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“Actually, I had about a dozen different pen names — seems like they changed on every book. For a time I was known as Longjon Jones.” And that, he admonishes me, is how I will identify him. “If you use my [real] name, I’ll hunt you down and turn your gizzard into a volleyball and kick you around the lot.”

Jones, a particularly prolific East County novelist during the heyday of cheap sleaze paperback publishing in San Diego in the 1960s and ’70s, is a frail, elderly man. I have no idea if he’s joking or not.

“I was learning how to write, and somebody bugged me into the porn. It wasn’t so bad then, [the books were] like some of the modern-day romances.”

By “bad,” I understand Jones to mean raunchy. Today’s romance novels read pretty heavy, with captured women ravished by pirates or Vikings or unruly men of one sort or another.

“I take it back then the ‘dirty’ books were fairly soft-core by today’s standards.”

“I did 43 books of ‘true love’ and learned one hell of a lot about writing,” says Jones. “Mostly that you had to sit down and do the pages every day. They were about 40,000 words and paid from $250 to $400. I think Greenleaf paid more.”

Jones wrote several books for the now-infamous San Diego-based porn publisher Greenleaf Classics — “before the editor got busted and did time” — but mainly he worked for a smaller cheap-paperback outfit, Surrey House.

“I remember that the FBI had cameras zooming in on the front door of the place and took pictures of everyone who came or went. A place to earn a little while you learn, I guess. I was doing other writing at the time as well.”

Jones didn’t socialize much with his porno-king colleagues, but he does recall going to one party attended by other pulp writers and Surrey’s publisher. “Before I knew it the booze and the drugs and sex were flying around. I got out of there in a rush.”

Jones had not found his calling in writing about the sins of the flesh. “I got busy with other things and edged away. I went straight on to westerns and detective novels and worked my way up.”


San Diego’s curious history of sleaze publishing is almost forgotten now, but the biggest name in the business, Greenleaf Classics, operated out of Mission Valley. Greenleaf released more titles each month than its competitors in Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, and New York, and many of their hack writers lived here, but they would seldom put their real names on the book covers.

“You have to understand, even after all this time, the brand can still stick to you and hurt you, and people in your life will look at you differently, they’ll look down on you,” one Hillcrest-based writer who also prefers to remain anonymous tells me, “and because of the social work I now do, I’m not sure I really want people to know that I used to be a smut scribbler. But I have to admit, at the time it was fun, it was really fun being M.J. Deer, among many others.”

I ask him how many he’d used.

“A dozen. Usually the names were made up just as the books went to press, and that was out of my hands. I was just a work-for-hire type.”

He hands me a beat-up, yellowed copy of a little book entitled Flames of Desire, published in 1963 by International Publishers in Hollywood. The cover depicts a man and a woman kissing and fondling in a convertible jalopy, but the story itself seems to be a high-fantasy, sword-and-sorcery adventure tale. I’m reminded of Kurt Vonnegut’s character Kilgore Trout, the science-fiction writer who could only publish his strange little novels by disguising them as porno books.

She was blonde and plump with a creamy complexion, the first page starts, rosy cheeks and cherry-red lips. Her breasts pushed against her blouse as though eager to get free.

I skipped a few pages and found: The heat of the forge beat against Falmore’s face as he bent over it, sending rivulets of sweat running down his steel-muscled arms and back…

He hands me another book, Asylum…or Hell! by Ralph Brandon, also published in 1963 but by a different Hollywood outfit called Art Enterprises. “Scandalous abuses in private mental hospitals exposed!” reads the cover. “Sane men kept in padded cells for over-sexed mistresses! Shock treatment for revenge instead of therapy!”

I’m hooked. I open it, a few pages fall out. One of them reads: A real man — and you wouldn’t have been put in the harem if you weren’t a real man — just naturally wants to grab a dame up, turn her over on his knee, and blistering her pretty little can when she tries bossing him around. You do that and we’re both dead ducks.

He says I can keep both; he doesn’t need or even want them. “I have more copies in storage somewhere anyway.”

“You must have had fun writing this stuff.”

“Yeah, I did. A lot. What the hell, eh? It was a paycheck.”

He made $400–$500 a book, good money at the time, and by writing one or two a month he managed to put himself through SDSU. “We’re talking a lot of books, kid.”

And where’d he get the ideas for all those books?

“Fantasy, pure fantasy. I could work it all out on the page, so I became less frustrated.”

Like Longjon Jones, he wrote for Greenleaf — “everyone did” — as well as Surrey House. “But that place was run by the Mafia, or fronted by Mafia money. There were a lot of shady characters involved, and I didn’t care for too many of them.” But also like Jones, he found the pleasures of the genre to be fleeting, and he’s long since given up the sleaze and sin.

“What’s the point? I write poetry now, and even with that I ask myself: what’s the point? It’s impossible to make a living as a writer — porn, poetry, romance, whatever. There are easier ways to make a buck.”

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