03 October 2012


Photo by Roger Conrad
HARLAN ELLISON is unarguably the greatest living JD author (writer of juvenile delinquent fiction) in the world, a pedigree that tags along with a mile-high stack of accolades. Ellison was hatched in Cleveland, Ohio in 1934 and grew up in aptly-named nearby Painesville. He ran away from home several times, and worked a colorful string of odd-jobs, including tuna fisherman, crop-picker, nitroglycerine truck drive, door-to-door salesman, and short-order cook. He made it through high school and enrolled at Ohio State. He was promptly expelled. His writing career began with a couple of news stories and a sale of a tale to EC Comics. 

Ellison relocated to New York City in 1955 and joined a teenage gang in Red Hook, Brooklyn, traveling under the name “Cheech Beldone”. The experience in a black leather jacket and motorcycle boots would affect his work throughout his long and sturdy career. Where his early delinquent books like The Deadly Streets and Rumble has been reissued over the years, the extremely scare and desirable SEX GANG, a collection of early men’s magazine fare and delinquent-tingled tales, has remained unavailable until now. 

Photo by Chris Cuffaro
Ellison has allowed Kicks Books to issue the stories from SEX GANG in two volumes, with several additional stories from the late fifties and early sixties. PULLING A TRAIN and GETTING IN THE WIND, together, encompass all the action, traction and raunch that formed a genre all its own, a style populated by several fiction and science fiction scribes alongside Ellison, but Ellison was and is the king of the heap. He continues to rule the kingdom from his typewriter-infested abode in an undisclosed wooded area in Southern California. 



ELLISONIACS!! PULLING A TRAIN meets its match GETTING IN THE WIND -- the pair tag teams the mass market paperback world STARTING NOW-- are you ready to howl?

Greetings from the hip pocket paperback empire...Kicks Books USA... home to authors Andre Williams, Sun Ra, Nick Tosches, Kim Fowley and of course... Harlan Ellison, whose gritty pseudonymous 1959 short story collection SEX GANG has remained elusive, underground, and misunderstood for over fifty years. No longer! We're gassed beyond all measure to present, in two volumes, every story from SEX GANG, plus six noggin bashin' cherry-picked originals circa 1957-66 that set in stone a rumbling notion that Ellison is indeed the ultimate bad cat of rockin', rollin' cold-blooded/red-blooded, dead-beat, gang-bangin', train pullin', wind gettin', supreme action street fiction.

PULLING A TRAIN and GETTING IN THE WIND are delivered via twin "hip pocket paperback" format-- independent volumes that collide to form the ultimate set. One for the hip pocket, another to bop a perceived offender smack upside the head.

California artist LES TOIL'S torrid cover paintings (yes, there are two) form a seamless image of the true SEX GANG pack-- street vixens who won't take "no" for an answer, alley rats who find the flash of a blade intoxicating, boulevard dolls who delight in the muffled cry of a face crushed beneath a scuffed stiletto heel. This is real life set to the sound of sirens echoing down the dead end streets of America. The edge of forever... starts at the waterfront.



Harold McCauley was the original cover art genius at Nightstand Books. As the story goes, McCauley was artist Haddon Sundblom's model for the Quaker Oats label. Yes, the guy who painted the cover of SEX GANG smiles knowingly at you from the cereal shelves  of every supermarket the world over as the face of wholesome Quaker Oats.


Now dig this -- In 1973, SEX GANG saw limited reissue on Reed Nightstand with an updated cover, painted by McCauley's assistant Robert Bonfils. Now, Bonfils swears on a stack of first edition Nightstands that he painted the current Quaker Oats label, using his mentor (McCauley) as the model. I like both versions of the story. The idea that two different SEX GANG artists are represented in oatmeal is really exciting to me. The only thing that could top this, would be if Les Toil repainted the logo with Ellison as the model. Then, the circle would be complete. Of course, for Harlan, the product would have to be wild oats.

An Ellisonian evolution revolution...

Photo by Roger Conrad
Cleveland-born Harlan Ellison's published works include over 1,700 short stories, novellas, screenplays, essays, teleplays and books. He is the recipient of numerous awards including multiple Hugos, Nebulas, and Edgars. He is the subject of the documentary DREAMS WITH SHARP TEETH which reveals him to be the most energetic, opinionated, and combative conversationalist alive today. Yes, of course, you know all this, but do you know what evils lurk within these unleashed pages of unadulterated mayhem from decades past?