Sure, you can call me. I'm at Northside u-r-a-zero. And let me give you a fake name to go along with that.
We have a few Richard Prather novels but they haven't managed to fully enthrall us. This is the fourth book in his Shell Scott series, in which the wackiest dick in the west heads to Las Vegas on a missing persons case. Prather was one of the best selling authors of the 1950s, so we're confident we'll soon find a book that makes us see the light (and with three dozen in the Shell Scott series alone there are many from which to choose), but this one didn't quite get there. It was published in 1951 and this excellent piece of cover art is uncredited.
That stained old sofa, as you call it, is an authentic Hollywood casting couch.
As always, the mole on the female figure's cheek serves as the signature of artist Bill Edwards. Here he handles the cover work on They Paid with Flesh by Tony Marcus. This tale is, shall we say, Weinsteinian in nature, as a middle aged producer beds aspiring actresses, while a young studio fixer tries to locate a missing starlet. Their paths intersect when the producer beds the fixer's ex, who he still may have feelings for. That's a perfectly workable set-up for a story, but instead the increasingly convoluted plot first veers off into a scheme to steal four million dollars from a deposed dictator who's planning a counterrevolution, and later focuses on the starlet's plan to change her identity through cosmetic surgery, though the doctor she's chosen is a serial killer. Did we say convoluted? We meant labyrinthine. But ultimately They Paid with Flesh is sleaze, so the plot pivots are mere lead-ins for explicit sex, in all its typical variations, and a couple that aren't typical—or even legal. We'd like the time we spent on this returned to us, but we'd also like a riad in Marrakech, and we aren't getting that either.
It wasn't until I met you that I realized what marriage really meant. I'll demand a divorce from my wife tomorrow.
Tropical night, sea shore, full moon, convertible roadster, and sneaky adultery. This is a pretty nice cover for Perry Lindsay's, aka Peggy Gaddis's digest paperback Shameless Woman, which was published in 1948 for Knickerbocker Books' sub-set Regular Books. It originally appeared as Sin Cinderella, which is maybe a better title. It's about a divorcée who wants to get back at the millionaire husband who cast her aside, so she recruits an unsuspecting sixteen-year-old, teaches her how to be alluring, and sends her to ruin the ex. Of course, with a ’48 copyright date you know this doesn't get too crazy, but that didn't stop us from buying five more. We'll give them careful reads and report back in more detail a bit later. The art on this, by the way, is uncredited.
You may be hot stuff on the battlefield, soldier, but you didn't exactly earn a medal in here.
S. Robert Tralins returns with another piece of sleaze, 1953's Corporal Glory, which he wrote for New York City based Exposition Press. Tralins worked extensively in this genre, even seeing his 1963 book Pleasure Was My Business banned in Florida. This cover lacks the usual lurid blurbs because it's actually a hardback dust jacket. Yes, this got published in hardback. Maybe he was a better writer than we think. See more Tralins covers here and here.
If you'd just asked for directions like I told you we wouldn't be in this mess.
This is a nice acquisition—Vereen Bell's Swamp Water with George Gross art on the front. The book is a rural slice of life novel dealing with a young trapper named Ben Ragan who ventures into the Okefenokee Swamp in search of his lost hunting dog, Trouble. Nobody, aside from Indian tribes of earlier times, is thought to have entered the dreaded swamp and returned. Ragan goes in and finds Trouble—and trouble. Bell expertly catalogs swamp flora, fauna, and topography, which makes for a backdrop so vivid you can almost feel the humidity. This is an extraordinarily enjoyable tale, a sort of a revenge novel/chronicle of the deep South/backwoods adventure, written when the vast Okefenokee straddling Georgia and Florida was nearly uncharted territory. 1941 on this originally, with Bantam's edition coming in ’47.
It's a man's man's man's world, but it wouldn't be nothing without a woman... to fight over.
When Fawcett Publications launched its Gold Medal line, Man Story was the second paperback it put out. It's a fiction anthology culled from the pages of True magazine, which was part of the Fawcett stable, and it came out in 1950 numbered 102 on the cover because the series began at 101. There are heavyweight, widely published authors in this collection, including William Attwood, Daniel Mannix, and Barnaby Conrad. Of special note are Philip Wylie, who wrote Gladiator, Paul Gallico, who wrote The Poseidon Adventure, and MacKinlay Kantor, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his novel Andersonville.
The Gold Medal line actually helped bring about the demise of pulp magazines. This was due partly to the sheer number of books it published (it went from 35 titles in 1950 to 66 the next year and never looked back), as well as to the shift in tone from the pulps it represented. Some of the writers published by Gold Medal would become huge names moving forward, including John D. MacDonald, Louis L'Amour, Richard Prather, and Charles Williams. Yet for all the importance of this second Gold Medal paperback, it's cheap as hell. We saw it selling for five dollars, which is a pretty nice price for the motherlode of testosterone fiction.
I love you, tiny shoe. I'm going to draw out the delicious anticipation before I put my foot inside you.
More from France today. Above you see Envoûtement sensuel, by Pierre Sénard for Éditions C.P.E., published in 1958. The title translates to “sensual enchantment,” and enchanting is a perfect word to describe this cover, which has a very romantic feel. The art wraps around onto the book's spine too, which makes it even nicer. We assume the cover figure is contemplating something other than her right shoe, but maybe not—we know a couple of women that get this way about footwear. The artist here is Jacques Leclerc, who signed his work as Jihel, and we think it's among his best.
Rare perennial blooms on crime book cover.
Not long ago we shared some covers from the Milanese publishers Longanesi & Co., and the lure of those for us was the presence of U.S. model Virginia Gordon on two of them. Here's another Longanesi offering—James Kieran's translated novel Come Murder Me—with burlesque legend Lilly Christine reclining on an ottoman. Longanesi published this in 1957.
Himes' Harlemites take the prize.
Above is an unusual orange cover by an uncredited artist for Chester Himes' crime yarn The Big Gold Dream. We're Himes fans, but for us this wasn't as enjoyable as For Love of Imabelle or The Real Cool Killers, nor as well written, in our opinion, but the author's flair is undiminished in a tale about a lottery winner whose $36,000 cash prize is stolen. The most interesting character here is Dummy, a man permanently deaf from a beating and mute from having his tongue cut out, but whose disrespectful nickname belies his tenacity. And of course franchise detectives Coffin Ed Johnson and Gravedigger Jones also star. There are caricatures many readers will find offensive, but that just makes Himes like most writers of the period. No matter what, with him you can count on a portrayal of Harlem that's quirky and insightful, and that's probably reason enough to read the book. It originally appeared in 1959, and this Signet edition dates from 1975.
Then I picked up something at the market and now I'm about to heat it up and enjoy it. How's your day going?
Above, a cover for The Scarlet Bride by Mark Reed, about a cheating wife with a dangerous husband and the horndogs who risk life and limb to get on her. Reed was actually Norman A. Daniels, a prolific author who wrote for pulp magazines, where he created the character Black Bat (the second, more popular one). He also wrote for radio, television, and once published eighteen books in a two year span. This particular effort is copyright 1952.
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