Intl. Notebook May 11 2024
ASKED BUT NOT ANSWERED
Enquiring minds want to know, but people can't always get what they want.


Tabloids are our thing. We've talked quite a bit about how influential they were during the 1950s. Apparently, considering the revelation that a recent presidential candidate depended upon one to catch and kill stories that could harm his campaign, they still are. This National Enquirer hit newsstands today in 1958. The cover has a rare shot of Ireland born actress Maureen O'Hara, who says she doesn't have a lot offer but wants a man around the house. She had plenty to offer, but she'd been divorced for around five years, so the headline makes sense. We'd have bought this but some joker wanted eighty bucks for it, which made milk come out our noses, we laughed so hard. We generally get our tabloids for fifteen, and the ones we choose are usually far more colorful than this early-period Enquirer.

We wonder if the ask was so high due to the paper's current newsworthiness. The whole situation is interesting, because unlike old top-tier tabloids like Confidential and Whisper that often uncovered inconvenient truths, the newer interations generally just make everything up, which places them closer to satire than news. Even so, tabloids remain the traditional last stop for people wanting to sell sensational stories, but who've been turned away by more ethical publications, which means facts occasionally land on tabloid editors' desks. Former Enquirer head David Pecker understood that, has testified during the ongoing Donald Trump hush money/finance disclosure trial that he expected it to happen, and, as it turns out, he was correct in spades.

Politics is a dirty business, but politicians are generally pretty square. Enquirer wouldn't have found itself in a position to help 95% of them, but for a serial cheat and swindler like Donald Trump (fact, not opinion), whose flaws have been famously described as “fractal” (i.e. inside his flaws are more flaws, ad infinitum into bottomless, kaleidoscopic eternity), Enquirer was uniquely able to weight the electoral scales. Pecker must have felt a tremendous sense of power. We would have. The politics-journalism nexus hinges upon access, and having access in D.C—basically being an insider—is like being an insider in Hollywood, but with the added heady sensation of being in the center of world-shaping events. It must really be something to have the president's ear.

We'd give a lot to have been in some of those Enquirer interview sessions, especially the Karen McDougal ones. A year after McDougal was made Playmate of the Year, PSGP (one of your two Pulp boys) started as a temporary hire at Playboy Entertainment Group and rose to have an office and a staff, before chucking it and running away to Guatemala. So there's a six degrees of separation aspect to it for him. It's a shame Enquirer killed McDougal's and Stormy Daniels' stories. Tabloids are part of the dark underbelly of U.S. culture. They've always catered to prurient interests. And reveled in it. But hiding prurience? That's low. In a rational world that would cost Enquirer the actual designation “tabloid.” We'll talk to the National Association for Tabloid Oversight (the other NATO) about that. Oh right—it doesn't exist. Well, it should.

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Intl. Notebook Aug 10 2018
THE FINAL FRONTIER
Looks like we'll finally get that space war every pulp fan craves.


We're always on the lookout for modern pulp, and this, ladies and gentlemen, fits the bill perfectly. These are the newly revealed Jetsonesque logos for the U.S.'s pending Space Force, a sure-to-be trillion dollar boondoggle that should finally do the trick of fiscally smashing the country wide open like a ceramic piggy bank. But forget that for now, and forget the horror of space war, and the radiation and the melty skin and the mutations that leave us with eyestalks, and forget the terrifying fact that it's not enough for humanity to fight over a speck of dust in an immeasurably vast cosmic void without fighting over the cold, inhospitable void itself. Forget all that because these logos are fuckin' sweet!

The retro-futuristic uniformity of these can't be an accident. It happened due to presidential oversight, beyond a doubt. And even if it didn't, he'll take credit. Where were we when the government came looking for logo designs? Oh, right—not in the U.S. Well, that's too bad for us, because if we'd gotten this logo gig we'd have charged thirty thousand per and we'd be using the resultant pile of cash to buy beachfront in Bora Bora right now. And we'd party like it's 1999 until the rising waters washed it all away. Oh well. We missed that boat, but maybe we'll catch the next one, and it'll be a starboat, and we'll soar up and away, as Sinatra sings, “In la-la-land there's a one-man band... and he'll toot his flute for you... come fly with me, fly with me... let's take off in the blue...”

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Vintage Pulp | Politique Diabolique Feb 18 2017
ELECTION FRAY
They do vote! By the millions! And only for Democrats!

We couldn't resist a comment on the recent election. Generally we keep Pulp Intl. a politics-lite zone, but every once in a while a book cover or movie pushes us in that direction, and today's has done that. Out here in the reality based world here's what the facts show: there haven't been even a hundred verified cases of voter impersonation in the U.S. since the year 2000, and of course impersonation is the only type of fraud the voter ID laws so many conservative lawmakers are pushing would prevent. So when a law is designed to stop a handful of lawbreakers (thirty-one in fifteen years according to one extensive study, which statistically is almost 0%) at cost of the rights of millions of people, we can safely call these laws attempts to suppress the vote. At least, in the real world we can do that.

But the lies around voter impersonation continue to grow—we now hear of 3 million illegal votes cast in 2016, people bused from one state to another, etc. All of this taking place, of course, with no paper or digital trail, no sign of organization at any level, no flow of money, not a single person out of those millions willing to blow the whistle on the plot, and—most crucially and ridiculously—no suggestion that a single one of these alleged fraudsters voted Republican (Trump: “If you look at it they all voted for Hillary."). Meanwhile, absent actual evidence, the besmirching of the electoral system continues. It deserves to be besmirched, of course, but because of the ridiculous choices on offer, not because of fantasies of systemic fraud. Yet conservative politicians cynically keep trying to generate mistrust. They're playing a dangerous game, and if they keep it up there will be serious consequences down the road.

If you've visited Pulp Intl. a lot you know we've spent time in some gnarly corners of the planet. Here's how it goes: first, all losses are contested, even losses by millions of votes, and orderly transitions of power fail to occur. Second, violence at polling places becomes commonplace. Third, election seasons become destabilizing events, often requiring a police presence, which suppresses the votes of marginalized communities. Fourth, economic and diplomatic activity suffers as the country is perceived by the international community to be a bad place for investment. And mixed in throughout are the passing of laws ostensibly designed to fix the system, but really meant to consolidate power. The cycle, once established, repeats and worsens. If you think it can't happen, consider that The Economist—that hive of leftwing villainy and scum—recently downgraded the U.S. from a “full” to a “flawed” democracy.

That's our missive from the factual universe, to be heeded or ignored as you please. Stiffs Don't Vote has nothing to do with any of that, not directly, anyway. There's a crooked political campaign involved, but the story actually deals with an axe murder investigated by the heroes Humphrey Campbell and Oscar Morgan. The book was originally titled Forty Whacks, referencing the famed Lizzie Borden rhyme, and the murder in the story constantly makes the protagonists think of Borden. The copyright on this Bantam edition is 1947, and the unusual cover art was painted by Hy Rubin, who we've never featured before, but will again, if this is any indication of his talent. We'll see what we can dig up. 

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Modern Pulp Aug 7 2016
THE GREAT SATAN
Politics turn out to be hell—literally.


The Hell Candidate, which was written by Graham Masterton using the pseudonym Thomas Luke, first appeared in bookstores in July 1980. Ronald Reagan, who unwittingly provided Luke with inspiration, became the Republican nominee for president the same month. The book did well, but was almost forgotten until recently. In the last few months we've seen completely worn copies of the paperback version for sale online for $150. We got ours for $13 because, fortunately, not everyone researches book prices before they post them on an auction site. Why do people suddenly want to read The Hell Candidate again? Well, it has to do with the campaign of a certain Donald J. Trump. While the parallels are interesting and terrifying, the important aspect of the book is that it deals with contemporary American politics. Its lesson is that horrible candidates appear because voters secretly like them. Do we agree? Not entirely. But considering how useless most U.S. political candidates are, it's a point worth consideration.
 
The basic idea in The Hell Candidate is that an otherwise affable politician of moderately conservative bent named Hunter Peal is possessed by Satan and becomes a profane, warmongering, sexually violent monster. His aides and friends are horrified by the change in his personality and are sure he's doomed to flame out on the campaign trail, but a strange thing happens—the American people love him. His promises of violent action against foreign enemies and unrestrained plenty on the home front propel him closer and closer to the Oval Office. His promises are impossible. They're simply a means to power. But they keep working. From his early campaign stops in the sticks to massive rallies in major cities, candidate Peal utilizes doublespeak, tricks, illusions, and tortures to rise onto political center stage. He's beyond ruthless. Early in the book he rapes his wife eight times in one night—and admits it with pride. Later he dispatches a debate opponent by magically afflicting him with diarrhea. Yeah, it's that kind of book.

Could such a story really be worth reading? We think so. There's real terror, and some moments of insight, like this one:

Suddenly you're prepared to rationalize all those weird things you saw at Allen's Corners, and suddenly you're prepared to rationalize the fact that good old Hunter Peal has turned into a raving rightwing fascist [snip] and you know why? Because you're like every other creep around every other presidential candidate. If the candidate looks like he's winning then you'll forgive him anything. Rape, murder, fraud—anything.”

Hunter isn't guilty of any of those things.”

He raped his wife didn't he?”

While The Hell Candidate is unambiguously a political allegory of at least minor historical significance, and it's also a unique horror novel, it's additionally an early-to-mid example of transgressive fiction—in fact a defining example, though it's never appeared on a list of such books we've ever seen. But consider—transgressive fiction deals with characters who break free of perceived social norms in violent, sexual, or illicit ways, and such characters often seem mentally ill or nihilistic. Hunter Peal, once possessed, pointedly destroys all boundaries of socially acceptable behavior through repeated acts of profanity, depravity, cruelty, and shockingly lethal violence. Meanwhile other characters spend ample time misunderstanding his satanic nature, instead discussing whether he's merely gone insane.

It's similar in some ways to American Psycho—a landmark transgressive book critics mostly failed to understand. Peal becomes an embodiment of America's impulses toward violence in the same way Patrick Bateman becomes an embodiment of runaway capitalism. The books are also similar in that their violence is so vivid that merely reading it can make you feel complicit. That Peal's victims are sometimes forced through mind control to respond to his blood-drenched brutality as though they're in the throes of sexual ecstasy will do a number on your head. But this is the Devil we're talking about. Such sexualized hyperviolence fits—at least in terms of how he's conceptualized in Western lore. Masterton pulls no punches. The Hell Candidate is visceral, pornographic, and utterly enervating, often terrible to experience, but a modern pulp masterpiece.
 
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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
May 21
1924—Leopold and Loeb Murder Bobby Franks
Two wealthy University of Chicago students named Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold, Jr. murder 14-year-old Bobby Franks, motivated by no other reason than to prove their intellectual superiority by committing a perfect crime. But the duo are caught and sentenced to life in prison. Their crime becomes known as a "thrill killing", and their story later inspires various works of art, including the 1929 play Rope by Patrick Hamilton, and Alfred Hitchcock's 1948 film of the same name.
May 20
1916—Rockwell's First Post Cover Appears
The Saturday Evening Post publishes Norman Rockwell's painting "Boy with Baby Carriage", marking the first time his work appears on the cover of that magazine. Rockwell would go to paint many covers for the Post, becoming indelibly linked with the publication. During his long career Rockwell would eventually paint more than four thousand pieces, the vast majority of which are not on public display due to private ownership and destruction by fire.
May 19
1962—Marilyn Monroe Sings to John F. Kennedy
A birthday salute to U.S. President John F. Kennedy takes place at Madison Square Garden, in New York City. The highlight is Marilyn Monroe's breathy rendition of "Happy Birthday," which does more to fuel speculation that the two were sexually involved than any actual evidence.
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