When Mills & Boon Went Horror


The brief foray into horror and pulp fiction from the romance specialists.

Sometime in 1977, a series of paperback novels appeared, out of the blue, in the book shops, newsagents, chemists and other places that routinely had racks of pulp fiction on offer at the time. These new books stood out, because they were clearly a series – unconnected to each other in content perhaps, but unconnected to any other paperbacks out there in look. For a start, they were very slim – around or under 100 pages each. And their covers – lurid illustrations against a white background – were unlike anything else on the market too.

They were published by the previously unknown Venture Books, but the look and size of them made a certain sense when you saw who Venture Books actually were – on the back of the books was the name Mills & Boon. Yes, the publishers of countless throwaway romantic novels for decades. M&B books were equally slim and uniform in format, clearly designed as a quick, forgettable pleasure.

What made them suddenly – and briefly – move into the world of horror, action and exploitation is unknown, but it was an experiment that was over as soon as it began. Presumably, the books – despite lively covers, some genre name authors like Peter Tremayne and lurid titles – couldn’t compete with the more substantial efforts of New English Library and the like. These books, which were briefly everywhere, rapidly vanished and are now very hard to find. I rather wish I’d bought more than one (The Blood of Dracula), even if it was a rather lacklustre tale, notably lacking in very much Dracula action.

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