1950s Pulp Erotica Saved Me From Pandemic Stress

Nikolaus Maack
8 min readJan 5, 2021
Crack Up book cover from 1950s pulp sex book, by March Hastings. Woman with hand in hair, face overly made up, looking lusty.

When I travel, I like to go to used bookstores. I end up lugging dozens of used books back home, to Canada. A few years ago, I was on a trip to Boston. In one respectable book shop, I found myself looking at a rotating display rack of erotic paperbacks from the 1950s. The books were displayed near the cash and sealed inside transparent plastic bags, partly to preserve the book, and partly to make them more tantalizing. By modern standards, the covers were sexy, but not shocking. The books were also cheaply priced. I bought two. Coincidentally, both of the books I purchased were by the same author: March Hastings.

I took the books home and stuck them in one of my piles of books-I-would-hopefully-some-day-read. (These piles are all over my house.) I soon forgot about the books entirely.

In early 2020, I was slowly working my way through a modern translation of Don Quixote, and trying to read the complete works of Plato. (Yeah, yeah, I’m pretentious as hell.) Then COVID hit. I had to start working from home. Everyone started wearing masks. Restaurants did take-out only. Life got weird.

A new, low-level stress pervaded my world. My brain stopped working and I couldn’t read. I wasn’t fully illiterate — it just felt like my attention was always half focused on something else, somewhere else. Words refused to enter my head. I’d read a paragraph, re-read it, re-read it again, and still not remember what I’d just read.

Frustrated, I put aside Plato and Don Quixote. I turned to my piles of some-day-to-read books. Maybe my brain could find something else to focus on. Something fun, stupid, and trashy. Hey, why not these 1950s erotic pulp novels by March Hastings?

That’s how I accidentally saved my brain. Hastings is the perfect pandemic escape. Don’t think. Indulge in light, vaguely perverse, oddly metaphorical, extremely dated sex novels.

As an example, consider the book “Crack Up”.

Karen’s husband, Steve, is a race car driver. He has been in an accident, which has rendered him bedridden and impotent. What exactly are Steve’s injuries? Does he have broken bones? Why does he need a nurse? What sort of therapy is Steve undergoing for his recovery? Shut up. This book won’t tell you any of that. He’s…

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Nikolaus Maack

I am a terrible person. I am on twitter as @lordjuiblex because he is the god of slime, sickness, and stupidity. Why don't you follow me? I am terrible.