Review: “Paperbacks from Hell” by Grady Hendrix

Thumbs up for Paperbacks from Hell: the Twisted History of ’70s and ’80s Horror Fiction by Grady Hendrix. Literary history.

When I requested an advance reader’s copy of this from the publisher, my expectations were low. It might have been a boring catalog of authors and publishers. Or it might have centered around mocking old horror paperback cover art, while being light on historical detail. I’m pleased to say it’s neither. Firstly, it is an exceptionally informative and well-organized reference work: arranged partly in chronological order but also by theme, in a way that lends itself well both to cover-to-cover reading but also to quick reference if you should want to, for example, read about the important influence of the gothic romance, or find the best books featuring evil clowns. Secondly, the author seems to have actually read the books he talks about. From time to time he will wax rhapsodic about a book or series in a way that shows his genuine passion for the genre. I appreciate that. I don’t read horror, but Hendrix made me want to read some of these books. And lastly, but importantly: Paperbacks from Hell is incredibly entertaining. I laughed at so many things I shouldn’t have. (I won’t tell you what, because your opinion of me is probably low enough already.) I immediately purchased a copy for my store’s reference library and one for a Christmas present. If you’re even remotely interested in the topic, don’t pass this book by.

Many women make their way through this minefield of potential hazards with the guidance of their doctor. But the horror novels of this era warn women that their doctors were less likely to write a prescription than to hire a hitman to run them over because they threatened to blow the lid off their baby mill operation. The horror-novel OB/GYN is remote and cold. His name is Dr. Borg or Dr. Kabel, and he works at the Karyll Clinic, which sounds like a location in a David Cronenberg movie. He spends Christmas Day alone, and he’s probably having an incestuous affair with his sister. If you are visiting a fertility clinic that has a conveyor belt running directly from the delivery room to what everyone refers to as “the Off-Limits Building,” find another doctor.

I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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