For Horror Connoisseurs: Paperbacks from Hell


If you’re a Generation X’er (or older), you may remember that golden age of horror during the 1970s and 1980s, when cheesy paperbacks with titles in red metallic fonts and lurid cover art were all over supermarket and drugstore racks. Grady Hendrix’s Paperbacks from Hell (2017) is a nostalgia-inducing collection of these covers, as well as an instructive and often humorous stroll through the history of the horror genre. Now Valancourt Books is reissuing some of these forgotten gems with their original cover art.

I bought several in the series. Two that really stood out for me are both by women writers: When Darkness Loves Us (1985) by Elizabeth Engstrom and The Tribe (1981) by Bari Wood.

When Darkness Loves Us contains two novellas. The first one, about a young woman who gets trapped in some tunnels underground, was just wild. The second one, about a woman born disfigured and developmentally disabled, was longer and overall a more psychologically disturbing story. Both explored some interesting underlying themes about women’s lives and how they are treated by the men in their lives. 

The Tribe  is a compelling novel about a small group of Holocaust survivors living in New York City who create a golem to protect them but it gets out of hand. I particularly liked the character of Rachel, the young widow who determines to go against her beloved father-in-law and stop the golem. This novel had some interesting things to say about the lengths we may go to feel safe after suffering great trauma.

I really appreciate small publisher Valancourt Booksfor bringing these and other horror masterpieces back into print. Other than stalking used bookstores, there would be no other way to reconnect with these paperback originals.

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