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.
August 19
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.
August 18
1920—U.S. Women Gain Right To Vote
The Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified despite heavy conservative opposition. It states that no U.S. citizen can be denied the right to vote because of their gender.
1958—Lolita is Published in the U.S.
Vladimir Nabokov's controversial novel Lolita, about a man's sexual obsession with a pre-pubescent girl, is published in the United States. It had been originally published in Paris three years earlier.
August 17
1953—NA Launches Recovery Program
Narcotics Anonymous, a twelve-step program of drug addiction recovery modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous, holds its first meeting in Los Angeles, California.
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