The Best Of The New Paperbacks

THE HONOURED SOCIETY (The Mafia Conspiracy Observed) by Norman Lewis. Penguin, 50p.

The social disease best known as the Mafia has attracted much attention during the last few months. The film made of Mario Puzo’s ‘The Godfather’ has broken box office records in nearly every country it has been shown in. The popular press recently has given a large amount of column inches to the ‘honoured society’ and its offshoots. A fair number of books, and especially pulp paperbacks, have appeared on the subject, most of them attempting to imitate Puzo’s successful novel. CBS records have even released a comedy album called ‘Everything You Wanted To Know About The Godfather (But Don’t Ask)’

In other words, all and sundry have been trying to cash in on the public’s current interest in one of the most depraved, corrupting and murderous criminal organisations that this planet has ever known.

If you are at all fascinated by the Mafia, and would prefer to find out its factual origins and how it has managed to increase its destructive power over the years, I thoroughly recommend you to read The Honoured Society by Norman Lewis. Originally published in paperback in 1967, Penguin have seen fit to re-issue it during the current ‘craze’.

It is an important book, because it does without the colour magazine gloss and celluloid glamour that has made the Mafia somehow romantic to those whose knowledge just touches the surface of what the ‘honoured society’ is all about. The book is an unemotional study of this social phenomenon, backed up with hard facts that bring the whole disgusting menace back to the realms of reality.

Even though The Honoured Society concerns itself with historical actualities, Lewis has produced an absorbing and at times astonishing document, that many would do well to read.

TEST YOUR NQ (Nostalgia Quotient) by Denis Gifford. New English Library, 30p.

Denis Gifford was responsible for the long running radio programme ‘Sounds Familiar?’ and is now currently involved in the visual version of that show, now called ‘Looks Familiar?’ which Thames Television started screening last autumn. This paperback is an extension of that television series.

Included are 1247 mind teasers to test your memory on contemporary nostalgia, and if that’s what turns you on, this book’ll prove delightful. For Test Your NQ is amusing, entertaining and informative.

ROCK FILE edited by Charlie Gillett. New English Library, 40p.

Whilst concerning a different type of nostalgia to the last book mentioned. Rock File, edited by Charlie Gillett and compiled by Pete and Annie Fowler, is as entertaining and enlightening. And to rock and roll critics and fanatics it is absolutely essential.

For this book is a short guide to contemporary music and features a list of every Top-20 hit in the British charts from 1955 to 1969.

It is great fun to be reminded of these past ‘oldies but goodies’ and is also an encouragement to dig out those battered old singles, that are bound to amaze younger listeners.

MY SECRET LIFE by ‘Walter’. Edited and introduced by Gordon Grimley. Panther, 50p.

At long last ‘Walter’s’ My Secret Life is freely and legally available in this country. Unfortunately this edited version has much missing from what was originally an eleven volume work, but the essence of the book is intact, if not the sexual explicitness.

This ‘underground’ classic from the Victorian era is a valuable work because of the unique insight it gives the reader into one man’s sexual appetites and obsessions. ‘Walter’, living in a period when openness about sex is a social taboo, and the whole subject was hidden beneath a wealth of repression, fear and misinformation. The sketches of Victorian life and its class structure portrayed, also prove to be fascinating and historically informative.

The complete text of My Secret Life has only recently been available in the United States. Let us hope it will not be long before we have the opportunity to freely read this incomparable document into human sexual responses in its entirety.

SATAN WANTS YOU by Arthur Lyons. Mayflower, 35p.
A HANDBOOK ON WITCHES by Gillian Tindall, Mayflower, 35p.

Satanism and witchcraft are still proving to be intriguing and fascinating to as many people as they have done for some time now, during this current boom of interest in these and other related subjects. And to a growing number they mean a lot more than just reading about cults, devil-worship and the ‘old religions’.

Satan Wants You and A Handbook On Witches are worthwhile additions to the wealth of material published on these dark’ matters. Both are written and presented with illustrations in an intelligent and revealing manner, and fortunately do without the unnecessary over-sensationalism, often leading to misinformation one associates with much of what is already available.

OUTLAWS OF AMERICA by Roger Lewis, Pelican, 40p.

Roger Lewis’s book Outlaws of America is subtitled The Underground Press and its Context: Notes on a Cultural Revolution’. And that’s exactly what it is. It also contains many references to the ‘underground’ press in Europe, especially to those publications that appear in Great Britain.

The ‘alternative/underground’ press has come about in recent years, and has already proved itself to be a valuable contribution to society, very often covering events that do not appear in national or even local newspapers, as well as supporting and giving space to the struggles, aims and ideas of minority groups, ie blacks, gays, etc. As such it is important that those unaware of the necessity for this form of media should enlighten themselves as to why it has such a significant role to play in society.

Outlaws of America succeeds well in informing those whose knowledge of the subject is small. It also serves as a useful record of what has taken place so far during the ‘alternative’ press’s short but impressive history to those who already find these publications a vital addition to the accepted media.

Whilst on this topic. Gay News is classified by many as an ‘underground’ newspaper. In some ways it is, I suppose, but it is also trying to break out of the confines of this categorisation and open up areas which have been overlooked for far too long.

THE HOUSE ON THE BORDERLAND by William Hope Hodgson. Panther, 30p.

To be honest I haven’t yet finished this book. I’m about two thirds through it, so even if I wanted to, I can’t give the end away.

Suffice it to say I find this little book absolutely obsessive reading. It is a fantasy/supernatural work of the highest order, and the worlds I have travelled to whilst progressing through it, make me wonder where the tale will terminate.

The author, William Hope Hodgson, was killed in action in 1918. But it is only recently that his macabre, haunting story has been re-issued, although his works are regularly published in the United States. Amongst Hodgson’s numerous admirers was H. P. Lovecraft, who, along with many others, considered The House On The Borderland to be his greatest novel.

Denis Lemon

Denis Lemon

1945-1994. Denis was one of the founders of Gay News and was perhaps most famous for being sued by Mary Whitehouse when, as editor, he published a poem in 1976 by James Kirkup that she felt was 'blasphemous'. He was fined £500 and sentenced to 9 months in prison suspended for 8 months. The Court of Appeal later quashed the sentence. He died of complications from AIDS in 1994 and was survived by his partner Nick Purshouse.
Denis Lemon

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Author: Denis Lemon

1945-1994. Denis was one of the founders of Gay News and was perhaps most famous for being sued by Mary Whitehouse when, as editor, he published a poem in 1976 by James Kirkup that she felt was ‘blasphemous’. He was fined £500 and sentenced to 9 months in prison suspended for 8 months. The Court of Appeal later quashed the sentence. He died of complications from AIDS in 1994 and was survived by his partner Nick Purshouse.

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