Julie 's Reviews > Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of '70s and '80s Horror Fiction

Paperbacks from Hell by Grady Hendrix
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it was amazing
bookshelves: 2017, e-book, edelweiss-review, for-halloween, netgalley, non-fiction, pop-culture

Paperbacks from Hell by Grady Hendrix is a 2017 Quirk Books publication.

While most teenage girls my age were reading Harlequin romances or sneaking peeks inside their mother’s bodice rippers, I was glued to Gothic Romance/Horror/Mystery novels, which morphed into a full -fledged obsession with horror novels, which continued until my late teens, slowly fizzling out, as the horror genre went into a different direction, I didn't feel compelled to follow.

I wish I had had the presence of mind to keep those books, put them a plastic protector and store them in a dark, cool place. But, I didn’t. However, I do love searching out these old paperbacks and do have a nice collection of Gothic novels as well as a handful of vintage horror novels, too. This book really has sparked a renewed interest in these vintage horror paperbacks, so I just might start digging around and try to add a few of these to my collection.

But, I digress-

Like myself, the author’s interest in these vintage paperbacks also stems from the ‘collectable’ angle they inspire, and just as I do, he still reads them.

In my mind, horror novels, and horror movies for that matter, of the 1970’s were best. They may seem cheesy now, and of course they followed trends, just like we do now, but…

These books scared me. It wasn’t the same slasher story, told over and over and over. These books had imagination, took risks, were shocking, and terrifying, or… okay- laughable- Nazi Leprachans?

Looking back on these novels now, many of which were adapted for the big screen, I’m reminded once again of the game changing books than shaped the genre and had me sleeping with the lights on.

The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, and The Other, all spent incredible amounts of time on the NYT bestseller list. They spawned countless spin-offs, all with a strong satanic element, which was a huge theme in the first few years of the 1970’s.

From that point on, the horror genre created the most menacing babies and kids you could possibly image, with books like- ‘The Little Girl Who Lived Down the Lane’ by Laird Koenig, which I happen to be reading right now. But, the sheer volume of books written with this theme, in one form or another, was mind boggling.

Some titles I found intriguing were: ‘Kate’s House’ by Harriet Waugh and ‘Let’s Go Play at the Adams’ by Mendal W. Johnson- (Tonight the kids are taking care of the babysitter!)

Let’s not forget killer animals though- remember Jaws? Of course, you do. How about ‘The Rats’ by James Herbert? There were also a slew of killer dogs, cats, whales, all manner of other creepy crawlies.

Not your thing? How about a good haunted house story, instead? Lots of those! But, not just Amityville!

Every possible angle was covered in the 70’s and 80’s that you could possible imagine. Medical nightmares, horoscopes, psychic teens, UFO’s, Vampires, dolls, Southern Gothic, humanoids, you name it, and this book covers them all.

But, the author doesn’t stop there.

The fantastic cover art is included in the book. The book covers alone make this book worth looking into. Amazing!! It is also interesting to note that some of the cover artists are unknown.

The primary publishers of horror novels are listed too, and frankly, I was surprised by a few- namely ‘Zebra’ which I’ve always associated with those fab historical romance novels of the same period. Who knew?

The 80’s had its ups and downs with some really wonderful contributions to the genre, but also strange additions,such as, heavy metal horror! I’d pretty much moved away from the horror genre by this time, and have no recollections of this, but apparently ‘Splatterpunk’ was a pretty big movement in the mid-eighties.

But, that movement seemed to fade as quickly as hair metal with the onset of the nineties, as did the horror genre as we knew it.

These old horror novels look cheesy, and many are obviously dated, but if you read some of the blurbs, you will see many of them are classics now, and spawned all manner of trends, and influenced many others along the way. They are lurid, gross, often politically incorrect, and misogynist on more than one occasion, but were also groundbreaking. They, also, were a reflection of the era in which they were written, tapping in on real fears, worries, or in some cases, setting off periods of real panic.


But, in the end, the slasher genre won out over killer sharks, haunted houses, creepy kids, and Satan. The name of the game is buckets of blood and revolting gore, without much originality to the plot, which is when I stepped off the horror novel train.

These days, horror is a hard sell for me. On a rare occasion, I’ll try a ghost story or a haunted house novel, or a good vampire novel, as long as the vampire doesn't sparkle, although those seem far and few between these days, or I might settle in for a Stephen King thriller, once in a while.

But, I do have old favorites I read at Halloween, always returning to the tried and true. But, after picking up this book, maybe I can find a few hidden gems from the past to satisfy any lingering craving for a good old -fashioned chiller.

Overall, the author did a terrific job with the organization of this book, deftly adding in well- timed, laugh out loud humor, and his enthusiasm was obvious, and a little catchy.

This is a fun, informative, entertaining, and well researched book, that will appeal to fans of the horror genre, paperback book collectors, or maybe even to those who enjoy nostalgia or pop culture.

5 stars
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Reading Progress

July 29, 2017 – Shelved
July 29, 2017 – Shelved as: to-read
October 20, 2017 – Started Reading
October 20, 2017 – Shelved as: 2017
October 20, 2017 – Shelved as: e-book
October 20, 2017 – Shelved as: edelweiss-review
October 20, 2017 – Shelved as: for-halloween
October 20, 2017 – Shelved as: netgalley
October 20, 2017 – Shelved as: non-fiction
October 20, 2017 – Shelved as: pop-culture
October 20, 2017 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-26 of 26 (26 new)

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RedemptionDenied Great review!


Julie RedemptionDenied wrote: "Great review!"

Thank you, RedemptionDenied!!


message 3: by Norma (new)

Norma Wonderful review, Julie! 😊


message 4: by Beverly (new)

Beverly I used to love any kind of comic book, horror as well, when I was a kid. I hadn't thought of that in forever. Thanks for the nostalgic trip. Great review.


message 5: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn I had to laugh out loud. I read several of those books you listed under the covers with a flashlight. In between reading sessions, I hid them in a loose board in my floor. They were definite "no no, you are too young" books per my mom. Well then, she and the rest of the "elders" should not have been talking so much about them in my presence. Too much temptation! LOL! Oh, and they did not scar my impressionable young mind. They only wet my appetite for more! ;)


message 6: by Frances (new)

Frances An excellent and very informative review Julie! Brought back memories of movies I watched with Vincent Price playing the villain, which scared the heck out of me, but still loved those haunted houses he wandered the halls in. I'm not into the gore/slasher of today; guess that's why I don't read horror books.


Julie Norma wrote: "Wonderful review, Julie! 😊"

Thank you, Norma!!


Julie Beverly wrote: "I used to love any kind of comic book, horror as well, when I was a kid. I hadn't thought of that in forever. Thanks for the nostalgic trip. Great review."

Thank you, Beverly!! I suppose this is a genre some of us outgrow after a while, but it was a fun trip down memory lane!


Julie Frances wrote: "An excellent and very informative review Julie! Brought back memories of movies I watched with Vincent Price playing the villain, which scared the heck out of me, but still loved those haunted hous..."

Thank you, Frances!! I really had a lot of fun this one!!


Julie Carolyn wrote: "I had to laugh out loud. I read several of those books you listed under the covers with a flashlight. In between reading sessions, I hid them in a loose board in my floor. They were definite "no no..."

Carolyn,
I love it! I hid quite a few books from my parents too!! I couldn't devour them fast enough. LOL!


message 11: by Kaceey (new)

Kaceey Fantastic review Julie! I loved horror as a teenager too! Not anymore Lol! 😳


Kevin Outstanding review Julie! At 12 I used to hide Stephen King books from my parents who thought the content was too adult! I need to read this one!


Julie Kaceey wrote: "Fantastic review Julie! I loved horror as a teenager too! Not anymore Lol! 😳"

Thank you, Kaceey!!


Julie Kevin wrote: "Outstanding review Julie! At 12 I used to hide Stephen King books from my parents who thought the content was too adult! I need to read this one!"

Thank you, Kevin!! I hid a few books from my parents, too. LOL!! This book was a lot of fun!


message 15: by Melissa (new)

Melissa Awesome review, Julie! I also loved horror as a teen . . . still do.


message 16: by Mary Beth (new)

Mary Beth Awesome Review Julie! Glad it was a fun book for you.


message 17: by Jen (new)

Jen Sounds horrifying, Julie.
I think I will pass but enjoyed your review


Julie Melissa wrote: "Awesome review, Julie! I also loved horror as a teen . . . still do."

Thank you, Melissa!! This book has renewed my interest in the genre, but I'll probably stick with the vintage novels, at least for now.


Julie Mary wrote: "Awesome Review Julie! Glad it was a fun book for you."

Thank you, Mary!! It was!


Julie Jen wrote: "Sounds horrifying, Julie.
I think I will pass but enjoyed your review"


Thank you, Jen!! It was really a pretty fun book, lots of nostalgia. Brought back some memories. LOL!


message 21: by Mackey (new)

Mackey Terrific review Julie! I read all the books you mentioned and miss those days of the truly terrifying books.


message 22: by Crumb (new)

Crumb Wow, amazing review Julie! I loved what you had to say. Your voice is so original in this review.


Julie Crumb wrote: "Wow, amazing review Julie! I loved what you had to say. Your voice is so original in this review."

Thank you, Crumb!! I appreciate your kind words!


Julie Mackey wrote: "Terrific review Julie! I read all the books you mentioned and miss those days of the truly terrifying books."

Thank you, Mackey!! They don't write 'em like they used to.


message 25: by Rita (new) - added it

Rita Fantastic review, Julie. I'm with you as far as the bodice-rippers and Harlequin romances go.


Julie Rita wrote: "Fantastic review, Julie. I'm with you as far as the bodice-rippers and Harlequin romances go."

Thank you, Rita! I was slow to embrace the romance genre, but now I have ebbs and flows with it. Right now, I'm pretty much burned out on it, but still read one once in a while. I always go back to my first love, which is mystery/thrillers.


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