Category Archives: Crime fiction

Pulp Friday: Pollen’s Action

Regular Pulp Curry readers will be aware I am a big fan of Robert Deis and Wyatt Doyle’s Men’s Adventure Library (MAL) series. These books showcase the wonderful, lurid, at times, completely bizarre material that featured in the genre of men’s adventure pulp magazines that flourished on American newsstands from the 1950s to the 1970s. I have written about the important work they have done archiving and showcasing the efforts of the one of the most prolific illustrators working for the men’s adventure magazines, Samson Pollen. I reviewed their first book about Pollen, Pollen’s Women, some months ago on this site. They have now produced a second edition on the artist, Pollen’s Action.

Pollen was one of the many people who managed to make a living as illustrators in the post war period, a time when there was plenty of work for individuals who could quickly produce attention grabbing, ready made art to order for pulp magazines, book covers, comics, advertisements and movie posters. As Deis discusses in his introduction to Pollen’s Action, Pollen started out painting paperback covers. But when this market started began to dry up in the late 1960s, as photographic book covers came into vogue, he began working for Magazine Management, one of the largest American publishers of men’s adventure magazines.… 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

Guest post: the indirect path to writing your book

It gives me great pleasure to welcome New York crime writer, Richie Narvaez, to Pulp Curry. Richie a friend. He is also a hell of a good crime writer. I loved his short story collection, Roachkiller and Other Stories, and I had the pleasure of reading a very early draft of the upcoming novel he is guest posting about today, Hipster Death Rattle, which is also great stuff. I don’t want to pre-empt Richie’s post, but Deathrattle is unique crime fiction take on the gentrification that have been sweeping New York. It drops from Down and Out Books in early March and you can pre-order it here.

You dream of writing a gritty noir but complete a cozy featuring fish detectives. Or you want to write a cozy but end up with a spy thriller featuring 0 cats. Writing is what happens while you’re busy making other plots. If you go after something too directly, if you have an object, an idea that you feel strongly about and you try to represent it as it feels in your head and beats in your chest, you will very often make a mush out of it. So sometimes you need to approach your object in the night like a thief, like a spy scaling a cliff face in order to sneak into a mountaintop stronghold.… Read more

2019 mid-summer reading report back

Summer is the one time of the year I am able find a decent amount of time to read. And, despite going full bore on my PhD at present, this year has, thankfully, been no different. Here is a very brief mid-summer reading report back.

The Real Lolita, Sarah Weinman

I have to fess up to not having read Vladimir Nabokov’s novel, Lolita, or seen either of the films based on it (I have Stanley Kubrick’s 1962 version and, having read The Real Lolita, want to see it). This didn’t stop me from devouring Weinman’s book. The Real Lolita has two threads. The first deals with the 1948 abduction of an eleven-year-old New Jersey girl, Sally Horner. The second looks at the torturous process by which Nabokov created what is his best-known work, the story of a middle-aged literature professor and his obsession and, eventually, sexual relationship with a 12-year-old girl, a story which Weinman contends Nabokov partly based on the Horner case.

Weinman painstakingly recreates the circumstances of Horner’s abduction and sexual grooming by a much older man, and the lengthy police investigation into her disappearance. It is fascinating, at times, horrific stuff and she puts it together brilliantly. I found the second strand concerning Nabokov less satisfying. … Read more

My top 10 reads of 2018

I reconciled myself long ago to the fact I will never get to the end of a year without thinking I have not read as much as I should have. That said, I have read some great books this year. Fiction and non-fiction, old books and new, in no particular order, here are my top ten reads for 2018.

Red Dragon, Thomas Harris

This year, I read a few bestsellers from the past to see if I can figure out what made them so successful, and this was my favourite. The book that introduced Hannibal Lector, it is a riveting rollercoaster ride into the serial killer mind. Beautifully written and acutely observed. Harris includes some incredible detail on forensics and police procedure without overdoing it. Red Dragon is the perfect mix of elevated airport novel and hardboiled crime story.

Twisted Clay, Frank Walford

Australian writer, Frank Walford’s 1933 account of a murderous young woman,  a pathological liar and sociopath, was banned in Australia until the late 1950s. The story, which contains patricide, sex work, suicide and the young female main character’s burgeoning awareness and enjoyment of her lesbian sexuality, is a wonderfully lurid read. One can only wonder what readers must have made of it in the 1930s. Not surprisingly, they seemed to like it as it was a bestseller in the UK and US, where it was published.… Read more