Vintage Pulp Jan 19 2019
A RUDE AWAKENING
Ah hah! There you are, Stabsgefreiter Schultz, out of uniform and with Unterfeldwebel Dietrich's wife, no less.


Nazis ruin everything—even romantic seaside trysts. As it happens though, the scene depicted on this cover of J. Bigelow Clark's The Dreamers never occurs, and in fact these characters must have come from the imagination of artist Stanley Borack, because in terms of their physical characteristics, they don't exist in the narrative at all. The book was originally published in 1945, with this Perma paperback edition appearing in 1955. The story involves four idealistic expatriates living on the small fictional Italian island of Campagna during World War II. Their only intention is escapism in a place of beauty and peace. Then the Nazis show up. And ruin everything.

This book is brilliant, but it will be problematic for some readers because the villain Captain Muller—and he's a very, very bad guy—is gay. His sexuality is a metaphor. As a German officer his incredibly high opinion of himself has primarily to do with his control over and manipulation of men. While some artists use paint or words, he feels he's a Picasso or Titian using humans—the most difficult medium of all—to produce more concrete effects upon civilization than mere visual art does. And his ultimate expression of oneness with his medium is sexual congress with them. Clark's final postulation is that for many men of war, and particularly fascists, violence is a form of eroticism.

Other elements here are also metaphorical, even the island itself. Though the expats, among them an elderly British professor and a German baron, are of different ages and cultures, they become fast friends. Their island is not perfect. There is want and conflict. But without being indoctrinated into the ways of hate people generally help, or at least tolerate, each other. The island represents the possibility of smooth human coexistence. But Captain Muller's purpose is to exert control through violence and fear. He's immediately interested in and drawn to the four expats, and shrewdly understands that the group's relationship with two locals—a legless veteran of the North Africa front and a beautiful young mother—may be the key to achieving his goals.

While all this is going on an American spy arrives on the island and sets into motion a plot to steal diagrams of the submarine bases the Germans are building. The narrative focuses on the professor's and baron's efforts to remain uninvolved, but also follows how a promise
they've made to get the young mother and her child off the island draws them all, bit by terrible bit, into the war against their will. Transitioning from apathy to activism is a standard theme in literature and film, but Clark manages to navigate this course with rare skill. As it develops, The Dreamers generates squirm inducing intensity, almost akin to psychological horror.

But the book's value is in more than just its bold narrative. As time goes by people's knowledge of history comes not from those who lived through it, but from interpreters of it. When conducted under rigorous standards, re-examinations of history are useful and even necessary, but many of this group are not rigorous, and have shady political motives. In the U.S. this manifests as fanciful spins on slavery, the Civil War, and other periods. Many American schoolchildren are now being taught that fascism is the exact opposite of what it was in reality. The Dreamers, written during the fascist era, is clear about what fascism is, how it works, what it seeks to accomplish, and what end of the political spectrum it comes from. Every novel we've read from this period is consistent on these points.

Thus in addition to being a very good book, The Dreamers is yet another reminder that: Mussolini was well liked for years in the U.S. because he was perceived to have saved Italy from communists. Regardless of whether Adolf Hitler had any religious beliefs in private life, the German people knew him as a Catholic, he constantly invoked God in his speeches, and the Holocaust was abetted by people who were overwhelmingly religious. Fascism was vehemently sexist, racist, patriotic, and anti-liberal. Fascism distrusted diplomacy, independent knowledge, and a questioning press, replacing them with aggression, indoctrination, and propaganda. And like all governing systems, fascism was ultimately opportunistic, borrowing any political idea that helped consolidate power.


One benefit of maintaining Pulp Intl. is constantly reading books written contemporaneously with historical events and learning how they were perceived by people who lived through them. The Dreamers has extra value because of this. It's homophobic, though Clark's use of a gay villain is intended to coalesce into metaphor. His scathing attitude toward Germans, on the other hand, never does. It seems as if he hates them en masse. His protagonists often muse about German moral shortcomings. These condemnations of an entire people are an obvious case of turnabout is fair play, and one can hardly be surprised considering what the world was learning about Hitler's atrocities. The Dreamers remains an illuminating reading experience. 


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Vintage Pulp Dec 4 2018
ABOMINABLE SNOW, MAN
He's been eaten down to the bones. I don't know about you but this is by far the worst case of frostbite I've ever seen.


We imagine Boston born author James Holden sitting around one bitterly cold night, probably just a little tipsy from drinking warm brandy, staring out at a December snowstorm, thinking to himself that if anyone's out there in such terrible weather they're risking frostbite. And then his eyes grow wide and he says aloud, “What if the frost... takes more... than just a bite? Yes! Writer's block cured!” And some months later he finishes Snow Fury, in which the snow eats people entirely. Yep. How could snow eat people? Might have something to do with a scientific experiment run amok. And just to push the entire concept to full fruition Holden named the main character David Storm. Well, at least the cover is brilliant, and for that you can thank James Meese. This Perma edition is from 1956 and the book originally appeared in hardback in 1955.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 13 2017
A CASE OF MEDICAL NEGLIGEE
You're lovely in that, but for pure sexiness nothing beats a woman in an assless hospital gown.


Above is an alternate cover for a book we featured a couple of years ago—Frank G. Slaughter's Eastside General. The previous art was from 1957, but this edition is from 1952 with cover work by Owen Kampen. It struck us for a couple of reasons. First, the patient is wearing a negligée, and second, she's smoking. Possibly the doctor would tell her smoking is bad for her, but in 1952 the link between cigarette smoking and cancer was suspected but not established. Sometimes it takes a while but science always reaches a consensus. So do we, and our consensus on this cover is that it's great. You can see our original write-up on Eastside General at this link.

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Vintage Pulp Dec 19 2016
PRACTICING MEDICINE
Alrightee nurse, I guess that's enough warm-ups with Donnie the Delivery Doll. Let's try the real thing now.

That None Should Die was Frank G. Slaughter's first book, published in hardback in 1941 and in this Perma paperback edition in 1955. Slaughter was a doctor and wrote mostly—but not always—about his own field. This particular book focuses strongly on treatments, ethics, and the pro forma central love story between young doctor and young nurse, but it's most curious for its firm opposition to government involvement in health care. Of course, government run health care works like a charm in so many places, but the key to its success is the understanding that citizens aren't just profit sources, therefore they shouldn't die for being poor, shouldn't sacrifice their life savings for cures, and shouldn't pay through the nose for insurance. Since those foundational concepts weren't widely accepted in the U.S. in 1941 (or now, for that matter), it's no surprise how Slaughter feels about the issue. The book was well reviewed, and helped him establish a literary career that quickly supplanted medicine for him and lasted for decades. No surprise—there's no government bureaucracy in literature. 

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Vintage Pulp Jan 13 2016
PRIVACY ISSUES
I found these pjs in your closet. Hope you don’t mind. I also found your porn stash, some Jergens, and a lot of crusty socks. We better talk.


Harry Kurnitz’s Invasion of Privacy has one of the more ingenious set-ups—a movie mogul buys a script about a man who murders his wife, and well into production of the film is sued for copyright infringement. The person suing him? That happens to be the man who committed the murder. Not only is the story stolen, but true. But how did the screenwriter know about the crime? And how can the producer avoid losing the lawsuit? Maybe, possibly, by proving the murder actually happened. Complicated and fun, this edition is from 1957, with excellent art by James Meese. 

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Vintage Pulp Apr 30 2015
GENERAL MALPRACTICE
Actually, I came in here because I thought you said pancakes. No biggie, though. Let's get this pancreas removed.

Above, the cover of East Side General by Frank G. Slaughter, originally 1952, with this Perma Books paperback appearing in 1957. This is no typical New York City hospital. One doctor is an ex-Nazi, and the main plot contrivance involves the arrival of burn victims whose injuries turn out to be caused by radiation, which leads police to seek an atomic serial killer. The book was re-issued several times with different art, but this effort by Verne Tossey is by far the best. 

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Vintage Pulp Apr 29 2015
PERMA IS TEMPORARY
Change is inevitable—especially if you're dealing with Ian Fleming.


Ian Fleming was not an author to be trifled with. We talked about how he shifted the rights for Casino Royale from Popular Library to Signet. Well, here we go again. The above 1957 Perma paperback of Diamonds Are Forever with excellent William Rose cover art is rare because Fleming shifted the publishing to Signet after Perma changed the title of Moonraker to Too Hot to Handle. Since this happened after the Casino Royale fiasco you’d think the editors would have known better. 

Perma: Ian, Moonraker is a terrible title. It sounds like a sci-fi novel.
 
Fleming: You listen here, you sniveling little pup—
 
Perma: This is my job, okay. I’m telling you a bad title hurts your whole brand.
 
Fleming: Well, I have an idea for a book called Goldfinger. I suppose you think that’s a bad title too?
 
Perma: Well, yeah...
 
Fleming: Why you annoying insect. And Octopussy? You don’t like that either?
 
Perma: Sounds pornographic. It’s ludicrous.
 
Fleming: You have two tin fucking ears is what’s ludicrous! And Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang?
 
Perma: The worst of the bunch, and pornographic. I’m sorry, Ian—
 
Fleming: Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang? Pornographic? That’s the last goddamned straw, you pimply little Yank! 
 
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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
June 24
1938—Chicora Meteor Lands
In the U.S., above Chicora, Pennsylvania, a meteor estimated to have weighed 450 metric tons explodes in the upper atmosphere and scatters fragments across the sky. Only four small pieces are ever discovered, but scientists estimate that the meteor, with an explosive power of about three kilotons of TNT, would have killed everyone for miles around if it had detonated in the city.
June 23
1973—Peter Dinsdale Commits First Arson
A fire at a house in Hull, England, kills a six year old boy and is believed to be an accident until it later is discovered to be a case of arson. It is the first of twenty-six deaths by fire caused over the next seven years by serial-arsonist Peter Dinsdale. Dinsdale is finally captured in 1981, pleads guilty to multiple manslaughter, and is detained indefinitely under Britain's Mental Health Act as a dangerous psychotic.
June 22
1944—G.I. Bill Goes into Effect
U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Servicemen's Readjustment Act into law. Commonly known as the G.I. Bill of Rights, or simply G.I. Bill, the grants toward college and vocational education, generous unemployment benefits, and low interest home and business loans the Bill provided to nearly ten million military veterans was one of the largest factors involved in building the vast American middle class of the 1950s and 1960s.
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