Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

We will return January 26, 2020!


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Freshman Christmas By Linda A. Cooney

Skiing snowmen in a frosty Montana playground!

While the back cover proclaims this as part of THE HIT SERIES! I wonder exactly how big a hit this series was: I have never come across any fond remembrances of it, although per Fantastic Fiction it did run 32 numbered volumes and nine additional unnumbered Super Specials, of which this is one.

Background: And Linda A. Cooney is an author that is unfamiliar to me- at a glance, it appears she wrote for a number of third-tier YA Romance series in the 1980s and 90s, including Sunset High (not to be confused with the marginally more popular Sunset Island series), Class of ’88, Totally Hot and a few volumes in the Couples series.

This copy lists 23 Freshman Dorm titles (plus one coming soon!) on its flyleaf, so I imagine this plot picks up in the middle of the Freshman Dorm Girls’ Freshman year…

The Plot: …but it also doesn’t really give us a recap of what has happened thus far (very Couples of you, Linda A. Cooney!) so it took me awhile to figure out which of the characters are even the main Freshmen, although I suppose I should have been tipped off by the gate-fold art, which shows the main Freshmen: Faith, Winnie and KC. Although they get as much plot-time, Liza and Kimberly are CLEARLY only supporting Freshmen! Figuring this out is hampered by the fact that there isn’t really much that distinguishes anyone’s personality from the other (except Liza, who we will get to presently). Continue reading

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New Release: Sticking It To The Man

Just in time for Christmas, I am pleased to announce the publication of Sticking It To The Man: Revolution and Counterculture in Pulp and Popular Fiction, 1950 to 1980, a follow up to 2017’s Girl Gangs, Biker Boys, and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950 to 1980, edited by Iain McIntyre and Andrew Nette.

My contributions include pieces on YA social-problem novels including Kristin Hunter’s The Soul Brothers and Sister Lou, Gloria Miklowitz‘s The Love Bombers and Arnold Madison‘s It Can’t Happen to Me. I also cover the lady-detective genre in essays on Lee McGraw’s Mike Hammer satire Hatchett, and James D. Lawrence’s (the man behind Christopher Cool) Dark Angel series.

I am joined by more than two dozen more writers discussing three decades of pulp paperback writers who achieved their aim of…. sticking it to The Man.

From civil rights and Black Power to the New Left and gay liberation, the 1960s and 1970s saw a host of movements shake the status quo. The impact of feminism, anticolonial struggles, wildcat industrial strikes, and antiwar agitation were all felt globally. With social strictures and political structures challenged at every level, pulp and popular fiction could hardly remain unaffected. Feminist, gay, lesbian, Black and other previously marginalised authors broke into crime, thrillers, erotica, and other paperback genres previously dominated by conservative, straight, white males. For their part, pulp hacks struck back with bizarre takes on the revolutionary times, creating fiction that echoed the Nixonian backlash and the coming conservatism of Thatcherism and Reaganism. Continue reading

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Wrapping Up The Imaginary Summer Book Club: Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? By Henry Farrell

(Click here for information on the 2019 edition of Molly’s Imaginary Summer Book Club Featuring Classics of Women’s Literature.  For the titles that have filmed adaptations, we will also be looking at the movies as we go along. This week, the September Selection, Henry Farrell’s Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

As usual, my best intentions to schedule a suspense/thriller/horror title for Halloween lands around Thanksgiving. Which I guess can still be appropriate, as you gather with your family, you can spend some time with the Hudson sisters!

Another case of the film version completely eclipsing its source material, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? is best known through the 1962 film directed by Robert Aldrich starring Joan Crawford and Bette Davis and (more recently) the much-lauded, somewhat controversial, 2017 TV miniseries Feud, which centers on the making of the film, starring Susan Sarandon (as Davis) and Jessica Lange (as Crawford).

Aldrich’s film is mostly-faithful to Farrell’s novel, so the serviceable prose won’t hold any surprises if you’ve already seen the film. Continue reading

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My So-Called Life: A Novel Based In The Award-Winning Television Series By Catherine Clark

Less than perfect…

I realize I am about to alienate myself from my entire generational cohort, but: I never cared for ABC’s acclaimed, award-winning, Claire Danes-and-Jared Leto-star-making, abruptly canceled, fondly remembered “My So-Called Life”.

Aggressively marketed at the time as the anti-“Beverly Hills, 90210”, which had evolved from fish-out-of-water social problem show to glossy nighttime soap by 1994, MS-CL promised REAL TEENS and their REAL COMPLICATED LIVES.

A high school Junior the fall the series premiered, I was of the opinion that the show was what ADULTS thought being a TEEN IN THE NINETIES was REALLY LIKE and concluded that at least “90210” (this was around the time Dylan’s father was blown up by gangsters… OR WAS HE???) wasn’t patronizing me. I did not care for these pallid, plaid-clad mopers at all.

25 years on, I come to pretty much the same conclusion with the novelization.

The Plot: Compressing the 19 episodes into 200-some pages makes the basic plot almost indistinguishable from that of the average Sweet Valley High: boy probs, school probs, friend probs, parent probs. Author Clark attempts to capture the voice of a generation by having that voice say “like” and “whatever” a lot. Continue reading

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Going on Sixteen By Betty Cavanna

Fervently Julie whispered to the mirror, “I hope.”

Betty Cavanna was one of the queens of the Malt Shop genre: gentle coming-of-age stories featuring young heroines facing teenage crises and growing up. Published from the 1940s through the 1960s, these books often focus on girls trying to walk that delicate balance between fitting in and cultivating their unique talents in order to stand out.

The Plot: Following two years in the life of shy Julie Ferguson, living with her widowed father on a farm outside Philadelphia, Going On Sixteen is as much a dog-story as it is a girl-story.

Opening near the end of her freshman year of high school, Julie still has one foot in her tomboy phase, and is waaaaaaay more interested in in the pregnant prize collie that comes to board at the farm than giggling about boys over Cokes at the local drugstore. Continue reading

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Checking In With The Imaginary Summer Book Club: A Long Fatal Love Chase By Louisa May Alcott

(Click here for information on the 2019 edition of Molly’s Imaginary Summer Book Club Featuring Classics of Women’s Literature.  This week, the August selection, Louisa May Alcott’s postumously-published A Long Fatal Love Chase.) 

Like her most famous literary creation, Little Women’s Jo March, Alcott got her start writing sensational serialized novels for 19th century magazines and newspapers. Commissioned for publication in 1866 after Alcott’s first trip to Europe, A Long Fatal Love Chase includes a globe-trotting heroine on the run from an obsessive  husband, bigamy and sham marriage, secret sons, a sexy priest, cross-dressing, divorce, suicide and murder. Ultimately rejected by Alcott’s editor for being “too sensational”, the manuscript was referenced without fanfare and in truncated form under various titles after her death, before being rediscovered in Harvard’s archives in the mid-1990s and published in its complete form, going on to become a best seller.

While much of the content is indeed “sensational” and the plot is pure pulp potboiler, the intended serialization makes the structure something of a wonder (literally every chapter ends with a cliff-hanger) and features a heroine who asks us to accept her own insistence of her goodness at face value: while she is wronged by a man, it never crosses her mind that her virtue was compromised. Continue reading

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