Pulp Friday: a celebration of Tandem Books covers

Regular readers of this site will be familiar with my particular jones for late 1960s and 1970s pulp covers, particularly the photographic ones. For me, they represent a very creative but little celebrated body of book cover art and, as far as I am concerned, the Brits were the masters of it.

A week or so ago, during one of my frequent second hand bookshop jaunts, I stumbled across a 1967 copy of novelist and beat poet, Royston Ellis’s coming of age tell all, The Rush at the End. The wonderful cover is an example of what I am talking about when I go on about my love for photographic book covers – a cheap but imaginative shot that dives deep into the book’s themes of sex, drugs and the emerging counter culture.

Pulp enthusiasts have rightly devoted considerable time and energy in celebrating the covers of UK publishers such as Pan, Panther and New English Library. But there were a host of other lesser known outfits active on the British publishing scene in the 1960s and 1970s, who contributed some terrific covers. One of these was the little known Tandem Books, publisher of The Rush at the End. Indeed, along with Mayflower Books, Tandem contributed some of the strangest and best covers of that period.

You can see just how eclectic and bizarre from the selection of covers below. Many of these covers have been sourced from my own collection – Tandem paperbacks where remaindered to Australia in large numbers – while the rest come from the wilds of the Internet.

Tandem Books was a British publishing company established in the early 1960s. They were brought out by an American interest with the amazingly corporate jargon sounding name, Universal Publishing and Distribution Corporation Inc, in the late 1960s, at which point Tandem became the company’s main imprint. Interestingly, the company establishing the children’s imprint, Target Books, in 1973, which would go onto publish a large number of novelisations of the science fiction television series, Doctor WhoThe company was sold to British conglomerate in the the late 1970s, and the Tandem imprint was phased out 1980s.

In addition to some weird and wonderful cover work, Tandem published a pretty eclectic selection of titles. This was obviously a function of whatever was available and what they could get and afford, including reprints of books originally published by their American partner.

Horror was a big part of Tandem’s list. They published the prolific English author Charles Birkin, credited by some as single handedly keeping British horror fiction alive in the 1960s,  as well as Robert Bloch, and The Vampire by Ornella Volta (this has to be a made up name, right?), the cover of which looks cheap but incredibly creepy. They also released a number of non-fiction tomes on witchcraft and the supernatural, a major cultural popular culture fascination at the time, including several books by the Indian philosopher, Idries Shah, under one of his pen names, Arkon Daraul.

Like a lot of mass market paperback publishers active at the time, Tandem also did film novelisations, including a series of books based on Sergio Leone’s Dollars trilogy of westerns, and a  tie-in for the 1970 Nicolas Roeg film, Performance, written by William Hughes, who novelisations for films as diverse as Jimmy Sangster’s Lust For a Vampire (1971) to Roger Corman’s 1978 exploitation quickie, Death Sport.

Tandem also did science fiction – the plasticine model for on the cover of their version of John W Campbell’s The Thing From Outer Space is a masterpiece – and spy novels. Last but not least, in the 1970s they did a selection of incredibly low rent but effective covers for the long running Nick Carter-Killmaster series, which are by turns, sleazy, hardboiled, and innovative, much like the 1970s themselves.


2 Responses

  1. Once again, a great post. “The Rush At The End.” Yeah. Tell me about it!

  2. Ornella Volta is not a made up name – she’s a 91 year old musicologist. Great to see Charles Birkin mentioned!

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