Category Archives: Pulp fiction

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

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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

Designing pictures for words: Interview with book cover designer, W H Chong

Image 2 The Left Hand of Darkness, Orbit Books, 1991From his first cover design job, a souvenir booklet to mark 1990 Collingwood AFL Grand Final victory, Melbourne-based book cover designer W H Chong, Design Director for Text Publishing, has won multiple awards for his covers for young adult fiction, crime, classics and literature.

I interviewed Ching about what makes a good cover design and his favourite cover designs from the science fiction reading of his youth. You can access the piece in full  at Spook Magazine here.

You can check out Chong’s personal website, with all his book cover design work here.

Interview: New Jersey crime writer, Wallace Stroby

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Wallace Stroby was an award-winning journalist who quit his job as an editor at New Jersey’s Star-Ledger of Newark newspaper, to write crime fiction full time. A life long New Jersey native, he is the author of six books, of which his debut, The Barb Wire Kiss, was a finalist for the 2004 Barry Award for best first novel. His last three books, Cold Shot to the Heart, Kings of Midnight, Shoot the Woman First, feature the female professional criminal character, Crissa Stone. This is an edited version of an interview, which I conducted at Noir Con 2014 in Philadelphia, that originally appeared in issue 17 of Crime FactoryHis latest Crissa Stone book The Devil’s Share, is out now.

Let’s start of with your recent books featuring the character of Crissa Stone. What was the inspiration behind writing these?

I always wanted to write a book from the point of a view of a career criminal. In my third novel, Gone ‘Til November, half of the book was from the point of view of an ageing black hit man but the main character was actually a woman, the only female sheriff’s deputy in a small town, a woman in a man’s world and I liked that idea. So coming off Gone ‘Til November I wanted to combine those two and do a story about a career criminal who was a woman in a man’s world.… Read more

Pulp Friday: The Day of the Locust

Day of the LocustMost people are familiar with the 1975 John Schlesinger film, The Day of the Locust, starring Donald Sutherland, Burgess Meredith and Karen Black.

But long before it appeared in cinemas, The Day of the Locust was an influential novel by US author, Nathanael West. Today’s Pulp Friday offering is the 1957 edition of the novel by Bantam Books. I have no idea who did the stunning cover image for this paperback version.

Both the novel and the film are set during the Great Depression and focus on a young artist who comes to Hollywood and is soon sucked into a nightmare world of hustlers, struggling actors and actresses and various other low life denizens on the fringes of the movie business. It is often viewed as one of the best books written on the underbelly of the American dream.

Nathanael knew of what he was writing about in The Day of the Locust, having worked for a time as a screenwriter for RKO pictures.

Pulp Friday: Christopher Lee's "X" Certificate

LeeI’ve been holding onto this gem of a horror anthology for a while now with the intention of eventually posting it as one of my Pulp Friday offerings. The death last week of the great Christopher Lee makes this an opportune time to share it.

Christopher Lee’s “X” Certificate was published by Star Books in 1975. The book includes an introduction by the late actor, although it’s doubtful Lee had anything to do with the anthology, which includes stories by Fritz Leiber, Robert Bloch, Richard Matheson, Robert E Howard and Bram Stoker. I’d be surprised if he even knew it existed.

As pulp fiction aficionados will be aware, numerous anthologies like this appeared in the late sixties and seventies, under the imprimatur of well known personalities involved in suspense and horror film, such as Alfred Hitchcock and French director, Roger Vadim.

The cover image may be familiar to fans of Jame Bond movies. It’s from the 1974 film, The Man With the Golden Gun, in which Lee played the hitman, Francisco Scaramanga.