Motel owner Gerald Foos spied on his guests for decades. Now his story is set for publication.
The New Yorker magazine's newest online issue features author Gay Talese's biographical account of a man who may be the most dedicated and successful voyeur who ever lived—Gerald Foos, who bought the Manor House Motel in metropolitan Denver in 1966, installed ceiling vents in more than a dozen rooms, and until 1995 watched his guests most intimate moments from an attic observation space. The vents were louvered and angled in such a way that he was invisible from below, and the attic was modified with carpet and reinforcing wood to make him undetectably silent as he lurked above his guests. In this way he observed thousands of couples, singles, and groups having sex, masturbating, arguing, using drugs, showering, using the toilet, and—on one occasion—committing murder.
Foos considered himself a researcher of sorts, and his decades of watching people's sexual liaisons gave him many insights into personal relationships as well as American society at large. All the while he took detailed notes of his observations and thoughts, which he eventually offered to Talese after contacting the author in 1980. Talese has culled those extensive writings for the publication of an upcoming book. The New Yorker article outlining Talese's meetings with Foos, their long correspondence, and the author's visit to the motel to peer through the illicit vents for himself, is long but we recommend a visit to the website to read it. And in case you're wondering, the Manor House Motel was demolished in 2014, so travelers in the Denver area need not worry about being secretly observed. At least at that motel.
He’s more of a laughing-on-the-inside kind of clown.
We would love if this issue of Uncensored Detective published this month in 1946 had a story relating to the desperate clown on the cover, but no such luck. You can read the text of the issue at this link, but we’ll summarize for those short of time—you learn about cheating spouses, a killer cop, and a millionaire con artist, but no clowns. The stories are all interesting (as are the photos and photo-illustrations posed by models that probably barely earned meal money for the week), but the tale of double homicide on Lowry Air Force Base in Denver is the one that caught our interest. The details of the murders are not in any way fantastic, but because the parties of interest are all Chinese cadets Uncensored Detective gets to drop lines like this one: The workings of the Oriental mind are strange indeed. And this one: What secret mechanism in the Oriental mind caused a normal Chinese student to go berserk and commit murders for pride? Oh, those inscrutable Chinese. The story is a classic case of framing the banal as somehow alien when it involves other ethnic groups, and it’s a lazy, vicious form of journalism you see often in both old magazines and modern cable news. The mechanism of murder in the Denver crime was indeed pride, and that’s not so secret or strange. The other murders in the magazine were committed for jealousy, money, and lust, and there’s nothing secret or strange about those either. What would be strange is clowns. But there isn’t a single damned one in the magazine.
Mid-century fiction’s love affair with the East produced scores of virtuoso bookcovers.
It seems time for another themed cover collection, so today we’re sharing some of the scores of Asian styled mid-century paperback fronts we’ve seen. Much of the fiction here is offensive on some level, but then quite a bit of the old literature falls into that category. The art, on the other hand, is somewhat easier to look at dispassionately. So we have thirty-two paperback covers revealing the mid-century fascination with—or exploitation of—Asian archetypes, with art by Denis McLoughlin, Robert Maguire (identically on Ne-San and The Transistor Girls), J. Oval, aka Ben Ostrick, and more. Four or five of these came from Flickr, so thanks to the original uploaders on those.
When you said you’d never be dumb enough to leave your other gun where a double-crossing little she-devil like me could find it, did you mean this gun?
Nice art from Barye Phillips (signing not with his usual "Baryé" but with his last name) for Frank O’Malley’s The Best Go First. O’Malley was in reality Denver-born western writer Frank O’Rourke, whose successful career included a string of hit novels and film adaptations. The Best Go First, a detective thriller set in Texas involving oil money and murder, was published in hardback in 1950, and in this paperback edition in 1952.
It ain’t no damn ascot, mister—it’s a bandana. And I don't mind tellin' you I don’t care for your tone.
Above is a nice but uncredited cover for Nelson Nye’s Desert of the Damned. Nye was an important author of Western fiction who wrote more than one hundred novels and co-founded the Western Writers of America guild. He also used the pseudonyms Clem Colt and Drake C. Denver. Desert of the Damned involves a man named Ben Reifel (kind of like “rifle,” see what he did there?) being hunted for a murder he didn’t commit. He has to find a way to dodge both the law and a character named Breen who’s out for revenge. Nye’s work is quite popular, and this novel was reprinted several times, and appeared electronically from Prologue Books in 2012. This Popular Library version was published in 1953.
No, sweetie, I won’t "oil your rod," and FYI there are more romantic ways to ask.
Printed by Sydney, Australia’s Cleveland Publishing Co., The Lonely Gun was written by the prolific author who called himself Marshall Grover, as well as Marshall McCoy, Val Sterling, Johnny Nelson, Shad Denver, Ward Brennan and other names. He was in reality Leonard F. Meares, and he published an astounding 746 novels. Amazingly, he didn’t even see his first on the shelf until he was thirty-four—young for publishing one’s first novel, but not for publishing the first of 746. Or better yet—look at it this way: that’s an average of just more than nineteen novels every year until he died at age seventy-two.
One of the great American bookstores is shutting down.
The Denver Book Fair may not look like much on the outside, but as you see below, the interior is loaded. And that’s just one room. The Book Fair is probably one of the better used bookstores in the U.S., thanks to its focus not just on books, but on vintage magazines. The shot below shows just a room of magazines, of all types, boxed, shelved, from the 1930s through 1980s. Customers have to grab a ladder and dig through the stacks themselves, which we did three days in a row. We were also given access to a utility closet that was piled high with stuff that had never been sorted, including some old calendars. We’ll start scanning some of these finds tomorrow. Now the bad news. The Book Fair is closing down. The owners haven’t decided on a shutdown date yet, but it will be soon. It’s really too bad we won’t be in the U.S. for their fire sale. While many of the tens of thousands of books will certainly find good homes, we suspect most of the vintage magazines will end up in a dumpster. But at least we were fortunate enough to be able to raid the stocks before the end. Farewell Book Fair.
This woman is useless, brother. She can’t even gut a fish. What are we to do with her? And stop saying “schwing” when I ask that. I have no idea what that means.
Above, a cover for Walter D. Edmonds’ frontier novel The Captive Women, which appeared in 1950 as a paperback, 1949 as a hardback, and had been serialized in 1937 in the Saturday Evening Post as In the Hands of the Senecas. Basically, what you get here are separate accounts of whites, mostly women, who have been captured by Native Americans, circa 1776 to 1784. Edmonds, who wrote the acclaimed Drums Along the Mohawk, specialized in historical novels set in the American northeast. The right of white men to invade the land is presumed, but you still have to consider this fairly balanced writing for the time period. The Indians have personalities and motivations, which is the most you can hope for in 1930s-era pop fiction on this particular subject. The captive whose odyssey is followed most closely is that of a newlywed named Delia, who ends up wife to an Indian chief and bears him a child. Edmonds also wrote about fifteen books for children, including Bert Breen’s Barn, which won the National Book Award for Children’s Literature in 1976. The art here is by Denver Gillen, whose work you can see much more of at this blog.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
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.
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.
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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