Alter, Robert Edmond (pulp fiction writer)



Alter is remembered chiefly for two novels, paperback originals from the 1960s. Swamp Sister (1961) and Carny Kill (1966), both Fawcett Gold Medal topics played out against classic low-class milieus of sleazy softcover fiction in the early 1950s: the southern swamp in the first and the traveling carnival in the latter. Indeed, the topics can be seen as out-of-sync hangovers from the earlier era, particularly Swamp Sister, almost a nostalgia item from the years when rural vixens were briefly considered major erotic icons and numerous paperback pros chronicled their misadventures. But if Alter seemed to have missed the heyday of his subgen-res, the two topics were at least excellent examples of their benighted kind. Swamp Sister centers on the hot-to-trot denizens of a slimy backwoods community, the alluring young woman of the title, the boy who covets her, and the lost fortune in cash buried in an aircraft crashed in the swamp and surrounded by alligators and deadly snakes. In Carny Kill, a drifter and ex-con turns up at his ex-wife’s carnival knife-throwing act at just the wrong time; the owner of the carnival, the ex’s new husband, gets a knife buried in his chest and the cops think the former hubby did it. Swamp Sister is good, sleazy fun, and Carny Kill tells its tale in a vivid, suspenseful style that brings to mind similar work by Fredric brown and Cornell woolrich.

Alter’s other novels include Red Fathom, (1967) a good underwater-treasure story with vivid diving scenes; Thieves Like Us (1968), an archaeological adventure set in Egypt; Path to Savagery, (1969) an apocalyptic science fiction story; and The Trail of Billy the Kid (1975), a dramatized account of the life of the western outlaw. Alter also wrote children’s novels and sold stories to some of the top magazines of his day, including the Saturday Evening Post. Alter died suddenly at the age of 40, and some of his later works were published for the first time many years after his death.


  • Carny Kill (1966);
  • Path to Savagery (1969);
  • Red Fathom (1967);
  • Swamp Sister (1961);
  • Thieves Like Us (1968);
  • Trail of Billy the Kid, The (1975)

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