Article – Black Pulp Fictions: Yesterday and Today by Gary Phillips

A web article looking back on the origins of black crime fiction.

When I was a teenager growing up in South Central Los Angeles in the ‘70s, there was a type of paperback novel you couldn’t find at the B. Dalton or Martindale’s. You found these books on the spinner rack in drugstores and bus station newsstands, and even in grocery stories. They had titles like Eldorado Red, Trick Baby, and Death for Hire. This was crime fiction with black protagonists and anti-heroes published by the L.A. based, white owned Holloway House whose specialty, in their words, was being “the world’s largest publisher of black experience paperbacks.”

It was not the black experience my librarian mother had introduced me to in the pages of Langston Hughes and Anne Perry, but it did reflect an undercurrent arising out of the tumult of the Black Power and Civil Rights era. Not to say that the aforementioned Eldorado Red—about heisters who take down a numbers house, written by former pimp and ongoing heroin addict Donald Goines—was full of role models to be emulated. But the energy that came out of those movements, the desire to take it to the man, such sentiment fueled in part the works of Goines and his Holloway House cohorts Roland Jefferson (The School on 103rd Street), Robert Beck, and Joe Nazel.


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