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Girl Gangs, Biker Boys and Real Cool Cats in The Spectator

By Max Décharné
The Spectator
February 17th, 2018

Mary Whitehouse’s publishers also produced Gang Girls, The Degenerates and Bikers at War

The most lurid pulp fiction titles of the 1970s were dreamt up by New English Library — who also gave us Mary Whitehouse’s autobiography

The contributors’ appreciation of the novels under discussion is obvious, and there is much that is valuable here, but some have a tendency towards plain statements which do not hold water, making this book overall a resource of variable reliability. ‘Rock Around the Clock’ by Bill Haley & His Comets is said to have been ‘originally an obscure B-side’ until used in the film Blackboard Jungle (1955), yet it was reviewed and advertised multiple times as the clear A-side in Billboard magazine on its initial release in 1954.

It is similarly unwise to mock Ed Wood Jr for his ‘imperfect grasp of slang e.g. using “jazz” as a silly euphemism for “fuck”’, when this had been a legitimate usage for several decades, and was employed as such by Jim Thompson in his 1952 hard-boiled pulp masterpiece The Killer Inside Me. Elsewhere, Soho is referred to as a ‘suburb’ of London, and a short article about Ernest Ryman’s 1958 novel Teddy Boy concludes by stating outright that ‘history has left us no clues about the identity of Ernest Ryman’. Actually, he went to school in Edmonton, read English at Wadham College, Oxford, served in the Royal Navy in minesweepers alongside Ross McWhirter, and had a distinguished postwar academic career as a lecturer in Winchester and Brighton.

There are many fine cover illustrations from books not dealt with in the main text, but it is unclear whether the writers themselves have read them all, since they include a scan of The Immortal by Walter Ross in a picture section headed ‘Pulp Fiction Music Novels,’ despite the fact that it is actually the most famous fictionalised account of the film career of James Dean.

However, it was a real pleasure to read Andrew Nette’s sympathetic piece about Jane Gallion, self-described ‘fuckbook writer’, author of the novels Stoned and Biker, and editor for the Los Angeles pulp publishers Essex House and Brandon House. There, she co-authored numerous sex manuals such as Coito Ergo Sum, and occasionally attempted to sneak some humour into the company’s output despite the wishes of her boss — an incident she recalled in a lengthy autobiographical letter reproduced here. ‘Jane,’ he said grimly, ‘no satire. Ya can’t laugh and keep a hard-on.’

In the midst of it all even the authors sometimes made money, not least Mary Whitehouse, who, according to Laurence James of New English Library, would order by the thousand from the publisher at trade price, and ‘did very well out of it’.

 

Buy book now | Buy e-Book now | Back to Iain McIntyre's Author Page | Back to Andrew Nette's Author Page



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