Gen X Horror Paperbacks: How did any of us survive the 80’s?

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Paperbacks from Hell by Grady Hendrix

 The fact that this book exists fascinates me. I love the cover. Paperbacks from Hell gathers together all of the books that we read just because we weren’t supposed to read them: they are trashy, semi (or completely) pornographic, and just plain sick.  Even the cover looks like something you would have hidden from your mom.  I finally understand why I was not allowed to wander around Waldenbooks freely!

I was not particularly into this type of book, but all of the ones I do know are there: The Exorcist, The Amityville Horror, not to mention Flowers in the Attic.

The covers of these books alone are enough to keep you up at night, and to do them justice, this book is printed on heavy paper with full color photos of the covers on every page. 

This is one of the most tame covers in this series. You can use the link below to order it if you want to.

This is another example of what you could read at bedtime…if that’s what you want to do. The ordering link is below, but sorry, the cover of the current edition isn’t as racy. Which I’m pretty happy about, given the passive pose of the woman here.

Below are a couple of books that are scary because people believed them. I remember the issues, but I didn’t know how they started until I read Paperbacks from Hell.

If you are of a certain age, you might have remembered the fears about Satanism and the talk shows about “repressed memories”. Michelle Remembers, below, is the impetus for the whole thing. I feel a bit bad about sharing this book because it has been completely discredited, but if you want to read a truly terrifying story that is true, read about the debunking here. Truth is stranger than fiction…but remember the book below is FICTION. The horror of this book is the damage that it did.

Another scandal that you might know about if you grew up in the Bible Belt in the 80’s, is the hoopla about “Backward Masking”, where certain bands were supposed to be luring teenagers into Satanism by sending them secret messages that one could hear by playing songs backwards (one could do that on vinyl). Below is the book that started it all, and according to Hendrix, in Paperbacks from Hell, spawned a genre of books known as “Splatter Punk”.

When we weren’t playing records backwards, we were talking about Armageddon. With everything that was happening, it seemed close. I still think about the things I learned in Sunday School at this time…they scared me so much I had trouble sleeping. This is the book that was the basis for all of that talk…still in print, too. Unlike Michelle Remembers, though, at least this one is based on actual scholarship, whether you agree with it or not.

More books that people still remember….

Here are a few that I didn’t find in Paperbacks from Hell (there isn’t an index) but that were mentioned by one of my Facebook groups, What Should I Read Next when I asked them what books from the ‘70’s and 80’s scared them most that I think are important to mention. Note that they are all read or could-be-real, that’s what makes them really scary.

Apparently the fact that we were all running around without seatbelts and bike helmets wasn’t scary enough.

And they call us Gen X. Hmph. I think we’re Gen Tough.

I guess technically Helter Skelter is the sixties, but it’s still scary. I remember NOT being allowed to watch the made-for-TV movie. As the cover of the book states, the story it tells is real…and this book is credited with starting the True Crime genre that is still gaining in popularity.

I never thought of this as a horror book because it was supposed to be a diary, and it is about drugs. It has been pretty roundly debunked as a work of nonfiction, but it did make sure a lot of us were “scared straight”!

I have never even heard of Swan Song (below) before. I’m glad I didn’t because so help me if I had, I would not have slept at all for the rest of the 80’s since I was already having trouble with The Late Great Planet Earth (above). The thing about most horror is that it isn’t real, but we were all scared of nuclear attack in the 80’s even though we didn’t have to do drills like our parents did in the 60’s. We all knew it was really real.

I think by the 80’s, everyone had accepted that there was no reasonable defense.

The best my mom could do to reassure me is to tell me that since we lived in a primary target area, “We will never know what hit us, so don’t worry about it.”

Watching The Day After on TV was bad enough.

I don’t know why I’m not so scared anymore. I guess I’m desensitized after all of this.

A lot of people think we were just having fun in the 80’s, but I think we were frantically trying to distracting ourselves. Even at school, we had to worry about the prom, after Carrie….

Both the book and the movie are soooo scary….

…and then there was Julie Brown’s Homecoming Parade…remember her?

In addition to Carrie, Stephen King published a lot of books that were keeping us all up a night. A lot of people said these books are scarier than the movies, so if you don’t know them, here you go.

Happy Halloween everyone!


Paperbacks from Hell you should read

The Amityville Horror and The Exorcist are both covered…I remember both of these although I have neither seen nor read The Exorcist even now.

When I read the synopsis of PIN, I thought the author must have been ripping off V.C. Andrews (below).

As it turns out, Neiderman has been ghost writing under Andrews’ name since she died in 1986.

This is the original cover for Jaws, available for around $500 online if you can find it. It’s one of the few covers that is less graphic now (see below) than the original, but for all its simplicity, I think it’s more frightening. Definitely more phallic.

Being haunted by a native spirit sounds pretty intense…there was a whole sub-genre. Ya’ll we are going to get it for what we did to our indigenous nations. Here’s the proof….

Below are some of the books I either discovered or remembered through Paperbacks from Hell that allow me to both enjoy this Halloween season and still respect myself in the morning.

We all remember Mia Farrow in this….

But it was a book first. You have to read this to understand demon spawn. You also have to read Levin’s Stepford Wives to understand, well, Stepford wives. Cultural literacy, ya’ll.

Why have I never read this book by Ray Bradbury when I’ve read Fahrenheit 451 at least five times? Why did I find out about it in Paperbacks from Hell?

Until I just looked him up, I didn’t know that George R.R. Martin had been writing horror and science fiction for decades. He had this hit in the 1970’s that looks good; vampires and ships are right up my alley.

And I never did read Anne Rice. As a teenager from the 80’s, it is hard to hold my head up, I am so ashamed.

The Hannibal series came out of this 1981 thriller….

This one I just came up with on my own after looking up The October Country. I’ve always loved the title; it sounds like a good scary read.

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