Tag Archives: Nelson Algren

Book review: Clarence Cooper Jr’s The Scene

San Francisco based crime writer Domenic Stansberry recently sent me a copy of a book he has just put out through his very cool looking small publisher, Molotov Editions. The book is a re-released edition ofThe Syndicate by a little known Black crime writer, Clarence Cooper Jr.

I hope to write about the Molotov Editions reprint of The Syndicate, the cover of which is included below, in a future post. For now, however, I want to talk about the Cooper novel I have read, The Scene, also published in 1960. And if The Scene is any guide I am pretty sure I will dig The Syndicate.

The book set in a nameless US city, and deals with the bleak, dead end lives of the junkies, prostitutes and criminals who populate an area of it, known as ‘the Scene’.

A myriad of characters shift in and out of the story: there’s Rudy Black, a ruthless, showy pimp and up and coming pusher, part of a network of dealers working for a mysterious criminal called ‘the Man’, who controls the flow of narcotics in the Scene: Black Bertha, who also deals to support her and her daughters but doesn’t use herself; and Miss Dalton, the Man’s loyal secretary.

The novel also focuses on two cops.… 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