Before comic books, there were the salacious so-called detective magazines and men's adventure magazines. These were the original, the true pulp fiction masterpieces, before Tarantino came along. On the outside they flashed slick, provocative covers. On the inside, lurid stories, some by now-famous authors, were cranked out on cheap paper.
The pulp phenomenon in the US spanned the 1920s to the 1950s. The ascension of television is believed to have caused the decline in the popularity of the pulps.