The New English Library or NEL as it quickly became to be known was formed in 1961 when the Times Mirror Company of Los Angeles bought two small British paperback publishers Ace Books and Four Square Books.
Although the company initially concentrated on fantasy, science fiction and suspense novels it soon realised that to differentiate from other publishers it needed to attract and engage with a growing teenage readership. NEL closely followed popular trends and fashions and got hack writers to write exploitative novels about skinheads, Hells Angels and groupies.
It wasn’t just youth movements that got the NEL treatment. When the television series Roots became a huge success the publishers started to bring out novels based around slaves or ‘Negro warriors’ with titles such as ‘Black Queen – The rebel slave became a savage pirate queen’ and ‘Sable Adventure – A slave ship – the most corrupt that sailed the Atlantic’. These books and others like them became incredibly popular with covers blatantly using sex to encourage the punters.
Despite these books selling in their tens of thousands back in 1970s some of the classics such as the Richard Allen skinhead series are incredibly rare and are now difficult to get hold of. Incidentally Allen was the pseudonym of a man called James Moffat – a middle aged Canadian who wrote his books in a cottage in Devon and had never been anywhere near Upton Park.
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