Why I Dig Vintage Sleaze Books
First, the covers — everyone loves those retro sexy covers. Well, a lot of people do; some puritans and provincals do not.
They just don’t do covers like these anymore — some try, some try to be retro sleaze, but an artist (and writer) needed to be working in the 1950s-60s to get the feel Rader or Bonfills did.
I have been fascinated by the sleaze paperback era for many years, wondering what it would be like to work as a writer back then, making good money for sex words. I have done a lot of freelancing that is similar — I’ve written two dozen Blue Moon books under my name and a couple pen names, have done house name men’s adventures and westerns, have done one paranormal romance that I will never reveal, and a bunch of ghost-wrting. However, the pay on these have not changed since the 1950s and do not reflect inflation, so while I have made enough to live modest as a writer, I am not making what these guys did back then. Much of it has to do with distribution — back then they could get 100s of thousnads of copies of a single book on newsstands all over the country, and they were snatched up fast, few were returned unsold. Everyone was making profit and when the Mafia got wind of it and stuck their ginny noses into the biz, they fucked it up and it’s never been the same. Plus, with changing laws back then in censorship, landmark cases opening the way to more explicit books, the whole “taboo” aspect of erotic literature is no longer there. It’s no longer a “sin” with little “shame” attached. Erotic books today sell commercially in the 5-15,000 copy mark; books that do well sell 20-40K copies, but never reach 100K like the old books did.
I’ve written a few articles on the era, about Greenleaf, about the writers, in the San Diego Reader, SF Studies, and the New York Review of Science Fiction.
But it’s also the covers!
And some of the wrting ain’t bad, some even quite good, and that’s what I will discuss in this blog over the next year or two, which will culminate in a critical monograph at some point.