Pulp Passion Annual Convention Gathers to Honor Racy Form of American Literature

Article excerpt

Byline: Tom Valeo Daily Herald Correspondent

Windy City Pulp and Paperback Convention

Where: Ramada Plaza North Shore, 4500 W. Touhy Ave., Lincolnwood

When: 2 p.m. to midnight today; 9 a.m. to midnight Saturday; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $25 Friday only; $10 single-day pass for Saturday or Sunday; $30 for three-day pass; children under 13 are free

Phone: (847) 677-1234

E-mail: windycitypulpconvention@@charter.net

Today, most people know pulp fiction only as the title of a film by Quentin Tarentino.

During the first half of the 20th century, however, pulp fiction evolved into one of the most popular forms of entertainment in this country.

Published on cheap paper made out of coarse wood pulp, these magazines regaled Americans with stories about crime, adventure and, yes, even sex.

They flooded the newsstands of American cities, branching into innumerable subgenres devoted to stories involving firefighters, submarines, railroads, speakeasies and even zeppelins.

"Spicy" versions of pulp magazines featuring paintings of voluptuous women on the cover in various stages of undress were kept behind the counter like today's porn magazines.

"They were the chief source of cheap fiction reading material from 1900 to 1950," says Doug Ellis, a lawyer who lives in Barrington Hills and collects pulp memorabilia. "Paperback books didn't really take off until the mid-1940s. Until then if you wanted to read fiction but didn't have money for hard-cover book, you'd buy pulp magazines."

Four years ago, Ellis decided to indulge his collecting habit by creating the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention, held in Lincolnwood.

"Until us there was just one pulp convention - Pulpcon, in Dayton, Ohio," Ellis said. "It's been going on since the early 1970s, and I've made every one since 1988. It's a great time, but it's held only once a year. It seemed like there was room in the calendar for another show."

Ellis figured a show in the Chicago area would attract local fans who wouldn't travel to Pulpcon, plus lots of other fans who would rather travel to Chicago than Dayton.

He figured right. The convention has grown steadily each year.

"We've surpassed Pulpcon in attendance," he says proudly. "We had 370 last year, the most ever at a pulp show."

And he expects to surpass that number at the fourth annual convention, which opens today and runs through Sunday.

The convention's main attraction are the dozens of dealers who set up shop, selling posters, original cover art and copies of actual pulp magazines. An auction will be held from 8:15-9:30 p.m. Saturday at which anyone can sell their collectibles.

An art room will be open on Saturday and Sunday featuring cover paintings, drawings and other original art from pulps.

"There was an exhibit of pulp art at the Brooklyn Museum last year," Ellis says. "This will be almost as large. We'll probably have at least 50 covers."

Ellis admits that conventions such as his are becoming obsolete as a forum for selling pulp memorabilia.

"EBay has revolutionized the way people buy and sell pulps," he says. "Ten years ago - the old days - you had people buying and selling through pages of fanzines. Dealers used to publish catalogs, and you couldn't get through to them on the phone the next day because every other pulp fan was trying to call. With eBay you can find 1,000 to 2,000 items for sale any day."

As a result, the Windy City convention emphasizes fun as much as business. A film festival, for example, will include five rare films based on pulp fiction.

"Some movies based on pulp stories, such as 'The Maltese Falcon,' are well-known, but a lot of them were made by B-movie studios," Ellis says. "A lot of them are not available on video, and they aren't shown on TV. One of our convention folks is a collector of 16 mm films and has put together a collection of six movies. …