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The period between the World Wars—the era of sexual liberation, Prohibition, the rise of organized crime, and the Great Depression—was also the classic era of American pulp magazines, the subject of this fascinating volume. Pulps, with their lurid color covers depicting the thrills of sex and violence, and with stories to match inside, fuelled America’s dreams—and nightmares. For a few cents they offered everything young men wanted: sex, action, adventure. But they also fostered the talents of some of the greatest popular writers of the century—Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain, and Dashiell Hammett, among others—and virtually invented the genres of science fiction and hard-boiled crime. From the cheap thrills of the “hot” and “spicy” pulps and the sexual sadism of the “shudder” pulps to the weird worlds of the fantasy, sci-fi, and horror pulps, this book displays their art and tells their history, capturing the original magazines in all their sleazy, sensational glory.
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Peter Haining has been a newspaper reporter, editorial director of a major publisher, and avid collector of pulp magazines; he is the author of The Fantastic Pulps.
The golden age of American pulp magazines has been the subject of numerous retrospectives, often emphasizing the cover art, but this British import provides an excellent overview of all aspects of the topic. Haining, a pulp collector and unabashed fan whose lively prose reflects his enthusiasm, isolates the three key ingredients in pulp stories--action, adventure, and sex--and traces how these elements were exploited in various genres: hard-boiled mystery, fantasy, science fiction, horror, and spicy romance. He traces the publishing history of each genre, with equal time given to the notable authors, the superb cover artists, and the cultural phenomena that created a receptive audience for the pulp worldview. And, of course, the pages are filled with well-produced, nicely printed reproductions of those fabulous covers (see front cover of this issue). Eminently browsable, this delicious volume will be a welcome treat for pulp-era devotees. Bill Ott
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