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#ArtDept: Vintage Gay Pulp Book Covers

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Pulp paperbacks were made to be throwaway reading. The often ended up in the trash, and plenty were trash. Publishers of pulps had the freedom to let writers produce books too out-there for mainstream publishers. There were writers who wanted to tell stories about gay men, lesbians, transgendered and transvestites, subjects considered too risque for “normal” readers, so they turned to adults-only paperbacks. They appropriated the conventions of serious Erotic Fiction, Detective Stories, Gothic Romances, Spy Thrillers, Science Fiction, College Humor, Horror/Occult, and Westerns, and then flipped them around so that the globe-trotting, Amazons, space explorers, gold diggers and gangsters, cowboys, aliens, Sam Spades, ghosts, and sexed up sorority girls were all queer.

The 1950s, 1960s and 1970s were the golden age of gay pulps, an era when they became more daring and more explicit, yet were done by writers who cared about character and plot, while preserving the history of how a marginalized, yet vital LGBTQ community lived, dreamed, and managed the pressure of living double lives.

Nearly all the gay pulps were written under a pseudonym, and most of the cover art and book designs were anonymous.

I began collection them in the 1980s, but the market for them soon turned hot and by the 21st century, they sold for more than $100 each on eBay.

Here are a few of my favorites:


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