*sigh* Maybe I should have left this outfit back home and packed a raincoat instead.
We talked about the 1953 Rita Hayworth film Miss Sadie Thompson back in December. The source material, written by W. Somerset Maugham, first appeared in the literary magazine The Smart Set in 1921 as “Miss Thompson,” and was published by Dell as Rain in 1951. This edition has beautiful cover art from Victor Kalin, belying the dark story Maugham weaves inside. The movie sticks reasonably close to the book, so if you want to know more about the plot you can check here.
*gasp* That phone is just everything! Where did you find it in that color? I'm dying of jealousy right now.
Murder takes no holiday and neither does artistic talent, as proven by this beautiful Robert McGinnis cover of a man losing his shit over the latest pink phone from Ma Bell. Okay, that isn't what's happening, but it looks that way, right? Actually the male figure is way over his head in a smuggling plot and the female figure—a femme fatale named Vivienne Larousse—is keeping him from losing his nerve. The book is set on the fictional Caribbean Island of St. Albans, a British enclave that seems to be modeled after the Caymans. Brett Halliday's franchise sleuth Michael Shayne is thrown into the mix to solve a murder that took place in the U.S., and follows the clues to the tropics. Of the approximately seventy Shayne novels, this one—number thirty-five or so—is merely adequate. Actually, all the ones we've read have been merely adequate. But we'll keep at it. McGinnis, on the other hand, is masterful. Of all the moments in an action oriented book to illustrate he chose an unlikely one, but the result is just everything. His alternate cover, below, is also great.
Gringo adventurer goes down South American rabbit hole looking for Inca treasure.
Pulp fiction, genre fiction, crime fiction—call it what you want. Basically, none of it will ever win a Pulitzer Prize, but it can be mighty enjoyable when done just right. Plunder of the Sun is faster than fast pulp-style fiction from To Catch a Thief author David Dodge. The rough and tumble protagonist Al Colby tries to unravel the secret of an Inca quipa—an ancient numero-linguistic recording device—which may tell the location of an impossibly huge hoard of gold. The tale speeds from Santiago, Chile to Lima, Peru and into the high Andes by boat, train, and tram to a climax on the highest lake in the world.
This is a confident yarn from an author who traveled widely in the countries portrayed, and his tale avoids the cultural judgments you often find in these types of novels. His descriptions of cities, hotels, and transport are unflattering but accurate, yet his treatment of the Peruvian and Chilean villains has no whiff of condescension. They're just the villains, nothing more—smart, tough, deadly, and motivated. The book's only flaw is its late turn toward romantic matchmaking. Still, it was a very good read. It became a movie of the same name in 1953, placed in a new setting, with Glenn Ford and Diana Lynn. The art on this 1951 Dell paperback is by Robert Stanley, and as a bonus it comes in a collectible mapback edition.
Nothing's funny, really. I just can't help laughing about how utterly screwed we are.
Gulf Coast Girl is more solid aquatic themed work from Charles Williams. This time the story involves a woman who seeks help from a crack salvage diver in finding a small plane that crashed in the Gulf of Mexico with a fortune on board. The story has a framing device—the boat they use for their salvage operation is found abandoned and the only clue to their whereabouts is a diary. So the story is narrated by the captain of the rescue vessel, reading from the diary what happened to the protagonists. This frame seems unneeded for nearly the entire length of the book, but the always competent Williams shows late that this device is in no way extraneous. Nifty work. We're really ripping through Williams' catalog now. Originally published in hardback in 1955 as Scorpion Reef, these Dell paperback editions of Gulf Coast Girl appeared in 1955 and 1960 with cover art from Robert Maguire and Robert McGinnis.
I think I've finally got his strategy figured out. Every time he throws a punch he hits me.
William Campbell Gault was a fan of sports—or at least of using sports as a backdrop for his fiction. In The Canvas Coffin the boxer hero Luke Pilgrim wakes up the morning after a tough title fight and fears he may have killed Brenda Vane, the woman he escorted to his victory party. He can't quite remember, though, what with all those blows to the head, but she's definitely dead, and he needs to unpuzzle the mystery before he ends up in prison. As set-ups go, this is a nice one. Guys who think they may have committed murder are staples of crime fiction and film noir, but the idea of making the character a concussed boxer is clever. Gault wrote about twenty sports thrillers, so he knew his stuff. Illustrator William George knew his stuff too, and produced a nice cover for this Dell paperback, dated 1954.
That wasn't you panting? Oh... Does that mean I don't excite you?
A. B. Cunningham wrote more than twenty mysteries starring small town sheriff Jess Roden, with Death Haunts the Dark Lane coming fourteenth. An heiress is murdered and the sheriff has to sniff out the killer—literally making use of tracking dogs, which is why you see a hound in Robert Stanley's cover art. The series was popular at the time, but isn't that fondly remembered today. But this Dell mapback edition from 1948, like all the company's mapbacks, is highly collectible.
Don't look at me that way. If I'm going to have her shoes I might as well have her wallet too.
The Scarlet Slippers is a mystery starring Fox's recurring characters Johnny and Suzy Marshall. These two are downmarket Nick and Nora Charles copies, complete with a dog sidekick, which just goes to show that every good idea is borrowed by another writer eventually. The two are hired by L.A. lawyers to help in a trial, with the goal of proving their client's innocence. Fox was in reality a Dutch writer named Johannes Knipscheer, a name we plugged into the trusty translator to learn it means—ready for this?—“cut shave.” Appropriate—Suzy has an extra close shave herself when she falls into the clutches of a murderer. Don't worry, though. She survives to play the ditz in subsequent outings. Male authors, right? Give 'em a typewriter and they'll concoct a woman who's part candyfloss every time. 1952 copyright on this, with James Meese art on the front and a cool graphic on the rear.
You really want to turn me on? Try helping with the laundry.
“A lusty novel about Florida crackers,” the cover bluntly proclaims, but the crackers actually originate from Mississippi, which they've had to leave in disgrace after a preacher becomes the source of a scandal. In Florida he takes up his dubious ways while his son gets into woman trouble of his own. Author Charles H. Baker, Jr. wins extra points for his usage of the word “ho,” a tricky term, with so much encompassed by its single syllable, and which we've discussed in detail before.
Dell Publications pioneered the usage of mapbacks, which you probably know, but sometimes the company deviated from that tradition and this book is a very nice example. Just take a look at the amazing rear cover below. The front was painted by Victor Kalin, the back presumably by some under-appreciated in-house artist, and the whole shebang was published in 1951.
Okay, okay, I'll take out the garbage when I get home. Just let me finish this other thing first.
Our subhead is a little inside joke with the Pulp Intl. girlfriends. But not really that inside, because inside jokes can't be figured out by outsiders, whereas this is pretty straightforward—we always forget to take out the garbage. The look on the woman's face is perfect. We see it constantly. Cover artist Robert Stanley used this type of guileless expression often. He really had painting it down pat. There's only one explanation for that—he forgot about the garbage all the time too.
It's not even 4 a.m. Damn. I really need to work on that whole waiting thing.
Rafael DeSoto painted this cover for the 1951 Dell paperback edition of Martha Albrand's 1950 novel Wait for the Dawn. This is one of the author's many romance thrillers, and what you get is a woman living in France who meets the perfect man, only to find out that he's a murderous goon. Pretty much every woman will have experienced that at some point. But this guy isn't all bad—he's rich, and as we know that buys a lot of second chances. Albrand was born in Germany as Heidi Loewengard, and wrote as Albrand, Katrin Holland, and Christine Lambert. In all she churned out around forty novels and was respected enough that an award was named after her, the Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction, which was active from 1989 to 2006, then discontinued. You can see a couple more cool DeSoto covers here and here.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1916—Einstein Publishes General Relativity
German-born theoretical physicist Albert Einstein publishes his general theory of relativity. Among the effects of the theory are phenomena such as the curvature of space-time, the bending of rays of light in gravitational fields, faster than light universe expansion, and the warping of space time around a rotating body.
1931—Nevada Approves Gambling
In the U.S., the state of Nevada passes a resolution allowing for legalized gambling. Unregulated gambling had been commonplace in the early Nevada mining towns, but was outlawed in 1909 as part of a nationwide anti-gaming crusade. The leading proponents of re-legalization expected that gambling would be a short term fix until the state's economic base widened to include less cyclical industries. However, gaming proved over time to be one of the least cyclical industries ever conceived.
1941—Tuskegee Airmen Take Flight
During World War II, the 99th Pursuit Squadron, aka the Tuskegee Airmen, is activated. The group is the first all-black unit of the Army Air Corp, and serves with distinction in Africa, Italy, Germany and other areas. In March 2007 the surviving airmen and the widows of those who had died received Congressional Gold Medals for their service.
1906—First Airplane Flight in Europe
Romanian designer Traian Vuia flies twelve meters outside Paris in a self-propelled airplane, taking off without the aid of tractors or cables, and thus becomes the first person to fly a self-propelled, heavier-than-air aircraft. Because his craft was not a glider, and did not need to be pulled, catapulted or otherwise assisted, it is considered by some historians to be the first true airplane.
1965—Leonov Walks in Space
Soviet cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov leaves his spacecraft the Voskhod 2 for twelve minutes. At the end of that time Leonov's spacesuit had inflated in the vacuum of space to the point where he could not re-enter Voskhod's airlock. He opened a valve to allow some of the suit's pressure to bleed off, was barely able to get back inside the capsule, and in so doing became the first person to complete a spacewalk.
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