Paperbacks From Hell – Book Review
It was with great anticipation that I pre-ordered Paperbacks From Hell by Grady Hendrix after seeing it mentioned on one of my favorite blogs Too Much Horror Fiction (webmaster Will Errickson writes the afterword and provided a lot of the spectacular cover art from his personal collection). I dedicated a weekend to plunging into this Quirk Books release, and it far exceeded my expectations on every level.
For one, the book itself is worthy of coffee table status. It is beautifully presented with full-color renditions of the wonderfully schlocky covers you remember, and many, many more you don’t. Another thing to admire about the book is how it accurately describes the growth of the genre over a nearly thirty year period from the late 1960’s Gothic romance through 1980’s splatterpunk to its serial killer death-knell in the 1990’s. The book manages to successfully straddle the topics of writers, artists, and publishers, given each equal weight in importance to a growing and then dying literary phenomenon; all told in a ribald prose style worthy of Kenneth Anger for snarky observations mixed with genuine love, respect, and pathos that the party had to eventually come to an end.
I genuinely LOL’d at many of Grady’s hilarious observations and campy captions. Yes, some (most) of these horror novels were truly ridiculous, but isn’t that why we love them so?
Glib commentary aside, Grady reveals his deep study and appreciation for the genre by giving recognizable names like King, Barker, and Koontz brief mention, while dedicating sections to the unsung heroes and heroines of the bygone era. The few pages devoted to George Ziel, a cover prolific artist who survived the Holocaust, were especially affecting and made me want to dig deeper into his work and that of others like him.
Paperback horror is a genre (composed of many sub-genres) that I grew up loving, but kept hidden under the covers with a flashlight once I entered college lest I be laughed out of my comp lit classes. But recently it’s called me back to its forbidden pleasures like a vampire’s summons. It has definitely informed my own recent literary efforts.
Paperbacks From Hell makes me want to read (and write) more of this scary, weirdly satisfying, and wildly creative fiction. Hopefully, this book and Errickson’s blog will help resurrect the corpse, breathe life into the old Native American gods, and release the dragons and other monsters that have been kept in chains for too long.
P.S. I LOVED this book so much, I’m doing an Amazon Giveaway! Enter to win till 10/8/17!