The Naked City May 2 2017
PLAYING CHESSMAN
Did the legal system use him as a pawn, or was it the other way around?

Caryl Chessman and a detective named E.M. Goossen appear in the above photo made shortly after Chessman's arrest in January of 1948. Chessman had robbed several victims in the Los Angeles area, two of whom were women that he sexually assaulted. He forced one woman to perform oral sex on him, and did the same to the other in addition to anally raping her. Chessman was convicted under California's Little Lindbergh Law, named after Charles Lindbergh's infamously kidnapped and murdered son. The law specifically covered intrastate acts of abduction in which victims were physically harmed, two conditions that made the crime a potentially capital offense.

The law was intended to prevent deliberate acts of kidnapping and ransom, as had occurred in the Lindbergh case, but Chessman's prosecutors—demonstrating typical prosecutorial zeal—argued that Chessman had abducted one victim by dragging her approximately twenty-two feet, and had abducted the other woman when he placed her in his car, then drove in pursuit of the victim's boyfriend, who had fled the scene in his own vehicle. Chessman was indeed sentenced to death. The Little Lindbergh Law was revised while he was in prison so that it no longer applied to his crimes, but his execution was not stayed.

During his nearly twelve years on death row he authored four bestselling books—Trial by OrdealThe Face of JusticeThe Kid Was a Killer, and Cell 2455: Death Row, the latter of which was made into a 1955 movie. The books, many interviews, and a steady stream of articles fueled public debate about his looming execution. Among those who appealed for clemency were Aldous Huxley, the Rev. Billy Graham, Ray Bradbury, and Robert Frost. Their interest was not wholly about Chessman so much as it was about the issue of the cruelty of the death penalty, which had already been abandoned in other advanced nations.
 
In the end the campaigning was ineffective, and Chessman was finally gassed in San Quentin Prison. But even dying, he further catalyzed the death penalty debate. The question of whether a capital punishment is cruel and unusual hinges on whether it causes pain. Gas was held by its proponents to be painless. Chessman had been asked by reporters who would be observing his execution to nod his head if he was in pain. As he was gassed, he nodded his head vigorously and kept at it for several minutes. It took him nine minutes to die. That happened today in 1960.

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Vintage Pulp Jun 26 2012
CELESTIAL BRILLIANCE
Strange adventures on other worlds.

Above and below are ten covers of Planet Stories that appeared between 1948 and 1952, with beautiful, lurid, pulp art from Allen Anderson. The magazine published only interplanetary adventures, and its mix of rocket ships, swashbuckling heroes, space princesses, and hideous aliens proved extremely popular. Some of the many writers whose work graced its pages include Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Leigh Brackett, John D. McDonald, Philip K. Dick, and Clifford D. Simak. Planet Stories ran seventy-one glorious issues, from 1939 to 1955. How could you not be excited to read when this is what awaited you on the newsstands? 

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Intl. Notebook Dec 5 2008
THE PASSING OF THE ACKERMONSTER
Forrest J. Ackerman helped bring science fiction into the mainstream.

Forrest J. Ackerman, who was instrumental in the spread of science fiction and coined the term “sci-fi”, died yesterday at his home in Los Feliz, California. Ackerman is best remembered as the editor/writer of Famous Monsters of Filmland, a magazine that helped establish the literary value of science fiction, and has been cited as an inspiration by some of Hollywood’s most famous actors and directors, including George Lucas. Ackerman was also instrumental in the discovery of Ray Bradbury, who borrowed money to launch his magazine Literary Fantasia.

Ackerman published fifty stories, either alone or in collaboration with other sci-fi writers, penned pulp lesbian novels under the name Laurajean Ermayne, and wrote the origin story of Vampirella and gave the character her unforgettable name. He helped found the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, and the National Fantasy Fan Federation, and generally assumed the role of No. 1 Booster for sci-fi/horror/fantasy. But of all his accomplishments, perhaps nothing symbolized his love of—and value to—science fiction more than his 18-room home the “Ackermansion”, a veritable museum that contained more than 300,000 books and pieces of sci-fi memorabilia. Ackerman had been in failing health, which prompted several premature reports of his death. Sadly, this time the news is true.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
October 23
1935—Four Gangsters Gunned Down in New Jersey
In Newark, New Jersey, the organized crime figures Dutch Schultz, Abe Landau, Otto Berman, and Bernard "Lulu" Rosencrantz are fatally shot at the Palace Chophouse restaurant. Schultz, who was the target, lingers in the hospital for about a day before dying. The killings are committed by a group of professional gunmen known as Murder, Inc., and the event becomes known as the Chophouse Massacre.
1950—Al Jolson Dies
Vaudeville and screen performer Al Jolson dies of a heart attack in San Francisco after a trip to Korea to entertain troops causes lung problems. Jolson is best known for his film The Jazz Singer, and for his performances in blackface make-up, which were not considered offensive at the time, but have now come to be seen as a form of racial bigotry.
October 22
1926—Houdini Fatally Punched in Stomach
After a performance in Montreal, Hungarian-born magician and escape artist Harry Houdini is approached by a university student named J. Gordon Whitehead, who asks if it is true that Houdini can endure any blow to the stomach. Before Houdini is ready Whitehead strikes him several times, causing internal injuries that lead to the magician's death.
October 21
1973—Kidnappers Cut Off Getty's Ear
After holding Jean Paul Getty III for more than three months, kidnappers cut off his ear and mail it to a newspaper in Rome. Because of a postal strike it doesn't arrive until November 8. Along with the ear is a lock of hair and ransom note that says: "This is Paul’s ear. If we don’t get some money within 10 days, then the other ear will arrive. In other words, he will arrive in little bits." Getty's grandfather, billionaire oilman Jean Paul Getty, at first refused to pay the 3.2 million dollar ransom, then negotiated it down to 2.8 million, and finally agreed to pay as long as his grandson repaid the sum at 4% interest.
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