Sex Novels, Anyone?

If you’re a youngster (that would be anyone under 50) you probably don’t know this. Back in the period from the ‘30s into the early ‘60s “pulp” magazines were one of the prime sources of entertainment. They sold for a dime, and they were the source of cheap thrills. Of course they required that you were able to read – which would be a serious handicap for most young people today. They were called “pulps” because they were printed on cheap, rough paper that came right from the wood pulp paper manufacturers, and they were intended to titillate their readers so most of them were racy – detective stories, soft core porn, etc. – and the covers of these magazines were vivid art usually depicting a scantily clad female escaping a mysterious follower.

A lot of famous writers got their start working for the pulps under a pen, or fictitious name. A couple of highly popular novelists (Lawrence Block and Don Westlake) wrote hundreds of sex-novels to make a living. They were paid a penny a word. Their stories had to be ten, fifteen page chapters and each chapter had to have a sex scene. There was no real plot to these stories (much like today’s romance and Gothic novels) so they were churned out on a regular basis. Erle Stanley Gardner, the creator of Perry Mason, was at one time the most highly published author of all time, working for the pulps. He became so adept at it, that instead of typing his stories, he dictated them.

Oddly, the authors of these sex novels were not allowed to use today’s common four letter words. So they resorted to euphemisms for sex – “He plunged into her raging pool of passion.” Of course, so-called “literary” writers such as Henry Miller could use words like “cunt” and “fuck” but the pulp writers could only refer to “the sight of her inner thigh caused him to burn with a hot flame of desire.”

The sex-novels of those days pale by comparison to what is immediately available on the internet today for anyone interested in arousing their prurient “burning spot of passion.” And, many of the pulp sex-novel writers eventually became top notch fiction authors. In their case it was a matter of putting food on the table while they awaited “discovery” as talented writers of contemporary fiction.

Was their work any different from today’s top actors who waited tables, were dish washers, busboys, parking lot attendants, factory workers, while waiting for their acting skills to be noticed? I don’t think so. Personally, I was working in a dirt floor iron working shop filled with soot and face-blackening ashes when I got my first break in broadcasting. And the rest, as they say, is history.

About johnbeckmanbooks

John Beckman, a retired meteorologist, was known as “Johnny the Weatherman” in a career that spanned forty years. He forecasted the weather on WSJS-TV in Winston-Salem, NC, at WFGA-TV in Jacksonville, FL, and for thirty-three years in Atlanta at WSB-TV and WXIA-TV. Also a well published author Beckman now devotes full time to writing fiction. He currently has several eBooks on, "Tropical Knights," first in a series of adventure/mysteries about a sailor and his lovely CIA cohort on a mission to save America. Now available the sequel, and second in the series: "Tropical Daze." The third Jack & Amy adventure is "Tropical Rage" which became available on 30 April 2014. All of his books are highlighted on and available from . .
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