Ed Wood's Sleaze Paperbacks—Michael P. Daley & Johan Kugelberg
He was the cinematic schlock auteur par excellence. The worst film director to ever shoot a picture so it's said, but to a discerning few of us, Ed Wood Jr. straddled bathos and pathos with a strange and dazzling grace.
Today, Wood is largely understood through the lens of the Tim Burton biopic, which detailed the filmmaker’s public efforts to make no-budget masterpieces like Plan 9 from Outer Space, and his private life as a cross-dresser with a particular fetish for angora sweaters. Yet, that Hollywood tale covers only one aspect of Wood’s life.
After a flurry of science-fiction and horror films, a cash-strapped Wood bottomed out entirely, turning from the camera to the typewriter. On this back end of his career, Wood penned a vertigo-inducing number of pornographic paperback novels and ridiculous faux-medical sex studies, using a cornucopia of pen names. His employers were sketchy publishing houses—sometimes mob-connected, often dodging (and sometimes fighting) various obscenity charges.
Wood's novels were hack-jobs, superficially devoid of any real “art,” and yet amidst this porno pulp the reader is often surprised by sudden ambushes of heart-wrenching empathy and insight into the life of an outsider. Herein, one finds explicit porno scenes inter-spliced with lengthy philosophical, sociological, and psychological discourse. More so, Wood’s novels addressed the life of trans individuals, the then-covert gay subculture, and other marginalized aspects of America’s 1960s and 1970s sexual underground—albeit from a place of exploitative Times Square hucksterism, poor taste, and with terminology deeply offensive to contemporary sensibilities. Still, the history of these pornographic novels reveal relatively unexplored aspects of cultural censorship, sexual politics, the business of publishing, and the very personal anguish of being an artist without an audience.
Ed Wood's Sleaze Paperbacks is an annotated, visual catalogue of known pornographic books authored by Ed Wood. The core of this archive was assembled by science-fiction editor and collector Robert Legault (1950 – 2008). After acquiring Legault’s Ed Wood collection, Johan Kugelberg expanded it with additional paperbacks and magazines containing material by Wood, as well as other contemporary sleaze paperback writers. The collection, the largest known scholarly holding of Ed Wood’s pornographic material, is now housed at Cornell University’s Human Sexuality Archive.
This is an excellent resource for bibliographic inquiry, sleaze-gazing, and scholarship around American sexuality.
100 pages / 8" x 10" / Softcover