Thursday, December 14, 2017

Book Review: Paperbacks from Hell by Grady Hendrix

So I think this might actually be the first nonfiction book I’ve reviewed, but if I’m going to toss one of those in the mix it might as well be a doozy such as this one.

Before I get into the actual review, I have to mention I had the pleasure of seeing Hendrix do a presentation for this book at Mysterious Galaxy, and it was without a doubt the most entertaining author event I’ve ever been to. Words can not describe…but lets just say if I had randomly wandered into the bookstore that night not knowing a thing about this book I would have bought it after just a few minutes into this maniacally organized presentation. I’m not sure if Hendrix is still doing events for this book, but if he is, and if he’s coming to your town, you’d be a damned fool to skip it. Would I lie to you?

Quirk has done a bang-up job with this book. From the gorgeous embossed cover to the beautiful reproductions of the infamous covers throughout the pages, they weren’t skimping on the professionalism here. And these aspects alone would make this a good coffee table book. Luckily, the content is just as entertaining as the book is easy on the eyes. She’s got beauty and brains, folks.

The thing that immediately strikes me is Hendrix’s enthusiasm for the material. This wasn’t just sheer research (though, yes, there was much research to be done). This was a true labor of love. Hendrix seemingly knows every minute detail of practically every book he mentions, from the names of the people who created the cover art to (in the case of some authors) what happened to the “one-hit wonders” of horror fiction. And the best aspect of Hendrix’s writing is that he effortlessly speaks about these books with a keen sense of humor. I chuckled more times than I could count, and it’ll reel me in to read this book again eventually.

Though I’ve read my fair share of obscure horror novels, I realized after reading Paperback from Hell that I am just an amateur and have much catching up to do. There were at least a dozen books with descriptions that made my jaw drop at how full-blown bonkers they were, ones that I now must try to hunt down in some dusty old used bookstore (SO many books in the “Hail Satan” chapter, for instance. Yowza.)

If I were to voice one small complaint, it would be that I thought Hendrix was a tiny bit dismissive of Splatterpunk. I wish he had delved into the subversive elements of this sub-genre a bit more, as it’s a very important movement to me, and most of the first-wave Splatterpunk authors are my biggest personal influences. To be fair, he did name a few authors who stood out to him, so I could just be taking it personal, as Hendrix took plenty of digs at other sub-genres. I also thought Rex Miller’s Slob got the short end of the stick (despite giving it so much page space, which I do applaud Hendrix for). I just feel this novel deserves more respect, as it’s one of my all-time favorites. Really, though, at this point I’m just nitpicking so I don’t sound like I’m giving Hendrix a massage with a happy ending. Time for me to shut up.

You probably already know if you want this book or not. There’s a pretty specific audience for it. The average soccer mom probably isn’t going to be too into this. However, if you are within the target audience and were on the fence, trust me…it’s well worth your hard-earned cash.

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