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.
I always wanted to do more for the less fortunate, but I never knew sharing could feel so good.
Beacon-Signal was mighty prolific with sleaze novels during the 1960s. We've read such gems as Lady Cop, The Man Eating Angel, and the out-there classic Troubled Star. Brad Hart's 1963 sleazer Bella Vista's Wives, for which you see uncredited cover and original art above and below, has the expected sex, but also delves in a believable way into the details of fundraising from the rich, as main character Bob Jennings is hired to raise millions for an upgrade to Bella Vista's hospital. Little known but proven fact about giving—the poor give more than the rich, as a percentage of income. High bracket folks give the most when measured in sheer dollars, but on the whole get stingier the richer they get. Thanks to Hart we now know why—the rich are busy trying to screw each other's spouses. As sleaze goes this was brilliant. When has a sex novel ever explained the tax breaks behind making charitable gifts of appreciated stocks? Only here. Game, set, and match—Brad Hart.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1954—Joseph McCarthy Disciplined by Senate
In the United States, after standing idly by during years of communist witch hunts in Hollywood and beyond, the U.S. Senate votes 65 to 22 to condemn Joseph McCarthy for conduct bringing the Senate into dishonor and disrepute. The vote ruined McCarthy's career.
1955—Rosa Parks Sparks Bus Boycott
In the U.S., in Montgomery, Alabama, seamstress Rosa Parks refuses to give her bus seat to a white man and is arrested for violating the city's racial segregation laws, an incident which leads to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The boycott resulted in a crippling financial deficit for the Montgomery public transit system, because the city's African-American population were the bulk of the system's ridership.
1936—Crystal Palace Gutted by Fire
In London, the landmark structure Crystal Palace, a 900,000 square foot glass and steel exhibition hall erected in 1851, is destroyed by fire. The Palace had been moved once and fallen into disrepair, and at the time of the fire was not in use. Two water towers survived the blaze, but these were later demolished, leaving no remnants of the original structure.
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