Author: Grady Hendrix, Will Errickson
Publisher: Quirk Books
First Published: September 19, 2017
Genres: History, Horror, Pop Culture
Take a tour through the horror paperback novels of two iconic decades . . . 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 Grady Hendrix offers killer commentary and witty insight on these trashy thrillers that tried so hard to be the next Exorcist or Rosemary’s Baby. Complete with story summaries and artist and author profiles, this unforgettable volume dishes on familiar authors like V. C. Andrews and R. L. Stine, plus many more who’ve faded into obscurity. Also included are recommendations for which of these forgotten treasures are well worth your reading time and which should stay buried.
I love horror, it’s the genre that first caught my attention as a young girl after I got my hands on my very first Goosebumps book in the nineties. I keenly remember admiring all of the eye-catching illustrated covers on dusty used horror paperbacks, by then relegated to discount piles at bookstores. I didn’t have much access to them, and as I grew older those old paperbacks steadily disappeared.
Paperbacks from Hell was a fun exploration of the history of the horror paperback boom of the seventies and eighties, a wonderous time for horror fans as many classics of the genre were brought to life on the page and on the big screen. The book is divided by subject, from haunted houses to evil children, Hendrix provides an in-depth look into what made these genres famous while highlighting some of the real-world events that contributed to the anxieties of the time. Because of the way the book is formatted it is a bit difficult to pin down a timeline, and I would have very much liked it if the book spent more time discussing the events that inspired these books.
Horror is a woman’s genre, and it has been all the way back to the oldest horror novel…
More than just a history primer, this book makes for a great coffee table book with all of the dazzling scans of book covers. I appreciated that there were highlights about some notable cover artists sprinkled throughout the chapter, paying homage to the often uncredited and underappreciated artists that sell books with their work.
My one hang-up was that occasionally the synopsis for books would veer into spoiler territory, where the entire plot including the ending is described. It was only for a few books but was inconvenient for ones that I was thinking about trying to find so that I could read them for myself. It’s one thing to talk about some of the more zany events in the novel to provide an example of the writing style at the time and to showcase the campy nature of some of the books, but giving away the entire story is a bit of a bummer.
Either way, this is an easy recommendation for fans of horror, for those that grew up during the horror paperback boom, and for those that have yet to discover it. It’s a fun time looking back at how the industry has changed and rediscovering an era of publishing that has started to be forgotten over time. My TBR has ballooned after discovering new authors and titles from this book and I can’t wait to start exploring.
Trigger Warning: Descriptions of Gore, Sexual Content, Child Abuse, Physical Abuse, Animal Abuse, Gore