Vintage Pulp May 11 2023
BLOOD RELATIONS
If you can't count on on family, who can you count on?

For a few years we've been meaning to get back to Fletcher Flora, and finally we've done it. Above you see his half of an Ace Double novel—Killing Cousins. The book is about a spoiled suburban wife who shoots her husband, then calls on one of her lovers—her husband's cousin—for help in covering up the crime. Cousin Quincy is known to be a genius, and he relishes the challenge of outwitting the cops. Generally, he does fine. It's the people around him he can't count on, including his cousin Fred, who, because he doesn't know about the murders and thus doesn't realize the importance of what he's asked to do, botches his crucial task. It's only the first of many problems.

Flora has a unique voice, no doubt about it. Some might find it too self-conscious, but we liked it. Check out the two examples below:

When she had first wakened and remembered what had happened, she had been very frightened and had felt a necessity to do something immediately, no matter what, but then it had occurred to her that it all might be nothing more than a bad dream, which she sometimes had, and so she had gone into Howard’s bedroom to make sure, one way or the other, and it had turned out not to be a dream at all, for there Howard was on the floor.

Heretofore, cousin Fred’s approach to women had been direct and simple, even somewhat primitive, and if the approach was no more than moderately effective on the whole, it had at least left him unfettered and uncluttered, free alike of uncomfortable commitments and emotional hangovers. If a chick would, she would. If a chick wouldn’t, she wouldn’t. And if she wouldn’t, to hell with her. That, in brief, was cousin Fred’s position.

Flora's writing feels like it comes from someone who knows exactly what he's trying for and absolutely achieves it. There are no missteps.
 
Plotwise, the murderous wife, apart from shooting her husband, is mostly a bystander. The success or failure of the cover-up rests entirely in cousin Quincy's hands, and he's confident to a fault. As holes develop in his clever plot, he's forced to improvise, and ultimately Flora boils the drama down to how fast Quincy can think, and whether the police are competent investigators. Speaking of which, we'll give Flora credit for one of the great cop names of all time—Elgin Necessary. We think Killing Cousins is a necessary read based on its unusual style alone.

By comparison, John Crieghton's, aka Joseph L. Chadwick's, The Blonde Cried Murder is much more what you'd expect from a mid-century crime novel. The set-up sounds like the beginning of a joke: a woman walks into a detective's office. We like books that start that way. We thinkof such authors the way we think of musicians who decide to cover a classic. It's been done before, but not in that exact style. So, a woman walks into downtrodden private dick Ed Donovan's office and asks him to find a missing person—her husband, who may have fled to avoid the police.

From there the tale continues in classic directions: Donovan drinks way too much, he's soon on the hook for a murder he didn't commit, there's money that needs to be found, etc. And of course, romance rears its inconvenient head. The book is an unusual flipside to Killing Cousins because of how standard it is by comparison, but it's worth a read. Not that you have a choice. To read one means to buy both. Some Ace doubles can cost a lot online, but this one is usually reasonable. There are two copyrights, 1960 for Flora and 1961 for Creighton, and the cover art for both is uncredited.

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Vintage Pulp | Sportswire Sep 22 2020
MONEY SHOT
Everybody tells me you're great at taking it hard to the hole.


Hard to the hole? Of course we went there. Why wouldn't we? The sport of basketball—which is what Fletcher Flora's The Hot-Shot deals with—has loads of sexual terminology. We could have gone with, “I hear you're an amazing ball handler,” or, “I hear you perform best coming off the bench,” or, “I hear you go back door with the best of them,” or, “I hear when you get in a zone you can really stroke it,” or—

*catching breath and taking a sip of water*

“I hear you like to work it inside,” or, “I hear you're a great penetrator,” and so forth.

But while Flora did write some mildly sexual novels, such as Strange Sisters and Park Avenue Tramp, this one is actually a classic rags to riches to corruption tale of the sort you've probably read before. The main character, Skimmer Scaggs, finds that his basketball talent offers a way out of nowheresville, but soon finds himself in the middle of a big time point-shaving racket. The story comes with extra credibility because Flora was a basketball coach before turning his talents to fiction. We have three of his novels, so we'll try to get back to him a bit later.

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Vintage Pulp Oct 14 2015
SISTER ACTS
Your man? Hah hah. I’m not looking at him, sweetie. This tall drink of water is all for you.

Strange Sisters is one of the classics of lesbian fiction. With all the pseudonyms that were flying around in this particular genre, you’d suspect the author was a woman using a male pen name, but no—Fletcher Flora was indeed male and he used his real name for what was his first novel, written in 1954. Basically you get a woman named Kathy who has known she was gay since her teenage crush on her aunt Stella, but who as an adult forms relationships with men. This eventually goes incredibly wrong when she picks a brute and ends up killing him with an ice pick. She later gets involved with the older, confident Vera, but of course the so-far unsolved killing comes back to cause serious problems. It's better written than we expected. The excellent art is uncredited.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
May 22
1942—Ted Williams Enlists
Baseball player Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox enlists in the United States Marine Corps, where he undergoes flight training and eventually serves as a flight instructor in Pensacola, Florida. The years he lost to World War II (and later another year to the Korean War) considerably diminished his career baseball statistics, but even so, he is indisputably one of greatest players in the history of the sport.
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.
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