Vintage Pulp | Politique Diabolique Feb 18 2017
ELECTION FRAY
They do vote! By the millions! And only for Democrats!

We couldn't resist a comment on the recent election. Generally we keep Pulp Intl. a politics-lite zone, but every once in a while a book cover or movie pushes us in that direction, and today's has done that. Out here in the reality based world here's what the facts show: there haven't been even a hundred verified cases of voter impersonation in the U.S. since the year 2000, and of course impersonation is the only type of fraud the voter ID laws so many conservative lawmakers are pushing would prevent. So when a law is designed to stop a handful of lawbreakers (thirty-one in fifteen years according to one extensive study) at cost of the rights of millions of people, we can safely call these laws attempts to suppress the vote. At least, in the real world we can do that.

But the lies around voter impersonation continue to grow—we now hear of 3 million illegal votes cast in 2016, people bused from one state to another, etc. All of this taking place, of course, with no paper or digital trail, no sign of organization at any level, and for sure no suggestion that a single one of these alleged fraudsters voted Republican (Trump: “If you look at it they all voted for Hillary."). Meanwhile, absent actual evidence, the besmirching of the electoral system continues. It deserves to be besmirched, of course, but because of the ridiculous choices on offer, not because of fantasies of systemic fraud. Yet politicians cynically keep trying to generate mistrust. They're playing a dangerous game, and if they keep it up there will be serious consequences down the road.

If you've visited Pulp Intl. a lot you know we've spent time in some gnarly corners of the planet. Here's how it goes: first, all losses are contested, even losses by millions of votes, and orderly transitions of power fail to occur. Second, violence at polling places becomes commonplace. Third, election seasons become destabilizing events, often requiring a police presence, which suppresses the votes of marginalized communities. Fourth, economic and diplomatic activity suffers as the country is perceived by the international community to be a bad place for investment. And mixed in throughout are the passing of laws ostensibly designed to fix the system, but really meant to consolidate power. The cycle, once established, repeats and worsens. If you think it can't happen, consider that The Economist—that hive of leftwing villainy and scum—recently downgraded the U.S. from a “full” to a “flawed” democracy.

That's our missive from the factual universe, to be heeded or ignored as you please. Stiffs Don't Vote has nothing to do with any of that, not directly, anyway. There's a crooked political campaign involved, but the story actually deals with an axe murder investigated by the heroes Humphrey Campbell and Oscar Morgan. The book was originally titled Forty Whacks, referencing the famed Lizzie Borden rhyme, and the murder in the story constantly makes the protagonists think of Borden. The copyright on this Bantam edition is 1947, and the unusual cover art was painted by Hy Ruben, who we've never featured before, but will again, if this is any indication of his talent. We'll see what we can dig up. 

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Vintage Pulp Oct 27 2016
EAVESDROPPING IN
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. 

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Vintage Pulp Oct 1 2016
MOST WANTED
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.

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Vintage Pulp Sep 23 2016
MR. FIX IT
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. 

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Vintage Pulp Aug 28 2016
SEX SAILS
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.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 26 2016
THRILL RIDE
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.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 26 2016
PAINTED INTO A CORNER
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

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Vintage Pulp Dec 4 2015
LIVE AND LET DIVE
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.

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Vintage Pulp Jun 25 2015
OUT OF AFRICA
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. 

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Vintage Pulp May 17 2015
SELF DISCOVERY
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.  

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Next Page
History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
February 26
1917—First Jazz Record Is Made
In New Orleans, The Original Dixieland Jass Band records the first ever jazz record for the Victor Talking Machine Company in New York. The band was frequently billed as the "Creators of Jazz", but in reality all the members had previously played in the Papa Jack Laine bands, a group of racially mixed performers who helped form the basis of Dixieland while playing under bandleader George Laine.
February 25
1947—Prussia Ceases To Exist
The centuries-old state of Prussia, which had been a great European power under the reign of Frederick the Great during the 1800s, and a major influence on German culture, ceases to exist when it is dissolved by the post-WWII Allied Control Council comprised of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union.
1964—Clay Beats Liston
Heavyweight boxer Cassius Clay, aged 22, becomes champion of the world after beating Sonny Liston, aka the Dark Destroyer, in one of the biggest upsets in boxing history. It would be the beginning of a storied and controversial career for Clay, who would announce to the world shortly after the fight that he had changed his name to Muhammad Ali.
February 24
1920—The Nazi Party Is Founded
The small German Workers' Party, or DAP, which was under the direction of Adolf Hitler, changes its name to the National Socialist German Workers' Party. Though Hitler adopted the socialist label to attract working class Germans, his party in fact embraced mainly anti-socialist ideas. The group became known in English as the Nazi Party, and within the next fifteen years expanded to become the most powerful force in German politics.
1942—Battle of Los Angeles Takes Place
A object flying over wartime Los Angeles triggers a massive anti-aircraft barrage, ultimately killing 3 civilians. Initially the target of the aerial barrage is thought to be an attacking force from Japan, but it is later suggested to be imaginary and a case of "war nerves", a lost weather balloon, a blimp, a Japanese fire balloon, or even an extraterrestrial craft. The true nature of the object or objects remains unknown to this day, but the event is known as the Battle of Los Angeles.
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