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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Vintage Pulp Apr 12 2015
LEGALLY BOND
Bond—James Bond. But Jimmy is fine. Some people call me Jim, Jimbo, J-Man, J.B. My mom calls me Jimminy Cricket. I’m cool with whatever.

The story is well known—Popular Library insisted upon changing the title of Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale to what you see above. They even went so far as to call 007 “Jimmy Bond” on the rear cover blurb. Fleming retaliated by selling the U.S. publishing rights to Signet at first opportunity, leaving only a small run of very collectible copies of You Asked For It on the market. Fleming must have learned from the episode, though, that titles don’t really matter, because he later wrote Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang: The Magical Car. Anyway, You Asked for It appeared in 1955, with unsigned and uncredited cover art. The blog Killer Covers has a bit more info about the book here

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Vintage Pulp Jan 18 2012
SUPER DUPER
Unknown copycat gives McGinnis a run for his money.

Above are two covers for Carter Brown’s, aka Alan G. Yates’ thriller Who Killed Dr. Sex? Robert McGinnis painted the cover art at top in 1964 for the Signet paperback, and in 1965 another artist painted a dupe of the cover for Horwitz International’s release. You probably shouldn’t get any credit for copying work, but we have to confess we like the second version quite a bit. McGinnis is a master figure painter, of course, and his reclining woman beats the dupe, but the second version’s wall filigrees and iridescent green bed are nice additions. The other main difference is the direction of the woman’s gaze. McGinnis painted her looking slightly away, while the copycat painted her looking directly at the viewer. It’s a major shift in mood, and an interesting choice. We discussed this copying practice in relation to Carter Brown’s paperbacks before, and we assume it has to do with rights issues between the American and Australian publishers, and Robert McGinnis, but we’d love to know the details. Hopefully, more information will become available down the line. 

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Next Page
History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
April 30
1927—First Prints Are Left at Grauman's
Hollywood power couple Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, who co-founded the movie studio United Artists with Charlie Chaplin and D.W. Griffith, become the first celebrities to leave their impressions in concrete at Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood, located along the stretch where the historic Hollywood Walk of Fame would later be established.
April 29
1945—Hitler Marries Braun
During the last days of the Third Reich, as Russia's Red Army closes in from the east, Adolf Hitler marries his long-time partner Eva Braun in a Berlin bunker during a brief civil ceremony witnessed by Joseph Goebbels and Martin Bormann. Both Hitler and Braun commit suicide the next day, and their corpses are burned in the Reich Chancellery garden.
1967—Ali Is Stripped of His Title
After refusing induction into the United States Army the day before due to religious reasons, Muhammad Ali is stripped of his heavyweight boxing title. He is found guilty of a felony in refusing to be drafted for service in Vietnam, but he does not serve prison time, and on June 28, 1971, the U.S. Supreme Court reverses his conviction. His stand against the war had made him a hated figure in mainstream America, but in the black community and the rest of the world he had become an icon.
April 28
1947—Heyerdahl Embarks on Kon-Tiki
Norwegian ethnographer and adventurer Thor Heyerdahl and his five man crew set out from Peru on a giant balsa wood raft called the Kon-Tiki in order to prove that Peruvian natives could have settled Polynesia. After a 101 day, 4,300 mile (8,000 km) journey, Kon-Tiki smashes into the reef at Raroia in the Tuamotu Islands on August 7, 1947, thus demonstrating that it is possible for a primitive craft to survive a Pacific crossing.
1989—Soviets Acknowledge Chernobyl Accident
After two days of rumors and denials the Soviet Union admits there was an accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine. Reactor number four had suffered a meltdown, sending a plume of radioactive fallout into the atmosphere and over an extensive geographical area. Today the abandoned radioactive area surrounding Chernobyl is rife with local wildlife and has been converted into a wildlife sanctuary, one of the largest in Europe.
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