Category Archives: Pulp fiction

Farewell to Victor J. Banis, pioneer of gay pulp & popular fiction

Victor Banis, sometime in the 1960s

I am a bit late to the sad news that Victor J. Banis, a long time writer, who some have called ‘the godfather of modern popular gay fiction’, died on February 22, after finally succumbing to cancer.

I didn’t know Banis personally, but I was very aware of his work. He published his first short story in 1963 in the Swiss gay journal, Der Kreis. He went on to write heterosexual, bisexual and gay erotic and pulp fiction for Brandon House, Greenleaf Press and Sherburne Press.

Of particular note, from 1966 to 1968, he wrote eight pulp fiction titles in his ‘Man From C.A.M.P.’ series, a overtly queer takeoff of the television spy series, Man From UNCLE. The central protagonist of the successful series, was the openly gay undercover agent, Jackie Holmes, who did battle with BUTCH (Brothers United To Crush Homosexuality). The series helped establish that gay audiences were particularly hungry for stories which portrayed characters in a fun and positive light. In doing so, Banis saw himself as playing a consciously activist role.

In all, Banis wrote over 160 books – pulp, porn, queer and straight fiction and non-fiction, under his own name and pseudonyms such as Victor Jay, Don Halliday, Jan Alexander and Lyn Benedict.Read more

Street Players: Black Pulp Fiction and the Making of a Literary Underground

While many Pulp Curry readers will be familiar with names such as Iceberg Slim and Donald Goines, I’d wager far fewer know very much about them. Fewer still would be across the details of how they came to be published and their enormous influence. Filling in the gaps in this relatively little known but important aspect of mid-20th century pulp history is Kinohi Nishikawa’s Street Players: Black Pulp Fiction and the Making of a Literary Underground.

Street Players is the story of the now defunct Los Angeles based publishing company, Holloway House. Founded by two white men, Bentley Morriss and Ralph Weinstock, throughout the 1960s it published run of the mill smut paperbacks, mainly sexology and spicy confessional stories, as well as the pin-up magazines Adam and Knight, all written by white writers and aimed at white readers.

The company’s trajectory radically changed with the release of Pimp in 1967. It appeared under the by-line, Iceberg Slim, the street name of a former Black hustler, prisoner and pimp called Robert Beck. Pimp was a huge hit. White readers enjoyed the voyeuristic peek it offered into the subterranean world of pimping. Despite the fact the Beck’s story was heavily fictionalised, Black readers saw in it a genuine slice of their urban ghetto experience.… Read more

Sticking it to the Man: Revolution and Counterculture in Pulp and Popular Fiction, 1950-1980, now available for pre-order

Sticking it to the Man: Revolution and Counter Culture in Pulp and Popular Fiction, 1950-1980is now available for pre-order here on Amazon.

The book is due out in the second half of 2019 from PM Press, who published Beat Girls, Biker Boys and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950-1980

From Civil Rights and Black Power to the New Left and Gay Liberation, the 1960s and 1970s saw a host of movements shake the status quo. With social strictures and political structures challenged at every level, pulp and popular fiction could hardly remain unaffected. While an influx of New Wave nonconformists transformed science fiction, feminist, gay, and black authors broke into areas of crime, porn, and other paperback genres previously dominated by conservative, straight, white males. For their part, pulp hacks struck back with bizarre takes on the revolutionary times, creating vigilante-driven fiction that echoed the Nixonian backlash and the coming conservatism of Thatcherism and Reaganism.

Sticking It to the Man tracks the changing politics and culture of the period and how it was reflected in pulp and popular fiction in the US, UK, and Australia from the late 1950s onward. Featuring more than three hundred full-color covers, the book includes in-depth author interviews, illustrated biographies, articles, and reviews from more than 30 popular culture critics and scholars.… Read more

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

The pulp magazines under the floorboards

Dime Mystery Magazine, July 1936

One of the very cool things about having an online profile in relation to the history of pulp fiction is, from time to time, people make contact and send me old pulp novels and magazines they feel I might be able to make good use of. And a couple of months ago I was offered a collection of mainly American pulp magazines from the 1930s, found while renovating a house in Melbourne.

Queensland academic Toni Johnson-Woods has written about how the origins of Australia’s post war pulp publishing industry lie in import restrictions on print material introduced by the Australian government in 1938. The restrictions were mainly aimed an American publications, especially remaindered comics and pulp magazines which were being dumped in large quantities in Australia in the 1930s. This dumping fuelled an unlikely alliance of groups who pressured for the restrictions: religious organisations, concerned about the moral impact of these publications; nationalists who viewed cheap American publications and other forms of mass American culture, such as jazz and US motion pictures, as a threat to our then Anglo-aligned culture; educationalists; and protectionists worried about the livelihoods of local writers printers and artists.

I have always been curious to to see for myself exactly what it was that could have been so offensive and dangerous about these pulp magazines as to warrant import restrictions to prevent them entering the country.… Read more