Episode 12 of the Paperback Show is our final podcast of 2022. In this episode, I look at the four vintage paperbacks that were my favorite reads of the year. I read a lot and don't choose books randomly, so there was a lot of competition. These four paperbacks stood out for their originality and compelling stories/characters. I was particularly impressed by Daphne Du Maurier's novels (see episode 10 with author Greg Herren). I'm still thinking about her stories and characters. I can't recommend Du Maurier more highly for those of you who love to read.
Four Favorite Vintage Paperbacks
My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier, Avon 1972
Perhaps my favorite vintage paperback of the year was My Cousin Rachel by Daphne DuMaurier. Not only was the novel exciting to read, but it was a great pleasure to discover an author whom I’ve dismissed over the years as a “romance novelist”. Oh, boy, was I mistaken. Greg Herren, a professional mystery author, appeared on Ep 10 to discuss this novel with me.
The Great White Space by Basil Copper. Manor, 1976
My second favorite vintage paperback was The Great White Space by Basil Copper. I discovered this British horror author in the fanzine Paperback Fanatic, a great series that emphasizes cover reproductions and forgotten authors. Cooper’s books are not as easy to find at reasonable prices and it took me a while to find a good copy of GWS. Imagine a combination of Jules Verne and H.P. Lovecraft. A Journey to the Center of the Earth with the Old Gods. The story was so engrossing that I ended up catching only a few hours of sleep on the night I started reading this amazing novel. The style is like adventure fiction, but there’s a creepy, undertone to the whole thing. I'm now collecting all of the Basil Copper I can find.
My third favorite vintage paperback is Bugles in the Afternoon by Ernest Haycox. This is a western novel about General Custer and the slaughter at Little Big Horn by a master of the western novel. Haycox was a self-made man who through hard work and intelligence became a best-selling Pulp Western writer. His work carried over into the paperback era. What made him different from the other pulpsters was his attention to detail and his creative variations of western genre tropes. Bugles in the Afternoon is considered his best novel. After having read half a dozen of his books, I tend to agree, although there are some other titles that are of very high quality.
My fourth and final favorite vintage paperback read for 2022 was an extremely unusual novel, Black Easter, or Faust Aleph-Null by James Blish. Although I had read Blish as a science fiction author (His Cities in Flight series of four generation-starship novels are favorites), I had no idea he wrote horror fiction as well. Really though, Black Easter is not so much horror as it is a completely unique blend of the occult, adventure, horror, and philosophical dialogue. If that combination sounds dry, it isn’t in the hands of a master writer like James Blish.
PM Press is a progressive and original publisher that published three books on various paperback topics that, for the most part, have not been covered. The three titles are:
1. Sticking It to the Man: Revolution and Counterculture in Pulp and Popular Fiction, 1950 to 1980 by Andrew Nette and Iain McIntyre
2. Girl Gangs, Biker Boys, and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950 to 1980 by Andrew Nette and Iain McIntyre
3. Dangerous Visions and New Worlds: Radical Science Fiction, 1950 to 1985 by Andrew Nette and Iain McIntyre
I've discovered so many great paperbacks (including 3 of the 4 paperbacks on this favorites list) in these books. I urge you to visit the PW website page for these three titles to find out more.
2023 Paperback Show Topics
Some of the paperback authors I’ll be covering in the podcast are Ross MacDonald, Chester Himes, Barney Rossett, Grove Press Black Cat paperbacks, Ishmael Reed, Ernest Haycox, Basil Copper, Bantam Books, and Ace paranormal/occult paperbacks among others. We’ll have Lisa Morton back along with Richard Brewer and perhaps Duane Swizcerzynski discussing the Black Lizard paperback series. All in all, it looks like a fun year of reading and discussion.
One project I’m very excited about is the paperback classics series. These will be short podcasts on paperbacks that have achieved “classics” status in our culture. Each show will cover the book itself, the paperback publishing history, the author, and why the book has become a classic. We will not only cover fiction but non-fiction as well. Paperback classics like “The Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson and “The Art of Loving by Eric Fromm” will be featured. Look for the series to start up in March of 2023