Saturday, January 24, 2009

In Praise of Feral House

Today, while I was out trying to locate a copy of a certain book for a friend's birthday gift, I stopped by A Capella Books. Here I came face to face with the latest release from Los Angeles based Feral House Press, Dope Menace: The Sensational World of Drug Paperbacks 1900-1975 by Stephen Gertz. I wasn't out to buy a book for myself, but given the topic and the cover featuring Reginald Heade's illustration from Vice Rackets of Soho, there was no way I couldn't buy it. Fiscal responsibility is overrated anway.

The first sixty pages are an essay, interspersed with images of course, regarding the history of drug paperbacks, and the making of a moral panic. ( Did you know that that the head of Citizens for Decent Literature, the group that lead the charge against sleazy paperbacks in the 50's was led by Charles Keating? The same guy who looted Lincoln Savings and Loan 30 years later. That little tidbit says it all about America's screwed up priorities and the value of the self righteous moral posturing that people use to try and cover the fact that there's an almost casual nihilism at the heart of contemporary society, but that's a topic for another day and probably another place.)

Dope Menace comes with extensive footnotes and a list of references in the back for further reading. The rest of the book is given over to pictures. Big, wonderful reproductions of the lurid artwork of paperback originals. It's quite an attractive book, and the sort of thing anyone interested in paperback originals should want to own.

It's not the only great book of this sort Feral House has published. You way also want to check out
Sin-a-Rama: Sleaze Paperbacks of the Sixties, Mexican Pulp Art, and It's a Man's World: Men's Adventure Magazines The Postwar Pulps.

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