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Coffee table book keeps alive a dead genre

Eric Godtland and Dian Hanson’s book celebrates a once immensely popular genre in True Crime Detective Magazines.

“Detective magazines crisscross all human vice … they pull from every prurient fascination to create a stew of titillating Big Themes,” explain the authors of this book, which is equal parts a gleeful celebration of the seamy pop culture underbelly of a bygone era and an interesting examination of a widely overlooked facet of publishing history.

“Dickbooks”, as they were known to aficionados, were America’s first reality entertainment. Printed on low-quality “pulp” paper, the inexpensive magazines featured lurid artwork and fast-paced stories about the most shocking crimes of the day, as well as cautionary tales about the dangers of things like illicit drug use and associating with non-conformists.

Most of the writers were moonlighting reporters but some law-enforcement people, including FBI director J Edgar Hoover, were regular contributors.

Featuring 450 original covers (such as the one pictured), story excerpts and a thorough overview of the genre’s origins, heyday and eventual demise, True Crime Detective Magazines is the perfect coffee-table book for lovers of vintage kitsch who can see the beauty in what the authors refer to as this “retrospectively cool” medium.

pmuir@thenational.ae

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