Grady Hendrix with Will Errickson “Paperbacks from Hell” Review

Posted: December 9, 2017 in Reviews, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , ,

BOOK INFO

Length: 256 Pages

Publisher: Quirk Books

Release Date: September 19, 2017

Review copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

Paperbacks from Hell is a nonfiction book from author Grady Hendrix and Will Errickson – who runs the excellent blog Too Much Horror Fiction – that tells the history of ’70s and ’80s horror fiction. When Quirk contacted me asking if I would be interested in reviewing this, I jumped at the chance. Besides having one of the coolest names for this sort of book, I was hooked by the cover which features vintage horror covers and an embossed title design that gives a nod to the paperbacks this book highlights. I have always been impressed with the quality of books that Quirk puts out, and between the design elements and the well-researched history from Hendrix, Paperbacks from Hell is another excellent addition to their catalog.

My introduction to the horror genre was through R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series and Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark which featured the unsettling, yet utterly terrific illustrations of Stephen Gammell. I remember when we would have free reading periods at school and we got to choose any book the teacher had available, kids would practically trample each other trying to get their hands on those books. I would spend as much money as my parents would give me to buy these books by the armful at the Scholastic Book Fairs that used to come once a year and that was what sparked my horror fiction obsession. Around that same time, I also found myself drawn to the weird, the unexplained and anything considered scary. I was diving into books about aliens, cryptids, hauntings, you name it. I was hooked and that love for horror and weird stuff also mirrored my love for reading, something that I think people should keep in mind when looking down on horror – or any genre – for that matter.

Paperbacks from Hell is sort of structured chronologically, but it’s mainly broken up into sections about the prevalent themes in horror at that time like satanism, creepy kids, animals, and serial killers just to name a few. The section that really surprised me the most was “When Animals Attack”. Sure, I knew of some of the big hitters like Cujo and Jaws and the animals that were most likely to make for prime horror antagonists – vicious dogs, massive bears, and other animals capable of inflicting large amounts of damage. What surprised me the most was the variety of some of these novels and the willingness to take just about any animal or insect and use them as the centerpiece of a horror novel. There were towering mantises, slugs, ants, or even moths. I mean, how exactly could moths be scary? Well, Hendrix is happy to let readers know.

I also enjoyed the section on V.C. Andrews because I grew up around her books. I had never read any of them, but my mom has just about every V.C. Andrews paperback available and I always saw her reading them. I never in a million years would have thought she was connected to the horror genre and it was interesting to learn not just about how her books fit into the genre’s history, but her life too. Had I known that I was sitting on a potential goldmine of gothic novels, I probably would have gotten into horror even sooner then I did.

Besides the incredibly entertaining take on horror fiction from Hendrix, one of the highlights of this book is the cover art that is included throughout. Many of the covers come from Errickson’s own personal collection, but the scans are extremely vivid and high quality and are given as much emphasis as the text which makes for a visually stunning and engaging book. Besides highlighting some of the noteworthy cover styles of the era, there is also some special treats in their for horror fiction fans that appreciate the cover art. This includes cover art that has never before been published (it was either scrapped or altered) and also previously unpublished sketches of horror covers. In edition to chronicling the books and writers that left their imprint on the genre, there are also sections that highlight some of the most prominent cover artists of the time with interesting nuggets of information throughout.

I’ll be honest, I’m young enough that a lot of these authors are completely new to me. I have heard of most of them, but have only read books from a select few. However, that is exactly why a book like Paperbacks from Hell is such an important book. Not only does it serve as an interesting look back at books that more experienced horror fans may know and love, it serves as an excellent primer for those who may not know of all the great and talented writers of past decades. I know from reading this book, it has ignited something inside me much like the first time I read the Goosebumps series. My eyes were opened to a variety of writers and now I am determined to go back and discover some of these authors. I’m also pretty obsessed at seeking out original copies of some of the novels mentioned within.

While the book is highly informative, make no mistake, this is not just a dry, blow by blow account of horror fiction’s history. Instead of reading like a rigid textbook, Hendrix imbues every page with interesting facts and humor that make this book highly entertaining. If you’re a horror fiction fan or someone who is looking to explore the genre for the first time, Paperbacks from Hell is an absolutely essential addition to your library. This is definitely one of the most enjoyable books I have read this year and if you know someone who is a horror fan, this would make a great gift for the holidays!

Rating: 5/5

LINKS

Grady Hendrix – Official Website

Too Much Horror Fiction

Quirk Books – Official Website

Purchase Paperbacks from Hell: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or grab a copy from your favorite local bookstore! 

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Comments
  1. I read Paperbacks from Hell last month & really loved it! Completely agreed with your review. I’m in my twenties so I wasn’t super familiar with horror publishing from the 70s & 80s so I definitely learned a lot! – Rachel

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