There's no jealousy like a femme fatale's jealousy.
It's amazing how much easier James M. Cain makes writing seem than scores of other authors. His 1950 novel Jealous Woman starts at a gallop. Here's the first line: At the desk, when they said she was in 819, I knew hubby or pappy or somebody was doing all right by their Jane, because 19 is the deluxe tier at the Washoe-Truckee, one of our best hotels here in Reno, and you don’t get space there for buttons. And just like that we're off. Cain gives readers ambitious insurance man Ed Horner of General Pan-Pacific Insurance of California. Horner lives, works, and parties in Reno, where unhappy marrieds migrate to be freed from their nuptial bonds. He gets involved in a complex divorce/annulment scheme between Jane Delavan, her rich husband, Jane's ex-husband, and his current wife. Yes, it's a bit complicated, but a messy murder uncomplicates it a little. At least for readers. For Horner, things get weird. Jealous Woman isn't Cain's best, but it's still a slice of devious fun worth reading, and this Ace version with John Vernon cover art is the edition to buy if you can.
The forecast is looking very good.
Above: a really nice shot of model and showgirl La Raine Meeres made by famed pin-up photographer Bunny Yeager around 1957. We can't tell you much about Meeres, except that she danced in Cab Calloway's Cotton Club Revue and this shot was made when the show passed through Yeager's base of Miami. Yeager was an early standard bearer for inclusivity, and made a point of working with women of color when few photographers were interested. We'll keep an eye out for more of the marvelous Meeres.
The name's Cooper. Brian Cooper. What—you were expecting some other secret agent?
The Italian spy thriller New York chiama Superdrago, which we had a chance to watch during our little break last week, was known in English as Secret Agent Super Dragon, and is another in a spate of hipster spy movies that came in the wake of James Bond's massive cinematic success. It premeired in Italy this month in 1966. Three of its promo posters were painted by the great Sandro Symeoni, and while the above example is also attributed to him on some websites, that's incorrect. It's really by Enrico de Seta. Or said to be by one long-running online poster vendor. We're not actually sure about that because the signature doesn't look like his, but who are we to argue with the experts?
In the film, Ray Danton plays a retired agent codenamed Super Dragon—civilian name Brian Cooper—who's roused from his yogic meditations and drawn back into the spy game when a friend dies in a suspicious auto accident that may be related to previous strange deaths. The clues lead from a U.S. college town to Amsterdam (because what kind of spy movie would it be without some globetrotting?), and into the lissome arms of fellow spies Margaret Lee and Marisa Mell (because what kind of spy movie would it be without hotties à la carte?). Between romances Danton learns that the plot revolves around the untraceable drug synchron-2. Purpose: unknown (but don't be shocked if it's to do with world domination).
Few of these Bond knock-offs are sufficiently budgeted or technically proficient enough to result in good final products. Whether you like them has to do with nebulous factors. In this case, we thought Danton's unctious self-entitlement and blasé approach to world saving were funny. We loved when one of his many assailants swallowed cyanide, Danton said, “I'd better get rid of him,” then dumped the corpse out the nearest window. Cue sound effect of splashing water. New York chiama Superdrago is a bit camp without being a satire, and just poorly written enough to provide a few laughs without being a total screenwriting train wreck. But don't pretend we said it's actually good.
If it ever actually happens it'll be a momentous occasion.
As we mentioned not long ago, we bought a house, which you see the front entrance of above. We've been doing some renovations, but even small changes can be a challenge here. We were told our floors were finished when they really weren't, and didn't discover the problem until we showed up from Cadiz with a truck carrying possessions we didn't want to leave in the hands of movers (art, computers, personal items, and our rarest pulp). At that point we were caught between residences and that state of affairs has lasted for more than two months.
Today, at last, is the day our furniture and other major items arrive and we become whole again and stop working with our computers on cardboard boxes and get to sleep somewhere other than on the floor. We're taking a short intermission to get things into proper order. Until then, as always when we take a break, we recommend that you have a wander around the site. If you've never been here before, we'll just tell you it's vast and interesting. Our friend and associate Angela the Sunbear will point you toward a few fun examples. Back soon.
Bye, guys! See you soon! Always happy to help. Yessiree! Love being a good example for bearkind....
Are they gone yet? Good. They're nice, those Pulp guys, but they're a little oblivious too. I'm not going to show you any fun examples of what they write. I'm going to show you one and I want it fucking removed from the site. It's here.
1959 flood thriller proves that even during a natural disaster money, booze, and women are all that matter.
Ernest Jason Fredericks', aka Paul Ernst's 1959 novel Cry Flood!, for which see an Ace paperback edition above with nice art by George Ziel, is a thriller in the flood/hurricane sub-genre on which we've gotten hooked in recent years. We've read entires from John D. MacDonald, Theodore Pratt, Malcolm Douglas, and others. It seems as though the close quarters and ticking clock aspects built into disaster settings bring out the best in authors.
In Cry Flood! Fredericks sets the action in a New Jersey diner perched on high land as two hurricanes to the south and unseasonable rain in the region bring the nearby river to the record crest of a 1936 flood—then beyond. Converging on the diner are a bank-phobic miser carrying twenty-six thousand dollars, four married couples, and two criminals who catch wind of the money and intend to steal it. The problem is the flood waters rise too high for anyone to leave, which means the crooks must bide their time, prompting them to spend it terrorizing those with whom they're trapped.
In Fredericks' hands, the two bad men are synonymous with the flood, implacable and unavoidable, forcing the couples to face their fears and admit their failings before death sweeps them away. Or not—but only if they're brave and lucky. It was quite well done, and consistently enjoyable. For our money, the best of the flood/hurricane lot so far has been John and Ward Hawkins' A Girl, a River, and a Man, but Cry Flood! held its own in what has continued to be fertile pop fiction territory.
Mature and Dors pair up for a bloc buster thriller.
The 1957 Victor Mature/Diana Dors vehicle The Long Haul premiered in Italy today in 1958 as La strada è bloccata, which means “the road is blocked.” The art here is by Italian illustrator Anselmo Ballester. This is one of his better efforts, we think, with his Dors figure reflecting light from some off-canvas source, while a fire lights the background. You can see more from him here and here. As for the movie, we talked about it a while ago. You can read our thoughts here. And you can see a cool Japanese poster for the film here.
Everything out there wants to kill you—including the people.
We've shown you many magazines and books on the subject of headhunters (check here and here for our absolute favorites). Mid-century interest in the subject made its way to the silver screen more than once, in this case with Jivaro, which premiered today in 1954. The title references hunter-gatherer cultures centered in the northwestern Amazon rainforest across Ecuador and Peru who shrank human heads for ceremonial reasons. The movie was a 3-D production, a fact that becomes apparent as pottery, chairs, spears, and occasional flaming arrows fly toward the camera, and it was shot in Technicolor. For those reasons, we wouldn't call it a b-movie exactly, but it still could have used a boost in budget.
Fernando Lamas plays a rough and tumble trader who plies the Amazon River in a rat trap boat. This is a rough gig. People are mean as hell down there. Even the local priest knows martial arts. Lamas agrees to conduct hot redhead Rhonda Fleming to meet her fiancée, who has ventured far from the nearest trading post in search of gold. She's fresh from California and has no idea her man has turned into a drunk and is canoodling with a local girl played by Rita Moreno.
Fleming's fiancée goes incommunicado, and eventually Lamas decides to trek into the forbidden Valley of the Winds (cue wind machine and sound effects) in order to find him. There isn't much upside to this quest, but something has developed between Lamas and Fleming, and if they don't know whether her fiancée is dead or alive, he'll always stand between them. Or something like that. They head into the wilds, endure struggles that will look familiar to fans of Raiders of the Lost Ark, and in due time find answers to all their questions, if perfunctorily.
For us, the movie raised new ones, such as where was the screenwriter during all this? Lost in the jungle too, we guess. But we can't say Jivaro is bad. While shot entirely in Hollywood with second unit footage from South America added to fill in the margins, it's actually somewhat convincing in its setting. And Fleming is good, though with her red hair we can't believe the Jivaro we able to miss her with so many arrows. But that's film tradition for you—even today, using better weapons, villains still have terrible aim. If you aim to watch Jivaro, we recommend drinking some firewater to make it a more entertaining diversion, and keeping your expectations in reasonable territory.
I don't have my degree yet, so for now my recommendation for your sex addiction is to hire a good booking agent.
Above: Swap Psychiatrist, from 1968, with art by Robert Bonfils. The author, John Dexter, was credited with three-hundred and fifty books, according to the comprehensive website Greenleaf Classics Books. His name was used as a pseudonym by many, including Lawrence Block, Vivien Kern, Harry Whittington, and others. We have more than a few Dexter covers in the website, but our favorites are here and here.
I did it the same way you became a boy reporter, but with less respect and more talent.
How I Became a Girl Reporter was first published in 1951, and as the title and cover indicate, Hyman Goldberg's novel is a breezy little number about men and women who have various workplace encounters that presage romance. The book was well received, and while we were tempted to buy it to learn just how different the co-ed workplace was back then (as if we couldn't guess), venturing anywhere near the boundaries of comedy is a dodgy proposition when you're talking about this time period. Maybe we'll read it down the line. The cover art is by an unknown.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1987—Andy Warhol Dies
American pop artist Andy Warhol, whose creations have sold for as much as 100 million dollars, dies of cardiac arrhythmia following gallbladder surgery in New York City. Warhol, who already suffered lingering physical problems from a 1968 shooting, requested in his will for all but a tiny fraction of his considerable estate to go toward the creation of a foundation dedicated to the advancement of the visual arts.
1947—Edwin Land Unveils His New Camera
In New York City, scientist and inventor Edwin Land demonstrates the first instant camera, the Polaroid Land Camera, at a meeting of the Optical Society of America. The camera, which contains a special film that self-develops prints in a minute, goes on sale the next year to the public and is an immediate sensation.
1965—Malcolm X Is Assassinated
American minister and human rights activist Malcolm X is assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City by members of the Nation of Islam, who shotgun him in the chest and then shoot him sixteen additional times with handguns. Though three men are eventually convicted of the killing, two have always maintained their innocence, and all have since been paroled.
1935—Caroline Mikkelsen Reaches Antarctica
Norwegian explorer Caroline Mikkelsen, accompanying her husband Captain Klarius Mikkelsen on a maritime expedition, makes landfall at Vestfold Hills and becomes the first woman to set foot in Antarctica. Today, a mountain overlooking the southern extremity of Prydz Bay is named for her.
1972—Walter Winchell Dies
American newspaper and radio commentator Walter Winchell, who invented the gossip column while working at the New York Evening Graphic, dies of cancer. In his heyday from 1930 to the 1950s, his newspaper column was syndicated in over 2,000 newspapers worldwide, he was read by 50 million people a day, and his Sunday night radio broadcast was heard by another 20 million people.
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