Category Archives: New English Library

Book review: Paperbacks from Hell, the Twisted History of ’70s and ’80s Horror Fiction

I loved Grady Hendrix’s soon to be released book, Paperbacks From Hell: The Twisted History of ‘70s and ‘80s Horror Fiction. From the opening, his discussion of John Christopher’s totally bizarre 1966 novel, The Little People, about an assortment of unsavoury individuals who spend a weekend in an Irish castle which is also inhabited by evil Nazi leprechauns (‘the Gestapochauns’) to the last few pages, the dying days of American mass market paperback horror, it is a wild, exhilarating ride.

But as well as being a lot of fun, Paperbacks From Hell is also an important work of pulp fiction and pop culture history.

The book comprises a series of thematic chapters, grouped from the most part around one or two foundation texts. Thus the chapter on satanic pulp and mass market paperbacks opens with a look at the cultural importance of Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby and Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist. The Omen (1976) is the starting point for a look at the large sub-genre of books about women being impregnated by all manner of hell spawn and murderous offspring. Peter Benchley’s paperback sensation, Jaws, is the precursor to a discussion about the wave of pulp and mass market paperback books featuring murderous creatures and animals turned homicidal: rats, dogs, cuts, pigs, insects, even rabbits.… Read more

Pulp Friday: ‘The godfather of the airport novel’

Have you ever noticed, whenever someone pens one of those articles listing the most influential books of the second half of the 20th century, how worthy the titles are? You’ll usually find books like Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago, Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull or E. M Forster’s Maurice, published in 1971, a year after the author’s death. But no one ever mentions influential books I suspect people were actually reading in large numbers, Peyton Place, Jacqueline Susan’s Valley of the Dolls, Mario Puzo’s The Godfather or the subject of today’s Pulp Friday offering, the novels of Harold Robbins.

Growing up in the 1970s, when popular culture was still mass rather than the niche individual choice it is increasingly now, Robbins was still a big deal. I don’t know about your household, but prominently placed amongst the Alistair Maclean and Ian Fleming thrillers, Desmond Morris’s The Naked Ape and Erich von Daniken’s 1968 sensation, Chariot of the Gods, were a large number of paperback books by Robbins.

Robbins has been called ‘the godfather of the airport novel’ and the ‘Onassis of supermarket literature’. He wasn’t a good writer by any stretch of the imagination but starting with his debut novel, Never Love A Stranger, in 1948, he produced fast paced, meaty narratives with larger than life characters, corporate executives and adventurers, accompanied by lashings of drama and explicit sex.… Read more

Pulp Friday: witches, sorcerers & Satan’s disciples

Satan, witches, warlocks, demons, they were everywhere in the sixties and seventies and no more so than on pulp fiction covers. To mark Halloween, today’s Pulp Friday offering is a selection of covers featuring the lord of darkness and his various disciples.

It’s hardly surprising that Satanism and witchcraft featured so prominently in pulp. Not only did these books mirror then contemporary tabloid fascinations with black magic and witches, but the subject was an excuse for a bit of gratuitous sex and nudity. Especially sex. Devil worshippers, particularly Satan’s female disciples, were nothing if not sexually promiscuous, at least in the pages of pulp fiction.

The selection of covers below hail from the UK, US and Australia. They ran the gamut of key pulp fiction sub-genres: fiction (Dennis Wheatley’s To the Devil a Daughter, one of many occult themed books he wrote); history and so-called exposes (James Holledge’s Black Magic, ‘The world of uncanny occult rights, psychic phenomena, weird sex rities’); how to guides (How to Become a Sensuous Witch); television and movie ties ins (The Witchfinder General and  The Grip of Evil, the latter part of a series of paperback spin offs based on the hugely popular early 1970s Australian television show, Number 96), and smut titles (Bride of Satan and The Cult of Flesh – ‘Violent debauchery in a Satanic Cult of Flesh Worshipers’),

Even Carter Brown, hardly the most salacious of pulp writers in the sixties, touched on occult themes in books like Blonde on a Broomstick.… Read more

Announcing Beat Girls, Love Tribes and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950 – 1980

Happening At san Remo Pyramid Books 1967Regular Pulp Curry readers will be aware of my deep interest in pulp fiction. What you won’t know, is I’ve been working for a while now on a pulp fiction related book with another Melbourne writer called Iain McIntyre.

I’m thrilled to announce this book, currently titled Beat Girls, Love Tribes and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950 – 1980, will be published by Verse Chorus Press in October 2015.

The book will be the definitive look at youth and counter cultural pulp fiction from Australia, the United States and the UK. It will feature contributions from over twenty writers and includes reviews, feature articles and author interviews. These will cover all aspects of youth and counter cultural related pulp fiction, starting with juvenile delinquency and gang pulp in the fifties, Beats and bohemians in the early sixties, to hippies, bikers, musicians, Mods, punks, and everything in between.

The book will also feature a large selection of covers from the books concerned.

Some of the pulp writers we cover you might know. But there’ll be a lot more you probably haven’t heard of. One thing we can guarantee is that the words “guilty pleasure” will not be mentioned once to describe their work.

This is a book about mainstream society’s obsession with the notion of out of control youth, and the pulp fiction that capitalised on the fascination, fears and desires associated with it.… Read more

Pulp Friday: witches, warlocks and drums of the dark gods

“A Horrifying excursion into a world ruled by the prince of darkness”

We don’t do Halloween in Australia, but it’s as good an opportunity as any to post some of the terrific occult pulp paperbacks covers I’ve collected over the last few months.

The supernatural and occult were major pre-occupations of popular culture in the sixties and the first half seventies. I am not exactly sure why, but some observers have linked it to regular outbreaks of witch mania that historically coincided with periods of major social change and dislocation.

Occultists, witches, Satanists, ruled much of the cinema screen. As was often the case, relatively highbrow offerings, Roman Polanski’s 1968 film Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist (1973) and The Omen (1976), coexisted along side more sensationalist exploitation fare. Devil’s Rain (1975), Brotherhood of Satan (1971), The Witches (1966) and Race with the Devil (1975), are just some of the many, many examples.

And where cinema went, pulp fiction followed. Old stories were spiced up, new ones penned in rapid succession.

Rest in Agony concerns what transpires when a husband and wife discover a little black book that reveals their dear deceased Uncle Amby lived a secret double life as a Satanist. Not surprising when some of his mates included Vandal James “Satan’s playmate” and Amora Cartwirght “Goddess of dark waters”.… Read more