For most of us in the 1950s, drugs and drug use were not part of the landscape. We were taught that drugs were used only by the most depraved people and invariably led to death or insanity. Drug use was seldom part of literature except in the most sensationalist magazines and pulps. Even so, there were relatively few paperbacks with that theme. Those that were published are highly collected and prized today as sensational morality tales. ALL drug users come to bad ends which made these stories acceptable. These books were our drug education. Marijuana by Cornell Woolrich, writing as William Irish, was published by Dell in its 10¢ short story format, and is one of the top 3 or 4 Key drug books in any collection.
Here are a few more of them:
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|Junkie was William Burroughs' first book written under the pseudonym William Lee. Alan Ginsburg persuaded his friend and editor of Ace Books, Donald Wollheim, to publish this highly auto-biographical account of an unredeemed drug addict. The book did not fit the acceptable morality style of presenting drug use as evil enough so that Wollheim had to back it with Narcotic Agent to bring us back to accepted reality.|
|Marijuana was considered to be just another addictive narcotic and all that goes with it. Here is a James Hadley Chase book, The Marijuana Mob showing an attractive young woman flashing her bra to four men delivering her a nickle bag. This is another reprise of the sex and danger fantasy of repressed 50's males. Notice the book was retitled to be more saleable.|
|As you learned in your Drug Awareness class, alcohol is also a drug. However, it is not as interesting as marijuana and junk, and collectors don't pay the big bucks for alcohol books as they do for Junkie and books like Reefer Girl. So in order to wake up your wallet, Beacon Books put a naked lady on the cover. Sex, drugs and rock 'n roll will do it every time.|
|Tristessa is one of several Paperback Originals written by Jack Kerouac. While a fairly literate book, the publisher chose to emphasize the drug and prostitution angles hoping to attract the male reader looking for smut. This book is highly sought after by both to Kerouac fans and drug book collectors.|
|The Drug book genre was a natural for the smaller 'sleaze' publishers who produced their books in the digest size format. Perhaps they thought a larger cover would better attract readers although the size did not fit paperback book-racks and thus were often relegated to a corner or under the counter. This is a rare Falcon book in poor condition, probably caused from being passed around under school desks.|
|And the mainstream publishers were not immune to the lure of drugs. Here is David Dodge's It Ain't Hay from the highly respected Dell Mapback series. It was marketed as a Thriller (Mystery) and has a classic push-pull cover showing Death rowing a coffin with a marijuana joint smoking a voluptuous woman fantasy. While not really a GGA cover, it is exceptional.|
|Here is a great British contribution from Archer Books with a cover by Reginald Heade. As you can see, he was famous for painting scantily dressed women without nipples. To see more of Heade's covers click on the link you just passed.|
Here are a few more:
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