Vintage Pulp Nov 8 2023
He's about to have a growth spurt.

We were unable to learn who painted this Belmont Books cover for Edward S. Fox's 1963 novel Thus a Boy Becomes Man, but it's nice work, possibly a crop and zoom of a larger piece. We vacillated about buying it. We'd never read anything by or about Fox, and we weren't in the market for a simple romance or coming-of-age novel, but in the end we took a flyer, the international mails operated without problems, and the book appeared at our door. It turned out to be a short novel, brief enough to be knocked off in an afternoon, but despite its brevity it was a tale we enjoyed.

The protagonist is young Gil Stuart, who has no experience with women, until two appear in his neck of the Florida Keys—teenaged Georgette and twenty-ish Christine. Georgette is a new Florida resident who lives on a nearby key, while Christine is a seasonal arrival, daughter of a rich Boston railroad executive heading up a project. Both girls are pretty, and both fall for Gil, but he's resistant to them, mainly because he lacks acuity in sexual matters. For that reason, though he's in his early twenties, he feels more like a mid-teen, like a sixteen-year-old. And for that reason, it feels like Fox was shooting for a subtropical Holden Caulfield.

Any book set in the Florida Keys has to be concerned with real estate, seemingly, and this one has a parallel plot about the building of a rail line cutting off bay drainage and subjecting residents to catastrophic flood peril. When appeals to the railroad company yield nothing, some of the conchs decide, as hurricane season approaches, to dynamite the embankment being built for the train tracks. This is a compelling backdrop for Gil's story, as both plot threads suggest that the future—whether bringing romance or trains—is inevitable. Subtle? Maybe not. But it basically worked, faux Caulfield and all.

History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
July 24
1915—Ship Capsizes on Lake Michigan
During an outing arranged by Western Electric Co. for its employees and their families, the passenger ship Eastland capsizes in Lake Michigan due to unequal weight distribution. 844 people die, including all the members of 22 different families.
1980—Peter Sellers Dies
British movie star Peter Sellers, whose roles in Dr. Strangelove, Being There and the Pink Panther films established him as the greatest comedic actor of his generation, dies of a heart attack at age fifty-four.
July 23
1984—Miss America Resigns
Vanessa Williams, who had been crowned Miss America and was the first African American woman to win the prize, resigns her title after Penthouse magazine purchases and slates for publication a series of lesbian-themed nudes Williams had posed for when she was younger. After resigning she files a $500 million lawsuit against Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione but later drops the suit.
July 22
1992—Cocaine Baron Escapes Prison
Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria, imprisoned leader of the Medellin drug cartel, escapes from a posh Colombian jail known as La Catedral after he learns authorities intend to move him to a real prison. His taste of freedom doesn't last—he's killed in a shootout a year-and-a-half later.
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