Vintage Pulp Jul 20 2024
Waugh elevates missing person procedurals to a new level.

Reading mid-century crime and adventure novels has been a great journey for us. We can imagine those who've already read them smiling (or smirking) as we discuss the books as revelations. “These pulp guys. *eye roll* ’Bout seventy years late with their stunning insights.” But that's the way it goes—you have start sometime. Over the years we've gone from novice to slightly-less-novice in this realm.

We say all that because, though Hillary Waugh is a well-known novelist, up to this week we'd read only one of his books—1960's The Girl Who Cried Wolf. It's a personality-driven, occasionally cute tale, about a tough P.I. and the collegiate client who has a massive crush on him. The book is pretty much a total success. There was no logical reason for us think that single effort defined Waugh's style, but experience has shown that a good novel tends to sits in the sweet spot of an author, and they hit those notes again and again.

Imagine our surprise, then, when we read 1954's Last Seen Wearing and discovered that it's a stark police procedural allegedly inspired by the true 1946 disappearance of 18-year-old Bennington College student Paula Jean Welden. What Waugh produces is basically impossible to put down. If you like police procedurals, read this one. Waugh wows. Also wow is the cover art on the 1960 Great Pan edition. Uncredited though.


Femmes Fatales Jul 20 2024
I have smaller ones, but we don't know each other that well yet.

This fun promo image shows U.S. actress Claire Dodd and was made for the 1930 pre-Code comedy Whoopee! It was only her second film appearance and she was uncredited, but she went on to feature in more than sixty movies between 1930 and 1942, including the original version of The Glass Key. This behind-the-hat pose was quite popular back in her day. We've seen at least five or six performers from the ’30s doing it. Maybe we'll put together a collection later. 


Vintage Pulp Jul 19 2024
In all Modesty, she was one of the best fictional spies of her era.

This nice off-center watercolor shows the iconic comic strip spy Modesty Blaise, and was painted by Jim Holdaway, possibly as he was finalizing the look of the character in collaboration with author Peter O'Donnell before premiering her in the London Evening Standard in May 1963. He illustrated Modesty's adventures for seven years, until felled by a heart attack. O'Donnell wrote a series of Modesty Blaise novels, expanding them in a slightly more adult direction, which made them about as much fun as lightweight, espionage oriented boner bait could be. We've talked about the movie and several of the books, so if you're curious just click the keywords “Modesty Blaise” below and scroll. 


Vintage Pulp Jul 18 2024
I want this to be good, you two. So take one more look over here to remind yourselves what you're fighting about.

Last time we read a novel by the globetrotting Ed Lacy, we said afterward we'd travel anywhere with him. In 1961's The Freeloaders, for which you see a beautiful but uncredited cover above, he once again conducts readers to an exotic place—the Côte d'Azur, in the company of a small clan of Americans trying to survive without work visas in and around Nice.
Freelance writer Al Cane, the most recent addition to the group, has occasional gigs and makes enough money to live. Ex-boxer/ex-cop/ex-advertising man/constant enigma Charley Martins has savings that keep him in a nice seafront apartment. But painter Gil Fletcher and inveterate schemer Ed Jones struggle daily. The women within the group are diverse. Charley's girlfriend Pascale is young, beautiful, and precocious; Gil's partner Simone is opportunistic and fickle; Ed's girlfriend Daniele is industrious and kind.

Eventually, Gil, desperate to stay in Nice and in need of money for he and Daniele, cooks up a foolproof robbery scheme. But to quote Mickey Rourke in Body Heat, "Any time you try a decent crime, you got fifty ways you're gonna fuck up. If you think of twenty-five of them, then you're a genius." Gil is no genius. The rest of the story deals with the aftermath of the crime on the Nice guys, the unraveling of the mystery of who the mysterious Charley really is, and Al's growing lust toward Pascale.
As with other Lacy novels, the flavor is as important as the plot, and he dishes up the South of France (with sides of Italy) in satisfying fashion. There are always a few nits to pick with him. Any time you write a novel there are at least fifty ways to fuck up. Lacy is no genius, but he always entertains. That's travail numéro un.

Hollywoodland Jul 17 2024
Every successful woman has a great support system.

Actually, a great woman often has nothing but her own sheer will, but a little support never hurts. This photo shows Ava Gardner getting a boost from Burt Lancaster somewhere on Malibu Beach in 1946. It was made while they were filming The Killers, and there are several more shots from the session out there if you're inclined to look. We've shared a lot of art from The Killers, which you can see here, here, here, here, and here. And, of course, you should watch the movie. 


Vintage Pulp Jul 15 2024
When you need a high quality cover who you gonna call?

Any French publisher that needed top tier art could look to the Gourdon brothers Michel and Alain for a solution. Above you see the work of the younger Gourdon—Alain, also known as Aslan—on a set of covers for Éditions de l'Arabesque and its series Les Nymphes. These are all from 1956 and 1957, and despite the assorted author attributions, Georges Roques—credited with five of these novels—also published as Luis Della Roca, and possibly others of these persons as well. 


Femmes Fatales Jul 15 2024
Everyone wants flexibility in their work. Only a few succeed.

Bellydancer Nejla Ates strikes the difficult backbend pose for this unusual promo image made in 1954. Ates was born in Romania but was Turkish, and rose to become an internationally famous performer nicknamed the Turkish Delight. She later appeared in films, including 1955's Son of Sinbad with Lili St. Cyr, and modeled for album sleeves for Middle Eastern music, as we've shown you. In addition to all that she was popular in the tabloids. That means you'll see her again at some point.


Hollywoodland Jul 14 2024
Beauty is skin deep. Insanity is through and through.

We ran across a set of promo images from the film noir Where Danger Lives, and since we didn't share any when we talked about the film some years back, thought we'd remedy that omission today. The shots show stars Robert Mitchum and Faith Domergue. We didn't love the movie, but Domergue plays one of the stranger femmes fatales you'll come across, which makes the movie worth a watch. You can read a bit more about it here, see a couple of very nice Italian posters here, and see a Domergue promo here. Where Danger Lives premiered today in 1950.


Vintage Pulp Jul 13 2024
Murder hates company.

Rudolph Belarski, whose work is always instantly recognizable, painted this cover for Rufus King's 1944 mystery Never Walk Alone, earlier known as The Case of Dowager's Etchings. The change tells you that Popular Library thought a less old-fashioned title would boost sales for this 1951 re-issue. But the old-fashioned nature of the story is a feature, not a bug. What you get is intrigue at the residence of Carrie Giles, who's opened her large home up as a boarding house called River Rest and had the rooms filled by workers in an arms factory.

Giles is a throwback who's still driven around by horse and carriage in an era of cars and planes. The tale is told from her point of view, and never has a more self-contained observer been committed to the printed page. This derives from her belief in politeness and decorum. Even if you're a bit nosy, as she is, you don't make a fuss. When she finds a body on her grounds she simply leaves it there for someone else to stumble across the next afternoon. Maybe she's not such a throwback after all—we can see that happening even today, so she's an interesting figure created by King.

Her genteel nature is summed up in a passage about Humphrey Bogart. Don't forget that Bogart was a famous film villain before he altered the trajectory of his career. Giles knows only the early Bogart, and is horrified when someone compares one of her boarders to Humphrey: Mrs. Giles shut her eyes. She was fairly familiar with Mr. Bogart's characterizations on the screen, and to have any one of those blood-throttling roles in the house was the last straw.

Can a mystery be fun when told from the point of view of a hidebound busybody? Turns out it can. While other elements of the story are interesting too (she thinks the murder has to do with wartime spies, and particularly suspects an outspoken and modern-minded female guest), Mrs. Giles is ultimately such a fascinating and delicate creation that it was her who kept us turning pages. Never Walk Alone isn't for readers seeking fireworks and sexual intrigue, but as an example of a character-driven mystery, it worked fine.


Vintage Pulp Jul 11 2024
Extreme volatility in the creepy old manor sector forces many from their homes.

It's the worst case scenario. You're forced out of your home in the middle of the night with only the clothes on your back. As recent home buyers, that thought is a nightmare for us. In our case, it would be bankers sending us out the door. But in romance novels it's husbands, crooks, ghosts, or just bad vibes. These are all paintings by Harry Barton made for the covers of gothic romances, which we came across while trying to find out who painted the front for The Minerva Stone, a book we talked about last month. That brilliant piece is the one just above (and we've added a zoom so you can see the details of the work). It surprised us that Barton specialized in gothic romances, but it shouldn't have—he could do anything. Look at more examples of his ability here, here, and here.


Next Page
History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
July 20
1944—Hitler Survives Third Assassination Attempt
Adolf Hitler escapes death after a bomb explodes at his headquarters in Rastenberg, East Prussia. A senior officer, Colonel Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg, is blamed for planting the device at a meeting between Hitler and other senior staff members. Hitler sustains minor burns and a concussion but manages to keep an appointment later in the day with Italian leader Benito Mussolini.
July 19
1966—Sinatra Marries Farrow
Superstar singer and actor Frank Sinatra marries 21-year-old actress Mia Farrow, who is 30 years younger than him. The marriage lasts two years.
July 18
1925—Mein Kampf Published
While serving time in prison for his role in a failed coup, Adolf Hitler dictaes and publishes volume 1 of his manifesto Mein Kampf (in English My Struggle or My Battle), the book that outlines his theories of racial purity, his belief in a Jewish conspiracy to control the world, and his plans to lead Germany to militarily acquire more land at the expense of Russia via eastward expansion.
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