Chariots in the Bedroom

Paperback books! Their covers promise tales of bloody adventure, lurid sex, flying saucers, and passionate romance. And, believe it or not, they deliver.

CURIOUS TO KNOW WHAT WAS selling these days I gleaned a selection of popular paperback books from such unbookish places as airports, supermarkets, drugstores, and 7-Elevens. There were ten books, among them Chariots of the Gods, The Late Great Planet Earth, The Crazy Ladies, The Executioners #16, and they had sold an average of 2 million copies each. The Lord must love cheap paperbacks, he made so many of them.

I began with The Crazy Ladies by Joyce Elbert. The cover blurb said, “The first really great dirty book. COSMOPOLITAN.” It seemed like something they would know. I bought the other books rather impulsively, too, since paperback distributors told me that most people buy the books in convenience stands on impulse. “I put out as many different titles as I can and change them often as I can,” one distributor told me, “because that increases the chances of striking that hidden chord—the one that makes people buy a book they didn’t know they were going to buy when they walked in the store.” A book that doesn’t sell enough to pay its keep is seldom around

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