Vintage Pulp Nov 17 2014
LAND OF 1,000 DANCES
Notice how the guy goes from an early, enthusiastic attempt to glumly watching from the sideline—that’s how it works for us too.


We’ve seen these paperback covers in different places around the internet and thought they’d make an interesting collective post showing the progression of their dance-themed covers. The first is from 1950 with art by Rudolph Belarski, the next is from an unknown who nonetheless painted a nice rear cover as well, and the last is from Harry Shaare. Macamba concerns a group of characters in Curaçao, and how one in particular struggles to deal with his biracial background as he grows to manhood. He first tries to become a witch doctor, then excels at conventional learning in university, and eventually ships off to World War II and becomes a hero. Returning home, he has many romances and seeks to find his place in the world. You may wonder if there’s any actual dancing in the book, and indeed there is—the main character watches a performance of the tamboe or tambú, a native dance and music that the Dutch colonizers of Curaçao had made illegal.  

Lilla Van Saher captures certain aspects of indigenous culture in Curaçao, even sprinkling the dialogue with some Papiamento, but the book is not derived directly from her personal experiences. She was born Lilla Alexander in Budapest, lived an upper class life, modeled, acted in French fims, married a Dutch lawyer named August Edward Van Saher, and through him was introduced to Dutch culture and its island possessions. During her first trip to Curaçao she claims to have been imprisoned by natives in a church because they thought she was a local saint.

In private life, she was a close friend of Tennessee Williams, traveling with him aboard the S.S. Queen Federica in the early 1950s, entertaining him in New York City, and accompanying him during a press junket of Sweden, acting almost as an agent and introducing him to the upper crust of Stockholm, where she was well known. During this time she was Lilla van Saher-Riwkin, and often appears by that name in biographies of Williams as part of his retinue of admirers and associates, though not always in a flattering light. Later she did what many globetrotting dilletantes do—published a cookbook. Hers was called Exotic Cooking, which is as good a description of Macamba as we can imagine.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
October 24
1929—Stock Market Crashes
Black Thursday, a catastrophic crash on the New York Stock Exchange, occurs when the value of stocks suddenly declines and continues to decline for a month. The event leads to a subsequent crash in world stock prices and precipitates the Great Depression. This after famous economist Irving Fisher had declared that stock prices had reached a permanently high plateau.
October 23
1935—Four Gangsters Gunned Down in New Jersey
In Newark, New Jersey, the organized crime figures Dutch Schultz, Abe Landau, Otto Berman, and Bernard "Lulu" Rosencrantz are fatally shot at the Palace Chophouse restaurant. Schultz, who was the target, lingers in the hospital for about a day before dying. The killings are committed by a group of professional gunmen known as Murder, Inc., and the event becomes known as the Chophouse Massacre.
1950—Al Jolson Dies
Vaudeville and screen performer Al Jolson dies of a heart attack in San Francisco after a trip to Korea to entertain troops causes lung problems. Jolson is best known for his film The Jazz Singer, and for his performances in blackface make-up, which were not considered offensive at the time, but have now come to be seen as a form of racial bigotry.
October 22
1926—Houdini Fatally Punched in Stomach
After a performance in Montreal, Hungarian-born magician and escape artist Harry Houdini is approached by a university student named J. Gordon Whitehead, who asks if it is true that Houdini can endure any blow to the stomach. Before Houdini is ready Whitehead strikes him several times, causing internal injuries that lead to the magician's death.
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