A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Friday, October 30, 2020

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- Paperbacks From Hell: The Twisted History of 70s and 80s Horror Fiction by Grady Hendrix- Feature and Review


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 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. It’s an affectionate, nostalgic, and unflinchingly funny celebration of the horror fiction boom of two iconic decades, complete with story summaries and artist and author profiles. You’ll find familiar authors, like V. C. Andrews and R. L. Stine, and many more who’ve faded into obscurity. Plus recommendations for 
which of these forgotten treasures are well worth your reading time and which should stay buried.



Paperbacks from Hell: A History of Horror Fiction from the '70s and '80sPaperbacks from Hell: A History of Horror Fiction from the '70s and '80s by Grady Hendrix
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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- ‘The Little Girl Who Lived Down the Lane’ 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: ‘Kate’s House’ by Harriet Waugh and ‘Let’s Go Play at the Adams’ by Mendal W. Johnson- (Tonight the kids are taking care of the babysitter!)

Let’s not forget killer animals though- remember Jaws? Of course, you do. How about ‘The Rats’ 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 ‘Zebra’ 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.





Grady Hendrix is the author of "Horrorstör" the only novel about a haunted Scandinavian furniture superstore you'll ever need. It has been translated into 14 languages and is being made into a TV show by Gail Berman ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer"), Charlie Kaufman ("Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"), and Josh Schwartz ("Gossip Girl"). His next novel is "My Best Friend's Exorcism," about demonic possession, friendship, exorcism, and the Eighties. It's out from Quirk Books in May, 2016.

His stories about UFO cults, killer Chinese parasites, Cthulhu dating your mom, and super-genius human-hating apes have appeared in Lightspeed Magazine, Strange Horizons, Pseudopod, and "The Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination."

He's co-author (along with his wife) of the award-winning "Dirt Candy: A Cookbook," the world's first graphic novel cookbook.

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