Wednesday, 7 April 2010

In The Days Of The Soho Typescripts, Part One

I suspect that I may be one of the last writers of Soho Typescripts still alive and kicking, since most of the others were getting on in years when I started back in the mid-1970s. Since I doubt if anyone under the age of about 50 will even know what a Soho Typescript was, I'll explain that back in the day if an organisation needed to get a copy of a document out in large numbers it was done via a duplicating machine, usually called a Gestetner, after one of the companies that made them. The document was typed on an ordinary typewriter, but with a waxed stencil in place of the usual sheet of paper. This stencil was then placed around the duplicator's drum and about 500 copies could be hank-cranked off before a new stencil had to be produced.

Large runs were produced by an offset-litho printing machine just as they are today, and if only two or three copies were needed then carbon paper could be used in the typewriter. However, a run of a couple of hundred copies was usually a job for the Gestetner machine. Needless to say, the Soho porn merchants all bought duplicators between the wars and set themselves up as small publishers. The merchants in other parts of the country quickly copied them, but no matter where the material was produced, it was always called a Soho Typescript.

What usually happened was that a merchant would buy two or three stories of about 5,000 words each from the writers. An artist was paid to produce, on a stencil, the name that was given to the work and a drawing that was vaguely related to it. The connection between the drawing and the content really depended on how much a merchant wanted to pay. I have known some who had a stack of drawings on stencils which were picked out at random and then a title written at the top once the merchant had enough stories to justify stencilling them up.

The stories in the typescripts always followed a theme, be it straight sex - always called shaggers in the trade, or fladge - flagellation - which is the trade name for spanking, fem-dom, BDSM and the like. The aficionados and aficionadas may like to say that there is a difference between them, but the trade was far more laid back about such nuances. Thus a certain psychotic Maltese lunatic who ran a large outfit in Liverpool once introduced me to one of his henchmen with the immortal words: "This is Nick, he does my fladge."

Having set the scene, as it were, next week I shall return and explain how I became a writer of material for the one-handed readers of Britain.

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