Stories about life in Liddonfield housing project and its impact on the Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood of Upper Holmesburg. These true stories reveal how government policy affected the lives of real people, from the project residents to area homeowners during the 5 decades of Liddonfield’s existence. Stories and articles are written by a former resident of the project.


Rosemary Reeves, Blogger, standing on Philadelphia Skyline

Oct 24, 2011

Public Housing Pulp Fiction

by Rosemary Reeves

A rare jewel of a book, Rumble at the Housing Project, featured on a website known as Pulp Fiction Trash and first published in 1960 by Ace Books, Inc., offers a glimpse into the world of public housing pulp fiction.  Written at a time when many public housing residents were poor whites, this book sensationalizes public housing as a den of Caucasian criminals with slicked-back greaser haircuts.  On the cover, a leather-clad greaser holds a knife menacingly.  Another white juvenile lurks in the stairway, leering at a young girl walking up the stairs, as if he is about to attack her.  A second leather-clad juvenile brandishes a pistol in the background.  Still another wears a defiant expression on his face as a cigarette dangles from his lips. The book's cover embodies every negative stereotype the public was fed about poor white people who lived in housing projects during that era.  The artist's rendering is brazenly unapologetic in its raw depiction of the white underclass as villains.  And yet, you gotta love it.

By today's standards it's a bit cheesy, but invaluable nonetheless to fans of pulp fiction, social scientists, historians, those studying the demonization of marginalized groups and anyone who ever lived in public housing.  It clearly marks a turning point in the public's perception of housing project residents, via the popularity of pulp fiction.  It is also one of the few novels that have ever been set in a white-dominated housing project.

In the early years of public housing, those who lived within its walls were portrayed by the media as needy but deserving families who benefited from the government's helping hand.  By the early 1960s, however, they began to be viewed as a public menace and Ace Books jumped on the bandwagon.

The author, Edward De Roo, also wrote Go! Man Go! (a novel of lawless hot-rodders) per the subtitle.  The cover shows a young couple in a sultry embrace, the girl's halter top barely covering her bosom.  He also penned The Young Wolves (too wise, too soon) in 1959 and The Little Ceasars in 1961.  His gritty urban novels were so popular that Hollywood made them into movies.

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