Dylan—Rab Dylan, that is—plays in Hong Kong.
Above, a nice cover for Azzurro è l'inferno, aka Hell Is Blue, 1968, by Rab Dylan for the Italian publishers Silpe as part of its Giallo 70 line. This was Silpe's first publication of many. The story is espionage set in Hong Kong, with all the James Bond style trappings. The author Dylan was pseudonymous, in this case for Italian writer Gualberto Titta, who we assume was worried people would laugh at his last name. What's notable about this book, at least for us, is that the company was founded by genius illustrator Mario Ferrari, who we've featured several times. And once we knew that, it was suddenly obvious this was also Ferrari's work on the cover. He's top tier, and you can see plenty more from him here, here, and here.
Hollywood is seen without its face on.
We have something a bit different today, a cover of Pete Martin's tinseltown tell-all Hollywood without Makeup. What you get here are tabloid style bios of various cinematic luminaries, including Greer Garson, Ava Gardner, and Maria Montez. The info on the stars probably makes this one worthwhile by itself, but as a bonus you get tabloid style writing in long form. It's a type of prose that isn't practiced anymore, but it can be quite entertaining to read. Here's an example:
“When first stumbled upon, the conception of the lady sounds as if those who are promoting it are deliberately plying a fire extinguisher to quench the flames of publicity that might singe her career.”
We don't even fully understand what that means, really. Here's a more straightforward passage:
“She operates on the theory that standing up on her two eye-filling legs and yelling for her rights, while at the same time clubbing people over the head with her overpowering personality, will bring home a choice brand of bacon generously streaked with lean. The head screwed on her decorative shoulders is not stuffed with goofer feathers or idle girlish vaporings. The mind behind her velvet-textured Latin facade closes on an opportunity like the jaws of a bear trap.”
Aside from being incredibly condescending, it's an interesting style. You find this type of baroque writing in all the high budget tabloids, such as Confidential, Hush-Hush, and Whisper. It's self-indulgent, but fun to read. Does it sound like your cup of tea? Then go for it. Regarding the cover art, we aren't sure whether we're dealing with a painting or a photo-illustration, but in either case it's uncredited.
Well, it's not super dark. Just darker than the rest of me. Here—give it a feel.
The cover art for Bantam Books' paperback edition of Christine Weston's The Dark Wood is another good example of the pulpification of mid-century literature. This is a seriously phallic effort. The proximity of the woman's hands to crotchville is suggestive enough, but the penile shadow really leaves no doubt what the artist is thinking here. The original hardback art, which you also see, is more fitting for what the book really is—a psychological drama in the style of Daphne DuMaurier about a widow who meets a man that resembles her dead husband, and proceeds to try to turn that man into her lost love, with damaging results. The book debuted in 1946, and World War II and its aftereffects are central to the plot. The Bantam art, while nice, certainly gives a different impression. Just more proof of the power of provocative visuals. It's from 1949 and was painted by Ed Paulsen.
Aspiring actress gets shot on Broadway.
She was looking to get a shot on Broadway, not get shot, but you have to be 100% clear or people will get confused. Especially a guy like Waldo, the crazed mutiliation killer of David Alexander's Terror on Broadway. Waldo, who taunts the police with snide notes, has knocked off four women, all in the Broadway theatre district, and he has more in his sights unless hero Bart Hardin can stop him. Hardin isn't a private detective or cop—he's the editor of a newspaper, but he's tough enough for the task. Unrealistically so to us, though this is explained by his youth as a boxer and his stint in the military. Overall, Terror on Broadway is pretty heavy stuff for 1954, and the book was banned for a time in Australia. The art on this edition, though, is uncommonly pretty. It was painted by John McDermott, aka J.M. Ryan, who was an animator for Walt Disney before branching out into cover work. He later went on to write his own novels and make a couple of films, so the guy was multi-talented. We'll run into him again down the line, we're sure.
Mwah. Zat is ze height of eroticism in our country. Ze back kiss. Does it turn you on? Are you ready for ze sex now?
Searching for information on vintage books and authors sometimes brings unusual results online. In the case of Paris Sex Circus, plugging in the author's name Leaver French gave us seemingly every article published about Donald Trump abandoning the Paris climate accords. An unexpected outcome, to say the least. So we can't tell you anything about Leaver French, except that we're reasonably certain the name is a pseudonym. But as for the book, as the great French lovers say: the back tells you everything. Lovely Dawn's sexcapades begin on a transatlantic cruise, and continue once she hits French soil, but she's no naive ingénue, as evidenced by the line: “Even the orgies she had been to in the States were only child's play compared to the French way!” This is 1970 from Bee-Line Books, number 457 in their catalog. Yes, they churned out hundreds of these. And as far we can tell, all of their cover illustrations were uncredited, including this one.
Paul Derval and the pleasure factory.
Is it pulp? Technically no. But then technically most of what we share isn't pulp, if you want to be doctrinaire about it. But this cover for Paul Derval's The Folies Bergère has pin-up style art, so that's good enough for us. This is from Digit Books, 1956, an English version of a book originally published by Methuen & Co. in France, and is a behind-the-scenes rundown of the famed burlesque theater written by the guy who managed the place from 1918 to 1956. It was under Derval that the Folies achieved arguably its greatest fame. In addition to his story, you also get eight photo pages inside, including the one you see below. If that image looks familiar, it may be because we showed it to you back in 2015, but a much sharper version scanned from a glossy photo. She's none other than the talented and beautiful Yvonne Ménard, and you can learn a bit about her, and see more of her, at this link.
Let's trade. You give me what's in your hand and I'll give you what's in my pants.
The cover for this Lion Books edition of Jim Thompson's The Golden Gizmo is as quirky as Thompson's prose. The title of the book has a double meaning. A gizmo is a special ability, a gift. If you had a sense for knowing when someone was bluffing at poker, you'd say, “My gizmo told me he had nothing.” Or if you had a knack for meeting beautiful women, you'd say, “My gizmo kicked in as soon as I walked into the party.” The main character's gizmo is the ability to sniff out scenarios that lead to profit, which comes in handy in his work as a freelance gold buyer. But there's a literal gizmo here as well—a priceless gold watch that he steals by accident. In the end both gizmos cause him no end of trouble, and the question is whether he can get out with his hide intact. The story is enlivened by the main character's fiery alcoholic femme fatale wife Elaine. Strange, but pretty good. The strikingly pretty cover art is uncredited, sadly.
Hmm. Should I be mostly impossible me today, or should I go with completely intolerable me?
In real life everyone has secrets, and they're almost always pointless and tawdry. Not true in mid-century literature, where the secrets are always deadly. In 1950's False Face, a biographer decides to write about a society woman who died in a car crash, and discovers her past to be a labyrinthine trail leading from her oversexed teenage years, to her time as a Chicago gang moll, to her stripping career, and eventually to her to final, respectable incarnation. All her past iterations were under different identities to hide the truth, and now as the writer puts the final pieces together, he comes to have questions about her death—questions it seems some mysterious person is out to prevent him asking. The book was written by Leslie Edgley, who had a small bibliography along with some television credits before fading from the literary scene. He also wrote as Robert Bloomfield and Brook Hastings, the latter in partnership with his wife Mary Edgley. This edition of False Face is from Handi Books and the cover art is by unknown.
Well, the bad news is they aren't coming back. The good news is we can finally have that quiet swim.
We read Charles Williams' seagoing thriller Dead Calm a couple of months back, and it was good enough to send us searching for more of his work. We found that he wrote several novels set on the ocean, and settled on reading 1971's And the Deep Blue Sea. Basically, what you get here is a murder thriller aboard a tramp steamer, with the killings all connected to an escaped Nazi. The story is entertaining, but the plot is baffling in one respect—the hero ends up on this deathship because his yacht sinks and, in the vastness of the Pacific Ocean, he's rescued. A one-in-a-million chance. That's why we kept waiting for the moment where this becomes crucial to the plot, but it never does—he could have been a ticketed passenger on the steamer and the book would have progressed exactly the same way. We found that strange, to say the least. But Williams was a highly experienced writer by the time he got around to And the Deep Blue Sea, his penultimate novel, and he's sure handed with both the long prose passages and the dialogue. For us, it isn't quite as good as Dead Calm, but it gets the job done.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1973—Peter Dinsdale Commits First Arson
A fire at a house in Hull, England, kills a six year old boy and is believed to be an accident until it later is discovered to be a case of arson. It is the first of twenty-six deaths by fire caused over the next seven years by serial-arsonist Peter Dinsdale. Dinsdale is finally captured in 1981, pleads guilty to multiple manslaughter, and is detained indefinitely under Britain's Mental Health Act as a dangerous psychotic.
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.
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.
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