Category Archives: Pulp paperback cover art

Pulp Friday: Hell is a City

A very quick Pulp Friday offering, Maurice Procter’s Hell is a City, published by Arrow Books, 1957. I am not sure, but this edition may even be the first British release of the novel in paperback.

Procter was a former Manchester policeman turned crime writer, best known for his police procedurals featuring the character of Detective Chief Inspector Harry Martineau, based in a tough fictional northern England industrial town. Proctor penned 14 Martineau novels, which appeared between 1954  and 1969, of which Hell is a City was the first.

Two things have got me thinking about the Martineau books. The first is my PhD research at the moment, which has been looking at the prevalence of American style detective and PI crime fiction in the 1950s in the US, UK and Australia. Procter’s work is different from a lot of post-war British crime pulp, which was set in America.

I’ve also been reading Nick Triplow’s excellent biography of English crime writer, Ted Lewis, Getting Carter (which I’ll be reviewing on this site in the coming weeks).

Among the popular cultural touchstones, Triplow writes, that would inspire Lewis’s work, including the iconic series of British gangster novels featuring the character of Jack Carter, was the 1960 film adaption of Hell is City by Val Guest.… Read more

Book review: Paperbacks from Hell, the Twisted History of ’70s and ’80s Horror Fiction

I loved Grady Hendrix’s soon to be released book, Paperbacks From Hell: The Twisted History of ‘70s and ‘80s Horror Fiction. From the opening, his discussion of John Christopher’s totally bizarre 1966 novel, The Little People, about an assortment of unsavoury individuals who spend a weekend in an Irish castle which is also inhabited by evil Nazi leprechauns (‘the Gestapochauns’) to the last few pages, the dying days of American mass market paperback horror, it is a wild, exhilarating ride.

But as well as being a lot of fun, Paperbacks From Hell is also an important work of pulp fiction and pop culture history.

The book comprises a series of thematic chapters, grouped from the most part around one or two foundation texts. Thus the chapter on satanic pulp and mass market paperbacks opens with a look at the cultural importance of Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby and Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist. The Omen (1976) is the starting point for a look at the large sub-genre of books about women being impregnated by all manner of hell spawn and murderous offspring. Peter Benchley’s paperback sensation, Jaws, is the precursor to a discussion about the wave of pulp and mass market paperback books featuring murderous creatures and animals turned homicidal: rats, dogs, cuts, pigs, insects, even rabbits.… Read more

Pulp Friday: ‘The godfather of the airport novel’

Have you ever noticed, whenever someone pens one of those articles listing the most influential books of the second half of the 20th century, how worthy the titles are? You’ll usually find books like Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago, Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull or E. M Forster’s Maurice, published in 1971, a year after the author’s death. But no one ever mentions influential books I suspect people were actually reading in large numbers, Peyton Place, Jacqueline Susan’s Valley of the Dolls, Mario Puzo’s The Godfather or the subject of today’s Pulp Friday offering, the novels of Harold Robbins.

Growing up in the 1970s, when popular culture was still mass rather than the niche individual choice it is increasingly now, Robbins was still a big deal. I don’t know about your household, but prominently placed amongst the Alistair Maclean and Ian Fleming thrillers, Desmond Morris’s The Naked Ape and Erich von Daniken’s 1968 sensation, Chariot of the Gods, were a large number of paperback books by Robbins.

Robbins has been called ‘the godfather of the airport novel’ and the ‘Onassis of supermarket literature’. He wasn’t a good writer by any stretch of the imagination but starting with his debut novel, Never Love A Stranger, in 1948, he produced fast paced, meaty narratives with larger than life characters, corporate executives and adventurers, accompanied by lashings of drama and explicit sex.… Read more

Pulp Curry: A Clockwork Orange

It has been a while between posts, I know. This site, as well as a number of other things in my life, has taken a back seat in order for me to meet a few pressing deadlines, in particular, working on a monograph for a English publisher on Norman Jewison’s 1975 dystopian science fiction classic, Rollerball.

While Jewison was not a great fan of science fiction he was impressed by two science fiction films, both of them made by Stanley Kubrick: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and A Clockwork Orange, released in 1971 (although it was not released in Australian until 1988). It is this latter film that is the subject of today’s Pulp Friday post.

Published by Anthony Burgess in 1962, A Clockwork Orange is set in a near future dystopian England suffering from an epidemic of extreme youth violence and economic stagnation. The book’s teenage protagonist, Alex, narrates the story of his various criminal exploits and the subsequent efforts of the conservative state authorities to rehabilitate him, in a made up language Burgess called ‘Nadsat’.

Burgess’s own politics were conservative, with a streak of anarchism running through his thinking. He wrote A Clockwork Orange in three weeks, influenced by his views of the growing youth culture in early sixties England.… Read more

Pre-orders open for Girl Gangs, Biker Boys, and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950 to 1980

Girl Gangs Jpeg

Here is the updated cover for the book I have edited with my friend, Iain McIntyre, Girl Gangs, Biker Boys & Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction & Youth Culture, 1950-1980. This beauty will be out through PM Press in October.

It is available for pre-order here.

Long terms readers of Pulp Curry may remember this book was originally scheduled to appear, with a different publisher and under a slightly different name, in late 2016. But the publisher concerned experienced finance problems which resulted in the book being pulled from their schedule.

Thanks to PM Press that project is a going concern again.

The book is the first comprehensive account of how the rise of postwar youth culture was depicted in mass-market pulp fiction. As the young created new styles in music, fashion, and culture, pulp fiction shadowed their every move, hyping and exploiting their behaviour, dress, and language for mass consumption and cheap thrills. From the juvenile delinquent gangs of the early 1950s through the beats and hippies, on to bikers, skinheads, and punks, pulp fiction left no trend untouched. With their lurid covers and wild, action-packed plots, these books reveal as much about society’s deepest desires and fears as they do about the subcultures themselves.

Girl Gangs features approximately 400 full-colour covers, many of them never reprinted before.… Read more