Vintage Pulp Mar 22 2019
THROUGH THICK AND THIN
Nick and Nora Charles—never shaken, never stirred, and almost never sober.


1934's The Thin Man is what we like to think of of a palate cleanser. After reading a few less accomplished authors you grab a Hammett because you know he's great. It's pure fun following functional alcoholic Nick Charles and his equally hard drinking young wife Nora as they navigate deception and murder. How much do Nick and Nora Charles drink? At one point Nick wakes up feeling terrible and realizes it's because he'd gone to bed sober. Several cocktail sessions a day is about average. Maybe that's why danger doesn't faze them. Even being shot at is reason for a libation and a quip.

This edition of The Thin Man is a rare one. It's the Pocket Books paperback from 1945, with the type of art that was prevalent on paperbacks during the heyday of pulp. We can't tell you much about the book that hasn't already been written, including the fact that it's less a mystery than a comedy of manners, but there is one aspect that's rarely commented upon. Nick Charles is of Greek descent. His full last name is Charalambides. This was the ’30s, when there was open racism in the U.S. against Greeks. James M. Cain delves into this in The Postman Always Rings Twice, in which the Greek character Nick Papadakis is insulted behind his back and set apart as a non-white inferior.

So in The Thin Man Hammett was portraying Nick Charles not as the upper crust dilettante William Powell made famous in the film version, but as a tough guy outsider. People are a bit afraid of him. Filmgoers were definitely not afraid of pencil mustached William Powell. Hammett wanted the written Charles to possess street cred, to be a person who had been places and seen things others had not. Hammett was going for a different type of detective in more ways than merely his drinking habits. Charles' maverick role is just a little extra flavor in an already entertaining novel. The actual mystery is difficult to follow, but even so we highly recommend this if you haven't read it.

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Vintage Pulp Mar 21 2019
JAILHOUSE SHOCK
Any of you hardened felons seen my beautiful virginal daughter lately?


Mitchell Hooks handles the cover work on this Gold Medal edition of the 1957 Tarn Scott thriller Don't Let Her Die. The book concerns a well connected prison inmate who uses his outside-the-walls contacts to kidnap the warden's daughter and maneuver for a pardon in exchange for her life. We say maneuver rather than demand because the convict keeps deniability throughout, claiming to know nothing even as the warden daily receives anonymous ultimatums, with a little extra motivation provided by photos of his terrified daughter nude. The warden caves pretty quickly, appeals to the governor for the pardon, is refused, and that's where things get interesting. There's more grit than usual here, but certain lines will not be crossed, and the reader is well aware of that, despite all the menace injected into the prose. Even so, Scott—a pseudonym used by Walter Szot and Peter G. Tarnor—certainly showed promise. Sadly, the pairing only produced a few books. 

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Vintage Pulp Mar 20 2019
SOMETHING IN THE AIR
That's a lovely compliment, but I haven't showered since yesterday. I did make some muffins earlier.


This is an interesting cover for the 1962 novel Sweet Smell of Lust by Arnold Marmor, with its mirror perspective and extra large Oscar standing on the bureau. Basically, it's the story of two women vying for the same plum film role. One woman is older, desperate, and ruthless enough to pull dirty tricks for the role, while the other is young and naive to the point that she'll do whatever she's asked, even if it means ending up on her back. There's something in the air indeed—pheromones. Agents, directors, criminals, hardcore partiers, and the obligatory oversexed lesbian round out the cast. There are numerous vintage books in this Hollwood sleaze category, so many that the genre cries out for a cover collection. Maybe we'll put one together. 

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Vintage Pulp Mar 16 2019
BERGER RECIPE
She was so good Horwitz had a second helping.


Senta Berger makes a second appearance on a Horwitz Publications paperback cover, this time for Carter Brown's Murder Is My Mistress. We showed you the Horwitz cover for Brown's Swan Song for a Siren a while back. That actually came second of the pair and was numbered 34 in the company's Reprint by Demand series. The above is number 19 and was published in 1960. We found it on the Nick Carter & Carter Brown blog, which is a stop you should make if you want to know everything about Brown. Anyway, we've been discussing these Horwitz paperbacks for a while because of their celebrity covers. In using Berger twice the publisher chose well. 

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Vintage Pulp Mar 14 2019
CELLAR'S REMORSE
There's an actual iron maiden down here. Looking at it, I admit it's an unduly harsh thing to call you when I'm angry.


As you know by now, we're often drawn to books by the covers, and John Dickson Carr's Hag's Nook attracted us because of the instantly recognizable art by Robert Stanley. Well, you can't win them all. This is a gothic mystery featuring Dr. Gideon Fell, who would appear in more than twenty other novels. Fell is unique in crime lit. He's obese and gets around on two canes—which is actually a pretty good description of the book's plot. Carr would go on to become a legendary writer of golden age mysteries, so we don't doubt for a moment that he penned numerous excellent tales, but this early effort—1933 originally, with this Dell edition appearing in 1951—didn't get it done for us. What did get it done for us, though, is the dungeon feel of Stanley's cover art. He's one of the good ones. We remember the blog Pop Sensation once described his work as "rich and creamy," which was descriptively on the nose, we think. Check for yourself here and here.

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Vintage Pulp Mar 12 2019
BARE MINIMUM
This book strips everything off—logic, subtlety, humor, character development...


Strip, Wench... or Die! This one had us at strip. Plus it was cheap, a mere five bucks. And you get what you pay for sometimes, because this was really bad. Basically, Rip Austin is an insurance investigator posing as a rep for the local strippers union in order to look into the death of a dancer. He finds himself involved in an organized crime scam, and soon more strippers are dying. But not before they get naked and he manages to fall into bed with a few. Typical passage:

Naked women were hardly anything new in the life of a loving rounder like Austin, but he was hardly used to having one come to the door of a fashionable mansion in broad daylight. He looked at the massive mounds of her breasts—huge but beautifully formed with nipples that jutted upward with almost virginal audacity.

We get it—it's not supposed to be taken seriously. But it should at least be written in engaging fashion. Author Gene Cross, aka Arthur Jean Cox, obviously didn't give a shit about this as long as he still got paid. In that way he's a bit like a stripper himself. But again, at least the book was only five bucks. And there's a character named Kooky Marsh, which we think is kind of cool. And the cover has a rare image of a beautiful burlesque dancer (who we once used third from the bottom of this post). Those are the sum total of the book's merits. Oh well. Onward and upward.
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Vintage Pulp Mar 11 2019
LOUP DE VILLE
The town's not big enough for the both of them.


We just wrote about a French werewolf novel—The Werewolf of Paris by Guy Endore—and now we've come across Les loups de la violence by Michael Shiofy. Some sources claim this was written by Belgian author Guy de Wargny under a pseudonym, but it's actually a 1966 reprint of a 1965 Italian novel called La dama dei lupi, which was written by Harry Small, a pseudonym used by Mario Penzauti. Yes, it's always complicated with these European books. It was published in France by Éditions Bel Air and was part of its Les Adventures de Dracula line, a twelve book series that featured all kinds of monsters, but not Dracula, strangely. However a vampire did star in entry nine, Frank Graegorius's Le vampire de la pleine lune, so that counts, we guess. We haven't read this. If it's as good as The Werewolf of Paris we'd be shocked. But the cover is comparable, we think. It was painted by James Hodges, whose artistic virtues we've extolled before. To see him at his best we suggest you check here and here

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Vintage Pulp Mar 9 2019
DECLINING LIFE EXPECTANCY
Get behind me, ma'am. You'll be safe. I didn't jog and bike and do the paleo diet just to get gunned down in this stinking saloon.


They Died Healthy is a great title for a western. Logan Stewart was actually a pseudonym for an author named Les Savage, which we think is a far better name for a writer of westerns than Logan anything. Stewart/Savage authored more than twenty books and something like ninety published stories before dying young at age thirty-five. Was he gunned down healthy? Not so much— he was in poor health for a while due to diabetes and high cholesterol before succumbing to a heart attack. But his fiction lives on. He's considered by many to be one of the better western writers of his day. They Died Healthy is copyright 1951 with art by unknown. 

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Vintage Pulp Mar 6 2019
WANTON SOUP
A flavorful stew of mid-century paperback covers.


This post was long overdue. Most pulp oriented websites do a collection of covers that have the word wanton in the title, so we're following suit. Basically because we couldn't think of anything else to do today. Numerous examples below. Enjoy.

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Vintage Pulp Mar 5 2019
ASSASSINS HAVE SORRY EYES
Maybe all those stars are why none of the killers can seem to nail this chump.


Donald Hamilton's 1965 novel Assassins Have Starry Eyes was originally published in 1956 as Assignment: Murder. This could have been better. The lead character here, Dr. James Gregory, is a tough-guy physicist who sits so much he “wears his pants shiny,” yet has no problem physically outmatching adversaries in various deadly situations. We'll buy it, since the author asks it, but there's another issue with Dr. Gregory—he's a dick, all the more so as the narrative wears on.

Some sharp edges are to be expected, since people are trying to kill him—possibly due to his involvement in a government project tasked with creating an atomic super weapon—but he's snide and superior even in his interior dialogues and reminiscences. He especially hates peace protestors because they simply don't understand the need for world-threatening super weapons. Bah! Morons!

Books with difficult men are often fun, but it's clear Hamilton thinks he's writing Dr. Gregory not as an anti-hero, but as a no-nonsense everyman. The guy was impossible for us to like. We finished Assassins Have Starry Eyes mainly to see if he got his brains blown out. As for Hamilton, his writing is fine, so maybe he'll do better with a different character (like Matt Helm, who he's remembered for creating). We'll try one down the line. 

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
March 24
1981—Ronnie Biggs Rescued After Kidnapping
Fugitive thief Ronnie Biggs, a British citizen who was a member of the gang that pulled off the Great Train Robbery, is rescued by police in Barbados after being kidnapped. Biggs had been abducted a week earlier from a bar in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil by members of a British security firm. Upon release he was returned to Brazil and continued to be a fugitive from British justice.
March 23
2011—Elizabeth Taylor Dies
American actress Elizabeth Taylor, whose career began at age 12 when she starred in National Velvet, and who would eventually be nominated for five Academy Awards as best actress and win for Butterfield 8 and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, dies of congestive heart failure in Los Angeles. During her life she had been hospitalized more than 70 times.
March 22
1963—Profumo Denies Affair
In England, the Secretary of State for War, John Profumo, denies any impropriety with showgirl Christine Keeler and threatens to sue anyone repeating the allegations. The accusations involve not just infidelity, but the possibility acquaintances of Keeler might be trying to ply Profumo for nuclear secrets. In June, Profumo finally resigns from the government after confessing his sexual involvement with Keeler and admitting he lied to parliament.
1978—Karl Wallenda Falls to His Death
World famous German daredevil and high-wire walker Karl Wallenda, founder of the acrobatic troupe The Flying Wallendas, falls to his death attempting to walk on a cable strung between the two towers of the Condado Plaza Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Wallenda is seventy-three years old at the time, but it is a 30 mph wind, rather than age, that is generally blamed for sending him from the wire.
2006—Swedish Spy Stig Wennerstrom Dies
Swedish air force colonel Stig Wennerström, who had been convicted in the 1970s of passing Swedish, U.S. and NATO secrets to the Soviet Union over the course of fifteen years, dies in an old age home at the age of ninety-nine. The Wennerström affair, as some called it, was at the time one of the biggest scandals of the Cold War.
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