Scantily clad woman and bulky shirtless men in tight leather pants line wooden shelves that enclose a bright red, retro Coca-Cola refrigerator, black cushioned seats with metal backings and a fluffy, eloquently trimmed poodle draw customers in, rather than just the smell of coffee that permeates the Lawrence Avenue and Pandosy Street junction.
Max Sloan, 76, owner of Pulp Fiction Coffee House in downtown Kelowna, spent almost 60 years of his life collecting these books.
The shop is named after the term coined in the 1920s describing the type of cheaply produced 10-by-7-inch paper manufactured by wood pulp, in which risky literature was printed on, according to R.D. Mullen, back in 1995.
“Of course, I’m old as dirt now,” Sloan said with a grin. “I’ve been doing this for a lot of years.”
When Sloan, originally from southern Alberta, retired from the oil industry as a consultant 10 years ago, he knew this was his chance to follow a lifelong dream.
“Someday I knew I was going to open a book shop,” he said.
And that’s what Pulp Fiction was meant to be when it opened in 2012: a book shop. But the demographics didn’t suit the business and Sloan married the idea of a coffee shop, with a book shop to sustain his business.
“I have the best baristas and the best coffee,” he said. “I realized that combining the two was the only way that this book shop could exist.”
Sloan proclaimed he has one of the largest antique bookend collections in all of North America. When he travelled for work, he would journey through the United States’ southern and mid-western states to pad his collection of antique literature. One by one, he slowly gathered the collection you see today in Pulp Fiction and the overflow that he has tucked away in a warehouse.
“I’m an image guy—I love to read—but I’m an image guy, too,” he said, referencing the provocative artwork on the front of the his books. “That was really the hook for me.”
Back when the infamous string of cheap literature, known as pulp fiction, was published in the late 1800s and early 1900s, some of the artwork was quite suggestive, creating a counterculture against the more reserved 20th-century norms.
Some say this genre of literature influenced the following century; a century that featured the 1950s beatnik generation, lead by Jack Kerouac, Joanne Kyger, Allen Ginsberg, Diane Di Prima and the wily Neal Cassaday. Following the footsteps slowly after was Ken Kesey and Hunter S. Thompson.
Covers on books such as the Nympho Librarian and Sin on Wheels featured sleek, beautiful women essentially selling literary sex. It’s a relic that lives on, almost in secrecy, due to the popularity of the cult-classic film, Pulp Fiction.
Sloan’s wife, Gloria, was a realtor before retiring around the same time her husband did. She is normally around the shop between 10 and 3 p.m.—not as much as her self-proclaimed “workaholic” husband, who puts in seven days a week at about 10-hour shifts.
They have two children; one who lives in South Korea, teaching English and another who started his own business. But do they share their father’s passion for 1900s literature?
“No, probably not,” Sloan said, smiling at his attempts to draw his kids into the art form. “He’s a little older now and he started to come around and say that’s pretty nice. So they’ve had a change of heart a little bit.”
Reporter, Kelowna Capital News
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