|Vintage Pulp||Mar 16 2018|
Donald E. Westlake wanted to call his mystery The Smashers by a different title. He preferred the name The Cutie—as in a hustler or crook who thinks he's cute, or clever. That would have suited the novel well, because the term is used probably two dozen times over the course of a story about a New York City mob fixer told by his boss to find the cutie who murdered a well-connected showgirl and made an improbable patsy of a hapless heroin addict.
With very little time and even less sleep the main character deals with cops, hoods, druggies, and politically plugged in one percenters, narrowing down a list of suspects to find the troublesome villain. The book reads a bit like a police procedural, but written from the opposite side of the fence. The killer, when finally revealed, comes as little surprise, but the book's mystery elements are not its most important anyway. What works here is the NYC atmosphere and the sense of sand running through the hourglass.
The cover you see above is from the rarer-than-rare edition put out in 1963 by the British publishers Four Square. If you want one it'll cost you about $100, which we think is overpriced. But we usually think that. Paperbacks to us are utilitarian. They're things you carry in a rear pocket. Also, you should never pay more than ten bucks for anything you're tempted to grab to smash a moth. But fret not—the Hard Case Crime version published in 2009 under Westlake's preferred title The Cutie is cheap, and, to many eyes, is probably the prettiest version.
|Vintage Pulp||Oct 23 2017|
“It is at this point—still on the Great Plains, but with the towering mountains so close that it seems as if a man could reach out and touch them—that Skyline City occurs. The city itself has had many incarnations. At first it was no more than a stagecoach stop, a fort and a trading post. Then, with the advent of cattle ranching on the plains and the discovery of gold in the Rockies, it grew and prospered. It became a center of trade and finance—the capital of an enormous Western empire."
These days Denver is the capital of an enormous collection of immigrants from other states. More than three-hundred thousand came from California, mainly fleeing the west coast's culture, taxes and—ironically—its immigration. Such people would not recognize the city described in Sex on Arrival, but indeed, Denver was once a live-and-let-live paradise where the foolishness described by the author wouldn't have raised an eyebrow. And we're talking about during the eighties when we were young. We can't even imagine what the city was like in 1968.
Thus the book, though set before our time, is a bit of a nostalgia trip for us. On the whole it's a love story—with numerous sexual detours of semi-explicit variety. Semi explicit as in: “Then she wriggled around and her lips were on him. And the sensation radiated outward from his groin in stronger and stronger waves. It was almost more than he could bear. Almost more than any man could bear.” It's racy but not pornographic, and the interludes are short and widely spaced, as actual plot rears its ugly head.
Midwood sleaze titles were generally written under pseudonyms, and this particular author was probably Donald E. Westlake, who admitted producing close to thirty books as Marshall and Alan Marsh. But other authors used the Marshall name too. It isn't possible to know whether this is Westlake—at least not for us—by looking for hints of his style. Whoever wrote this worked fast, and the haste shows. But if you can pick it up cheap—and we mean real cheap—it's worth a read.
|Vintage Pulp||Oct 7 2015|
“They found gutter love with gutter tramps!” We’re guessing you get two gutterballs, then it’s someone else’s turn. Greenleaf Classics provides more fun coverness, this time from its Midnight Reader imprint, Slum Sinners, by Andrew Shaw, who was really Lawrence Block, at least in this case. Some sites say Donald E. Westlake wrote this, but authoritative sources (Block) say Westlake wasn’t Shaw until after 1963. This one is from ’62, so it’s Block. Wanna know what it's about? Check the rear cover, below. No artist info, but it’s probably Tony Calvano.
|Vintage Pulp||Jun 10 2015|
Brother and Sister is Donald E. Westlake writing incest sleaze under the pseudonym Edwin West, telling the story of a twenty-one-year-old meathead and his nubile teen sister who, er, come together on a deeper level after the accidental deaths of their parents. They hump like rabbits for a few weeks, deal with a villainous uncle, then morality triumphs and they die in the end. The male character here is in the Air Force, which is appropriate, because Westlake must have written this on autopilot. The Harry Schaare cover art shows a much older guy than the punk-ass troublemaker in the story, but it’s still quite nice. 1961 copyright.
|Vintage Pulp||Oct 15 2012|