It’s great that you’re early to rise, sweetie. Too bad you’re also quick to finish.
Above, the cover of Arnold E. Grisman’s Early To Rise with art by Robert Maguire. It’s a rags to riches story about a young guy fresh out of the army who becomes a fabric dye tycoon. Doesn’t sound thrilling, does it? Well, there are also trade secrets, connections to Indian maharajahs, and romance, if that helps. 1958 on this originally, with the Berkeley paperback appearing in ’59.
Um, I think we’re going to need some revisions to this script.
Above, the cover of Amy Harris’s 1962 novel Touch Me Gently, in which a woman’s personality changes after she’s attacked and violated during a midnight dip in the local swimming hole. The virgin-to-vengeful-vamp transformation triggered by a rape is an all-too-common scenario seen everywhere from sleaze fiction to ’70s sexploitation cinema to Japanese pinku films. On the one hand it’s always highly distasteful; on the other it acknowledges the existence of these terrible events and allows women violent revenge. In terms of artistic merit, you have to judge on a case-by-case basis. But that’s what it’s always about with difficult subjects, isn’t it? Done right, valuable understanding can result. The cover art by Paul Rader is excellent. No problem understanding that at all.
Maybe it’s the name that keeps people away, because, you know, we’re actually very welcoming here in Tough Town.
Tough Town appeared in 1952 as a reprint of 1946’s The Ragged Edge. It’s the story of three impoverished siblings who are dragged into the seamy side of life in a fictional New York City slum called Marshall Place. There's lots of juvenile delinquency here, a bit of low level mob activity, a couple of fatal shootings, backroom abortion stuff, political corruption, and so forth.
Two of the siblings have a rough go, but one of them vows to clean up the town and eventually makes it all the way to a position as district attorney. This is an attempt at serious literary art by author Jack Karney, who revisited the subject of the pernicious effects of poverty more than once in his novels. But America is, sadly, a much less sympathetic place toward the poor today, and we doubt this story would resonate for modern readers. The cover art is by Frederick Meyer.
Murder always rings twice.
The last book cover we shared was a Dell mapback, so today we thought we’d continue that theme by showing you a double-sided Hank Janson cover from London based Roberts & Vinter, Ltd., advertising Janson’s upcoming novel on the rear. This appeared in 1960 with uncredited art, but was painted, according to a couple of convincing sources, by an Italian artist named Fernando Carcupino, who did work for Digit Books, Mondadori, and other companies. We’ll dig for more info, but these do pass the initial eye test—i.e. they look very much Carcupino’s work.
Always digging up trouble.
We really like this 1944 Dell paperback cover for Dashiell Hammett’s A Man Called Spade. The book contains three Sam Spade stories, plus two other tales. The art is by Gerald Gregg, an illustrator who avoided titillation in his work. While some of his pieces don’t catch the eye the way typical good girl art did, certain pieces—like this one—are really good. The map back by Ruth Belew and four-page Introduction “Meet Sam Spade” by Ellery Queen make this edition highly collectible.
You know, in my country they’re clear-cutting forests at an alarming rate.
Above, Sucked into Sin, written by Curt Aldrich and published by Greenleaf Classics in 1968 for their Companion Books set. Typical sleaze here, with a story revolving around a woman whose husband leaves for Germany on a business trip for three weeks, prompting the horny neighbors to use the time to corrupt her. It doesn’t take much, and within days wifey's letting the whole neighborhood get on it. But what will she tell her husband? The cover artist for this is Ed Smith.
Jean de la Hire’s truth is stranger than fiction.
The French sci-fi novel L’Invisible was written by Jean de La Hire, aka Espié Adolphem, for Éditions Jaeger et Hauteville’s Fantastic series in 1953. The set-up is ingenious here—basically, H.G. Wells’ famous novel The Invisible Man was a disguised factual account, and this book reveals the truth about the man Wells fictionalized. He develops an invisibility potion, uses it to make a fortune, and later faces a choice between continuing on his path or giving it up for love. The cool cover art is by René Brantonne.
But he wasn’t all bad. Before him I had a pimp named Cletus and he was really terrible.
Cough, cough, hack, wheeze. We’re back from oblivion. Above you see the cover of Joe Castro’s Satan Was My Pimp, 1964, from Playtime, with cover art by Robert Bonfils. This is of course one of the great sleaze titles ever.
Why thank you. I’ll put this right into my secret account at HSBC.
It’s been a while since we shared any Mexican pulp art, so here’s a nice example—it’s entitled “Líderes aprovechado,” which means “exploited leaders,” and it depicts the buying off of a politician. How unsophisticated—don’t they know if they follow certain procedures this becomes a perfectly legal campaign donation? They need to look north for inspiration. Anyway, this painting and others we’ve shared were made for Mexico’s cheapie paperback market during the seventies and eighties. You can see a few other examples here, here, and here.
Hah! That was your last bullet! You’re out! You’re utterly screwed! Now what are you gonna—
On this amusing cover from Graphic Books a surprised P.I. narrowly avoids a serious beaning from a woman who definitely doesn’t want to be his valentine. 1953’s Post-Mark Homicide originally appeared as The Widow Gay in 1950 with the same art, painted by unknown on both editions, sadly. The novel is these days published with the author credited as Arthur A. Marcus. So what happens here? A crooked D.A. needs to recover a set of incriminating letters, hires a studly P.I. to do it, who in turn has to deal with a recently widowed—like, earlier that day—but not exactly grieving gangster’s moll. This pistol-slinging move never worked in the movies, and it doesn’t work here either, but we always love to see it.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1956—Desegregation Ruling Upheld
In the United States, the Supreme Court upholds a ban on racial segregation in state schools, colleges and universities. The University of North Carolina had been appealing an earlier ruling from 1954, which ordered college officials to admit three black students to what was previously an all-white institution. In many southern states, talk after the ruling turned toward subsidizing white students so they could attend private schools, or even abolishing public schools entirely, but ultimately, desegregation did take place.
1970—Non-Proliferation Treaty Goes into Effect
After ratification by 43 nations, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons goes into effect. Of the non-signatory nations, India and Pakistan acknowledge possessing nuclear weapons, and Israel is known to. One signatory nation, North Korea, has withdrawn from the treaty and also produced nukes. International atomic experts estimate that the number of states that accumulate the material and know-how to produce atomic weapons will soon double.
1969—The Krays Are Found Guilty of Murder
In England, twins Ronald and Reginald Kray are found guilty of the murder of Jack McVitie. The Kray brothers had been notorious gangsters in London's East End, and for their crimes both were sentenced to life in prison, and both eventually died behind bars. Their story later inspired a 1990 motion picture entitled The Krays.
1975—Charlie Chaplin Is Knighted
British-born comic genius Charlie Chaplin, whose long and turbulent career in the U.S. had been brought to an abrupt end when he was branded a communist and denied a residence visa, is bestowed a knighthood at London's Buckingham Palace. Chaplin died two years later and even then peace eluded him, as his body was stolen from its grave for eleven weeks by men trying to extort money from the Chaplin family.
1959—Lou Costello Dies
American comedian Lou Costello, of the famous comedy team Abbott & Costello, dies of a heart attack at Doctors' Hospital in Beverly Hills, three days before his 53rd birthday. His career spanned radio and film, silent movies and talkies, vaudeville and cinema, and in his heyday he was, along with partner Abbott, one of the most beloved personalities in Hollywood.
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