|Vintage Pulp||May 19 2022|
So just out of curiosity, why aren't you paddling an Uber? Seems like everyone else is.
This spectacular cover for Thomas Sterling's Murder in Venice was painted by James Hill, an artist of obvious skill but one we rarely encounter. The book was originally published in 1955 as The Evil of the Day, with this beautiful Dell edition coming in 1959. Sterling tells the tale of a man named Cecil Fox who invites three guests from abroad to his Venetian mansion in order to pretend he's near death and tease them with the promise of inheriting his wealth. These three guests are people he's not had much contact with in recent years, which makes the game even more delicious for him, the way the trio feel plucked from their lives of obscurity to possibly be gifted wealth and status. Factions form and subterfuges abound, but everything is thrown into disarray when one of the guests is murdered. Was it to eliminate a possible inheritor? To add intrigue to the game? Or for other, unguessable reasons?
Go with option three. The whole point of murder mysteries is to be unguessable. Murder in Venice is a pretty good puzzler, with a small set of curious characters and a few forays into the Venetian night. Sterling gets inside the head of his protagonist Celia Johns quite effectively. She's the personal assistant to one of the invitees, and thus has no skin in the game. She just wants a fair wage for a fair day's work. At least that what she says. Her host Mr. Fox, on the other hand, seems to think everyone is corruptible, and everyone is money hungry—it's just a matter of baiting the hook in the right way. He thinks he knows most people better than they know themselves, and he doesn't see Celia as any sort of exception.
While Murder in Venice is a mystery, it's also a minor sociological examination of what it means to some people to be rich but face losing their money, and what it means to others to not value money at all. Sterling scored a success, but interestingly, he borrowed the idea from Ben Johnson's play Volpone, which premiered way back in 1606. Sterling was up front about his inspiration, and within his novel the play even makes an appearance on a drawing room shelf. Frederick Knott, who wrote the famed plays Wait Until Dark and Dial M for Murder, later adapted Sterling's novel into a 1959 play called Mr. Fox of Venice. The next year the book was published in France as Le Tricheur de Venise and won Sterling the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière for foreign authors. And finally, Joseph Mankiewicz combined the original play, Sterling's novel, and Knott's play into a 1967 movie called The Honey Pot.
When material gets recycled to that extent, it's usually good, and Sterling does his part. He was a diplomat before becoming an author and lived in Italy for years, so we would have liked more color from someone who obviously knew Venice well, but he's an interesting writer even without the aid of scenery, as in this moment of musing from Celia: She said, “my sleep,” as though it were, “my dress,” or, “my ring.” It belonged to her. Every night had a certain amount, and if she lost it she was frantic. She had forgotten that sleep was not a thing, it was a country. You couldn't get it, you had to go there. And it was never lost. Sometimes you missed a train, but there was always another coming after. In the meantime, neither the green hills nor the nightmare forests ever changed. They stayed where they were and you went to them. And sooner or later you would go and not come back.
ItalyFranceVeniceGrand Prix de Littérature PolicièreThe Honey PotWait Until DarkDial M for MurderThomas SterlingJames HillJoseph Mankiewiczcover artliterature
|Intl. Notebook||May 10 2022|
It was a place filled with natural wonders.
We found this advertising flyer for Abe Weinstein's famed Dallas burlesque venue the Colony Club floating around online, and we think its lovely model and deliberately skewed text make it interesting enough to share. An image search doesn't reveal where online it originated, but its size (1,600 pixels wide) causes us to suspect it first appeared on someone's blog. Abe Weinstein, along with his brother Barney, was a big player in the Dallas nightclub scene, and dancers that passed through his clubs included Lili St. Cyr and Candy Barr.
As the line-up from May 10th to 23rd 1954 indicates, musical entertainment was part of the draw too, helping to attract not just men, but couples. The lingerie-clad woman, presumably a dancer, gracing the front of this flyer is not known to us. We figure she could be the Joan King mentioned, but there were no images of Joan King online when we searched. We'll keep an eye out. In the meantime, if any of you can identify this person, feel free to get in contact.
The infamous Jack Ruby owned a club called the Carousel on the same street as the Colony. While the Colony worked to cultivate an aura of reputability, Ruby's club was a dive that he opened above a delicatessen two doors away in hopes of capturing Colony's overflow. His musical entertainment was a bump and grind band, he sometimes showed porno reels before the dancers went onstage, and some of the girls were said to moonlight as prostitutes.
Ruby and Weinstein didn't get along. Weinstein even barred Ruby from the Colony for trying to hire away the staff, and, according to Weinstein, Ruby threatened to kill him a week before he shot Lee Harvey Oswald. Just another tidbit from the dark annals of American history. But back to the original subject of burlesque, we have dozens of entries about it. We can't find all of them right now because time is short today and there are more than 6,400 posts in the site, but we located some good ones here, here, here, here, here, and here.
Abe Weinstein surrounded by some of his dancers.
DallasLili St. CyrAbe WeinsteinPaul DanaJoan KingTony CraigMarcia EdgingtonJack RubyLee Harvey Oswaldburlesque
|Vintage Pulp||Apr 30 2022|
Okay, in she goes. Now I just need some bubble wrap and a dozen or so pine air fresheners and she's good to ship.
This is such a macabre image, a man stuffing a woman's corpse in a crate, that we probably should have posted it around Halloween. 1958's Et un cercueil pour Cecilia was written by Francis Richard, aka Paul Bérato, for Société d'Editions Générale and its collection Service Secret 078. This is one of those tales where the author pretends to be the hero. In other words, it was written by Bérato as Francis Richard, but the main character is also named Francis Richard, and he's a globetrotting spy who heads to Chile on a mission, where the villains apparently crate up corpses. Though the grim art on this is not attributed, others in the series were signed E.G. or F.G. and the style here is similar. Unfortunately, we don't know who E.G. or F.G. is.
|Vintage Pulp||Mar 29 2022|
Something in Mimsy Farmer's creepy old apartment building definitely doesn't smell right.
It's been a year, so we're retruring to giallo cinema today with Il profumo della signora in nero, known in English as The Perfume of the Lady in Black. The waifish Mimsy Farmer plays a chemical engineer working in Italy who begins experiencing macabre visions or hallucinations. Are these hauntings due to emerging psychological trauma triggered by the suicide of her mother years earlier? Are they somehow related to her university professor friend Andy, an expert on African religious rituals? Or maybe they're being staged by her pervy neighbor, or dissatisfied boyfriend, or weirdo girlfriend Francesca. An eerie psychic reading set up by her friends certainly doesn't help Farmer's mental stability. Shortly after that fiasco a little girl shows up at her door. Is she a manifestation of Farmer's younger self? What the hell is going on?
Well, it's giallo, so you just can't know. The genre typically involves an intersection of horror and mystery sprinkled with visual non sequiturs, indecipherable clues, and incomprehensible behavior. Mixed in are the usual details: garish lighting, rain and thunder, a disconcerting music box, unexplained disappearances, random cats, bug-eyed strangers, discordant violins, and so forth. In addition, the endings of giallos are usually meant to surprise, and in most cases you'll say to yourself, “Wait—wasn't there an easier way to get all that accomplished?” This one, which has a big reveal in more ways than one, brings up that question. But don't think about it too deeply. It's giallo. We can't say this example is good, but we will say Mimsy Farmer is extremely appealing. You might even call her... appetizing. You'll see what we mean if you watch the film. Il profumo della signora in nero premiered in Italy today in 1974
ItalyIl profumo della signora in neroThe Perfume of the Lady in BlackMimsy FarmerMaurizio BonugliaMario ScacciaNike ArrighiDonna Jordanposter artcinemamovie reviewgiallo
|Intl. Notebook||Mar 13 2022|
It's never far below the surface of things.
Recently a friend bought a flat, and tucked away under some floorboards was a cache of fascist artifacts. You see one of those above—an oil portrait of Spain's fascist dictator Francisco Franco, clad in his generalissimo uniform, in the full bloom of power. The Spanish Civil War fueled so much literature. Hemingway, Orwell, Sartre, Ramón Sender, and Graham Greene all wrote important works about the war. You notice there's only one Spanish writer in that list? Obviously, due to censorship the best Spanish books came after Franco was gone, which puts them out of our purview, time-wise. But there are numerous Spanish writers who later tackled the subject brilliantly, for example Jesús Torbado.
We think these items we've posted today are excellent examples of real-world pulp. Just below is the yoke and arrows, an old symbol from the 1400s, adopted by the fascist Falange in 1934, and widely utilizedby the nationalist rebels during the Civil War. With the help of Hitler and Mussolini they prevailed in the conflict, after which the Falange became Spain's only legal political party, with the yoke and arrows one of its main symbols. This example is made of brass. Below that is a fascist flag, and you see the yoke and arrows on it, separated left and right on the bottom. This particular flag is not a perfect match with any we saw online, but it resembles the Spanish Army flag used between 1940 and 1945.
Since we were simply tagging along that morning to look at the newly purchased flat and hadn't expected to uncover any treasures, we weren't carrying a camera or cellphone. At first we asked our friend to shoot the items on his phone, but we quickly realized he didn't understand that we needed clear, steady imagery, so we took over the photography chores and had him and PI-1 hold the stuff. But somehow we got mixed up and didn't reshoot one of the items, and all we have is our friend's blurry shot of it.
That would be the panel below, which features PI-1 holding a cross and wreath of some sort that we've been unable to find anywhere online. We really wish we'd gotten a better photo of it, but by the time we looked at what we had, which was days later, our friend had given away everything.
The bullets need no explanation, but the pennant just above does. It was made for the Reunión Nacional de Instructores de Formación Politica—the National Meeting of Political Training Instructors—which was held in 1955 in Valencia. Obviously that was a convention to train educators in how to indoctrinate students into fascist ideas.
The next panel, just below, shows a pamphlet written by politican José Maria Codón titled La Familia en la Pensamiento de la Tradición, which means The Family in the Thought of Tradition, published in 1959. Fascists were all about traditional family, and of course that meant women had few rights, being reduced in the ideals of the Falange to little more than housewives and baby incubators.
The last panel, below, shows the portrait of Francisco Franco just after we found it, and we suggest that if you have a portrait of any living politician in your home and you're not related to him or her, you're pretty far gone. The portrait is signed, but we can't identify the artist. IL something or LL something. Not Cool J, though considering Franco's regime abducted 300,000 children and sold thousands of them to couples as far away as South America, a lot of people would have fared better with a rapper in charge. Actually, it isn't fair to LL Cool J to set the bar that low. He'd do fine period. You also see in that shot PI-1's shapely stems.
"Fascist" is the epithet du jour, but these artifacts were a reminder that important historical terms are cheapened by internet hoardes applying them to every school board head, municipal bureaucrat, and cable series showrunner with whom they disagree. Some leaders and personalities definitely deserve the label, obviously. As we mentioned above, our friend gave everything away, though we weren't clear whether it was wanted for academic or personal reasons. We thought perhaps a museum might be a good place for it all, but the items don't appear to have great value. For example, we found some Codón pamphlets on sale online for three euros. But even if they aren't worth much in cash, there was value for us in seeing them. We wouldn't have traded the morning for anything.
|Intl. Notebook||Feb 21 2022|
Swiss bank receives long deserved exposure thanks to data leak.
We're occasionally asked why we don't do modern true crime write-ups as often as we once did. There are a couple of reasons. We actually have jobs, and the research on crime stories is time consuming. But secondly, modern day swindles, scams, and corruption are out of control to the extent that writing about them seems redundant. But we're making an exception today because one of our previous subjects, who we wrote about way back in 2009, has popped up in the news again. That would be Hisham Talaat Moustafa, who was sentenced to death for hiring out the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Lebanese pop star Suzanne Tamim. His was one of thousands of names just revealed in a massive financial data leak from Credit Suisse, one of the most prestigious banks in Switzerland, which hides money for the richest people in the world.
We think everyone knows Swiss banks are corrupt, right? Their first secrecy laws were adopted in 1713. It's safe to say they've been corrupt for almost that long. Over the years Credit Suisse's clients have included Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, who stole $10 billion from the Philippine treasury, Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, Panamanian drug lord and CIA informant Manuel Noriega, thousands of Nazis who were hiding their expropriations, and countless shady shell companies. One can insert the usual objections about taxes here, but the point is that regularpeople must pay them, yet the rich and powerful somehow always manage to avoid their fair share, even when they've generated their loot through illegal or even genocidal means. As with many morally rudderless institutions and people, what Swiss banks do is perfectly legal, but “perfectly legal” is the phrase uttered by people who know they're willfully engaged in behavior that obviously should be illegal—and in fact is illegal for everyone but the rich and connected.
Credit Suisse is trying to pretend that the leak reveals old accounts from before the bank cleaned up its practices (which it never substantially did), but the spin won't be effective because the data reveals that the bank is currently holding money for human traffickers, drug lords, oligarchs, stock cheats, treasury looters, mafia kingpins and—in the case of Hisham Moustafa—murderers. Correction—pardoned murderers, since he was released thanks to presidential decree in 2017. The information on all this corruption was originally passed to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung via an anonymous whistleblower, and the odds are good that in a matter of weeks or months that currently unknown person will be outed and have to make a full time job of trying to avoid the total destruction of his or her life and a prison sentence—no pardon pending.
Tax and corruption problems have exploded globally as elite greed has grown, the profits from criminality have soared, digital technology has created previously-unheard-of fortunes, offshoring of profits has become standard practice, deregulation and the de-facto dissolving of anti-trust laws have allowed corporations to grow more powerful than countries, and austerity has shrunk or eliminated the enforcement mechanisms of public institutions. In fact, in addition to funneling money from regular people to corporations and the rich, the other point of austerity is to shrink government to prevent it prying into the affairs of corporations and the rich. Libertarians rejoice. Insider trading, commodities fraud, and money laundering are all now rampant, and there's nothing people can do about it because the government institutions meant to be centers of oversight were taken over by the rich decades ago.
Moustafa paid to have his girlfriend knifed to death. Unlike murderers able to hide behind the fig leaf of non-conviction, his guilt was established as a fact during a criminal court proceeding. He was sentenced to hanging but was retried and had his punishment reduced to a mere fifteen years. He spent, in total before his pardon, nine years in a country club prison, and all the while managed his wealth, built up his billions, andcame out of jail not disgraced and shunned, but welcomed, feted, and once again demanding and receiving VIP treatment, the best tables in the best restaurants, and the ear of the global elite. He threw a few coins to charity along the way to spit-shine his reputation, had his thriving conglomerate Talaat Moustafa Group donate some COVID vaccines, but still he's a murderer who wriggled loose from the hangman's noose, and today enjoys every privilege he ever enjoyed—while his victim is dead forever.
This is the place in which we find ourselves. We all understand, if we actually absorb factual information rather than apologist propaganda or fanciful myth, that the rich have fucked up this world, and the rest of us, as well as future generations, are going to pay to clean up the mess. If it can even be cleaned up, which is doubtful. And that's why we stopped writing about modern crime and corruption. It's pointless. It's banal. Writing about old crimes is an escape, a window into history and the mad hearts of men and women who are long, long gone. Writing about current crimes is self-flagellation. We'll still do it on occasion when the urge strikes, like today, but we're well aware that people tend to complain more as time goes by and we don't want to fall into that trap. We want Pulp Intl. to be a place of entertainment and wonder—by which we mean amazing art, exciting fiction, bizarre historical and Hollywood facts, and beautiful women.
GermanyEgyptLebanonRomaniaPanamaSwitzerlandPhilippinesSüddeutsche ZeitungCIAHisham Talaat MoustafaSuzanne TamimFerdinand MarcosImelda MarcosNicolae CeausescuManuel Noriega murdernazis
|Vintage Pulp||Feb 2 2022|
I resent the accusation. First of all, puffy sleeves are in style. And second, no, there's nothing up them.
Here's a look at a couple of the items we found back in November while exploring the maze of roads and streets comprising Cadiz. These westerns were written by José Mallorquí and were published in 1974 as part of Ediciones Favencia's Colección El Coyote. Titled De tal palo... and Un caballero, these were half a euro each, and here's the bonus—the cover art on both is by Jano, aka Francisco Fernandez Zarza-Pérez, one of the better movie poster illustrators from Spain during the mid-century era. Check here to see a prime example. There's also some interior art by Carlos Prunés. They're just ink sketches but some of them are nice. We haven't read these, but we'll get around to that. We just got in a stack of rare crime and sleaze novels, so the cowboys will have to wait their turn.
SpainCadizEdiciones FavenciaJosé MallorquíJanoFrancisco Fernandez Zarza-PérezCarlos Prunéscover artliterature
|Femmes Fatales||Jan 11 2022|
Have you ever tried para shooting? It's a total blast.
Above is a fun image of Italian actress Daniela Bianchi. She's best known for playing Tatiana Romanova in 1963's From Russia with Love. Her fame as a so-called Bond girl far outstrips any recognition she received for her other thirteen credited film roles, but this shot, made in 1966 for the spy flick Mission speciale Lady Chaplin, makes us want to see what she's like outside of the Bond franchise. If we do we'll report back.
|Intl. Notebook||Nov 19 2021|
Walk a city's streets and you never know what you'll find.
We were wandering around town earlier today, and what did we spy outside a sundries shop but a stack of vintage reading material. Wedged between English teaching books and bags of sawdust was a stack of José Mallorquí and Keith Luger paperbacks, and there were even more inside. All of which reminded us that we had posted something from Luger—aka Miguel Oliver Tovar—years ago, which can see at this link. We didn't buy any of today's pile, but we may mosey back round that way another morning and pick up a few. After all, why not? They're cheap as hell. Also, we want to know why people buy bags of sawdust, and we can only find out by going back to the store and asking. The overarching theme, though, is this: it's nice to be living in a city where we can find a bit of pulp style treasure just by taking a stroll. For years that wasn't the case.
SpainCadizEditorial BrugueraEdiciones FavenciaKeith LugerMiguel Oliver TovarJosé Mallorquícover artliterature
|Vintage Pulp||Sep 30 2021|
Some guys just can't catch a break.
The Breaking Point is the second of three Hollywood adaptations of Ernest Hemingway's novel To Have and Have Not, and it's a very good one. You're already starting from an advantageous point when you have John Garfield in the starring role. He could act, and this part requires quite a bit from him. This was his next-to-last movie—he would be dead two years later, victim of a congenital heart problem, exacerbated by high stress, reportedly from his blacklisting that was the result efforts by commie hunters.
Casablanca director Michael Curtiz is on board here too, and he does a masterful job bringing the story to life. Curtiz, or Warner Brothers, or both, decided to transplant the novel's action from Cuba to Newport Beach, but the theme of a man caught in untenable economic circumstances remains. Those who wanted a reasonably faithful adaptation of Hemingway's story got it in this film. The first version, also called To Have and Have Not, was amazing but had little in common with the source material. The third adaptation, The Gun Runners, was also good but downplayed certain political themes. (There's also an Iranian version we haven't seen and which we'll leave aside for now.)
So, which of the three U.S. versions is best? Is it really a competition? They're all compulsively watchable, but this effort with Garfield is the grittiest by far, and the most affecting. It's strange—To Have and Have Not is supposed to be Hemingway's worst book, but with three good movies made from it, maybe it isn't that bad after all. Perhaps because it's a work from one of the most influential authors ever to write in English, the bar was just set too high. Maybe it really is Hemingway at his worst, but personally we think it's very good. The Breaking Point premiered in the U.S. today in 1950.
CaliforniaNewport BeachCatalinaThe Breaking PointTo Have and Have NotJohn GarfieldPatricia NealPhyllis ThaxterMichael CurtizErnest Hemingwayposter artcinema