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.
Pair arrested in payoff scheme profess shock. “We were incredibly subtle about it,” claim jailbirds.
This cover for Ira Wolfert's The Underworld is uncredited, which is a shame considering it's wonderfully executed and wraps cleverly around to the rear of the book. Wolfert won a 1943 Pulitzer Prize for a series of articles about the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, aka the Battle of the Solomons, then the same year wrote Tucker's People, which was the original title of The Underworld. The Bantam paperback edition above was published in 1950. The book details the numbers rackets of New York City, which were executed far more subtly than the not very casual depiction in the art. The story captured Hollywood's attention and was produced as 1948's Force of Evil, starring John Garfield. We'll get around to talking about that movie a bit later.
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 Rubin, 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.
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 of 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.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1938—Chicora Meteor Lands
In the U.S., above Chicora, Pennsylvania, a meteor estimated to have weighed 450 metric tons explodes in the upper atmosphere and scatters fragments across the sky. Only four small pieces are ever discovered, but scientists estimate that the meteor, with an explosive power of about three kilotons of TNT, would have killed everyone for miles around if it had detonated in the city.
1973—Peter Dinsdale Commits First Arson
A fire at a house in Hull, England, kills a six year old boy and is believed to be an accident until it later is discovered to be a case of arson. It is the first of twenty-six deaths by fire caused over the next seven years by serial-arsonist Peter Dinsdale. Dinsdale is finally captured in 1981, pleads guilty to multiple manslaughter, and is detained indefinitely under Britain's Mental Health Act as a dangerous psychotic.
1944—G.I. Bill Goes into Effect
U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Servicemen's Readjustment Act into law. Commonly known as the G.I. Bill of Rights, or simply G.I. Bill, the grants toward college and vocational education, generous unemployment benefits, and low interest home and business loans the Bill provided to nearly ten million military veterans was one of the largest factors involved in building the vast American middle class of the 1950s and 1960s.
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