With the cultivated lifestyle of Esquire and Playboy in the ’60s came their netherworldly alternatives, “dirty books,” which floated proudly down the gutter alongside the Easy Street canter of the Man of Distinction. Although the “blue” laws of the era made the writing necessarily oblique and implicit — “Do it! I want that!” — there was remarkable freedom in the topics tackled so bluntly on those broken spines: Beauty Queen Orgies reveals that “Regina was no virgin . . . she took on the beauty-contest judges one at a time”; Faggots to Burn! nervously asks, “Is the ‘Third Sex’ taking over Hollywood?”; and Caper at Canaveral! shows how “Cuban Commies use the fiery desires of a lush nympho to gain American missile secrets!” Even as the legal system considered Olympia Press books by William S. Burroughs, Henry Miller and Gregory Corso criminally obscene, pornographic prime mover Earl Kemp’s San Diego–based Greenleaf Classics put out sleaze opuses by Marion Zimmer Bradley, Harlan Ellison and Georges Bataille and got him a cell at Terminal Island, where he became almost iconic as the Pornographer Arrested by Police. In the entertaining and still-stimulating collection Sin-a-Rama, the ways in which the various authors dealt with their work emerge with radical variety, just as different individuals treat their more basic instincts. Author William Knoles’ suicide and writer Ron Haydock’s hitchhike hit-and-run death contrast with the success of Robert Silverberg, who diversified into texts on archaeology and science and then on to science fiction. So remember this the next time you download your cheap limitless entertainment and reach for the Jergens: Men died a little for you in the good old days of dog-eared, ink-stained, one-handed sexual fantasy. SIN-A-RAMA: Sleaze Sex Paperbacks of the Sixties | Edited by BRITTANY A. DALEY, HEDI EL KHOLTI, EARL KEMP, MIRIAM LINNA, ADAM PARFREY | Feral House | 288 pages | $25 hardcover

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