Sin-a-Rama: Sleaze Sex Paperbacks of the Sixties — Expanded Edition

sinaramaFollowing its now-even-meatier reissue of It’s a Man’s World: Men’s Adventure Magazines, The Postwar Pulps last summer, the ever-mighty indie publisher Feral House does the same to Sin-a-Rama: Sleaze Sex Paperbacks of the Sixties, edited by B. Astrid Daley and Adam Parfrey. Both are excellent curios of the seedier side of American popular culture; if you can afford only one, turn tricks until the two adorn your bookshelf.

First published in 2004, Sin-a-Rama takes a deep dive into the “forgotten black sheep of the publishing industry,” notes Parfrey: the X-rated paperback novel. Carrying such come-on titles as ESP Orgy, The Rape Club and Sexplosion, the whack books became so popular that one house was cranking them out at the rate of 50 per month, not to mention a magazine every day.

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EURO COMICS ROUNDUP >> Valentina’s Day

crepax1THE COMPLETE CREPAX: DRACULA, FRANKENSTEIN, AND OTHER HORROR STORIES from Fantagraphics is, if the rest of the 10-volume magnum opus are of this quality, the first volley of Euro comics publication event of the decade. Now theoretically, IDW’s printing of Hugo Pratt’s Corto Maltese books might qualify, if most of those had not already been published in earlier editions. What makes this series so spectacular is that it brings a somewhat neglected auteur to a rather unparalleled focus for the U.S. readership.

I’d not read anything by the man before this. I was vaguely aware of his work, but having assigned it all into a box of badly drawn sex comics, this volume is nothing short of revelatory.

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Hellboy in Mexico

hellboymexicoHellboy creator Mike Mignola adds to the story collections of his character before his recent banishment in Hell by gathering the stories taking place in Mexico and publishing them together for the first time.

The unifying concept of HELLBOY IN MEXICO is revealed in the opening title story. In 1956 Hellboy, still an agent with the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD) was dispatched to Mexico to investigate a series of mass killings. He disappeared for almost half a year and would later claim to have little or no memory of what happened during the five month “drunken blur.”

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Graven Images

gravenimagesJane Waterhouse takes us inside the little-explored world of a true-crime author in GRAVEN IMAGES, the debut title of her Garner Quinn series, now reissued in trade paperback. It’s a complex story of murder that impressively combines suspense with probing commentary on the nature of truth and its retelling after the fact.

Bestselling true-crime author Garner Quinn is attending the South Carolina trail of a murder suspect, the subject of her latest book, as the novel opens. But as the trial continues the media is dominated with reports of another crime. Popular and enigmatic artist Dane Blackmoor is accused of dismembering women and hiding their body parts in his lifelike sculptures. Everyone around her is certain Garner will make the Blackmoor story her next book. But Garner hesitates due her complicated past with Blackmoor.

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Warlock Holmes: A Study in Brimstone

warlockholmesAmerican author Gabriel Denning signs his name “G. S. Denning” to assume a more British persona in WARLOCK HOLMES: A STUDY IN BRIMSTONE, his comedy/horror version of Arthur Conan Doyle’s immortal detective. The concept is limited. So, not surprisingly, most of the humor in this debut work is forced and overplayed. Holmes purists, beware.
Like the Conan Doyle originals, Denning’s book is a series of short stories. In the title story Dr. John Watson meets and soon shares lodgings at Baker Street with Warlock Holmes. It isn’t long before Watson discovers his new friend’s unique ability. Holmes has an impressive – although often irritating – knowledge of demons. In fact, as Watson eventually learns, Holmes is possessed by the spirit of Professor James Moriarty, a master demonic criminal.

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EURO COMICS ROUNDUP >> Incal-culably Good

beforeincalIf you love comics, THE INCAL by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Jean “Moebius” Giraud, is an absolutely essential work. Its complex but highly entertaining creativity remains unparalleled in comics form, written by a madman in full control of all his faculties and illustrated by a visionary channeling his subconscious through his pen into sequential art. 

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The Audacious Crimes of Colonel Blood: The Spy Who Stole the Crown Jewels and Became the King’s Secret Agent

audaciouscrimesRobert Hutchinson has made a delightful career out of writing closely-grained stylishly written histories of various figures, both famous (YOUNG HENRY: THE RISE OF HENRY VIII) and others that may only be known to students of the era, such as the book under review, THE AUDACIOUS CRIMES OF COLONEL BLOOD. With Col. Thomas Blood, Hutchinson has a real corker of a character to describe.

In the late 1660s, Thomas Blood joined forces with a small group of other disaffected men and decided to overthrow the government and the King. They were largely ineffective, sometimes hilariously so, and Hutchinson relishes telling us the details of their failures. But they were still dangerous men. At one point, they nearly killed the Duke of Ormond, an act which brought Parliament and a hefty reward down on their heads.

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112263I haven’t been a fan of Stephen King’s novels for a long, long time.
Don’t get me wrong: His early books – SALEM’S LOT, THE DEAD ZONE, THE STAND, THE SHINING – are masterpieces. I would rank SALEM’S LOT as one of the top 5 vampire novels of all time. CUJO was a misstep (really, a whole novel about a rabid dog?), but Pet Sematary was good. Flawed, but good.
The early 1980s is when King’s work started to decline. Books with a thin premise more suited to a short story (CUJO, CHRISTINE, GERALD’S GAME) became full length novels. And the books that had an epic concept to carry a novel (e.g. IT) went on far too long. King’s novels became bloated and self-indulgent (TOMMYKNOCKERS, INSOMMNIA). What happened was, King became so successful that no editor would dare tell him to cut his work down.

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Murder on the Quai

murderquaiCara Black has written 15 previous novels featuring her Parisian female private detective Aimée Leduc, but her latest, MURDER ON THE QUAI, is a prequel to the entire series. It shows just how Aimée became a PI, giving up her medical studies, and following in her father’s footsteps. For those who love the series, this will be an especially refreshing entry, and for casual readers, you can treat it as a first step before you take on the rest of Leduc’s adventures.

In this tale, Aimée stumbles on her father talking to an apparently long-lost second cousin. This cousin wants pére Leduc to look into the execution-style murder of a local businessman. Aimée is intrigued, because the woman hints she may have know Aimée’s mother, who disappeared from father and daughter’s life long ago.

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Murder at the 42nd Street Library

murder42libraryLibraries have long been a favorite setting for murder mysteries. Michael Cart’s 2003 anthology IN THE STACKS includes Anthony Boucher’s short story “QL 696.C9” as one of countless examples of stories where murder occurs amidst the otherwise civilized and quiet housing of books and other reference materials.

Now Con Lehane, author of the popular mystery series featuring New York bartender Brian McNulty, continues this tradition with MURDER AT THE 42ND STREET LIBRARY, the first title of a new series introducing Raymond Ambler, librarian and amateur sleuth. And if this classically titled debut is any indication, it is a series that lovers of crime fictions will want to follow.

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