Thursday, June 10, 2010

Toga Porn Mania

I love ancient history, and I love trashy fiction...so you can imagine how I feel about trashy historical fiction.


Sadly, this is a genre which has become forgotten over time, though it proliferated in the '60s and '70s. Rather than the preachy Christian tone employed by most fiction set in the ancient world -- or, worse yet, the psuedo-Shakespearian dreck of the 19th Century (Wallace's Ben-Hur, anyone?) -- these novels dove straight into the good stuff. Trashy reads set in a technicolor Rome; they were everything you wanted to see in the films but couldn't, thanks to the censors.


I've created two Amazon lists of this genre. I'm sure there are more titles out there -- I'm always scanning the racks at second-hand bookstores, which is how I've discovered many of these -- so if you know of any I should add, please drop me a line!


Swords, Sandals, Sex and Sin - Part 1:


http://www.amazon.com/lm/R1M8H7FLA6HSJD/ref=cm_pdp_lm_title_2


Swords, Sandals, Sex and Sin - Part 2:


http://www.amazon.com/lm/R10B0L99HPW7Q4/ref=cm_pdp_lm_title_1

9 comments:

Russell Whitfield said...

The guys at the Historical Fiction Online forum pointed me in the direction of your great blog and list on amazon. Have to say that I'm gutted that "Gladiatrix" didn't make it onto your list!

Really enjoyed reading the hist-fic section of the blog, I'm going to explore some more.

Cheers

Russ

Annis said...

Hi Joe

Love your Amazon toga-porn lists which I discovered on Steven Saylor's site, and as a longtime trash-queen, I've been having lots of fun checking them out and passing them on to others I know will enjoy them.

I second Russell Whitfield's "Gladiatrix" as an addition - a great read full of gore and sex, even what one reviewer rather coyly described as "lady love" :) The TV series "Spartacus: Blood and Sand" would make another excellent contender.

Thanks, and all the best.

Joe Kenney said...

Russ and Annis, thanks for the comments. I'll add Gladiatrix to my Amazon list. I think I came across it while putting the lists together but I can't remember why I didn't include it. Probably just forgot. I won't add the Spartacus show, though. The stupid "Matrix" slo-mo action scenes and the cgi-rendered backgrounds (which don't look a tad bit real) just grind my gears. The "300 curse" strikes again...

Annis said...

Ouch- that gear grinding sounds painful and definitely to be avoided :) Meant to suggest another one for you before, but forgot. This is an unlikely contender, - it's by Poul Anderson. PA usually wrote fantasy and sci-fi, but round about 1960 he wrote a couple of wonderfully trashy straight historical fiction novels in the macho style of the times "Rogue Sword" is set in the 14th century Latin Empire, but "Golden Slave" is set in the ancient world, partly in Rome. Both had hilariously bad covers- my copy of "Golden Slave" has a much trashier cover image than this one.

And if you ever decide to do a medieval trash-hist list, I nominate John Cleve's "Crusader" series. (Swords, Sand, Sex & Sin) JC is a pseudonym for Andrew Offutt, and you either loved or hated these novels, but they were certainly hot stuff. Here's a positive review

Russell Whitfield said...

Hi guys - thanks both for opening up a whole new world of trashy fiction - I had no idea that there was this much quality out there.

I note that many of the books are quite old, so for the expense of few quid I can happily rip them off and keep the "Gladiatrix" story going! (I'm kidding if there are any lawyers reading this *lol*)

Also, its an honour to make it to the list - thanks!

Annis said...

Hi Joe

I just came across another contender for your toga porn lists in F. Van Wyck Mason's novel, "The Barbarians" (1954), which is a bit of a classic in the macho ‘50s tradition of what is described as the “lusty novel of war and love”.

Cealwyn, a bold and brawny young Celt from the Cassiterides, becomes the love-slave of a nymphomanic Carthiginian noblewoman, beautiful but cruel Tiratha, but falls in love with her Roman slave-handmaiden, Valeria. With a group of other slaves looking for vengeance, he plots rebellion and escape. It’s quite good as an adventure, though very much of its time, but Carthage is extremely decadent, and Van Wyck Mason goes round the block in his attempts to describe its licentiousness without upsetting anyone, in ways which seem pretty funny now The hilarious “volcano” appears (spouting lava rather than honey this time) ”—when all the senses had been twisted into unendurable rapture, when the volcano spewed forth its molten fire and the thunder bellowed in Cealwyn’s ears.” Van Wyck Mason does manage to get quite risqué at one point, (assuming the reader understands the fig reference) with this bit: “Don’t let the perfumed croup of your mistress or the spice of her wine lead you away from your purpose. The riven fig has betrayed better men than you, Barbarian.”

Joe Kenney said...

Thanks for the detailed recommendation! Those '50s toga porn novels are something else. I've had a hard time getting through the few I've read for the same reasons you detail above. I prefer the books from later on -- of all of the books on my two lists, "The Barbarian Princess" by Laura Buchanan (aka Florence King) is my favorite, and highly recommended.

DJ Capybara said...

Just finished your article on toga porn in the latest Paperback Fanatic. Have you heard of the "Slaves Of The Empire" series by Dael Forest? I was wondering if it was any good.

Joe Kenney said...

I've heard of that series, but never read any of them. It looks like the volumes are getting pricier and pricier on the web. My understanding though is that the contents of the novels themselves are nowhere as trashy as those Boris Valejo covers would imply -- someone emailed me about this series back when I first put those toga porn lists up on Amazon, and he told me the "Slaves" books were more "potted history" than trashy historical fiction.