T. Lobsang Rampa: Lama From Devon
T Lobsang Rampa became a best-seller with the publication of The Third Eye. Despite its publisher receiving warnings ahead of publication that it was a fake, Secker & Warburg went ahead and sold 300,000 copies in eighteen months. Rampa, the self-proclaimed Tibetan Lama, eventually made headlines in the Daily Mail: "Third Eye Lama Exposed As Fake". In truth he was born Cyril Hoskin and had changed his name to Carl Kuan Suo shortly after the Second World War. This 5,800-word essay takes a look at the history of the remarkable Rampa and his many books.
Available from: Amazon.co.uk [UK] / Amazon.com [US].
Edward D. Wood Jr. is famous as the director of some of the worst movies ever committed to celluloid. But his legacy extends beyond Plan 9 From Outer Space, Glen or Glenda? or Bride of the Monster as Wood was also responsible for some cult-favourite exploitation crime films – Jailbait, The Violent Years – and novels.
This 3,500-word essay delves into Wood's pornographic novels Black Lace Drag and Let Me Die In Drag in which the author brings his unique perspective to crime fiction and makes his lead player a transvestite hit-man on the run from the syndicate.
Journalist, author and screenwriter, Dail Ambler was the queen of gangster thriller writers in the years after the war. As Danny Spade, Ace Capelli, Johnny Grecco and others, she penned some of the toughest crime novels published in the post-war era. Ambler went on to pen a handful of classic exploitation movies, including Beat Girl (aka Wild For Kicks) and Night After Night After Night. Along the way she became a good friend of Errol Flynn, was involved in Liberace's libel action against the Daily Mirror, and wrote an unproduced Eric Sykes TV show.
This 7,000-word article offers a fascinating overview of Ambler's diverse career
In 1946, Frank Dubrez Fawcett created the hugely popular byline Ben Sarto, under which name he wrote dozens of spine-thrilling gangster novels and created dozens of memorable characters, not least the beautiful but heartless Mabie Otis.
The Ben Sarto name was used on 107 novels... who were the mysterious authors behind the byline? This 4,500-word essay explores the background of author Fawcett and others involved in Ben Sarto, whose 5 million plus sales helped fuel the gangster novel boom in Britain's post-war years.
This is the story of "Griff", whose byline appeared on fifty of the toughest, most brutal books of the gangster boom years just after the Second World War. Violent and sexually charged, they were written by half-a-dozen different authors, including Ernest McKeag, William Newton, Frank Dubrez Fawcett and others.
Along with fellow authors Peter Cheyney, James Hadley Chase, Hank Janson and Ben Sarto, "Griff" sold millions of thrilling gangster novels until they fell foul of obscenity charges, destruction orders and fines. This 2,500-word essay takes a look at one of the most collectable bylines of the post-war boom.
Edwin Self spent his working career in publishing, turning to the cheap paperback market in the years after the war. In 1954 he was charged with publishing obscene novels along with three authors and the owner of the company who printed the books.
This previously unpublished article tells the story of the Self's career as a paperback publisher, the court case, and the how he bounced back with a series of novels now much sought by collectors.
This article tells the story of Pete Costello and looks back at the 1954 court case brought against three of his books which resulted in the author being send to prison for six months on obscenity charges. By looking closely at the novel Murder In Mink you can see whether Costello's novels really were the "filthy, disgusting books" they were described as.
In his latest essay, Steve Holland looks at what is often called the very first hard-boiled detective, written by Carroll John Daly for the pages of Black Mask magazine. In introducing the subject, he also explores how authors like Raymond Chandler imagined hard-boiled fiction was reacting to the crime novels of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers when, in fact, hard-boiled yarns emerged at the same time drawing room crime dramas were going through their golden age.
Zenith of Albino was the creation of George Norman Philips who, as Anthony Skene, was one of the most popular authors writing the adventures of Sexton Blake. The character inspired Michael Moorcock to create his own melancholy character, Elric, and remains the most popular criminal mastermind to face the detective.
Zenith: Prince of Chaos looks at both the character and the man behind the character, revealing how Philips based his creation on an encounter with a real life albino, his fears about his ability to write and the economic truth that led him to stop.
In 1944, George Orwell penned his infamous attack on Americanized fiction, "Raffles and Miss Blandish". In 1996, Steve Holland argued that the praise Orwell heaped on E. R. Hornung's creation could be applied equally to Richard Allen's million-selling Skinhead hero, Joe Hawkins.
Would George Orwell approve of Allen's violent, racist skinhead? This short essay suggests an answer.
"Even if you have never read one of his book’s, there is a good chance that you will have seen one of his films: Humphrey Bogart’s portrayal of Roy Earle in High Sierra and an appearance by a young Marilyn Munroe in The Asphalt Jungle make these two excellent movies television regulars, and what would Christmas be without the annual showing of The Great Escape, co-scripted by Burnett for director John Sturges, who also bought in the author to do an uncredited re-write of Ice Station Zebra. Burnett’s fingerprints were on all of them, yet his novels have slipped out of print and into obscurity, a real loss, as they are archetypal crime noir and Burnett was one of the best talents who lit the cold dark streets of the sleeping city."
Originally published in the out-of-print Mean Streetmaps collection, Steve Holland's essay on W. R. Burnett has been described as "first rate" by author Mike Ripley.
3,000 word article on the origins of the fictional detective Sexton Blake and his creator, Harry Blyth.