trajectory radically changed with the release of Pimp in 1967. It appeared under the by-line, Iceberg Slim, the street name of a former Black hustler, prisoner and pimp called Robert Beck. Pimp was a huge hit. White readers enjoyed the voyeuristic peek it offered into the subterranean world of pimping. Despite the fact the Beck’s story was heavily fictionalised, Black readers saw in it a genuine slice of their urban ghetto experience.… Read more

Sticking it to the Man: Revolution and Counterculture in Pulp and Popular Fiction, 1950-1980, now available for pre-order

Sticking it to the Man: Revolution and Counter Culture in Pulp and Popular Fiction, 1950-1980is now available for pre-order here on Amazon.

The book is due out in the second half of 2019 from PM Press, who published Beat Girls, Biker Boys and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950-1980

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. While an influx of New Wave nonconformists transformed science fiction, feminist, gay, and black authors broke into areas of crime, porn, and other paperback genres previously dominated by conservative, straight, white males. For their part, pulp hacks struck back with bizarre takes on the revolutionary times, creating vigilante-driven fiction that echoed the Nixonian backlash and the coming conservatism of Thatcherism and Reaganism.

Sticking It to the Man tracks the changing politics and culture of the period and how it was reflected in pulp and popular fiction in the US, UK, and Australia from the late 1950s onward. Featuring more than three hundred full-color covers, the book includes in-depth author interviews, illustrated biographies, articles, and reviews from more than 30 popular culture critics and scholars.… Read more