I'm a big fan of vintage paperbacks and the great progenitor of paperback originals was Fawcett Gold Medal. Noted for its quality, Gold Medal and other publishers that followed its lead became the heirs to the dwindling pulp fiction magazine market. Gold Medal in particular became a leading source of noir and crime fiction and some excellent horror. I'd like to share a few examples I came across.

My very first Gold Medal was The Magic Man by Charles Beaumont. This little volume contains several classics such as "Miss Gentillebelle" about a little boy driven to murder, "The Crooked Man" a tale about the only straight man in a dystopian homosexual society, and "The Hunger" which tells about an empty women's fatalistic desire to encounter a murderer that's on the loose. Another book I snatched up was Atoms and Evil by Robert Bloch, a collection of pulp sci-fi stories. Bloch also published The Couch and a reprint of The Scarf with Gold Medal.

Recently, I came across Terror Over London by comic book legend Gardner Fox. This one is kept in print by the Gardner Fox Library. Terror Over London is a fictional account of why Jack the Ripper committed his murders. It wasn't out of religious conviction or to protect a prince's reputation either. An effective and twisted novel.

The late great Richard Matheson published some of his seminal works with Gold Medal. The Shrinking Man made waves as an important piece of sci-horror, but Matheson changed the way we looked at vampires and post-apocalyptic fiction when Gold Medal published I am Legend. It is arguably the most influential vampire novel written in the 20th century.

I mentioned in a previous article that noir often touches upon horror so it wouldn't hurt to mention a few examples of that either. Down There by David Goodis might be regarded as horror on an existential level. Goodis' work flirts with horror because of the loss and despair that reeks from its pages.

A Killer Is Loose by Gil Brewer ranks with the best psychological horror in my book with one of the most suspenseful scenes ever written. Will the deranged gunman shoot the little girl who is playing the piano in the relative safety of her home? Jim Thompson published The Killer Inside Me and Pop 1280 with Gold Medal. Both are convincing stories of murderous sociopaths told in the first person.

Lastly, I'd like to acknowledge Bruno Fischer, one of the unsung greats in mystery fiction. For Gold Medal, he wrote House of Flesh, a story of a torrid love affair and grisly murder. Entertaining and readable in all of its pulpy goodness, this book was the second biggest seller for Gold Medal at nearly 2 million copies. Another shocker was The Lustful Ape, a book with an agonizing climax. He also wrote effective thrillers such as The Lady Kills and Murder in the Raw. It's hard to articulate why, but I found Fischer particularly interesting. He wrote a slew of horror and mystery stories for the pulps, with several lurid standouts in the weird menace genre. He was even called the founding father of splatterpunk by John Pelan in the intro to My Touch Brings Death and other Stories by Fischer writing as Russell Gray.

I hope to have more to report in the near future on this subject later.

Written by Nicholas Montelongo

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