This book seems targeted right at me.
As a book buyer and a bookstore employee growing up in the late 1960’s/early 1970’s through today, I have fond memories of the plethora of horror books that were published during this time, often with awesome, creepy covers that called out to the book-buyer and let you know immediately what sort of story would be found on the inside. Now, Grady Hendrix examines this industry and the push to pulp by publishers looking to cash in on the horror craze even as the genre changed its identity from horror to thriller and back again.
Hendrix does a marvelous job, breaking down the genre by type: Satanic, kids, animals, real estate, science, gothic/romance, and on to splatterpunk and serial killers. If you’ve read much horror, you understand this breakdown, but even if you don’t, Hendrix describes it well, often identifying the break-out book that established the sub-genre.
Along with describing the books and their content, Hendrix spends a fair amount of time laying out the publishers and editors for the reader, letting the reader know that sometimes the death-knell for the category came about because of a change or loss of specific editors who understood the market.
And of course there are the authors. This book is by no means a comprehensive list of the authors who worked in the genre during this time, but it does go in to some detail, including authors you might have forgotten or perhaps never knew about unless you were reading these books.
But as nice and well-researched as all this is, perhaps the best part of this book is that it is lavishly illustrated with book covers from this time. Awesome, creepy, ridiculous, frightening, and ever so unique. Hendrix talks a little about the artists who created these covers but mostly in regards to a change in the publishing world when Photoshop and its clones became the norm and gruesome works of art were no longer needed, or at least publishers wouldn’t want to wait the length of time it took to create one when a kid on Photoshop could whip up something devilish in a matter of hours. This is perhaps the biggest loss in the industry – the loss of fine art like this.
Like others of my generation, I remember these books BECAUSE of the covers. Only some of the stories stand out to me, but the creepiness on the outside were so wonderful that I often kept the books for the covers alone.
While Hendrix does a really tremendous job at bringing the history of the genre to life, I might even use this book as a coffee-table art book, what with all the glorious gruesome covers inside. It would certainly be a conversation piece!
This was a wonderful read and aside from bringing back memories and giving me some interesting history of the genre, it also gave me a few authors and titles to look for.
Looking for a good book? Paperbacks from Hell: A History of Horror Fiction from the ’70s and ’80s by Grady Hendrix is a well-researched, gritty look at the horror books in the 1970’s-80’s as the market peaked and then dwindled. It is recommended for its information and for the tremendous book covers from the period.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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Paperbacks from Hell: A History of Horror Fiction from the ’70s and ’80s
author: Grady Hendrix
publisher: Quirk Books
paperback, 256 pages