Tag Archives: Australian pulp fiction

Pulp Friday: Australian football pulp

With the 2018 Australian Rules Football Grand Final almost upon us, it is only fitting that today’s Pulp Friday post has a football theme, this 1964 novel by Horwitz Publications, John Dalton’s Violent Saturday.

Sport was the subject of a certain niche of Australian pulp fiction in the 1950s and 1960s. Horse racing and boxing were the main topics, presumably because they chimed with pulp’s supposedly male, working class readership. But I have seen local pulp about car racing, swimming and even tennis.

To my knowledge, however, Violent Saturday is the only Australian pulp novel ever published that has Australian rules football as its subject (and I would love to hear from any readers if they know of any other examples). This is probably not as strange as it first appears. Nearly all Australia’s pulp publishers were based in Sydney and the Australian rules football was resolutely Victorian until the late 1990s, when the code started to become national.

Violent Saturday is the tale of small time country footballer who makes it to the ‘big league’ in Melbourne and a club that will do anything to win. As the back cover blurb puts it: ‘The coach’s ruthless, relentless tactics turned his team into lethal gladiators prepared for every form of violence.… Read more

Pulp Friday: Pulp Confidential: Quick & dirty publishing from the 40s & 50s

Dope Island

When I first started researching the history of Australian pulp paperback publishing I thought libraries would be crammed with old papers from the various publishers who churned the books out in the fifties, sixties and seventies. I have since realised that paper takes up a lot of space to store and space is something that is at a premium at most libraries, be they public or university.

That is assuming individuals even had the presence of mind to realise that the records relating to pulp publishing were something worth keeping for future generations.

This is why Pulp Confidential: Quick and dirty publishing from the 40s to 50s, an exhibition currently showing at the State Library of NSW, is so interesting and unusual. The exhibition showcases papers, manuscripts, correspondence and artwork relating to Frank Johnson Publications, a small pulp-publishing operation active in Sydney in the 1940s and 1950s.

Johnson was member of the Sydney bohemian set in the twenties. He had high literary pretensions but moved into pulp publishing in response to the gap in local reading material resulting from the tariff placed on foreign imported printed matter in 1938.

Johnson died in 1960, after which the State Library wrote to his family, asking whether they had kept his papers. His daughter responded five years later, saying there was a considerable amount of paperwork relating to Johnson’s work in a shed at the back of her house.… Read more

Pulp Friday: Nurse in Vietnam

Nurse in Vietnam

While Sydney-based Horwitz Publications was Australia’s largest pulp publisher, it was not the only one. Cleveland Publishing Company, publisher of today’s Pulp Friday offering, Nurse in Vietnam, was another sizeable operation.

I’ve been able to find out virtually nothing about who was behind Calvert.

All we know about Shauna Marlowe, author of Nurse in Vietnam, is she (if it is actually a woman and not a man writing under a woman’s name) is credited with writing 41 books, nearly all of them for Calvert, from the late fifties to the early seventies.

On one level, Nurse in Vietnam, is just another nurse/doctor romance story (a hugely popular sub-genre of pulp in the fifties and sixties). The nurse in question and a handsome doctor have been captured by Viet Cong rebels. The doctor’s main pre-occupation is not escape but whether she’ll agree to his marriage proposal.

But the publication date, 1965, is significant. A small number of Australian military advisors had been stationed in Vietnam since 1962. We did not start to commit significant ground forces until 1965.

What was the first mainstream Australian novel to tackle the war in Vietnam? Perhaps William Nagle’s The Odd Angry Shot, published in 1975. Nurse in Vietnam shows pulp publishers were onto Vietnam as a setting for fiction straight away.… Read more

Pulp Friday: Notorious Women

Notorious Women

“They were beautiful, dangerous and shocking – high voltage wantons who stopped at nothing to get their men.”

This week’s Pulp Friday, Notorious Women, is another offering from former clerk turned prodigious pulp hack, James Holledge.

Holledge, who has featured previously on this site, wrote approximately 45 books between 1961 and 1970. Most of these were heavily sensationalised, salacious examinations of social issues such as prostitution and the occult, which he dressed up as serious sociological expose.

Notorious Women, published in 1962 by Horwitz Publications, Australia’s premier pulp publisher in the fifties and sixties, is fairly typical of Holledge’s work. Purporting to be an examination of “a few of the Wantons of the World who have been branded forever as Notorious Women,” the boom is divided into 13 chapters.

These include ‘Wanton on the beach’ (“A reckless, sensation-seeking Bohemian, she had a mania for performing unrehearsed striptease dances”) and ‘Women with the serpent’s tongue’ (“The police actually feared this heartless hussy who was obsessed by money hunger”). But my favourite is ‘Edward who was really Ellen’ (“One of Australia’s most baffling sex masquerades was was finally exposed in startling circumstances”).

The one undeniable fact about Holledge’s books is that they sold, presumably to working stiffs eager for a few cheap thrills.… Read more

Pulp Friday: Operation Concrete Butterfly

“The Sydney Opera House opening was glitter and show – and then it became a  bloodbath.”

One of lessor known sub-genres of sixties/seventies pulp fiction was what for want of a better term could have been called ‘Blaxsploitation pulp’ (even though a lot of it was written by white authors).

It was big in the US and UK usually featured black PIs solving their cases in style at the same time as sticking it to the man or black revolutionaries seizing power and getting some pay back on whitey. You get my drift. New English Library, a UK pulp publisher, also released a series of semi-soft core porn novels featuring slaves and slavers in the pre-US civil war deep south.

I’ve never been able to find any example of this kind of pulp fiction in Australia, with the exception of today’s Pulp Friday offering, Operation Concrete Butterfly by Dick Peters.

To says this is a little known book is an understatement. I have not been able to find out any background on the author or Arkon Paperbacks, the outfit that published it in 1973. The publication notes suggest it might have been a subsidiary of Angus and Robertson Publications but I can’t be sure.

As for the plot, the back cover blurb gives a pretty good indication of what the prospective reader is in for.… Read more