Monday, March 12, 2007


In more recent times, the Sydney (Australia) based Horwitz company have become well-known as the respected publishers of such mainstream, glossy monthly magazines like TV Soap and Inside Sports, as well as a string of popular childrens' books, and a series of gardening manuals compiled by high profile Australian TV personality Don Burke.

But no doubt many of readers of their current publications would be more than a little dismayed, shocked and even disgusted to learn that during the 1960s and early-1970s, Horwitz made their mark by grinding out a seemingly endless stream of lurid war-themed paperbacks, most of which proudly wallowed in the sadistic torments which the German and Japanese powers meted out on their enemies during the Second World War. What made these paperbacks even freakier (particularly the Nazi themed ones) is the fact that Horwitz were a Jewish owned company.

Founded in 1920 by Peter Horwitz, the company initially published sporting journals and trade papers, before expanding into the paperback market just after World War II, with a series of science-fiction and western titles that were published under the imprint of Transport Publishing Company. Between 1950 and 1952, Horwitz published Thrills Incorporated, Australia's first science-fiction magazine, and their success enabled them to survive the lifting of import restrictions in 1958, which put a lot of smaller business out of action.

Horwitz's biggest paperback successes, sales wise, were undoubtedly their line of Carter Brown detective mysteries (penned by A. G. Yates) and J. E. Macdonnell's line of wartime naval adventures, both of which the company were still publishing well into the 1980s. They also found a strong readership for their Perry Mason and Raymond Chandler titles in the early-1960s (the Chandler books stand out particularly well, thanks to their terrific Theo Batten cover art). They also published the war comic Battle Action during the late 1950s. However, it is their more salacious titles which we are interested in here.

By the late-1960s, Horwitz had begun to turn away from reprinting popular overseas material in order to concentrate on original titles written by local, mostly unknown authors (although they did continue to reissue occasional titles imported from the US, particularly from the Midwood company). It was no doubt a money saving move, but one which yielded unlikely fruits. Although they would have been considered little more than mindless lunchtime fodder at the time of their publication, Horwitz's adult paperbacks have survived as little documents of some of the more extreme and oddball aspects of low-rent Australian culture, encompassing subjects as diverse as true crime, film tie-ins for local exploitation films, and the (mostly fictional) lives of sex workers in Kings Cross (a suburb of Sydney notorious for its prostitution and drug racquets).

Above: Typical example of Horwitz's line of sex paperbacks.

For these titles (which were usually published under their Scripts and Stag imprints), Horwitz mostly eschewed the use of original cover art in favor of cheap photographs featuring (usually topless) young models in suitably provocative poses. Strangely, this cost-cutting process lends the books a more memorable, coarse quality which they otherwise might have lacked.

Horwitz Goes To War

The sadistic war paperbacks published by Horwitz exist in a strange, unique twilight world all of their own. While publishers in the US (Monarch) and the UK (Badger) produced war paperbacks with rough plots and provocative cover art, none were as intrinsically mean spirited as the Horwitz titles, which focused - or to be more precise, wallowed - almost solely on the cruel torture and punishments which the Nazi and Japanese powers handed out to civilians (in particular, comely young females) and the Allied armies during the 1939 - 1945 world war.

One glance at the Horwitz war paperbacks, and it's easy to see the type of cheap thrills readership which they were aimed at. Lurid, color saturated cover art firmly emphasized the sex and sadism angle of the novels. Of course, just like most other adult oriented paperbacks from this era, the content of the Horwitz novels could rarely match the expectations raised by their titillating covers (although many of the stories still read as tight, tough and enjoyable war adventures, particularly those penned by the prolific John Slater 1 and Jim Kent).

Extremely violent and salacious, the cover art employed by Horwitz for its war paperbacks emulated the gaudy artwork featured on the covers of 1960s American mens' magazines such as Man's Story, Wildcat Adventures and Men Today (refer to Adam Parfrey's brilliant hardcover volume It's a Man's World, published by Feral House in 2003, for a great history of these publications). Some of the local Australian artists whose work graced the covers of Horwitz paperbacks include Theo Batten, Peter Chapman, Maurice Bramley and - most prominent of all - Col Cameron (see below).

The cover art employed by Horowitz for their war paperbacks invariably depicted a terrified woman, her clothes torn to shreds, being menaced by a leering Nazi Commandant or Japanese General, reflecting an unmistakable glint of sex 'n' sadism in the eyes. Col Cameron's use of primary colors in the artwork gave them a comic book feel, reminiscent of Norm Saunder's artwork on the infamous series of Topps' Battle bubble-gum cards produced in 1965 2.

For the most part, these war paperbacks stuck to a predictable formula, with their plots often interchangeable. But what they lacked in literary merit they more than made up for in both entertainment and exploitation value, and considering the inherent racism often found within their pages, it's quite astonishing that these books were being published as recently as the 1970s.

According to Lyall Moore, who was the director of Horwitz in the late-1990s, the company published a total of sixteen paperback titles per month during the height of their popularity in the mid-1960s, with each title having a print run of 20,000 copies. Distributed mainly through railway newsstands across Australia, Horwitz ceased publishing their unique war paperbacks in the early-1970s, by which time their popularity had severely declined (killed off no doubt by the increasing tolerance for sex and violence in mainstream film and literature, as well as the introduction of hardcore sex films and magazines).

Written under contract, Moore remembers the author's payment at around Aus $250 - $300 per title (certainly not a bad wage for the time, keeping in mind that most of these paperbacks clocked in at around 120 slim pages, and writers like Ray Slattery and Jim Kent were grinding out one title per month on average).

Towards the end of their run, the Horwitz war paperbacks resorted to using photo covers, which although suitably lurid, could not match the effectiveness of their painted covers, and by the early-1970s their paperback line had just about died out, relegated to the dusty shelves of Australian op shops and secondhand bookstores, where they can (fortunately for collectors) still be picked up dirt cheap (often as low as 25 cents, although some of the more knowing stores have begun to charge up to Aus $10.00 for higher grade copies). Naturally, the paperbacks are more scarce in the USA and other countries outside Australia, and as their popularity begins to (slowly) grow in these countries, no doubt their value will begin to rise accordingly (recent eBay auctions for high-grade Horwitz Nazi paperbacks have begun to bring prices as high as US $30.00).

1 John Slater was a pseudonym for a number of authors, including Carl Ruhen, R. L. Taylor and Carlene Hardy. However, most of the 84 paperbacks in the John Slater series were penned by Ray Slattery, who also wrote a number of war novels for Horwitz which were published under his real name.

2 Topps' 66 card Battle set depicted the story of World War II via the use of some very violent artwork, which bore captions like Execution At Dawn, Nazi Terror and Torture Chamber. Norm Saunders, who painted the Battle cards, was also responsible for the notorious series of Mars Attacks! cards which Topps issued in 1962.

Col Cameron: Horwitz's Premier Cover Artist

Col Cameron was undoubtedly one of the prime keys to the success of Horwitz's line of war paperbacks. Without his stark - and often disturbing - cover art, it would be hard to imagine these books being as popular as they were, so effective was Cameron's work in capturing the promised thrills of what lay within its pages.

Cameron first began providing paperback covers for Horwitz in the early-1960s, when Ron Smith was the art director for the company. Cameron at the time was working as an illustrator for the Australian political magazine The Bulletin. His first covers for Horwitz were naval based scenes for a couple of J. E. Macdonnell titles, before he found his ground with the more violent and savage Nazi/Japanese paperbacks.

Responsible by his own count for over a hundred Horwitz paperback covers, Cameron - no doubt like the majority of cover artists - seldom read any of the material prior to beginning work on a piece. Horwitz editor Roy Fuller would simply suggest a basic concept or theme for the cover and Cameron would be left to create the appropriate image, which would usually take the artist between a week or two to complete (unless it was a rush job - Fuller would often have Cameron working on two or three covers at once). As a freelance artist working from home, Cameron rarely had the change to interact with the other Horwitz artists, and many of them are now unfortunately relegated to the pages of obscurity.

In his own words, Cameron churned out his Horwitz covers "like sausages", and was not always happy with the work he did for the company, viewing his time there primarily as a learning experience (he also found himself at odds with the company when he provided some western covers which didn't follow the thematic guidelines suggested by the publisher).

While his work is appreciated amongst the rather small band of Horwitz devotees, Cameron's art has yet to find any real widespread acknowledgment within the pop culture art community. Unfortunately, Cameron himself will never see the result of any future interest in his work, as he passed away in 1999, perhaps only vaguely aware that his art had had any lasting impressions (Graeme Flanagan, author of the Australian Vintage Paperback Guide - managed to track Cameron down for an interview just a couple of years before his death).

Fortunately, a lot of Cameron's original paperback art has survived, and is currently in the hands of his long-time partner (Lyall Moore recalls that most of the Horwitz artists received a flat fee of $150 for their covers - although Cameron himself has said that his early covers only earned him around $60 - with the work being returned to the artists upon publication). Hopefully, some exhibitions of his original art will be organized in the near future, which should help establish Cameron's reputation as one of Australia's most memorable pulp paperback cover artists.

(Special thanks to Graeme Flanagan for his help in compiling this bibliography and providing information on Col Cameron. Graeme's essential reference work, the Australian Vintage Paperback Guide, was published by Gryphon Books in 1994 and is still available from their website at:

Note: In some of their 1970 paperbacks, Horwitz advertised a magazine called John Slater: Stories of Women in Bondage - an adventure/men's publication - the debut issue of which was to contain short stories with titles like Women of Manila, House of Torment and Daughters of Agony (the stories traversed subjects like black magic, coercion, bondage & discipline, and the familiar World War Two territory). The magazine, which had an advertised cover price of 60 cents, was to also feature a full color centerfold painted by a regular Horwitz artist (no doubt Col Cameron was one of the potential artists, not only for the centerfold, but for the cover and story illustrations as well). Unfortunately, it looks like the magazine was cancelled before the first issue was even published, as no copies of it have ever surfaced, and even the Horwitz archives don't have a copy.

Note: The above article is part of a sample chapter from my upcoming book Hip Pocket Sleaze - devoted to the world of lurid adult paperbacks - which is scheduled to be published by Headpress in the UK later in 2007 (visit .

Copyright John Harrison 2007

Saturday, March 10, 2007


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The early to mid-1980s were no doubt porn’s last real golden age, when many films still had stories (flimsy though they might have been), and not every girl who performed in them were bleached blondes with awful, bulbous fake tits. It was also the era which saw the emergence of some of hardcore's most popular performers, including Ginger Lynn, Samantha Strong, Taija Rae, Sharon Mitchell, Tom Byron, John Leslie, Nina Hartley, Christy Canyon and others.

But there was no bigger XXX starlet in the eighties than Norma Louise Kuzma, better known as Traci Lords. Famous initially for her looks (archetypal 1980's American girl gone bad) and displays of raw, slutty sexuality, Lords later became infamous when it was revealed that she had forged her birth details and had begun to work in the adult entertainment filed at the age of just 15, when she appeared as the centrefold model in the September 1984 issue of Penthouse. Within months, she had been featured in layouts in Oui, Hustler, High Society and Swank, before making the transition to XXX cinema.

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Traci Lords is also one of the few hardcore adult performers who have also gone on to have a legitimate and fairly successful mainstream career outside of the filed, as an actress (Cry Baby, Blade, Melrose Place, Profiler), solo singer (with her heavy techno/dance CD 1,000 Fires), author of a best-selling autobiography, and general pop culture icon (at least amongst certain demographics).

The following are a selection of brief reviews of Traci Lords’ hardcore film titles, which I compiled back in 1999 for issue six of the off-beat film fanzine Reel Wild Cinema! I have decided to publish the reviews here pretty much how I first wrote them, with just a couple of minor corrections and updates where appropriate.

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1985/Directed by Gregory Dark

New Wave Hookers wasn’t Traci’s first film (1984’s What Gets Me Hot - made when she was 16 and paid $10,000 for eight days work - holds that distinction), but it is one of her best and most controversial, and she sure looked amazing with a pair of devil horns! Jamie Gillis and the late Jack Baker (who also appeared in bit roles on mainstream TV shows like Happy Days) imagine themselves as the owners of hooker agency, whose girls become sexually insatiable when exposed to new wave music. One of the girls who works for them could well have inspired Heather Graham’s Rollergirl character from Boogie Nights.

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Clearly influenced by the impact which MTV had on the pop culture psyche, New Wave Hookers has the look and style of a slick music video. The film is well photographed and edited, while the original music by the Plugz is quite catchy and impressive, and could very well work within its own context rather then being just another piece of tacky but throwaway porn background funk.

A great introduction to both Traci Lords and 1980s porn at it most visually creative, New Wave Hookers also features Ginger Lynn, Kristara Barrington, Kimberly Carlson, Gina Carrera (her debut), Tom Byron and Peter North (affectionately known as ‘Beer Can’ in the industry due to his ability to deliver spectacular orgasms on cue). Director Gregory Dark (aka Gregory Hippolyte) went on to direct music videos for Britney Spears and Linkin Park, amongst others, and helmed his first mainstream feature, See No Evil, in 2006. An entertaining and informative interview with him was published in issue 26 of Micheal Weldon’s classic Psychotonic Video fanzine.

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1984/Directed by Jonathan Ross

Shades of Animal House permeate this film, one of Traci’s best. Rich Randy Jennings (Tom Bryon, sporting a bad moustache to make his baby face seem older) returns to his old frat house for a 10th anniversary reunion, and finds an old naked photo of his sister Vicki (Traci), who was also a student at the college, stuck to the noticeboard.

While Randy studies the photo, he has a flashback to 1974, when he was a new pledge at the Gamma Nu frat house. The new pledges are driven to get laid within two weeks, or suffer the indignity of the Black Hole (a cellar where the unsuccessful pledges have to take on two hookers while the entire frat house watches). A ‘peter meter’ chart on the wall keeps track of their progress and achievements, including Stinky Fingers, Wet Kisses, Blow Jobs, Pussy Eat (you get the idea…). When Randy’s time is almost up, sis Vicki arrives and saves him from the embarrassment of the Black Hole.

Shot on 35mm film, Sister Dearest looks great, with nice set design and clothing which helps reflect the vintage era. Ginger Lynn and old reliable Harry (Deep Throat) Reems co-star.

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1984/Directed by Ned Morehead

The only real connection which this film has with the first two (award winning) Talk Dirty to Me films (from 1980 and 1983) – apart from producer Jerry Ross – is star John Leslie, who plays a womaniser doubting his sanity when a beautiful mermaid (Traci) emerges from a pond at a nudist camp and forces her attentions on him. Her unnamed character learns phrases like “Hot throbbing dick” and “Eat my pussy”, and shacks up with a trio of more seasoned mermaids (led by Ginger Lynn).

Traci also narrates this obvious cash-in on the Tom Hanks/Daryl Hannah hit Splash, and in some scenes she actually looks quite soft and pretty (as opposed to the raunchy demeanour she was usually asked to project). Talk Dirty to Me IV followed in 1985, although Traci only appeared in it via flashback footage.

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1985/Directed by Bruce Seven

Like most porn stars, Traci Lords never looked as good when shot on video as she did when captured on 35mm film, and Harlequin Affair provides ample proof of just how quickly the quality of hardcore deteriorated once the widespread use of cheap video equipment infiltrated the industry.

There’s nothing overly special about this film, save for its dangerously incestuous theme, as an extended family get together for a weekend of partner (and gender) swapping. The camera work is clumsy and the sound is muffled in many scenes. The only real assets are the appearance of beautiful African American starlet Sahara, and a very raunchy and genuinely electric girl/girl scene between Traci and the buxom Christy Canyon (the pair made a stack of films together during this period).

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With Tom Byron (also one of Traci’s off-screen boyfriends) and a cameo by Sharon Mitchell (in a video which Christy watches). Mitchell now organises HIV tests for adult film stars. Director Bruce Seven had a very prolific porn career before dying in 2000 from emphysema and stroke complications).

1987/Directed by Jean Charles

Also known as Traci, Je T’aime, this was the first and only hardcore film which Traci made once she reached the legal age of 18, and since all of her 100+ earlier films were seized and made illegal, it has been recut and re-released numerous times over the years to try and cater to the insatiable demand for explicit Lords material.

Filmed in France and produced by Lords’ own production company, this is a fairly pretentious tale which sees Traci basically playing herself, screwing her way around at the Cannes Film Festival while trying to convince producers she is indeed a serious actress. The movie is narrated by both Traci and an obsessed photographer who is stalking her.

While Traci looks more defined and mature in Traci, I Love You, her onscreen enthusiasm seems somewhat diminished, and it provided a rather disappointing end to a spectacular and controversial XXX career.

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IT'S MY BODY (1985)

(Please Note: While I welcome input and feedback/discussions, I do not own the films reviewed above, and do not know how they can be obtained. Any request for such information will go unanswered. Thanks)

Copyright John Harrison 1999

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