5 Star Review of Girl Gangs, Biker Boys and Real Cool Cats on Shindig

Gary von Hersch
February 2018

5 stars

With the lifting of paper shortages and the breakdown of the pulp magazine distribution system after WWII, the more compact, mass market paperback became the prevailing format for fiction publishers – they were cheaply priced, handy on “spinner” racks everywhere, often poorly written and scandalously plotted. Also, like their pre-war pulp antecedents, they frequently had lurid, eye-catching cover art that broadly hinted at the often hastily composed, wildly exaggerated prose inside – more than 400 lovingly reprinted here in full colour.
This ambitious book, in scholarly and roughly chronological fashion, runs through three decades of public apprehension, alarm and allurement in The United States, Britain and Australia centred around an increasingly delinquent and defiant post- war youth culture along with the voracious genius of pulp publishers in exploiting every sensational trend to sell books. Co-editor Nette, in his introductory essay, quotes Susan Stryker from her prescient work Queer Pulp: “Pulp fiction acts as a vast cultural consciousness. Deposited there were fantasies of fulfilment as well as desperate yearnings, petty betrayals, unrequited passions, and unreasoning violence that troubled the margins of the longed-for world.”

With 70 in-depth author interviews (including Harlan Ellison and Lawrence Block), illustrated biographies and articles by 22 pop culture critics, this book goes full-disclosure with the sub-genre’s writers and their inspirations and, most interestingly, with the inside operations of their canny publishers and, usually lost in all the hustle, the real words they wrote. I found the sections titled Teenage Jungle, Groupies And Immortals and Love Tribes particularly accessible.

Back to Iain McIntyre’s Author Page | Back to Andrew Nette’s Author Page