On “bad” writing

When I was in my early twenties I worked in a bookstore. When I got bored I would sit behind the counter and read the catalogues that publishers would send us. This was how I first became aware of the work of Leo Guild. I ordered his 1976 novel “Street of Ho’s” based on the title alone. I don’t remember the whole plot summary except that it was a murder mystery about hookers.

street of hos

When it arrived, I wasn’t disappointed. It was a dime store pulp novel with a lurid cover. And the writing style was unlike any I had ever read before. All at once it was weird, gross, but also child-like in its directness. A sample sentence being: “Sheila made him a ham sandwich and they made love while they ate.”

I don’t have my copy anymore. At some point I wrapped it up and gave it to someone as a gag gift, my little brother I think. But recently I thought of it and started to search around for a new copy. It is out of print now and I can’t find a copy for sale anywhere. But I DID end up learning about Leo Guild!

I had assumed that he himself was a pimp or some other denizen of the street, but evidently he when he wrote the book he was a sixty-something white guy, a Hollywood hack who had written books about Hedy Lamarr, Bob Hope, Liberace, and Fatty Arbuckle. From there he made his way to writing blaxploitation books because it was a trend of the day.

Anyway, this article is fascinating reading. And if you are ever in a used bookstore and come across this book or any of his other titles, such as The Black Shrink, Senator’s Whore, How to Make a Dirty Movie, or The Werewolf vs. Vampire Woman, grab them up!


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