Photos: Australian pulp fiction became popular in the 1940s and 1950s. (NSW State Library)
They were eye catching, provocative and Australians could not get enough of them.
A new exhibition at the State Library of New South Wales explores the history of Australian pulp fiction with work from the Frank Johnson publishing house.
Tales of tawdry affairs and crime dramas exploded in the 1930s and the local market was flooded with American imports.
Conservative forces wanted them banned, and forged an unlikely alliance with Australian publishers who wanted the market all to themselves.
Crime writer Peter Doyle who curated the Pulp Confidential exhibition said Australian publishers were on a mission.
“Why do we really need to buy this mental rubbish from America, we can produce perfectly good mental rubbish here in Australia, and once they got the chance, they did,” he said.
They got their chance because American imports were banned during the 1940s and 1950s.
It meant Australian publishers could fill the void, and they did, with often spectacular cover artwork that easily stood out at the news stands.
Bold, bright colours were in vogue, and women were always portrayed as stereotypes.
“Women were either the femme fatal and buxom and blonde and quite gorgeous,” according to Rachel Franks from the State Library of NSW.