Femmes Fatales Dec 4 2016
LIFE OF REILLY
Pearls sometimes complete an outfit, but it's the girl that always completes the pearls.

Anastasia Reilly began her show business career tap dancing in New York City at age fourteen, by seventeen was nationally famous as a Ziegfeld Girl, and in this Strauss-Peyton (Benjamin R. Strauss and Homer Peyton) image is on top of the world in a $50,000 string of pearls. That would be about $680,000 today, which sounds like a lot until you learn some pearl necklaces top $2 million, including an $11 million ruby-studded collar that once belonged to Elizabeth Taylor. The above shot was made when Reilly was appearing in the Ziegfeld musical Louie the 14th, which ran for more than three-hundred performances at the Cosmopolitan Theatre through most of 1925. Her role was minor, but we daresay her visual impact was major, even in costume.

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Vintage Pulp Dec 24 2015
BAREFOOT AMBITION
I can’t wait until I can afford a good pair of high heels—then when I walk all over these chumps it’ll actually hurt them.


Above is the cover for the 1952 Lion Library paperback edition of Ward Greene’s Cora Potts, which was originally published in 1929 as Cora Potts: A Pilgrim’s Progress. An illiterate country girl robs her father’s store, runs away barefooted to the big city, eventually commits murder, and ends up a respectable, nouveau riche society wife. Greene was saying that the U.S. was a country that rewarded greed and ruthlessness, while respect for the rules was peddled to the lower classes to keep them in line. Some critics found this formulation unpalatable, and many thought the part where Potts burns through $100,000 in one year was just impossible. As that’s only about $1.3 million in today’s money we find their protests bizarre, but in any case Greene had based his character on an actual femme fatale with the amazing name of Kitty Queen.

Catherine Queen, as she had been born, indeed progressed from barefoot Georgia bumpkin to bejeweled society dame. She became public knowledge briefly in 1929 when her dupe of a husband, a prominent banker, was nabbed for embezzlement and the facts of his lavish expenditures on Queen came out at trial. How much had he spent on her in a year? $147,000. And like Cora Potts’ hapless first husband, Queen’s husband still loved her, wrote heartrending letters from prison, and sent her the few meager dollars he still collected via various means. And yet Queen never visited him once, same as Potts never visits her imprisoned spouse. The Manhattan critics who doubted the novel's verisimilitude knew nothing about Kitty Queen, but Greene had lived and worked in Atlanta and down there her story had been big news.
 
The cover at top is by Mal Singer, and the art from Lion’s 1955 re-issue at right was painted by Robert Maguire. Greene’s book is surprisingly obscure today, but its general message that in a corrupt society vice is virtue resonates more than ever. His genius was also in having a female character behave in a way typically ascribed to successful men, and having her go unpunished for breaking both the rule of law and of gender. Greene touched on similar themes more than once, but also wrote upbeat material. One of those pieces was a short story called, “Happy Dan, the Whistling Dog,” which appeared in Cosmopolitan and became a primary inspiration for one of the most beloved screen romances of all time—the animated feature Lady and the Tramp.
 
And just to dig as deeply into this subject as we can, there is some confusion online about when Greene wrote that dog story. Nearly every website says 1943, but then again nearly every website copies from other websites. A couple of sources say the story is from 1924, while a French page says 1937. We don’t know when he wrote it, but we’re inclined to believe the 1924 date. Greene was already in his mid-thirties by then, and had been writing for Cosmo since at least 1923, publishing a piece on F. Scott Fitzgerald that year. We think Walt Disney probably read the Happy Dan story in 1943 in an old Cosmo, and at that point contacted the now respected literary figure Greene about buying the property and adapting it. But we don’t know for sure. Someone in the real world of actual libraries with actual paper info will have to sort this one out.

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Vintage Pulp Dec 17 2015
BERMUDA TRIANGLE
Coconut rum, ma'am? But I only brought two straws, so I'm afraid your husband will have to bugger off.


John P. Marquand won a 1938 Pulitzer Prize for The Late George Apley, so the above effort may seem a bit lightweight for him, but Marquand started out in genre fiction before becoming a leading literary figure. In his prime he specialized in satire of the upper classes, and Sun, Sea and Sand follows in that tradition, telling the tale of Epsom Felch, a problematic member of the snobbish Mulligatawny Club, which is located in the Bahamas. Epsom is a bit of a prankster, and the stuffy club membership are increasingly fed up with him, even though—as his main defender Spike constantly points out—pretty much every fun or memorable event that ever took place at the club was Epsom's doing. Everything comes to a head at the annual Pirate Night ball.

We really like Marquand. Always have. He's a funny and subtle writer, at least in his literary guise, and here you get that classic sense of the upper class cutting off its nose to spite its face, as club members conspire to boot a non-conformist though he's the only person bringing adventure and joy into their circle. Sun, Sea and Sand is novella length, and indeed its entirety first appeared in the May 1950 issue of Cosmopolitan, at right. The compact paperback edition, which is really little more than a pamphlet, comes from Dell, and the amusing cover art is by S.B. Jones. 

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Vintage Pulp Oct 10 2013
TOUCHY SITUATION
But I’ve been super tense, and my masseur—his name is Pablo, by the way—he offered to make a house call, and…

Above is a Victor Kalin cover for the John D. MacDonald thriller Soft Touch, a book that originally appeared in Cosmopolitan magazine as Taint of the Tiger in March 1958, back when Cosmo used to print abridged novels. It’s the story of a man whose old war buddy approaches him with an offer to commit a seven-figure heist. The idea is to rob a courier of cash he’s shuttling from Latin America. The lead character is willing to do the job because his work sucks, he misses military action, and his wife is a cheating lush. Basically, he sees the crime as a way out, but of course he actually ends up getting way in—everything goes wrong. Taint of the Tiger was published in hardback as Soft Touch shortly after its Cosmo debut, and appeared in August the same year as a Dell paperback edition, above, with Kalin’s art. This is MacDonald before he invented Travis McGee. Not perfect, but well worth a read.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
July 22
1992—Cocaine Baron Escapes Prison
Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria, imprisoned leader of the Medellin drug cartel, escapes from a posh Colombian jail known as La Catedral after he learns authorities intend to move him to a real prison. His taste of freedom doesn't last—he's killed in a shootout a year-and-a-half later.
July 21
1925—Jury Decides the Teaching of Evolution Is a Crime
In the famous Scopes Monkey Trial, American schoolteacher John Scopes is found guilty of violating the Butler Act, which forbids the teaching of evolution in schools. The sensational trial pits two great legal minds—William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow—against each other. Ultimately, Scopes and Darrow are destined to lose because the case rests on whether Scopes had violated the Act, not whether evolution is fact.
1969—First Humans Reach the Moon
Neil Armstrong and Eugene 'Buzz' Aldrin, Jr. become the first humans to walk on the moon. The third member of the mission, command module Pilot Michael Collins, remains in orbit in Apollo 11.
1972—Chaos in the Big Apple
In New York City, within a span of twenty-four hours, fifty-seven murders are committed.
July 20
1944—Hitler Survives Third Assassination Attempt
Adolf Hitler escapes death after a bomb explodes at his headquarters in Rastenberg, East Prussia. A senior officer, Colonel Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg, is blamed for planting the device at a meeting between Hitler and other senior staff members. Hitler sustains minor burns and a concussion but manages to keep an appointment later in the day with Italian leader Benito Mussolini.
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