I dyed my hair red months ago, but the old nickname stuck. Folks around these parts ain't fond of change.
The above cover for Gordon Semple's 1953 novel Waterfront Blonde features Warren King art, possibly repurposed from the front he painted for Forbidden Fruit, below (and previously seen in this post). We say possibly only because we don't know which cover came first. Maybe Forbidden Fruit was repurposed from Waterfront Blonde. Both books are copyrighted 1953. In our non-professional opinions, we think Waterfront Blonde was second. There are several reasons why, any of which could be picked apart by someone with the opposite view. For example, if Waterfront Blonde came first, why not make the female figure's hair blonde? On the other hand, if it came second, that means King changed the hair color of the male figure, but didn't bother doing the same with the woman. Either way it's odd, but the main thing to note here is how the art has been recycled, which occurred often during the mid-century heyday of paperback fiction. We'll surely have more examples down the line.
Before we start let me just warm my hands by the fire. Last time your little guys shriveled up like two prunes.
More classic sleaze, 1964's Sexurbia County, by Orrie Hitt, who we've discussed often. We didn't read this, and there's no need—we've braved several of his novels now, and they're all pretty much the same. We're putting together a collection of suburban sleaze covers you should find somewhat entertaining. Look for that in a bit. The art on this is uncredited.
Don't flatter yourself, lady. I was planning to frolic naked and carefree in this pond long before I ever saw you.
The cover text of Ben Smith's 1960 sleaze novel Wanton tells you most of what you need to know. A call girl named Lois tries to hide from her past by accepting a marriage offer blind and running away to rural Minnesota. Once there she finds that her husband is not such a great catch after all. Not only doesn't he ring her bell, but he makes her work like a mule. The scene depicted here isn't predatory. Lois has been surprised, but it's by accident and by the man she really loves—her husband's brother. Oh, what a tangled watering hole we swim. The plot, on the other hand, isn't tangled at all. In general, the promise of eroticism is unfulfilled, and without that, there isn't much to see here. The cover art is uncredited.
Sex with you is out of this world. Which makes total sense, considering you're from Alpha Centauri.
Lately we've been reading mid-century sci-fi novels, in this case George O. Smith's Troubled Star, from 1957, for which you see cover art by Edmund Emshwiller. It doesn't really fit the book, but this is what happens when the publisher wants good-girl-art at all costs—you get your basic horny detective novel couple, but with the guy in a silver jumpsuit and gadgety bracelets. It's nice art anyway, and there is actually a bit of human/alien sex in the book. The overall premise is interesting. An advanced interstellar civilization decides it needs to turn the Sun into a blinking variable star to mark a galactic space lane, and they decide to relocate the Earth—literally tow it across the galaxy in mere minutes and set it in orbit around a similar star. Since this new parent star is closer to the galactic center the Earth would get lethal doses of gamma radiation, which isn't discussed, but whatever. The book is big picture stuff. Details don't matter.
The aliens have used a special device to determine the most appropriate Earthling to approach about this, and this device measures human goodwill. Basically, it helps them discern who is the most respected person on the planet. In their way of thinking, this person would be a leader, but unfortunately the device picks a movie star. Interestingly, this actor, Dusty Britton, is famous for playing a space hero, and all the people on Earth thinking of Britton in this way makes the aliens think humans have an advanced space program when they really don't. In short, these denizens from the gulfs of the cosmos are smart enough to initiate and execute interstellar infrastructure projects, but they're actually not so bright. Britton is troubled by their plan, and so the title Troubled Star becomes a double entendre, because, you see, the Sun is in trouble, and Britton, a movie star, is...
Oh, screw it. Just don't bother reading this. It's for adolescents (If you're an adolescent, though, feel free, but what are you doing on this website? Get off! It's not good for you!). The last five sci-fi novels we read before this one were The Ant Men, (silly), Rogue Queen (decent), I Am Legend (good), The Body Snatchers (excellent), and Gladiator (excellent). They cover a wide range of subject matter, and are written in wide-ranging styles. Though the most recent two have been less successful than the others due to both being junior high school level in terms of their content, in general these have been entertaining forays into the far realms of imagination. As we mentioned yesterday about sci-fi movies, speculation is a major attraction. If you run into any obscure vintage sci-fi, it can serve as a nice break from hard-boiled fiction. If the stars align, you may luck into a real gem.
She's not great on her feet but once she's horizontal—watch out.
We love the dancer on this cover of the 1962 sleaze novel Sex Dancer. We picture her coming out like, “Va-va-va-voom! Boom shakalaka! Wah-wah-waaa—” before remembering she despises her job and shifting into, “Oh, screw this. Just pay me.” Which is the progression most people go through with their jobs. The main character Jean is supposed to be a hell of a lot hotter than the deflated looking figure in the art. The story from the imagination of veteran author Clayton Matthews deals with a woman who headlines the burlesque attraction at a traveling carnival. She wanted to be a star on Broadway, but now must resist pressure from her boss to do more than just dance. It's a ripe concept but goes mostly unrealized, degenerating into a banal love story, as Jean falls for a stunt motorcyclist who's lost his nerve. After a few nights with her, though, he gets back his nerve, his verve, and his swerve, and the two plot a better life. The only question is whether they can get there. We weren't thrilled with this, but it's reasonably well written, so we may try Mr. Matthews again later. The art is uncredited.
*sigh* This was more fun before the social distancing thing.
Orrie Hitt turns his sleazolicious talents to the subject of nudism for the succinctly titled Nudist Camp, published by Beacon Signal in 1957. We're treated to the story of an Icelandic immigrant to the U.S. named Della who finds herself needing to earn her keep due to a looming divorce, and turns her patch of rural land into a nudist resort. Problem is her partner in this scheme is secretly planning to photograph the visitors and blackmail them with the prints. When Della finds out, she's aghast, and bends her efforts toward thwarting this rude plan, leading to a scheme to steal the photos and hopefully burn them. Mixed into the intrigue is a bit of romance, and lots of waxing rhapsodic about Iceland and its beautiful women. That part Hitt actually got right. We've been there, and the women do in fact often have perfect ivory skin. Despite these factoids, and the exploration of body-free culture, Nudist Camp is a preposterous tale, uninspiringly told, signifying very little. You know what would have made it a lot better? More nudity. Go and figure.
You can't keep a good woman down south.
Another day, another bit of light sleaze. Sherry, written by Hodge Evens and published by Beacon Signal in 1961, tells the story of a naive young woman who takes a trip south of the border to Mexico with her boyfriend, loses him, loses her money, and loses reasonable options for getting back to the U.S. after she's mistaken for a prostitute, accused of murder, and pursued by heroin smugglers. She must somehow make it home before she ends up in an Ensenada prison or enslaved, but how, when she's broke and hunted? With the only currency she has, of course. That sounds positively sleaze-packed, doesn't it? But considering the premise, Sherry is pretty chaste. We'll give Evens credit, though—he gets you rooting for his heroine. His name was a pseudonym, it seems, though nobody can say with certainty what his real identity was. It'll probably turn up eventually, though. They usually do. The cover art on this is uncredited.
Florida sleaze in the Florida Keys.
In Offshore Resort, written by Dee Winters and published in 1962, a Key West bartender is enticed into a job on a swanky resort island and finds there's all sorts of sexual mixing and matching going on between its rich denizens, and that he's expected to join the activities as a boy toy. He took the job in the first place to be close to his girlfriend, an unhappily married, idle-rich trophy wife whose husband is a drunken bully. Watching his true love play the perfect wife is hard enough to watch, but the scenario gets more complicated when his neighbor, innocent young Angel, gets a job at the resort too and draws the attentions of the place's worst men. Winters could have gone all sorts of interesting places with this narrative, but reached none of them. Beacon Signal sleaze titles are wildly hit and miss. This one is a miss.
The author's lack focus will quickly become clear.
We read Paul Gregory's 1961 sleazer Naked Lens and it was, well, quite disappointing. The cover talks about a character named Alice posing for “those pictures you hear about,” but the book isn't actually about her. It's about a photographer named Mike who wants to transition from news to high art and decides to use any means needed to get there. He takes nude photos of Alice when she's drunk, which for Beacon Books is enough to imply that the story is about her, when in reality she occupies maybe one twentieth of the narrative.
The book is poorly written from start to finish, but the worst part is how Gregory writes dialogue in which characters constantly use each other's names:
“But why, Mike?”
“I don't know why.”
“Well, I want to know, Mike.”
“There's no reason.”
“There's always a reason, Mike, even if you don't realize.”
There's always a reason books are bad, too, even if the author doesn't realize. Laughable dialogue, weak characters, a thin plot, and the empty promise of erotica but no sexual thrills at all. You can skip this one.
Loyal wife learns that there's nothing like a really good sidepiece.
This cover for Dominique Napier's 1961 novel House Party, a striking piece of art, was painted by Edward Moritz. We think the woman depicted looks a little like Diana Dors. The main character Betsy is actually a brunette, but this may be one of those paintings that was made independently of the book. Said book is a pretty well written sexual awakening tale about a woman whose husband doesn't ring her bell, and who blames herself. But during a weekend mansion party on the tony Connecticut seashore a longtime crush makes her ladyparts tingle, and she realizes she's not as cold as she thought. She has misgivings about cheating, of course, but for various reasons the idea of getting a piece of side action starts to sound good. Napier's aspirations are F. Scott Fiztgerald-ish, but the literary heft is lacking. If the erotic amperage had been doubled or tripled we think it would have been a much better book, but still, it was reasonably fun.
Edit: Correction, this looks a lot like Diana Dors. Check the second photo here. Moritz made his painting's nose thinner, but it's undoubtedly Dors. We had the photo in our website all along, but forgot. That's what happens when you have many thousands of posts.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1919—Volstead Act Passed
The U.S. Congress passes the Volstead Act over President Woodrow Wilson's veto, paving the way for alcohol Prohibition to begin the following January. The Act, named for Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Andrew Volstead, was supposed to create a better society but instead helped lead to the rise of violent organized crime gangs. The law wouldn't be repealed until 1933.
1922—Mussolini Comes Into Power
During the second day of the event known as the March on Rome, Fascist leader Benito Mussolini officially takes control of the Italian government when King Victor Emmanuel III cedes power. Supported by a coalition of military, business, and right-wing leaders, Mussolini remains in power until 1943, when defeat in World War II begins to look inevitable.
1994—U.S. Prison Population Reaches Milestone
The U.S. prison population tops 1 million for the first time in American history. By 2008 the U.S. Justice Department pegs the number of imprisoned at 2.3 million, and the overall U.S. correctional population, i.e. those in jail, prison, on probation or on parole, at 7.3 million, or 1 in every 31 adults.
1951—Churchill Becomes Prime Minster Again
The Conservative Party wins the British general election, making Winston Churchill prime minister for the second time. Churchill is nearly 76 at the time, making him the second oldest prime minister in history after William Gladstone. Churchill remains PM until 1955, when he steps down at 81 due to ill health.
1964—The Night Caller Is Executed
In Australia, Eric Edgar Cooke, who had earned the nickname Night Caller, is hanged after being convicted of murder. He had terrorized Perth for four years, committing 22 violent crimes, eight of which resulted in deaths. He becomes the last person to be executed in Western Australia.
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