Category Archives: British pulp fiction

Horwitz Publications, Pulp Fiction & the Rise of the Australian Paperback

I know that this site has not been getting quite as much attention from me as usual over the last year. This is largely because I have been so busy with various book projects. A quick update on these might be in order.

First up is my academic monograph, Horwitz Publications, Pulp Fiction & the Rise of the Australian Paperback. Out via the Anthem Press Studies in Australian Literature and Culture series in early July, it now has a cover and is available for pre-order. It is in hardcover, with a price that reflects the fact that it is being targeted at institutions and, in particular, libraries, in the first instance, but I have negotiated with Anthem for a much cheaper paperback version of the book will be released by Anthem next year.

Horwitz Publications, Pulp Fiction & the Rise of the Australian Paperback originated in a PhD I took at Sydney’s Macquarie University and turning it into a monograph has taken a considerable amount of my time over the last year. Regular readers will no doubt be familiar with Horwitz, as the publisher of many of the paperback covers that I post on this site. My study is the first book length examination of Australian pulp and one of the few detailed studies I am aware of a specific pulp publisher to appear anywhere.… Read more

The mystery of Billy Rags

Billy Rags, Sphere Books, 1975
McVicar By Himself, Hutchinson, 1974

Crime fiction is just far too large a literary field to aspire to anything near being a completist in terms of reviewing. That said, the British noir author Ted Lewis has been something of a favourite on this site. I reviewed Jack’s Return Home aka Get Carter (1970) and its two sequels, as well as the novels Plender (1971) and GBH (1980). But there is one more Lewis work I want to tackle, Billy Rags, originally published in in 1973 and which, coincidentally has just been re-released by No Exit Press in the UK.

Billy Rags is very closely based on the life of the real British criminal John McVicar. Just how closely I’ll get to directly. McVicar was an armed robber, declared ‘public enemy no 1’ by Scotland Yard in the 1960s, until he was apprehended and given a 23-year sentence. He was also a serial escapee and after his final arrest in 1970 received a 26-year sentence but was paroled eight years later. McVicar was also something of a uniquely 1960s/70s phenomena, the self-aware/educated working class career criminal turned author and commentator on prison reform, a major social debate in those two decades. He studied for a university postgraduate, wrote an autobiography, McVicar by Himself, published in 1974, and authored a couple of other true crime books.… Read more

Interview: James Herbert

Regular readers of this site will be familiar with my fascination with New English Library paperbacks of the 1970s, as well as my confoundment that no one has yet written a comprehensive history of the incredibly influential mass market publisher. The first of the pulp and popular fiction histories that I co-edited for PM Press, Girl Gangs Biker Boys and Real Cook Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950-1980, focused in some depth on NEL’s youthsploitation books (bikers and the skinhead and other paperbacks written by James Moffat aka Richard Allen), including re-published important material written by British critic Stewart Home. NEL was also included in my second PM Press book, Sticking it to the Man: Revolution and Counterculture in Pulp and Popular Fiction, 1950-1980. I’ve read bits and pieces on NEL, how they worked, their authors and their books around the place, mainly on-line, but there is nothing comprehensive I am aware of that has really pulled all this disparate information together and properly analysed the significant of NEL to 1970s British print culture.

Anyway, when award winning writer, author and horror historian Johnny Mains mentioned to me during an online discussion that he had an interview with one of NEL’s best known authors, James Herbert, that didn’t have a home, I was keen to provide one.Read more

Book review: The Real Diana Dors

One of the reasons I was interested in reading Anna Cale’s recently released biography of the late British actress Diana Dors, The Real Diana Dors, is that I was curious to test out what I thought I knew about Dors and the reality of her life. What I was pretty certain about, and Cale confirms, is that Dors was stereotyped from the beginning of her career as either the sultry femme fatale bad girl or, as she herself once wrote, ‘the flighty, sexy little thing who pops in and out of the story whenever a little light relief seems to be called for.’

What I didn’t know, that Cale’s book taught me, was what a determined, serious, and hard headed performer Dors was. She accumulated a hundred screen credits in a career that began with her first bit part in the 1947 crime drama, The Code of Scotland Yard, to her last film role, Steaming, which appeared in 1985, a year after she died at the age of just 54. She resisted attempts to stereotype when she could, and no doubt like a lot of post war actresses undoubtedly had the talent and drive to be even bigger if not for various factors, of which beginning her career in the morally conservative, sexually hypocritical Britain of the late 1940s and early 1950s, was a major one.… Read more

Pre-orders open for Dangerous Visions & New Worlds: Radical Science Fiction, 1950-1985

A heads up that my latest book, co-edited with my friend Iain McIntyre, Dangerous Visions & New Worlds: Radical Science Fiction, 1950-1980, is now available for order through PM Press site here. You can also order it through the various Amazon sites and through numerous other channels. Interestingly, the book is classified by Amazon US as pornography, as well as science fiction studies. I assume this is down to the fact it contains essays on sex in science fiction and gay science fiction, amongst other things. I’ve always harboured ambitions to be a smut peddler and this is the closest I may get.

Dangerous Visions and New Worlds details how science fiction interacted with and was inspired by the cultural and political changes associated with the era from the late 1950s through the early 1970s, a period that has sometimes been referred to as ‘the long sixties’. The book starts with progressive authors who rose to prominence in the conservative 1950s, challenging the so-called Golden Age of science fiction and its linear narratives of technological breakthroughs and space-conquering male heroes. It then moves to the 1960s, when writers shattered existing writing conventions and incorporated contemporary themes such as modern mass media culture, corporate control, growing state surveillance, the Vietnam War, and rising currents of counterculture, ecological awareness, feminism, sexual liberation, and Black Power.… Read more