Friday, February 29, 2008

The Paperback Fanatic #6

If you're interested in the history of genre publishing, as I am, let me recommend the new issue of The Paperback Fanatic #6, 42 large size pages packed with a look at British genre publishing in the 70's and 80's.

The major focus is on a long interview with the recently deceased Peter Haining. He began as a Fleet Street newspaperman, decided to free-lance genre paperbacks and then went on to become the editor who had a hand in creating everything from the famous western series Edge to introducing a the next step up in mass market soft core. In the course of the fascinating interview, you hear such well-known names as Christopher Priest and Peter Tremayne--appearing here in their younger days--and a number of colorful, occasionaly certifiably insane paperback hacks who ground out whatever Haining needed. They even managed to turn up an old-fashioned bigot to write a series of action novels starring Skinheads. Fortunately for everybody, it flopped.

There's also a history of the name Peter Saxon, how it all started with Sexton Blake, its many variables and guises in the 60s, 70s and 80s. Again if you like tales of hackery--as I do--this one is rich with desperate men and women grinding out novels for a living.

Phillip Hartbottle, editor of the 70s science fiction magazines, gives us a lengthy overview of the magazine's history. He also looks at the sf trends of that decade. Choice stuff.

Editor Justin Marriott is in the process of creating one of the most important magazines non-fiction genre magazines ever. And because theincidents here are set in London they all sound classier than they probably were. :)


Martin Edwards said...

Sounds very interesting. I don't know this magazine, but will certainly check it out.

Unknown said...

You're right. From a distance, the view of London probably is a lot classier than it was.

In 1961, fresh from school as Keith Chapman (my rn), I became Bill Baker's one-boy staff on the Sexton Blake detective series. As a long-time reader of it (from age 9) I thought I was going to be in heaven. I soon discovered it was, as Paperback Fanatic says in its website preview, just a "murky world". You could almost make that underworld.

The Peter Saxon, W. A. Ballinger and other bylines were already being used -- sometimes abused -- on the work of Wilfred McNeilly, Vic Hanson, Syd Bounds and others. I think they are all now sadly departed, some at comparatively early ages (e.g. Philip Chambers).

Today, in the footsteps of Hanson and Bounds, I write what I like to think of as slightly noir-ish westerns, like Ghost Town Belles and the Misfit Lil series, for Hale's Black Horse Westerns (and the large-print reissues of them). I'm glad we still have that last market and promote it as fully as I can at the website.

Ed Gorman said...

I should have noted that I've done more than my share of house name "hackery" as well. I use the term affectionately. I always took/take every assignment seriously and do the best I can with it. By "hackery" I mean books you probably wouldn't be writing for any reason but money. The trick then is to make them personal and meaningful while you're doing them. There'sa good hack work and cynical-bad hack work. At least to me.

Anonymous said...


Any chance of answering a few questions about your Sexton Blake days? Maybe on this blog with permission for me to reprint them in The Fanatic?