Category Archives: Vintage pulp paperback covers

Pulp Friday: No Orchids for Miss Blandish

‘In 1939, amidst violence and wartime shortages, one hardboiled noir took the nation by storm, provoked moral outrage, and inspired legions of imitators.’

My latest piece for the CrimeReads site is a look at the popularity and controversy around James Hadley Chase’s 1939 blockbuster, No Orchids for Miss Blandish. You can read my story in full at the CrimeReads site here.

The article is a sequel of sorts to a story I did back in April on the popularity of mid-century faux American crime fiction in Australia and the career of one of the country’s least known most successful crime writers, Alan Yates, who wrote under the pseudonym, Carter Brown. A link to the full piece is here.

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Pulp Friday: Sharks in Australian pulp fiction

Pulp fiction has long been fascinated by sharks, and pulp published in Australia is no exception.

Being attacked by them, hunting them, sighting or being threatened by them, or just marvelling at large they grew, sharks were a perennial pre-occupation in local Australian pulp paperback fiction from the 1950s to the 1970s. They also appeared regularly in the pages of the Australian equivalent of men’s adventure pulp, publications like Adam and Man.

Although I have not included any of this material in the images below, sharks were also a staple of popular tabloid magazines like Pix and Australasia Post. Referred to in Australia as ‘barbershop magazines’, these now defunct weeklies presented punters with a steady diet of girls in bikinis, racy jokes, Hollywood gossip, and masculine adventure stories.

Many of these were set in heavily exoticised parts of the South Pacific and Asia. But there was also a rich variant that took place far-flung parts of tropical northern Australia and the outback. These latter stories depicted a sort of Australian weird – a land of gnarly, weather beaten eccentrics (much like Captain William E. Young on the cover the Shark Hunter, published by Horwitz in 1978), who had dangerous livelihoods in unimaginably remote parts of the country, and did battle regularly with the threat posed by the country’s uniquely lethal fauna, including sharks.… Read more

Pulp Friday: Australian pulp’s Spanish Connection

One of the tasks I set myself over the Christmas/New Year period was to start putting my pulp paperback collection into plastic bags. It is amazing that these fragile constructions of cheap paper, glue and card, never meant to last more than one read, have survived for almost half a century, and for a while now I’ve been thinking I should treat them with far more care.

Among my collection are a number of Larry Kent novels, which are incredibly hard to find in the wild nowadays. Most of these were purchased as a single lot on a random visit to a second-hand bookshop in the New South Wales coastal town of Ballina (better known as the home of the Big Prawn statue) during a beach holiday many years ago.

In the process of bagging these books I took the chance to do a little digging into Larry Kent’s little-known Spanish connection, which this post will examine, as well as being a long overdue coda to Cleveland Publications, until it closed early last year the last remaining player in the once large and boisterous post-war pulp publishing industry in Australia.

Cleveland was founded by Jack Atkins in Sydney in 1953. New Zealand born, Atkins was an entrepreneur and horse lover. For a time, he was also the secretary of the NSW branch of the conservative Democratic Labor Party, which split from the Labor Party over its links to communist influenced trade unions in 1955.… Read more

‘An Explosive Novel of Strange Passions’: Horwitz Publications and Australia’s Pulp Modernism

I am jazzed to have had published the first of what I hope is several peer reviewed articles flowing my from the research for my dissertation. “An Explosive Novel of Strange Passions” Horwitz Publications and Australia’s Pulp Modernism,’ appears in the latest edition of Australian Literary Studies Journal. It is open access until April next year.

Here is the abstract for the piece: The scant academic attention Australia’s pulp publishing industry has received to date tends to focus on pulp as a quickly and cheaply made form of disposable entertainment, sold to non-elite audiences. This paper will examine Australian pulp fiction from a different standpoint, one which links New Modernist Studies and the history of the book. This approach, referred to as pulp modernism, is used to question the separation of low and high publishing culture, dominant for much of the twentieth century. I apply this methodology to late-1950s and early-1960s Australian pulp fiction by examining the Name Author series released by Sydney-based Horwitz Publications, one of the largest pulp paperback publishers in the decades after World War II. The series took prominent mid-century Australian authors and republished them in paperback with covers featuring highly salacious images and text. The series offers a glimpse into a uniquely Australian version of pulp modernism.… Read more

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

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. He wrote everything from romance, to marital guides, to installments of the Mack Bolan Executioner series.Read more