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Friday Reads: Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of ’70s and ’80s Horror Fiction by Grady Hendrix

There are two kinds of people in the world: people who would never read a book calledPaperbacks from Hell - cover Satan’s Pets and my kind of people.  For the latter, Paperbacks from Hell is a delight, a treasure trove of unseemly old horror novels from the days when skeletons were popular cover models and literally any animal could be cast as a monster.

Grady Hendrix is building quite a name for himself as a genre fiction standout.  He wrote Horrorstör, history’s greatest novel about a haunted furniture store.  And then he wrote My Best Friend’s Exorcism, which he describes as “Beaches meets The Exorcist, only it’s set in the Eighties.”  So we’re all pretty lucky that he found the time to compile this book and document the explosion of paperbacks that followed Ira Levin and William Peter Blatty’s surprise success.

It’s a long trek from Rosemary’s Baby & The Exorcist to Viking mummies & psychotic cows, and Hendrix navigates masterfully.  If the only noteworthy thing about a book is a shark/grizzly bear fight, that’s all that’s mentioned.  More worthwhile works get lengthier treatments and Hendrix maintains his sense of humor throughout.  I suspect that it’s probably more enjoyable to read his witty synopses than most of the novels they describe.  For example:

“[T]hough we all feel sympathy for the yeti who hates snow in Snowman, how many ski instructors will we allow him to decapitate before we hire a bunch of hunters and Vietnam vets to go after him with crossbows armed with tiny nuclear arrowheads?”

Yes!  The proceedings are organized topically, so we spend time with killer clowns, critters, toys, Santas, and skeletons, the last being my favorites due to their assorted jobs.  Even in this tiny niche of publishing history, there’s a lot of diversity and the only thing that really unifies these books is that they are all better than Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist.

I’d recommend reading this in print, as it’s the best way to experience the garish covers that are reprinted here, and I’d also advise keeping a notebook handy—this book almost doubled my “to-read” list.  A wildly fun read that’s perfect for pumpkin season.

Hendrix, G., & Errickson, W. (2017). Paperbacks from Hell: the twisted history of 70s and 80s horror fiction. Philadelphia: Quirk Books.

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Continuing Education: Scary Stories

Halloween is creeping closer with scary story marathons and late-night horror binges.

But what if you’re not a super fan of horror and don’t know where to start when someone asks for a recommendation? Or maybe you’re looking for something new? Below are just a few resources and webinars to help get in the spirit of readers’ advisory.

jack o lantern surrounded by ghosts on a yellow background



  • Crash Course in Horror – NoveList (archived)
    • “Why horror is so popular and how libraries can ramp up the thrills and chills in their collection, how horror developed…subgenres and trends…search strategy tips and learn where to access genre-related information in NoveList”
  • The Haunt They Want: Why Student Readers are Entranced by Horror & Suspense – Junior Library Guild (archived)
    • “Young readers are after the heart-pounding, nail-biting shivers that these novels deliver – and children’s and young-adult authors are making sure they’re adequately spooked. Join us for this book talk with JLG’s Mystery/Horror/Suspense category editor Maria Wang as she discusses how spooky and scary tales entrance student readers of all ages.”
  • Spine-Chilling Ideas for Halloween at Your Library – Florida Library Webinars (archived)
    • “Halloween will be here before we know it and this interactive and informative webinar is for you if you are looking for fresh spooktacular ideas!”
  • Exploring New Horizons in SF/Fantasy & Horror – Booklist (archived)

For webinars and CE: If you would like to earn continuing education (CE) credit and are enrolled in the Nebraska Public Librarian Certification program, please submit a “CE Activity Report Form” after each webinar.

If you have any questions about continuing education, please contact Holli Duggan.

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