I love pulp fiction. Nope, not the film, I love pulp fiction from the 30’s through to the 60’s, although I’m no serious collector.  I love its straight unpretentiousness, the fact it was designed to tell and sell (and nothing else) and I love the way it shines a light on the society of the time far better than most serious literature of its day does.  But most of all, I love it for the lurid covers: menaced trussed-up damsels, Aryan Nazis being slugged by good guys, spooky churchyards, bare-chested dudes fighting the elements and of course Satan riding a black Pegasus, all done as graphically as prudish censors would allow.

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I was out yesterday with visiting parents in Anglesey when we came across a second-hand bookshop, after checking as I always do for a copy of Julian Cope’s Krautrocksampler in the music section my dad told me to have a look at what he’d found.  It was a bunch of pristine Dennis Wheatley novels in their yellow-spined Arrow Books editions, a bunch of his war stories together with The Satanist and, thrillingly, The Devil Rides Out*  My dad used to have them all in that edition, apparently and told me the war ones weren’t anything special, but the supernatural ones were.

Holmes investigates the cool back cover of The Satanist
Holmes investigates the cool back cover of The Satanist

As they were all only 50p I also grabbed a copy of The Hound of the Baskervilles** purely for the cover as it’s the third copy of it we have in the house and Thor Heyerdahl’s The Kon-Tiki Expedition^, because I used to have the board game of it when I was 10 and I’d never read it – I love tales of derring-do, they’re exciting and so much easier than having real adventures which tend to make you too hot/too cold, in mortal peril and all too often take you away from a decent Wi-Fi connection and coffee shops.

Sherlock Holmes Satanist

I’ve started The Devil Rides Out, which four chapters in reads a bit like a cross between Bulldog Drummond and The Famous Five – starring Julian, Dick, Anne, George and Beelzebub the dog.  Great stuff. Now where did I put that Venom LP?

All for £2.50
All for £2.50

458 Down in the crimson and steel depths of Hades (still).

*one of my favourite Hammer Horror films too.

**one of my all-time favourite books, I can still remember the sharp thrill of reading it for the first time when I was about 12 (I guess).

^plus I am intrinsically jealous of anyone who has the Christian name Thor.

14 thoughts on “Tell & Sell

  1. The book covers is what gets me. My sis had the old Nancy Drew and “What Katy Did” series of books with the covers in a similar execution when we were kids. I never read them myself, as the covers disturbed me enough to think the books were scary. Now, I am fascinated by them. To think there was a real hand in the making of those covers – no computers back then!

  2. And to put a musical spin on this whole pulp thing, I’m sure you knew one of the masters of Pulp Covers, Frank Kelly Freas, did the cover for Queen’s News Of The World.

  3. God, man, me too! So many great artists went unrecognized during that time, and well into the ’60’s. I’m a huge fan of the 1950’s E.C. Comics line of horror, crime and science fiction comics, which were all modeled after those wonderful pulp novels and magazines. Weird Science, Tales From The Crypt, etc…and the Harvey Kurtzman version of MAD, back when it was a $.10 comic book, started life out spoofing the stories from those pulps! Thanks for the reminder, I’m off to the garage to dig out my stash!

    1. I love them all too – good call mentioning MAD, my parents had all the old paperback versions of them – only just big enough to read, but no less brilliant for it.

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