Rolling Paperbacks -- Girl Gangs in High Times
Among the fallacious arguments that drug warriors used to maintain reefer madness were that cannabis causes a physical addition akin to narcotics and that smoking pot is a “gateway” to harder drugs. Not surprisingly, many Americans received their drug educations from mass-market paperback books-a cheap, popular format the used the same hysteria to sell books that politicians used to pass laws.
A new coffee-table anthology called Girl Gangs, Biker, Boys, and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950 to 1980 (pmpress.org) collects the covers of these paperbacks, as well as their publishing histories and plot breakdowns. The milieus of these tawdry tomes reflected the evolving countercultures of the mid-to-late 20th century: juvenile delinquents, beatniks, hippies, ghetto kids, groupies, punk rockers and so on. Then as now, sex meant sales, so the covers often featured models wearing minimal (if any) clothing.
Canniabis-themed tomes include Sex, Pot and Acid; The Young Lawyers Test Case; Death of a Hippie; at least two called Marijuana Girl (“She traded her body for drugs—and kicks!”); and one that doesn’t beat around the bud simply titled Stoned. Our current attorney general, Jeff Sessions, apparently used his time at law school reading The Gladd Pipe, in which the teenage protagonists are scared straight after a “marijuana trip”.
Between the unintentional comedy of bargain-basement hacks and the come-hither-and-read-me covers, this collection of a long-gone low-brow art form expresses attitudes that were absurd even in their day. One can only hope—AG sessions notwithstanding—they remain so.