Review: ‘Paperbacks from Hell’ Grady Hendrix

Take a tour through the horror paperback novels of the 1970s and 80s . . . if you dare. Page through dozens and dozens of amazing book covers featuring well-dressed skeletons, evil dolls, and knife-wielding killer crabs! Read shocking plot summaries that invoke devil worship, satanic children, and haunted real estate! Horror author and vintage paperback book collector Grady Hendrix offers killer commentary and witty insight on these trashy thrillers that tried so hard to be the next Exorcist or Rosemary s Baby. It s an affectionate, nostalgic, and unflinchingly funny celebration of the horror fiction boom of two iconic decades, complete with story summaries and artist and author profiles. You ll find familiar authors, like V. C. Andrews and R. L. Stine, and many more who ve faded into obscurity. Plus recommendations for which of these forgotten treasures are well worth your reading time and which should stay buried.

I’m not much of a non-fiction reader, but when I saw that Grady Hendrix had published a book about all the weird and wonderful horror novels penned during the ’70s and ’80s, I couldn’t resist. My only issue with Paperbacks from Hell is that it took me so long to get around to reading it. I’m pretty sure that I said the exact same thing about Hendrix’s novel The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, so I really need to make a mental note to read all of his upcoming books the moment that they’re published.

When I think of non-fiction, I tend to think of coffee table books, books that you dip into every now and again and eventually finish three years later. This wasn’t the case with Paperbacks from Hell, though. Sure, it sat on the cluttered side table next to my sofa for about two months, completely unread, but once I turned onto the first page, I found myself picking it up and reading a chapter or two every day.

Said cluttered side table.

I find some non-fiction books dry and boring. They’re just facts, facts, facts and while facts are interesting, the way in which they’re presented can make all the difference. Hendrix has injected Paperbacks from Hell with his wit and humour, making for a non-fiction book that is both informative and entertaining.

One thing that I like especially about Paperbacks from Hell is that it’s not just a long list of books. Hendrix has taken the time to explain why a certain novel is good or bad and the circumstances surrounding the writing of it. Paperbacks from Hell isn’t page after page of “Hey, look at this crazy book about bloodthirsty cockroaches/murderous children/satanic RPGs!” For example, when he discusses the wave of anti-RPG books published in the ’80s, Hendrix doesn’t simply poke fun at books such Mazes and Monsters and Hobgoblin. He also provides readers with historical context, giving us a better understanding of why such books were published in the first place.

Before delving into Paperbacks from Hell, be sure to put some money aside for the books that you’re inevitably going to buy as a direct result of reading it. So far, I’ve read The Nest and Let’s Go Play at the Adams’ (or at least I read three quarters of the latter) and I’m currently reading V.C. Andrews’ Flowers in the Attic.

Have you read Paperbacks from Hell or any of the books mentioned in it? Let me know in the comments below.

Want to read Paperbacks from Hell? Head on over to Amazon to buy your copy, or order it through your local bookstore.

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