Category Archives: Pulp Friday

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 Riot

I am rather partial to a good paperback movie tie-in. And I love Pan paperbacks. So this book from 1969, which I had never previously seen before stumbling across it in a second hand bookshop this week, presses all the right buttons.

The Riot, the only novel credit I have been able to find for Frank Elli, was first published in 1966. It is the story of a cynical con who finds himself thrown into the centre of a brutal hostage situation when the prison he is incarcerated in, erupts in a riot. Apparently the novel was based on an actual riot in an Arizona prison in which Elli, a former inmate of the prison, had been involved in. Kirkus Review called it ‘powerful storytelling. It’s a brutal, black vision in which the cynical despair is offset by a cool, shrug shouldered presentation.’ That doesn’t sound too bad.

It was filmed as Riot in 1969 by Buzz Kulik, a director who appears to have spent most of his career doing television, starring Jim Brown in the main role, and Gene hackman. As was often the case with prison films in the 1960s and 1970s, the production utilised real life prison inmate and staff at the Yuma Territorial Prison that it was filmed in.… 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

Pulp Friday: Teenage jungles – expose pulp about youth subcultures

The new book I have co-edited, Girl Gangs, Biker Boys and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950-1980 is about many things.

It depicts the insatiable energy of post war youth and their desire to find expression through style, fashion, music and language. It is also about the just as insatiable appetite of pulp paperback publishers to hype and exploit youth culture for cheap thrills and cheap paperback sales.

One of the decisions that my co-editor, Iain McIntyre and I faced early on in putting the book together was whether or not to include the large body of nonfiction expose pulp about youth culture. For reasons of space, in the end, we decided against including these books. But they remain one of my favourite strands of pulp fiction.

These books, which were a major sub-genre of pulp from the 1950s to the early 1970s, were marketed as timely, hard hitting, insider accounts or journalistic exposes of various social issues and trends. They were factual only in the most generous sense of the word, usually taking as their starting point the latest public sensation or tabloid headline. And, more often than not, their target was the so called goings on of out of the control young people. In colourful language and with lurid, highly sexualised covers, these books capitalised on mainstream fears, concerns and, as was often the case, fascinations with young people and their activities.Read more

Pulp Friday: Paul Bishop & 52 Weeks: 52 Western Novels

Today I’m happy to host friend of pulp fiction lovers everywhere, Paul Bishop, to talk about a project he has been working on,52 Weeks • 52 Western Novels.

I have always been interested in the contradiction between how critically marginalised as a genre the Western is (and, arguably, always has been), compared with popular they continue to be. This is the case not just in the US but in Australia. The only remaining Australian pulp publisher still in business, Cleveland Publications, publishes Westerns. And go into any second hand bookstore, especially in regional Australia, and you are likely to find large a large number of westerns. That’s if they haven’t been snapped up, as was the case in a regional second hand bookshop I visited recently.

Anyway, Paul and his co-editor Scott Harris have done something too few people who examine pulp fiction and write about it, do – they actually read the novels and not just focus on the covers. The result is a wonderfully eclectic, in-depth look at the genre that is Western pulp fiction. The Western is an area of pulp fiction I have not really examined in any detail on my site, so I’m thrilled to have Paul here.

First up, well done on the book.Read more