Who the hell was Pel Torro?

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Shirtless male was the closest I can come to queer content for this entry.

Pel Torro's Space-Borne

Cover in classic golden age science fiction pulp manner.

Pel Torro's The Mind Makers

Detached head with scientist doing hell knows what is always good.

Pel Torro's The Uninvited

This one I actually read. He liked titles with numbers in them.

Pel Torro's Galaxy 666

I grew up reading Asimov, Heinlein and Clarke. They, particularly Heinlein with his juvenile novels, were the science fiction writers librarians were happy to stock. Eventually I pretty much exhausted the Savannah Public Library's holdings (which are probably much enlarged: science fiction has grown respectable).

That and my addiction to comic books left me for a time with an almost insatiable taste for science fiction thrillers. When I lived in Manhattan there was a stretch where I read two or three a day. They were short, rarely over 160 pages, it wasn't much of an accomplishment.

I became increasingly absorbed in seeking the bottom: the most pulpy science fiction adventure fiction. Rarely anything published later than the 1960s, the earlier the better. Ace Books and DAW reprinted some pulp era stuff. The lowest publishers with the cheapest looking books often published new material full of the weak logic and creakiness that characterized pulp writing: Belmont (later Belmont-Tower) and McFadden Bartel, though Airmont put out a few and Uni-Books even fewer.

Eventually I stumbled across a couple of Pel Torro books. Their badness was simply breathtaking. Some people might call him the Ed Wood of science fiction prose. But I regard Wood more highly. He was closer to Joe Gill who wrote many worthless comic books for Charlton Comics. Gill's plot and prose were mostly suggestive of monkeys chained to typewriters.

Later I read somewhere that Pel Torro was really Rev Robert Lionel Fanthorpe. My passion for shoddy science fiction abated. That didn't diminish my delight when I discovered a website devoted to Rev. Fanthorpe.

From the site's summary of Torro/Fanthorpe's method of composition:

He dictated his masterworks into a reel to reel tape recorder, oftentimes under the cover of a blanket to enhance his concentration. He would then ship those tapes off to a pool of typists for transcription. This created many unique problems. People who die in one chapter reappear a chapter or two later because it was forgotten that they were dead. Odd phrases turn up in the middle of paragraphs due to a misunderstanding by the transcriptionist. With a little work, you can usually puzzle out what was actually said on the tape vs. what the transcriptionist heard.

Lionel Fanthorpe Appreciation Page

The cover gallery is huge which is why I swiped four covers, it was so hard to choose.


That phenomenom of dead literary zombies coming back from the grave in a later chapter faster than you can whack them with a shovel, reminds me of Marios Vargas Llosa’s, “Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter.” The one writer worked on so many radio novelas at the same time, that he kept confusing which characters and plotlines were on which show. In the end, he had to settle all that fictional hash with some sort of cataclysm.

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