Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Genre Overview: Men's Adventure Magazines

Sometimes called, either derisively or affectionately, the Sweats, Men's Adventure Magazines ran from the early 50's through the late 60's, though some managed in one form or another through the late 70's.  The featured mostly "true story" type fiction, though there was usually a very thin pretense to how true it actually was.  The tone was ridiculously hyper-masculine, to the point where it's almost impossible to parody.  At least 50 titles began with the word Man or Men.

While the genre in many ways replaced the pulp magazines that had all but died out, the tone and feel were quite different, and there weren't a lot of authors who made the transition, having either quit writing, moved on to paperback originals, or drank themselves to death.  Likewise, with few exceptions, the writers of Men's Adventure magazines didn't move on to the Men's Adventure Paperbacks, a much different beast.  The only author to move up to any level of respectability was The Godfather's Mario Puzo.

Men's Adventure Magazines had their own feel and pace, developed due to the quick page count.  A situation and characters are introduced in a paragraph or two, there's a big action scene, and a brief epilogue.  There were longer stories, but they tended not to hold up as well.

First person narrative was very common, given the "true story" background.  In many ways, they had more in common with the True Confessions genre of women's magazines than the detective or adventure pulps.  This is especially evident in the amazing story titles: "I Was a Sex Gang Flunky for the Nazi She Demon", etc.

In addition to the machismo, there's the sadism.  Some magazines kept it clean, but others reveled in cruelty and torture.  And Nazis, lots of Nazis.

There were a few stock story topics, such as:
  • Exotic adventure
  • Mob/Crime stories
  • Animal attacks (Weasels Ripped my Flesh, etc)
  • War stories
  • Nazi atrocities
  • Westerns
  • Sex exposes

There were also "health" articles preying on men's sexual insecurities, with titles like "Why Your Lesbian Wife Would Rather Sleep With Communist Hippies" and the like.

The rise and decline of Men's Adventure Magazines tends to follow the trajectory of sexploitation movies.  In film, we had Nude Cuties, the sadistic Roughies, hard core porn with actual stories, then just people doing it.

"Gentleman's" magazines like Playboy ran on a parallel track, and only a couple Men's Adventure magazines grew from earlier nudie mags (Sir! is the only one I can think of).  If you look over the covers (Galactic Central is a good place), every title that survives into the 60s starts slipping in photos of half naked women on the cover for a year or so before the painted action scenes are dropped altogether.

More and more page length was given to nude pictures, and the titles either dropped completely or became full blown spank mags.  A few of them, such as Sir! and Male, had some fiction up to the late 70's, before the text either disappeared or became pure sexology.

The lurid covers get most of the attention nowadays, but recently some of the texts have been reprinted as well.  Click on the links below for the Amazon pages.

Cover galleries and overviews:

It's A Man's World: Men's Adventure Magazines, The Postwar Pulps, Expanded Edition
Bruce Minney: The Man Who Painted Everything

Story reprints:

A Handful of Hell: Classic War and Adventure Stories
Cryptozoology Anthology: Strange and Mysterious Creatures in Men's Adventure Magazines
He-Men, Bag Men & Nymphos: Classic Men's Adventure Stories
Weasels Ripped My Flesh! Two-Fisted Stories From Men's Adventure Magazines
Soft Flesh And Orgies Of Death: Fiction, Features & Art From Classic Men's Adventure Magazines
Soft Nudes For The Devil's Butcher: Fiction, Features And Art From Classic Men's Adventure Magazines
Soft Brides For The Beast Of Blood: Fiction, Features And Art From Classic Men's Adventure Magazines

And if you need a non-stop infusion of machismo, visit the Trash Menace Gallery, with over seven hours of cover slideshows.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Wolfsbane by William Johnstone

by William Johnstone
1982 Zebra Books

"It's called dog-fashion,"

Like werewolves?  Too bad, this book is about a witch.  There are werewolves in it, sure, but just they only pop up quickly enough to get shotgunned down.

In 1934, rural Louisiana,  a suspected rugaru/loup garou/werewolf/bigfoot thing is killed.  Decades later, his widow vows to destroy the bloodlines of her husband's murderers.Her granddaughter Janette, wanting to get to the bottom of the family curse, recruits a burned out special forces vet Pat Strange to help her.

Pat Strange is not a racist.
Pat was not a racist; he did not hate men for the color of their skin.
As usual with statements like these, we're immediately given evidence to the contrary.
He also tried to understand the passions of black Africans - those with some degree of intelligence - to govern themselves.
Pat is the "God's Warrior" of this book, and he comes to a town where folks have gotten unfriendly and stopped going to church.  Some people "just know" things, there's a proxy war between God and Satan with rules nobody follows anyway, arbitrary timelines.

All the usual Devil series trappings, and less.  Aside from a couple of ritual killings, there's nothing resembling a horror novel for most of the book.  People talking, and talking about what they talked about, and talking about that.  Much of it in Cajun dialect, which read more Jamaican in my head.

Pat and the local Sheriff gather up the surviving descendants of the 1934 killing, but I can't be bothered to keep track of a bunch of new characters introduced this late who don't do anything.

After all the talk and rules and blah blah blah, Pat just storms the house and shotguns the hell out of everything.  Walking dead, werewolves, even the witch go down pretty quick.  Pretty good scene, with slipping around in looping intestines and heads flying off shoulders, but it doesn't make up for pages of "I naw tum ting bou ragaru, a ight?"

Epilogue:  Wisecracking Satan has long sarcastic conversations with Pat about sports and holds him in suspended animation for five years.  Pat decides to dedicate his life to stopping Satan's plans.  After pages and pages of talking about his luggage and getting new clothes.

Both the dullest and most poorly written of the Johnstone books I've read so far.  His sentence constructs seemed a bit off, and despite pulling out all the stops at the end, not much going on.  There are a couple of the most disturbing sequences, with an ancient witch raping me as part of ritual murder.  You don't run into the phrase "leathery labia" too much in horror fiction.

Available for Kindle from Amazon.

Click here to read a sample.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Trash Menace Gallery

Blood Moon by Mason Burgess
Blood Moon by Mason Burgess

Bounty Hunter #3: The Wild Ride by Tiny Boyles and Hank Nuwer

Ninja Master 3: Borderland of Hell by Wade Barker

More than you can handle over on tumblr.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Jack-in-the-Box by William Johnstone

by William Johnstone
1986, Zebra Books

Jack-In-The-Box centers around nine-year-old Nora and is part Omen knock off (666 birthmark, ability to cause accidents around her), part Exorcist rip-off (she does the owl imitation three times and spits out slime twice), and all Johnstone.

Nora's father Phillip and brother Phil mistrust young Nora, but her mother Jeanne protects her, though she has secrets of her own.  Phillip is compelled to buy Nora an evil Jack-in-the-Box which plays the funeral march and has human teeth.  Like the rockinghorse in Rockinghorse, it doesn't do much more than show up on the cover.

The box was used by a Nazi officer in the concentration camp, though it's evil is more satanic than Naziish.  Phillip learns that his daughter is either possessed or born pure evil, and works with a child psychologist and priest to try an exorcise her.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Blackpool Pleasure Beach - Valhalla

It's probably unfair to constantly accuse other theme parks of ripping off Disney.  I'm sure there were a lot of Nordic themed flume rides with a backwards section before Maelstrom.  Again, I probably prefer this one.  Hard to see most of the ride in the video, but there's much more of a sense of water than Maelstrom - aside from the oil rig scene, you hardly felt like you were in a boat.  And 100% less Olaf.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017


by William W. Johnstone
Zebra, 1986

"Some little voice tells me my formerly liberal husband has now changed into a hardline conservative"

A New York lawyer and his family spend the summer in the mysterious Georgia plantation mansion he has inherited.  We've got a creepy caretaker, strange going ons in the woods, and a creepy wooden rockinghorse.  There's only one road in and out of town, the townsfolk have been acting strangely, and there's word of devil worshiping and, yeah, this is starting to look more like another Devil series installment.

This is what happens when you don't plot things - your haunted house story starts becoming like every other book you write.  The lawyer gets knocked unconscious and tattooed with a rockinghorse.  The family gets attacked and the daughter almost raped.  But, hey, we've got the whole summer, let's stick around and see what happens.

There's some kind of coven nearby, some bigfoot creatures called Rejects, and ghost children.  How are we going to tie all this together?  How about a siege by Satanic cultists?  But first, let's add twenty more characters.

The coven turn out to be friendly college professors.  A state trooper with his psychic wife join up, and for good measure let's have two entire families come to visit.  An international devil cult called the Brotherhood are interested in the house.  They want to perform a ceremony with the lawyer and the psychic and they needed other people to be there - not too well spelled out.  Luckily we have a psychic lady, and now all the kids are psychic, so they just "know" stuff.  My favorite Johnstone device.

There's like fifty people in the house now - I thought Johnstone was stocking the plot with victims, but I think only like one dies.  I suspect the real purpose is so he could have people explain the same things to each other to fill word count.  It's like this old chestnut...

...except instead of saying "Doctor", there's two pages of a character not believing a supernatural phenomena and gradually coming to accept it.

Just when the book had me skimming through page upon page of the same Rockinghorse being chopped up and burned for the fourth time, the Brotherhood attacks!  Dozens of cultist set up a perimeter and start torturing off-page - sorry, sodomy fans, only one off-page sodomy this time around, just barely enough to fill Johnstone's sodomy quota.

To even the score, God disables electricity and firearms.  Combustion engines still work, include CHAINSAWS BABY!  The lawyer spins one around like he's in a Peter Jackson movie and makes everything worthwhile.

Johnstone then proceeds to piss this goodwill down his leg and completely ruins the pace by having a lengthy sequence of the State Police divining that something is going down at the mansion because some officers have called in sick.  The cops find all the residents in the town asleep and their weapons useless, but just to make sure they try firing them about a dozen times.  This unnecessary insertion of a couple extra cops at the end is repeated later in Sweet Dreams.

The twelve year old that the text has been perving on the whole book gets raped and then forgives the floating corpse of the rapist.  This causes the rockinghorse to hide in the attic and the remaining Brotherhood members to run into the woods to be slaughtered by bigfeet off-page.  The kids set fire to the house, which for some reason they couldn't do before, the end.

Well,almost the end.  A couple more chapters of the Governor and State Police scratching their heads and comically being befuddled.  But it was all worth it for the CHAINSAW!

Available in Kindle from Amazon.

Click here for a sample.