Friday, 2 January 2009

Style and Restraint with the New English Library

When I recently discussed the latest Capuchin Classics, I talked about H. E. Bates and his stories.

My latest second-hand Bates acquisition is A Crown of Wild Myrtle, in an old New English Library paperback from 1968.

Looking at this, you might be inclined to think it would be no good. That's because NEL were masters at wrapping books in lurid, unattractive covers, no matter the contents. This was one of their more restrained efforts. At this point I suspect you're hoping for some of their less restrained efforts, and as always I aim to please.

They got a lot of mileage from Hitler, Satan, murderers, the counter-culture and sex scandals, as you can see. The last book shown above, Michael Fisher's The Captives, is actually not bad, though very odd: it's about a scientist who locks up two men and a woman as part of an experiment in sociology, sexuality and skin-grafting, and things go predictably awry. My copy is the original Constable hardback, the cover of which has its own charm.

(Many of these images borrowed with thanks from Alwyn Turner and his sadly frozen-in-time Trash Fiction.)


Kate said...

He's a freak because he has a big beard? Bizarre.

Also loving the girl on the front of In The Club who looks like Linda Evangelista with Keira Knightly's mouth.

JRSM said...

And Dame Edna Everage's glasses!

Steerforth said...

Yes, the Satan thing was really big in the 60s and 70s, then it fizzled out in the 80s.

One theory suggests that the advent of the VCR and porn videos killed off the titillating sexploitation films and books of the previous decades.

However, I think that the main factor was the changing cultural climate, when sexy became sexist and gratuitous nudity was increasingly frowned on. Sex became marginalised in mainstream entertainment and porn flourished.

The erotic horror thing seems to have returned during the last decade with all of those saucy vampire novels.

Brilliant covers. I know someone who would probably sell a kidney to get the Freak book.

JRSM said...

All good points, Steerforth: now the sexy vampire books seem to all be aimed at women, too, which is a bit of a change.

Anonymous said...

I love NOTHING BUT CHRISTINE KEELER (with Sandy Fawkes).

JRSM said...

She looks quite odd on that cover, too: obviously it's MEANT to be glamorous, but she looks a bit drunk and cross-eyed.

belleshpgrl said...

Don't you think it's a bit harsh to put Jesus on the cover of a book called "Freaks"? And I don't know about what you folks see, but is the masseuse holding a vibrator?

These covers are so awesome in their terribleness that I am a little sad they just don't make them like that anymore.

JRSM said...

Ah, but visit Trash Fiction and you'll find many, MANY more.