Vintage Pulp Apr 29 2024
PICK YOUR POISON
It's the old love triangle: man, woman, and liquor.


​​​​Charles Willeford's 1956 novel Pick-Up is fronted by the work of Frank Uppwall, who we've featured here once before. We've featured a bit more of Willeford. In this one a down-on-his-luck San Francisco diner counterman named Harry Jordan meets a down-on-her-luck customer named Helen Meredith and sparks fly. Also flying in short order are emotional turmoil, tears and regrets, and unsound life choices. The duo mostly drink and dream. They fall into a mutual depression. They make a suicide pact but fail in their wrist-slashing attempt to shuffle off this mortal coil. They check themselves into a hospital for mental care but manifest no discernible benefits. Finally they return to their downward spirals of alcoholic self-medication. The story is a bit like a noirish Days of Wine and Roses, as Harry is able to keep a grip on his drinking but Helen isn't. When you reach the end you'll go, "Huh?" and wonder whether you should read the entire thing again. It's a black tale. Willeford might not be the best writer, but his ideas are definitely unique. 

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Vintage Pulp Apr 14 2024
ONLY FANS
You don't mind if I keep the blinds up, do you? The guys in the building across the street like to watch.


Above: a cover for the 1963 novel Bachelor Girl by Francis Loren. This was painted by acknowledged master Robert Maguire. As for Loren, we'll soon find out about him. We have one of his novels on deck. We've put together a couple of collections of covers featuring Venetian blinds. You can see those here and here

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Vintage Pulp Feb 27 2024
ONE NIGHT UNDERSTANDING
I want to remember everything about this experience. For starters tell me your name.


The 1962 novel Witch with Blue Eyes, which you see here with its Ernest Chiriacka cover art, is about a man who quits a big hotel operation, hires on as manager of the Snug Haven roadside motel, but must battle two craven partners in order to turn it from a shady dive into a respectable success. The hours and stress test his marriage to the owner's daughter, and problems worsen when his former lover—the eponymous witch with blue eyes—arrives on the scene (accompanied by her evil cat Big Bad) to ruin him. The book was presented by publishers Beacon-Signal as sleaze, but it's virtually sexless, and as a pure drama it's flatter than a flapjack. We suggest you don't check in to this motel. 

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Vintage Pulp Feb 1 2024
HEALTH FREAK
If you don't mind, let's stop for a moment so I can call in a nurse. I'm into threesomes.

More sleaze from Beacon-Signal, this time in the medical sub-genre, with Elaine Dorian's, aka Isabel Moore's 1962 effort The Sex Cure. We last saw her when we read her 1961 novel Love Now Pay Later, which was marketed as sleaze but was actually rather ambitious. There's more deceptive marketing here. The Sex Cure has a certain amount of eroticism, but what you mainly get is the serious tale of a philandering doctor trying to change his ways after his latest girlfriend almost dies from an illegal abortion.

This is not, strictly speaking, entirely the doctor's fault. He'd given his girlfriend money and sent her to a reliable practitioner, but she'd kept most of the cash, went cheap on the procedure, and it cost her. To the doc's dismay, because she'd had to speak to police about the incident, his name is out and his reputation is ruined. There's more to the book, as well as numerous characters and subplots, but is it worth reading? Well, as a pure drama it's nothing special, and it isn't erotic enough to be sleaze, so we can't recommend it.

However, it does have an interesting backstory. Apparently it was based on actual goings-on in Cooperstown, New York. The story goes that when Dorian moved there in 1961 the locals learned or already knew that she was a novelist, and in their zeal to cozy up to a local celebrity passed along the town's gossip. Dorian repackaged much of what she heard into The Sex Cure, and when the townspeople got wind of the novel's contents they were displeased. You can read the entire story at New York Magazine here.

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Vintage Pulp Jul 17 2021
EXCEPTIONALLY GRIFTED
It's a dog sucker dog world out there. Or something along those lines.


It's been more than a year since we read anything from the prolific Orrie Hitt, and that's too long, for though he may not be a literary master, he's always interesting. In 1957's The Sucker, a tough and amoral hustler named Slade Harper gets involved in an auto parts business, decides to cut out the owner, and bed his beautiful business partner as a bonus. Pretty soon Harper and the femme fatale are in the plot together, but the owner of this automotive concern may not be quite as gullible as he seems, and it's not so clear who's the sucker and who's the suckee. Wait, that's wrong. Would it be a... sucker and a sucked? A sucker and a suckered?

Doesn't matter. The point is Hitt's tale of round robin cons is better than usual for him. It's impressively hard-boiled, basically an attempt to channel James M. Cain, and not a bad one, all in all. Hitt often wrote ridiculous sleaze but this is solidly in the crime category, with a bit of kinkiness mixed in just so you know he hasn't gone soft. Erm... so to speak. The one aspect of The Sucker we didn't like were the portentous chapter endings that popped up at regular intervals. Here's an example where Slade Harper is about to do the nasty with a disabled beauty to whom he's taken a shine:

It's alright,” I said, staring at the metal wheelchair. “I won't be sorry at all.”

And I wasn't.

Here's another one, with a different woman:

Wait for me,” I said.

At my place?

You know where.”

I know where,” she whispered.

And she did.

It's just a stylistic flourish, a way of ending each chapter with emphasis, but it still feels like overkill. However, in his career Hitt had some misses, so we have to call this one a triumph, considering his spotty oeuvre. The book also has one of the more striking covers you'll find on a Hitt novel, painted by Warren King, whose work verges on impressionistic, particularly in the patch of grass his two figures have chosen to recline upon. Those wheat yellows and sky blues are beautifully combined. He's really grown on us, and if Hitt can maintain at least the level of writing he does here in The Sucker, so will he.
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Vintage Pulp Jun 6 2021
TOTALLY DOPE
Some people just can't say no.


Above is an alternate cover for N.R. de Mexico's classic drug sleaze novel Marijuana Girl, a surprisingly good tale of addiction and redemption we wrote about last year. That edition was from Uni Books and had a photo cover. This Beacon edition has a nice painted cover, which is signed but illegible. Have any idea whose signature this is below? Drop us a line.
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Vintage Pulp May 7 2021
WHIPPING AND HANDLING
This is one tough dame. I think it's time we tried Thai food, a few glasses of white wine, and a back rub.


No! Not the back rub! Anything but that! It'll work, though. And once she starts talking she'll give up the details on everyone. Occasionally you read a book and it isn't anything like you expected. We knew A.E. Van Vogt was a science fiction writer, but we figured that—like others in his literary niche—he dabbled in crime or sleaze fiction early in his career. And perhaps he did, but not with this book. It starts with a quasi-detective character believing he's rescuing a woman from whip wielding villains, but soon takes a left turn to involve secret Central American cults and an ancient marble house that bestows its inhabitants with eternal life, with the protagonist of course refusing at every step to believe what he's seeing. It's a fascinating concept, but Van Vogt forgot to piece his tale together in a way that allows the narrative to gel. We give it major points for weirdness, but demerits for execution. Interesting effort, though. The cover art on this Beacon edition from 1960 is by Gerald McConnell.

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Vintage Pulp Apr 5 2021
NO REST FOR THE WICKED
Wait, you can sleep in it too? Huh. I never thought of that.


Suburbanites romp across the moist landscape of sexual liberation in Dean McCoy's 1962 novel No Empty Bed for Her, which is nicely descriptive for the title of a sleaze novel. With characters named Biff Kincaid, Carol, Charlie Bixby, et al, this is as milquetoast as the cast of a book gets, but it's written in ernest, as frustrated wife Glenna ends up on a cross country trip with her boozehound husband Hunt, and finds herself more interested in cheating every time he screws up. Which he does with almost hilarious frequency. Will this pampered housewife give in to a rough hewn trucker's charms? Would it be a sleaze novel if she didn't? Most of the sex action, though, takes place not in bed but in the trucker's sleeper cab. We'll say this much for McCoy—he gives these books his all. This is his best since Sexbound.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 12 2019
RED HOT PLANET
Ditch the spacesuit, big boy, and I'll give you a totally different kind of terrain to explore.


This cover for Cyril Judd's 1961 Mars based sci-fi novel Sin in Space makes the book look like ridiculous sleaze but there's serious ambition here. We discerned this in the first five pages thanks to the undefined jargon, numerous made-up place names, and copious technical language that's supposed to understood through context. The nomenclature of life on Mars, the minerals that are mined, Mars Machine Tool, greeners, marcaine, and much more, are all woven together by Judd (a pseudonym for Cyril Kornbluth and Judith Merril) in an attempt to create a believable alternate reality of a human colony on Mars.

Earth has numerous problems and independence is thought by Mars colonists to mean an escape from those issues. But the colony has a few problems of its own. Most importantly, a stash of drugs has gone missing and if it doesn't reappear the consequences, both political and existential, will be dire. Meanwhile, even though forty years of colonization has turned up no Martian life, sightings of so-called “brownies” are on the upswing, but are dismissed as fantasies. Do these brownies exist? Well, they're more likely to turn up than the rampant sin of the book's title. Check out this passage, which we've edited a bit for brevity:

You got born into a hate-thy-neighbor, envy-thy-neighbor, murder-thy-neighbor culture. Naked dictatorship and leader worship, oligarchy and dollar-worship. Middle classes with their relatively sane families were growing smaller and being ground out of existence as still more black dirt washed into the ocean and more hungry mouths were born and prices went higher and higher. How long before it blew up? The damned, poverty-ridden, swarming Earth, short of food, short of soil, short of metals, short of everything except vicious resentments and aggressions bred by other shortages.”

Does that sound like sleaze to you? Us either. Sin in Space is a serious book, but far less interesting than it should be, considering the fertile setting. Put it in the wildly misleading bin thanks to its title and the cover by artist Robert Stanley. We mentioned the drugs subplot. That's so far in the background it barely qualifies as a plot driver. The sin of the title actually refers to the fact that a reporter writes an article falsely telling everyone on Earth the Martian colony is a hotbed of vice, thus threatening its status. That's still not a good reason for the sensational title or titillating art, but we don't really mind. A piece of sleazy art—even misplaced—always brightens the day. 

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
May 27
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".
May 25
1938—Alicante Is Bombed
During the Spanish Civil War, a squadron of Italian bombers sent by fascist dictator Benito Mussolini to support the insurgent Spanish Nationalists, bombs the town of Alicante, killing more than three-hundred people. Although less remembered internationally than the infamous Nazi bombing of Guernica the previous year, the death toll in Alicante is similar, if not higher.
1977—Star Wars Opens
George Lucas's sci-fi epic Star Wars premiers in the Unites States to rave reviews and packed movie houses. Produced on a budget of $11 million, the film goes on to earn $460 million in the U.S. and $337 million overseas, while spawning a franchise that would eventually earn billions and make Lucas a Hollywood icon.
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