That was interesting. Next time can we just do it the normal way?
There's no festish sex or podophilia in With Naked Foot. This is actually a serious novel about whites coming to ruin in Africa, which is a crowded literary niche, but one in which Emily Hahn carved out an important place for herself. In fact, maybe the adjective “Hahnesque” should be used alongside “Hemingwayesque.” This is a person who wrote fifty-four books and more than two hundred articles and short stories, whose works were significant in romanticizing Africa and Asia for western readers, who lived in Florence and London in the mid-1920s, traveled to the Belgian Congo where she worked for the Red Cross, lived with a pygmy tribe for two years, crossed Central Africa alone on foot, and journeyed to Shanghai where she taught English for three years while becoming acquaintances with political powerhouses the Soong Sisters and the Chinese poet Zau Sinmay. With Naked Foot is, therefore, unusually well informed. It revolves around a beautiful Congolese girl named Mawa whose relationships with various lustful white men bring disaster. The reviews were rapturous, though some critics protested that it was too focused on sex. That's never a complaint you'll hear from us, though some of the usual flaws of mid-century racial fiction are evident. The cover art on this Bantam paperback was painted by an unknown, and the copyright is 1951.
I guess I'll just wait until they're finished before I tell them I only date women.
Danger Trail, written by Theodore Pratt, is about a mailman in Florida who braves storms, gators, thieves, politics, and more, along a seventy mile route from Miami to Palm Springs, to get a difficult job done. If it sounds like an unusual and imaginative tale, you're right. Pratt was an experienced writer who knew his stuff, and had five books adapted to the big screen. Danger Trail was originally published in 1943 as The Barefoot Mailman and was made into a 1951 movie with that title. This Bantam paperback arrived in 1949.
What the hell are you two snickering about? You never seen a guy polish his tommy gun before?
Harry Schaare does nice work on a cover for W.R. Burnett's thriller High Sierra, copyright 1950 from Bantam Books. If anybody snickered it was probably Schaare himself. He had to know how masturbatory this looked, right? Or maybe it's just us. Anyway, this book obviously became a celebrated gangster film noir starring Humphrey Bogart, but the source material is electric. We read it years ago and it stuck with us. Highly recommended.
I was wishing for a telescope to look at the moon and here you show up with what feels like one in your pants.
What's Elizabeth's Dunn's Moonlit Voyage about? It's a romance. A debutante takes a cruise to look for a man and ends up having to deal with this handsy chap in a tuxedo. If she looks a tad alarmed it's probably because she's noticed her new acquaintance has a serial killer haircut. The book was originally titled The Moon To Play With, and while in actuality it isn't pulp style fiction, it caught our eye because there's a full moon tonight. Copyright 1948, with cover art by David Attie.
I'll see your ten thousand and raise you my wife. Sorry, babe.
The Big Bet tells the story of a professional gambler and owner of a gaming parlor who faces three obstacles—his health is poor, his son is ashamed of him, and his wife is unhappy. Retirement and a move to Florida seem to be the answer to all three problems. Over the course of one night the protagonist Charley King sees two lucky gamblers whittle away his fortune in a card game, learns that a police raid and jail is imminent, and is served a legal summons. In mounting desperation he must win his fortune back and deal with the other problems—and quickly—if he has any hope of escaping to a better life. If that sounds compelling we can tell you it is. The book, which appeared in 1945 under the title Any Number Can Play, was made into a stage production, and subsequently into a 1949 film starring Clark Gable and Alexis Smith. The cover art on this 1948 Bantam edition was painted by Robert Doares.
So that's where your arm went. The damsel in distress thing was just an act, wasn't it?
Dead As a Dummy is a thriller set in the unlikely locale of Tucson, Arizona, where a premiere for a horror movie called The Invisible Zombie goes completely awry when it becomes the backdrop for three murders. The main character is Ben Logan. His job is kind of hard to describe. Basically, he works for a cinema chain, and he handles whatever needs to be handled. Think of him as a troubleshooter. He puts together a lobby display for The Invisible Zombie featuring a coffin with a mannequin corpse inside, only to find the set-up put to use by a clever killer. The main attraction here besides the plot is good southwestern flavor, something author Geoffrey Homes was adept at after previous forays in the same milieu. The cover art on this is generally credited to George Fullington, but that's one of those cases of the internet replicating an error. It happens. We've done it ourselves. The art is by Ray Johnson—says so right on the second page—and the copyright is 1949.
*Sigh* Well, at least my liver still works perfectly.
Ernest Hemingway is a polarizing writer, but those who call him overrated are wrong. You can't be overrated when you changed the DNA of prose in the English language. There was a style of popular writing that was dominant before Hemingway, and a style that became dominant afterward, with the shift entirely of his doing. The Sun Also Rises originally appeared in hardback in 1926, and this Bantam paperback edition is from 1949. The cover looks a hell of a lot like the work of Ed Paulsen, who painted this cover for Bantam in 1949 featuring a man with a near identical face. But officially, this was painted by Ken Riley, who was also working with Bantam in 1949. It's a pretty nice piece, establishing definitively three main characteristics of Hemingway's writing—booze, women, and anguish, with the latter deriving in this case from the ex-soldier protagonist having had his penis shot off or rendered non-functional, yet being in love with the beautiful Lady Brett Ashley. The problem is infinitely compounded by the fact that she loves him too, but must seek physical pleasures from other men. If you know any iconoclasts who've told you this book isn't worth your time, we suggest you ignore them. The Sun Also Rises is a tough, affecting, unforgettable read.
Hollywood is seen without its face on.
We have something a bit different today, a cover of Pete Martin's tinseltown tell-all Hollywood without Makeup. What you get here are tabloid style bios of various cinematic luminaries, including Greer Garson, Ava Gardner, and Maria Montez. The info on the stars probably makes this one worthwhile by itself, but as a bonus you get tabloid style writing in long form. It's a type of prose that isn't practiced anymore, but it can be quite entertaining to read. Here's an example:
“When first stumbled upon, the conception of the lady sounds as if those who are promoting it are deliberately plying a fire extinguisher to quench the flames of publicity that might singe her career.”
We don't even fully understand what that means, really. Here's a more straightforward passage:
“She operates on the theory that standing up on her two eye-filling legs and yelling for her rights, while at the same time clubbing people over the head with her overpowering personality, will bring home a choice brand of bacon generously streaked with lean. The head screwed on her decorative shoulders is not stuffed with goofer feathers or idle girlish vaporings. The mind behind her velvet-textured Latin facade closes on an opportunity like the jaws of a bear trap.”
Aside from being incredibly condescending, it's an interesting style. You find this type of baroque writing in all the high budget tabloids, such as Confidential, Hush-Hush, and Whisper. It's self-indulgent, but fun to read. Does it sound like your cup of tea? Then go for it. Regarding the cover art, we aren't sure whether we're dealing with a painting or a photo-illustration, but in either case it's uncredited.
Well, it's not super dark. Just darker than the rest of me. Here—give it a feel.
The cover art for Bantam Books' paperback edition of Christine Weston's The Dark Wood is another good example of the pulpification of mid-century literature. This is a seriously phallic effort. The proximity of the woman's hands to crotchville is suggestive enough, but the penile shadow really leaves no doubt what the artist is thinking here. The original hardback art, which you also see, is more fitting for what the book really is—a psychological drama in the style of Daphne DuMaurier about a widow who meets a man that resembles her dead husband, and proceeds to try to turn that man into her lost love, with damaging results. The book debuted in 1946, and World War II and its aftereffects are central to the plot. The Bantam art, while nice, certainly gives a different impression. Just more proof of the power of provocative visuals. It's from 1949 and was painted by Ed Paulsen.
Aspiring actress gets shot on Broadway.
She was looking to get a shot on Broadway, not get shot, but you have to be 100% clear or people will get confused. Especially a guy like Waldo, the crazed mutiliation killer of David Alexander's Terror on Broadway. Waldo, who taunts the police with snide notes, has knocked off four women, all in the Broadway theatre district, and he has more in his sights unless hero Bart Hardin can stop him. Hardin isn't a private detective or cop—he's the editor of a newspaper, but he's tough enough for the task. Unrealistically so to us, though this is explained by his youth as a boxer and his stint in the military. Overall, Terror on Broadway is pretty heavy stuff for 1954, and the book was banned for a time in Australia. The art on this edition, though, is uncommonly pretty. It was painted by John McDermott, aka J.M. Ryan, who was an animator for Walt Disney before branching out into cover work. He later went on to write his own novels and make a couple of films, so the guy was multi-talented. We'll run into him again down the line, we're sure.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1912—Pravda Is Founded
The newspaper Pravda, or Truth, known as the voice of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, begins publication in Saint Petersburg. It is one of the country's leading newspapers until 1991, when it is closed down by decree of then-President Boris Yeltsin. A number of other Pravdas appear afterward, including an internet site and a tabloid.
1983—Hitler's Diaries Found
The German magazine Der Stern claims that Adolf Hitler's diaries had been found in wreckage in East Germany. The magazine had paid 10 million German marks for the sixty small books, plus a volume about Rudolf Hess's flight to the United Kingdom, covering the period from 1932 to 1945. But the diaries are subsequently revealed to be fakes written by Konrad Kujau, a notorious Stuttgart forger. Both he and Stern journalist Gerd Heidemann go to trial in 1985 and are each sentenced to 42 months in prison.
1918—The Red Baron Is Shot Down
German WWI fighter ace Manfred von Richthofen, better known as The Red Baron, sustains a fatal wound while flying over Vaux sur Somme in France. Von Richthofen, shot through the heart, manages a hasty emergency landing before dying in the cockpit of his plane. His last word, according to one witness, is "Kaputt." The Red Baron was the most successful flying ace during the war, having shot down at least 80 enemy airplanes.
1964—Satellite Spreads Radioactivity
An American-made Transit satellite, which had been designed to track submarines, fails to reach orbit after launch and disperses its highly radioactive two pound plutonium power source over a wide area as it breaks up re-entering the atmosphere.
1939—Holiday Records Strange Fruit
American blues and jazz singer Billie Holiday
records "Strange Fruit", which is considered to be the first civil rights song. It began as a poem written by Abel Meeropol, which he later set to music and performed live with his wife Laura Duncan. The song became a Holiday standard immediately after she recorded it, and it remains one of the most highly regarded pieces of music in American history.
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