I think the phrase "Don't judge a book by its cover" is more often wrong than not. Grady Hendrix clearly is of the same mind and his "Paperbacks from Hell" has some truly mind-warping covers. Have you ever wanted to see Nazi Leprechauns? Yeah, me neither, but now I can't believe I've lived without "The Little People." The book is both a history of an often neglected and reviled genre (horror) and a showcase for lurid covers. Hendrix writes as a fan but is also upfront about the sheer badness of many of the books. Move over classy photography book, this will look great on your coffee table.
It’s surprising what comes out on audio these days. Case in point: Grady Hendrix’s “Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of '70s and '80s Horror Fiction.” While Hendrix writes some entertaining prose, a great part of the appeal of his book comes from its illustrations, hundreds of garish and often absurd cover images, many of which feature children, clowns, or skeletons. I recommend listening to the book while peering at the print version from time to time although the audio alone suffices. For a librarian of a certain age, reading this book is like opening an entire box of Proustian madeleines. “The Exorcist”! “The Omen”! “The Amityville Horror”! “Interview with the Vampire”! “Flowers in the Attic”! While these titles bring back memories, I especially enjoyed Hendrix’s take on the now deservedly forgotten titles of the period. If you don’t get excited about Nazi leprechauns (“Gestapochauns”) or rampaging armies of pincer-waving crabs, you shouldn’t be reading this book.
This was a fun tour through the horror books of the 70s and 80s. By no means meant to be a complete history, it still does a great job of treating major themes. A book that never takes itself too seriously, this is a fun read for horror fans.
I really like this book, but it didn't provide the deep dive into horror fiction history like I was hoping and expecting. The glut of vintage paperback covers is incredible though and has given me a list of throwbacks to hunt down and read. The print quality, paper stock and full color images make this book worth a flip, but if you're looking for true history of the horror genre, Grady Hendrix disappoints.
A smart, funny, and nostalgic look at the 70s/80s horror genre - perfect for those with fond memories of rummaging through boxes of paperbacks at swap meets, dusty bookstores, and garage sales.
Author Grady Hendrix has written one of the most important and most enjoyable books on Horror since Stephen King's "Danse Macabre". He focuses on the "Satanic Panic" of the 1970s and 1980s, when paperback horror novels had their biggest hay day in the recent century. He twits the worst of the worst (Does even Michelle remember "Michelle Remembers"?) but he interviews important horror artists and authors with genuine affection and respect. Even readers who aren't horror fans will enjoy his hilarious notes on "How To Avoid Sex With Satan", "The Hardest Working Skeletons In The Business" and "How To Tell If Your OB/GYN Is A Devil Worshipper".
Paperbacks from Hell is quite a compendium of bizarre, lurid, and schlocky vintage horror novels from the heyday of cheap grocery store paperbacks. Between the late 1960s and late 1980s, dozens of vibrant, freewheeling publishing houses pumped out hundreds of trash horror novels hoping to capture the attention of a public hungry for more possessions, hauntings, sex, gore, and the two fisted heroes and heroines who experienced it. Grady Hendrix compiles a veritable smorgasbord of goofy goodness, from evil fetuses to evil rabbits to evil yetis, not to mention the requisite demons, ghosts, vampires, and serial killers. All of these were out for the blood of innocent Brits and Americans, and the public couldn’t get enough. And even more, it appears the author has actually read each and every one of these little gems. That’s the kind of book obsession completionism that I admire!
There was a little more “meat” than I expected with this book, which I had thought to be a mere parade of garish horror book covers with snarky commentary on their punny taglines, wonderfully absurd imagery, and unconventional plotting, not unlike the literary equivalent of The Gallery of Regrettable Food. There was certainly some snark, making reading about novels like The Piper, where the happy ending is (spoilers) war vets machine gunning a town full of murderous, possessed children on Halloween, even more entertaining. Bedtime, indeed! He definitely packs the book with plenty of descriptions of interesting examples of the genre, from the utter crap to the hidden gems.
In addition to the snark, though, Grady delves a little into the history of the trends that fueled the craze, from the Satanic Panic to the rise of the blockbuster. He arranges his entries into various themes, based in a loose chronological order, up to the rise of splatterpunk and serial killers which ended the trend. My favorite aspect was probably the descriptions of the unsung workers of the field, the cover artists, whose work often went unattributed on the many books they graced with their work and who often had interesting lives of their own. Grady even digs up a few earlier sketches or unused cover paintings
However, the organization is not the most precise, leading to repeating information and themes and the entire analysis does not really go too deep into the larger cultural trends of the ‘70’s and ‘80’s that contributed to the demand. In addition, he name drops information like Lovecraftian themes or roleplaying games without really going into detail, leaving those who might know less about this left in the dark. Still, for the most part, those who are into this sort of stuff enough to read a whole book on them probably are already in the know, right? While not a comprehensive genre study, there are definitely some fun facts here, some obscure books to look into, and some laughs.
This was great fun to flip through. Pulp horror is ridiculous and insane and I think I need to take a peek at some of these. Hendrix's humorous tone and obvious love for these slices of insanity is half the fun too
Contains some great illustrations/ paintings and is an informative and breezy romp through these paperbacks from the 60's to the 90's.
Hendrix opens by highlighting Nazi leprechauns called the Gestapochauns, and it only gets better from there. If you're a fan of campy, cheesy, just plain awful and horrific (but oh so good) pulp stories, pick this up right now. It's added so many new books added to my wishlist, including "Crabs: The Human Sacrifice" and the great American classic "Satan's Love Child."
OatmealThunder thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over
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