Category Archives: Carter Brown

Pulp Friday: American Pulp – How Paperbacks Brought Modernism to Main Street

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I’ve always been fascinated by how relatively insignificant objects you’ve lost in the course of moving around in life can later come to hold important meaning. An example for me is a black and white photograph of my father on holiday in Queensland’s Surfers Paradise in the early 1960s. It was destroyed when my friend’s shed, in which I stored all my possessions while travelling overseas, burnt down. I find it hard to recall what else was lost, but I remember that photo. Dad is sitting in a chair on the beach, wearing dark sunglasses and reading a paperback by the prolific Australian pulp writer Carter Brown.

Two things gave me cause to think about this picture recently. The first was the hype around the Anzac Day centenary commemorations – I’ll explain that connection later. The second was reading US academic Paula Rabinowitz’s beautifully written, highly original work, American Pulp: How Paperbacks Brought Modernism to Main Street.

Most people view pulp as either exploitative lowbrow culture or highly collectable retro artefact. Yet pulp has a secret history which Rabinowitz’s book uncovers. Her central thesis is that cheap, mass-produced pulp novels not only provided entertainment and cheap titillating thrills, but also brought modernism to the American people, democratising reading and, in the process, furthering culture and social enlightenment.… Read more

Interview: Australian pulp fiction historian Toni Johnson Woods

Dr Toni Johnson Woods is someone I’ve been keen to interview on this blog for a while now.

A Research Fellow at University of Queensland, she is passionate about Australian books. Not just capital ‘L’ literature, but the local mass produced pulp fiction of the forties, fifties and early sixties, the existence of which has all but disappeared from our collective cultural memory.

Her commitment to the cause of local pulp includes having listened to hours of popular radio serials (Carter Brown Mystery Theatre and Larry Kent’s I Hate Crime), scanned thousands of pulp fiction covers and read every nearly all 300 Carter Brown novels.

She very generously agreed to answer the following questions about her work by e-mail.

What attracted you to researching pulp fiction in the first place? 

One very unremarkable day I was chatting with colleagues in the tearoom. As you can imagine our conversations are very lofty – not.  I asked the most basic question: who is Australia’s most popular author.

Well, we batted that around for several minutes arguing about what “popular” means, i.e. best selling, most widely read, most known author.  All of these things are not the same. The discussion then turned to what is an Australian author, i.e. someone who was born in Australia?… Read more

Australia’s other lost literary heritage

There’s been a bit of discussion in literary circles recently about whether enough is being done to maintain the public’s interest in the classics of Australian literature. To my surprise it’s a debate I’ve only been able to drum up half-hearted enthusiasm for.

The catalyst was an article by Text Publisher Michael Heyward in late January, in which he criticised journalists, cultural commentators and university academics for failing to create an enduring tradition for appreciating and teaching Australian literature. He singled out universities in particular for the lack of courses about Australian writing.

Perhaps in response, the latest program put out by the Wheeler Centre includes a series of talks called Literature 101, in which contemporary writers talk about classic Australian texts.

You won’t get an argument from me about the importance of Australian literature in building our individual and collective sense of historical self. I also agree universities are failing to teach Australian literature, although I think the problem lies less in any wilful neglect on the part of academics than in the gradual privatisation of our higher education system. Persistent federal government underfunding has squeezed course diversity in favour of subjects that generate income, particularly full fee income. Australian literature is not Robinson Crusoe in this regard. Try studying ancient history or the language of a country that is not one of our major trading partners, and you’ll get the picture.… Read more

Pulp Friday: Triple Shot of Carter Brown

“A cold corpse becomes a hot assignment to curvy blonde, Mavis Seidlitz.”  

Today’s Pulp Friday is a triple shot of covers from one of my late father’s favourite pulp authors, Carter Brown.

Carter Brown AKA Alan Geoffrey Yates was a Australian-British author who wrote a massive 317 novels in a career that spanned from 1958-1985. Tens of millions of these were sold all over the anglo world.

Most of his stories were crime, although at the beginning of his career he also wrote horror and Westerns under the alias Tex Conrad. His books were published in Australia by Horwitz and in the US by Signet.

Cops and private investigators were his staple characters, the stories a mixture of sex and action, leavened with a bit of tough guy humour. The writing’s not brilliant, but, hey, that’s no surprise given how fast he churned books out.

His first Horwitz contract stipulated two novellas and one full length novel a month. He could write as much as 40,000 words overnight, reputedly with the assistance of Dexedrine which he used to stay awake for periods of up to 48 hours.

As was common practice on the part of Australian pulp writers in the fifties and sixties, all of his books were set in the United States.… Read more

Books my father read

 

July 24 was the fourth anniversary of the death of my father, William Nette.

He died peacefully in hospital on the Queensland Gold Coast, where he had retired with my mother many years earlier. He was 86.

William Nette, Papua New Guinea, 1942

Like many father-son relationships, we didn’t always get on. That’s putting it mildly. But he brought a lot of positive influences to my life.

He turned me onto the joy of jazz, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Art Blakey and Dave Brubeck. He had a large collection of 78s wrapped in brown paper that he’d secreted out of Papua New Guinea, where he was an armed forces disc jockey during the war, along with cartons of cigarettes he later sold in Australia.

Only recently have I realised he’s also responsible for much of the delight I find in reading and my particular fondness of crime fiction.

I remember the pivotal moment quite clearly. I was thirteen. He came home from work one day and, to my complete horror, announced he was withholding my allowance until I started reading books (comics, which I loved, didn’t count).

He set the first two books, Robertson Crusoe, followed by Treasure Island. They were heavy looking volumes with no pictures that had belonged to my father when he was a boy.… Read more