The Naked City Mar 24 2015
DEATH EXAMINED
Tragedy plus a photographer equals sales.


Above and below is a fascinating series of photos from the Los Angeles Examiner during the heyday of tabloids, showing just how invasive such publications could be. The photo above shows the aftermath of a murder-suicide at the Ansonia Apartments in L.A.’s MacArthur Park neighborhood. A mother jumped from a window with her six-year-old son. The photos below show the scene from different angles, then a priest administering last rites to the boy, and finally the father grieving over his son’s body. The Examiner focused on crime, corruption, and Hollywood scandals, and was for a time the most widely circulated newspaper in Los Angeles. Possibly its most famous scoop was breaking the story of the 1947 mutilation murder of Elizabeth Short, better known as the Black Dahlia.

In the references we dug up on the Clouart tragedy the wife’s name is never given—she’s called only Mrs. Gerald Clouart. That was of course common practice at the time, but it’s ironic the way it renders invisible a woman who might have received help had anyone truly discerned her troubles. But in yet another example of the Examiner’s extraordinary access, one of its photos is of Mrs. Clouart’s suicide note, and we were able to get her name from that. The note said: “I’ve reached the point of no return. It’s not your fault. You’ve been a wonderful husband and father. Am taking [John] with me to spare him the disgrace. I’m just inadequate.” It was signed Terry. That was today in 1952.


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The Naked City Feb 13 2015
A LOW EBBS
Get me to the church on time.


The cover of this February 1965 issue of True Detective featuring a strangled woman and an evil garden gnome is impressively horrific, but thankfully the scene was posed by a model. The crime mentioned in the second inset—“Girl Scout’s Body Found in the Church Furnace”—was, unfortunately, real. Seven-year-old Janet Young had been dropped off by her mother at Bethany Evangelical United Brethren Church in Queens, New York City, to attend a Brownie Scout meeting. She was late. The meeting had begun at 3:30 and the church doors were locked. Mrs. Young watched as a church handyman and aspiring minister named John Ebbs let her daughter in a side door. At that point she drove away. And it was at that point that the eighteen-year-old Ebbs, who people in the community described as slow-witted but harmless, suddenly, in his words, “had an urge.” He dragged Janet Young to the basement, and as the Scout meeting proceeded overhead, he sexually assaulted her, choked her with a belt from her uniform, and dumped her in the church furnace to burn with no idea whether she was alive or dead.

When Mrs. Young came to retrieve her daughter, she found the church empty. She called the Scout leader and was told Janet never attended the meeting. This prompted a frantic call to the police, who quickly found the girl’s charred body. They arrested Ebbs at home hours later. The crime, once it hit the news, aroused a furious reaction in the community. Two civilian participants in a police line-up with Ebbs punched, kicked and spat on him. Though the police of course denied this assault ever happened, they put together an armed detachment of thirty-five men to forestall trouble at Ebbs’ arraignment. At his trial, which lasted eight days, four psychiatrists testified that he was legally insane, but four others pronounced him sane. He was convicted of first degree murder, and sentenced to life in prison. Ebb’s only reaction, at least according to accounts of the time, came when he saw the camera crews gathered to film him. He wondered aloud, “What will they think of me?” 

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Vintage Pulp Jan 28 2015
DR. SINISTER
A prescription for murder.

As long as we’re doing Spanish language pulp today, we might as well share this cover for El siniestro Doctor Crippen, or The Sinister Doctor Crippen, written by Enrique Cuenca for Barcelona based Ediciones G.P., and published in 1960 as part of its low cost Enciclopedia Pulga collection. Eventually, about five-hundred books appeared as part of the collection, including translations of Jules Verne, Robert Lewis Stevenson, and other classic authors. This particular novel is of course based on the strange story of Hawley Harvey Crippen, aka H.H. Crippen, the American physician and fugitive who murdered his wife Cora in 1910 and was eventually hanged in London’s HM Pentonville Prison. Many of the covers we’ve seen from Enciclopedia Pulga are nice, so we’ll try to revisit the collection a little bit later.

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The Naked City Jan 20 2015
BAD GAMBLE
Even if it sounds like a bluff, don't call it unless you’re willing to lose everything.


This photo made today in 1959 shows a woman named Jessie Mae Noah, who Los Angeles police had arrested and were questioning in connection to a crime that had occurred seven weeks earlier. On that December night a Samuel Goldwyn Studios suit named Kenneth Savoy walked into the In Between Café on Melrose Avenue during the time two men—one holding a sawed-off shotgun—were in the process of robbing it. Having collected the money and valuables of eight patrons and the contents of the cash register, they demanded Savoy’s wallet, and perhaps having watched too many of his own movies, he replied that if they wanted it they’d have to shoot him. That hard-boiled response earned him a load of buckshot in the stomach. The robbers scampered to their getaway car—where Jessie Mae Noah was waiting in the rear seat—and fled the scene.

After police published composite sketches of the robbers in the newspapers, Noah contacted police, resulting in the photo op above. The robbers—George Scott and Curtis Lichtenwalter—were arrested later (for those who wonder whether composite sketches ever work, check the comparison between Scott and his likeness at bottom).

Scott had fled all the way to Texarkana, Arkansas, and gave up only after a shoot-out with police at a motel. Jessie Mae Noah claimed she’d had no idea her two acquaintances were planning a robbery, and that she had simply gone for a ride with them for kicks. She avoided a murder charge, but Scott and Lichenwalter were both found guilty of robbery and first degree homicide. Scott—the triggerman—was gassed to death by the state of California in September 1960. And as for the victim Kenneth Savoy, you have to wonder what he thought in that instant when the shotgun went off. We suspect he thought that maybe calling bluffs was something best left to the stars of action films.


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Vintage Pulp Jan 15 2015
TRAINING DAY
Good boy. Now that you’ve got begging mastered let’s see how you do at playing dead.

Above, Marked for Murder, written by Robert O. Saber, aka Milton K. Ozaki, published originally in 1955, with this edition from Australia’s Phantom Books appearing in 1956. Artist unknown.

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The Naked City Jan 12 2015
FINAL SHOT
Life and death in the cinema.


Police Lt. Hugh Crowley lies dead in the Fox Westwood Village Theater in Los Angeles after being shot today in 1932. Crowley had gone to the theater after closing time to retrieve box office receipts, but instead surprised two thieves. Crowley reached for his sidearm and fired, and one of the crooks gunned him down. Both men were captured and tried, and Joseph Francis Regan, who had fired the fatal shot and actually been hit in the abdomen by a bullet fired by Crowley, was sentenced to death. Jack Green, who had no prior criminal record, had not fired a shot, and had cooperated in the police investigation, nevertheless also was sentenced to death, probably because he had planned the crime. Regan was hanged at San Quentin State Prison in August 1933. Green came close to the gallows, but received numerous reprieves after public pleas for leniency from his parents, and rulings from higher courts. Eventually his sentence was commuted to life in prison.

Although Green was probably never aware of it, legal authorities often cited his case during the long battle over the constitutionality of the death penalty in California. The idea put forth by the pro-death penalty side around 1960 was that even though Green’s commuted sentence specified “without possibility of parole,” there was no actual reason in California jurisprudence or the state constitution that he could not be released. All that was required was for an appropriate state authority to decide to do it. They felt therefore that anti-death penalty campaigners’ assurances that criminals could be imprisoned for life if such punishment was deemed necessary meant nothing. No matter the language of the original life sentence, any criminal could later be released. Green doubtless would have found all this fascinating, but none of it ever came to affect him. As far as we can tell, he did in fact spend the rest of his life in San Quentin.

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The Naked City Dec 12 2014
THE CIRCUS COMES TO TOWN
He’s more of a laughing-on-the-inside kind of clown.

We would love if this issue of Uncensored Detective published this month in 1946 had a story relating to the desperate clown on the cover, but no such luck. You can read the text of the issue at this link, but we’ll summarize for those short of time—you learn about cheating spouses, a killer cop, and a millionaire con artist, but no clowns. The stories are all interesting (as are the photos and photo-illustrations posed by models that probably barely earned meal money for the week), but the tale of double homicide on Lowry Air Force Base in Denver is the one that caught our interest. The details of the murders are not in any way fantastic, but because the parties of interest are all Chinese cadets Uncensored Detective gets to drop lines like this one: The workings of the Oriental mind are strange indeed. And this one: What secret mechanism in the Oriental mind caused a normal Chinese student to go berserk and commit murders for pride? Oh, those inscrutable Chinese. The story is a classic case of framing the banal as somehow alien when it involves other ethnic groups, and it’s a lazy, vicious form of journalism you see often in both old magazines and modern cable news. The mechanism of murder in the Denver crime was indeed pride, and that’s not so secret or strange. The other murders in the magazine were committed for jealousy, money, and lust, and there’s nothing secret or strange about those either. What would be strange is clowns. But there isn’t a single damned one in the magazine.

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Vintage Pulp Dec 4 2014
NO TIME FOR TEARS
Actually, I was sad for a minute. Then I remembered what a bastard he was.

Above is a Roy Lance cover for Leonard Lupton's doublecross novel Murder without Tears, from Graphic Publishing, 1957, no relation to the movie of the same title from 1953. Lupton was aka Chester Warwick. Graphic's art is often great, which is why we’ve selected this today even though it’s not hard to find around the internet. We really need to put together a collection from this company.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 28 2014
CORONA FEAR
Miles away from ordinary.


National Informer Weekly Reader once again dabbles in real journalism with a piece about Juan Corona, the Mexican-born killer who in 1971 committed what was at the time America’s largest serial murder. Corona was violent-tempered, savagely homophobic, schizophrenic, had been institutionalized earlier in his life and had endured electroshock treatments. When he finally snapped and went on his spree it was to rape and murder twenty-five male farm laborers during a six-week period and bury them in the orchards around Yuba City, California.

Among many strange aspects of the crimes, Corona typically chopped crosses in the backs of his victims’ heads with a machete, and buried them face up with their arms over their heads and their shirts pulled up to cover their faces. Reader doesn’t offer much new information six months after his arrest, opting instead for a few big photos and short captions. Even though Corona typically wore casual work clothes, Reader digs up a photo of him in a sombrero and charro suit, because nothing says, "I'll chop up you, your family, and your little dog too, motherfucker," like mariachi garb. Using an atypical photo is of course a transparent move to make certain subjects appear more alien to readers, and it remains a common and highly troublesome aspect of American murder coverage today.
 
But Reader is a tabloid, after all, and so elsewhere in the issue you get more standard tabloid fare—five women giving up secrets about Farnk Sinatra, Mandy Burnes explaining several ways to beat a hangover, a fearful story about the coming explosion in the number of hippie doctors, a guide to Soho for swingers, a millionairess who made her fortune selling German sex aids, and the usual assortment of bad cartoons. Also, we have a suspicion that’s an Aslan pin-up on the front cover, which would be the second Reader has stolen—er, borrowed. Nineteen scans below.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 27 2014
FIRE AND VICE
In the heat of the moment anything can happen.

Above, front and rear cover art for A.A. Marcus’s Make Way for Murder, 1955. This was the first of four books in a series about private eye Peter Hunter. You can get a sense of what it’s about from the rear text. As for the artist, we checked a Graphic Books catalog, and of the 127 books they published Make Way for Murder is one of only a handful for which they don’t list artist information. At which point we thought what a shame, because he/she deserves recognition for this fiery tableau. And then we saw Barye Phillips’ signature. Front cover, lower left. Hey, we never claimed to be observant. As for why Graphic Publishing seemed to have missed it, no idea. 

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
March 31
1930—Movie Censorship Enacted
In the U.S., the Motion Pictures Production Code is instituted, imposing strict censorship guidelines on the depiction of sex, crime, religion, violence and racial mixing in film. The censorship holds sway over Hollywood for the next thirty-eight years, and becomes known as the Hays Code, after its creator, Will H. Hays.
1970—Japan Airlines Flight 351 Hijacked
In Japan, nine samurai sword wielding members of the Japanese Communist League-Red Army Faction hijack Japan Airlines flight 351, which had been en route from Tokyo to Fukuoka. After releasing the passengers, the hijackers proceed to Pyongyang, North Koreas's Mirim Airport, where they surrender to North Korean authorities and are given asylum.
March 30
1986—Jimmy Cagney Dies
American movie actor James Francis Cagney, Jr., who played a variety of roles in everything from romances to musicals but was best known as a quintessential tough guy, dies of a heart attack at his farm in Stanfordville, New York at the age of eighty-six.
March 29
1951—The Rosenbergs Are Convicted of Espionage
Americans Ethel and Julius Rosenberg are convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage as a result of passing nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union. While declassified documents seem to confirm Julius Rosenberg's role as a spy, Ethel Rosenberg's involvement is still a matter of dispute. Both Rosenbergs were executed on June 19, 1953.

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