Vintage Pulp Aug 20 2017
THE PLEASURE IS ALL HIS
I hereby claim this land and everything in it for the British Emp—er, I mean for me!


Since we're on the subject of tropical islands (see below), here is a really beautiful cover for Adam Shaw's 1966 novel Pleasure Island. We first saw it at killercoversoftheweek, which informed us that it was painted by Ron Lesser, one of top illustrators of the mid-century era. Taking a close look at the art, it seems to us that the characters depicted are thinking two entirely different things at this moment.

Him: Wow, she's hot! I can't wait to have her. I think I'll call this place Pleasure Island.

Her: *sigh* It was nice while it lasted. Looks like we'll have to invent clothes and self defense classes now.

The locale in the story is one of the Marquesas Islands. Shaw's characters made a habit of stumbling upon natural wonders, because he followed Pleasure Island with Isle of Delight and Shipwrecked on Paradise. Safe to assume pleasures, delights, and paradise-like qualties were quickly ruined in each place. See more Lesser cover art
here

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Vintage Pulp Aug 17 2017
WORKING STIFF
True, neck rubs aren't in your job description, but they're in your husband description. So get to rubbin'.


We often take liberties interpreting cover art, and Jerry Weil's 1957 novel Office Wife has given us just such an opportunity. The woman is supposed to be the man's “executive sweetie,” but we see it the opposite way. Also, the book doesn't really involve an office marriage. The term “wife” is meant loosely—i.e. the main character Eileen enjoys wifely liaisons with guys at her chic NYC advertising firm. Ultimately she taps into her executive ambitions and, in order to get what she wants, transforms from used to user. You can see a collection of entries from the office sleaze bin at this link, and we have individual entries here and here

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Vintage Pulp Mar 23 2017
GUILTY AS SIN
Wait. Okay, you're right. No argument. I really messed up. But wouldn't it be an even bigger sin to shoot me?


Verne Tossey's cover art on this 1953 Signet paperback edition of Jack Webb's The Big Sin suggests that the sinner of the title is either the armed woman or her unseen target, but actually the sinner is someone who isn't even alive. It's a beautiful Mexican showgirl named Rose Alyce whose death has been ruled suicide by gunshot. But protagonist Father Shanley believes her death had more sinister origins, because Alyce was a devout Catholic he knew as sweet Rosa Mendez, and he's convinced she would never commit “the big sin.” You can only truly know someone inside the confessional booth, apparently. Shanley uncovers government corruption and teams up with detective Sam Golden on the way to solving the mystery, of which mobsters are an integral part. We ran across a beautiful dust jacket for the book from British publishers T. V. Boardman, which came from an interesting site called dustjackets.com that reproduces hardback sleeves for vintage books. That strikes us as a pretty cool idea. You can have a look at that site here.

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Vintage Pulp Oct 12 2016
SHRINK RAP
Heads for sale! Got them shrunken heads for sale! Why dry 'em when you can buy 'em! Got them heads for sale!

Shrunken Head à la Pulp Intl.

You will need: One human head freshly cut from an enemy*. One large iron pot. Six to eight gallons of water. Five bundles of firewood. One pound of small stones. One pound of sand. Five ounces of plant seeds. Several small wooden pegs. Needle and twine. One bay leaf (optional).

1: Carefully remove skin and hair from head by making incision in back of neck. Sew eyelids shut, seal mouth with wooden pegs, and sew neck slit closed, but leave large neck hole where head was severed open. Discard skull or offer as sacrifice to cruel primitive god.

2: Simmer head in water for one to two hours. Be to careful not to over boil, as this will cause the hair to come off. Remove head and discard liquid, or add bay leaf and use as soup base.

3: Head should now be one third normal size and rubbery. Carefully turn inside out and scrape remaining flesh away. Discard scraps or save as dog treats.

4: Invert head skin side out once more. Heat stones and sand over fire and insert into head. This will cause more shrinkage.

5: Once head has reached desired size pack in hot sand to set shape and facial features and let bake at low temperature.

6: Remove from sand. Rub wood ash on head to prevent muisak, or avenging soul, from escaping. If you are not superstitious or prefer a lighter colored head skip this step.

7: Fill head with seeds and sew neck hole shut. Hang head several feet over fire to slowly harden. Be careful not to overheat, as hair can ignite.

8: Wear shrunken head around neck to instill terror and revulsion in onlookers. Optionally, it can be fitted with a tiny hat and sunglasses.

And that's all there is to it, kids. If you want a more detailed recipe or just some interesting context read Lewis Cotlow's Amazon Head-Hunters and learn how the Jivaro people of Ecuador did it. 1954 copyright on the Signet Giant edition with James Meese cover art.  

*Pulp Intl. disavows any responsibility for heads actually cut from enemies.
 
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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 Aug 22 2016
CHANGING SPILLANES
Five different covers, one great artist.


Above, a small collection of Mickey Spillane covers illustrated by Barye Phillips in similar style for Signet Books published throughout the 1950s. Spillane had many cover treatments over the decades but these are among the best. Phillips did other art for Signet, including illustrating the fronts of James Bond and Al Wheeler novels. We're also big fans of this piece, and this one too. And you can also see another Spillane collection we put together here.

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Vintage Pulp Jul 14 2016
LULLABY AND GOODNIGHT
I could screw my way to the top but this method is so much more satisfying.


Above you see the covers for the 1958 and 1954 Signet editions of Death Before Bedtime, by Edgar Box, who was in reality literary legend Gore Vidal. This novel is the middle entry of a trilogy—the first is Death in the Fifth Position and the third is Death Likes It Hot. All feature public relations exec/amateur detective Peter Sargeant II, and the story in this one takes place in Washington, D.C., and involves a murdered senator, his promiscuous daughter, his widow, and various figures ranging from pure to corrupt. It owes plenty to Agatha Christie in that the murder—via dynamite, by the way—occurs in a house and everyone who was on the premises is a suspect. Unsurprisingly, there's almost as much sex as sleuthing, but there's also plenty of Vidalian wit. The top cover was painted by Robert Maguire and the second was the work of Clark Hulings. 

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Vintage Pulp Feb 17 2016
YOUR PLACE OR MINE
I know, but we're not going upriver. We're going to my shack down by the industrial canal. Should do us just fine.

Brian Harwin's novel Home Is Upriver appeared in 1952, with this Signet paperback arriving in 1955, and concerns the coming of age along the Mississippi River of the orphaned Kip, who finds a home with married couple Buck and Martha, but promptly screws it up by deciding to screw their daughter Storm. The book may be better known these days by its 1959 title Touch Me Not. Brian Harwin was a pen name for author Le Grand Henderson. We know. Why would you change your name from Le Grand Henderson, when that's as writerly a name as can be, whereas Brian Harwin sounds like a guy from high school who ran a hardware store for a few years then you heard he maybe moved back east? Well, it turns out Henderson actually did make use of his amazing name. He published children's books as simply Le Grand, and many of those too take place along the Mississippi River. He was actually born in Connecticut, but his love of the Mississippi blossomed after he undertook a yearlong houseboat journey from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. This would have been during the Great Depression and we can only imagine that the adventure was le grand. Home Is Upriver was the only book he wrote as Harwin. If you want to see its Touch Me Not incarnation, which has excellent Robert Maguire art, we suggest looking at our collection of swamp, bayou, and river paperbacks here.

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Vintage Pulp May 15 2015
OF CORPSE HE CAN
Oh, there you are. Can you stop screwing around and take out the garbage like I asked?

Above, cover art by Barye Phillips for Bruno Fischer’s mystery The Flesh Was Cold, originally The Angels Fell. Fischer, who also wrote as Russell Gray and Harrison Storm, published this under its initial title in 1950, with Signet’s paperback edition hitting shelves in 1951.

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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 rotten eel. 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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Next Page
History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
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.
October 20
1947—HUAC Hearings Begin
The House Un-American Activities Committee begins its investigation into Communist infiltration of Hollywood, resulting in a witch hunt that destroys lives, ruins careers, and makes Senator Joseph McCarthy the most feared politician of the era.
1968—Jackie Kennedy Marries
Former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy marries Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis. The marriage comes as a total surprise to the American public, and results in a terrible backlash against her and also makes her the number one target of paparazzi for years.
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