Vintage Pulp Feb 16 2018
HOT PINK LINE
*gasp* That phone is just everything! Where did you find it in that color? I'm dying of jealousy right now.


Murder takes no holiday and neither does artistic talent, as proven by this beautiful Robert McGinnis cover of a man losing his shit over the latest pink phone from Ma Bell. Okay, that isn't what's happening, but it looks that way, right? Actually the male figure is way over his head in a smuggling plot and the female figure—a femme fatale named Vivienne Larousse—is keeping him from losing his nerve. The book is set on the fictional Caribbean Island of St. Albans, a British enclave that seems to be modeled after the Caymans. Brett Halliday's franchise sleuth Michael Shayne is thrown into the mix to solve a murder that took place in the U.S., and follows the clues to the tropics. Of the approximately seventy Shayne novels, this one—number thirty-five or so—is merely adequate. Actually, all the ones we've read have been merely adequate. But we'll keep at it. McGinnis, on the other hand, is masterful. Of all the moments in an action oriented book to illustrate he chose an unlikely one, but the result is just everything. His alternate cover, below, is also great.

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Vintage Pulp Feb 2 2018
A BOUNCY BALL
Elmore Leonard's first crime novel is all ups and no downs.


Elmore Leonard published until 2012, and is thought of as a contemporary novelist rather than a mid-century writer, but The Big Bounce appeared long enough ago to get pulp cover treatment right when that style was fading. The Fawcett Gold Medal movie tie-in edition of the book has Robert McGinnis on the art chores, and this is it for Leonard good girl art, as far as we know. Apparently, he finished the book in 1966 but had it rejected by publishers for three years, a shocking fact considering he already had five novels on the market. But those were westerns and The Big Bounce was Leonard's first crime novel. That's no excuse, really. It should have been published immediately, but publishers are motivated by factors other than literary quality, as a rule. The book is a fun ride involving an ex-con who gets mixed up with some petty thieves and a thrill seeking femme fatale who wants help ripping off her sugar daddy. It has many of the elements Leonard would later perfect—the elliptical plotting, the dialogue that rings so true to the ear, and the mid-scene ending. The Big Bounce is a ball, well worth your time. 

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Vintage Pulp Nov 10 2017
URBAN DECAY
Population 1280. Correction—1274.


Purely by coincidence, we also read a novel that's the dark twin of Never Say No to a Killer. The book was Jim Thompson's Pop. 1280, and in this one the main character is a self-described moron, and so is everyone else. At least it seems that way at first. Or maybe it's kinder to say they're simply unpretentious and earthy. Check out this exchange between two lawmen from adjacent counties:

Pre-zactly!" Ken said. “So I'll tell you what to do about them pimps. The next time they even look like they're goin' to sass you, you just kick 'em in the balls as hard as you can.”

Huh? But don't that hurt awful bad?

Pshaw. 'Course it don't hurt. Not if you're wearing a good pair o' boots.

I mean, wouldn't it hurt the pimps?

Once we're immersed in this chaw-and-cornbread milieu, one character emerges to be considerably more cunning than the others. The aphorism applies again. Though he doesn't consider himself to be smart, somehow he's more than up to the task of conniving his way through multiple nefarious schemes to reach his ultimate goals, which consist of getting laid and not working too hard as sheriff.

The book is set during the Great Depression and its portrait of man-woman and white-black relations is both horrifying and hilarious. Thompson's approach is partly satirical, but the actual ideas espoused by his characters are deadly serious, as well as historically grounded, such as in a conversation about whether the county's black residents have souls. The consensus is they don't. Why? Because they aren't really people.

It's a pointed commentary on the distant Jim Crow south, yet the very same question of black humanness festers at the core of America's 2017 problems. If you doubt it ask yourself how the same observers who have limitless sympathy for a white rancher shot after initiating a standoff with federal lawmen somehow have none for unarmed black men shot in the back, or why rich white ranchers who refuse to pay their federal grazing fees are perceived as persecuted, while a poor black man trying to survive by selling loose cigarettes is not.

Critic Stephen Marche once described Pop. 1280 as “preposterously upsetting,” which is as apt a description as we can imagine. The idea of who's really human, what is sexual consent, what are the obligations of lawmen, and what is evil are played for laughs by Thompson, but always with an incisive twist that lets you know where his sympathies lie. Yet as shocking as the book is to read, it's addictive and consistently entertaining, particularly when various characters dispense their tabacky soaked wisdom…

… about women: “I'd been chasing females all my life, not paying no mind to the fact that whatever's got tail at one end has teeth at the other, and now I was getting chomped on.”

... about the mentally challenged: “You probably ain't got as long a dingle-dangle as him—they tell me them idjits are hung like a stud hoss.”

… about learning: “I mean I caught him reading a book, that's what! Yes sir, I caught him red-handed. Oh, he claimed he was only lookin' at the pitchers, but I knew he was lyin'.

We recommend Pop. 1280 highly. The Gold Medal paperback you see above with its Robert McGinnis cover art is expensive, but numerous later printings are available at reasonable prices. Just go into the reading with your psyche girded. You'll root for the main character Nick Corey, but he's merely one of the most charming bad apples in a town that's rife with rot. That rot leads to the reliable pulp staples of adultery, betrayal, and murder many times over, but in the most unique and enjoyable way.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 1 2017
GULF HANDICAP
Nothing's funny, really. I just can't help laughing about how utterly screwed we are.


Gulf Coast Girl is more solid aquatic themed work from Charles Williams. This time the story involves a woman who seeks help from a crack salvage diver in finding a small plane that crashed in the Gulf of Mexico with a fortune on board. The story has a framing device—the boat they use for their salvage operation is found abandoned and the only clue to their whereabouts is a diary. So the story is narrated by the captain of the rescue vessel, reading from the diary what happened to the protagonists. This frame seems unneeded for nearly the entire length of the book, but the always competent Williams shows late that this device is in no way extraneous. Nifty work. We're really ripping through Williams' catalog now. Originally published in hardback in 1955 as Scorpion Reef, these Dell paperback editions of Gulf Coast Girl appeared in 1955 and 1960 with cover art from Robert Maguire and Robert McGinnis. 

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Vintage Pulp Feb 8 2017
DIFFERENT BUTT FAMILIAR
Three great artists try to get the feel of an identical pose.


Today we thought we'd illustrate the imitative nature of commercial art by sharing a nice Italian poster for the comedy Tre femmine in soffitta. Originally released in the U.S. in 1968 as Three in the Attic, and starring Yvette Mimieux and Judy Pace, the movie involves a wacky love triangle, and is notable for its breezy interracial theme, as Mimieux, who is white (and hot), and Pace, who is black (and hot), both get involved with the same inordinately lucky guy.

Turning to the art, the figure at the poster's far right, which represents Pace, is a direct copy of one of our favorite Robert McGinnis femmes fatales, the girl on Carter Brown's 1960 novel The Bombshell, who has an unusual fascination with her own butt. Clearly, some imitation is more blatant than others. The poster was painted by Ezio Tarantelli, who had a nice career as an illustrator, particularly in the spaghetti western genre, and whose work on the poster for L’Amore Scotta a Yokohama we lavishly praised several years back. We may have to downgrade the genius label we slapped on him, but obviously he still shows great skill, copied butt grabber or not.

As if Tarantelli's pass at a McGinnis ass wasn't enough, we found another copy of the same pose, executed by another Italian artist, this time the great Mario de Berardinis. His piece promotes the 1975 erotic comedy La nottata, or “The Night,” which starred Sara Sperati and Susanna Javicoli. Did de Berardinis imitate Tarantelli or McGinnis? We don't know, but he truly was a genius, so copying is officially forgiven. You can see our original write-up on The Bombshell here.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 12 2016
BAGGAGE CHECK
A suitcase and a sense of adventure will take you anyplace you want to go (and some places you don't).

As noted in the above post, we've gotten a trip together for this summer, so we thought we'd inspire ourselves by collecting a set of paperback covers featuring characters with suitcases. Just about anything can happen once you leave the comfy confines of home and we're hoping several of the scenes depicted here come true for us. See if you can guess which. Hint: not the one above—we already did that last year when we got caught in a monsoonal downpour that shut the airport on the day we were supposed to fly. No, we're thinking we want something more like the below cover to happen. And actually, that's a guarantee because the Pulp Intl. girlfriends are coming with us. Anyway, this group of covers serves as a companion set to our hitchhiker collection from last year. Art is by Robert McGinnis, Mitchell Hooks, George Gross, and others.

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Vintage Pulp May 4 2016
THE ART OF BURLESQUE
Mid-century paperbacks and the many sides of erotic dance.


We've seen more paperback covers featuring dancers than we can count. No surprise—they are after all an essential element of crime fiction, and many of the covers depicting them are excellent. But as you might imagine, novels that feature strippers, showgirls, and burlesque dancers as characters also fall into the sleaze genre quite often, which in turn makes for a lot of low budget cover work. So we have the full range for you today in a collection depicting the kinetic art of stage dancing, with illustrations from Bernard Safran, Robert Maguire, Robert McGinnis, Gene Bilbrew, Doug Weaver, and others, as well as numerous unknowns. Enjoy.


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Vintage Pulp Mar 25 2016
RIPPLE EFFECT
McGinnis makes waves with his art.


It's always a good idea to regularly revisit the work of Robert McGinnis. Above you see his cover for Erle Stanley Gardner's The Case of the Demure Defendant, originally published in 1954 with this Pocket Books paperback appearing in 1964. We love the psychedelic direction McGinnis goes with the ripples in the pond, alternating rings of turquoise and violet. This is fantastic work. 

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Vintage Pulp Jul 10 2015
GIRL MEETS CORPSE
What do you call forty dead men? A good start.

Two years ago we shared five covers of women standing over men they had just killed and mentioned that there were many examples in vintage cover art of that particular theme. Today we’ve decided to revisit the idea in order to reiterate just how often women in pulp are the movers and shakers—and shooters and stabbers and clubbers and poisoners and scissorers. Now if they do this about a billion more times they’ll really be making a difference that counts. French publishers, interestingly, were unusually fond of this theme—so egalitarian of them. That’s why many of the covers here are from France, including one—for which we admit we bent the rules of the collection a bit, because the victim isn’t dead quite yet—of a woman actually machine gunning some hapless dude. But what a great cover. We also have a couple of Spanish killer femmes, and a Dutch example or two. Because we wanted to be comprehensive, the collection is large and some of the fronts are quite famous, but a good portion are also probably new to you. Art is by the usual suspects—Robert Maguire, Barye Phillips, Alex Piñon, Robert Bonfils, Robert McGinnis, Rudolph Belarski, et al. Enjoy. 

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Vintage Pulp May 27 2015
EASY PICKINGS
Coffin and Gravedigger do the Harlem shake-up.

Numerous web scribes have written about Cotton Comes to Harlem, so another amateur review is not needed, but we decided to post a little something anyway because we found some nice promo images that perhaps haven’t been widely seen. Those appear below (and the poster above is the work of Ronert McGinnis). If you haven’t watched Cotton Comes to Harlem and you appreciate blaxploitation movies check this one out. It was directed by Ossie Davis and hits all the requisite buttons—action, comedy, social commentary, and as a bonus it has two cops nicknamed Coffin Ed and Gravedigger Jones. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1970.

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Next Page
History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
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.
June 21
1940—Smedley Butler Dies
American general Smedley Butler dies. Butler had served in the Philippines, China, Central America, the Caribbean and France, and earned sixteen medals, five of which were for heroism. In 1934 he was approached by a group of wealthy industrialists wanting his help with a coup against President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and in 1935 he wrote the book War Is a Racket, explaining that, based upon his many firsthand observations, warfare is always wholly about greed and profit, and all other ascribed motives are simply fiction designed to deceive the public.
June 20
1967—Muhammad Ali Sentenced for Draft Evasion
Heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, who was known as Cassius Clay before his conversion to Islam, is sentenced to five years in prison for refusing to serve in the military during the Vietnam War. In elucidating his opposition to serving, he uttered the now-famous phrase, “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong.”
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