Category Archives: Scripts Publications

In search of a proletarian James Bond

17-moments-of-spring-1

Still from the 1973 Soviet TV series, Seventeen Moments of Spring, based on the novel of the same name by Yulian Semyonov.

A few weeks ago I posted on one of the stranger cultural artefacts to come out of Australian pulp publishing in the sixties, the spy thriller Avakoum Zahov vs 07 by Bulgarian author, Andrei Gulyashki.

Spies first came to prominence as popular culture figures during World War One, it was the first Bond novel, Casino Royale, published in 1953, that really kick-started the modern fascination with spies. These days Bond may come across as massively cliched, but in the fifties and sixties, he was the epitome of sexual and social permissiveness, licensed to kill and swing. The casual sex, alcohol consumption, fine living and travel to exotic destinations were all potent symbols of the West’s economic and cultural affluence in the sixties.

Not only were the Soviet authorities aware of the global popularity of James Bond, they saw him as a major propaganda coup for the West. Fleming’s books were banned and Soviet newspapers lambasted the secret agent as a sadist and a Nazi.

And while Soviet culture never offered up anything as glitzy or lurid as Bond, it nonetheless produced its own fictional spies. The most infamous of these was Avakoum Zahov who featured in a series of books by Bulgarian author, Andrei Gulyashki, one of which was released in 1967 by local pulp outfit, Scripts Publications.… Read more

Pulp Friday: Avakoum Zahov Vs 07 and Soviet spy fiction

Avakoum Zahov versus 07 cover

“A battle to the death between two crack Secret Agents of East and West!”

This week’s Pulp Friday is one of the strangest cultural artefacts to come out of Australian pulp publishing in the sixties, the spy thriller Avakoum Zahov vs 07 by Bulgarian author, Andrei Gulyashki.

While spies first came to prominence as popular culture figures during World War One, it was the first Bond novel, Casino Royale, published in 1953, that really kick-started the modern fascination with spies. A host of well known authors as well as a legion of lesser know writers and pulp imitators, all followed in Bond’s wake.

These days it’s easy to view Bond as little more than a clotheshorse with a few snappy lines of dialogue and a lot of high-tech gadgets, facing off against the latest embodiment of the West’s global fears.

But in the fifties and sixties, Bond was a blunt weapon in dinner suit whose sole purpose was to smash the West’s enemies. He was also the epitome of sexual and social permissiveness, licensed to kill and swing. The casual sex, alcohol consumption, fine living and travel to exotic destinations were all potent symbols of the West’s economic and cultural affluence in the sixties.

Not only were the Soviet authorities aware of the global popularity of James Bond, they saw him as a major propaganda coup for the West.… Read more

Pulp Friday: Wild Beat, a tribute to Australian pulp writer Carl Ruhen, 1937-2013

The Rebels

Most people think of pulp publishing as American. But for several decades in the second half of the last century, Australia had a significant pulp paperback industry that produced a large range of popular fiction.

By the mid-to-late sixties, Horwitz, Australia’s largest pulp publisher, was producing up to 16 titles a month with initial print runs of 20,000 copies. Black magic, hippies, juvenile delinquents, spies, bored suburban housewives looking for thrills, and evil Japanese and German prison guards – nothing was off limits. Local pulp publishers pounced on mainstream society’s fantasies, fears and obsessions and turned them into cheap, disposable paperback thrills.

Carl Ruhen was at the centre of this industry and continued to ply his trade as a writer until the late eighties. AustLit, the Australian Literature Resource database, credits him with 78 books. He also penned numerous short stories and magazine articles.

On November 28 last year, Carl Ruhen died after a long illness, aged 76.

I’ve long been aware of Ruhen’s work. Unfortunately, I never met him. I found out about his passing in late December when an acquaintance who’d been in sporadic contact with Ruhen emailed me with the news. The only mention I’ve been able to find of his death was a short notice in the Sydney Morning Herald, dated December 2, 2013.

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Pulp Friday: passion pits and twilight zones, Kings Cross pulp fiction

The Deserters“A startling and authentic story of wartime Sydney when the American ‘invasion’ turned Kings Cross into a passion pit of vice and black marketing.”

Earlier this week I reviewed Louis Nowra’s terrific social history Kings Cross A Biography for the Overland Journal website.

Kings Cross has always had a particular place in our popular imagination as Australia’s capital of sin, sleaze and crime.

The terrific 1995 television mini-series Blue Murder and the not-so-wonderful Underbelly: Razor and Underbelly: The Golden Mile all did their bit to maintain this unsavoury reputation.

In the sixties and early seventies, Kings Cross was also a favourite setting for locally published pulp novels.

As I have discussed many times on this site, pulp fiction is a warped reflection of mainstream society, its illicit desires, fears and fascinations. Thus it was with pulp’s depiction of the Cross as a virtual Sodom and Gomorrah of sex, gambling, crime and human depravity of every description.

Wild youth gangs, criminal syndicates, black magic, pulp took all of these and turned them into portable, pocket sized key pieces of key hole voyeurism. From a publishing perspective they sold a bomb to punters eager for vicarious thrills and a peek of the dark goings on in the Cross.

Nowra’s book didn’t touch on this this particular aspect of Kings Cross’s hold on our popular imagination.… Read more

Pulp Friday: The Flower People

The Flower people“Super-zap them all with love. That’s the Hippie slogan. And they mean you.”

The cover of this week’s Pulp Friday speaks for itself, The Flower People by James Holledge.

I mean, like, wow man, that is one far out cover.

The Flower People was published in 1967 by Scripts Publications, the outfit set up by Horwitz Publications in the late sixties to release its racier titles. Thanks to Melbourne pulp collector Brian Coffey for alerting me to this wonderful title and allowing me to copy it.

Holledge featured recently on this site as the author of Kings Cross Black Magic and Teenage Jungle. A former clerk who became part of the stable of in-house writers brought together by Horwitz in the early sixties, his specialty was salacious journalistic tracks parading as sociological expose.

He’s in fine form in The Flower People, billed as an “inside expose” of hippy culture, delving into everything from free love, their profligate use of contraception, rejection of “square society”, drug use and radical politics.

“Super-zap them all with love. That’s the Hippie slogan. And they mean you.” Readers must no doubt have found the idea hippies coming to get them, in their suburban homes, to turn them on, alarming and alluring, especially if the hippy concerned looked the one on the cover of this tome.… Read more