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Heros, Gundas: India’s Resurgent Paperback Pulp

By Emily Williams

Much like our story from earlier this year discussing the popularity of Mills and Boon in India, The Washington Post has a fascinating glimpse into India’s fast-growing publishing industry through a look at the resurgence of old pulp fiction paperback novels including “campy vampire serials, supernatural thrillers, and a slew of Hindi crime novels featuring fast-talking detectives, multiple murders and crowds of prostitutes.” Old Tamil novels are proving particularly popular, peopled as they are “with Hindu sorcerers, overblown evil scientists and tortured inter-caste lovers”.

Indian publishers are responding to strong demand for these novels among upper- and middle-class Indian readers, translating them into English and offering them for sale at the large, mall-style bookstores that have started opening in recent years (book sales in India are growing rapidly, with the publishing market up “60% in the past five years”, but the tiny share of online sales means most of the growth is driving a boom in brick & mortar megastores).  A new government focus on boosting literacy is expected to spur further expansion in coming years, and the homegrown publishing industry is also finding an international market for its revival of “penny dreadfuls”.

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