Let's trade. You give me what's in your hand and I'll give you what's in my pants.
The cover for this Lion Books edition of Jim Thompson's The Golden Gizmo is as quirky as Thompson's prose. The title of the book has a double meaning. A gizmo is a special ability, a gift. If you had a sense for knowing when someone was bluffing at poker, you'd say, “My gizmo told me he had nothing.” Or if you had a knack for meeting beautiful women, you'd say, “My gizmo kicked in as soon as I walked into the party.” The main character's gizmo is the ability to sniff out scenarios that lead to profit, which comes in handy in his work as a freelance gold buyer. But there's a literal gizmo here as well—a priceless gold watch that he steals by accident. In the end both gizmos cause him no end of trouble, and the question is whether he can get out with his hide intact. The story is enlivened by the main character's fiery alcoholic femme fatale wife Elaine. Strange, but pretty good. The strikingly pretty cover art is uncredited, sadly.
The magazine that cried wolf.
For Men Only was launched in New York City by Canam Publishers Sales Corp., but changed ownership several times over the years, and was even acquired at one point by pulp kingpin Martin Goodman. This particular issue is from September 1956 and contains art from Rudolph Belarski, Frank Cozzarrelli, Elliot Means, Ben Thomas, Victor Olson, and Ken Crook. Actually, it’s a miracle all the art is credited. It doesn’t happen as often as it should in these magazines. The stories accompanying those art pieces range from espionage to wilderness adventure, including non-fiction from Jim Thompson about “America’s first murderer,” a man named John Billington who came to the New World on the Mayflower. After making trouble for years in Plymouth Colony, he was finally hanged for the slaying of John Newcomen. We checked, and Billington did in fact exist. His execution in September 1630 was the first of a colonist—but certainly not the last.
And another story caught our eye. It discusses an incident on the set of an Italian movie in which a wolf got loose and tried to attack actress Silvana Mangano. According to For Men Only, co-star Guido Celano rushed the wolf, grabbed it and threw it into the air, whereupon a rifle-toting crew member nailed it like he was skeet shooting. We’re calling bullshit on that one. A while back we wrote an article about guaranteed hunt farms and were able to see some rescued gray wolves up close. They’re big—about three feet high at the shoulder. European wolves are even bigger. No movie production would use one. Also, we don’t picture fifty-two-year-old, five foot three Guido Celano heaving a wolf into the air like a sack of laundry. No, it was just a dog—a German Shepherd, looks like. But it’s a good story, appropriate publicity for a movie—Uomini e lupi, aka Men and Wolves—that was still months from its premiere. We have about twenty scans below and an inexhaustible supply of magazines still to share.
It’s not their fault—it’s a jean-etic disorder.
In pulp and sleaze fiction there are many types of bad women—vamps, golddiggers, black widows, you name it—but women who wear jeans, or even jean shorts, are destined for a special brand of trouble. Some of these women are already corrupt while others are merely at the gateway, but they all end up in the same place—Calamity City, daddy-o.
Have shotgun, will travel.
This rare promo piece for Steve McQueen’s 1972 thriller The Getaway was produced for the film’s run in Japan in 1973. Based on a novel by Jim Thompson, co-starring Ali McGraw, directed by Sam Peckinpah, written for the screen by Walter Hill, and scored by Quincy Jones, The Getaway delivers on multiple levels, as does this poster.
Nursed by the worst.
Acclaimed pulp author Jim Thompson was an alcoholic, and his characters were all hard drinkers. The Alcoholics is set in a detox ward called El Healtho run by a doctor facing financial struggles. Keeping the clinic open may mean compromising his ethics; letting it close means abandoning the patients he’s tried so hard to cure. It’s a bit like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, complete with black humor, bizarre patients, and a sadistic nurse (nicely depicted in the cover art above). It’s atypical Thompson, but is perhaps a more important read than many of his other works, considering drink eventually hastened his death. If abusing alcohol is truly a type of slow-motion suicide, as some believe, then The Alcoholics is Thompson’s note.
One of the most prolific thriller writers ever dies.
Novelist and screenwriter Donald Westlake died Friday of a heart attack at age 75. Westlake who began publishing in 1960, wrote more than 100 books under his name and several pseudonyms. He won three Edgar awards from the Mystery Writers of America, and his screenplay of Jim Thompson’s novel The Grifters earned him an Academy Award nomination. Fifteen of his novels were adapted to film, including 1972’s The Hot Rock, with Robert Redford, and 1999’s Payback, with Mel Gibson.
Like many pulp authors, Westlake wrote a few erotica novels, these under the pen name Alan Marshall. Curiously, a visit to Westlake’s official website finds no mention of Marshall, which we count as an official disavowal. Nevertheless, you see an Alan Marshall cover below. Westlake said he published under so many names because it would have been unbelievable that one person wrote so much. His feverish output will continue even after death—his latest novel Get Real is due to be published in April.
Ever considered the downside to having a hot mom?
Based on a novel by revered crime writer Jim Thompson, The Grifters treated filmgoers to a heavy dose of amorality and incestuous sexual tension. We’re talking dark, folks. It was directed by Stephen Frears and starred John Cusack, Annette Bening, and the always-brilliant Anjelica Huston as an extremely dangerous milf. Bening had appeared already in Valmont and Postcards from the Edge, but her role here as the slinky predator Myra Langtry made her a star. And who can forget that hotel scene? See below. The Grifters premiered today in 1990.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1911—Mona Lisa Disappears
Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece, the Mona Lisa, aka La Gioconda, is stolen from the Louvre. After many wild theories and false leads, it turns out the painting was snatched by museum employee Vincenzo Peruggia.
1940—Trotsky Iced in Mexico
In Mexico City exiled Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky is fatally wounded with an ice axe
(not an ice pick) by Soviet agent Ramon Mercader. Trotsky dies the next day.
1968—Prague Spring Ends
200,000 Warsaw Pact troops backed by 5,000 tanks invade Czechoslovakia to end the Prague Spring political liberalization movement.
1986—Sherrill Goes Postal
In Edmond, Oklahoma, United States postal employee Patrick Sherrill shoots and kills fourteen of his co-workers and then commits suicide.
1953—Mohammed Mossadegh Overthrown in Iran
At the instigation of the CIA, Prime Minster of Iran Mohammed Mossadegh is overthrown and the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi is installed as leader of the country.
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