So those four cards with A's on them mean you might win, right?
First published as an Ecstasy Novel with different art the previous year, this edition of Reno Tramp, appeared in 1951 on the Rainbow Books imprint with uncredited art. But the cover is by either Howell Dodd or Rudy Nappi, two artists whose work was similar, though we think Dodd tended to be a hair more precise—literally, as he expended more effort on his women's coiffures, in our opinion. In any case, the story in Reno Tramp deals with a girl from an impoverished childhood who arrives in Reno, Nevada as a beautiful young woman seeking a divorce, and whose need for money is a pathological drive. She finds just the rich pigeon she wants, but naturally another man comes along to complicate matters and make her question whether cash is really king. We'll keep an eye out for updated info and see if we can identify this cover artist down the line. In the meantime, you can see more from Dodd here, and Nappi here.
I shot the director. But I didn't shoot the D.O.P.
A DOP, for those unfamiliar with the term, is the Director of Photography, the director's creative right hand on a movie set. J. P. Ferrière's Marie-meurtre, which is entry #573 in Editions Fleuve Noir's long-running Spécial Police series, is about a woman whose visiting brother dies in her home of a heart attack, and whose demise is immediately followed by the arrival of a Parisian gangster looking for a cache of stolen jewels. This would normally be a disconcerting development, but Marie has an enemy and the gangster's presence turns into an opportunity for long sought revenge. The book was published in 1967 and it has Michel Gourdon artwork, possibly only tangentially related to the actual content. Since our French is bare bones at best we couldn't pore over the book to find the connection to the cover art. But when you come up with a good caption you just have to run with it.
I'll run for help! Have you seen my red slingback pumps?
Our ongoing showcase of Italian artist Benedetto Caroselli continues with the above cover for Crise Pounds' novel Faust “61,” a horror update of the classic German folk legend. It was published in 1961 by Grandi Edizioni Internazionali for its series I Capolavori della Serie KKK Classici dell’Orrore. Pounds was a pseudonym used by Maria Luisa Piazza, who wrote three other novels for Grandi Edizioni Internazionali. Caroselli's cover work here shows his command of both subject matter and color. And fashion, as his stylish bystander looks on in terror.
Yes, I'd like to report a murder. A man murdered every last bit of my patience.
Above, a nice cover for Day Keene's 1954 thriller Death House Doll, with excellent art by Harry Barton. In the story, a Korean War vet has promised his fatally wounded brother he'd look after his wife and baby daughter, but when he gets back to the world (Chicago) he's stunned to find that she's sitting on death row for murder, and unwilling to spill the truth even if it saves her. The attraction with this one is watching a decorated war hero run riot on hoods and thieves, while up against the always effective ticking clock gimmick—an execution date, which in this case is five days hence. The book was an Ace Double with Thomas B. Dewey's Mourning After on the flipside, and the art on that one, just above, is by Victor Olson. We put together a nice collection of Harry Barton's work back in May that we recommend you visit at this link.
What the hell are you doing? Casual Friday starts next week.
It's another humorous Bill Edwards cover for Saber Books, this time fronting Jack Moore's 1965 sleazer Party Girl. Wanna know what it's about? No need to be coy. We read them so you don't have to. Twenty year-old Sally Logan applies for an executive secretary position and is immediately made into a sex object, starting from the interview when the company president quizzes her about her bedroom habits, and the personnel manager makes her strip so he can check out her body. It's ridiculous, of course, especially in 2017's cultural landscape, but this being sleaze Sally is willing to do anything—just anything—to please her boss. And after all, the reason she decided to seek work in the first place was to meet a man. Mission accomplished. And accomplished again. And again. A good book? Of course not, but at least everyone gets a happy ending. And as a side note, we'd be remiss if we didn't thank Bill Edwards for being so good to us over years—his are by far the easiest covers to caption. Check here, here, here, and here to see what we mean.
She has a serious windows vulnerability.
Basic human psychology. When you deliberately hurt someone you may hate yourself but if they get over it you usually do too. When you deliberately hurt someone and they never get over it you stop hating youself and learn to hate them. This is the basic idea behind Clifton Adams' 1953 thriller Whom Gods Destroy. The main character Roy Foley learns this lesson early by kicking a defenseless crippled dog, which he sees every day afterward and therefore keeps kicking it until it goes away. But the lesson really sinks in when his unrequited high school crush kicks him. She's from a wealthy family and he's from the wrong side of the tracks. When he confesses his love for her she laughs in his face. The next day he drops out of high school, flees town, and throws away his bright future. That's backstory. The book opens when he returns fifteen years later. He inevitably sees her again and, as the abused, hates her with a murderous intensity. And as the abuser she hates him right back. It's clear these two are going to mangle each other. Whom Gods Destroy is recommendable stuff.
Harder! Harder! Hit it like you're beating a refund out of that barber you went to!
First published in 1930, the above paperback edition of Poor Fool appeared in 1953 from New York City based Novel Selections. It was Erskine Caldwell's second novel, and bears the Caldwell hallmarks—southern milieu, senseless violence, crime, betrayal, prostitution, etc. The poor fool of the title is Blondy Niles, a mediocre boxer who gets involved in a moneymaking scam that goes terribly wrong. Probably the most notable aspect of the book is the character Mrs. Boxx, who's one of Caldwell's most vicious villains—and that's really saying something. The entire story is packed with grim stuff, but of course literature isn't always supposed to be pleasant. We love the cover art on this edition, with its foppish Blondy Niles pounding—well, more like nudging—the heavy bag, but sadly it's uncredited.
That isn't the place where kisses make me go crazy. Think lower. A lot lower.
In The Place protagonist Bill Martin is a novelist whose sexual adventures have earned him the nicknames the Goat of Gotham and the Monster of Manhattan. He's separated from his wife Betty, but they're happy to get together for sex. Enter Rika Balsemis, founder of STAIS, which stands for the Society to Abolish Instant Sex. Bill sees her as another conquest, but try as he might he can't get in her pants. He even resorts to force at one point and gets judoed for his efforts. Rika explains, “I realized that in certain situations our members might encounter violence such as yours, so I took a course in judo. It's admirably suited for female use. Karate is too violent. I might have kicked you and ruined you for life. I know how.”
At this point thought we had Rika Aoki on our hands. We thought we had a character that was going to unleash martial arts madness across the storyline. We were looking forward to it. But there are no more ass whippings. Rika instead gives in to Bill, but sex is just a prelude to hypnotizing him into being totally unresponsive to further sexual stimuli. Yes—she eunuchs him with the power of her mind. It's hilarious, though not to Bill. You know this state of affairs won't last, though, and indeed Rika can cancel the spell when she wants to make use of Bill's goatly talents. But the point of the wider narrative becomes getting him back together with his wife Betty. Written in 1966, The Place is a middling effort by Arthur Adlon, aka Keith Ayling, written with some style but virtually no sex. With sleaze, we recommend you prioritize the latter over the former.
The pieces of treasure are worth a fortune. The nuggets of wisdom—not so much.
Barbara Walton art graces the dust sleeve of John D. MacDonald's A Deadly Shade of Gold. It was published in 1967 by Robert Hale, Ltd. two years after the book's U.S. debut. MacDonald's franchise character Travis McGee kicks ass and dispenses unsolicited wisdom, and while the action is fun, the philosophizing is less so. The latter is sometimes insightful when directed at civilization, but is often sweeping and incorrect when directed at civilians. Vacationers are this way. College boys are that way. Lesbians are this way. We've had plenty of experiences with all the categories of humans McGee thinks of as tedious and banal, and we found them to be as varied and interesting as any other group.
The book, though, is engrossing, built around our favorite film noir and crime fiction device—a trip to Mexico, with the action set in the fictional coastal town of Puerto Altamura. There McGee seeks to uncover the killers of a close friend and determine the whereabouts of a set of golden pre-Colombian statuettes. Five entries into the series and MacDonald seems to have hit his stride. McGee is going to keep making dubious pronouncements (we sent a passage about “negroes” from the seventh entry Darker than Amber to a black friend, who said: “What idiot wrote that?”), but we liked this caper. If you're curious about the character or author you can learn more at thetrapofsolidgold.blogspot.com, pretty much the last word on all things Travis McGee and John D.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1911—Team Reaches South Pole
Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, along with his team Olav Bjaaland, Helmer Hanssen, Sverre Hassel, and Oscar Wisting, becomes the first person to reach the South Pole. After a celebrated career, Amundsen eventually disappears in 1928 while returning from a search and rescue flight at the North Pole. His body is never found.
1944—Velez Commits Suicide
Mexican actress Lupe Velez, who was considered one of the great beauties
of her day, commits suicide by taking an overdose of sleeping pills. In her note, Velez says she did it to avoid bringing shame on her unborn child by giving birth to him out of wedlock, but many Hollywood historians believe bipolar disorder was the actual cause. The event inspired a 1965 Andy Warhol film entitled Lupe
1958—Gordo the Monkey Lost After Space Flight
After a fifteen minute flight into space on a Jupiter AM-13 rocket, a monkey named Gordo splashes down in the South Pacific but is lost after his capsule sinks. The incident sparks angry protests from the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, but NASA says animals are needed for such tests.
1968—Tallulah Bankhead Dies
American actress, talk show host, and party girl
Tallulah Bankhead, who was fond of turning cartwheels in a dress without underwear and once made an entrance to a party without a stitch of clothing on, dies in St. Luke's Hospital in New York City of double pneumonia complicated by emphysema.
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