Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of ’70s and ’80s
Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons
When I first heard of Paperbacks from Helll I thought was going to be a really cool art book. And don’t get me wrong, it is that but it is so much more and that I wasn’t expecting. So join me as we jump in the wayback machine to a time when horror ruled the bookshelves and our hearts.
For you youngins out there that missed the 70s and 80s, they were a golden age for horror fiction. Arguably ushered in by the unexpected and unmatched popularity of Stephen King, you couldn’t walk into a drug store, convenience store, department store, let alone bookstore, during this period of history without being assailed by countless paperbacks with black covers and more skeletons than a typical graveyard. And it was glorious. Now just like the horror boom that swept through the cinemas at the same time, whenever there is an overabundance of a thing there are as much, if not more, chaff as there is wheat. This book looks at them all, thankfully focusing more on the good than bad, and there was a lot of good coming out at that time.
Divided up between the subgenres of horror such as Satan, when animals attack, ghosts and haunted houses, weird science, inhuman monsters, and human monsters (AKA psychos and serial killers). Each section is given a ton of pages to explore and author Grady Hendrix uses them wisely. No fluff and filler here, he has plenty to say with lots of insight on some of my favorite books and authors that I never knew. Better yet, he turned me on to a bunch of great sounding books that somehow slipped under my radar. Now I have to haunt eBay to try to track these down because God forbid used bookstores largely went the way of the dodo some years ago.
Now I mentioned at the start that I thought this was an art book, and there is good reason for that. Almost every page in here has beautiful full color art. Some pages are nothing but full page glamour shots of some of the most stunning and startling art to ever grace a book cover. Making it through this book took me so long, not because it was a chore, but because it was such a joy. So many times I had to stop reading to take in the beautiful art. Sometimes it was a fond trip down memory lane, sometimes it was something I saw for the first time; nearly every time I was blown away.
Paperbacks from Hell is a loving and informative look back at the books I grew up with, the ones that helped make me into the person I am now. So I freely admit I might have been wearing my nostalgia glasses when reading this book, but even if all this is new to you, if you are a fan of horror literature, you’ll love this book. A treat for the brain as much as it is for the eyes, I can highly recommend this book.