The Pleasure Of Past Horrors


HorrorsThis weekend sees the return of London’s paperback fair, an event which has seen growing numbers of fans and collectors discovering the delights of the humble MMP.

The desire to fetishise old analogue items continues apace, with vinyl, reel-to-reel tape recorders, board games and the mass market paperbacks all undergoing big revivals. This doesn’t mean that we’re falling out of love with electronic versions, just that we’ve come to appreciate things that did the job well.

I’ve been collecting old paperbacks on a very minor scale for years – for collecting on a major scale, ask my pal Kim Newman about his! ‘Paperback’ often meant that there were a lot of genre offerings, particularly in horror, SF, adventure (a category that included the likes of Eric Ambler and Alistair Maclean, and has now vanished), experimental literature, novelisations of films, thrillers, gothic romances and short story anthologies. Often the lurid covers of these books belied the fact that they were authored by excellent writers. Pan, Corgi and Coronet were among the leaders in the field.

Paperbacks are no longer purchasable for chump change. Lately the books have seen increases in value often because of fine artwork and the fact that despite being throwaway items they were better bound than many modern books. I’ve just had one from 1972 folded in the back pocket of my jeans for three days and it bounced back in perfect condition (I’m a book destroyer – I believe they’re there to be read).

I’ve just finished ‘The Search for Joseph Tully’, an eerie book that could only have been written in the seventies. The hero lives in a Brooklyn apartment that’s about to be bulldozed, and events are set against the building gradually emptying out. We forget how dark were the buildings and streets then, how bleak the outlook, how we never thought things could get better. No wonder so many dark authors emerged in this era.

The Eden Book Society was a private publisher of horror presided over by the Eden family for nearly 100 years. Their horror novellas were mailed out to subscribers and were published under pseudonyms. Now there are plans to introduce this archive to the public via a Kickstarter campaign. It will be very interesting to see what they discover in their stacks, and who wrote them.

So the paperback revival continues. I’m heading to the paperback fair to see what wonders I can dig out.

10 comments on “The Pleasure Of Past Horrors”

  1. Ian Luck says:

    I belong to a forum called ‘Vault Of Evil’ which deals with all iterations of Horror in print. It’s well worth a look – and, as I have found several times, other users can help you find the titles of books you’re looking for, from the sketchiest of descriptions.

  2. Steveb says:

    Ooo what I shame I‘m not in London this weekend, I would be off there like a shot!

  3. Helen Martin says:

    Much, much smaller but we had a book sale this morning and I limited myself completely because I can’t carry anything, but the husband filled bags for me.I wasn’t even buying for myself – it’s book crossing on Tuesday and I’d like a pile so I can say “Found this for you” to several people. A range of cosy mysteries, but also Elizabeth George’ s “Missing Joseph”, which I thought was very moving. You can have a lot of fun meeting people at an affair like that.

  4. Wayne Mook says:

    I’ve not been on Vault of Evil for a while, true there are many splendid paperbacks but there is some right trash too, which can be hugely enjoyable in there own way. I do have a soft spot for old paperbacks.

    The Door with the Seven locks is one of the better Edgar Wallace books.

    The Eden Book Society looks fun,


  5. admin says:

    I’ve been had – this just in;
    Dead Ink has commissioned some well known British authors to imagine that the Eden Society did exist and contribute a novelette in the spirit of the hoax. We’ll be announcing publicly that these authors are writing for the society, but each book will remain under a pseudonym. Readers will be left to connect the true author to each book themselves.

  6. Ian Luck says:

    When I was younger, and used to go on holiday with my parents, there was a small problem – I don’t get on with being out in the sun. At all. So I would find somewhere shady, and read, and I found the greatest pleasure from going into a newsagent, and buying the book with the most lurid and disgusting cover. It might have been trash, or it might have been a classic with a shite cover, but they were always fun to read. One of my favourites was ‘Bug!’, later turned into a nasty, but effective shocker starring Bradford Dillman.

  7. Helen Martin says:

    Can I assume that you, too, have been invited into this charming world of horror, Chris?

  8. Wayne Mook says:

    ‘Bug’ makes a great double bill with ‘Night of the Lepus.’

    Dead Ink did an interring book of essays about and by the working class. This new project looks interesting.


  9. Wayne Mook says:

    Interesting, sorry I guess my subconscious didn’t like me using the same word twice so soon. Either that or I’ve got the gravedigger blues.


  10. jenne says:

    First time in Londen 1956, thats why I love his books, everything wash wettisch, “a book is not a person, its just wath he wants to let you know”, but it can help pas the time, but its much better to do Something with your time given, scribbling for example, greetings from France, by an old Dutch English book lover !

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