Vintage Pulp Dec 1 2017
WANTS AND NEEDS
End of the line—Brando's place.


Above, a striking West German poster for Endstation Sehnsucht, which you know better as A Streetcar Named Desire. Admit it. You've heard of it, you know who Tennessee Williams is, but you haven't seen it (or seen or read the much racier Pulitzer Prize winning play it's based on). A famous critic once explained that a good book teaches you how to read it. The same can apply to movies. You have to let yourself be immersed in A Streetcar Named Desire. The first twenty minutes you might be tempted to give up. But once the dubious southern accents and style of the production settle into your head, you'll find a movie well worth watching, with a nice performance by Marlon Brando, who was comfortable in his role of the beefcakey Stanley Kowalski after having played it on Broadway. A Streetcar Named Desire is over the top—and over the needed running time, in the opinions of many—but it's an involving experience. After its U.S. premiere in September 1951 it rolled into West Germany as Endstation Sehnsucht today the same year.

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Vintage Pulp Mar 5 2017
UNDERHANDED BEHAVIOR
Pair arrested in payoff scheme profess shock. “We were incredibly subtle about it,” claim jailbirds.


This cover for Ira Wolfert's The Underworld is uncredited, which is a shame considering it's wonderfully executed and wraps cleverly around to the rear of the book. Wolfert won a 1943 Pulitzer Prize for a series of articles about the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, aka the Battle of the Solomons, then the same year wrote Tucker's People, which was the original title of The Underworld. The Bantam paperback edition above was published in 1950. The book details the numbers rackets of New York City, which were executed far more subtly than the not very casual depiction in the art. The story captured Hollywood's attention and was produced as 1948's Force of Evil, starring John Garfield. We'll get around to talking about that movie a bit later.

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Vintage Pulp Sep 10 2016
UNWISE GUY
It ain't your lucky day anymore, is it, mister?


Mafia is a non-fiction rundown of the Italian organized crime rackets up to 1952, which is when the book first appeared in hardback. The above edition from Signet appeared in 1954. Author Ed Reid, who was an associate of organized crime crusader Charles Kefauver, covers cosa nostra personalities such as Vito Genovese, Lucky Luciano, the Fischetti Brothers, Albert Anastasia, and many others. Though non-fiction, Reid presents the information as a narrative, and we gather he took a bit of license. But he was a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter and Mafia was an eye-opener when it was published. Cover art is by James Avati, and serves as a reminder that the person with the pistol always has the best hand.

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Vintage Pulp Dec 17 2015
BERMUDA TRIANGLE
Coconut rum, ma'am? But I only brought two straws, so I'm afraid your husband will have to bugger off.


John P. Marquand won a 1938 Pulitzer Prize for The Late George Apley, so the above effort may seem a bit lightweight for him, but Marquand started out in genre fiction before becoming a leading literary figure. In his prime he specialized in satire of the upper classes, and Sun, Sea and Sand follows in that tradition, telling the tale of Epsom Felch, a problematic member of the snobbish Mulligatawny Club, which is located in the Bahamas. Epsom is a bit of a prankster, and the stuffy club membership are increasingly fed up with him, even though—as his main defender Spike constantly points out—pretty much every fun or memorable event that ever took place at the club was Epsom's doing. Everything comes to a head at the annual Pirate Night ball.

We really like Marquand. Always have. He's a funny and subtle writer, at least in his literary guise, and here you get that classic sense of the upper class cutting off its nose to spite its face, as club members conspire to boot a non-conformist though he's the only person bringing adventure and joy into their circle. Sun, Sea and Sand is novella length, and indeed its entirety first appeared in the May 1950 issue of Cosmopolitan, at right. The compact paperback edition, which is really little more than a pamphlet, comes from Dell, and the amusing cover art is by S.B. Jones. 

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Intl. Notebook Feb 1 2010
SUMMERY EXECUTION
Eddie Adams’ photograph inadvertently helped change public opinion about the Vietnam War.

Above, one of the most important photographic images of the twentieth century, a Pulitzer Prize winner shot by photographer Eddie Adams. On a sweltering Saigon afternoon, a Viet Cong officer is executed by South Vietnamese national police chief Brig. Gen Nguyen Ngoc Loan, forty-two years ago today. There’s also a widely seen film of the gruesome incident. The photo galvanized the U.S. anti-war effort, but interestingly, Adams regretted taking it, saying that the circumstances around such a photo could never be adequately explained and Nguyen Ngoc Loan appeared to be a villain when perhaps he wasn’t. Such complex considerations are no longer a serious worry for war photographers. Due to Pentagon restrictions, it’s highly unlikely an image like this could now be captured. 

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Vintage Pulp Jan 21 2010
BREAST WISHES
I assure you, mammary, my intentions are strictly honorable. Um... I said ma’am, right?

This is a brilliant cover for Jerome Weidman’s 1938 novel What’s in it for Me?, with its grinning sleazeball seeming to offer a free breast exam to a nubile young acquaintance. But the book was actually serious, depicting greed and amorality in New York City’s garment industry. Weidman went on to write the scathing Too Early To Tell about the Office of War Information, an American propaganda agency where he was employed during World War II, and then tackled the newspaper business with The Price Is Right. In Weidman’s fiction everything was a commodity to be bought, whether fabric or facts, and all humans were deficient. In 1960 he co-wrote a book of the popular musical Fiorello! about NYC mayor Fiorello Henry LaGuardia, and along with his collaborator won the Pulitzer Prize for drama. He drifted into a distinguished literary twilight, serving as president of the Author’s League of America, publishing his memoirs in 1986, and eventually passing in 1998. Though virtually unknown now, Weidman was an author in the class of John Updike or Ernest Hemingway. There are many bios of him on the Web, but we like this one. 

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Vintage Pulp Dec 10 2009
LITTLE WING
The lullaby of birdland.

Harper Lee’s 1960 Pulitzer Prize winner To Kill a Mockingbird happens to be one of our favorite books. Actually, strike that. We think it’s one of the ten best American books ever written. So imagine our excitement when we found that the French hardback had been illustrated by Aslan, aka Alain Gourdon, one of the top artists of the pulp era. Interestingly, the title of the novel is slightly different in France. A rossignol is a nightingale, rather than a mockingbird. In French a mockingbird is a moquer, but that also means simply “to mock,” so that word would have given the title a slightly different meaning to the French. In any case, we love this cover.     

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Vintage Pulp Dec 2 2008
CONFIDENTIALLY YOURS
1950s tabloid aired Tinseltown’s dirty laundry to millions every month.

This month in 1952, right wing scandal rag Confidential hit newsstands for the first time. It was owned by Robert Harrison, who got his start in publishing at the New York Graphic, one of the earliest celebrity scandal sheets. Confidential was based in New York City, but its focus was Hollywood and its environs. To gather information Harrison cultivated a vast network of west coast informants—everyone from hotel concierges to taxicab dispatchers. The magazine was lurid, filled with doctored  photos, and shamelessly exploitative of hot-button social fears. A typical issue might accuse Hollywood glitterati of using illegal drugs, sympathizing with communists, associating with other races, or working for the mob.

The formula worked. Within two years Confidential grew into a bestselling magazine. It screamed from American newsstands about interracial affairs, LSD parties, and backalley abortions, always in a glaring red-yellow motif that would become its visual trademark. Humphrey Bogart once famously called Robert Harrison “The King of Leer,” sentimentswhich were echoed throughout Hollywood. Stars were galled not just by the magazine’s constant attacks, but the fact that they originated from three-thousand  miles away. It meant Confidential either fabricated its stories, or gathered info by means of spies. Neither possibility was pleasing to consider.

Hollywood began fighting back. Ronald Reagan, who at the time was a snitch for Tinseltown’s hated blacklisters, chaired a committee that smeared Confidential staff. Postmaster General Arthur Summerfield at one

point banned mail delivery of the magazine. In 1957 the Kraft Commission put Robert Harrison on trial for conspiracy to publish criminal libel. The trial ended in a plea deal, but not before Hollywood stars realized their greatest ally was the legal system. Lawsuits kept Confidential in litigation from that point forward, and Harrison finally sold out in 1958.

The new owners managed to keep Confidential going, but mindful of lawsuits the magazine had lost under Harrison in 1956 and 1957, operated more cautiously. Soon, readers began to suspect the tabloid was no longer living up to its stated credo: “Telling the facts and naming the names”. Confidential stopped flying off newsstands. Sales dipped to a third what they had been at their zenith. A 1970s shift in editorial focus toward hippie counterculture did little to reverse fortunes, and Confidential finally folded  in 1978.

Though defunct, its twenty-two year run was a success by almost any standard. Confidential outlasted a dozen competitors, and its influence extends into today’s newsstand tabloids, Hollywood-oriented television shows, celeb blogs, and even popular fiction. Author James Ellroy’s award-winning pulp thrillers frequently reference Hush Hush, a Confidential copycat. And Pultizer Prize winning columnist Stephen Hunter wrote a bestselling thriller about the Mafia’s presence in Hot Springs, Arkansas during the 1950s, a subject Confidential covered in its very first issue.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
December 12
1968—Tallulah Bankhead Dies
American actress, talk show host, and party girl Tallulah Bankhead, who was fond of turning cartwheels in a dress without underwear and once made an entrance to a party without a stitch of clothing on, dies in St. Luke's Hospital in New York City of double pneumonia complicated by emphysema.
December 11
1962—Canada Has Last Execution
The last executions in Canada occur when Arthur Lucas and Ronald Turpin, both of whom are Americans who had been extradited north after committing separate murders in Canada, are hanged at Don Jail in Toronto. When Turpin is told that he and Lucas will probably be the last people hanged in Canada, he replies, “Some consolation.”
1964—Guevara Speaks at U.N.
Ernesto "Che" Guevara, representing the nation of Cuba, speaks at the 19th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York City. His speech calls for wholesale changes in policies between rich nations and poor ones, as well as five demands of the United States, none of which are met.
2008—Legendary Pin-Up Bettie Page Dies
After suffering a heart attack several days before, erotic model Bettie Page, who in the 1950s became known as the Queen of Pin-ups, dies when she is removed from life support machinery. Thanks to the unique style she displayed in thousands of photos and film loops, Page is considered one of the most influential beauties who ever lived.
December 10
1935—Downtown Athletic Club Awards First Trophy
The Downtown Athletic Club in New York City awards its first trophy for athletic achievement to University of Chicago halfback Jay Berwanger. The prize is later renamed the Heisman Trophy, and becomes the most prestigious award in college athletics.
1968—Japan's Biggest Heist Occurs
300 million yen is stolen from four employees of the Nihon Shintaku Ginko bank in Tokyo when a man dressed as a police officer blocks traffic due to a bomb threat, makes them exit their bank car while he checks it for a bomb, and then drives away in it. Under Japanese statute of limitations laws, the thief could come forward today with no repercussions, but nobody has ever taken credit for the crime.
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