Category Archives: Horwitz Publications

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


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

Pulp Friday: The World of Suzie Wong

The World of Suzie Wong, Horwitz 1963

Horwitz Publications, 1963

The World of Suzi Wong is perhaps best known as a 1960 movie starring William Holden and Nancy Kwan. But before – and after – it was a movie, it was a book by English writer, Richard Mason.

The story concerns an American architect and aspiring artist Robert Lomax, who relocates to Hong Kong for a year to see if he can make a living as a painter. With a limited budget he takes a cheap in an infamous section of the Hong Kong waterfront, where he meets and eventually falls in love with a local prostitute who goes by the name, Suzie Wong

This week’s Pulp Friday offering is a series of paperback covers from the various editions of The World of Suzi Wong. All the covers focus more or less on the chao song clad figure of Suzi Wong, but the illustration for the version published in Australia by Horwitz, is the most suggestive. As if the image was not enough, the cover blurb adds: “Passionate torment against a background of vice on the Hong Kong waterfront”.

Enjoy the long weekend.

Wong, The World Publishing, 1957

The World Publishing, 1957

Wong, Signet, 1960

Signet, 1960

Wong, Fontana 1961

Fontana 1961

Wong, Signet, 1964

Signet, 1964

Wong 3 Fontana 1986

Fontana 1986


Pulp Friday: Nurse in Vietnam

Nurse in Vietnam

While Sydney-based Horwitz Publications was Australia’s largest pulp publisher, it was not the only one. Cleveland Publishing Company, publisher of today’s Pulp Friday offering, Nurse in Vietnam, was another sizeable operation.

I’ve been able to find out virtually nothing about who was behind Calvert.

All we know about Shauna Marlowe, author of Nurse in Vietnam, is she (if it is actually a woman and not a man writing under a woman’s name) is credited with writing 41 books, nearly all of them for Calvert, from the late fifties to the early seventies.

On one level, Nurse in Vietnam, is just another nurse/doctor romance story (a hugely popular sub-genre of pulp in the fifties and sixties). The nurse in question and a handsome doctor have been captured by Viet Cong rebels. The doctor’s main pre-occupation is not escape but whether she’ll agree to his marriage proposal.

But the publication date, 1965, is significant. A small number of Australian military advisors had been stationed in Vietnam since 1962. We did not start to commit significant ground forces until 1965.

What was the first mainstream Australian novel to tackle the war in Vietnam? Perhaps William Nagle’s The Odd Angry Shot, published in 1975. Nurse in Vietnam shows pulp publishers were onto Vietnam as a setting for fiction straight away.… Read more

Pulp Friday: Outback Heiress

Outback Heiress Horwitz 1963

“Her past was a secret but she couldn’t hide her feelings for this daredevil cropduster!”

It wasn’t just men who wrote for Australia’s burgeoning pulp publishing industry in the fifties, sixties and seventies, many women did, too.

One of these was Irena Dickman AKA Rena Cross, the author of today’s Pulp Friday contribution, Outback Heiress, published by Sydney company Horwitz in 1963.

Biographical details for Dickman, like many local pulp authors, are thin on the ground. She was born in England and arrived in Australia in 1950. She appears to have been one of the stable of local writers put together by Horwitz in the early sixties.

The Austlit site credits her with twenty books. Her subjects included nurse and doctor yarns and torrid tales set in Sydney’s Kings Cross. The latter include Model School (publishing in 1963 under the pseudonym Christine James) and Flat 4 Kings Cross (three editions of which were published, in 1963, 1965 and 1966, under the name Geoffrey Tolhurst).

The Keys of Corruption another of her books (written as Rena Crane), was an Australian take on one of pulp’s favourite obsessions in the sixties – wife swapping.

If this post has piqued your interest about Australian pulp, join me on August 30 at the Ian Potter Centre, NGV Australia, Federation Square, for an illustrated talk about the hidden history of Australian pulp publishing in the fifties, sixties and seventies, part of the Melbourne Writers Festival.… Read more

Pulp Friday: The Hands of Orlac

The Hands of Orlac“Had a brilliant skin graft left him with a murderer’s hands? A tense and eerie film starring Mel Ferrer.”

French writer Maurice Renard’s 1920 novel The Hands of Orlac concerned a concert pianist called Paul Orlac who loses his hands in a terrible accident and is given new ones in a transplant. Unbeknownst to him, the donor was a recently deceased murderer. Not only is Orlac unable to play piano with his new hands, but he slowly starts to assume the deceased murderer’s predisposition for killing.

The Hands of Orlac was filmed as a movie three times. A silent movie, The Hands of Orlac, was made in 1924 by Austrian director Robert Weine. A US version appeared in 1935 as Mad Love. A British/French production starring Christopher Lee and Mel Ferrer was made in 1960.

Today’s Pulp Friday offering is the 1962 local Horwitz edition of the Four Square Books paperback tie in to the British/French movie.

The name of the author, which you might not be able to discern from the cover scan, was Robert Bateman. Bateman was a UK writer who worked in radio and TV. He also wrote a number of novels, including this one.

And please note, I will be giving an illustrated talk on Australian pulp fiction from the fifties, sixties and seventies as part of the upcoming Melbourne Writers Festival.… Read more