Here’s a pop quiz for you, since you think you’re so damn clever. Is it better to be a live tramp or a dead loudmouth?
Harry Whittington’s The Lady Was a Tramp, aka Murder at Midnight, is the story of a man who hires a detective to solve the murder of his angelic daughter only to have the detective discover that the daughter was not such an angel after all. The book features Pat Raffigan, who is a character Whittington used often. 1951 on this, with uncredited art.
Hmm... looks like it was four or five shots that did her in—tequila most likely.
Originally published in 1945 as The Dead Lie Still, William L. Stuart’s thriller Dead Ahead is about an ex-naval intelligence officer who after the war runs afoul of a gang of local thugs. The Ace edition here appeared in 1953 and the art is by Norman Saunders. It’s a double novel, and the other side is Day Keene’s Mrs. Homicide, also with Saunders art. Twice the vice, one easy price.
Flight 69, please hold position until further advised.
We think the fabled mile high club is like the original Woodstock—400,000 people showed up, but if you count everyone who claims to have been there attendance was actually something like 8 million. If you’ve never had sex in the sky, let Paul Rader’s cover for Mike Skinner’s 1962 sleaze novel Flight into Sin inspire you (even if the cover figure hasn't gotten airborne yet). Skinner is a bit of a mystery, but we know he was credited with other books in a similar vein for Midwood, such as So Wild, The Undoing of Jenny, and The Passionate Virgin, and he seems also to have written Blondes Don’t Give a Damn as Michael Skinner for Kozy Books. As for Rader, there’s little more to add—he was one of the kings of mid-century paperback art. You can read a full bio on him here.
A new woman for a new era.
This issue of Paris Magazine features a beautiful Louis-Charles Royer cover of Ziegfeld star Claire Luce, one of the most popular celebrities of her time. Her heyday was the 1920s and ’30s, a period during which—though this is little remarked upon today—substantially more women began to have sex before marriage. By the time the first surveys took place in the 1940s about 50% of women admitted to having pre-marital sex. Anecdotally, during the 1920s probably at least one in four women had sex as singles. Claire Luce was a pioneer of the female right to choose. A mere eight-year span of her diary describes sixty lovers.
Luce very much personifies a seismic shift in the values of Western women. Many scholars say it happened because they moved into the university and the workplace around that time, and that was indeed an important factor because it brought women and men into mutual contact outside of family and church situations. But it’s clear the prime mover was the trauma of World War I and the loss of 37 million lives in a conflict that taught those who came of age around then that life could be short and joy could be fleeting. This factor is nearly always downplayed in studies of that time, though we have never understood why. It is too obvious?
Even with their numbers increasing, relatively few women were in the university and workplace. But virtually no Western family went untouched by the war. Those 37 million deaths reached deep into every town, every enclave, every social class. Nearly everyone had lost a father, a brother, an uncle, or at least a family friend. And if a loved one actually survived battle, they often returned to preach the futility of war to the generation below them—or by their mere broken presence serve as a warning. Ernest Hemingway captured this in The Sun Also Rises, which focuses on Jake, prevented by a war wound from having sex, and Lady Brett, who loves Jake but must constantly seek lovers elsewhere.
Of course, there are many factors behind any social shift, but rapid change typically derives from chaos. Ask any neo-con or disaster capitalist. The primary effect of war or warlike events upon society is to alter how it views life, death, and personal freedom. In the past, the spectre of death made people want more freedom to live as they saw fit; in our present era, traumatic events have resulted in people agreeing to sacrifice their personal freedom (thanks to powerful suggestions and hard work by opportunistic governments).
Anyway, just an interesting digression concerning Paris Magazine’s cover star. Like predecessors such as Dorothy Parker, and peers like Tallulah Bankhead, she was a sexual trendsetter, a new type of woman for a radically reordered Western world. She’s also about as pulp as it gets. We may get back to Claire Luce a bit later, but in the meantime we have a bunch of interior scans from Paris Magazine below, and more issues available at the click of a mouse. This edition, number 34, appeared in 1934.
Next time he should try thinking about baseball.
Above is a nice piece by George Erickson for Eric Allen’s Like Wild. It’s the story of a soldier of fortune who returns from Laos to find that his patch of land in Florida is coveted by a local villain. Complicating matters is the villain’s wife, who is a seductress with no qualms about a little action on the side. You know the drill. You may also notice the rather Freudian aspect of the art—i.e., the female figure wraps herself around the male figure in a sexual style embrace that causes his, er, drink to overflow onto the carpet. Well, the stain will come out with water and soap, hopefully. Top marks on this one.
Today we’re doing fractions. Which of you can tell me how many times two can go into one?
Above, The Punks by Lee Richards, aka Lee E. Wells, 1966, from Beacon Signal, with unknown cover art. This book is part of that fun wave of high school sleaze fiction that crested during the 1960s. Author Lee Wells actually specialized in westerns, but you gotta pay the bills, right? See a few more good examples from this genre here and here.
J. Oval’s style was as clean and vivid as a master chef’s.
Illustrator J. Oval was a Brit named Ben Ostrick who painted under both his pseudonym and real name. His crisp illustrations helped make Pan Books, which debuted in 1944, one of the most eye-catching mid-century imprints. Pan is still around as part of Britain-based Macmillan Publishers, which is in turn owned by the Georg von Holtzbrinck Publishing Group of Germany. Many of Oval’s pieces for Pan were paired with works so obscure they’re almost impossible to find today, but above you see a good-sized collection, including a few we managed to turn up that haven’t been widely seen. With few exceptions they all use the same formula, though he would occasionally deviate by painting a fully rendered background, or populating a scene with more than one or two figures. You can see a couple more Oval covers in our collection of Asia-influenced paperback art here, and we also shared a small collection of his work back in 2011 that you can find here.
, Pan Books
, MacMillam Publishers
, Georg von Holtzbrinck Publishing Group
, J. Oval
, Ben Ostrick
, Ronald Leavis
, Alec Waugh
, Nicholas Monserrat
, Douglas Angus
, Glendon Swarthout
, Paul Scott
, Gerald Green
, Cécil Saint Laurent
, William Bradford Huie
, Patrick Quentin
, R.H. Ward
, Peter Cheyney
, Ray Russell
, Erskine Caldwell
, Any Bonneval
, Georgette Heyer
, cover art
Climb up just a bit higher. The part of you I’m planning to shoot isn’t out of the water yet.
Interesting Charles Copeland cover art for Victor Canning’s 1955 adventure thriller Twist of the Knife, published outside the U.S. as His Bones Are Coral. It’s the story of a drug smuggler flying contraband from Sudan to Egypt who crash lands near the town of Suabar, gets involved in a caper to raise gold from the waters of the Red Sea, and of course beds the only white girl within sight. This was actually made into a really bad Burt Reynolds movie called Shark! in 1970.
, Berkley Books
, Twist of the Knife
, His Bones Are Coral
, Victor Canning
, Charles Copeland
, Burt Reynolds
, cover art
The girl's kisses made him even dizzier than his opponents' punches.
W.R. Burnett followed up his 1929 gangster novel Little Caesar with 1930’s Iron Man, the story of a boxer named Kid Mason who is laid low not by his ring opponents but by the machinations of unsavory hangers on and a femme fatale—who’s unfortuntately also his wife. We showed you the hardback dust jacket to this a while back. This paperback from Avon goes full pulp with the teaser, promising a “toboggan-slide of passion, a headlong express that rips through the heavens and plunges to the bottom of hell.” That sounds fun, and indeed it was well reviewed, and was adapted into a film in 1931 with Lew Ayres as Mason and Jean Harlow as his wife. The cover art is uncredited.
Beauty and the beasts.
Wade Miller was a shared pseudonym of Robert Wade and William Miller, and in Kiss Her Goodbye they tell the tale of a pair of siblings—a steady, responsible brother named Ed and his childlike but beautiful sister Emily. By childlike, we mean she’s fully grown but was stricken in her youth by some kind of brain ailment, maybe encephalitis, that stunted her mental development. She violently explodes when men make sexual advances toward her, something that happens constantly because, well, mainly because men are scum, but also because bombshell Emily is friendly toward strangers. You can imagine where this all leads. We’ve shared quite a few fronts from Corgi Books this year and this one from British artist Oliver Brabbins is especially nice with its color blocking and sprawled figure. Truly excellent work, and the book is good too. We have another piece from Brabbins here, and we’ll definitely have more later. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1948—Mitchum and Leeds Snared in Drug Raid
Actor Robert Mitchum and actress Lila Leeds are arrested in a Hollywood drug raid and convicted of criminal conspiracy to possess marijuana. Mitchum serves 43 days in jail
, but in 1951 the conviction is overturned when it is exposed as a set-up. The entire episode has zero effect on his popularity. Leeds, conversely
, becomes a heroin addict while behind bars and is never able to rekindle her career.
1997—Princess Diana Killed in Accident
Princess Diana dies after a car crash in the Pont de l'Alma tunnel in Paris, along with Egyptian jet-setter Dodi Al-Fayed, and driver Henri Paul, who loses control of the car while attempting to elude paparazzi. Despite lengthy resuscitation attempts, including internal cardiac massage, Diana dies at 4 a.m. local time. Her funeral six days later is watched by an estimated 2.5 billion people worldwide.
Russian political revolutionary Fanny Kaplan shoots Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin, wounding him in the shoulder and jaw. Lenin survives, she doesn't—she's executed three days later.
1963—Washington-Moscow Hotline Established
A hotline between U.S. and Soviet leaders, known as the Washington-Moscow hotline or Red Telephone, goes into operation. It linked the White House to the Kremlin at the height of the Cold War, and presumably still does today.
2006—Glenn Ford Dies
Canadian actor Glenn Ford, who starred in some of the best films ever made, including Gilda
, The Big Heat, and the original 3:10 to Yuma, dies in his home in Beverly Hills, USA. He was still in love with Rita Hayworth, his one-time co-star who had died years earlier. Reputedly, his last words were, "You don't keep Rita Hayworth waiting."
1949—Soviet Union Joins Nuclear Club
The Soviet Union detonates
a nuclear weapon at a test site in Kazakhstan. American experts are shocked and dismayed because they had thought the Soviets were still years away from having a workable bomb. The resultant fear helps trigger an arms race that would see the Americans and Soviets stockpile approximately 32,000 and 45,000 nuclear devices.
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