Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Cuba: Sugar, Sex, and Slaughter

After the pulp magazines disappeared, they were largely replaced by a more gritty and realistic magazine genre collectively known as Men’s Adventure Magazines (MAMs). These glossy, color publications featured stories and artwork by the same people servicing the men’s paperback original market in the 1950s and 1960s. Magazines like “Adventure” and “Real Men” were filled with colorful illustrations and stories designed to appeal to working class men returning home from the wars of the Mid-20th Century.

The Men’s Adventure Library Journal is a labor of love for Robert Deis and Wyatt Doyle with a mission of preserving the salacious stories and art from the MAMs in beautiful-themed compilations that both entertain and put the stories in some historical context. Their latest release is “Cuba: Sugar, Sex, and Slaughter,” and it’s a total pleasure to read and own.

One of the conceits in MAMs is the fictional story presented as non-fiction, and several of the Cuba stories in this volume fall into that category. “Brotherhood of the Scar” is a fictional story from a 1959 issue of “Adventures for Men” by Jack Barrows that falsely claims to be “an eye-witness story of an ex-GI who was brutally tortured by Batista’s savage Gestapo and lived to join the secret underground army that swore vengeance at any price.” The story itself is a 33-page torturous bloodbath that will make fans of the men’s adventure series paperbacks of the 1970s and 1980s feel right at home.

Another highlight was “Kiss the Skull of Death My Beautiful Muchacha” allegedly by Linda Rogers as told to Jim McDonald (actually a work of complete fiction by McDonald). The story originally appeared in the September 1965 issue of “New Man” with graphic cheesecake art by the great Norman Saunders lovingly reproduced in this anthology. The soft-core sex opening grabs the reader as the American female nightclub singer is ravished by her Cuban lover during Fidel’s revolution. One thing leads to another and our heroine is captured and turned over to “El Toro” for torture and interrogation. This is exciting and lurid stuff for men of any era. 

The stories collected and preserved here were an important part of America’s literary history and the Men’s Adventure Library Journal guys are doing important work keeping this stuff available. Arguably, the violent and sexy art of this genre was just as historically significant as the stories themselves. Fortunately, the editors of “Cuba” have reproduced scads of cover art and interior illustrations to further give the stories further context and provide a feast for the reader’s eyes.

More information about the MAMs can be found at the website menspulpmags.com, and all of the themed reprint books compiled thus far can be bought on Amazon. In the meantime, “Cuba: Sugar, Sex, and Slaughter” is an essential anthology for fans of sexy, blood-on-the-knuckles fiction and illustration art. Highly recommended.