Friday, October 16, 2009

New English Library's Monster Mag

If you've ever wanted to yell "You're a damn fool!" at something other than a human, I suggest you consider the above exhibit.

New English Library, arguably the greatest pulp horror publisher in Britain, unleashed this abortion on the public in '76.

With the by-line, "It's a ghastly giggle", they were targeting silly schoolboys and (perhaps) readers of the American Famous Monsters, a schizophrenic mag that took horror half seriously, even though its editor F.J. Ackerman took it quite seriously.

This mag's editor and resident funnyman, "Gruesome", got the show rolling with an editorial filled with more shit than a Presidential address.

The tone is set with a claim that "(he) was born with a silver thigh bone in (his) mouth." What a knee-slapper that is.

He then introduced his staff, Gilbert and Mildew. Gilbert, he explained, was a corpse, and Mildew was a black cat.

Are you Rolling On The Floor Laughing (ROTFL), or didn't that happen until the internet?

Next up, Gruesome announced a competition in which 100 "dangerous" Vampire Kites (!!!) could be won.

You heard it right. Vampire Kites.

Yes, those things that flap in the breeze on the end of a long piece of string and end up crashing to the ground.

I may be alone on this, but I've never worried too much about being attacked by a "dangerous" Vampire Kite.

Have you ever been woken in the middle of the night by a Vampire Kite flapping and tapping on your window ? I haven't. And I don't think it's in my future, either.

Vampire Kids I can understand. Creepy. Vampire Kults. Yes. Vampire Korpses. Why not. I may even be able to work up some anxiety over a Vampire Klit. But not a Vampire Kite. No, no, no.

"Please, win a vampire kite today," the ad urged readers, "and save Ghoul from extinction."

Well, Ghoul never did make it to a second issue, so I assume those 100 Vampire Kites are still hovering in some warehouse waiting to scare the shit out of kite-fearing kids of a new generation.

The next nail in this one-issue coffin was Gruesome's invitation to readers to submit models and sculptures for the "Preymate of the Month" competition.

The monstrosity above was meant to inspire creativity?

Fuck me!

Even when I was 14, I thought this stuff was beyond lame.

The torrent of wrong-headed bullshit continued with the mag's newspaper-within-a-magazine, the "Ghoul Gazette".

This crap feature came across like an early stab at the hilarious Weekly World News with the difference being it wasn't funny, amusing, or worth the tree felled for its publication.

To be fair, it was first. Weekly World News hadn't been invented yet.

As Gruesome insisted, the "Ghoul Gazette" was "the only paper by monsters for monsters".

Jesus, save me.

The back cover of the mag (above) was, in fact, my favorite part. Although it was an advertisement, it featured the lurid covers of nine NEL paperbacks, some of which I was yet to get my hands on.

I spent hours just staring at these like a hungry zombie, imagining the horrors loose between the covers.

More than anything, Ghoul was a huge missed opportunity.

At the time, New English Library was THE leading publisher of horror paperbacks. They had an amazing stable of writers including James Herbert, Guy. N. Smith, Errol Lecale, Martin Jensen, Stephen King, R. Chetwynd-Hayes (possibly the uncredited skipper of this venture) and Robert Lory. The cover of Ghoul was swiped from the NEL cover of Lory's Dracula Returns, for Chrissakes.

So why didn't the editors of this mag use the NEL connection to create a mag featuring interviews with NEL authors and artists? That would have encouraged sales, cross-promoted, and provided readers with incredible access to authors.

Why in God's name didn't they follow in the footsteps of another NEL publication, Science Fiction Monthly, a successful, tabloid-sized mag that fully exploited their stable of science fiction authors and artists?

Who knows why they totally underestimated their readers? Believe me, most NEL horror readers were not morons who ran screaming from Vampire Kites or beat off to "Preymates (give me a fuckin break!) of the Month".

I was an addicted NEL reader, and I thought Ghoul sucked elephant dicks.

Well, mostly sucked.

The "Celluloid Screams" section was alright, even though the inclusion of The Land That Time Forgot was specious.

The only truly worthy piece in this first and last issue was Walter Gillings' overview of Edgar Allan Poe.

Featuring a beautiful (uncredited) portrait of the author, it came across as authoritative and mature.

How it ended up being included is, I'm sure, a tale of mystery and imagination.

Despite this, I have to say it, and say it loud: GHOUL, YOU'RE A DAMN FOOL!


  1. On the rare occasion that I type "ROFL," I'm not. I can't say I've ever actually ROFLed.

    I prefer ROFL's gay little cousin PMSL (pissing myself laughing). Hardly ever did that either though.

  2. d -- I'd like to roll on the floor laughing, but I haven't encountered anything that funny lately.

    The gay cousin might be easier to achieve.

  3. "Vampire Klit?" ROFL

  4. anon -- oh, yes, a Vampire Klit is a scary thing. One touch and it explodes.

  5. You say that like it's a bad thing.

  6. anon -- only bad if you're not wearing "protection" from the blast.

  7. This whole thing cracks me the hell up... with the comments acting as the rich creamy icing on top.

    Thanks for lightening my mood!

    By the way, dear Phantom, the images you post *always* catch my eye, but it's definitely your writing that brings me the most pleasure...

  8. What is sad is I now feel challenged to make Vampire Kites a real threat of some sort. It is so ridiculous it begs a serious attempt.

  9. Trix -- thank you, and steer clear of low flying Vampire Kites.

    I appreciate your generous comments.


    Son -- if anybody can find where the terror (perhaps even the erotic terror) lies in a Vampire Kite, it's you.

    Go for it!