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

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

Pulp Friday: The Man With the Brown Paper Face

Welcome to my first Pulp Friday offering for 2018. Today’s book, The Man With the Brown Paper Face, published by Panther in 1969, showcases one of my favourite forms of paperback cover design, photographic cover art from the late 1960s/early 1970s.

I know the purists among you dig the painted pulp covers from the 1940s and 1950s, and I love them, too. But there is something wonderfully sensational and lurid about photographic cover design from the period I mentioned earlier and, in my opinion, the Brits were the masters of it.

Photographs began to replace artwork on paperback books from the mid-1960s on. Partly this was part of an effort by publishers to be seen to be moving with the times and look more modern. Partly it was a cost cutting measure, as photographic covers were cheaper than painted ones. But despite their cheapness, arguably because of it, many of these covers manage to evoke a dynamic, visceral, fly on the wall atmosphere that could often be quite stunning.

The Man With the Brown Paper Face is a good example. The cover utilises a man with a stocking over his head, posing on top of a scrapyard car, brandishing a star picket, which the photographer probably found nearby. Its nasty and direct and – I don’t know about you – but it instantly made me want to pick up the book.… Read more