Category Archives: Scripts Publications

Rosaleen Norton ‘The Witch of Kings Cross’

Rosaleen Norton aka ‘The Witch of Kings Cross’

I was familiar with the name Rosaleen Norton long before I watched Sonia Bible’s excellent documentary about her, which takes as its title Norton’s long running nickname, The Witch of Kings Cross.

In an attempt to cash in on the upsurge of public interest in the occult that occurred throughout the west in the 1960s, the long defunct Sydney pulp publisher Horwitz Publications put together a number of salacious tabloid style non-fiction books on the so-called rise of witchcraft and Satanism in Australia. My favourite of these, which I wrote about on this site some years ago, the 1965 book Kings Cross Black Magic, was a direct attempt to piggyback on Norton’s fame.

Norton was also a semi-regular presence in the bachelor and barbershop magazines that proliferated on the shelves of Australia’s newsagents in the 1960s, titles like Adam, Man, Pix and Australasian Post. These magazines, incredibly tame by today’s standards, were once seen as very risqué. The activities of Norton slotted in well with their steady diet of stories about UFO sightings, white slavery, heroic Anzacs, shark hunting and out of control teens.

So great was interest in the occult in mid-1960s Australia that the subject even featured in a 1965 episode of the high rating locally produced Crawford TV crime show, Homicide.… Read more

Melbourne launch details for Sticking it to the Man: Revolution and Counterculture in Pulp and Popular Fiction, 1950-1980

Melbourne folk, please join myself and my coeditor, Iain McIntyre, on Tuesday, December 3 for the Melbourne launch of Sticking it to the Man: Revolution and Counterculture in Pulp and Popular Fiction, 1950-1980. Entry is free and the event will kick off at 6.30pm at the Old Bar, 74-76 Johnson Street, Fitzroy.

The book will be launched by Melbourne literary historian and pulp fiction fan, Stuart Kells. There will be readings from some of the novels featured in Sticking it to the Man, music from DJ Bruce Milne, and copies of the book will be available at a reduced price. We’ll also throw in a free pulp novel with every purchase. Kids are welcome.

I hope to see some of you there.

This is the second pulp and popular fiction related history book that Iain and me have done and it is a glorious, full colour volume. From Civil Rights and Black Power to the New Left and Gay Liberation, the 1960s and 1970s saw a host of movements shake the status quo. With social strictures and political structures challenged at every level, pulp and popular fiction could hardly remain unaffected. Feminist, gay, and black authors broke into areas of crime, porn, and other paperback genres previously dominated by conservative, straight, white males.

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Pulp Friday: Teenage jungles – expose pulp about youth subcultures

The new book I have co-edited, Girl Gangs, Biker Boys and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950-1980 is about many things.

It depicts the insatiable energy of post war youth and their desire to find expression through style, fashion, music and language. It is also about the just as insatiable appetite of pulp paperback publishers to hype and exploit youth culture for cheap thrills and cheap paperback sales.

One of the decisions that my co-editor, Iain McIntyre and I faced early on in putting the book together was whether or not to include the large body of nonfiction expose pulp about youth culture. For reasons of space, in the end, we decided against including these books. But they remain one of my favourite strands of pulp fiction.

These books, which were a major sub-genre of pulp from the 1950s to the early 1970s, were marketed as timely, hard hitting, insider accounts or journalistic exposes of various social issues and trends. They were factual only in the most generous sense of the word, usually taking as their starting point the latest public sensation or tabloid headline. And, more often than not, their target was the so called goings on of out of the control young people. In colourful language and with lurid, highly sexualised covers, these books capitalised on mainstream fears, concerns and, as was often the case, fascinations with young people and their activities.Read more

Pulp Friday: witches, sorcerers & Satan’s disciples

Satan, witches, warlocks, demons, they were everywhere in the sixties and seventies and no more so than on pulp fiction covers. To mark Halloween, today’s Pulp Friday offering is a selection of covers featuring the lord of darkness and his various disciples.

It’s hardly surprising that Satanism and witchcraft featured so prominently in pulp. Not only did these books mirror then contemporary tabloid fascinations with black magic and witches, but the subject was an excuse for a bit of gratuitous sex and nudity. Especially sex. Devil worshippers, particularly Satan’s female disciples, were nothing if not sexually promiscuous, at least in the pages of pulp fiction.

The selection of covers below hail from the UK, US and Australia. They ran the gamut of key pulp fiction sub-genres: fiction (Dennis Wheatley’s To the Devil a Daughter, one of many occult themed books he wrote); history and so-called exposes (James Holledge’s Black Magic, ‘The world of uncanny occult rights, psychic phenomena, weird sex rities’); how to guides (How to Become a Sensuous Witch); television and movie ties ins (The Witchfinder General and  The Grip of Evil, the latter part of a series of paperback spin offs based on the hugely popular early 1970s Australian television show, Number 96), and smut titles (Bride of Satan and The Cult of Flesh – ‘Violent debauchery in a Satanic Cult of Flesh Worshipers’),

Even Carter Brown, hardly the most salacious of pulp writers in the sixties, touched on occult themes in books like Blonde on a Broomstick.… Read more

Melbourne Writers Festival: Adrian McKinty & Australia’s pulp history

GoneThe Melbourne Writers Festival is upon us and I’ve got a a few slots in the program I wanted to pull on your coats about.

This coming Wednesday, August 27, I’ll be in conversation with crime writer, Adrian McKinty at St Kilda Library. I have written a bit about McKinty on this site, including reviews of his books Falling Glass, and his Shane Duffy trilogy, The Cold, Cold Ground, I Hear the Sirens in the Streets, and In the Morning I’ll Be Gone,  and his latest stand alone, The Sun Is God, and I’m looking forward to talking with him in person.

It’ll be a pretty relaxed affair and it is free. Proceedings will kick off at 6.30pm.

Also, join me on August 30 at the Ian Potter Centre, NGV Australia, Federation Square, for a walk down the dimly lit back alleys of the lost world of Australian pulp paperback publishing.

For a few decades in the second half of last century, Australia’s pulp scene burned brightly with tales of jaded gumshoes, valiant servicemen and women, sexually bored housewives, jazzed up beatniks, daring spies, and violent youth gangs.

It was disposable fiction, designed for a coat pocket or bag, to be read quickly, and discarded.… Read more