Vintage Pulp Jun 22 2022
NATURAL BORN CHEATER
I'm sort of a paradox. I'm a terrible wife, but I'm incredible at everything that gets a woman a husband.


Above is a cover for Don Tracy's novel The Cheat, originally published as Criss-Cross in 1934, with this Lion edition coming in 1956 with Charles Copeland cover art. This is a good book, but if you're seeking artful prose you might as well keep looking. 1934 was early in the game for hard-boiled fiction. A few authors were doing visionary work but the form was still establishing its parameters. What attracted readers was that these were new types of stories—frank, violent, and centered around hard luck protagonists, ruthless villains, and women who were to varying degrees breathtakingly beautiful, sexually ravenous, and totally amoral.

The Cheat is about a boxer named Johnny Thompson. The Depression has drained the profit from boxing, so for the moment Johnny is an armored car guard, riding shotgun for payroll deliveries. He's occasionally going out with Anna, who's far too beautiful for the likes of him and mainly just likes to have money spent on her. Johnny doesn't have much of that, which means he has no real shot with Anna. He coasts along in financial and romantic limbo until Anna breaks his heart by suddenly marrying a neighborhood slickster named Slim Dundee.

So many of these pulp novels hinge upon sex, but it couldn't be explicitly stated. Tracy is fairly clear about it here, though. Johnny thinks he's ugly yet refuses to consort with women he considers to be of inadequate quality, so he's sexually inexperienced. He isn't a virgin, but it's been years since his first couple of sexual encounters. Anna is his unattainbale dream. He's never even kissed her, but her willingness to associate with him provided his life with hope. He lost that when she married, but she later shocks him by finally offering herself to him, vows be damned. We get a clear sense of what it means to Johnny:

I bit my knuckles thinking about it and how sweet—oh my God—it would be, but I wouldn't take it. [snip] Every hour was full of pictures of Anna. Anna as I'd seen her and Anna as I'd never seen her, but could if I went there the next night. Anna, naked. Anna, in my arms, looking up at me. I kept seeing her and feeling her body under me and her open mouth on my mouth.

So hot she makes him bite his knuckles. That's hot. Johnny virtually flogs himself, telling himself not to give in, not to betray Slim, not to accept Anna's baffling out-of-the-blue offer, but it's useless of course. He goes, she meets him at the door in a kimono and nothing else, his fuses all blow, and nature takes its course:

I remember sobbing, although I wasn't really crying, when the first deep contentment began to rub out the ache I'd had in me for so long.

Well, that gets to the point. And it's a point we've been making for years. These guys don't get into trouble because of mere sex. They get into trouble because of sex as they never imagined it could be—in this case sex that makes him “not really” cry. Yowsa. His reaction has largely to do with finally attaining what he thought he was not good enough to have, in effect validating his entire existence, but there's no doubt the heights of sheer physical pleasure bring it on too. We picture him drying his wet eyes with a corner of the sheet and telling Anna, “I'm sorry. It's not you, it's me.” Needless to say, he's hooked, and who wouldn't be?

During subsequent sessions Anna keeps her, ahem, guard up, and Johnny enjoys every moment, despite feelings of guilt for being a backstabber. Then comes the pivotal day when Slim approaches him with an idea to rob the armored car—with Johnny as the inside man. Anna is on board with the plan, so clearly if he refuses she might not let him be her inside man anymore. Where it goes from there we won't reveal. We'll only say that The Cheat overcomes its rudimentary feel and provides considerable entertainment, which is the next best thing to actually being well written. And for those who enjoy their crime thrillers with motion and sound, a pretty good movie was made of it in 1949. Chose either or both. You'll win regardless.
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Vintage Pulp Apr 30 2021
THE MALE GAZE
That's right, I'm looking at you. Read this magazine and learn how to be a real man.


It seems to us that the purpose of men's adventure magazines was to teach ordinary schlubs a little something about how to keep it real, and this issue of Male published in April 1962 fulfills the mandate. Behind the steely-eyed cover art by Harry Schaare, and mixed between interior art by Charles Copeland, Rafael de Soto, James Bama, and Walter Popp, readers learn how to navigate big city vice, survive a nuclear attack, avoid appliance repair scams, pick the perfect car to cruise the open road, and—most importantly—get a raise at their soulsucking office jobs.
 
Those are all fine offerings, but we particularly like the story, “Let's Let the Russians Beat Us to the Moon,” which suggests that if the Russians are so eager to get to the moon let them serve as sacrificial lambs—since the place is filled unknown dangers. Journalist and skeptic Ray Lunt reasons, “For all our scientists know, the moon may be 10,000 miles from where we think it is, paved with quicksand 90 feet deep, and full of brain gas instead of air.” Instead of air? Sounds like he was the one inhaling brain gas.
 
We checked out the story just to find out what brain gas was, and learned basically nothing. He mentions that some scientists—unnamed of course—believe the moon might harbor poisonous gas, but the brain thing never comes up. What a tease. He does, though, run through a long list of other moon horrors fit for a Heinlein novel. He must have been really bummed in 1969 when it turned out to be just a big, dusty rock. We have scans below, and more Male in the website. Feel free to click the keywords.

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Vintage Pulp Jun 25 2020
DARK SIDE OF THE MOON
So far I've had malaria, dysentery, dengue, hookworm, and schistosomiasis, but baby, you make it all worth it.


Once again cover art works its intended magic, as we made the choice of reading Georges Simenon's African adventure Tropic Moon solely due to being lured by Charles Copeland's evocative brushwork. This edition came from Berkley Books in 1958, but the tale was originally published as Coup de lune in 1933. It's set in Gabon, then a territory of French Equatorial Africa, and poses the familiar question: does Africa ruins whites or were they bad beforehand? The main character here, Joseph Timar, is done in by heat and booze and easy sex, but he was surely a terrible person before he ever set foot in Gabon, and of course he's a stand-in for all white colonials. All we can say is we get the message. We got it way back when Conrad wrote it. What would be great is some sense of evolution in all these Conrad-derived works, for instance if occasionally the human cost of colonial greed were shown to be black lives and prosperity rather than white dignity and morality, but literary treatments of that sort had not yet come over the horizon during the pulp era. On its own merits, though, Tropic Moon is interesting, a harrowing front row seat for a downward spiral in the equatorial jungle. 

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Vintage Pulp Mar 8 2018
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
What a nice surprise! Let's eat dinner then we'll dump his corpse in the woods.


Above, nice Charles Copeland art for Harry Whittington's 1957 thriller Married to Murder. There's nothing like the occasional thoughtful gift to keep a marriage fresh. 

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Vintage Pulp Mar 4 2018
HER HEART'S DESIRE
The list is long, cowboy, and you're nowhere on it.


There aren't quite enough dude ranch sleaze novels to consider them a distinct subset of mid-century fiction, but we've noticed a few books similar to Lee Thomas's 1963 effort A Woman's Desire. Like E.L Scobie's Man Handled, for example, which we talked about a while ago. A Woman's Desire deals with a group of guests at the Slashed Lightning Ranch, and the revolving affections of Lauri (nice girl), April (man eater), Bob (real cowpoke), and Craig (city slicker). Round and round it goes, and just like in rodeo whoever stays mounted the longest wins. Style points for getting out of the saddle without landing on your face. Charles Copeland cover art. 

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Vintage Pulp May 24 2017
FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS
Membership is costing her the shirt off her back.

Charles Copeland is the brush behind this cover for The Friendship Club, and he's done his usual bang-up job. The book was written by Dean McCoy, which was a pseudonym used by Dudley Dean McGaughy for several novels, including Beach Binge and Juice Town, which also sound like winners. In this one a swinging couple puts together a swapping club for like-minded residents of their small town community, and everything goes well until one of the members decides swapping means woman on woman too. The guys are dismayed to learn their services aren't required, or for that matter desired, and countermeasures follow. Put this in the dangerous lesbians bin, 1963. 

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Vintage Pulp Jan 22 2017
FACULTY HEAD
When the dean's away the wife will play.

Above, another entry in the school sleaze genre, The Dean's Wife, by Lee Thomas for Beacon Books. Thomas was a pseudonym used by author Lee Floren, who also wrote as Matt Harding, Will Watson, and possibly other entities. He didn't just write sleaze—he authored numerous westerns, and generally wrote those under his own name. The Dean's Wife is copyright 1963, and the art is by Charles Copeland.

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Vintage Pulp Jul 28 2016
LADY LOVE
When girl meets girl sparks fly.

Above and below is a small percentage of some of the thousands of lesbian themed paperback covers that appeared during the mid-century period, with art by Paul Rader, Fred Fixler, Harry Schaare, Rudy Nappi, Charles Copeland, and others, as well as a few interesting photographed fronts. The collection ends with the classic Satan Was a Lesbian, which you’ve probably seen before, but which no collection like this is complete without. Hopefully most of the others will be new to you. Needless to say, almost all were written by men, and in that sense are really hetero books reflecting hetero fantasies (fueled by hetero misconceptions and slander). You can see plenty more in this vein on the website Strange Sisters.

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Vintage Pulp Apr 22 2016
MALE PRIVILEGE
They reserve the right to kill everything in sight.


It's murder and mayhem in this issue of Male published this month in 1958. The carnage and gunplay span the Wild West era to World War II, and France to Xinjiang, China, with cheesecake model Diana Crawford thrown in to break up the monotony. The cover is an atypical effort from George Gross, and the interior art is by the always excellent Charles Copeland, along with Brendon Lynch, John Leone, Arthur De Kuh, and others. Looking for more Male? Click here. Or here.

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Vintage Pulp Dec 18 2015
WESTERN FRONT
It's ironic they call this place the O.K. Corral, because things have not gone well since I came in here.


Above, Stag magazine published December 1957, with an uncredited cover and interior art from James Bama, Emile C. Shurmacher, Jay Smith, Charles Copeland, Jim Bentley, Lou Marchetti, and Mel Crair. We checked the auction sites this morning and saw this issue going for twenty dollars minimum, so we're feeling pretty smart because we got ours for four bucks. Probably the most interesting story is Bill Wharton's “Brother Chalmers,” about a pompous white missionary in Papua New Guinea who has very little in the way of morals. But it has a happy ending—he gets his brains bashed out. 

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
June 30
1908—Tunguska Explosion Occurs
Near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River in what is now Krasnoyarsk Krai in Russia, a large meteoroid or comet explodes at five to ten kilometers above the Earth's surface with a force of about twenty megatons of TNT. The explosion is a thousand times more powerful than the Hiroshima atomic blast, knocks over an estimated 80 million trees and generates a shock wave estimated to have been 5.0 on the Richter scale.
1971—Soviet Cosmonauts Perish
Soviet cosmonauts Vladislav Volkov, Georgi Dobrovolski and Viktor Patsayev, who served as the first crew of the world's first space station Salyut 1, die when their spacecraft Soyuz 11 depressurizes during preparations for re-entry. They are the only humans to die in space (as opposed to the upper atmosphere).
June 29
1914—Rasputin Survives Assassination Attempt
Former prostitute Jina Guseva attempts to assassinate Grigori Rasputin in his home town of Pokrovskoye, Siberia by stabbing him in the abdomen. According to reports, Guseva screamed "I have killed the Antichrist!" But Rasputin survived until being famously poisoned, shot, bludgeoned, and drowned in an icy river two years later.
1967—Jayne Mansfield Dies in Car Accident
American actress and sex symbol Jayne Mansfield dies in an automobile accident in Biloxi, Mississippi, when the car in which she is riding slams underneath the rear of a semi. Rumors that Mansfield were decapitated are technically untrue. In reality, her death certificate states that she suffered an avulsion of the cranium and brain, meaning she lost only the top of her head.
June 28
1958—Workers Assemble First Corvette
Workers at a Chevrolet plant in Flint, Michigan, assemble the first Corvette, a two-seater sports car that would become an American icon. The first completed production car rolls off the assembly line two days later, one of just 300 Corvettes made that year.
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