Naked Chicks, Guns And Skulls

By | June 11, 2008

Dragon TreasuryWhen I was a little nipper we used to visit my paternal grandfather’s house every Saturday. My parents would drop me off for a bit of free child minding while they both went to work. At the time they were both working six days each week and we were very short of cash. Nothing changes!

Anyway, there was a ritual that my father and his dad went through each time we visited. I’d be engaged in some distraction, for example being enticed with sweeties by Gran, and my father would be huddled with Granddad next to the pine cupboard next to the kitchen fireplace. My grandfather was a member of a book club. He would order and read novel after novel and then pass them on to my father for him to read.

What sort subjects were hidden within the pages of those books meant that they had to be kept from me? Nothing too naughty, just lurid spy thrillers, probably all trying to be James Bond Mk II. Their covers were bedecked with guns, and exotic women, which is why my delicate little eyes had to be protected from them, lest they corrupt me. It didn’t work, LOL

They would always disappear before I had chance to take a peek at them when we got home.

The fact is that they were probably tame, and lame. But the covers cast a spell on me, always making me want to read them.

Then one day I found them.

We had a model railway in the loft of our bungalow. While I was up there fiddling with trains as boys do, I spotted a tea chest pushed into a dark corner. If you haven’t seen one, tea chests were wooden cubes, bound with steel bands, used for transporting tea from India and Sri Lanka. They’re no longer used, which is a pity because they’re great for storage and were relatively cheap. The top had been cut away, and inside, covered by a yellowing sheet of newspaper were the books that had passed through my Granddad’s and father’s hands.

Man From UncleI quietly sifted through the paperbacks, savouring the covers, each seemingly more exciting than the last. The titles elude me, but they promised as much as the un-subtle artwork – sex and intrigue.

The books and their covers were a product of their time and despite their sexual and very misogynistic connotations were almost naïve in their presentation of the content of the novels. The common theme was guns, naked women (in profile) jewels, skulls, tropical islands. Cliché doesn’t quite cover it but they were very exciting to me at the time.

I wanted to smuggle one downstairs and read it, hiding it under my bed, or a cupboard somewhere. However the loft ladder dropped into the T-shaped hallway that ran through the centre of the house and discovery was almost inevitable, so I never plucked up the courage to do it.

(The image at the top is a book called Dragon Treasury, just and interesing paperback cover I found on the Interney)