Tag Archives: Agatha Christie

Pulp Friday: Guns with plots

Let’s make one thing clear. I don’t own a gun. Never have and never will. Indeed, the only guns I want to see are in film or on the cover of books like the ones featured in today’s Pulp Friday post.

For a while now I have been obsessed with the cover above of the 1964 Panther edition of Len Deignton’s The Ipcress File. The cover, done by influential English graphic designer, Ray Hawkey, who would go onto to do a number of paperback covers, exudes a style and tone I could never imagine being used today except as a deliberate retro homage.

It speaks to the everyday grime, drudgery and unglamorous boredom of the Cold War spy racket, which the Deighton novels featuring the working class spy, Harry Palmer, evoke so well. There is also the mess that comes with the trade: a cold cup of tea (probably cold); cigarettes, because in the sixties every fictional spy smoked; paperclips for the paperwork; and, a gun and bullets, because sometimes you have to kill someone.

It is a gritty, cluttered layout I associate with mass paperback novels of the type that were largely targeted at men in the 1960s and 1970s. As it turns out, a bit of a dig around reveals it was a style that was widely used in those two decades – but it also bled over into the 1980s – by mass market paperback publishers in the crime, mystery and espionage thriller categories.… Read more

Pulp Friday: Narcotic pulp

Dope, smack, heroin, cocaine, the evils of narcotics have always been a central pre-occupation of pulp fiction, as can be seen by the selection of paperback covers below.

In Second Ending the victim in question was one of pulp’s favourite characters, a way ward jazz musician who starts taking drugs for kicks, “small time stuff at first”, Benzedrine, then marijuana, “and soon graduates to the killer drug – heroin.”

The main character in Nelson Algren’s classic, The Man With the Golden Arm, is a card shark and former heroin addict fresh out of jail who fights find a new life and avoid slipping back into his habit.

Open Your Hand and Close Your Eyes is a story of drug use and crime amid “a terrifying world where the razor gang rules and a teenage girl will do unspeakable things to get the drug she craves.”

Pulp’s obsession with drugs and their link with crime and changing sexual standards was often thinly dressed as sociological inquiry. A classic example is Drug Scene Kings Cross by Robert Connell, which promises to unveil the real drug scene in Sydney’s Kings Cross, including the aphrodisiac powers of marijuana or “‘pot’ as it is termed by its devotees”.

Better known is Go Ask Alice by Anonymous, an anti-drug propaganda tale about a teenage girls descent into junkie hell.… Read more