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Pulp Fiction - Collecting Paperback Books

Updated on April 17, 2016
A typical Western cover to a story by Zane Grey.
A typical Western cover to a story by Zane Grey.

Have Fun Collecting

It can be great fun to collect paperback books, whether you collect for the artwork, the genre of the subject or even to obtain a rare valuable book, collecting paperbacks has something for everyone who has the collecting bug.

H.G.Wells War Of The Worlds.
H.G.Wells War Of The Worlds.

What To Collect?

What To Collect? Well that is totally up to the individual. Personally i don't collect for any financial gain, indeed in my own collection there are very few books i would want to sell and i always seem to be adding to my collection of Science Fiction books admiring the artwork as i do. Some collectors prefer to collect a broad range of titles, Westerns , Horror, Crime etc , others may collect in a certain genre or even an individual author. Whatever books you may decide to collect i guarantee you will have a lot of fun doing so.

A typical sexploitation paperback from the 1970s UK.
A typical sexploitation paperback from the 1970s UK.

Different Countries - Different Books

Although the authors and stories may be similar, each country seems to have publishers that are well known to them in the fields of pulp fiction, in the US well know names would include the likes of Bantam, Ace, Lion, Dell, Signet to mention just a few. In the UK similar books would be printed by Pan, Digit, Fortuna and Scion. and in Australia, Phantom , Star and Horwitz were well known names. It is not just English language versions that are collectable either, many collectors love to collect foreign language versions of well known books printed in France or Argentina and Brazil.


Many very famous authors have written books within the field of which we may term pulp fiction. Often these writers would write under a pseudonym as in the heyday of these books 40s, 50s and 60s this type of literature was very much looked down upon.Some collectors like to collect books written by famous authors under another name. Well known authors and their pseudonyms include Erle Stanley Gardner ( A.A.Fair ), William Burroughs ( William Lee ), Harlan Ellison ( Paul Merchant ). Of course some of the classic and most famous books of all time have been printed in the paperback format , for example The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, Treasure Island and Journey To The Centre Of The Earth and 1984.

An old Ellery Queen cover.
An old Ellery Queen cover.

Where To Collect.

Although there are specialist sales for paperback collectors in the US and the UK i find many great books in charity shops and at car boot sales. I have been known to advertise for paperbacks wanted and have found some rare books this way but have had to buy in bulk and ended up with many books i neither needed or wanted, obviously though there are some great finds to be had if you are prepared to get out there and get searching.

Science Fiction

One of the most popular genres to collect is Science Fiction, from modern stuff like Blade Runner to Jules Verne, Science Fiction has its own loyal fanbase. It is a little known fact that C.S.Lewis famous author f the Narnia Chronicles wrote many paperback Sci Fi novels.

A couple of modern sci fi paperbacks with covers typical of the genre.
A couple of modern sci fi paperbacks with covers typical of the genre.
 A typical suggestive pulp cover.
A typical suggestive pulp cover.

Social Issues

Many of the pulp books of the Fifties and Sixties dealt with serious social issues, street gangs, drugs, underage sex, mixed race relationships were all covered by the pulps. Although many of the covers to these books had pretty racy covers even by todays standards, they promised a lot more than they could deliver. The stories inside the books were far tamer ( and had to be by law ) than what the cover would suggest. Many of the UK paperbacks of this type came out in the 1970s, a well know set of books are the Skinhead books by Richard Allen, these dealt with the life of ' Skinhead' Joe Hawkins. Hells Angel / Biker Gang books and general youth culture books were very popular and today have become quite collectable.

A typical British horror anthology.
A typical British horror anthology.


Horror is another genre that i personally love, in the UK we had the publishers Pan and Fontanna who would produce horror anthologies that would include around 12 to 15 stories, often by well known authors, these are very popular even today.

Stretch Dawon by W.R.Burnett.
Stretch Dawon by W.R.Burnett.


Westerns remain an ever popular genre. When collecting look out for books by Louis L'Amour , Zane Grey and Max Brand.

Baseball paperback.
Baseball paperback.


There are many interesting paperbacks based on Sports, whether your choice is Football, Baseball, Soccer, Golf , Basketball there are paperbacks out there to suit all tastes.

One from Richard Matheson.
One from Richard Matheson.

Crime And Detective

Many famous writers appear within this genre for example Agatha Christie, Ed McBain and Ngaio Marsh as well as writers better known for other styles such as Sci fi / Horror writer Richard Matheson.

The paperback based on Planet Of The Apes.
The paperback based on Planet Of The Apes.

Television And Film

Paperbacks based on TV or Films are always collectable. Many books come out as paperback firsts based on a series or movie.Suprisingly many books that are based on a film flop can become quite collectable and reaonably valuable for example Catwoman ( based on the Halle Berry movie ) and Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow).

Valuable Paperbacks

Although paperbacks rarely reach the values that can be asked for nice condition Hardback first editions some may reach into the hundreds of dollars. Junkie! a book by Jonathon Craig from 1952 , No Adam For Eve from 1966 a lesbian sleeze novel, often sell for big money and the famous Reform School Girl can fetch thousands at auction.

Get Out There.

This just a brief introduction to paperback book collecting that i may expand in the future. Give collecting paperbacks a go, i warn you though it can be really addictive and you may find yourself having to create more space or extra rooms in your house to accommadate your new hobby.


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