cover image Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of ’70s and ’80s Horror Fiction

Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of ’70s and ’80s Horror Fiction

Grady Hendrix. Quirk, $24.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-59474-981-0

Hendrix, whose novel Horrorstör brought the macabre to big-box Scandinavian furniture stores, returns with this playful history of what he calls the golden era in horror fiction. The book covers the period roughly between the publication of Rosemary’s Baby in 1967 and the release of the film version of The Silence of the Lambs in 1991, the success of which Hendrix says convinced publishers to abandon the label “horror” in favor of “thriller.” With an authoritative but jocular tone, Hendrix examines notable authors, cover artists, and themes. The fun of the book comes from the ample, and invariably lurid, cover-art reproductions included, and the truly ridiculous variety of story lines discussed (in addition to vampires and werewolves, killer rabbits, moths, and embryos make cameo appearances.) Hendrix tracks shifting trends in subject matter, from the Satanic and occult fiction of the late 1960s and early ’70s to the haunted houses of the mid-’70s to the serial slashers of the ’80s. A solid portion of the text is devoted to plot synopses, but these—beginning with one featuring “Nazi leprechauns who enjoy S&M”—are never boring. Like some malevolent force in one of his beloved novels, Hendrix’s geeky enthusiasm is infectious. Unwary readers might find themselves drawn to musty stacks of old paperbacks. Beware. (Sept.)