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. And when Keith’s life was in danger on the field, “the club” moved in and forced him to play the vital match.’
As is the case with so much of the artwork that graced the covers of Horwitz pulp fiction novels, there is no record who painted Violent Saturday’s cover. There are also scant details about the author, John Dalton. According to the Australian literary database, Austlit, he was born in Geelong in 1925 and Violent Saturday was one of three books he wrote. He did another book for Horwitz, Sisters, in 1966, and Walk Back With Me, published by Robert Hale in London in 1964. The latter appears to be a hard boiled crime novel about a journalist who takes on a corruption racket in a British city. Austlit does not record that Horwitz did a local version of Walk Back With Me, in 1967, the rather evocative cover for which is below.
Thanks to Luke Savage for supplying me with the copy of Violent Saturday.