Well, he says his name is Manny Slaughter, but for some reason I don't think he's as harmless as he seems.
Elizabeth Daly fashioned herself as a U.S. version of Agatha Christie, writing the same kind of mysteries but setting them in New York City. We gather that she was even Christie's favorite mystery author, which is quite an accolade. Murder Listens In is seventh in Daly's Henry Gamadge series—the main character being a sleuth who writes mystery novels—and he's drawn into this puzzle by a crumpled note with his name and address on it found by a postman outside an Upper East Side mansion, and is soon dealing with a client who insists on anonymity to the point of throwing him notes out a window. Someone in this house filled with distant relatives and servants is in deep trouble, and Gamadge, with the help of his wife Clara and his sidekick Schenck, has to figure it out before someone (else) dies. Exceedingly well reviewed, and deservedly so. Originally published in 1944 as Arrow Pointing Nowhere, with this Bantam paperback appearing in 1949 graced by Harry Schaare cover art.
An American crime story.
Written by The Gordons, who were the tandem of spouses Gordon Gordon and Mildred Gordon, FBI Story follows Agent John Ripley as he investigates the disappearance of a woman named Genie. She's wanted for theft by the FBI, and by the Los Angeles police as a person of interest in a murder case. Ripley finds that he and the missing woman have a lot in common, a fact revealed by his perusal of her bookshelf and diary. Is she really a criminal or just a desperate woman in deep trouble? As the investigation unfolds and the search spans the entire United States, we learn that other people are after her, including a millionaire American fascist who looks like Hitler and rants about the master race. Eventually Ripley uncovers jewel thievery, treason, and the mysterious Genie herself.
Originally published in hardback on the heels of World War II in 1950, FBI Story delves deeply into the weariness and cynicism of combat vets, of which Ripley is one, yet all the agents are unswervingly dutiful and honest. Considering the fact that the novel is dedicated to J. Edgar Hoover, one could be excused for branding it propaganda. In fact, Gordon Gordon was an ex-FBI agent and had J. Edgar Hoover approve his work. Even so, FBI Story is generally considered a good read. It was later turned into a movie starring James Stewart and Vera Miles. The Bantam edition of the book is from 1955 with uncredited art, and the Corgi one appeared in 1957 with Mitchell Hooks on the cover chores.
To a hammerer every problem looks like a nail.
In Dorothy Salisbury Davis's A Gentle Murderer a man visits a confessional and reveals murdering someone with a hammer and flees into the night before the priest knows what to do. The dismayed padre decides to search for the mysterious man who burdened him with this terrible knowledge, thus taking on the role of detective in the story, though the police are on hand to conduct a parallel investigation. Naturally, another murder will soon occur if the killer isn't caught. The plot is similar to that of Alfred Hitchcock's 1953 film I Confess, but appeared in hardback two years earlier. However, the Hitchcock movie was actually based on Paul Anthelme Bourde's 1902 play Nos deux consciences, so perhaps Davis was inspired by either the play or Hitchcock's adaptation. Whatever the genesis, the result was a highly regarded mystery, considered by some to be among the best of the era. The cover art on this Bantam paperback edition is by Charles Binger, and dates from 1953.
What a letdown. I assumed captains going down with their ships meant they went down in general, but apparently not.
If you can't count on seamen for a good time, what can you count on? Sailor Town concerns a man who goes ashore in a South American two-mule town with a hundred and twenty-seven dollars and thirty-six hours to kill. To get an idea what the mood of this book is, consider that Paul Fox wrote it in isolation in the Mojave Desert after a friend dumped him there to rescue him from a year of hard drinking. With nothing more than a table, a chair, and a typewriter in the room Fox banged out this novel. Like the author the main character Sweeney has seen some things. He sees even more ashore, and finally returns to his ship flat broke, loved out, and generally exhausted, but wiser for the experience. It was Fox's first novel, originally published in 1935, but the Bantam edition above appeared in 1950 with the capable Robert Skemp on the cover chores.
Lady, my flag may be down, but you're making my pole go up.
Originally published in 1948 by E. P. Dutton & Co. as My Flag is Down: The Diary of a New York Taxi Driver, this 1949 Bantam paperback titled simply My Flag Is Down tells the story a New York taxi driver and his nocturnal passengers. We gather the author James Maresca was a real cabbie who kept a diary for seven years before converting it into a novel, and what he ended up with is a jargonized and loosely structured log of socialites, deviants, unhappy couples, strippers, and hustlers all behaving as though the cab is either a confessional or a motel room. The excellent cover art is by Casey Jones, and an earlier Bantam cover from the year previous, with the cabbie looking considerably less thrilled with the action in his back seat, appears below.
This looks nothing like you two, does it? Well, truthfully I’m not an artist—I just wanted to see you both naked.
“Mother. Daughter. They Both Wanted Him!” That sums up Myron Brinig’s 1950 novel No Marriage in Paradise about as neatly as possible. The mother, whose unlikely name is Alix, and the daughter, whose even more unlikely name is Duff, end up rivals for the mother’s latest younger boyfriend, an artist named Pete. When the daughter steals Pete and runs away to marry him that throws Alix, who had never had trouble attracting men, into an existential crisis. Best way to solve that? Another man. Despite the seeming sleaze elements here, Brinig was a serious writer, often discussed as part of a cohort of pre-World War II Jewish writers born in the U.S. who mined their parents’ or grandparents’ immigrant experiences for fiction. Brinig, who worked between 1929 and 1958, was also among the first to explore gay characters in American novels. The uncredited cover art for No Marriage in Paradise almost—but not quite—fits into our themed collection of artists and models. You can see that amusing group here.
There's no bottom in sight.
In High Dive Frank O'Rourke uses one of the time-honored tropes of pulp fiction by centering the plot around a Mexican resort town. Armored car robbers have holed up there and the insurance investigator on their trail encounters a menagerie of secretive expats, sultry women, and even a local cliff diver. The cover, which we like, feels seedy and south-of-the-border but without sinking into cliché. Nice work, unattributed, 1955.
I have dysentery, I’m covered with mosquito bites, and there’s a leech on my balls. Next time let’s do the all-inclusive cruise.
Above, a thoroughly pulped out cover for C.S. Forester’s 1935 adventure tale The African Queen, published in this Bantam paperback edition in 1949. This is a great book with a letdown of an ending, in our opinion, but when John Huston made it into a film in 1951 he greatly improved the last act and the result was an all-time cinema classic. The beefcakey art here is by Ken Riley.
No matter how far you run you can’t get away from yourself.
Above is a cover for one of the better pulp novels of the 1940s—Kenneth Fearing’s The Big Clock. An ambitious writer is tight with his powerful publisher/boss. One day he encounters his boss’s wife, drinks are had, chit-chat is made, and he spends the night with her. The next day he drops her off and the publisher happens to witness this, but doesn’t know the identity of the man he saw. When the wife winds up dead, the publisher seeks out a trusted confidant to find the mystery man who was the last person his wife was with before she died. He entrusts the task to the writer, and presto—you have a murder mystery in which the hero is forced by circumstance to search for himself. The novel appeared in 1946, an entertaining movie adaptation followed in 1948, and the Bantam paperback above came in 1949. Highly recommended.
Geez, lady, you sure picked a hell of a time to start doing the alligator.
Above, a cover for W. R. Burnett’s drama Romelle, which has nothing to do with spontaneous inappropriate dancing, but rather with a nightclub singer who marries a mysterious man with a dark past. It was published in 1946, and this Bantam paperback appeared in 1951. The art is by Robert Skemp. We featured another Burnett cover a few days ago, which you can see here. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1961—Plane Carrying Nuclear Bombs Crashes
A B-52 Stratofortress carrying two H-bombs experiences trouble during a refueling operation, and in the midst of an emergency descent breaks up in mid-air over Goldsboro, North Carolina. Five of the six arming devices on one of the bombs somehow activate before it lands via parachute in a wooded region where it is later recovered. The other bomb does not deploy its chute and crashes into muddy ground at 700 mph, disintegrating while driving its radioactive core fifty feet into the earth, where it remains to this day.
1912—International Opium Convention Signed
The International Opium Convention is signed at The Hague, Netherlands, and is the first international drug control treaty. The agreement was signed by Germany, the U.S., China, France, the UK, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Persia, Portugal, Russia, and Siam.
1946—CIA Forerunner Created
U.S. president Harry S. Truman establishes the Central Intelligence Group or CIG, an interim authority that lasts until the Central Intelligence Agency is established in September of 1947.
1957—George Metesky Is Arrested
The New York City "Mad Bomber," a man named George P. Metesky, is arrested in Waterbury, Connecticut and charged with planting more than 30 bombs. Metesky was angry about events surrounding a workplace injury suffered years earlier. Of the thirty-three known bombs he planted, twenty-two exploded, injuring fifteen people. He was apprehended based on an early use of offender profiling and because of clues given in letters he wrote to a newspaper. At trial he was found legally insane and committed to a state mental hospital.
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