Tag Archives: Australian pulp fiction

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

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