Vintage Pulp | Femmes Fatales Oct 22 2014
VIEW TO A GILL
No, not gill like a fish—gill like a Gillian.

Gillian Duxbury was a British actress who appeared in only a few television shows, but she managed another type of fame, starring on many magazines, tabloids, album covers, and—importantly for this website—1970s crime paperbacks. Movie stardom it isn’t, but it’s good enough for us. We have a few examples below.
 

 
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Vintage Pulp Oct 15 2014
MASTERFUL KEY
Glass Key paperback art is tops thanks to another Italian master.

Brian Donlevy and Veronica Lake’s film noir The Glass Key, which was Hollywood’s second try at Dashiell Hammett’s novel, premiered this month in 1942. To be exact, it opened yesterday in New York City and throughout the U.S. on October 23. The poster most often seen online is the theatrical release version we showed you several years ago, but alternates were produced and two of them appear below. What we really wanted to share, though, is this great paperback cover from UK-based Digit Books. It’s from 1961 and features the art of Italian illustrator Enrico de Seta, who we’ve mentioned before. If you haven’t watched The Glass Key we recommend it, and if you haven’t read the book, just know that it was Hammett’s personal favorite. 

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Intl. Notebook Sep 7 2014
A RIP IN TIME
History’s most storied serial killer finally identified.

Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper has published a story in which it claims infamous serial killer Jack the Ripper has been identified through DNA testing. The analysis was performed on a shawl found by police on the body of Catherine Eddowes, the fourth of the Ripper’s canonical victims, killed on the same night as Elizabeth Stride in what is termed by Ripper scholars as “The Double Event.” The shawl had recently been bought at auction by an amateur sleuth and passed on to genetic experts, who took samples from the fabric and found matches to the DNA of descendants of Eddowes, and to the descendants of Aaron Kosminski, an original Ripper suspect who had been questioned and surveilled by police back in 1888.

The Mail has said the new evidence “puts to end the fevered speculation over the Ripper’s identity,” but we imagine independent corroboration will probably have to follow before that’s true. Kosminski was of Polish descent and had emigrated from the Russian Empire to London. Police reports from the time of the murder describe him as a serial masturbator, and indeed the Kosminski DNA sample from the shawl is thought to be semen, meaning that in the few minutes after the killing he both mutilated the corpse and ejaculated over it. Presumably more details will emerge in the coming days, but the announcement of Kosminski as the killer, if true, has to rank as one of crime history’s most significant, and may bring to a close one of its most baffling murder cases.

Update: That didn't take long. Various scientists and DNA experts say the genetic analysis done on the shawl was botched due to error of nomenclature. Instead of an extremely rare genetic match, DNA extracted from Eddowes' shawl actually matches that of most people of European descent. So forget everything we wrote above.

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Vintage Pulp Jul 1 2014
AFTER THE FALLS
Monroe may wobble but she won’t fall down.


Marilyn Monroe shows up just about everywhere, and here she is yet again where we didn’t expect to see her—fronting a Malaysian film publication that appeared today in 1953. The magazine, called Filmalaya, is in English, which marks it as aimed at the British colonial community that occupied the upper stratum of society in Malaysia and Singapore. The cover photo is from a publicity series made when Monroe filmed the movie Niagara in Ontario, Canada in late 1952, and let’s just assume her perch is not as precarious as it seems and there’s a handy ledge or lawn behind her in case she goes heels up. But if she does, there are other stars in the magazine, such as Joan Collins, Betty Grable, Rhonda Fleming, Ava Gardner, and Nat King Cole.

Filmalaya represents an interesting snapshot into colonial society, as in the article about Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in London, which describes the thrills and excitement in Malaysia during the event. Doubtless, the mood around the Commonwealth probably seemed festive when viewed from inside the colonial bubble, but we doubt actual Malaysians were particularly moved. Needless to say, this magazine is rare, but luckily items from Asia are often a bargain, so this cost a mere six U.S. dollars. While the inside is nothing special visually speaking, that doesn’t matter when the magazine has this great cover and is such an informative slice of history. We’ve uploaded a few of the best pages below. Enjoy. 

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The Naked City Jun 2 2014
HARVEY'S PRIDE
They were on a collision course from the moment they met.


This cover of the The National Insider published today in 1963 touts a true story about actual people for a change of pace, in this case Harvey and Christine Holford. Thirty-one-year-old Harvey Holford was a club owner and well-known figure in Brighton, England; eighteen-year-old Christine Hughes was a local party girl. They met, romanced, and married each other, but Christine quickly found Harvey a sexual bore and he soon resented her constant bedding of other men. At one point he shaved her head bald as punishment for her philandering, then later apologized by buying her a sports car. But these stints of tranqulity never lasted long. The last straw came when she allegedly taunted him using their daughter Karen, claiming she wasn’t his, which resulted in him shooting her.

When police came to their flat the couple were sitting up in bed. She had six bullet wounds, one in the face, and was long gone from this world. She was propped against her husband, who was comatose from an overdose of pills. But he recovered and was held in Lewes Prison until he could stand trial for murder. The day before the proceedings were to begin he tossed himself from a window and fractured his skull. He recovered again, and eventually went to trial before a sympathetic judge who, referring to Christine’s taunt about the paternity of the couple’s daughter, at one point told those assembled in the court, “Can you imagine any words more calculated not only to sear and cut deeply into the soul of any man but to rub salt into the wound at the same time?” Harvey Holford was later acquitted of murder to vigorous applause from the public gallery, and convicted instead of manslaughter, serving three years before being paroled in 1964.

Of course, the key to acquitting a man of murdering his adulterous wife is to consider her a piece of property rather than a human being, and there’s little doubt that’s what happened in the Holford case, for as hurtful as infidelity may be, male pride eventually heals whereas dead wives never do. Harvey claimed to have acted in a fit of passion—the very quality Christine always claimed he lacked in their marriage—but we tend to think divorce is the more sensible remedy for unfaithfulness. Or sometimes even—call us crazy—reconciliation. To this day, though, many still doubtless think Harvey Holford was blameless. Luckily for him, the presiding judge was one of them.

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Intl. Notebook May 2 2014
TUMBLING OUT OF CONTROL
Our civilization has avoided nuclear destruction so far, but has it been by design or chance?


This debris cloud was generated yesterday in 1952 by the nuclear blast codenamed Dog, which was part of Operation Tumbler-Snapper, a series of tests that occurred at the Nevada Test Site that year. The people you see in the image are just a few of the 2,100 marines who observed the explosion. Last month Chatham House released a sobering nuclear study showing that there have been thirteen incidents since 1962 that qualify as “near use” of nuclear weapons. In two of those—the famed Oleg Penkovsky incident and the less famous but more serious Stanislaw Petrov incident—nuclear holocaust may have been averted only because individuals disobeyed orders. Chatham House also details many instances of “sloppy practice.” Two examples: President Jimmy Carter once left the U.S. nuclear launch codes in a suit that was taken to the dry cleaners, and in 1981 when Ronald Reagan was shot, his bloody pants containing the launch codes ended up in the hands of FBI agents who had no authorization to possess them. There are instances of sloppy practice from as recently as 2013. If you’re in the mood for some sobering reading, the report is here. 

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Vintage Pulp Apr 1 2014
TWICE THE VICE
The only better thing than vintage sleaze is double the vintage sleaze.

Above, two cool double novels, front and back covers, from Universal Publishing & Distributing Corp., part of their Giant series, editions 4 and 7, early 1950s. Since we have two double novels here, it's actually four times the vice, but you get the idea. Steve Harragan, by the way, is both the author and main character of Dope Doll and The Bigamy Kiss, as well as other books, and was actually a Brit named William Maconachie. We’ll get back to him. The art here is uncredited. 
 
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Vintage Pulp Mar 31 2014
BOUNCING BABY BOY
This isn't child abuse. It's more like destruction of property.


We know this poster looks vicious, but you can relax—Un mondo maledetto fatto di bambole is about a future world where, in order to control the population, couples are given robot babies. Sounds kind of nice to us—or at least less screamy and less poopy, but it’s clearly not a popular policy with at least one woman. The movie was a British production starring Oliver Reed and Geraldine Chaplin, and was originally entitled Z.P.G., which stands for “Zero Population Growth.” Pretty lame title, but on the other hand, the Italian title translates as “a world made of cursed dolls,” which we think gives a little too much away. In any case, excellent art here from the Italian painter Renato Casaro, a legend who’s created scores of memorable movie promos. You can learn more about him here.

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Vintage Pulp Mar 14 2014
SNEAKY DEVIL
His Satanic Majesty has a request.

Kisses from Satan was printed in Great Britain by Jarrold Publishing in 1966, and you can also think of it as Kisses from S.A.T.A.N., because the plot pits hero David Grant against the Society for Activation of Terror, Anarchy and Nihilism. The baddies at S.A.T.A.N. have sent a Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan to Europe to spread hate throughout the continent, and they simultaneously hope to start a new Civil War in the U.S. This is the fourth David Grant novel, and S.A.T.A.N. figures in the others, as well. The art here is by Eileen Walton. We featured her before, and you can see that here. 
 
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Hollywoodland | Sex Files Feb 26 2014
SLINGS AND ARROWS
Liberace is finally forced to take up arms against the tabloids.


A long while ago we shared the cover of a 1956 Whisper featuring George Sanders. The same issue had an article on Liberace, and we’re returning to that today as part of our look at mid-century tabloid attitudes toward gay culture. In general of course, the tabloids were brutally insulting, using overt as well as coded language to get intimations of homosexuality across. Theoretically, when dealing with public figures they had to be somewhat cautious, but both Rave and Inside had in 1954 written stories insinuating that Liberace was gay, and in 1955 Suppressed and Private Lives did the same. In Whisper, a journalist writing under the name Sylvia Tremaine refers to Liberace as a “creature,” labels his speech as “simpering,” and describes his move to television this way: “From there it was just a brief flutter to a local TV program.”

You’ll notice there’s deniability in all those words—Whisper could claim there was nothing defamatory in the language. Ridiculous, of course. Clearly the magazine was calling Liberace gay, and only a fool would claim otherwise, but defamation had not occurred to an extent that would stand up in court. Thus we see the joy of coded language. The same occurs in the U.S. today in certain media outlets with language directed at African Americans. The disparagement is clear, but deniable. Or for a cinematic example of coding, consider the Maltese Falcon and how the character of Joel Cairo is announced by flute trills on the soundtrack. Clear, and yet deniable. But in its Liberace article Whisper then throws deniability out the window with this: “Hollywood snickerers are wondering, in fact, if all the male hormones earmarked for the Liberace boys weren’t hogged by George, leaving Lee with only his nimble fingers.” That goes a bit beyond code, wouldn’t you say?

Liberace did not sue, and the tabloids simply built momentum. Later in 1956 Britain’s Daily Mirror called him a “deadly, winking, sniggering, snuggling, chromium-plated, scent-impregnated, luminous, quivering, giggling, fruit-flavoured, mincing, ice-covered heap of mother love.” Robert Harrison’s Confidential piled on in 1957. It published a three-part tale of Liberace attacking a hapless press agent. A sample from that hit piece: “Fatso plumped onto the couch alongside his young guest, and before you could say Gorgeous George, the pair were [wrestling]. In a matter of moments, it turned into a boxing bout, too, with the press agent throwing desperate lefts and rights at Liberace. The latter, his determination stiffening, merely clung tighter. The floor show reached its climax when Dimples, by sheer weight, pinned his victim’s shoulders to the mat and mewed into his face: 'Gee, you’re cute when you’re mad!'”
 
Liberace’s lawyer John Jacobs filed lawsuits against both Daily Mirror and Confidential, demanding a whopping twenty million dollars from the latter. Adjusted for inflation, that's about $174 million in today's terms. You can almost imagine Robert Harrison spitting up his coffee when he heard the settlement demand. Equally you can imagine Liberace’s reluctance to dignify the article, but Confidential at the time had readership in the millions. Something had to be done. It had become open season on his private life. Even the press photo below toyed with him. Thedescriptive text, written for newspaper staff, is meant to simply get across the basic facts of the photos and is typically pretty dry stuff. But this describes Liberace as "the curly-haired pianist"  and says his walk is "jaunty." Clear, but deniable.

In the end, Liberace received $40,000 from Confidential and $53,000 from the Daily Mirror, substantial sums for the time. In addition to his legal victories, the constraints against tabloid journalism were becoming more defined. Of course, Liberace had won the cases by perjuring himself in court about being gay. In 1987 when he died of complications related to AIDS, Daily Mirror refused to show an iota of deference or respect and published a piece referring to the 1950s settlement. It was headlined: Any Chance of a Refund?

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
October 24
1929—Stock Market Crashes
Black Thursday, a catastrophic crash on the New York Stock Exchange, occurs when the value of stocks suddenly declines and continues to decline for a month. The event leads to a subsequent crash in world stock prices and precipitates the Great Depression. This after famous economist Irving Fisher had declared that stock prices had reached a permanently high plateau.
October 23
1935—Four Gangsters Gunned Down in New Jersey
In Newark, New Jersey, the organized crime figures Dutch Schultz, Abe Landau, Otto Berman, and Bernard "Lulu" Rosencrantz are fatally shot at the Palace Chophouse restaurant. Schultz, who was the target, lingers in the hospital for about a day before dying. The killings are committed by a group of professional gunmen known as Murder, Inc., and the event becomes known as the Chophouse Massacre.
1950—Al Jolson Dies
Vaudeville and screen performer Al Jolson dies of a heart attack in San Francisco after a trip to Korea to entertain troops causes lung problems. Jolson is best known for his film The Jazz Singer, and for his performances in blackface make-up, which were not considered offensive at the time, but have now come to be seen as a form of racial bigotry.
October 22
1926—Houdini Fatally Punched in Stomach
After a performance in Montreal, Hungarian-born magician and escape artist Harry Houdini is approached by a university student named J. Gordon Whitehead, who asks if it is true that Houdini can endure any blow to the stomach. Before Houdini is ready Whitehead strikes him several times, causing internal injuries that lead to the magician's death.

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