The Pleasure Of Past Horrors
This 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.