Literary Nonfiction. Kurt Brokaw is a literary phenomenon. A pulp fixture on the streets of New York City, Brokaw is a living testimony to the greatest popular writers on the 20th century, and one of the most knowledgeable authorities on the pulp genre in the country. "I've taken advantage of an 1893 local law that permits the vending of written matter without a license on the sidewalks of New York," Brokaw admits. "NYC is the only city with such a law—it was originally designed to protect Jewish immigrants who peddled chap books out of pushcarts in the hurly burly of Orchard Street for a penny a copy....People think book selling is a First Amendment right in the United States. It's not." In a lively and amusing style, Brokaw goes out to tell the history of American popular writing from the point of view of his street-wise experience.
"A legend in the New York bookselling scene, Kurt Brokaw has not only a lavish collection of treasures from the publishing industry's colorful past but also an unmatched breadth of knowledge and a way of sharing what he knows that is charming, tantalizing, mischievous, intriguing, surprising—in short, much like the books he sells (only with less gunplay). I highly doubt my retro-styled publishing line would exist if not for the decades I've spent spotting gems on Kurt's overflowing table and chatting with him about our shared passion. I can't pass his table without buying something. But then, who would want to?"—Charles Ardai
"The dean of New York street vendors, Kurt Brokaw has been peddling vintage books and magazines near Lincoln Center for decades. Countless New Yorkers and out-of-towners have encountered him. He's a real New York character. In this chatty memoir, he tells us about the authors and illustrators of the pulp fiction that he loves. He makes us appreciate a new bookcover art that some might dismiss as 'lurid.' (He perceives, instead, 'emotional urgency'—exactly the right words.) He can tell you a backstory concerning Citizen Kane you won't soon forget. He knows which books sell and why, and he'll make you want to buy something from him on your next visit to New York. On my walks around New York—in many years writing for the New York Post, and as an author of books and plays, I've always bought from sidewalk booksellers. I'm happy to now have a book by Kurt Brokaw join others on my shelf that I've bought from Kurt."—Chip Deffaa
"Speaking from the heart, Kurt Brokaw has compiled a small but delightful volume of insights and anecdotes from a lifetime of collecting and peddling paperbacks. He is a true original, complete and unabridged."—Piet Schreuders
"Brokaw has written a whimsical paean to a once very important, and now mostly forgotten, American literary moment: the drugstore paperback. Gone is that burly pulp fiction spun in carousels by curious readers wanting their fix of gritty crime dramas, war stories, African American detectives kicking it in Harlem, Cowboys squinting down a gunsight, queer-girl/boy stories, bombed-out lives, lurking killers, and pimping bell hops—all for thirty-five cents. Americans read books for fun, and saw worlds they understood, in fact recognized. From those of us who spun those carousels to escape to Paris or Maycomb, Alabama, thank you Kurt Brokaw. Those cheap paperbacks, with their intense and glorious covers—painted by wonderful artists—have vanished, but are not forgotten."—Kent Harrington
"Kurt Brokaw's publisher recognized that a paperback street vendor could be the best kind of teacher about how books are made available, designed, advertised, and plotted. Word of mouth is the best publicity. An expert conversationalist, THE PAPERBACK GUY learned on the street the desires and situations that accounted for the popularity of mass-market entertainments in genres such as true crime, mystery, horror, romance, westerns, and sci-fi. Tough guys, rough trade, 'women of experience,' and mean streets in 'blighted' neighborhoods fleshed out the covers and pages. His explanation of Grand Guignol is unique. Great writers like Jim Thompson, David Goodis, and Kurt Vonnegut saw their works in cheap newsstand format flying off the racks. Kurt is their fan, critic, and hype-free salesman. Reading Kurt's encounters with some customers (Madonna, Joe Mitchell, Gregory Corso) and paperback writers and illustrators (Philip Roth, Harper Lee, Leo Manso) is as fruitful as reading their bios. Want to see the covers of some of the most notorious pocket-sized titles? Kurt shows dozens—in color! His explanations of why some of his offerings sell are in themselves worth the price of THE PAPERBACK GUY. So is his story of how he got the respect of the staff of McSorley's Wonderful Saloon. Brokaw's book is a New York street-life classic, to be shelved with nonfiction like Friedman's Tales of Times Square, Charyn's Metropolis, or Broussard's When Kafka Was the Rage."—Jay Gertzman
Kurt Brokaw, The Paperback Guy, is New York City's only part-time sidewalk seller of 1940s vintage paperbacks and early 20th century pulp magazines, offering a massive personal collection built in the 1950s and 60s. He's Senior Film Critic for The Independent film journal, and was Associate Teaching Professor at The New School for 33 years, teaching literature and advertising, as well as literature and film courses (including Killer Movies: Lost Films Noir, Femme Fatales of Film Noir, The Jewish Close-Up, and Queer Pioneers) at The 92nd Street Y for 15 years. Kurt was an original "Mad Man" copywriter and creative supervisor for three top-10 advertising agencies based in Manhattan, and creative director for RCA Records. His first book, A Night in Transylvania: The Dracula Scrapbook (Grosset & Dunlap, 1975) was a trade bestseller in hardcover and paper. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin with MS and BS degrees, where he wrote the UW's first master's thesis on television commercials. He is married to Mona Yuter and the father of four grown children (Leslie, Chris, Kate, Tess), and lives in Manhattan.Author City: NEW YORK, NY USA