Paperbacks from Hell: A History of Horror Fiction from the '70s and '80s by Grady Hendrix

Paperbacks from Hell: A History of Horror Fiction from the '70s and '80s

Take a tour through the horror paperback novels of the 1970s and ’80s . . . if you dare. Page through dozens and dozens of amazing book covers featuring well-dressed skeletons, evil dolls, and knife-wielding killer crabs! Read shocking plot summaries that invoke devil worship, satanic children, and haunted real estate! Horror author and vintage paperback book collector Gra...

Title:Paperbacks from Hell: A History of Horror Fiction from the '70s and '80s
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Edition Language:English

Paperbacks from Hell: A History of Horror Fiction from the '70s and '80s Reviews

  • Jack Tripper

    As a lifelong fan and collector of horror fiction, I've been waiting for a book like this to come along for years. There have been several books of literary criticism focusing on horror boom-era works, but nothing really that included the trashier side of the genre, and definitely nothing with the wealth of gloriously gaudy cover art (much of it contributed by Will Errickson of Too Much Horror Fiction) featured here.

    Because it covers such a wide range, Hendrix only goes fully in-depth on a handf

    As a lifelong fan and collector of horror fiction, I've been waiting for a book like this to come along for years. There have been several books of literary criticism focusing on horror boom-era works, but nothing really that included the trashier side of the genre, and definitely nothing with the wealth of gloriously gaudy cover art (much of it contributed by Will Errickson of Too Much Horror Fiction) featured here.

    Because it covers such a wide range, Hendrix only goes fully in-depth on a handful of authors and books, focusing mostly on paperback originals as opposed to the bigger names. He divides the chapters by trend: evil kids, haunted houses, Satan, gothics, creature features, splatterpunk, etc, and the tone is light and humorous throughout. Some of Hendrix's plot synopses are ridiculous and hysterical, and I'm glad he included info on many of the prominent cover artists of the era, who never really got their due back in the day. I found it interesting that the artists were sometimes paid much more handsomely than the authors, as the covers were what first caught the prospective reader's eye.

    My only complaint is that the book perhaps focuses TOO much on the trashier side. Now I love me some schlocky B-horror when done well, but I was slightly disappointed to find little or no mention of weird fiction authors like Ligotti, T.E.D. Klein, Lisa Tuttle, Fritz Leiber, Karl Edward Wagner, and Aickman, all of whom had highly influential works (with great paperback covers) published during the horror boom. Even perennial bestseller Peter Straub gets only a passing mention (same goes for Koontz and Saul, but you won't see me complaining in those cases, no offense). I suppose enough has already been written on them for the most part, and Hendrix chose to highlight the forgotten books.*

    I was glad to see that Hendrix devoted a lot of ink to Brian McNaughton, Elizabeth Engstrom, Ken Greenhall and Michael McDowell, four unjustly overlooked writers in their time who are now finally getting their due thanks in part to Will Errickson's excellent blog, this book, and, in the latter two cases, the recent reissues of their works by Valancourt Books. Other authors featured prominently (meaning at least a full page devoted to them or a work of theirs) include Guy N. Smith (Crabs books), VC Andrews, Graham Masterton, James Herbert, Stephen Gresham (The Shadow Man), Bari Wood (The Tribe), Anne Rice, Rex Miller (Slob), Judi Miller (Phantom of the Soap Opera), David J. Schow, Mendal W. Johnson (Let's Go Play at the Adams'), and John Coyne. Funny that more words are devoted to each of them than to Stephen King (though again, plenty has already been written about him, and rightfully so).

    Oh and I guess there is one more negative about this book. Many of these books are going to suddenly become a LOT harder for me to find. But I suppose it's worth it if it brings more attention to some of these lost gems (and turds).

    *ETA: Actually I see that Will Errickson does touch on a few of these authors in his afterward, and a couple others are briefly discussed in the appendices. No Ligotti or Aickman, though. Maybe in Vol. 2 (hint, hint)?

    4.5 Stars

  • Char

    A book about the period of time when the horror genre ruled the paperback racks at the bookstore? A book about the period of time in my life, (about Carrie's age, in fact), when I felt like an outsider, and horror made me feel included? Sign me up! Luckily, Quirk books and NetGalley did just that, and here we are.

    This book is a reference book, a guide to life and times in the United States in the 70's and 80's. Things going on in the world and in society always affect our fiction and those times

    A book about the period of time when the horror genre ruled the paperback racks at the bookstore? A book about the period of time in my life, (about Carrie's age, in fact), when I felt like an outsider, and horror made me feel included? Sign me up! Luckily, Quirk books and NetGalley did just that, and here we are.

    This book is a reference book, a guide to life and times in the United States in the 70's and 80's. Things going on in the world and in society always affect our fiction and those times were no different. Paperbacks from Hell puts it all into perspective in an easy to read and humorous way. All the while vividly punctuated with those freaking AWESOME horror book covers of that time!

    I bet you remember those covers too. The Sentinel with the priest looking out at you; Flowers in the Attic with those children looking out at you...and ALL those children from the John Saul books, (though at least one was blind and was NOT looking at you.) I had a mad grin on my face the entire time I was reading this, and with its funny chapter titles like

    and its funny observations about life back then, how could I not? I'd wager that you'll have a mad grin on your face too.

    Contributing a great deal to this book was Will Errickson and his blog, Too Much Horror Fiction.

    You can and should (!) find it here:

    Paperbacks From Hell gets my highest recommendation! Period.

    You can pre-order your copy here. (I did!):

    *Thanks to NetGalley and Quirk books for the e-ARC in exchange for my honest review. This is it. *

  • Cameron Chaney

    Imagine you are in a used bookshop. It’s dimly lit, obviously, with dusty tomes creating houses on the floor perfect for guests of the smaller variety. Rats? Possibly. Evil Nazi leprechauns? That’s crazy talk! But do watch your step… just to be safe. As you venture further, you say to yourself “I should turn back. All the new releases are in the shop’s front window, baking in the sun. I have no business with these musty old things. Yuck!” But you continue anyway, pulled by the essence of some un

    Imagine you are in a used bookshop. It’s dimly lit, obviously, with dusty tomes creating houses on the floor perfect for guests of the smaller variety. Rats? Possibly. Evil Nazi leprechauns? That’s crazy talk! But do watch your step… just to be safe. As you venture further, you say to yourself “I should turn back. All the new releases are in the shop’s front window, baking in the sun. I have no business with these musty old things. Yuck!” But you continue anyway, pulled by the essence of some unseen force. Unseen, that is, until your eyes rest on a spinny rack of used paperbacks. It holds a copy of

    by William W. Johnstone. And

    by Shaun Hutson. And you can’t look away. You’re transfixed by their grotesque covers as you realize there are more horrors to be discovered aside from the R. L. Stine and Point Horror novels you read as a teen. With this revelation, the floor splits open and you cascade into the hells of the horror publishing boom of the ‘70s and ‘80s. You are nosediving into… the

    !

    This is (kinda) what happened to horror author Grady Hendrix when he discovered a copy of

    by John Christopher at a convention. This book alone kick-started a passion project to chronicle the history of these long forgotten works of *cough* literature. Fast-forwarding some years later, we have

    , the new nonfiction offering from Grady Hendrix. It stands as the ultimate encyclopedia of these often times trashy, occasionally impressive, but always entertaining horrors from beyond grave.

    This book comes complete with publisher histories, author and artist bios, shocking book synopses, and hundreds of ghoulish full-color book covers that would make your grandma's book club protest outside the local Barnes & Noble. You’re a couple decades too late, Granny! Although these books made a killing (pun so intended) when they hit bookstore shelves in the ‘70s and ‘80s, they slowly fizzled out in the early 1990s. Many paperbacks were disposed of while others were shelved away in used bookstores, waiting for someone like Grady to dust them off and pull them out of the darkness.

    Because the authors and illustrators of these books are mostly unknown by contemporary readers, not much information about them exists on the internet. For this reason Grady dug deep, reading hundreds of paperbacks and interviewing many people who worked in the publishing industry at the time. The information here is fascinating, drawing a map of what the industry was like at the time, with its hits and misses, ups and downs, and reoccurring trends that spelled dollar signs.

    Aside from this history lesson, the plots of these books that Hendrix chose to feature are entertaining and jaw-dropping on every level. They range from mildly spoopy to downright absurd. But not boring! Never boring. Sure, your standard haunted houses and serial killers make the list, but let’s not forget the highly intelligent mobs of killer crabs, telekinetic unborn babies that will literally blow your mind, and, yes, even evil Nazi leprechauns. ‘Cuz why not?

    is beautifully formatted, providing all the information in a well-organized, compulsively readable fashion. It resembles a textbook but is never a chore to read. The paper is thick and glossy, the scans of the book covers reveal every brushstroke, the layout is convenient, and the sources are nicely cited. There is even an afterward by Will Errickson, manager of the

    blog, which is where a lot of horror fans first discovered these wonderfully trashy books.

    Grady Hendrix’s

    is a ghastly emporium of the bizarre. It truly casts a spell, leaving a trail of Halloween candy that will take readers far beyond anything they knew existed. I mean, evil Nazi leprechauns… c’mon! It is recommended to horror fans and publishing aficionados alike.

  • karen

    i love this book more than anything. review to come.

    ***************************************

    actually, i'm going to pause on my chicken-pecking of this book and read it for real during spooktober. but it's great. fantastic. and i want more volumes of this to be published annually. if you don't have the book, you can look at this for now and get very excited:

    *********************

    i love this book more than anything. review to come.

    ***************************************

    actually, i'm going to pause on my chicken-pecking of this book and read it for real during spooktober. but it's great. fantastic. and i want more volumes of this to be published annually. if you don't have the book, you can look at this for now and get very excited:

    ***************************************

    FINALLY!!

    this is even better than i dared hope.

  • Julie

    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 ke

    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- ‘

    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: ‘

    by Harriet Waugh and

    by Mendal W. Johnson- (Tonight the kids are taking care of the babysitter!)

    Let’s not forget killer animals though- remember

    ? Of course, you do. How about

    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

    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

  • Joseph

    Paperbacks from Hell: A History of Horror Fiction from the '70s and '80s by Grady Hendrix is the history of the paperback horror novel. Hendrix is the author of the novels Horrorstör, the only book you'll ever need about a haunted Scandinavian furniture superstore, and My Best Friend's Exorcism.

    In the mid-1970s I would go to the corner store, a Lawson, and raided the book rack. There was always a carousel of books near the front counter. Horror books took up most of the shelf space with everythi

    Paperbacks from Hell: A History of Horror Fiction from the '70s and '80s by Grady Hendrix is the history of the paperback horror novel. Hendrix is the author of the novels Horrorstör, the only book you'll ever need about a haunted Scandinavian furniture superstore, and My Best Friend's Exorcism.

    In the mid-1970s I would go to the corner store, a Lawson, and raided the book rack. There was always a carousel of books near the front counter. Horror books took up most of the shelf space with everything from the Omen to countless barely remembered horror stories of all types. I remember a class mate, Pam, giving me her copy of Gary Brandner's The Howling. That book was a game changer for me. The Scholastic Books, an in school book sale, even had Stephen King's Carrie for sale. This caused a temporary ban of Scholastic Books in my school as some parents got very upset about the books available to 7th graders. There was something special about buying books that were not meant for school children.

    Paperbacks from Hell is a return to that time with a detailed discussion and listing of books from that period. Hendrix provides a great refresher for those who loved the horror boom of the period. What subject defined horror changed over time. Satan and Satanists made an easy subject and a lasting one through books and even music in 1980s metal. David Seltzer's novelization of the movie The Omen started a string of books and the popularization of an obscure Bible passage. Knowing that 666 was the number of the beast suddenly became a Bible trivia everyone knew regardless of religious belief.

    Damian also triggered the growth as a child being evil or a killer. Evil children were a shocking subject going back to the 1954 book Bad Seed. Books like The Crib and Spawn had a supernatural touch while Let's Play Games at the Adams' and The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane told of normal kids gone bad or take control of their own situation. There is also the far fetched fear mongering book Rona Joffee Mazes and Monsters which turned the popularity of Dungeons and Dragons into something that will damage and warp a teenager's brain.

    Animals also were big sellers from Peter Benchley's Jaws to killer dogs, cats, rats, and even rabbits. Animals were killing people in untold numbers. Pick a seeming defenseless animal and there is probably a story of it being a mad killer (yes, butterflies too). If one thought animal killers wasn't quite over the top there were also killer plants. Jaws lead the escalation of wildlife killers.

    If it wasn't an animal or child, it was probably a haunted property. Amityville Horror was the foundation for the haunted house. Amityville spawned six books in the series, each marketed as nonfiction. The premise of haunted houses being built over vortexes, graveyards, or other mystical places expanded into haunted train lines and hospitals. Anything could be haunted or possessed.  Just ask Arnie Cunningham.

    Hendrix starts his book with an introduction featuring The Little People who live in a basement of a bed and breakfast, Gestapochauns (Nazi leprechauns) and ends with a genre called Splatter Punk. Not much new has been developed since the late 80s death of paperback horror. Stephen King and others still write but the present generation would rather have movies and video games rather than a cheap paperback. I revisited the era re-reading Brandner's Howling series a while ago, but I did it on a Kindle. It just didn't seem the same. While today people look for special effects in movies today, we had cover art back then. Hendrix captures a multitude of the covers that got many people reading. Cover art at the time was important in making one book stand out from the rest.   Foil covers, embossed covers, step back art, and die-cut covers became the norm and helped reveal some of the book's mystery or added a layer of shock.  This was a time when horror brought entertainment to many readers.   For those of us who had a library that was too far to walk to (or too dangerous to go to alone), the corner store became the early Netflix for many.  Well written.  Well illustrated. Well referenced. A welcomed walk down memory lane.

  • Kealan Burke

    Absolutely fantastic. Like a slighter DANSE MACABRE, PAPERBACKS FROM HELL zeroes in on the rise of horror paperbacks in the 70s and 80s through to its decline in the 90s. I especially appreciated the attention given to the cover artists responsible for some of the truly masterful and evocative covers that had me grabbing these books in my formative years.

    Well worth a look, but be warned, you'll immediately want to go on a book-buying spree after reading it.

  • Paul

    I never realized how bat-shit crazy the 70's/80's paperback boom and then bust was. Now I do. And Grady is funny, doesn't pull any punches, nor does he hold back on praise when he deems it warranted, which generally went toward many of the cover artists. It was wonderful hearing their stories as well as the books' stories.

    Loved, loved, loved this book.

  • Karl

    If you have any affinity to those old " horror"paperbacks published from the 1960's to the early 1990's then this book is a must have for you. And what a perfect time of the year to spend some time dwelling through these pages featuring some covers and plot synopsis of these spine tingling books.

    With "Paperbacks from Hell: A History of Horror Fiction from the '70s and '80s" Grady Hendrix makes the trip down horrible publishing lane a joy and a treat. There are also a few laughs, something every

    If you have any affinity to those old " horror"paperbacks published from the 1960's to the early 1990's then this book is a must have for you. And what a perfect time of the year to spend some time dwelling through these pages featuring some covers and plot synopsis of these spine tingling books.

    With "Paperbacks from Hell: A History of Horror Fiction from the '70s and '80s" Grady Hendrix makes the trip down horrible publishing lane a joy and a treat. There are also a few laughs, something every horror fan can enjoy, plus the author's enthusiasm toward the subject is infectious.

    If you are just delving into this genre of literature one will find some excellent cover scans, a nice index of publishes and cover artists to help celebrate this spooky time of the year. Mr. Hendrix attempts to follow the trends of Horror publishing through those years.

    The only complaint I would have relates to the size of the cover images. They are just too small. My wish would be to put larger images of the book covers into this history of the world of horror as represented here.

    If you need motivation to haunt any of those used book stores left, then this book will inspire you to spend whatever lunch money that is left in your pocket to spend on these treasures.

  • Melissa ♥ Dog Lover ♥ Martin

    This book is freaking awesome! There are tons of books in the book that I own or have owned. I have some that I will show. I didn't get all of them out but I will show a few and I will show a few pages of the book. I forgot to add my edition of Carrion Comfort! It's the same edition and it's laying over there and I forgot to get a picture of it. Lol.

    The book tells about the different books and there are sections on different kinds of horror books. There are some that I want to find! Oh well.

    En

    This book is freaking awesome! There are tons of books in the book that I own or have owned. I have some that I will show. I didn't get all of them out but I will show a few and I will show a few pages of the book. I forgot to add my edition of Carrion Comfort! It's the same edition and it's laying over there and I forgot to get a picture of it. Lol.

    The book tells about the different books and there are sections on different kinds of horror books. There are some that I want to find! Oh well.

    Enjoy

    Love it!

    Mel ♥

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