FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Apr 29, 2014

a gallery of lurid lit

I spend a lot of time thinking about Clamato...juice? Beverage? Well, okay, maybe I don't spend a lot of time thinking about it, but I certainly a fair amount of time thinking about it. Too much time! Which is to say, more than no time. Most of this thinking is ruminating on exactly how disgusting Clamato would taste; for those of you who are blissfully ignorant, it is "a light, refreshing beverage and an intense flavor, seasoned with a mixture of tomatoes, onions, celery, spices and a touch of clam."


If that's not the name of a lost album by Vanity 6, then the world is lesser for it.

Anyway, I'm sure all my questions would be answered if I would just partake in some Clamato, but that would know, partaking in some Clamato.

Also, if "partaking in some Clamato" doesn't become a standard euphemism for something I don't want to type here because my mom is probably reading this, then the world is lesser for it.

I began thinking about Clamato in earnest in college (*insert women's college joke here*) because I had a painting teacher who must have imbibed that shit by the fuck ton. There were empty Clamato bottles all over the place for us to use to hold turpentine or whatever- I mean, even if they were empty apple juice bottles, you would have thought it was weird because there were so many of them. But Clamato? So much Clamato? It was a mystery I wanted to get to the bottom of, but I never did and it obviously haunts me to this day.

Another mystery that will no doubt plague me forever is how this introduction about Clamato was supposed to tie into the main content of this post. Seriously, I have absolutely no idea where I meant to go with that when I started typing, but I'm not going to just erase it all because I feel as if I've exorcised some demons. Or, at least, I've pointed at the demons and said "I notice you", which is a step towards something. Maybe? I don't know. This is getting weird.

So hey, horror books! I can't resist 'em, and I thought I'd put up a wee gallery of cover scans in all their lurid glory. Some of these are novelizations, some provided the basis for movies, some are just books. Some of them are okay, most of them are crap! But those covers, baby, make 'em worth it no matter what, not unlike the sensational VHS boxes of yore. A skeleton in winter gear riding a tricycle? An apartment building whose entire first floor is a big mouth? That pig on the cover of The Farm? Gold, all gold!


Andrew said...

"When little Simon plays with fire, the game becomes a funeral pyre!"

Now I have to read this.

Chris Otto said...

What do kids these days mean when they say "Gold, all gold!" ... because I just must not be one of the cool kids.

Besides learning about the history of Clamato, this post, while fun, is a jarring reminder of how bad, just godawful bad, genre paperback covers were from the mid 1970s through at least the mid 1990s.

Granted, some of these books did not deserve quality covers. And so it's crap covering crap. But that's not the point. When it came to genre fiction in the USA -- horror, sci-fi, fantasy -- it was the covers that helped drive their success in so many cases. Colorful, wondrous, perhaps lurid, perhaps nightmare-inducing and almost always memorable.

Genre paperback covers had their glory days from the 1950s through early 1970s and then ... what the hell happened?

Was it huge corporate publishers overthinking everything and trying to avoid the extremes?

Was it as petty as no longer wanting to pay hard-working artists for their fabulous creations?

Why did a flip switch and genre covers end up sucking so hard from the 1970s onward?

Most of these covers, while mildly nostalgic, are an outright embarrassment from the perspective of design, originality and creativity. These are the only ones that I think are borderline decent: Night of the vampire, Tomb Seven (just barely), and Dead & Buried (an original, arresting piece of art, though the text on the cover is too large). I would have given a passing grade for "The Plants" if the illustration had taken up the whole cover.

Beyond that, so much crap, without a whim of artistic talent -- aren't you furious at all the fine artists and illustrators who lost paychecks in these dark decades, Stacie?? -- ooh look, a baby carriage, a knife, a nun, glowing eyes .... BAH! Bah, I say.

And the sickness spread to all of the other genres in the 70s through 90s -- every Star Trek novel has floating heads of cast members on the cover, every Tolkien-esque fantasy novel uses the same style of artwork. Every Stephen King and Dean Koontz novel has STEPHEN KING or DEAN KOONTZ in 200-point letters. At least, since King was the, no pun intended, King of the Hill, there was a higher quality on some of his covers. I do like some of the original and earlier covers for the likes of Night Shift, It and perhaps the silver The Shining cover, if I'm in a generous mood. But so much crap beyond that -- huge, redundant, staring eyes on everything from Cujo to Pet Sematary to Firestarter to The Stand.

Somebody -- and maybe this has already happened and I missed it -- with time, talent and a desire to earn no income should reimagine some of the best horror & sci-fi novels of the 1970s through 1990s with covers in the style of the Golden Age of genre paperbacks in the 1950s and 1960s. Those are the paperbacks worth keeping. Even if the stories inside are of average quality and even if their pages are browning and crumbling, the covers will remain works of art.

Although these lines, I recently wrote about one of the favorite paperbacks I have in my modest collection -- the 1962 edition of William Hope Hodgson's "The House on the Borderland." I can get the text anywhere. It's the cover that makes it a keeper:

And then look at what they did on the covers of for the editions in later decades: SNORE and MORE SNORE

OK, I'm done now.

matango said...

I love the fact that the book cover for Friday the 13th Part 3 is touting that the movie is in 3-D.

originalslugboy said...

True story: once, at a convention, we turned a corner expecting to find a booth with Alan Dean Foster in it. Instead we were confronted with a booth with Alan Dean Foster signage, but instead of ADF signing books and answering questions, the only thing sitting at the table was a half-drunk bottle of Electic Blue Gatorade. It looked like it would have been willing to give us it's autograph, but we didn't ask, so we'll never know for sure.

You don't suppose there's some kind of World Government Conspiracy (TM) to replace our prominent 70s horror and sci-fi authors with strange drinkstuffs, do you? Has anyone checked to see if William Peter Blatty has been replaced with a pouch of Wild Berry Caprisun lately?

Stacie Ponder said...

OGslugboy, I wish I could "like" your comment.

As far as your statements, Chris, I am not sure how to respond beyond saying that their lurid shittiness, much like most VHS covers of yore, is a large part of the appeal. I'm not claiming that, say, the cover for The Farm is "good" art, but I like it regardless.

Sandisan said...

In my home town we had a used bookstore where I spent A LOT of my time. They actually had a Horror section and I would go camp out there and just look at all the covers and get creeped out and then buy a few. I read a lot of novelizations like Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street. I would likely have picked up and read most of the books you've displayed here. Yay for us weirdos whose fondest childhood memories are awful horror novel paperback covers!

Unknown said...

That Pin cover would make an awesome tattoo.

CashBailey said...

I used to have that FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3 novelisation. I carried that thing everywhere with me.

I used to read any movie tie-in I could get my hands on back in the day. Often they were far better and more detailed than the movie they were based on.

I remember the novelisation for JAWS 2 had a whole sub-plot about Mayor Vaughn and the mafia.

Dead In Hell said...

My life has always been missing something, and now I know what it is. Clamato.

Wait. It's old horror novels. I CHANGE MY VOTE.

Jen @ said...

This is really fucking cool. Thanks for sharing!

Unknown said...

Oh my God, I must read all of these NOW! So much reading goodness.