Zeon Books is an imprint of Zardoz Books, who publish "Paperback, Pulp and Comic Collector". If you've ever read that magazine and revelled in the tacky interest of 40's and 50's paperbacks, you'll want to read THE MUSHROOM JUNGLE. If you want to know about English social life after the War, and how cheap it was, this is the book for you.
Publishing, like every other aspect of life, was controlled by shortages and rationing and in that era many small publishers sprang up to issue original paperbacks in the genres - Westerns, hard-boiled thrillers, pseudo- Tarzan adventures and Parisian smut. Sometimes they overlapped. From what Steve Holland writes, publisher and spiv were pretty well synonymous. The books were cheap-ish, printed on any quality paper, had garishly painted (and usually misleading) covers and sold in tens of thousands, yet almost no- one made any money out of them, authors least of all. Some authors got a living by writing every day and producing one or two books a week; others only produced one book a fortnight in their evenings after coming home from the day job. In some cases the day job was running the publishing and printing companies selling the books. This was the case with Stephen Frances, whose company sold the Hank Janson novels he wrote.
With so many of the paperbacks merging crime with sexuality, they were a likely target for the conservative backlash of the fifties, and some of Holland's best details are of the prosecutions of the Hank Janson books in 1954. The trial was a fix, and the appeal no better: Lord Goddard, presiding, called them "grossly and bestially obscene". This is a strange reference from a man who eighteen months before had sentenced Derek Bentley to death to induce an orgasm.
Looking back, one of the great causes for despair about the post-war boom is that it resulted in no-one being discovered. Apart from some SF, it was all rubbish, unlike the U.S.A where people like Chester Himes, David Goodis and Jim Thompson all made their names in softback originals. I wish I knew why it did not happen here.
I suppose, though, that one author who does mention the pulps as an influence is Colin Wilson, and some of his crime novels such as THE KILLER explore the same depressing background of the post-war years.
I'm glad it's gone, but Steve Holland makes fascinating reading on that troubled era.
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