I knew if I ventured into Grady Hendrix’s PAPERBACKS FROM HELL (2017, Quirk Books) two things would eventually happen: I would end up loving it to pieces, and then, once the list made up, I would try to get a hold of as many of the schlocky novels discussed in this nonfiction event of the season. I swear, if you’re over 40 and yearn to reconnect with much loved titles from yesteryear or are simply a vintage horror paperback collector you need to get this book ASAP. You’ll definitely thank me later.
The premise is rather ingenious. The author has gathered tons of scarcely known paperback covers for your eyes to linger on before, during and after the horror boom of the early ‘80s. Each chapter is dedicated to a specific era with images of the novels in question and plot summaries, author profiles and publishers info. Grady Hendrix is indeed an encyclopedia of knowledge as he examines with a fine tooth comb every little known gems in existence including the ones that were popular at the time but now seem to have been completely forgotten, like Ken Eulo’s THE BROWNSTONES trilogy or the erotic paperbacks of Russ Martin. Every page is a delightful homage to sub-themes (demonic possession, ghostly intrusion, homicidal crabs or vegetation…) that ultimately become a feast to the eyes and mind.
Moreover, PAPERBACKS FROM HELL is complete with an Afterword by none other than Mr. Knowledge himself, Will Errickson. Those of you who have been following his amazing blog Too Much Horror Fiction will recognized many titles that he’s come to love or shun over the years. Like his dedicated entries he gives you a clear line as to what is really worth your time, because, truth be told, some of those featured titles are far from being compelling. One thing’s for sure, however, all have their devoted fans—not to mention fetching covers, mostly created by unsung artists who are graciously spotlighted by Hendrix. So impressed am I with the overall result of PAPERBACKS FROM HELL that I will move on from owning a digital ARC (thanks to the publishers and NetGalley) to purchasing a paperback copy just so I can truly savor the merits of this wonderful coffee table of a book.
Until next post—Martin