Vintage Pulp Feb 11 2022
A TASTE SENSATION
Modesty Blaise is mmm mmm good.


A Taste for Death was an entry in Peter O'Donnell's famed Modesty Blaise series, about an international criminal-turned-black ops death dealer. The previous three books featured Robert McGinnis fronts on the paperback editions, which you can see here, here, and here, but by the time this one appeared the paperback industry was shifting toward cheaper art—first photographic covers, and eventually computer graphics. The relentless pursuit of increased profits has cost society a lot, from beautiful urban cinemas to livable wages to entire forested mountaintops. Traditional paperback art isn't that important when measured against all the other losses, but it still represents the extinction of something enriching and fun. A Taste for Death was first published in 1969. This edition came from Fawcett Crest in 1972, with uncredited art which we consider to be the last painting of merit to appear on an English language Modesty Blaise paperback. More McGinnis pieces appeared on foreign editions, and we'll share those later. Also, some of the photo covers in the series are nice, and we may share those too.

The book brings back a villain Blaise and her sidekick Willie Garvin thought they had defeated in installment one, the nasty international jewel thief Gabriel, who this time is teamed up with a gorilla of a man named Simon Delicata in a plot to wrest the ancient and priceless Garamantes jewels from an Algerian archaeological dig. They've kidnapped Garvin's girlfriend Dinah Pilgrim, who can find precious metals and gems using dowsing rods and heightened senses. It's a typically imaginative set-up from O'Donnell, who we mentioned before creates villains fit for a James Bond movie. They're never just bad guys—they're freaks of criminality and terrifying physical specimens. Blaise and Garvin always have their hands full, and that's especially true in A Taste for Death, which features not only the wily Gabriel and the beast Delicata, but a master fencer named Wenczel eager to pincushion the heroes. We suggest you get a taste for Modesty Blaise. As fanciful spy capers go, her adventures usually hit the spot.
 
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Vintage Pulp Jan 24 2022
PARADISE FOUND
What a perfect day. It's days like this that make me glad we invested early in cryptocurrency and retired before thirty.


Above is a Charles Binger cover for John D. MacDonald's 1959 novel The Beach Girls. At this point, we know anything he wrote pre-Travis McGee is going to be good, and even the McGee books are mostly entertaining despite the main character's off-putting social judgments. The Beach Girls is a bit different from other MacDonalds we've read, largely written in a sort of round robin style where the final words of each chapter lead mid-sentence into the first words of the next, but with a change in first person point-of-view. The book cycles through numerous characters via this interesting trick before settling into standard third person narration for the finish.

The story deals with the inhabitants of a marina in fictional Elihu Beach, Florida, some of whom are friends, others enemies, some longtime residents, others newcomers, and how jealousy and resentment lead to a shocking act of violence. From the earliest pages you know this event is coming, and as the book wears on you become pretty sure who's going to be the unfortunate though deserving recipient, and who's going to be the giver. The main question becomes whether MacDonald will subvert these expectations and throw readers a curve. We'll just say it wasn't a predictable tale.

The only thing we don't get is why it's called The Beach Girls. The nearby beach area of the town is mentioned only a few times, no scenes are set there, and the book has an ensemble cast, with the women no more important than the men. There are groups of tourist women that pop up here and there, but they don't impact the story at all. Oh well. The title is a mystery, but an unimportant one. We'll get back to MacDonald a bit later. These 1950s efforts of his have been very worthwhile.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 27 2020
SEXUAL REVOLUTION
I have to admit, you're pretty good in the sack for a capitalist running dog lackey.


Heat, guns, passion, and politics. What more do you need for an adventure novel? Paul Edmondson's 1959 potboiler The Little Revolution is set on the fictional island of Caimanera, which is of course modeled after Cuba, where American wife Fidessa Broughton gets tangled up in a rebellion via her choice of a bedroom partner, even as her husband goes astray with a local woman, and a military captain's daughter rebels as well, in that way all teenagers do. The excellent art on this is by the eclectic Mitchell Hooks. We discussed his singular genius in detail a while back.

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Vintage Pulp Jul 26 2018
HELL TO THE CHIEF
Your partners all voted and decided to demote you to this shallow grave.


When the cat's away the mice will play, so the saying goes, and in Kill the Boss Good-By San Pietro crime kingpin Tom Fell goes missing for a month and a subordinate tries to take over his operation. When Fell reappears a power struggle ensues, while the top bosses in L.A. decide to wait and see who will come out on top. What makes the book a bit different is the reason Fell was missing—he was in a mental institution recovering from a breakdown with the aid of electroshock treatments. The new brain-scrambled Fell is calmer than the old Fell, but is he cured or is he worse? His enemies soon find out. Interesting hard boiled stuff from Peter Rabe, driven primarily by dialogue mixed with simple descriptive passages revealing a—dare we say it?—strong Hemingway influence. 1956 with cover art by Barye Phillips. 

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Vintage Pulp May 26 2018
BAD TIMING
365 days in the year and just her luck she's in Greyton today.


There's never an untimely moment for a great cover. This unusual piece fronts Mark McShane's Untimely Ripped, which as you can surely guess involves a Jack the Ripper type killer. The first victim in the fictional English village of Greyton is a prostitute, and the terror is due to the fact that in a place so small there are no strangers, which means the killer is someone known and loved—the priest, the constable, who knows? It gets worse. Not only is the killer seemingly someone they all know, but the first murder begins to look non-random when the victim's sister is killed and mutilated. Then a third victim suffers the same fate. We won't tell you more. Well, we'll tell you this: McShane uses the fifth longest word in the English language: praetertranssubstantiationalistically. What does it mean? Hah. Whatever he wants, because he made it up. The cover art on this Crest paperback is uncredited, which is a crime all its own. 

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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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