Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Paperbacks from Hell

Paperbacks from Hell
The Twisted History of '70s and '80s Horror Fiction
by Grady Hendrix

When - last Summer - Will Errickson at the Too Much Horror Fiction blog announced he was a contributing author to a coffee table - style book celebrating 70s and 80s horror paperbacks, I assigned it to my amazon.com Wish List. Having received the book just a few days after its September 19 release date, I've since been poring over it, and here's my take on the book.

Paperbacks from Hell is a thick, chunky, very well-made book. It's a trade paperback with glossy, thick-stock paper pages, and high-res reproductions of the covers of its collected paperbacks.

Author Hendrix's narrative is informed by his readings of over 200 of the horror paperbacks published during the two-decade interval covered in the book. His chapters are roughly chronological in order, starting with an overview of the paperback industry in the late 60s, when the publication of Rosemary's Baby kicked off what would come to be the 'horror boom'.

Hendrix's narrative then covers the 70s and 80s, and closes with the dying of the paperback horror genre with the coming of The Silence of the Lambs, and the transitioning of the publishing industry to the 'serial killer' fad of the early 90s.

Succeeding chapters cover the themes of 'Creepy Kids', 'When Animals Attack', 'Weird Science', and 'Inhumanoids', among others. Hendrix enlivens his discourses with frequently humorous observations on the social and pop culture phenomena underlying these topics. 

If you're at all acquainted with the subject matter, you're sure to see some of your favorites and even some long-lost forgotten treasures among the pages of Paperbacks from Hell........and thus get charged with nostalgia.

You're also sure to see more than a few paperbacks that you'd like to add to your collection. I did !
The closing pages of Paperbacks from Hell present a short Appendix of prominent artists and authors of the era. For his part, Errickson contributes an Afterward focusing on Recommended Reading.

Paperbacks from Hell does have one major problem: too often, Hendrix DISCLOSES SPOILERS. For example, he reveals the fate of the protagonist of Pierce Nace's gorehound abomination, Eat Them Alive. This is not right !

Author Hendrix doesn't hide the fact that many of the books profiled in Paperbacks from Hell are an acquired taste, and reading them likely will be unrewarding for all but the most ardent fans of the genre. But he also takes pains to point out that there are a good share of gems to be found amidst the dross. 

Summing up, if you're a Bay Boomer like me, then this book is going to bring back some great memories of a genre in its full flower.. 

If you're not a Baby Boomer, but a younger reader who finds that the stuff from the 70s and 80s has the kind of uniquely warped character that appeals to you, then Paperbacks from Hell also is just the ticket to satisfy your need for an informative catalog of what was done, and who did it.

So there you have it. Paperbacks from Hell..........out just in time for Halloween !

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