Saturday, February 26, 2005


Two in Bed or Somebody Dead

There's a write-up of the midcentury explosion of Australian pulp fiction -- who knew? -- in the Sydney Morning Herald. They interview Audrey Armitage, who wrote her pulp under the pen name K.T. McCall:

"We'd be given a picture of the cover and were given the title, along with a few words," Armitage says. "From that you prepared the plot and wrote the story. One of the rules of the game was that you started off with a body - either two in bed or somebody dead.

"There was a certain similarity to all my books."

The boom lasted from 1939 to 1959 as local publishers filled the gap left by the banning - inspired by morals campaigners - of US paperbacks. In pulp fiction's heyday new publishers sprang up everywhere and prospered - until the prohibition ended and cheaper imports flooded in again.

When they say "boom," they're not kidding: English expat Alan Yates wrote 297 books under the pen name Carter Brown, and racked up sales of 80 million copies. It's a staggering number, and it makes me wonder whether anyone has ever attempted a comparative overview of pulp fiction from different countries. If nothing else, a collection of pulp cover art from around the world would make for a pretty nifty coffee table book.

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