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Thursday, February 16, 2017

THE FANATIC OF OZ

THE FANATIC OF OZ
EDITOR JUSTIN MARRIOT COMES OUT FROM BEHIND
THE CURTAIN OF THE PAPERBACK FANATIC
TO TALK ABOUT GENRE MAGAZINE PUBLISHING
 
The history of fanzines is long and varied, peppered with amateur efforts—some of which verge on illiterate. I too have participated in my share of fanzines, self-publishing both The Thieftaker Journals and Brass Knuckles during my earliest infatuations with genre fiction, especially the men's adventure paperbacks of the ‘70s and ‘80s. The Executioner, the Destroyer, the Penetrator, and many other paperback original series were cranked out during the time period it was hard to keep track of them all. However, since they were considered disposable fiction, very little was written about them, nor was there any exploration of their wide appeal.
 
Occasionally, a publication will rise above the level of fanzine to become a genuine contribution to the genre. One of my first exposure to this level of zine was Hardboiled Magazine, originally created and published by Wayne D. Dundee, which published some of my earliest fiction. Hardboiled Magazine was later continued by Gary Lovisi under his Gryphon Books imprint, which has produced numerous publications of specific interest.
 
But there is another series of zines I have found to be exactly what I’m looking for when it comes to plumbing the depths of genre fiction. The Paperback Fanatic, Pulp Horror, Sleazy Reader, and especially Men of Violence are all zines published and edited in England by the uber knowledgeable Justin Marriott. All of these zines are dedicated to collecting and sharing knowledge of pulp paperbacks from the ‘60s and ‘70s. Jam-packed with author interviews and articles about the weird and wonderful books from the era, these zines are bursting with previously undocumented information and loaded with reproductions of many rarely seen covers.
 
These zines are all published with limited print runs and have become a valuable commodity for true collectors of the genre. Back issues are often sold out and hard to find through the usual secondhand book and magazine sites.
 
The current six issue run of Men of Violence is Justin Marriott’s latest venture into the documenting of genre fiction. Alongside his mothership zine, The Paperback Fanatic, Men of Violence  examines everything from the most successful paperback series of the era—including Don Pendleton's Executioner, Stuart Jason's Butcher, and Paul Edwards' John Eagle: Expeditor—to many lesser known series, including a number that were the pseudonymous training grounds for some of today’s bestselling authors—who would often prefer to have these early effort kicked into a dark dungeon and ignored.
 
There are also articles on some of the cut rate paperback publishing houses of the day, who frequently ground out these series as quickly as possible to maximize profits. One example is Manor Books, which published some of the genre's sleaziest series, including Kill Squad, Bronson, and Kung Fu starring Mace. Other examples include genre legend Peter McCurtin's long running Marksman series from Belmont Tower, and many adult western series from the king publisher of paperback original, Pinnacle Books.
 
Justin also liberally splashes black and white reproductions throughout his zines of the startling cover art—the sizzle on the outside that sold the often unfulfilled promise on the inside—which is an integral part of the men’s adventure paperback genre. To many collectors, the focus on these covers and their artists is of equal importance, sometimes more so, than the stories beneath the covers.
 
A somewhat reticent and unassuming personality, Justin Marriott has agreed to give us a glimpse behind the scenes of his mini-publishing empire, the books he chooses to highlight, and his thought process behind short print runs and the importance of his end product. This is a big deal for those of us who admire his publications. It isn’t often the Wizard of Genre speaks out, preferring to allow his work to usually speak for itself—which it does...loudly.
 
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Justin, would you be willing to reveal a few personal details about your background and your world?
 
Paul, thanks for the kind words about my fanzines and the Oz analogy, but I can’t help but think that at the climax of Wizard of Oz, when the curtain is pulled back, the Wizard is revealed as a fraud rather than some all-powerful and all-seeing deity...I suspect this interview may well lead the reader to a similar conclusion.
 
I’m a pretty average Joe, late 40s, married with two young daughters and living in a coastal town in the West of England called Portishead (yes, the famous band comes from these parts). The day job is for a large financial organization where I work in a project team focused on the Digital arm of the company. 
 
I was seriously ill with cancer in my late 30s, which was something of wake-up call and made me re-focus on what was important to me. So my spare time is split between my family, trying to keep fit (I tried taking up boxing last year, but getting my ribs broken just before Xmas, whilst sparring with someone who knew what they were doing, soon put a stop to that), and of course, producing my fanzines.
 
What was your first exposure to genre fiction?
 
I was a voracious reader from an early age, especially of comics, a habit I inherited from my dad. He would buy the UK weeklies, which repackaged US Marvel material such as Hulk and Spider-Man. He read them on his lunch-hour whilst doing his job of repairing TV sets. I would raid his van and steal these whenever I got the chance. He would also buy me UK originated comics, of which two titles were hugely influential in shaping my outlook as an adult—Action (no, not the DC one) and 2000 AD
 
I guess some of your readers may be familiar with 2000 AD in which Judge Dredd was the lead character? Beyond Dredd, the early issues were extremely anarchic, filled with dark humour and satire, and illustrated with free-wheeling art owing more to the European school of illustration than the normal staid approach seen in most UK comics. People of my generation will talk about 2000 AD in the way American teenagers of the 1950s talk about the early Mad magazine. To continue with your Wizard of Oz analogy, 2000 AD pulled back the curtain on authority figures, celebrities, and TV advertising.
 
I can’t imagine Action will be even remotely familiar to your readers, but for UK readers it will be remembered as a comic banned by the authorities. Decades after the ‘seduction of the innocent’ scandal in the US, which saw horror comics banned, the UK had its own equivalent. A predecessor to 2000 AD, Action was a short-lived adventure comic in the mid-70s, which carried serial strips the writers based on the templates of successful films—many with ratings the readers of Action were too young to see them at the cinema (this was before the age of video). 
 
The comic contained thinly-disguised versions of Dirty Harry, Rollerball, and Jaws to name but a few. Hook-Jaw (guess which film this riffed on) in particular, was super-gory, with gnawed-off limbs, shredded heads, and exploding bodies regularly depicted. The shark was the anti-hero. Action’s anti-establishment ethos was punk rock in the form of a black and white comic.
 
The publishers hated it, but kept it going despite negative coverage in the news (It was described as the “seven-penny nightmare” by a leading newspaper) because of its huge sales volumes. However, one strip in particular, Kids Rule OK—a post-apocalyptic version of Lord of the Flies—bought it all crashing down. The offending issue carried an image of a chain-swinging teenager standing over a cowering figure with a policeman’s helmet in the fore-ground. The publishers had no choice but to act and immediately withdrew the comic. One of my earliest memories is being told by the newsstand owner my comic had been banned. As an eight-year old, I couldn’t grasp this concept, but it was instrumental in planting an anti-authoritarian seed in my brain.
 
Like most boys of my age, I grew up a huge fan of the UK TV program Dr Who. I would think the novelizations of Doctor Who were the first genre books I encountered. These were in the form of hardbacks loaned from the local library. I would read them cover to cover in a day. Even at that early age, I started to identify which authors I preferred—with Terrence Dicks, the creator of the Daleks, being a favourite. The cover art, stippled and dynamic images from Chris Achilleos, such as a pterodactyl with a Kklak! sound effect, were also very attractive to me. 
 
There was a big, out-of-town discount superstore my parents would take me and my younger brother to in the ‘70s. It was an asbestos riddled maze, which included a large stationery department with several spinner-rack of paperbacks. These boasted the distinctive saw-cut in the edges to show they were warehouse remainders, and sold at less than cover price. We would be given our pocket-money and then spend hours choosing pens and paper (with which to draw our own comics) and perusing the paperbacks. I remember buying New English Library editions of Edgar Rice Burroughs, specifically Tarzan and Synthetic Men of Mars. The latter, I found tremendously exciting to read with hero John Carter trapped in the body of one of the synthetic men and taking part in gladiatorial battles. 
 
The first book I remember being passed around at school, like dog-eared contraband in a prison camp handed over with a conspiratorial nod and a wink, was Chopper, another New English Library book. This outlaw-biker classic was first published in 1971, but I’m talking about 1979 when I was ten, so it’s little wonder it was held together by Sellotape and spit after so many years in circulation. A biker version of Macbeth, replete with explicit sex and violence, it was entirely inappropriate for a ten-year old, which is exactly why it was so wonderful. Decades later, I discovered the author of Chopper had lived around the corner from me for many years. 
 
A similar youth-cult book was Skinhead, which on top of the sex and violence was deeply racist. When my parents found it and flicked through it, they disapproved and made me donate it to a yard-sale. My parents were very liberal, allowing me to watch Hammer horror films and turning a blind eye to my girlie magazine collection (a few years later), so I knew the book must have been bad for them to confiscate it. I wonder if my whole path of a life in pursuit of rare and unusual paperbacks was mapped out at this point. 
 
I bought Skinhead at Read ‘n Return, a used book store which made its money from the huge selection of skin-mags displayed at the back of the shop—off-limits to the likes of me. It was guarded by a grizzled Alsatian dog the size of a bear. Although the owner was cool, I later heard he sold all sorts of highly dubious material under-the-counter. He also stocked comics, which is why I had started to frequent the place. He would give you half back on your purchase price if you returned the comics for re-sale. The boxes of older returned comics were an absolute treasure-trove to any teenager on a budget.
 
I purchased my first book outside of my parent’s supervision there—Reign of Hell by Sven Hassel. I have no idea how I knew about this book, but it was part of a fifteen-odd book series purportedly based on true events surrounding a German penal regiment. With a colourful gallery of rogues, a strange mish-mash of extreme gore and anti-war preaching, this was the book I fervently pushed into other kid’s hands. It spawned a whole genre in the UK, with any number of English authors adopting Germanic pseudonyms to tell their own gritty stories of German Stormtroopers, with Leo Kessler being the most successful example.
The first brand-new, full price book I can recollect buying was Killer Crabs by Guy Smith, whose pulp horror novels are something of a cult to this day. It’s became popular to knock Smith, but his books were very commercially successful and exactly what any morbid and horny teenager was looking for as a slim but outrageous read. I bought it from Woolworths whilst on a family caravanning holiday along the South coast of England. After a day on the beach, I would read it before bed, and can still remember the feel of the sleeping-bag against my sun-burned arms. Strange what memories and associations we carry with us.
 
Throughout this time, I never kept the books I read. I saw them as disposable, taking them back to the Read n Return or to swap with friends. It’s only been in the last 15 years I’ve proactively begun to collect and accumulate paperbacks. However, I may keep the books (I own in excess of 15,000 paperbacks), but I take little care of them. People expect me to have them stored in Mylar bags and filed away in alphabetical order, but the reality is they are randomly piled up in my garage, which always causes me a giant headache whenever I try to locate a particular title amongst the chaos. I will often read a book in the bath, which will typically end up dog-eared and/or dropped in the water.
 
Right now we are planning to move house, and most of my books have been boxed up for the best part of 6 months. The garage looks like a low-budget version of the warehouse in the final scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark.
 
What made you decide to start your first zine and with what goal?
 
From a young age, I always produced comics and fanzines. However, the first I printed in any quantity and distributed was in the late 1990s. Bomba Movies was dedicated to reviews of exploitation movies. It lasted seven issues, of which the first six were free of charge to anyone sending me a SAE (stamped and addressed envelope). 
 
At this point in time, there was an active underground in the UK trading and duplicating horror video tapes, which were not legally available. This trend resulted in a hot-bed of related, photo-copied, fanzines springing into existence. These were mostly dedicated to European horror films, which were often viewed as grainy fifth-generation bootlegs, or in foreign language from being picked up on holidays in Greece or Italy. Many of the fanzines were little more than plot summaries focused on descriptions of the goriest scenes. They also covered the same old films over and over with little insight or originality. 
 
Bomba Movies was intended as a riposte to these. It was intentionally crude and opinionated, with a collage layout of comic panels and movies posters juxtaposed with speech bubbles and headlines from other sources. It was more in line with punk rock fanzines, but without the politics. It was also important to me not to charge for the zine. It cost me about £50 to run off a hundred copies, which as a single man was something I was happy to write off. I look back now and cringe at the humor, but at the time it gained something of a cult following due to its attitude.  
 
It’s difficult to summarize in a paragraph, but at the time ‘video nasties’ were the bete-noir of the UK tabloid press. They were often blamed for some terrible copy-cat crimes, and anyone owning copies was running the risk of a dawn-raid by Trading Standards and the Police. This may seem like exaggeration, especially now when you can probably buy a director’s cut DVD of Cannibal Holocaust from Amazon. However, in the hysterical atmosphere in the UK of the day, you could get arrested for owning a copy. The editor of the most popular UK horror film fanzine, Samhain, lost his job as a nursery assistant when the local paper ran an ‘expose’ on him and his literate and considered publication. 
 
I gave it up when a correspondent who ran a fanzine mail-order distribution service told me the police had visited him and when they saw Bomba Movies immediately identified it as a “snuff movie catalogue” and wanted to know where it came from! He never coughed my name up, but I would have lost my job if I had been associated with the debacle. As a result, I immediately destroyed my video collection and stopped publishing.
 
What has been the reception to The Paperback Fanatic and how has its focus changed over the course of 36 issues?
 
I originally published The Paperback Fanatic back in 2007 because no-one else was publishing anything like it. Although a regular reader, I had spent the previous decades collecting horror fanzines and comics. My paperback reading was mainly modern crime authors such as James Elroy and Andrew Vachss. Whilst browsing the book section of a charity shop, I stumbled across a handful of New English Library outlaw biker paperbacks, which I had so avidly read in the 1970s. I purchased them all.
 
I then began searching for information on the publisher and the authors. I expected to find these paperback gems to be well documented in the same way as genre films and comics of the era—with books, web-sites, and magazines dedicated to them. There were none, so I felt I had no choice but to start another fanzine, this time focused on the UK paperbacks I had grown up reading in the 1970s. 
 
My first attempt took the form of The Paperback Dungeon, which was 32 pages A4, run off on a photo-copier and available for a SAE. I immediately noticed people connected with this zine in a way they hadn’t with my previous publications. It also elicited some very personal responses. I also began to collect paperbacks—as used bookstores began their decline—which was much cheaper than collecting comics, and less dangerous than collecting bootlegs of horror films. 
 
When I launched The Paperback Fanatic, I was single with large amounts of free time for research and travel. The early issues contained interviews with authors and artists responsible for my favourite vintage paperbacks, as well as lengthy and comprehensive articles which I re-wrote again and again. Looking at more recent issues, my contributions are one or two per issue, more general overviews and certainly no interviews. 
 
Part of the reaction to the zine has been the number of quality of reliable contributors who have stepped up to provide content. I’m almost guaranteed to have three-quarters of any issue written by the crew. I couldn’t produce the zines on such a regular basis without them. Quite often, I’ll be in a rut, but receiving a contribution from one of the crews will inspire me, or create a spark, resulting in an issue taking shape. 
 
The vast majority of the readership is silent. I used to find this frustrating, but accept nobody will feel as passionately about your zine as you do. As the zine has chugged along for a decade, people see it as permanent and therefore tend not to get as excited as they did about those early issues.
 
Why did you decide to start other more specific zines such as Pulp Horror and Sleazy Reader?
 
Two very different motivations, but ultimately both of these genres tend to attract a number of fans not interested in other genres of paperback fiction. 
 
I was a late-comer to sleaze paperbacks, having been turned onto their dubious charms a few years ago by a New York based correspondent. He has a mind-boggling collection of books and original art, and whose support was a motivating factor in getting Sleazy Reader off the ground. When I started to cover sleaze in the pages of The Paperback Fanatic, the reader feedback was mixed. UK readers in particular were unimpressed, so I thought it required its own dedicated title. 
 
Although I am talking generally, interest in sleaze collecting is bigger in the US than UK. I also find sleaze collectors are not necessarily interested in other paperback genres. If I was to guess, I would say sleaze is less anchored to the format of the paperback and being more focused on the visuals. This would make sleaze paperbacks more closely related to vintage pin-up mags, grind-house movies, and burlesque, than other paperback genres. I believe it also explains why sleaze paperbacks fetch the highest prices of collectible paperbacks, as a much wider audience than typical are bidding for them.
 
Initially, I had planned it to be small scale—intentionally lo-fi in black and white with crude lay-outs. However, as I developed the first issue, I realized the appeal of the genre is so visual, so full color treatment was needed. In the first couple of issues, I did try to cover the contents of the books, but this was a thankless task. In my experience there is little in the way of unpolished diamonds to be found in the annals of sleaze publishers. 
 
Pulp Horror was my own reaction to The Paperback Fanatic being more about checklists and overviews of entire genres or publishers, while lacking in details about individual books. There is an excellent blog called Too Much Horror Fiction, which is comprised of detailed and comprehensive reviews. The first issue of Pulp Horror was my attempt to replicate this format. But with issue #5—100 pages, full color and with a book-spine—the zine has morphed into a horror focused version of The Paperback Fanatic.
 
I’m a fanatic for your latest outing Men of Violence. What made you decide the genre needed a specialty zine? 
 
Of all the fanzines I produce, Men of Violence is the fastest and loosest. I tend to write it very quickly, with little in the way of revisions, and have a lot of fun with it. Which is funny, as I hated the men’s adventure genre when I was reading back in the 80s. I saw it as formulaic, right-wing and pro-gun and very much at odds with my personal politics, which were clearly informed by punk music—oh, to be young and idealistic again.
 
As I started seriously collecting vintage paperbacks, I gradually became attracted to the genre because of the very reasons I hated it a decade or two earlier. The shocking politics and violence. which made the books so outrageous and unpalatable to the majority of readers, meant they were just calling out for their own zine publication. And the collector in me was also attracted to the challenge of collecting numbered series and unravelling the true identity of the authors behind the pseudonyms. 
 
There are often questions and misunderstandings regarding the small print runs of your zines. What is your publishing philosophy and the goals you have for your publications?
 
The least fulfilling aspects of zine publishing, for me, are the tasks not directly involved in writing and designing. Promotion, soliciting orders, storing back issues, stuffing and labelling hundreds of envelopes, queueing at the post office—all of these things are a total ball-ache. I try to avoid doing any of it. My system is to solicit pre-orders for a new publication stating a deadline for when I go to print. I then print almost the same numbers as pre-ordered, paying the printers to mail them out. This means I’m not out of pocket during the gap between paying the printers and receiving orders, nor am I sitting on boxes of back issues.
 
This approach does frustrate some people. If you don’t pre-order the zine, you stand little chance of tracking it down. When new readers come on board, they typically want to order back issues, and can be disappointed. Ultimately, however, it works for me. By eliminating those unnecessary distractions and tasks, it allows me to focus as much of my spare time as possible on writing and editing. 
 
People have suggested using print on demand through the likes of Amazon, but to date I have resisted. Primarily due to time restrictions in learning the technology, and also I’ve yet to see a color publication at an accessible price through Amazon. It could work for black and white, and I wonder if I was to produce a zine with a really niche appeal the only viable way to distribute could be print of demand.
 
But I am committed to a print publication. I like the idea of a zine being a limited product, which asks something of the reader—if it is only to send an e-mail to be added to the distribution list, or making a pre-order PayPal payment. If I invest hours of my spare time in the producing the best zine I can, why shouldn’t I ask subscribers to make a little investment back? I don’t want a readership of passive consumers, and I’ll resist POD for as long as I can.
 
What have been the rewards of publishing genre zines and the pitfalls you’ve faced to keep producing new issues?
 
Self-publishing has been a hugely fulfilling hobby, bringing me into contact with a worldwide network of people sharing a common interest. You, for instance! It has also provided me with a creative outlet when my day-job doesn’t, which has genuinely been a boost to my mental well-being. I’m lucky to have a partner who understands zine publishing is an important part of my life, and supports it. She doesn’t get my obsession, but likes me having one. I have also been very proud to feature some excellent writers, and I have often been touched by the unconditional support provided by individuals in copy-editing, proofing, scanning and sharing knowledge. 
 
There have been some pit-falls, and some issues with individuals. However, I tend not to dwell on the negative. One of the most difficult things is keeping in touch with people, especially contributors. The reason I am able to produce zines on a fairly regular basis (approximately 50 paperback related pubs in the last 10 years) is I am disciplined with my time. Quite often I’ll have a window of only two hours in the evening between putting the girls to bed and calling it a night myself. Then I have to make a difficult call: Do I give X a Skype and shoot the breeze about cool paperbacks he scored, or, Do I finish the layouts for issue 36 of The Paperback Fanatic? It’s a difficult thing to explain to someone—you want to speak to me because you like my fanzine, but if I speak to you the next issue won’t get done. 
 
Why do you think it’s important to document the history of what many people mistakenly write off as disposable fiction?
 
I’m not sure if it is important. I have a lot of contradictory views about the historical value of what appears in the pages of my zines. A lot of genre material from the ‘60s and ‘70s is utter crap. This is understandable, as it was intended to be disposable and the authors were often producing it under strict deadlines for next-to-no-money. But devoting so much of my energy and money to documenting these books does strike me as erecting temples to mediocrity
 
The British Library used to ask me for copies of The Paperback Fanatic for their archives, but I didn’t send them. I quite like the idea of the information in The Paperback Fanatic having an expiry date—crumbling with age as interest in print media disappears. I’m not sure of the value of preserving this information for future generations. I can’t see how knowing how many entries there were in the Doomsday Warrior series will enrich the world in 2050? 
 
I also have a hearty distrust of commentators who over-intellectualize popular culture. It’s as if they are trying to justify their interest in lowest common denominator material. Why not just admit you like it because it’s outrageous, shocking, violent, sexy, and unacceptable to the mainstream, or that you are a bit weird. Don’t try and dress it up in intellectual clothing. 
 
However, I do think looking back at vintage paperbacks can provide a real insight into wider society, often revealing some unpalatable truths—such as the huge popularity of the plantation genre in the ‘70s, which were bodice-rippers set against the background of the slave trade. They were full of racial stereotypes, sex, and sadism, so who the hell was buying these books in such large numbers? What was it about the national psyche they tapped into? What did/does it say about use as a supposedly civilized species?
 
What do you think the popularity of genre fiction, especially in regards to Men of Violence, says about society in general? 
 
I would like to think it’s a healthy catharsis for most people—allowing escape from reality and providing some harmless wish-fulfilment. The repetition and formulaic nature of genre fiction is probably reassuring in a world of uncertainty. In the early ‘70s, it was Women’s Lib, Vietnam and Manson. In the 2010s, its terrorism and Trump. So, we may well be seeing a resurgence in escapist fiction, in the same way pulp magazine heroes such as Doc Savage became huge in the Depression. 
 
I think there are some people who enjoy the books because they reflect their personal politics. Fans of Jerry Ahern and William Johnston books particularly worry me. My personal politics are closer to socialist (although my dad tells me I am a champagne socialist). As a result, I struggle with the right-wing politics and the extreme sadism a few of the heroes display in some of the men’s adventure paperbacks. I also find the whole gun-porn aspect laughable. I don’t care anything about bullets and velocity, and am a bit scared of people who do.
 
What are your favorite genre series?
 
This may seem strange, but I get little pleasure from reading, or to be more specific, I get little pleasure in reading the books I choose. Often they are part of research for an article for the fanzines, rather than books I would choose to read.
 
When I read, I tend not to be able to switch off and go with the flow. I’m always looking for common themes across an author’s work, examples of their prose to highlight or comment on, or trying to spot characteristics to decipher the true identity of the author hiding behind a pseudonym. My antidote is to have a small pile of authors and books I revisit from time to time, healing me whenever reading dreck gets too much for me. 
 
The pile includes Clark Ashton Smith, H P Lovecraft (my taste for Lovecraft has only recently been acquired), and some Robert E Howard—specifically Pigeons from Hell and Valley of the Worm. No doubt your readers will be familiar with those books and authors. 
 
In terms of more slightly off-beat recommendations, there are Mick Norman’s Angels quartet, which have recently been e-booked by Piccadilly Publishing. Written in the ‘70s by a guy called Laurence James, who was a prolific western author and wrote the early Deathlands post-apocalypse books, they were hugely subversive and inventive stories of a biker gang called The Last Heroes. James Herbert’s earliest books, The Rats and The Fog have stood the test of time, ferocious and polemic, these are classics of horror fiction and not to be confused with their imitators.
 
With regards to the men’s adventure genre, my favorites do tend to be the more off-beat and wild examples, so I’m not sure if they should be used as recommendations. An early favourite was the Gannon series, three books by Dean Ballenger published by Manor Books—about which rumors abounded. Documenting these was a motivator in publishing the first issue of Men of Violence, my fanzine dedicated to men’s adventure paperbacks. Well beyond the boundaries of good taste and written in ludicrous slang which I think Ballenger invented himself, you can let these books open at any page and be guaranteed to read a line so outrageous it will make you smile/shake your head.
 
Also from Manor was the Ryker tough-cop series, written by Nelson De Mille before he became a best-seller. With a totally obnoxious lead character sporting a sweat-stained suit and a hateful attitude, the books make excellent use of New York and its neighborhoods as a lead character. The Cannibal is a hard-boiled sleaze classic in the series, with a deranged veteran stalking the NY subways having developed a taste for human flesh whilst a POW in Vietnam. I also enjoy the French approach to men’s adventure, with the TNT and Malko series firm favorites, although they employ very different approaches. TNT is over the top and unbelievable, mixing sex and violence to such extremes it becomes surreal. Whilst Malko is known for the factual basis of the stories and the author’s extrapolation of current events. 
 
In terms of westerns, I always recommend two series to people who claim they do not like westerns—Fargo and Renegade—both of which could be regarded as closer to south-of-the-border soldier-of-fortune yarns, than traditional westerns. Great writing is great writing, irrespective of the genre trappings.
 
While continuing to publish The Paperback Fanatic, Pulp Horror, and Men of Violence, what other specialty genres are you planning to cover?
 
I have been mulling over a fanzine devoted to westerns, provisionally titled Hot Lead. My normal sounding boards have all told me it will be a disaster, and no-one will be interested, which only makes me want to do it all the more! 
 
Is there a grand plan behind all the hard work you do to document pulp and genre fiction, or is it simply personal satisfaction?
 
No grand plan. It’s purely satisfaction. Publishing fanzines is part of my DNA and I’ll continue to do it. I can’t imagine a time where I won’t be self-publishing. I don’t harbor any ambitions to be a published author or to make the zines a commercial product. Making the publications as accessible as possible in terms of prices is important to me, so I sell as close to cost as I can—taking into account the extortionate price of international postage. I think this helps the integrity of the zines, as I don’t need to compromise my views to please an advertiser or promote a project unless I believe in it. 
 
What would you like the legacy of The Paperback Fanatic to evolve into?
 
I genuinely have not given it any thought until your question. I don’t know how to answer it really. I’m not even sure if I care about what The Paperback Fanatic’s legacy is at this stage. I genuinely don’t see my publications as a big deal, or worthy of a legacy.
 
This stuff is written in a spare room in the evenings, with no experience in professional writing or design. It’s not art, it’s not difficult. I genuinely believe anyone can do it, with a little bit of ego and a lot of discipline. I think people would be surprised at how cheap it is to print a fanzine, and how desk-top-publishing programs make it relatively easy to produce something semi-professional. Stop watching funny cat videos on You Tube and do something positive with your time, like publishing a fanzine!
 
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Thanks Justin for answering my many intrusive questions in such a thoughtful and thorough manner. I feel this has been one of the most rewarding interviews I’ve done in a long time. I appreciate you...As do the many fans of your publications—long may they continue to run...
 
For more info and to order available issues be sure to visit The Paperback Fanatic website:

1 comment:

  1. Wow! That's a fascinating interview with a fascinating guy, and it's full of many things I didn't know about many topics I like. Thanks, Paul! I love your books and your blog and will definitely be buying some issues of Justin's fanzines. I suspect I will love them, too.
    - Bob Deis, Editor of MensPulpMags.com

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