Okay, I think we're ready. Formula for edible pomegranate flavored body oil, test seventeen, commencing now.
Brian Aldiss was better known as a sci-fi author, but his 1961 novel The Male Response deals with sexual mores and politics. On Aldiss's website he writes: “Only marginally science fiction, the story tells how the indecisive Soames Noyes is sent by his company with a computer to the newly free black state of Goya, in Africa, where he becomes entangled with women and witch-doctors. Reluctantly, Noyes faces all challenges and, following by public promiscuity, becomes President.” That certainly sounds fun, especially the promiscuity to president part. It obviously could only happen in sci-fi. The cover art here is by Robert Stanley.
You can love her but you can never trust her.
A while back we said we'd skip the 1954 Orrie Hitt novel Cabin Fever because we had several other Hitt books awaiting our attention. But the cover art for 1959's Tawny enticed us, so we bought it and—turns out we didn't pass on Cabin Fever after all, because Tawny is Cabin Fever published under a new name. It was also published yet again in 1974 as Lovers at Night. Lesson: watch out for re-titles in vintage literature. But it's okay. Hitt is interesting if erratic, and since this is an early effort from him—possibly only his third, though we can't be sure because he published four books in 1954—we were curious to have a look.
Tawny follows the travails of Danny O'Conner, who takes a job managing a sprawling lakeside roadhouse/casino/cabin complex called the Flying Red Rooster and quickly becomes romatically entangled with the boss's omnivorous wife, the eponymous Tawny Stone. She hates her husband but divorcing him would mean losing her stake in the business she originally financed. You'd think this would lead to the usual murder-the-husband scheme, but Hitt twists the plot the other direction when the husband approaches Danny and says that he wants Tawny to die or disappear.
So the question is who tries to kill who? Or maybe they both take a whack at homicide. We ain't saying. In the end, though, you still have juicy adultery and a sinister murder plot. We've read a lot of books along those lines, often by better writers, but we've read them by worse writers too. In the hands of a top stylist Tawny might have been a real barnburner. As it is, we can call it readable but not special. The art on this Beacon Signal edition (it was also published by Softcover Library in 1969) is by an unknown, which is too bad because it's one of the better covers on a Hitt novel. The far less tawny original painting appears below.
I wouldn't call them raging so much as extremely reluctant to take no for an answer.
A little bit of vintage lesbian fiction today, Her Raging Needs, by Kay Johnson for Beacon Signal, 1964, with uncredited cover art. A libidinous young woman finds herself widowed, after which point she goes from to man to man, never satiated, until she finally crosses the line and jumps into bed with another woman. This one deserves points for the main character's name: Honey Bard. Amazingly, the book got reprinted in 1970 by Softcover Library.
Is sex déjà-vu a thing? Because I feel like we've lived this before. Try not to finish so fast this time.
Above: a cover for Val Munroe's Lisette, painted by Darcy, aka Ernest Chiriacka for Beacon Signal, 1962. We were surprised when we discovered this was Munroe's Carnival of Passion under a different title. Since the name of the main character is Lisette rather than Liz, we didn't guess it was the same book, and you'll also notice the cover doesn't mention a carnival. Luckily we didn't pay for this because it was available for download on Archive.org. By the way, the story wasn't the only thing repeated here. The art was later paired with Dee Winters' 1965 sleazer The Swingers, as you see below.
I'm going to reach the top and I'll do it by using the most American method of all—buying my way there.
Above are the cover and original uncredited art for the sleaze novel Convention Girl, written by Rick Lucas for Beacon Signal and published in 1954. This was a one-day read. Basically, at a yearly Washington, D.C. convention staged by the Association of Young Executives, oil tycoon Holly Carroll and beer baron James Barton are both convinced by AYE string-pullers to run for the position of association president. Both are promised the inside track to victory by means not solely involving how many votes they actually get. As ex-lovers, the complications soon pile up between them, as well as between other highly sexed characters. The reasons they were asked to run for president are obscure, but they eventually boil down to a vast communist plot to undermine the free enterprise system. Commie scare fiction mixed with sleaze? What a concept! Sadly, as usual with these anti-commie books, the political aspects are laughably simple-minded. But we expected that. The hurdle that can't be overcome is the tepid eroticism. There's just not much heat—and this in a book with so many reds. We don't think we'll be reading Mr. Lucas again.
Sorry, that was a mix-up in the ad. It's actually pay now love later. There's also an admin surcharge and a damage deposit.
Elaine Dorian's 1961 novel Love Now Pay Later has more depth than usual for Beacon Signal sleaze fiction. She has a real feel for the setting and her lead characters, Ross and Gay, two people trying to find happiness while swept up in the fast paced worlds of publishing and politics in New York City. For both of them ambition is their undoing, though of different types—Ross will do anything for success, including throw away love, and Gay will do anything for love, including throw away success. Both lose their way, and both debase and publicly embarrass themselves, though again, in different ways. Dorian serves up strong anti-sex undercurrents, but her story basically works. We wouldn't call the book good, exactly, so much as better than average. But in vintage sleaze, that's good enough.
You're not gonna be able to get my dress off. I needed two guys just to get it on.
This is a nice piece of cover art, though unattributed, for Lee Brill's 1962 novel The Skin-Tight Sheath. The above-the-title teaser text is almost exactly backwards. This is really about one man who uses everyone to even the score with one woman. Or tries, anyway. Stuck in a loveless but socially necessary marriage, he wants to have his cake and eat it too by hooking up with an old flame, keeping both wife and mistress. His plan goes great—until it goes wrong. His downfall? He's sadistic, and his need to hurt people begins to destroy him. If only the real world had the same moral clarity as sleaze novels. Reasonably entertaining, but not unmissable.
I didn't notice you trying to claw your way out of the room, so we're both hitch-hike hussies, in my view.
Above is a 1959 cover for Hitch-Hike Hussy painted by Saul Levine, who we've shown you before, such as here and here. This cover was also used in 1954 for Hans Habe's Walk in Darkness, but with a different male figure and background. The duo of John B. Thompson and Jack Woodford are the minds behind this tale, the story of a hitch-hiking runaway named Sunny Neversen, and her adventures and sexual involvements, which include a young trucker named Jim Bottomly, a man in his sixties named Mumford Basserman, and others. None of it is convincingly erotic, and little of it actually takes place on the road. She mostly works in a gambling hall, and after a few guys get to sample her wares Bottomly turns up again to sweep her off her feet. This is rote sleaze fiction, one of many mid-century books to use the hitchhiking gimmick. The only interesting aspect of this is pondering why it took two people to write it. Nothing to see here, people. Move along...
When you choose an inspiration choose the best.
Above you see a cover from Beacon Signal books, circa 1960, for All Woman by Matt Harding. The woman in this case is the legendary Bettie Page, rendered by illustrator Jack Faragasso. Page appeared on vintage book covers several times, either in photo or painted form. We've shown you examples of both types here and here, and you'll notice one of those covers is also by Faragasso. Clearly he had an affinity for Page, and there's a reason. When he was attending the Art Students League of New York in 1951 he shot nude photos of her. This was before she was well known. Faragasso later published those images in a book, but as far as using them as inspiration for paperback covers, he did it only twice. We'll keep an eye out for more Page covers. For that matter, we'll keep an eye out for more Faragasso covers too.
For a good time all you have to do is call.
Beth Hubbard is bored. That falls into the category of first world problems. Which is to say, she should really be able to cope, but she's an entitled suburban housewife who wants the best of everything, so she has an extramarital fling for thrills, ends up paid for the encounter, and from there is lured by the promise of easy money and good sex into continuing the affair. She has feelings for her new side piece, and as a result convinces herself she's simply doing what comes naturally while being given considerate gifts. Little does she know that this is all a set-up engineered by one of her best friends to sucker her into becoming a high class prostitute. Pretty soon the guy she likes disappears, his place is taken by others, and poor Beth starts to dislike what she sees in the mirror. The key with these housewife sexploitation books is to convincingly draw the main character into a life of vice, and the more seamlessly and realistically it's done, the better the book. Part-Time Call Girl is pretty good for the genre. We bought Beth as a character, and ultimately empathized with her plight. And that's pretty much all you can ask.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1914—RMS Empress Sinks
Canadian Pacific Steamships' 570 foot ocean liner Empress of Ireland is struck amidships by a Norwegian coal freighter and sinks in the Gulf of St. Lawrence with the loss of 1,024 lives. Submerged in 130 feet of water, the ship is so easily accessible to treasure hunters who removed valuables and bodies from the wreck that the Canadian government finally passes a law in 1998 restricting access.
1937—Chamberlain Becomes Prime Minister
Arthur Neville Chamberlain, who is known today mainly for his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938 which conceded the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany and was supposed to appease Adolf Hitler's imperial ambitions, becomes prime minister of Great Britain. At the time Chamberlain is the second oldest man, at age sixty-eight, to ascend to the office. Three years later he would give way to Winston Churchill.
1930—Chrysler Building Opens
In New York City, after a mere eighteen months of construction, the Chrysler Building opens to the public. At 1,046 feet, 319 meters, it is the tallest building in the world at the time, but more significantly, William Van Alen's design is a landmark in art deco that is celebrated to this day as an example of skyscraper architecture at its most elegant.
1969—Jeffrey Hunter Dies
American actor Jeffrey Hunter dies of a cerebral hemorrhage after falling down a flight of stairs and sustaining a skull fracture, a mishap precipitated by his suffering a stroke seconds earlier. Hunter played many roles, including Jesus in the 1961 film King of Kings, but is perhaps best known for portraying Captain Christopher Pike in the original Star Trek pilot episode "The Cage".
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