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Posted in Murania Press,Upcoming Books on November 29, 2018 @ 11:36 pm

A few particularly lurid magazines hold special places in the brief but storied history of the “weird menace” pulps: those published during the late 1930s by Martin Goodman, whose holdings would soon include the four-colored ancestors of the Marvel Comics empire. Among Goodman’s “Red Circle” group were Mystery Tales, Uncanny Tales, Marvel Tales, and Real Mystery—pulps that reached new heights (or, rather, plumbed new depths) of depravity with their blood-curdling, stomach-churning narratives built around sex and sadism.

Next month Murania Press will release Satan Lives for My Love!, an anthology of salacious, spine-chilling stories culled from the notorious Red Circle horror pulps. Outrageously outré for those late Depression years, these paraphilia-crammed yarns still, some 80 years later, retain their ability to shock even the most jaded readers. The adjectival phrase “envelope-pushing” easily could have been coined to describe the terrorific tales that spilled from the woodpulp pages of these periodicals like entrails from the bellies of their disemboweled victims.

Subscribing to the dictum “sex sells,” Red Circle’s editorial director Robert O. Erisman encouraged his contributors to wallow in licentiousness. This preoccupation with thinly veiled carnality was manifest not only in the company’s weird-menace titles but in its detective pulps and even in Marvel Science Stories, its first science-fiction magazine. Playing up sexual content was a way of distinguishing the line, which attracted second-rare fare because Goodman rarely paid more than a half-cent per word.

Mystery Tales, the first Red Circle weird-menace pulp, started off fairly tame. Like others of its type, the magazine initially published stories in which the threat of sexual violence was always present but rarely carried through. Presumably with Goodman’s knowledge and blessing, Erisman decided to increase its sleaze quotient. Completely throwing off the shackles of good taste, he instructed writers to devote considerable wordage to graphic depictions of torture, almost exclusively inflicted on women. Previously the protagonist’s wife or sweetheart always escaped physical punishment, if only at the last possible second. But by late 1939 all bets were off, and it was not uncommon for female leads to undergo floggings and worse, although the most gruesome fates were reserved for secondary characters.

Red Circle writers trafficked in sexual perversion to a startling degree. The pages of Mystery Tales, Uncanny Tales, and the others teemed with examples of sadism, masochism, necrophilia, and even hints of bestiality. Rapes were never explicitly described, but one needn’t read much between the lines to know it was happening. Young women always made the most alluring victims, and under Erisman their ages dropped precipitously. Sixteen-year-old heroines were not uncommon.

Most yarns were supplied by a small group of contributors—Bruno Fischer, Don Graham, Ray Cummings, Mary Dale Buckner, Arthur J. Burks, Allan K. Echols, and Robert Leslie Bellem—occasionally writing under their own names but also using a battery of house names and pseudonyms.

Satan Lives for My Love! collects the (curdled) cream of this crop: tales skimmed from all four titles, representing the mainstays named above. The 100,000-word collection includes Ed Hulse’s introductory essay “Unholy Jitters: Sex & Sadism in Red Circle’s Horror Pulps,” originally written for Blood ‘n’ Thunder #2 and reprinted several times by popular demand, most recently in The Blood ‘n’ Thunder Sampler. The book’s cover sports a J. W. Scott painting originally used on the July 1939 issue of Mystery Tales.

As high-grade copies of Red Circle horror pulps typically sell to collectors for hundreds of dollars each, this jumbo-sized book’s $25.00 price tag makes it a bargain. If you’ve got a strong heart and a stronger stomach, by all means try Satan Lives for My Love! We guarantee you’ll find it surprising, at the very least.



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