Category Archives: Robert Stone

Blowback: late 1960s and 1970s pulp and popular fiction about the Vietnam War

If you are still on the fence about purchasing a copy of my new book, Sticking it to the Man: Revolution and the Counterculture in Pulp and Popular Fiction, 1950 to 1980, the site CrimeReads is running a couple of extracts from the book. The first is my piece, ‘Blowback: late 1960s and 1970s pulp and popular fiction about the Vietnam War’.

The conflict in Vietnam cast a long shadow over pulp and popular fiction in the late 1960s and the 1970s. Vietnam veterans were hunted by small town redneck police in David Morrell’s 1972 novel, First Blood, dealt drugs in Vern E Smith’s The Jones Men, and staged an abortive bank heist in Dog Day Afternoon, both published in 1974. In the Lone Wolf series ex-New York cop and Vietnam veteran, Burt Wulff mounted a fourteen-book battle from 1973 to 1975 against the drug dealing criminal organisation, ‘The Network’, in which he treated the streets of America’s major cities as an extension of jungles of Southeast Asia. Vietnam was the training ground for many of the characters that populated men’s adventure and crime pulp in the 1970s. More broadly, Vietnam’s traumatic impact on American society would become a cypher through which pulp and popular fiction name checked cultural fragmentation, growing disillusionment with the American dream, dishonest and unaccountable government and corporations, and the power of the military industrial complex.… Read more

My top 10 books of 2015

Bad Penny BluesIt’s time for my annual top 10 reads for the year. In no particular order they are as follows: 

Bad Penny Blues, Cathi Unsworth

Bad Penny Blues kicks off in London in the early 1960s. A young police constable finds the body of a murdered prostitute. His subsequent investigation into the crime and similar murders, spanning the better part of a decade, propels him into the heart of the city’s Soho vice district. Interspersed with this is the story of a young and up and coming fashion designer, Stella, who is plagued by nightmares about dead women.

The fact I found this book a pinch too long didn’t detract from my enjoyment of it. Bad Penny Blues is a solid piece of noir fiction and a great evocation of sixties London, taking in everything from the occult, teddy boys, bent cops, radical bohemians and debauched upper class aristocrats.

TattooMurderThe Tattoo Murder Case, Akimitsu Takagi

First published, albeit in a slightly different form, in 1948, a young forensic medical student with post-traumatic stress after a stint as a medic in the Philippines begins a passionate affair with a beautiful woman who is covered with strange, sexually alluring traditional Japanese tattoos. Soon after the affair begins, she is murdered, dismembered and her tattooed torso stolen from the scene of the crime.… Read more

Post traumatic noir – a note on the passing of Robert Stone

cover600spanThe death of US writer Robert Stone on the weekend has drawn me out of the break I planned on posting on this site over January.

Stone was the author of two tremendous works of neo-noir fiction, both of which I read when I was first getting into the genre.

The first, Stone’s debut novel, A Hall of Mirrors, was published in 1967 and partly set in New Orleans, where Stone lived briefly. It dealt with a dissolute, opportunistic right wing radio broadcaster and the desperate, doomed characters he associates with. It was turned into an excellent film called WUSA by Stuart Rosenberg in 1970 and starring Paul Newman, then in the throws of his battling his own alcoholism (I reviewed it on this site a couple of years ago here.

The second, the better known and probably more influential of Stone’s books, Dog Soldiers, was published in 1974. The 1978 film  adaption, Who’ll Stop The Rain (reviewed on this site here), is also very good.

Dog Soldiers concerns a liberal war correspondent in Vietnam, Converse, who disillusioned with what he has seen, decides to traffic heroin back to the US. He enlists Hicks, his friend in the merchant marines, to take the drugs back to Converse’s wife, Marge, in Los Angeles.… Read more

My year in books: Tom Vater

TheCambodianBookOfTheDead-144dpi

I’m pleased to welcome Bangkok-based journalist and writer Tom Vater as the next contributor to the ‘my year in books’ series.

Tom is the author of The Cambodian Book of the Dead, a great hard-boiled crime novel set in Cambodia, which I reviewed here on this site in early November.

The book is available here. You can find out more about Tom and his work on his on-line home, here.

Thanks for your contribution, Tom. I particularly approve of the inclusion of Robert Stone’s book, Dog Soldiers. That’s one I definitely have to re-read.

The Master and Margerita, Mikhail Bulgakov

I got to this incredible, magical tale by low-down pop cultural ways when I was sixteen and am currently rereading the book.  In this enduring Russian novel, the devil causes mischief amongst the atheist and greedy communist elite in 1920s Soviet Moscow, one of the world’s greatest love stories, between the Master and Margarita, plays itself out, and there’s an alternative narrative of the relationship between Pontius Pilate and Jesus. The Rolling Stones’ Sympathy for the Devil is said to be partially inspired by the novel and that’s how I found Bulkakov’s subversive masterpiece.

“But would you kindly ponder this question: What would your good do if evil didn’t exist, and what would the earth look like if all the shadows disappeared?Read more

Pulp Friday: interview with Iain Mcintyre, author, Sticking it to the Man!

Today’s Pulp Friday is a fascinating interview with Melbourne-based social historian Iain McIntyre, author of a new book, Sticking it to the Man! Pop, Protest and Black Fiction of the Counterculture, 1964-75.

Sticking it to the Man! is a roller coaster ride through the lava lit streets of the counter-cultural pulp fiction of the late sixties and early seventies, a time when hippies, bikers, swingers and revolutionaries replaced cops and private detectives as pulp’s stable characters.

The book contains 130 reviews of pulps from the period covering all the major sub-themes: drug use, bikers, sleaze, blaxsploitation, hippies and dystopian science fiction. It also includes the covers in all their dog eared, price marked glory. It’s through books like this that the hidden history of pulp fiction is gradually pieced together. Sticking it to the Man! is a must read for every serious pulp fiction afficiando.

You can buy Sticking it to the Man! here. Copies will also be on sale at the launch of Crime Factory’s Hard Labour anthology, this coming Monday, October 8. Iain will also be talking about his book at the launch.

What is it about pulp fiction between 1964 and 1975, the period covered in your book that you find so interesting?

I’ve long had an interest in troublemakers, militants and odd-balls, and this was a period in which those normally relegated to the margins were able to have a major impact on culture and society.… Read more