Category Archives: Pulp fiction

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

Pulp Friday: The Laughing Policeman

The Laughing Policeman Bantam 1974The Laughing Policeman is probably better known as the title of a book than a film, but both are the subject of today’s Pulp Friday offering.

Originally published in 1968, The Laughing Policeman was fourth in a series of ten books featuring the bad tempered police detective, Martin Beck, by Swedish crime writing duo, Maj Sjowell and Per Wahloo. The book was adapted into a film, directed by Stuart Rosenburg, and released in 1973.

The covers in today’s post include both the original novel and the paperback-tie in for the film. The one above is the 1974 Bantam edition. In order those below are: the back cover to the 1974 Bantam edition, the cover of the 1977 Vintage edition, and the 1974 UK paperback tie-in for the movie, published by Sphere. The film appeared under that title in the UK.

The series is very famous and I don’t think I have to go into detail about it here. The plot of the original The Laughing Policeman novel concerns a gunman who shoots passengers on a public bus, killing eight people and wounding one. Beck and his team believe the murders are a disguise for the murder of a police detective who was engaged in an out of hour’s investigation into the murder of a 16-year-old Portuguese sex worker.… Read more

Pulp Friday: Klute, the UK paperback tie-ins

Klute UK final 1973Today’s Pulp Friday offering is a very short addendum to my post a couple of weeks ago about the US paperback tie-in to Alan J Pakula’s 1971 movie, Klute, and the career of its author, William Johnston. As I noted in the post, which you can read in full here, Johnston appears to have been a master of the paper-back tie in, a massively popular form of entertainment before the advent of VHS, as a way for fans to re-live their favourite films and television shows.

Spurred on by a comment by one of my readers, I thought people might be interested in the UK paperback tie-in editions for Klute. There a two that I am aware of. The first is the 1973 Sphere paperback above, the cover for which was kindly sent to me by the reader in question, Stuart Radmore. As he noted, and I agree, it is a much darker and atmospheric cover design than the US 1971 Paperback Library edition. The back cover of this edition is included below.

The second is another Sphere version, this one from 1971, which appears to be the Australian and New Zealand edition of the Sphere tie-in. Until I saw Stuart’s comment, I had totally forgotten that I owned this version.… Read more

Pulp Friday: Klute the novel & William Johnson, master of the paperback tie-in

Klute paperback frontI had a lot of interest in my post earlier this week on Alan J Pakula’s wonderfully atmospheric 1971 movie, Klute. Given this, I thought Pulp Curry readers may be interested in having a look at this artefact from my pulp collection, the paperback tie-in for the film. It was published by Paperback Library in July 1971, a month after the film was released. I like the tag line on the cover, which reduces what is a remarkably sophisticated film to a classic, 1950s sounding pulp novel: ‘A small-town cop and New York call girl run a collision course with murder’.

I thought this would be a relatively straight forward post, but as is often the case there is a story behind the author of this book. Paperback tie-ins were a massively popular form of entertainment before the advent of VHS, as a way for fans to re-live their favourite films and television shows. The author of Klute, William Johnston, appears to have been somewhat of a master of the paper-back tie in.

According to an article on this site, much of which was taken by a longer piece by author, Lee Goldberg, Johnston penned a large number of them. The best known of these were numerous books for the Get Smart series.… Read more

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