If you are still on the fence about purchasing a copy of my new book, Sticking it to the Man: Revolution and the Counterculture in Pulp and Popular Fiction, 1950 to 1980, the site CrimeReads is running a couple of extracts from the book. The first is my piece, ‘Blowback: late 1960s and 1970s pulp and popular fiction about the Vietnam War’.
The conflict in Vietnam cast a long shadow over pulp and popular fiction in the late 1960s and the 1970s. Vietnam veterans were hunted by small town redneck police in David Morrell’s 1972 novel, First Blood, dealt drugs in Vern E Smith’s The Jones Men, and staged an abortive bank heist in Dog Day Afternoon, both published in 1974. In the Lone Wolf series ex-New York cop and Vietnam veteran, Burt Wulff mounted a fourteen-book battle from 1973 to 1975 against the drug dealing criminal organisation, ‘The Network’, in which he treated the streets of America’s major cities as an extension of jungles of Southeast Asia. Vietnam was the training ground for many of the characters that populated men’s adventure and crime pulp in the 1970s. More broadly, Vietnam’s traumatic impact on American society would become a cypher through which pulp and popular fiction name checked cultural fragmentation, growing disillusionment with the American dream, dishonest and unaccountable government and corporations, and the power of the military industrial complex.
But while Vietnam equipped numerous fictional characters with the skills to combat the Mafia, terrorists or various other threats, few books in the late 1960s and 1970s focused on the war and its consequences as anything more than a background or reason for why a character was as confused/damaged/homicidal as they were. Remove reportage and autobiographies, fewer still were actually set in Vietnam. Given the lengthy US involvement in the war – the first major deployment of combat troops took place in May 1965 – and pulp’s time proven ability to riff off the latest prominent issue or media headlines, we can only speculate as to why writers and publishers were loathe to sensationalise the conflict with the enthusiasm they did with everything else. Was it case of self-censorship? Or was the conflict simply too close to the bone, given the deep divisions over the war in West that grew as the conflict dragged on?
That said, there were a number of books in the US and Australia that broke with the reluctance to examine the war.
You can read the piece in full on the CrimeReads site here.
Sticking it to the Man is available at Brunswick Bound on Sydney Road, Lulu’s in Melbourne and, by next week, they’ll also be in the New International, Paperback Books, Metropolis and other stores. Or, if you’re in Australia and are keen for a physical copy, I can send you a copy for $40 plus postage. Let me know. Also, PM Press is having an end of year sale and all the material, including Sticking it to the Man, is 50% off with the coupon code: GIFT (this includes people in Australia if you order from the US site here).
And if you have read the book and enjoyed it, a bit of Goodreads and/or Amazon love would be appreciated.