*gasp!* Mom, stop seducing my boyfriends! Or at least wait until I get to have them.
Ann Lawrence's Jezebel's Daughter, which Uni Books put out in 1952, was formerly published in 1934 as Mother and Daughter, which is useful to know if you decide to read this, because it explains the social attitudes on display. If the prose is presumed to be accurately reflective of the social mores of the 1930s, then the lesson is that women had little control over their own bodies. The protagonist Constance Hastings is physically manhandled often, prevented from leaving places when she wants, pushed, pulled, and dragged wherever men want her, kissed against her will, stalked as a matter of course, and grabbed by the shoulders and shaken hard twice just for expressing dissent. In addition, she's seventeen, which strikes us as a young target for men in their thirties.
That's all interesting background, but this is still fiction, so what's most important is the story, and even once you accept the social differences, this one isn't successful. Basically, Constance has a stepmom, Marguerite, whose love of sex makes her constantly cheat on Constance's mostly out-of-town dad. Constance seeks to understand why, and in so doing gets sucked into her stepmom's soap opera of a life. Will she turn into her stepmom? We wish she would have. The book would have been a lot more fun. Luckily, we got it as part of a lot, and every other book in the stack was good or excellent, but we recommend giving this one a pass. The cover art here is generally thought to be by Bernard Safran, a conclusion with which we agree.
Well, I don't care who told you the pond is safe. I'm telling you it's toxic and you better climb out right now.
Above: a nice cover by Bernard Safran for the Croyden Books sleazer Mountain Sinner, written by Delmar Kingsland and published in 1953. We borrowed this from Sleazy Digest Books, a fun blogspot that has fueled some of our favorite purchases. Kingsland was actually James W. Lampp, who was also Amos Hatter, Ben West, Frederic Spencer, Homer Hatten, Anne Farrington, and William Vaneer, so add another pseudonym to his ledger—possibly his best. Even Lampp was a fake name. His real name, according to his 1994 obituary, was Lumpp. No wonder he hoarded pen names. We've featured him a lot, and the best way see those entries is to click here and scroll. Also, women surprised while skinny dipping is yet another common motif in mid-century paperback art. See more examples here, here, and here.
*sigh* All the gluttony, drunkenness, and lust have been fun, but I need variety. You know—reviling, unholiness. Really esoteric ones.
Above: a cover by Bernard Safran for Sin Cruise, Croyden Books sleaze from the typewriter of Florence Stonebraker, 1954, about a virgin named Maggie Thompson who has a boatborne sexual adventure on a cruise out of New York City. As we've mentioned before, it was pro forma to have the female protagonist of these tales laid by a minimum of two different men, often three, though one time is often by accident (we won't even get into that), and in this case they're Jeff, John, and—atypically—Carlos Cardoza, latin lover. Atypical because we haven't seen anything but WASPs populate the male ranks of these books. It must have been a little risqué for 1954, but we doubt he's the last man standing. We'll see when we read it, which we can't do now because we have more than fifty vintage books waiting. With luck, we'll get to them all.
A funny thing—someone was selling a shit-quality black-and-white postcard of the cover of Sin Cruise for almost as much the book vendor was selling the novel. Just look at that thing. Did they make it by hand? Is that white-out on the top right? Even for a postcard this is really lame, but hey, everybody's gotta hustle. If they can sell this terrible merch, well, that's fine. But they surely will never sell it to us.
And speaking of buying and selling, we've been buying a lot of sleaze digests (you may have noticed our write-ups on some of them over the past couple of years, such as here, here, here, and here), and if you plan to purchase any, note that pricing can be all over the place. We don't recommend spending more than twenty dollars per book. Almost without fail, the digest you see asking fifty or sixty bucks will turn up months later, offered by a different vendor for a pittance. Patience is needed, but it'll be rewarded.
Seriously, though, haven't you ever wondered why I don't replace you with someone who has actual secretarial skills?
First of all, 1953's Love-Hungry Boss is not the same book as 1954's Love-Crazy Millionaire. The confusion could be excused—the titles are close, both came from Croyden Books, and the art on both covers is by Bernard Safran. But Love-Crazy Millionaire was written by Gordon Semple, while Love-Hungry Boss is from the mind and typewriter of Peggy Gaddis. It's about a young hottie named Leona Hale who takes a job at an Atlanta film distribution company and sets her sights on the principle owner Gordon. What she doesn't know is that Gordon, though handsome, charming, and generous, is also a serial womanizer. When Leona meets his wife and three children she breaks off the affair only to find herself smitten with a senior partner. She moves on to greener mattresses, but Gordon won't let her go, so what results is a classic love triangle with the usual trappings—lies, betrayals, misunderstandings, and plenty of the old horizontal slip 'n' slide. These books were racy for their time, but these days the sex is about junior high level, in terms of explicitness. However, the stories can still be involving if competently written, and Gaddis is a decent stylist who makes Love-Hungry Boss an entertaining and speedy read. We have a few more of her books, so we'll revisit her in a little bit.
Since you're standing there, refill me, would ya? And if the chauffeur's union asks, tell them you drove me to drink.
Above: fun Bernard Safran art for Florence Stonebraker's 1954 sleazer Confessions of a Ladies' Chauffeur, for Croyden Books. We have other Stonebrakers, so we passed on this for $65. If it ever goes down we'll buy it and update this post. You have noticed we sometimes do that, right? Like this Stonebraker we updated not long ago.
What can I say? My parents taught me to always demand more.
Above, classic sleaze from Gordon Semple, Man-Crazy Hussy, aka Blonde Temptress, 1954, from Croydon Books. Often these novels seriously examined ’50s stereotypes, particularly those concerning what was appropriate sexual behavior for women, but the authors had little control when their serious stories were given crazy titles and wrapped in titillating covers. We can't tell you whether this novel is an attempt at real literature or if it's pure sleaze, because we aren't going to pay thirty bucks for it. We never go above ten dollars per—including shipping. But we're tempted. The art here is by Bernard Safran. See another example of his work here.
*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. The cover art here is by Bernard Safran, and was adapted from a piece that originally appeared on the front of 1953's Male Virgin.
Just ignore my daughter. She gets bitchy whenever she thinks I don't spend enough time with our son.
Bernard Safran is an artist we don't see nearly enough of, considering how much we like his work. He's responsible for the above cover of Love Cult, by William Vaneer for Croyden Books, 1953. The art tells all. A naive young woman rushes into marriage and finds herself trapped in a polygamous commune in the isolated Ozarks. In short order she loses her bodily autonomy, her virginity, and her dignity—but not her desire to escape. An unlikely alliance gives her a chance, but she still needs to outwit her husband somehow, and he's clever, mean, sneaky, and violent. Giving him the slip will take some work. We won't reveal more, except to mention that author William Vaneer is really James W. Lampp under a pseudonym.
Did we ever mention that there's a commune in our town? Actually, its residents live not in town, but on a hill a half mile to the east. They grow stuff up there and sell it in a local shop they own down in the main tourist area. They also run a restaurant. When you go in they try to interest you in their various communities in different countries, and are inordinately smiley and nice. Like in-your-personal-space nice. One time a waitress squeezed into a booth with us to take our lunch order, which was creepy enough that we never went back. But after reading Vaneer's potboiler maybe we'll visit again just to find out what they're smiling about. If you never hear from us again it's because we're having culty sex up on the hill.
It looks amazing, baby. Er... aaaand should look even better on my lovely wife. Thanks for letting me test it on your neck.
Sometimes when you're caught you're caught. You can try and brazen the moment out, but it usually does no good, at least in mid-century fiction. From there it's just a short distance to mayhem, murder, trials, prison, and all the other fun stuff that makes genre fiction worth reading. From James M. Cain's iconic The Postman Always Rings Twice to J.X. Williams' ridiculous The Sin Scene, infidelity is one of the most reliable and common plot devices. What isn't common is cover art that depicts the precise moment of being caught. Of all the cover collections we've put together, this was the hardest one for which to find examples, simply because there are no easy search parameters. We managed a grand total of sixteen (yes, there's a third person on the cover of Ed Schiddel's The Break-Up—note the hand pushing open the door). The artists here are L.B. Cole, Harry Schaare, Tom Miller, Bernard Safran, and others. And we have thre more excellent examples of this theme we posted a while back. Check here, here, and here.
Fine. Explain. But don't turn around. I hate your face so much right now I might shoot it on general principle.
Above, a cover for Erle Stanley Gardner's The Case of the Haunted Husband, eighteenth in the acclaimed Perry Mason series, from Pocket Books. Generally considered one of the best Mason mysteries, this one tells the story of a female hitchhiker who accepts a ride from a guy who gets a little too handsy, leading to a multi-car crack-up. The woman awakens behind the wheel, with the driver nowhere to be seen, and a fatality in one of the other cars. The cops don't believe she wasn't the driver, so they arrest her and charge her with negligent homicide. Things get worse when the car turns out to be stolen, and suddenly she's on the hook for that too. Enter Perry Mason. Nothing is haunted in this book, but the mystery is a winner. We also were reminded how effective short chapters can be in drawing a reader into a story. The hardback of The Case of the Haunted Husband appeared in 1941, and the above paperback with Bernard Safran art followed in 1949.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
2009—Farrah Fawcett Dies
American actress Farrah Fawcett, who started as a model but became famous after one season playing detective Jill Munroe on the television show Charlie's Angels
after a long battle with cancer.
1938—Chicora Meteor Lands
In the U.S., above Chicora, Pennsylvania, a meteor estimated to have weighed 450 metric tons explodes in the upper atmosphere and scatters fragments across the sky. Only four small pieces are ever discovered, but scientists estimate that the meteor, with an explosive power of about three kilotons of TNT, would have killed everyone for miles around if it had detonated in the city.
1973—Peter Dinsdale Commits First Arson
A fire at a house in Hull, England, kills a six year old boy and is believed to be an accident until it later is discovered to be a case of arson. It is the first of twenty-six deaths by fire caused over the next seven years by serial-arsonist Peter Dinsdale. Dinsdale is finally captured in 1981, pleads guilty to multiple manslaughter, and is detained indefinitely under Britain's Mental Health Act as a dangerous psychotic.
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