Category Archives: Pulp fiction in the 70s and 80s

Pulp Friday: a celebration of Tandem Books covers

Regular readers of this site will be familiar with my particular jones for late 1960s and 1970s pulp covers, particularly the photographic ones. For me, they represent a very creative but little celebrated body of book cover art and, as far as I am concerned, the Brits were the masters of it.

A week or so ago, during one of my frequent second hand bookshop jaunts, I stumbled across a 1967 copy of novelist and beat poet, Royston Ellis’s coming of age tell all, The Rush at the End. The wonderful cover is an example of what I am talking about when I go on about my love for photographic book covers – a cheap but imaginative shot that dives deep into the book’s themes of sex, drugs and the emerging counter culture.

Pulp enthusiasts have rightly devoted considerable time and energy in celebrating the covers of UK publishers such as Pan, Panther and New English Library. But there were a host of other lesser known outfits active on the British publishing scene in the 1960s and 1970s, who contributed some terrific covers. One of these was the little known Tandem Books, publisher of The Rush at the End. Indeed, along with Mayflower Books, Tandem contributed some of the strangest and best covers of that period.… Read more

Pulp Friday: Cuba – Sugar, Sex, and Slaughter

Earlier this year I posted in my semi-regular Pulp Friday column on Pollen’s Women, a book by Robert Deis and Wyatt Doyle that examined the career of Samson Pollen, an illustrator for some of the roughly 160 men’s pulp magazines that blossomed on American newsstands in the 1950s and 1960s (you can find my piece here). These magazines combined brilliant, often over the top illustrations, with hard-hitting fiction and lurid ‘non-fiction’ exposes of various mid-century cultural obsessions.

Chief among these obsessions was, as these magazines depicted it, the nefarious and barbaric activities of the various domestic and international communist minions the United States was then locked in global struggle with. A variant of this particular men’s pulp magazine enthusiasm is the subject of Deis and Doyle’s latest book, Cuba: Sugar, Sex, and Slaughter, which examines the way these magazines depicted pre and post revolutionary Cuba.

I recall, while working as journalist in Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia in the 1990s, many locals fondly remembering the assistance provided to them by Cuba, particular the medical doctors who were sent to these and other fraternal socialist allies in large numbers. Of course, I also realise that many Cubans do not look upon their country’s post-war history so fondly. The repressive nature of aspects of Castro’s rule can also be attested to by any number of intellectuals and the many openly gay Cubans who have been incarcerated by the regime.… Read more

Girl Gangs, Biker Boys & Real Cool Cats at the Bendigo Writers Festival

I am thrilled to be taking part in the 2018 Bendigo Writers Festival. The Festival, which takes place from August 10 to 12, is one of my favourite local writers festivals.

First up, I’ll be talking all things pulp fiction and the book I co-edited, Girl Gangs, Biker Boys & Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction & Youth Culture, 1950-1980, with fellow pop culture fiend, John Richards, at the La Trobe Art Institute, from 10am on Saturday, August 11. Copies of the book will also be for sale at the Festival.

On the Friday morning, August 10, from 9.30am to 12.30pm, I’ll be running a ‘Crime Starter’ workshop for new and emerging crime writers . I’ll cover the elements of a thrilling crime read and the rules of the genre, as well as providing tips on how to push through blockages and problem passages in your manuscript.

I’ll also be taking part in the festival debate ‘You Can Judge A Book By Its Genre’, with a group of talented writers.

So if you are in Bendigo or its environs and want to come to any of the events, grab a copy of the Girl Gangs book, or just say hello, it would be great to see you.

The full program for the Bendigo Writers Festival is available here.Read more

Pulp fiction at the Latrobe City Literary Festival

I am not sure how many Pulp Curry readers I have in Gippsland. In the event there are some, just a heads up that I’m appearing at the Latrobe City Literary Festival, in Traralgon, this coming Sunday, May 27. As part of a panel of talented folks, I’ll be talking about the history of Australian pulp fiction and the book I have co-edited, Girl Gangs, Biker Boys and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950-1980. I’ll also have copies of the book for sale.

Full details of the event can be found here. It is free but numbers are limited so you need to register. Hope to see some of you there.

Pulp Friday: Guns with plots

Let’s make one thing clear. I don’t own a gun. Never have and never will. Indeed, the only guns I want to see are in film or on the cover of books like the ones featured in today’s Pulp Friday post.

For a while now I have been obsessed with the cover above of the 1964 Panther edition of Len Deignton’s The Ipcress File. The cover, done by influential English graphic designer, Ray Hawkey, who would go onto to do a number of paperback covers, exudes a style and tone I could never imagine being used today except as a deliberate retro homage.

It speaks to the everyday grime, drudgery and unglamorous boredom of the Cold War spy racket, which the Deighton novels featuring the working class spy, Harry Palmer, evoke so well. There is also the mess that comes with the trade: a cold cup of tea (probably cold); cigarettes, because in the sixties every fictional spy smoked; paperclips for the paperwork; and, a gun and bullets, because sometimes you have to kill someone.

It is a gritty, cluttered layout I associate with mass paperback novels of the type that were largely targeted at men in the 1960s and 1970s. As it turns out, a bit of a dig around reveals it was a style that was widely used in those two decades – but it also bled over into the 1980s – by mass market paperback publishers in the crime, mystery and espionage thriller categories.… Read more